Any rumors of my demise over the last two weeks have been greatly exaggerated, but only slightly: What began as a much-needed offseason hiatus on the heels of signing day is now permanent. After three-and-a-half years and upwards of 6,000 posts, this is my final entry for Dr. Saturday and Yahoo! Sports.
The goal here was always to maintain a site that set its own agenda, took nothing for granted and offered a steady signal amid the barrage of noise that currently passes for 24/7 sports coverage. I'm not sure how consistently it's lived up to those pretensions, and my admittedly wonky sensibility has not always fit inside the big-tent demands of the most visited sports site on the web. Still, I've enjoyed an astonishing, enviable level of freedom, and tried every day to live up to it. Sorry for the typos.
In some ways it's been the perfect job. Though I never set a goal to make a living at it, I've been writing about college football in one fashion or another almost since I could write, beginning with notebooks in my childhood bedroom. From that perspective, the landscape of the sport has shifted in dozens of subtle ways since August 2008, and is in the throes of even more dramatic upheaval as we speak. In an age in which failing to exploit every possible revenue stream is regarded as a kind of moral failing, the future of big-time college football will be defined by the ongoing tug-of-war between the perception of the sport as an awakening economic giant and an unbending, existential fidelity to its original sin, "amateurism."
The entire structure has evolved, sans any semblance of a central brain, around a contradiction: Big-time college sports remains the only arena of American life that systematically denies adult citizens the opportunity to exploit their full market value, and yet has succeeded in large part on the notion that it's not a business. It's a ritual, observed by pilgrims drawn to the same creaky, Depression-era shrines, decade after decade, to eat and drink and sing and agonize as part of a communal mass just deranged enough to invest its emotional energy into a bunch of kids pummeling one another into oblivion. Their devotion is to a sense of community, continuity and tradition, and a sense of student-athletes who regenerate that tradition every fall the way a body regenerates its cells.
In this case, the student part of the equation really does matter, as part of a unique social contract between generations of students that the pros and their alienating wealth and constantly shifting allegiances to the highest bidder can never match. It's also one that an actual contract — entrenching the perception of college football as just another minor league that can't begin to match the level of play in the NFL — could rupture forever.
But that is a very long, unfinished story, one with an ending I cannot begin to predict, if it has an ending at all. In the meantime, I hope I've provided some tiny window into the thousands of fleeting stories, personalities and trends that defined the sport on a daily basis, not nearly enough of which have included Les Miles' clock management, photos from Jacory Harris' Twitter feed or mascot-on-mascot violence. One day, scientists will conclude that comment sections concerning Tim Tebow, Boise State, Cam Newton, the BCS and Joe Paterno have contributed to global warming, and that it was worth it. (And also that the BCS was kind of a dumb idea.)
With that, the torch is officially passed to Graham Watson, who has already staked out considerable territory here over the last nine months. Her addition has been invaluable to me, and now the beast is hers to feed. I'll resurface soon enough, and I shouldn't be hard to find. Thanks to everyone who read, and especially those who kept reading.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @MattRHinton.
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