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  • Guns of August: A Satire of College Football

    This article is written by mkocs6 from Wagers and Lagers. Matt has been nice enough to share his work with us. So, in honor of this rivalry football weekend, here goes:



    The Powderkeg, or How Europe in 1914 Explains College Football

    The SEC is Germany, a rising continental power, scarily efficient and guided by a militaristic malaise all have begun to sense and defined by an inferiority complex due to defeats long forgotten by the rest of the conferences. The Big Ten is France, whose persuasive powers are in decline but whose influence remains significant even as it adds basically useless crap to its domain to expand its already absurd television revenues; furthermore, it recognized the SEC as the enemy earlier than the other conferences when the Southeastern Conference declared itself an empire at the Hall of Mirrors at Versai...er, I mean, won their first National Championship Game against Ohio State in 2007. Notre Dame is England, a traditional enemy of the Big Ten who with its gigantic, East Coast and urban empire financed by NBC capital, refuses to admit that its basic goals now align with the Big Ten, persisting in exclusively pursuing its own interests. Those are the truly great, modern powers.

    The rest are of considerable importance, but their bases remain more localized. The Big 12 is Austria-Hungary, a once-promising interior power with ancient roots, which had great potential as a confederation of the Big 8 and SWC. Now, it has been overtaken by internal discord and mistrust, as privileged Texas and Oklahoma rule over subject schools after they were defeated by the SEC in their bid for mastery in the 2000s. Tamed, the Big 12 recently entered a partnership with the SEC. The Big East is the Ottoman Empire: now truly 'The Sick Man of College Football,' formerly propped up by the promise of Notre Dame, its glittering possessions have gradually been taken by force by other conferences to the point that its prestige has vanished and its power is only a husk. The Pac-12 is Russia, an unsteady giant on the periphery who has also aspired to be a modern power but is late to the television revenue game and remains culturally distinct from the SEC, Big Ten, and Notre Dame. Only a few understand the Pac-12, which is ruled by a powerful commissioner and has been drawn into defensive alliance with the Big Ten due to the dangers posed by the SEC and Big 12. The ACC is Italy, long an aspiring power recently courted by Notre Dame because it offers geographical advantages and cultural qualities, but perhaps most importantly because it will not force Notre Dame to tie itself entirely to the fate of the Big Ten. The ACC always tries to flex what muscles it has but is ultimately limited by a lack of industrial resou...er, non-basketball schools.

    Eventually, someone--probably in 2014 and from the Balkans, populated by the increasingly confident mid-major/non-AQ schools--is going to do something which causes the whole thing to blow up, when a midmajor and the dynamic, subject schools of the Big 12 make common cause and hope to gain a greater share of television revenue and leave the oversight of Texas and Oklahoma. The Pac-12, hoping to annex some of these schools, will support them, prompting the Big 12 to ask the SEC for support. After offering the Big 12 a 'blank check,' the Big Ten will sense that it is finally the moment to settle old scores with the SEC, declaring its support for the Pac-12. At this time, Notre Dame will finally recognize that it must side with the Big Ten to in order to prevent SEC hegemony for the foreseeable future. Three years of useless fighting ensues, prompting a 2017 intervention by Congress, or the United States, who will not resolve but will take credit for the conclusion of the chaos while assuming a dominant role in the settlement of the dispute in 2018 and 2019.

    The American arbiter, believing it represents fairness and impartiality even though it understands neither the stakes nor the nature of the struggle, will ultimately will favor the interests of the Big Ten and Notre Dame. It will also conclude, rightly or wrongly, that the SEC caused the entire fiasco, and will agree to give Alabama and Florida the Death Penalty, to ban LSU and Georgia from bowl games for two seasons, and to place the rest of the SEC on double-secret probation. Congress will also dissolve the Big East and the Big 12, and finally award Missouri to the Big Ten. The fight and its outcome leave everyone embittered and transform the culture and government of the sport in such a way that nobody truly walks away happy, while the United States government is the primary economic and political beneficiary of the upheaval. The lot of the working class, or the players, will begin to improve, if only slightly, as the Lost Generation, or the fans, wonder what all the fuss was about and try to make peace with the senseless, new world they inhabit.

    Copyright--MCK, 2012

    Comments 18 Comments
    1. msclemons's Avatar
      I'm afraid to comment before resident historian mkocs6 weighs in.
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by msclemons View Post
      I'm afraid to comment before resident historian mkocs6 weighs in.
      Well, I wrote it, so... I endorse this interpretation.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by msclemons View Post
      I'm afraid to comment before resident historian mkocs6 weighs in.
      He wrote it.

