There’s a backlash to the Deion Sanders hype, and an even bigger backlash to the backlash.
What’s really going on here?
Let’s talk about it.
If you’re a millennial college football fan, this message isn’t for you. Deion Sanders has been famous your entire life. You watched him be a four year starter at Florida State, spending his last two years as the best player on a team that never left the top 10. You watched him be a first round pick and go to pro bowls in Atlanta, and win Super Bowls in San Francisco- where he won a defensive MVP, and Dallas- where he played on both sides of the ball. You watched him take several years off and then come back in his late 30’s and play at a high level with the Ravens. He’s likely a top 3 corner, and a top 3 kick returner of your lifetime. And if you’re a baseball fan, you watched this man play in New York, the Bay, in Cincinnati, and you watched him hit over .500 in a World Series with five stolen bases in four games in Atlanta. This man led the league in triples once despite only being available for 60% of the season.
On top of all that, Prime has been the coolest man in whatever room he’s been in going on five decades now, and he’s been in a lot of very important rooms.
He’s the Elvis of sports. He doesn’t just move the needle, he hypercharges it. And if you’re a certain age, you get exactly why Big Noon Kickoff is following him around the country like a puppy dog. They’re in the attention business. It’s the same reason Notre Dame gets a TV channel all to themselves.
And that’s the common ground that we should all be able to agree on- that for better or worse, there is an extreme appetite to consume all things related to Deion Sanders.
Think of it in food terms, there wasn’t a fast food chicken sandwich war because people weren’t eating chicken sandwiches.
College football is a business, and the market picks and chooses what people want to see, It might not be what you want to see, but we live in a “majority rules” society, and there’s no college football capitol you can go storm if you don’t get your way.
But to be fair to the people that are sick of hearing about Deion, that needle is getting moved by people that aren’t just fans of college football, but people who are fans of celebrity, and by people who also just get caught up in whatever is trending.
Deion Sanders is growing the game. He’s making new college football fans. And what’s a synonym for a brand new person? A baby.
Babies are a lot of things. They’re cute. They represent hope for a bright future. But they’re also loud. And emotional. And needy. And they believe the world ends and begins with their mom or dad.
And so this last weekend, you had a bunch of toddler Colorado fans running around saying “my dad could beat up your dad” in regards to Oregon, because what they do know is that they love their dad, and they’ve seen him do wonderful things.
But what they don’t know is that the other dad they’re talking about spent the last decade as a professional Buffalo hunting maniac.
Deion’s fans are going to learn what every young college football fan learns, the field tells the truth.
Just because you can get on stage with Lil’ Wayne at 9am in Boulder, Colorado on game day, doesn’t mean that your offensive line can stop some of the best defensive linemen in the country from making your quarterback’s life hell.
In the end, it’s worth it to deal with these new fans. The ends will justify the means, I promise you that. There’s nothing like college football, and seeing Colorado games sold out at home, and on the road, is incredible.
But just because these fans are new, doesn’t mean that some of their complaints aren’t rooted in truth.
Let’s get into the backlash to the backlash- and if you think I’m going to say it’s boiler-plate racism, you’re wrong.
College football has a scarcity issue.
There are only a handful of teams that make the playoff. There are only a handful of game-changing recruits. There are only a handful of, excuse the pun, primetime television spots.
The entire point of this sport is to scratch and claw your way to the top of the mountain, and then once you’re up there, turn around and kick the people that are trying to get on your level, right in the face.
Guys like Dan Lanning, Marcus Freeman, Ryan Day and Mike Norvell are on their way up that Mountain. Guys like Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and Kirby Smart are already there.
Colorado’s slogan is “We Coming.”
And what Deion Sanders means by that, is “we coming up that mountain to throw your ass down it.”
Nobody that isn’t a Colorado fan, a Deion fan, or a fan of a team that will never reach the top themselves, wants that to happen.
And real college football fans know this movement has substance. Do you think the best athletes on earth want to play in Tuscaloosa, Alabama because of its pristine beaches and majestic waterfalls? No, they want to be on the biggest stage. And wherever Deion Sanders goes, he brings a pretty damn big stage with him.
And that stage that Deion brings makes the people aware of the scarcity of college football feel a little bit of fear, and a whole lot of jealousy.
So yes, they are rooting on Deion Sanders to fail. Because his success means someone else is falling down that cliffside. And they aren’t just rooting for Deion to fail because he’s black- they want that same level of failure for Lincoln Riley, Steve Sarkisian, and Billy Napier. The whitest of whites.
But we’d be fools to not address the elephant in the room.
Deion Sanders is black. He’s proud of being black. More importantly, he’s proud of being a non-sanitized version of a black man. He’s proud to be himself. And he’s extremely outspoken about his desire to see black Americans prosper.
And the objective truth in this country is that black men and women have been systematically excluded from sharing in all of the privileges that this wonderful country, with all of its wonderful ideals, has allowed to some of its lesser melanized citizens.
Things are better than they’ve ever been, and I’m grateful for that, but the football coaching profession is one of those things that you’d have to be an actual robe-wearing klansmen to say has made “too much” progress.
So you have to understand how the exclusionary nature of college football, whose entire point is to get yours and keep others from getting theirs, looks and feels to black fans that are used to that particular mindset being the exact delivery method for real issues of racism that they face out in the real world.
From an outside perspective, you have a successful black man that doesn’t drink, doesn’t cuss, loves Jesus, loves his mama, and uses his platform to promote hard work and education to the youth of this country, making waves in a profession where not many people in power look like him, and nobody in power acts like him- and the negative response to that is often very loud, and very critical.
Excuse me if I don’t blame people for feeling like this is race issue, even if that’s not the whole truth.
And I know I’m going to get people in my mentions saying that I’m just sticking up for Deion and his fans because I’m black too. They’ve been there every single time I’ve mentioned Deion Sanders’ name.
But I’m not worried about those people. They’re not in positions of power. In fact, it’s because those people have never had any power or control over a single thing in their entire life, that they get mad when they turn on the TV and see an interracial couple in a Mountain Dew commercial. So of course they’re gonna be mad when every channel on their television is talking about “Coach Prime.”
Hopefully this helped explain the disconnect. New college football fans, and the ones that have been in the trenches have about as much in common as an infant and a boomer. Outside of the fact they both get a little cranky.
College football isn’t inherently racist, and even though it’s structure has plenty of evidence that systematic racism is at play, it also boasts as good of a merit-based system as any industry in America.
Most people that hate Deion Sanders don’t hate him because he’s a threatening black man, they just hate him because he’s threatening their place in the college football ecosystem, and he happens to be black.
And Colorado is better at football than they’ve been in a long time because of Deion Sanders, but that doesn’t mean your dad can beat up my dad.
Let that sink in.