Presbyterian College’s football team did not run onto the Bailey Memorial Stadium grass to lusty boos from the fans on Saturday. The crowd was too small for lust.
In truth, the only clearly audible sound in the early moments of the the Blue Hose’ 56-14 loss to Stetson, other than a fierce roar from 150 or so across the way, occurred, honest to gosh, when Presbyterian’s Acha Mbanwei, of all people -- he’s a punter, Eureka! -- punted for the Coach Who Never Punts. Obviously, the value of his trading card went through the roof.
When Mbanwei trotted out, the crowd, or 500 or so who were paying attention, applauded.
How many times in the glorious history of college football have fans risen from their seats to pump their fists and yell, “Yeah! Yeah! They stopped us! We’re gonna punt! Yip, yip, yippee!”
It wasn’t a rebellious audience. All rumors of an old guard invasion of the administration building proved groundless. The audience that watched the Bafflin’ Blue Hose go down to a 6th straight defeat in the Battle of Football’s Future was more of a disgruntled variety.
At a high school game, the most often uttered yell is “Git ‘im!” At PC, this year it’s “Why ‘on’tcha punt?!!!”
Kevin Kelley punted. Twice. That ought to keep them pacified a while, right? Right!
At last, the crowd roared with 3:22 remaining in the 3rd quarter when -- yes, there is a God -- Jalen Jones scored a touchdown for the team wearing blue from 39 yards out, and for a few, fleeting moments, 2:06 to be exact, Presbyterian was magically within … 36.
But ...Stetson scored again and thus ended the shining moment that was Camelot!Oklahoma!Some exclamatory musical.
This whole saga continues to remind me of a movie. Ideally, it would be Hoosiers, and all Kelley’s detractors would be the nosy patrons of the barber shop. Stray from the strictures of sports and it might be The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, but I don’t think Gary Cooper could’ve portrayed Kelley. Marlon Brando might give him a shot. I coulda been a contenduh, Cholly.
Of course, it’s not a movie, and if it’s a comedy, the faithful, at least the ones who don’t have a sports talk show, don’t get the jokes.
I want Kelley to turn it around. As a journalist, he’s a pleasure to deal with. Besides, fans root for teams. Writers root for stories, and if Kelley turns this around, now, it’s a story.
He’d be a test pilot whose experimental jet spins out of control, and then, just before crashing, he’d somehow get the shiny silver bird back under control, swooping back up into the heavens after just missing the cruel ground.
Wait a minute. As Elton John sang, “You know, I’ve seen that moooooviiie too …”
I drove over to Rumpole of the Bailey (Memorial Stadium) with my hopes inexplicably up. I thought, well, Stetson’s good defensively, but the offense struggles, and if PC can just slow it down a little, a smidge, a whit, a scintilla, maybe the Hose can outcrease the Hatters.
A fan under the grandstand, with whom I was talking just like I’m writing now, which is trying to be funny, said, “Hey,” even as he was laughing, “this is a serious matter.”
I told him let me know when that becomes official.