      I'm a lousy futurist, I have no idea where this all end up. History suggests that if they try to put the squeeze on Germany at Versailles, there will be heck to pay, though!
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by wxwax View Post
      He wrote it.

      I'm a lousy futurist, I have no idea where this all end up. History suggests that if they try to put the squeeze on Germany at Versailles, there will be heck to pay, though!
      Urban Meyer, one of the Big Ten's--delicious irony, no?--great generals, might be heard muttering afterwards, 'This is not a peace. It is an armistice for twenty years...'
    1. msclemons's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by mkocs6 View Post
      Well, I wrote it, so... I endorse this interpretation.
      I suppose I should have read the part above the picture, haha.

      Good stuff 6.
    1. edave's Avatar
      Interesting that WWI was chosen.

      3 years of vicious trench warfare getting nowhere will lead to 20 years of standoff and a B1G Maginot Line (more recruiting in the Northeast?) followed by another major eruption.

      I don't know why I see the ACC as more like asia, but I do.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Concussions ad the lack of learning may be the Battle of Marne. I dunno, I'm spitballing here. Innovation along with the lack of change core values in military strategy has some interesting tangents available.
    1. Rich Gapinski's Avatar
      Anyone who has seen the Buckeyes this year knows the handling of Braxton Miller has been suspect in concern with head injury. Including today.
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by edave View Post
      Interesting that WWI was chosen.

      3 years of vicious trench warfare getting nowhere will lead to 20 years of standoff and a B1G Maginot Line (more recruiting in the Northeast?) followed by another major eruption.

      I don't know why I see the ACC as more like asia, but I do.
      As to your first question, because World War I is--and as an academic (which necessarily makes me something of a history snob, as opposed to the interests of a buff, and I'm not trying to denigrate people who are simply interested in history) I believe this--a much richer subject than World War II. On the ACC and Asia, that is a very interesting thought, certainly, and I think one that has a lot of merit. I chose Italy because I think the comparison is cogent and because I think Asia--really, Japan is the only power who actively intervenes--is kind of tangential to the causes and the progress of the First World War. I say this not only as a European historian, but in some ways the terms of the game are set up in the same way as the board game Diplomacy, which only includes Europe.



      I only included the United States because the jokes were too irresistible. Returning to your suggestion, Japan is a rising power, but is not intimately involved in either the diplomatic environment which leads the war--the Russo-Japanese War notwithstanding--or a power which contributes and suffers greatly in the course of the war. Italy, on the other hand, intervenes in the war with catastrophic results but ends up on a post-war trajectory that is similar to Japan's. Now, if you change it to Asia as a whole, that complicates the situation, because of British imperial holdings there, and I don't think that we can say, at the present time, that the influence of Notre Dame in the ACC is that profound or imperial. Yet. If I can make a hypothesis, in addition to the fact that your observation has plenty of merit, as to why you see it this way, it is that you live on the West Coast and I grew up in the east--areas of the country that, generally speaking, tend to believe Asia and Europe are more important, respectively.
    1. edave's Avatar
      I was thinking of the ACC as Asia (as a whole) because of the history of big powers coming and going, a small number of real powers at this point and the untapped potential that could lead to many changes over the coming decades. The ACC has been about basketball for so long that football is way down the list of priorities. The point about European holdings gave me pause, but I went with it anyway.

      Maybe we could ask the Big East to stand in for Italy (used to be second rate, headed downward at this point but ready for a Mussolini type character in about a decade)? Unlike the ACC which doesn't seem ready to go to war, the Big East will do anything for news.

      I'd heard of the game of Diplomacy but have never played it. Interesting board. Persia is there but Northern Africa is largely missing.

