Winning

On Wednesday the NCAA released a statement declaring it had concluded an investigation into Auburn University that included, but was not limited to, allegations involving Cam Newton and four players who appeared on an HBO special.

The NCAA found no wrongdoing.

Vindication for those of us who have consistently asked “where’s the proof?”  Absolutely.

Unprecedented? Beyond a doubt. Few can remember the NCAA ever making such a definitive statement in regard to any investigation. Fewer can remember the NCAA ever putting a program under its microscope and coming away with nothing.  That they did is a testament to the men and women who run the Auburn Athletic Department.

The allegations evoked such emotional response and the investigation was so scrutinized that any statement by the NCAA prior to the end of the statute of limitations is certainly telling.

In the wake of the NCAA statement is a long list of winners and losers.

The Never To Yield Foundation Winner
Yes, our arms are long enough to pat ourselves on the back.  And we should. From the very beginning the Foundation was in front of the fight. We took it on when many were afraid to step up.

And we were right on every single point.

Reynolds Aluminum Loser
The tinfoil hat making business will take a nosedive now that the conspiracy theorists have run out of hope. The letter from the NCAA was clear enough that anyone with an IQ higher than that of a refrigerator magnet understands that Auburn has been cleared after an exhaustive investigation. A few will still proudly sport their tinfoil headgear as they spin even more ridiculous theories, but most of the aluminum hats are going in the trash bin and few new ones will be made.  Sorry Reynolds. At least you’ve got Thanksgiving and the leftover season coming up.

Cam Newton Winner
No real surprise here.  Newton handled the entire episode with quiet strength and dignity.  He exhibited more class and decorum in responding to the controversy than any of the jackals who created it did.  He withstood the barrage, led his team to the national championship, won the Heisman Trophy, was the first pick of the NFL draft, opened his rookie season on a record-setting pace and is poised to be one of the most dynamic players in the league.  Newton’s infectious smile is genuine. And he’s got plenty to smile about.

Cecil Newton  Loser
Again, no surprise. No matter what actually transpired, Cecil Newton will always have to bear the burden of the conversation or conversations with representatives of Mississippi State University that opened the Pandora’s Box of allegations.  Whether he only listened or whether he initiated the discussion is of little consequence, it was that act that gave the howling wolves the chance to bay.

Gene Chizik  Winner
Chizik’s calm confidence throughout the entire ordeal was a symbol of strength. Nobody today looks any better than Chizik does.  He said (and didn’t say) the right things at the right times. He struck exactly the chord needed to navigate the waters.  When Chizik said he had no trouble sleeping, it was because he knew from day one.  After watching other coaches lash out at reporters, explode in tyrannical tirades and bumble through difficult questions it’s easy to appreciate Chizik’s businesslike demeanor.  Whether by luck or by design, he was the perfect man to guide Auburn through the forest of allegation. In true Chizik fashion, he’s already on to other issues.  He deserves much credit.

Joe Schad, Pete Thamel, Thayer Evans, Pat Forde Losers.
Integrity zero. Credibility, zilch. As of Wednesday, you all look like bigger idiots than you did before.

Pete Fiutak and Mike Bianchi  Epic losers.
Pete. Mike. Don’t you feel stupid now? Go back and read your hysterical rants from a year ago. You broke out the big pitchforks and the bigger torches.  You demanded that Gene Chizik step down, that Cam be benched and that he be removed from the Heisman ballot. What if someone had actually paid attention to your infantile screeds and punished the innocent based on nothing more than unsubstantiated rumor? You were wrong. Badly. You should own up to it.

BCS and Heisman Voters  Winners (most of you)
You could have caved in to public perception. You could have allowed the howls of the few to override the realities. You could have rushed to judgment. Most of you did not.  You understood that to deny that team and those players their due based on nothing more than undocumented and unproven allegation would be a travesty. Today you are vindicated. To those who failed to exercise restraint and allowed speculation to guide your decision-making?  You’d have done really well in Salem. In the 1500s.

Blairex Laboratories, Inc.  Winner
Blairex, the makers of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, saw its stock rise considerably on Wednesday as thousands of butthurt message board trolls and pseudo media members reached for a tube after erupting in serious cases of chafing.  Among those with raging butt burn were Clay “Who Needs Facts?” Travis  and Tommy “Give The Crazies Hope” Hicks.

Anyone who paid for hushpuppy and conspiracy dinners  LoohooSER
The next time charlatans come to town selling snake oil don’t buy it.  Don’t go to hushpuppy dinners to hear people with no knowledge whatsoever spout lunatic theories. Don’t pay for their “insider information.”  Or better yet, do.  It’s funnier that way.

People named after fish  Loser
Whether you name yourself after a bottom-feeding river fish or give your fish moniker a color and striped mammal bookends, you’re among the biggest losers in the wake of the NCAA ruling. All your charts, all your timelines, all your borderline psychotic rambling, all your so-called sources were reduced to rubble in a two-page NCAA letter.  This category of losers can also be expanded to include hemophiliacs who don’t understand the subtleties of color shading.

Phillip Marshall   Winner
Marshall, a reporter for AuburnUndercover.com was a consistently moderate voice and at times appeared to be the only member of the media who had any idea what was truly transpiring.  Marshall steadfastly maintained there was nothing to the allegations.  He was right.

