Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
In my head, I’ve watched the “Deion Sanders as a college football head coach” era of my life with amusement but a sort of detached interest. For one, he was the coach of Jackson State University, and I went to Morehouse College. While I was glad he was at a historically Black university, I did think the hype machine was doing too much, largely led by Deion himself, and he wasn’t my school’s head coach. Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, of course, has been a one-man hype machine since he became part of the sports landscape as a superstar-level (even legendary) two-sport athlete, champion and hall of famer, fashion maven and even rapper/singer. So while a lot of his rhetoric and even the various controversies during his time in Jackson State could clearly be chalked up as the Black equivalent of “doing too much,” it all seemed par for the course for the Deion Sanders we all knew. Plus, it would be irresponsible to say that he didn’t do a lot of good while at JSU, for JSU and those players.
Be that as it may, I was one of the people who felt bamboozled, led astray and run amuck when Deion announced he was leaving Jackson State for Boulder, Colorado, to take the head coaching job at the University of Colorado. I assumed he was chasing more money and an opportunity to be where he really wanted to be all along — at a big white school with lots of resources. I felt like for all of his big talk about how much he was doing for JSU, he basically bailed when he got a “better” opportunity. I even dedicated an entire episode of “Dear Culture” to discussing what it meant for Deion to leave this way and head for as white a school as possible in the University of Colorado. Ultimately, though, it would seem that I have gotten over it — entirely.
You see, every single week, I find myself rooting for Deion Sanders and the University of Colorado to beat every team they play and soundly. I don’t even know why I want them to win so badly — when it comes to big college football, my rooting interests lie firmly with the University of Alabama (possibly as an affront to my family, which is full of Auburn University fans; college football allegiances are weird like that). And yet, there I was during week one, feeling like Colorado was going to lose to Texas Christian University, a school who got manhandled in the BCS Championship game back in January, but I was rooting hard for them anyway. When Colorado won the game, you’d have thought I got multiple degrees from Colorado. But the truth is, I don’t even care about Colorado; that just happens to be where Coach Prime is at right now. I wanted HIM to win because I want his detractors to be forced into silence.
Nowhere was this more on display (in my soul) than their week three contest against Colorado State University, a school I can honestly say I’ve never thought about once in the entirety of my life until their coach, Jay Norvell, made throw-stones-and-hide-your-hands disparaging comments about how Deion was raised, leading Coach Prime to do what he does best — seizing on that opportunity to both make money and motivate his players. Their game, an in-state rivalry, was somehow set to start at 10 p.m. ET, and despite this super late East Coast start time ended up being the most watched late primetime game on ESPN ever. I was one of those people watching the game, and it gave me all kinds of heartburn.
That was when I realized that I care way more about Coach Prime’s success than I realized. I was stressed watching this game; Colorado was NOT playing well early on and Colorado State clearly showed up to play. Obviously, the stakes were high for both teams considering what had happened in the media during the lead up to the game with the comments from Norvell and Coach Prime’s responses. Both coaches clearly wanted to win this game; “it’s personal” has become Coach Prime’s mantra for his team AND a way of life.
Back to my stress. Around midnight, which was somewhere in the second quarter and Colorado was not winning, I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to see them lose the game, which seemed like a distinct possibility. I didn’t want to be awake at 2 a.m. and then have to listen to Colorado State’s coach talk about beating Deion and see his players act a fool all over Colorado’s stadium. I turned off the television and decided to sleep off my nerves; I’d wake up and find out the score. Imagine my surprise and absolutely joy when I woke up to find out that Colorado won in double overtime! I was through the roof and texted the homies to talk about what I missed and how happy I was they won.
We all seemed to have a similar response: “We care more than we should.” Most folks, though not everybody, I know are fans of Deion but somehow that fandom has turned into bandwagon fans of Colorado because we want him to win so badly. I don’t expect this perfect season to last; Colorado has tests against some of the nation’s best football teams in the coming weeks. Do I think they’ll win those games? Not really, but my heart really wants them to. And not because I care one bit about the University of Colorado, but because I want Deion Sanders to silence the haters with a perfect season and a BCS championship! Is he likely to get that? Absolutely not — not this year.
Maybe next year? If anybody can do it, it’s Deion! I want that for him, and I’m surprised by this.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on ANH’s app; download it here.