      Your observation about my worldview bias is pretty good I think. Living on the left coast for so long after growing up and going to school in the east has certainly helped broaden my perspective.
    1. ScottDCP's Avatar
      Thank you for writing something about college football that I enjoyed reading.
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Rich Gapinski View Post
      Anyone who has seen the Buckeyes this year knows the handling of Braxton Miller has been suspect in concern with head injury. Including today.
      I was completely suspect when I first saw how he was quickly cleared to play the game last month after he got a concussion. They kept aggressive to have him play; If only they did the same for the O-Line----
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by edave View Post
      I was thinking of the ACC as Asia (as a whole) because of the history of big powers coming and going, a small number of real powers at this point and the untapped potential that could lead to many changes over the coming decades. The ACC has been about basketball for so long that football is way down the list of priorities. The point about European holdings gave me pause, but I went with it anyway.
      I respectfully disagree with this assessment. Apart from the Big Ten's recent acquisition of Maryland, I can't really remember a member school of the ACC being poached. South Carolina left in the early '70s, though not immediately for the SEC but for independent status first (also, that's reaching a long, long way back; I was trying to place things that happened more or less in '90s and on as setting, since I was thinking of college football as the world of Belle Epoque or Fin de Siècle Europe; though, as you can see, I play fast and loose with my own chronology, occasionally, or at least I make everything before the 1850s or so a bit flat). More often and more recently, the ACC has been poacher than poached, adding Miami, Virginia Tech, and BC. I think we could make this akin to the Risorgimento, or Italian Unification in the 1860s, though unfortunately it comes at the expense of my Ottoman character than my Austrian, so it is an imperfect analogy there, although that was kind of hot mess by then--everyone, from Spain to France to Germany to Turkey, had their hands in Italy from the fifteenth century through the mid-nineteenth (at varying points, anyway), which is when my project here truly begins. I also think that, like Italy, many people respect certain things about the ACC--that they have many fine universities, their prominence in basketball, and so on--just as people respected Italian art and architecture, literature, and history (consider its prominent, historic place on the Grand Tour). Though Italy had some major industrial centers--Milan, for instance, for Florida State--but much of the country lived in abject poverty--your Dukes, Wakes, and other basketball schools.

      Quote Originally Posted by edave View Post
      Maybe we could ask the Big East to stand in for Italy (used to be second rate, headed downward at this point but ready for a Mussolini type character in about a decade)? Unlike the ACC which doesn't seem ready to go to war, the Big East will do anything for news.
      Here, I see the Big East as the most frequently poached, but also as a conference propped up over the last few years because its destruction or its replacement by another (say, the Mountain West) was dangerous to the monopoly the other large conferences had in the BCS. This was more or less the case with the Ottomans throughout much of the nineteenth century, when they came to be known colloquially as the Sick Man of Europe. I'm also thinking of Miami's moment and identification of the Big East (though they only join in 1991), when they were thought of as the terror of college football, making them something like the once fearsome Jannisary Corps, in the late '80s and early '90s, although that maybe doesn't play as well with my timeline. I think it stands well enough on the basis of the constant grabbing of the schools and the commitment of the other conferences to keeping them in the system in order to preserve it. The 'decline' of the Ottoman Empire is very long (and sometimes poorly conceived by scholars, similar to the case of Spain), but the best example of the type of interaction I'm talking about can be found here, in the discussion of the reaction of the Treaty of San Stefano.

      Quote Originally Posted by edave View Post
      I'd heard of the game of Diplomacy but have never played it. Interesting board. Persia is there but Northern Africa is largely missing.
      It's a great game, actually, but one that can seriously jeopardize friendships. I do not kid. The board is beautifully balanced, honestly, but you are absolutely correct that it is a historical oversight that it doesn't include Egypt (or grant England easy entrée into the Mediterranean).

      Quote Originally Posted by edave View Post
      Your observation about my worldview bias is pretty good I think. Living on the left coast for so long after growing up and going to school in the east has certainly helped broaden my perspective.
      Geography counts for a lot in terms of cultural connections and what we value as significant. I'm immersed in Europe, so that certainly affects how I framed this. There's more than one way to skin this cat, naturally, but of your proposed alterations I think the ACC-Asia typology is better than Big East-Italy.
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by ScottDCP View Post
      Thank you for writing something about college football that I enjoyed reading.
      You're welcome! And thank you to everyone who has read, and especially those who have read and said something thoughtful (which is, of course, the entire group discussing this as of this writing).
    1. KabaModernFan's Avatar
      I enjoyed this piece so much that I sent the link to my AP European History teacher from last year, because I figured he would also appreciate the lengths that you went to in order to make this analogy. Incredibly well thought out and well executed mate.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Genius
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      Thanks, Trumpet and Kaba. I'm glad this made sense, because I indulge in some extremely long, convoluted sentences here.

      Also, I am ashamed that I did not think to include that Congress would create a plan for the resolution of the war called The Fourteen Points, thinking the total of two touchdowns would make for a successful and cogent metaphor.
    1. mkocs6's Avatar
      The Sick Man of College Football adds Tulane and East Carolina, completes glorious conquest of Conference USA and continues to ruin the greatest conference in college basketball.