Gregg Doyel  Winner
Doyel of CBSSports.com was one of the few national media voices who applied reason. He was one of the few who waited until the facts were in before leaping headlong to conclusions.  Unlike so many others, Doyel refrained from pontificating from on high. He, too, was vindicated by the NCAA finding.

GoDaddy.com  Winner
The company that brings you Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels picked up a minor win in the aftermath of the NCAA ruling.  Consider all of the idiotic domains dedicated to Auburn conspiracy theories. Most were probably registered with GoDaddy on yearly contracts.  Since most of them sprouted up about this time last year, they’ve probably already renewed for another year even though they now have absolutely nothing to say.  As if they ever did.

ESPN  Loser
The Worldwide Leader allowed Joe Schad to go off half-cocked, allowed him to spout unsubstantiated rumor that wasn’t vetted. It fed the cycle of hysteria with breathless reporting and round-the-clock coverage.  But when the ruling was announced?  A quick shame-faced report.  No acceptance of responsibility, no retraction, no accountability.  Today it was Auburn. What happens tomorrow when the four-letter network decides to go on a crusade against your program? Hopefully ESPN will learn from this and make sure it sticks to the facts and avoids dumpster diving the next time.

Paul Finebaum  Winner
The conductor of the jackass chorus is amazing.  His ability to turn a potential negative into a positive is uncanny. Typically relying on nothing more than the average hazy memory and an air of certainty in his voice, Finebaum can flip the script on a dime.  And people buy it lock stock and barrel. Finebaum rode the Cam Newton horse until its legs fell off, giggling over every morsel of innuendo and rumor that floated his way.  He propped up the aforementioned Clay Travis and fellow sensationalist blogger Brooks Melchior as experts on the topic, interviewing both on multiple occasions. Oddly when Travis and Brooks began to drive the T-Town Tom Express, both were relegated to Finebaum’s bin of scorn, but that’s another tale.  When the NCAA ruling was announced Wednesday Finebaum quickly portrayed himself as a long-time defender of Auburn and Cam and one of the few who said the investigation would amount to nothing.  Amazing. Give Finebaum credit.  He milked every ounce of benefit out of the Newton saga and then effortlessly bounded to the other side as if he’d been there all along. He’s a chameleon. Whatever the outcome of the investigation had been, it was going to be a win for Paul.

Andrea Kremer/HBO  Loser
HBO attempted to ride the coattails of the Auburn saga with a report designed to gain ratings. Unfortunately the HBO special was a sham completely devoid of credibility and substance. Kremer, in particular, disgraced herself and her profession.  HBO illustrated clear bias in telling only the part of the story it created, and ignoring the larger truths.  It was a clear example of shoddy journalism and a textbook example of what not to do.

Vampires  Losers
First Gene Chizik described them negatively as energy suckers and declared he wanted them away from his program.  And then Danny Sheridan ruined the Edward Cullen cool and sexy vampire persona when he appeared on ESPN’s Outside the Lines as a Transylvanian ghoul. His shocking vampiric visage shattered the heart-fluttering dreams of millions of teenage girls (and many of their mothers) who mooned over the dreamy Twilight hunks.  Sheridan set vampire sexiness back a thousand years.

Polygraph Tests and Truth Serum Losers
Truth serum in particular took a significant public relations hit when vampire Sheridan offered to ingest it as a means of documenting his bizarre bagman claims. The phony serum had just barely begun to recover from a shameful episode in the 1970s when it was used as a plot device to elicit a confession from Dr. Zira in Return to the Planet of the Apes.  Polygraph tests suffered less shame as they are used to being laughed at due to their prevalence in cheesy police dramas and on soap operas.

The NCAA  Winner
There are those who will rant and rail that the NCAA failed because it didn’t prosecute Auburn. They’ll go to their graves uttering the same tired protest.  But think about it.  The easiest thing for the NCAA to have done was bring down the metaphorical hammer on Auburn. No case in the history of the NCAA has received more public scrutiny.  None has ever been as commented upon. Because in this case rumor and speculation trumped evidence in the public forum, there was a widespread assumption of guilt.  From coast to coast the expectation was that an NCAA finding was just a matter of time.  The NCAA could very easily have used shreds of rumor and wisps of smoke to cobble together a ruling that would have satisfied the jackals and pacified those who expected some sort of action. The NCAA didn’t.  It didn’t bow to public pressure. It didn’t bend to message board conspiracy nuts. It sifted through the unprecedented blizzard of emails from bloodthirsty rival fans. And it relied on the facts. The NCAA didn’t choose the path of least resistance. It chose the more difficult road of truth. It did so knowing full well that a full-throated roar would arise from the mob that demanded sacrifice and was denied. Gutsy move.

The State of Alabama Winner
Back to back national champions. Back to back Heisman Trophy winners. There’s no longer any question or doubt. Never was, really. The faux cloud is now removed from one program.  Only once in human history has one state shared back-to-back champions and Heisman winners.  It’s something to be proud of even if the acrimony of the most intense rivalry in sports sometimes prevents us all from recognizing just how special what we have is.

 

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