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Too Short For A Column: “The U,” and This Week’s Bowl Previews

In honor or ESPN.com’s Rick Reilly, I’m combining my thoughts on “The U,” documentary (amazing), and this week’s college football picks into one, in what I like to call, “Too Short For A Column.”

Enjoy…

I remember the first time I heard about ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.

It was during the summer, and I was in Arizona. And if you’ve ever been to Arizona in the summer, you know there really isn’t much to do during the day, since, well, it’s hotter than the core of the earth outside.

So one afternoon I was sitting there, browsing ESPN.com bored out of my skull, when I came across a blurb about the 30 for 30 series. I was immediately intrigued, a few minutes later excited.

The premise was simple: 30 documentaries from the 30 years that ESPN has been in existence, on 30 original stories that we knew little or nothing about. We wouldn’t be subjected to another piece on the Miracle on Ice or Tiger Woods and the 1997 Masters. Needless to say, we’d already ingested enough on those subjects to last us quite some time.

In the process of making 30 for 30, the goal was for ESPN to take back some of the sports documentary genre from HBO; a genre which HBO had seized, molded and senilized (What is senilized you ask? Well it’s a word I just made up about a product made for old, senile people. Get it?).

And no offense to HBO, but it was time. As someone who is smack dab in the middle of the 18-35 year old demographic, their documentaries were antiquated and outdated. I don’t care to see another show on the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, I doubt anyone my age does really. Hell, at this point, that documentary would probably put my parents to sleep.

Which is where 30 for 30 came in. New stories. Fresh ideas. And through the first few airings, that’s what we got. I learned a little about the USFL and a lot about the Larry Holmes vs. Muhammad Ali fight. I got to know more about what brought Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles.

But, I was still waiting for that one story that totally resonated with me. That totally defined me, my buddies and my entire generation as a whole. I was waiting for the story that captured us.

I got it in “The U.”

Sure, the parallels aren’t perfect.

I’m not black and didn’t grow in poverty. I don’t think anyone is surprised to know that I don’t have much in common with Michael Irvin.

But I can tell you this: People of my generation get “The U.”

It doesn’t matter where we grew up, or what our economic status was, we liked our music loud, our jeans baggy and our teeth gold (Ok, maybe I made that last part up). We liked when our players danced after touchdowns, posed after dunks and mocked overmatched opposition. And it all started with “The U.”

Which is what makes this documentary so incredible; football was just an underlying theme. But there’s more than that.

It’s about “The U,” taking street culture and shoving it down middle America’s throat, whether anyone was ready or not. In the process, a whole generation of goofy white kids like me got sucked in, and started wearing our hats backward and listening to rap music.

It’s about how it became cool to defy authority, wear fatigues on road trips and mock the opposition. This during a time when an older generation still preferred the wholesomeness of Notre Dame and Penn State.

It’s about how rapper Luther Campbell stood on the sidelines and snuck players money for big hits, touchdowns, interceptions and sacks. And how to this day, everyone involved, from players, to coaches to Campbell himself, still laugh about it, despite it being an obvious breach of NCAA rules.

And it’s about how three different coaches took poor kids from riot-torn Liberty City and Overtown, took them to the rolling greens of Coral Gables, and united everyone behind a college football team. How a city that had become increasingly known more as drug and crime mecca than a vacation destination, had something positive to rally around for the first time in years.

But most importantly to me, “The U,” was about being young, dumb and just having fun. A bunch of guys reminiscing about a time in their lives where they weren’t quite men, but not kids either.

And it hit me right between the eyes.

Now do I have as many cool stories from my early 20’s as Irvin, Lamar Thomas and Melvin Bratton? Of course not.

But do I have 20 hilarious stories from the same point in my life, (15 of which I regret and nine of which would probably get me prison time), that me and my buddies still laugh about to this day? Absolutely.

Finally, what made “The U,” so special was that it was the kind of documentary that’s never been made before. It wasn’t the 1980 Miracle on Ice, or John Wooden’s UCLA dynasty.

There was no tangible end, no throwaway lines, no big picture life lessons to take with us through our next 40 years.

