King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Did Deion Sanders almost sort of make a sly reference to gays in football, right there on TV? Plus: The perfect plan to fix the BCS.

By Salon Staff
Published December 9, 2003 8:00PM (EST)

I might be reading too much into a tossed-off comment, but my ears sure pricked up at something Deion Sanders said on CBS's "NFL Today" pregame show Sunday.

Sanders, host Jim Nantz and fellow panelists Boomer Esiason and Dan Marino were discussing Lawrence Taylor's new autobiography and the troubled former Giants linebacker's interview about it the previous week on "60 Minutes." Taylor said he smoked crack on game days, sent hookers to opposing running backs' hotel rooms the night before a game to tire them out -- the running backs, that is -- and he and teammates collected bounties for injuring opponents with legal hits.

As the panel's discussion of Taylor's revelations was winding up, Nantz said that a lot of fans are saying that if Taylor's description of NFL life -- disputed to varying degrees by the three former players -- are accurate, it's hard to be a fan, hard to root for people like that. In the cross talk that followed, someone on the panel suggested that the league's dirty laundry shouldn't be aired out in the street.

"Keep it in the closet," Sanders said amid the chatter. It sounded like he was asking if that's what was meant, rather than agreeing. And just before Nantz cut off the conversation to send the show to commercial, Sanders continued, "Like some do."

Was Neon Deion referring to the closeted gays who are surely a part of many NFL rosters? I don't mean to dissect Sanders' words as though they were the backward talking on a Beatles record, but it's just so rare for anyone remotely connected to football to even acknowledge homosexuality in the sport that if Sanders alluded to it, it's headline news. I mean, nobody talks about this stuff except immediately after a former player comes out, which has so far happened three times in the history of the league.

Maybe Sanders had in mind a New York Times article, also from the previous week, about former Giants and Redskins offensive lineman Roy Simmons, who came out on the Phil Donahue show in 1992, eight years after his NFL career ended. In that piece, by Maureen Orth, Simmons discusses his closeted life, the way he could never have come out in his playing days, and the alcohol and drug problems that he's struggled with for years. Simmons, who is HIV-positive, has been clean for two years and works with recovering drug addicts.

The article has an interesting quote by former running back Butch Woolfolk, the University of Michigan star who as a rookie was briefly Simmons' teammate with the 1982 Giants: "I played with four gay guys. Roy is the only one I didn't know about." Woolfolk's career didn't overlap with either of the other two former NFL players who have come out after retirement, David Kopay and Esera Tuaolo.

It's probably safe to say Simmons wasn't the only one Woolfolk didn't know about. Deion Sanders knows more than he's saying too, but at least he almost, sort of, while three other guys were talking, came close to bringing the subject up.

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The perfect plan to fix the BCS [PERMALINK]

I feel like the judge of some kind of engineering contest down at the local university. People from all over this great land have been sending me their ideas about how college football can crown a true and actual national champion.

Pretty much everyone understands that their plan, no matter how logical and perfect, could never happen because, as explained in Monday's column, the college football powers that be are interested in a lot of things, and crowning a true and actual national champion is one of them. But it's not one of the more important ones. All of the important ones are green and folding.

I'll devote a column to some of your championship plans later in the week, but in the meantime, here's mine, which is as perfect and unlikely to happen as any of them.

First of all, to solve the Oklahoma problem, each conference gets a choice: You can have an automatic bid in the playoffs -- my solution is a playoff system -- for your champion, but that's the only bid you get. Or you can lose your automatic bid and let all of your teams take their chances.

That seems fair to me. If a team that otherwise wouldn't qualify can shoehorn its way into an automatic bid by winning a conference championship game, then losing that conference championship game ought to be a disqualifier.

So here's how it works: Eight teams make the tournament, based on whatever formula anyone wants to come up with. I don't really care if the eighth best team in the country gets shafted by the ninth or 10th best. I'm cavalier that way. Four of the lesser bowls can be drafted to serve as the quarterfinal games on or around Christmas Day, or we can just have four games on the home field of the higher-seeded team. Again, however you want to do it. I'm no control freak.

Then the (Your Company Name Here) Sugar Bowl, (My Company Name Here) Orange Bowl and (Some Other Company Name Here) Fiesta Bowl rotate as the semifinals on New Year's Day and the championship game a week later, probably on a Monday night, so as not to compete with the NFL playoffs, and anyway America is still in the Monday night football-watching habit at that point.

The Rose Bowl is in the mix only once every four years, as the championship game. The other three years, it reverts to its Big Ten champ vs. Pac-10 champ formula, which its officials have whined about losing. It can take the runner-up if one or both of those champs is in the top eight. It can even, if it wants, pluck the Pac-10 or Big Ten champ back to play in Pasadena if the champ is in the top eight and loses in the quarterfinals.

In the years when the Rose Bowl is the championship game, one of the other three bowls would, on a rotating basis, drop down and become a quarterfinal game. That bowl could take its pick of the four games to get the best matchup. It's only once every 12 years anyway.

This system crowns an undisputed national champion without going too deep into January, adding too many games or devaluing the major bowls. I think it would even be a boon to the major bowls. I don't know about you, but in the years when they aren't hosting the championship game, I find myself much less interested in the Orange, Rose, Sugar and Fiesta bowls than I was before the BCS. (Counting the Fiesta Bowl as having taken the place of the Cotton Bowl as a major, that is.)

Three years out of four, those games seem as pointless to anyone without a rooting interest as any of those bowls featuring 7-6 teams. Being national semifinal games in the years when they aren't the championship game would return their old luster, as would the guaranteed Big Ten vs. Pac-10 matchup for the Rose Bowl.

And if the Rose Bowl doesn't want to take conference runners-up, it can join the system fully and the four bowls could take turns dropping down to the quarterfinals every fourth year just as they take turns hosting the championship game.

When it comes to hypothetical plans that couldn't possibly happen, I am nothing if not flexible.

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