Stewart Mandel, a mainstream media stalwart who I generally respect, recently released his annual rankings of this season's 34 bowl games(wow, 34?) in terms of intrigue and watchability. Actually, to cite Mandel verbatim, the rankings are based...
only marginally on the teams' actual merits. They also take into consideration star quality, fan appeal, evenness of matchup, aesthetic appeal of the two teams' colors and whether or not any NCIS reruns will be airing at the same time.
So those criteria, per Stewart Mandel's own observations and personal inclinations, leave the Cotton Bowl as the 14th most interesting bowl. Sayeth the Mandel,
A fraud, when speaking of a person, can either be "a person who is not what he or she pretends to be," "one that is not what it seems or is represented to be," or "one who defrauds," per Merriam-Webster. It can also be the "act of deceiving or misrepresenting."
So, Stewart, what exactly did you mean when you thought it clever to call the Oklahoma State versus Ole Miss matchup the "Preseason Fraud Bowl?" Were you suggesting that their Cowboys and our Rebels were not what we "pretend(ed) to be?" I suppose that's correct to an extent. Plenty of Rebel fans, and I'm assuming Cowboy fans as well, had ideas of conference championship game appearances and BCS bowl berths dancing about their heads during the preseason. Yeah, plenty of us thought of our teams as being something that we clearly weren't, so point taken.
Are we "ones that were not what we seemed or were represented to be?" Well, yes. We were represented to be top-10 teams, remember? Do you? Surely you must remember Ole Miss and Oklahoma State being represented as top-10 teams, Stewart Mandel of Sports fucking Illustrated? So yeah, we were frauds then, but not by any fault of our own.
And what about that final definition of a "fraud" that I listed? The one that says a "fraud" is "one who defrauds" and that their actions of "deceiving and misrepresenting" classify as the act of "fraud." Is that us? Well no, Stewart, that'd be the fucking magazine you write for, fraud.
For any member of the mainstream sports media to call Ole Miss and Oklahoma State "frauds" is one of the biggest piece of sports media hypocrisies I have observed in quite a while.
And it's not just Stewart Mandel. I know I'm way overreacting here and I know I'm singling him out (Both of which are unfair... Sorry, Stu.), but such talk has been a part of everything as widely circulated as SI and ESPN, down to local newspapers, and all of the way down to online forums and opposing blogs.
Really, ever since Ole Miss lost to South Carolina on that Thursday night in early October--a game which many of us weren't too confident about in the first place--the "Ole Miss is a fraud" bandwagon has been going strong. That I'm honestly okay with. I am not, however, okay with the fact that the very same people fueling and piloting the "Ole Miss is a fraud" bandwagon are the exact same people who did the same for the "Ole Miss is gonna crash the BCS" bandwagon.
So, the media hypes us to be something we're not. They convince most of us Rebel fans and nearly all casual observers of college ball that this year would be "it." Yet we're the frauds, as if Houston Nutt, Jevan Snead, and Red Cup Rebellion have votes in the preseason AP poll and loads of ESPN air time.
Why isn't a 7-5 Oklahoma team, one which was number three in Sports Illustrated's top-20, a fraud? Or an 8-4 USC team which, not only started out at number four in your polls, but also doesn't have the convenient "our starting quarterback's shoulder exploded" excuse to fall back on, a la Oklahoma? Or how about a 9-3 Virginia Tech team which started out at number five and finished as debatably the 3rd best team in their own conference? Ooh, and then there's North Carolina (9-3), Georgia (7-5), and Florida State (6-6) who all started in SI's top-20, only to fall out of everybody's stop-25 altogether; why aren't they getting the "zomg u were OvErRaTeD" treatment as well?
This kind of thing happens every single year in college football. Some teams surprise, others disappoint. It's nothing new. To single out this year's Cotton Bowl between once top-10 teams as some sort of "fraud" bowl is cheap and shortsighted. Yes, this bowl embodies the phenomenon of deflated preseason hopes perhaps better than any bowl in recent memory, but that sure as hell isn't our fault.
-With Apologies to Stewart Mandel... sorta.