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College fans heard clear on the Net

By By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Sept. 25, 2003
Ah, the Internet. The information superhighway. A global marketplace of ideas.
The advent of the Internet has been called the most important development in communication since the invention of the printing press. Thoughts and ideas flow freely and instantly. Scholars share and discuss important works from thousands of miles away. Doctors consult databases on rare illnesses and even speak with other doctors. Students search a boundless wealth of information on a limitless number of topics.
And college football fans nag each other. All the time.
No foresight points for you, Al Gore.
It's not just during football season. It's during recruiting season. It's during spring and summer practice. It's the fourth Saturday in October just as much as it's the third Tuesday morning in June.
It's all the time. Every hour of the day. Every day of the year. Just like a bitter ex-girlfriend who never got her VCR back endless, mindless nagging.
In fairness to the former vice president, it would've been hard to call this one. On the surface, the idea of Internet message boards sounds great. People from all walks of life in all parts of the world, coming together by a common interest to discuss thought-provoking topics.
Literature message boards worked well enough. Everyone got along on the "Star Wars" message boards too. And you never saw any fighting on the cooking message boards.
And then you get to a college sports message board, where discussion is unceasingly fueled by one endless argument: "You're stupid and I'm not."
Pick any message board. Pick any team's fans. Put them together, and you've got a recipe for idiocy.
No school's fan base is innocent in the realm of message board lunacy. Mississippi State fans have Gene's Page. Ole Miss fans have the Rebel Vent. Bama fans have Southern Miss fans have EagleTalk.
Not all message board visitors are eccentric, but most of them are. Maybe that's a bit stereotypical, but I have a theory. If these message posters had normal opinions to which people didn't mind listening, wouldn't they be able to get by on water cooler conversation?
My theory is that, over time, these otherwise normal people become so compulsive (and intolerable) that the only place their opinions are welcome is the Internet.
There are varying degrees of mental instability on the Internet (just as in real life), but college football fans on the Internet fall into one of two categories: your head coach deserves either a lifetime contract or a pink slip.
At the moment, neither of Mississippi's SEC coaches are getting much love from their online obsessors. State fans have begun calling for Jackie's head en masse, and Cutcliffe's critics a group whose population was already sizable before the season began went loony after Ole Miss was upset by Memphis.
The Bulldogs and Rebels join an infamous group of schools whose board-goers are furious with their team's coaching. Tennessee fans have been calling for Phillip Fulmer's head for years, and one Florida fan launched the same day that the new head coach was hired.
Do any of these coaches deserve to be fired? Maybe. But that doesn't give credibility to the e-fans arguing for those firings. These are the same people who complain every hour of the day that Eli Manning didn't throw the ball 200 times per game, or that Mississippi State doesn't blitz all 11 players every play.
If they did, the same fans would complain that the Rebels were too one-dimensional or that MSU was too predictable.
Incidentally, that's pretty close to the truth.
Does that mean message boards are sources of anti-truth? Who knows.
All I'm saying is that they're sources of anti-thought, and that's enough to make me confine myself to discussions with the "Star Wars" nerds.