Friday, November 23, 2007

Lllllloyd Carr drives into the sunset

By Rick Morris

Some of the Detroit Red Wings blogs I enjoy reading have a fitting nickname for Detroit Free Press columnist/author/talk show host Mitch Albom: The Delicate Genius. His writing talent and creative abilities are beyond dispute, but he doesn’t have an internal meter to keep his tendencies to become overwrought and maudlin in control. Witness his piece earlier this week bemoaning the circumstances surrounding the departure of Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr.

It is quite possible to buy into one of the larger points of Albom’s column: that Carr is a much nicer guy than his gruff public persona would indicate and that he is a rare figure in the sports world with a sense of perspective about the place of his profession. Certainly, Carr’s insight about the worth about sports vis-à-vis the rest of the world is refreshing and necessary, especially in a week when a jerk like Nick Saban wallows in self-pity and compares a football loss to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. But Albom, unsurprisingly, let his fondness for Carr take him too far in this article as he basically suggests that Carr was too morally pure for college football:

"Say good-bye to the good guy, maybe the last of them. Whoever coaches Michigan next will have to be more about business than Carr was, more about national titles, less about hospital visits, more about recruiting, less about philosophy. It is just the way the world works, and the world has moved quickly on Carr. In recent years, you could see the weariness showing on his face, in his jowls, in his eyes, which became steelier and angrier as the silliness grew in college football ... Remember, this is a guy who started in Ann Arbor in 1980, when ESPN was just a Connecticut cable experiment. In his time, he has seen the Big Ten grow to 11, the Rose Bowl go from Granddaddy to group member, and the goal of college football go from playing on Jan. 1 to playing on Jan. 7 ..."

True, Carr’s career coincided with the period in which big money (TV deals, endorsements, sponsorships, alumni organizations, etc.) really ran amok. Point well taken. But to suggest that Carr might be “the last good guy?” What hyperbole. What garbage.

Frankly, one need look no further than Michigan’s archrival to disprove this idiocy. Jim Tressel has worked every bit as hard to uphold academic standards as Carr and has done every bit as much for charitable and educational organizations (both of his parents were heavily involved in education, as is one of his brothers) and has been equally concerned with trying to uphold a good image for his university. Granted, Tressel has suffered his share of off-field embarrassments from his players over the years. But Carr has had a number of wanna-be Terrell Owens types with big mouths over the years (i.e. Mike Hart, Braylon Edwards, Charles Woodson) and he never suffers in some quarters the way that Tressel does for his players’ failings.

Again, I don’t have a problem with what the main thrust of Albom’s column seems to be. College football has become a lot sillier and more like a circus in the last quarter-century – although some coaches have continued to thrive in this climate without selling their souls. And Carr has probably been one of the good guys in the game and has a record better than many. But Lloyd Carr, when it was all said and done, was unable to be any better or worse than a mirror of what was happening in Columbus. When they had a horrible big-game coach in John Cooper, he thrived. When they had a great big-game coach in Jim Tressel, he folded. Frankly, it’s very unfair to the rest of college football to find in Carr’s failures evidence of his nobility. Whether Mitch Albom believes it or not, Lloyd Carr is not a better man than Jim Tressel just because The Vest has pounded him year after year.

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