The Wall Street Journal, the newspaper for rich people, has established itself as the go-to source for financial and business information and even, on occasion, the smart, well-written sports op-ed piece. This is not one of those occasions.
In its quest to have an opinion, the WSJ sent human-reporter-and-not-at-all-made-up-person Stu Woo to Boise to document the rise of Boise State athletics, a rise that Stu Woo knew pretty sure wasn't a real thing. Turns out, he was right (according to him)!
Ah, if only it were that easy. Stu Woo's entry into the annals of awful journalism found its way to the inbox of Mr. Fiskers, who upon reading the entire thing coughed up a hairball and submitted it for publication to the WSJ under the psuedonym Hugh Lou Gireaux (distant Stu Woo cousin). He has yet to hear back.
While he was waiting, Mr. Fiskers put together a critique of Stu Woo's story troll. Apologies for taking so long to get Mr. Fiskers' response posted. There were like so many French words to look up.
Fisking is a point-by-point criticism that highlights perceived errors, or disputes the analysis in a statement, article, or essay. Mr. Fiskers is OBNUG's fisking cat. He has hyperthyroidism.
Headline: The State of Affairs That Is Boise State
We begin with a headline that means nothing. Foreshadowing for the rest of the article!
Subhead: College Football's Arrivistes Keep Winning Games - Tradition or Not
Uh oh, we have yet to even breach the opening paragraph, and already Stu Woo has used a word that Mr. Fiskers has never heard of. Better fetch yourself a reference book, Mr. F!
I meant a dictionary.
by Stu Woo
The name "Stu Woo" lacks a certain journalistic-integrity feel, wouldn't you say, Mr. Fiskers? It's more like the name of a ...
Used car salesman.
Kung fu man.
Bleacher Report featured columnist.
In his classic 1979 book, "The Postmodern Condition," French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard argued that all grand ideas, universal narratives and overarching philosophies of the world should be rejected.
Congratulations! Most pretentious opening sentence ever!
One of his strongest bits of evidence against them was that individuals rarely see things the same way - rather, the "reality" of any situation is colored by the observer's perspective.
For instance ...
Stu Woo's perspective on this article: "Wait til America gets ahold of these bons mots! Stu Woo for Pulitzer!"
Everyone else's perspective on this article:
It should be noted, too, that by leading with a sentiment about the relative nature of basically everything, Woo has essentially rid himself of all criticism for whatever comes next because "reality is colored by the observer's perspective," i.e. haters gonna hate.
Mr. Fiskers be hating.
This theory about the nature of reality is a great lens through which to view the progress of civilization over the last four decades. It's also a pretty good place to start a conversation about Boise State football.
Worst place ever to start a conversation about Boise State football.
In the last couple of decades, as you may know, the Boise State Broncos, now ranked No. 24 (they play UNLV this Saturday), have crashed through college football's ancient social strata like arrivistes with a timber saw.
Did you perhaps mean "arrivistes with a scie à bras"?
A former junior college (until 1965) that didn't even attain Division I-A status until 1996, Boise State has come, almost literally, from nowhere.
Literally coming from nowhere would be, what, a wormhole? The Big Bang Theory?
On a slightly related note, where was Stu Woo three years ago to document Idaho's rise to Arriveste Levels after their Human Bowl win?
It hails from a state of 1.6 million where it's not even considered the flagship school (that's the University of Idaho.)
No! Mr. Fiskers, put down that Nerf Hail Fire! He didn't mean it!
It ranks No. 62 among regional universities in the West according to U.S. News and World Report. Fewer than 15% of its 20,000 students live on campus, which makes for a rather dead scene on weekends. The dorms are tucked behind a basketball venue that's called Taco Bell Arena, and the football stadium holds just 37,000. Boise State's football budget, around $9 million, is a far cry from the roughly $25 million Texas spends.
Allow Mr. Fiskers to summarize Stu Woo's last paragraph: Boise State is not Texas because BSU spends less on football, has a basketball arena named after a Mexican food chain, and lacks wild on-campus parties. Another way that Boise State is not like Texas? The Broncos are ranked and the Longhorns are not.
/snaps around the world
Before a recent Saturday game against Fresno State, in the small tailgate area, Cody Lane, a construction company owner and self-described Boise State dropout, stood near the "Bronco Bus," a bread truck he'd decked out a few years ago in blue and orange. Asked why he's a Broncos fan, he offered this: "This is it for the community of Boise," noting the best alternative is minor-league hockey.
Cody Lane: spokesman for 1 percent of Bronco Nation.
The team's most famous win - over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl - was a lurid display of trick plays in the closing minutes,
Also known as the greatest college football game ever played.
Mr. Fiskers, don't bother putting down that t-shirt cannon filled with eggs. He deserves this one!
including a 50-yard "hook and ladder" at the end of regulation and a game-winning "Statue of Liberty" in overtime, both of which seemed as if they were borrowed from a gang of over-caffeinated eighth-graders.
Stu Woo = Oklahoma fan.
What's unnerving to the blue-blooded, ivy-coated college football establishment ...
Which blue-blooded, ivy-coated establishment is he referring to? The one that tried to blow up college football with a realignment cash grab two offseasons ago? The one that caved on a playoff? The one that exists in Jim Delany's mind?
... is that Boise State - despite all this - wins a lot of football games.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... being a former junior college.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... coming from almost literally nowhere.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... hailing from a state of 1.6 million people.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... not being the University of Idaho.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... having no party scene.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... having a basketball arena named after Taco Bell.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... being local construction man Cody Lane's favorite team by default.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... being arrivestes! Whatever that means! I'm still not sure!