Nope, “The U,” was just real and raw, and for the first time, gave a voice to a group that had never had one before.

And I speak for a lot of people when I say, we were all listening.

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Now, like we’ve done all season all season, let’s pick the upcoming college football games.

Since I’m not sure the next time I’ll be in front of a computer, and you guys have holiday’s to celebrate, I’ll give you all my picks through next Sunday, December 27.

As always, the point spreads are provided to us by our friends at BetUS.com.

Oh, and one more thing, Happy Holiday’s!

Fresno State (-11) over Wyoming: New Mexico Bowl, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

I saw Fresno several times this year, and, well I was impressed.

They played Cincinnati tougher than anyone except for Pitt, lost in overtime at Wisconsin, and mercifully ended the Juice Williams era at Illinois.

Plus, Coach Pat Hill looks one of Verne Schillinger’s Aryan buddies from Oz. In other words, you can never have too much Fresno State football in your life. 

Central Florida (+2 ½) over Rutgers: St. Petersburg Bowl, Saturday, 8:00 p.m.

Anthony Davis is talking about going pro. Quarterback Tom Savage hit the freshman wall about three weeks ago. And this game is a short drive for the fans of Central Florida.

Greg Schiano’s usually money in bowl games, but there’s just too much bad karma at Rutgers right now. Take Central Florida.

Middle Tennessee (+3 ½) over Southern Miss: R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

If a bowl game happens in New Orleans, but nobody is there to see it, did it actually happen?

Oregon State (- 2 ½) over BYU: Las Vegas Bowl, Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.

Easily one of the two or three best bowl games that nobody is talking about. But it’s also BYU’s fifth straight trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, and since they didn’t care last year, I doubt it’ll be any different in 2009.

I guess the good news is if you’re a BYU fan, at least you get a trip to Vegas right? Oh, wait, never mind.

Utah (+3 ½) over Cal: Poinsettia Bowl, Wednesday, 8:00 p.m.

Once it was announced that Jahvid Best wouldn’t be playing in this one, it went from boring to downright unwatchable.

However, since I’m contractually obligated to have an opinion, I’ll take the Utes. I guess.

SMU (+15) over Nevada: Hawaii Bowl, Thursday, 8:00 p.m.

It’s funny, June Jones, the guy who led Hawaii to its greatest triumphs as a football program, returns to the islands with a different team after leaving the school a year ago, yet no one cares. I guess that’s what happens when you live in Hawaii. Football just isn’t as important as it is in Columbus, Ohio or Norman, Oklahoma.

Anyway, as good as Nevada is (they averaged 52 points over their last four games. No, seriously), their real bowl game was against Boise State. They lost, and won’t be too excited to be playing in this one. I promise.

SMU isn’t as good, but the residual excitement of playing in this game means they cover the 15 points.  

Ohio (-2 ½) over Marshall: Little Caesar’s Bowl, Saturday, December 26, 1:00 p.m.

If a bowl game happens in Detroit, but nobody is there…
Wait, I already used that joke?

Let’s just move on.

Pitt (-2 ½) over North Carolina: Meineke Car Care Bowl, Saturday, December 26, 4:30 p.m.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate, hate, hate betting on any Dave Wannstedt coached team. As a matter of fact, I just lost my appetite thinking about it.

However with that said, the best way to beat North Carolina’s speedy and aggressive defense is to run right at it. And nobody does that better than Dion Lewis and Pitt.

USC (-9) over Boston College: Emerald Bowl, Saturday, December 26, 8:00 p.m.

This is probably too many points for USC to be giving, especially since they’ve beaten exactly one team by more than nine points since the first week in October.

I just think that for a team as banged up as USC was, to have three weeks off to get healthy, well, I just wouldn’t want to be playing them right now. That’s all.

Kentucky (+7) over Clemson: Music City Bowl, Sunday, December 27, 8:30 p.m.

Classic Vegas trap game. An underrated team no one knows about, getting a touchdown against a public team that probably isn’t all too excited to be here.

Don’t be a sucker.










About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.

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