Stewart Mandel and the Rule of Holes

Stewart, stop digging.

Mandel, in his previous Mail Bag, labelled Florida an elite school in D-1 football and dismissed Georgia as a “regional power”. For some unknown reason on my part, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and assumed that there was some analytical basis for his characterizations.

Well, as my mom used to say, you know what happens when you assume.

In this case, we get another Mail Bag. And Mandel decides to let us in on his analysis. It’s very simple, really.

Suppose we went to, say, Montana. And suppose we found 100 “average” college football fans (not necessarily message-board crazies, but not twice-a-year viewers, either) and put them in a room. If I held up a Michigan helmet, my guess is all 100 would know exactly what it was. If I held up a picture of the USC song girls, all 100 would know who they were. If I happened to bring Joe Paterno along with me, all 100 would say, “Hey, look, it’s Joe Paterno!”

So in the end, it’s not about flagship schools, or talent rich states. It’s not about wins and losses, either:

By any quantitative standard, Georgia has been a far better program than Penn State for some time now. Heck, the Nittany Lions have had four losing seasons this decade, while the Dawgs haven’t won less than eight games in a season. And yet, I would tell you without a moment’s hesitation that Penn State is a national power while Georgia is not.

Because of 100 people in Montana. Seriously.

Here’s his list of national powers: Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee*, Texas and USC. See that asterisk after Tennessee? The Vols were a “no-brainer” ten years ago, but have fallen off the map since then “a bit”. But they’re saved because of “Rocky Top”.

This is so lame, it’s not worth challenging. Except for one point.

Mandel says that Georgia isn’t a national power, because

… if I held up a Georgia “G” helmet, how many of them do you think would be able to identify it off the top of their head? And with all due respect to Mark Richt, if we secretly inserted him into a police lineup, how many of them would actually say, “Hey, look, it’s Mark Richt!”

My only question is do you think those 100 Montanans (Montaners? Montananites?) would recognize this fellow if you paraded him in front of them?

Do you know me? I’m the mascot for a regional power.


UPDATE: Michael Elkon, as usual, has some choice thoughts about Mr. Mandel’s latest.



Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles

8 responses to “Stewart Mandel and the Rule of Holes

  1. Brian

    Just an EXCELLENT point about Uga. Excellent.


  2. kckd

    I think the problem is are talking about national power or national team.

    By his take, you may have to be a national team to be a national power. But he’s a little nutty if considers Penn St. a national power.

    I’d say if his criteria is the people in Montana along with competitiveness, that’d leave Texas, USC, Michigan, Ohio St., OU and maybe FSU depending on what you think competitiveness is as they’ve fallen off the log recently.

    UF isn’t a team that’s recognized a whole lot outside of the region in terms of the novelty fans. FSU and Miami both have a much bigger national following.


  3. stick jackson

    Well, Senator, this is why we have blogs.

    This stuff from Mandel (and I know he’s usually better than this) is exactly the kind of increadbly lame stuff that smart but lazy or burned out “experts” have cranked out for decades, to the extreme irritation of many of their readers, but there was no way to respond.

    Uh, JoPa, white hemet, uh, yeah. Sorry — the Internet and, yes, The Worldwide Leader, have made those hundred Montanans vastly smarter than Mandel presumes.


  4. What gets me here the most isn’t the fact that it’s an ineptly reasoned list – how does what Mandel says about Tennessee not apply to Penn State in spades? – but that he tries to cloak it in this veneer of objectivity by referring to a “Montana rule”.

    Just be straightforward and admit that these are nothing more than your subjective perceptions.

    Speaking of which, if perception is what we’re really going to base our ratings on, here are my two hard and fast rules about how to determine whether a school isn’t a national power:

    1. National powers don’t play football on Thursday nights. If you need the exposure or the extra bucks that a Thursday night game on ESPN brings, you ain’t there yet, pal.

    2. National powers don’t start off unranked in the preseason coaches poll. National powers may have an occasional off year that drops them out of the top 25, but if you can’t generate enough respect from your peers to be considered one of the 25 best programs in the country going into a season, you’re not one of the elite. Sorry.


  5. Ben

    Mandel: “While LSU is clearly a premier program right now, its big-picture tradition does not match those of the 13 kings.”

    Uh…how far back does UF’s “big-picture tradition” extend? They never even won the SEC until 1991.


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