How does Boise State do it?
In addition to overcoming the long odds of things like being Cody Lane's default team of choice, the Broncos have also endured additional travails that Stu Woo failed to mention. Did you know Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ...
... just now getting a Whole Foods in Boise?!
... no Justin Bieber gigs in the Treasure Valey?!
... a Mountain West ban on blue-on-blue uniforms?!
... surviving Jared Zabransky's 2005 season?!
Thanks to players imported largely from California,
You know who else imports players largely from California? Every team west of the Mississippi that is not Texas.
coach Chris Petersen has lost just seven times in seven years while winning the 2007 and 2010 Fiesta Bowls and ending up with rankings of No. 5 and No. 4, respectively, in the Associated Press poll.
And this, according to Mr. Woo, all because Coach Pete was smart enough to import players largely from California. Oh, if only it were that easy.
That's where Lyotard and the postmodernists come in:
Mr. Fiskers' cat brain can only take so much French philosophy. Must. Balance out. With. Garfield comic strips.
By climbing up the rankings, Boise State threatens to undermine the established reality of college football.
Mr. Fiskers can't be sure what Stu Woo thinks the "established reality of college football" currently is, but a good guess would be that Woo is 80 years old and believes college football should still be played with the triple option and shared national championships and Notre Dame being good every year. He is the Uncle Leo of college football.
If perceptions are fluid and all grand absolutes are fallacies, is there any reason why Boise State can't be just as relevant as Notre Dame?
|Final AP rankings, by year
The school's president, Bob Kustra, seems to be doing everything he can to fill these existential gaps.
In an interview, he recalled visiting the University of Georgia several years ago for an away football game and marveling at the red-and-white canopies that tailgaters had set up. "I said to my wife, 'We don't do that in Boise. We don't even have these little tent things that symbolize the fan energy of the day,'" he said. "So we came back and I said, 'Call up all the retail stores. Let's figure out if we can get the same kind of a deal.'"
Consequently, all the canopies at the tailgate the morning of the Fresno State game looked brand-spanking new.
Boise State wins a lot of football games despite ... having new-looking tailgate canopies!
If some believe the school and its football team lack authenticity,
"Some" = Stu Woo.
that view doesn't seem to be hurting the school in terms of enrollment. Boise State had its largest graduating class last year. The school president said out-of-state students made up 21% of the incoming class last year, up from 7% in 2003.
Then there's the school's most glaring advantage: the city of Boise itself. This up-and-coming town of 200,000 has been attracting transplants looking for safety, simplicity and the region's ample beauty (the mountains are visible from the stadium, which borders the lazy-flowing Boise River).
Must credit Dustin Lapray for use of "lazy-flowing Boise River."
Along the Greenbelt, a tree-lined riverside path that runs through campus, the procession of skinny cyclists, skinny stroller-pushing couples and other skinny folks seems as if it was choreographed by the city's tourism board.
Even if a high percentage of the older fans are from somewhere else and have no ties to the school - and even if the already-tiny student section, tucked into the second deck, was the last to fill up and the first to empty when the Broncos took a 17-point lead midway through the fourth quarter - there's a neatly manicured vibe to the place where everything is new and, as a consequence, anything seems possible.
I couldn't agree more. You know what? This Stu Woo guy is starting to grow on me.
OK! I take it back! I take it back!
If Boise State has something to say about it, the school will ultimately join the elite ranks of college football.
No offense, Big East.
Kustra even mentioned a once-unthinkable ambition to join the Pac-12, should that august conference ever expand again. To get there, he conceded that the school would first have to improve its academics, add more beds to beef up student life, expand the stadium and become a Tier 1 research university.
If tradition is a prerequisite, then Boise State may never make it there.
Tradition is one of those gatekeeper concepts that is hard to define and oh-so-easy to use when you wish to exclude someone. What? Your tailgate canopies do not smell like the late 1980s? No Pac-12 for you!
The problem with Stu Woo's argument is that tradition, along with all his other nostalgic ideals for college football, matters little. Take his previous sentence for instance. Stu Woo is arguing that Boise State may never make it into the Pac-12 because the Broncos lack tradition, meanwhile the very conference Woo thinks might exclude the Broncos very recently threw tradition out the window in changing from the Pac-10 to the Pac-12.
But the thinking seems to be that traditions can be bought. Or at least achieved through clever gimmicks and promotional tactics.
Another late French theorist,
No, Mr. Fiskers! Put down that poinsettia. I promise there won't be any more French theorists! You don't have to do this!
Jean Baudrillard, argued that the hallmark of the postmodern world is that we've become so reliant upon fakes and reproductions - plastic Christmas trees, for instance - that we've actually lost track of what's real. Anyone who has ever watched their three-year-old become engrossed by an iPad probably wouldn't argue the point.
It's not clear whether Boise State can keep winning long enough to rewrite the once-immutable laws of college football. But the longer they hang around, and the more games they win on their Smurftastic turf, the more perceptions they may be able to change.
It may only be a matter of time before we can't tell the difference between a plastic football program and the real thing.
I am not sure why Stu Woo felt the need to travel all the way to Boise to write an article about feelings he set in stone well before he left his home in North Pretentiousville. He believes Boise State is a fake. He thinks college football royalty is achieved through decades of existing. He calls cologne eau de toilette, and not the way you or I would do (giggling the whole time) - he's serious about it.
Fact of the matter is that the real world of college football is not the tradition-rich, ivy-coated one that Woo believes. More and more, the best teams make their own destiny, which is the way it should be.
Vivé Stu Woo getting relocated to the Wall Street Journal France branch!