Senior Bowl nowhere to be found

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Last Saturday, the Senior Bowl in Mobile pretty much wrapped up the college football season.

Of course, the true fan knows that we are now into the recruiting season, which will be closely followed by spring football practice and the spring games, and those will be over only a short time before fall (summer, actually) practice begins. That leads directly into the regular football season.

Hopefully, some Natchez area football fans were able to watch the Senior Bowl on Baton Rouge or Monroe television, if not on some direct sports package. Up here in the Jackson area the Senior Bowl was not on my cable system. Saturday’s sports television here consisted of 26 men’s and women’s college basketball games, a boxing match, three X-Sports shows, two sessions of figure skating, telecasts of all three PGA Golf Tour events, a hockey exhibition, a horse race, Paul Ott’s Outdoors Show, and a match in the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. All of those have loyal fans, but I am not generally one of them.

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Thanks to an Associated Press article in the Sunday paper, I do know the outcome of that Senior Bowl. Of course, who wins that game is of secondary importance. It in always a showcase for future professional players and those who want to get a look-at in hope of fulfilling their desire to play football professionally.

I did see that Tennessee’s Eric Ainge (in the game only as an alternate) led the South team on a game winning drive in the waning moments. He was aided by a pair of pass interference calls against the North.

I don’t know what officials were working the game (the SEC lost its lock on the game back in the 1990s) but in my time the only way an official would call pass interference was if there was a train wreck.Particularly in a game like the Senior Bowl, officials know that the fans come to watch the players play and not to watch the officials officiate.

Rick Cleveland spearheaded a bunch of articles in Sunday’s Clarion Ledger about football injuries. The articles focused mainly on the National Football League and the failure of that organization to provide medical and other help for the older retired players who came along before today’s huge contracts and benefits.

When I played on the base football team at Keesler Air Force Base we had only one player with professional experience, and that man had played a year in the Canadian Football League. In contrast, most of the teams we played against contained at least two or three men who had been college All-Americans, and most of those had played a year or two in the NFL before having to join the military to fulfill their service obligation.

I was fortunate to have escaped that year with no damage other than a sprained knee. That knee has never since bothered me, but my many years of officiating on Astro-Turf and running on asphalt streets has left me with many other sore joints. I have no complaints.

The high school incident I mentioned last week seems to have died a quiet death. Any punishment was handled quickly and in house. I am sure that punishment was adequate and got the attention of everybody involved, both the hazers and the hazees.

And, that’s 0fficial

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached by e-mail at