January 2, 2011

There's losing, and then there's the Pinstripe Bowl

Kansas State fans, I'm sorry for your Pinstripe Bowl loss.

The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on Adrian Hilburn's salute following his fourth-quarter touchdown was tough to swallow.

If you were rooting for the Wildcats, it seemed inevitable they wouldn't be able to make the 18-yard, two-point conversion, or the subsequent onside kick.

The penalty completely overshadowed Syracuse's 36-34 victory.

Certainly, it will be the most-discussed event in the long and storied history of the Pinstripe Bowl.

I felt bad for the K-State fans, some of whom fought for days to even get to the game in New York after last week's northeast blizzard.

Of course there were other problems K-State had, aside from the penalty in that game, including:

* A missed field goal.

* A botched fake field goal.

* Those pesky 498 yards of offense Syracuse posted.

* Orange wideout Marcus Sales looking like Jerry Rice 2.0.

And let's not overlook the fact the penalty didn't take points off the board, or that Syracuse still would've had time to score more points.

But, hey, I'm not going to fault fans for being emotional about their team — and every fanbase would've reacted the exact way.

With modern media methods such as Twitter, Facebook and Internet message boards, there were plenty of opportunities for fans to vent their displeasure with the call.

And some of those were mighty entertaining:

On, one poster wrote: "Worst call in history of sport (except possibly for the Russian Olympic basketball victory in the 1950s."

It's hard to refute that point. Except for the hyperbole of the statement, and of course, the incorrect timeframe for the Soviet Union's infamous upset of the United States in the gold medal game of 1972 Munich Games.

Also advanced by commenters: the premise that Big Ten officials, who called the game, were punishing the Big 12 team because of perceived poor calls Nebraska, a current Big 12 team leaving for the Big Ten, received against Texas A&M in November.

Holy conspiracy theory, Batman! Kevin Costner's character in "JFK" would have trouble diagramming that one to a jury.

Although, I admit, I can envision Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany discussing the plan with the head of the conference officials.

"Look, we need to show we have Herbie Husker's back," Delany might have said. "Let's pick a matchup between two teams just happy to be playing in a bowl game again to show them we care.

"Rigging a game between the fourth-place team in the Big East and the third-place team in the Big 12 North will show everyone! Plus, we need a distraction from this 'Legends and Leaders' fiasco."

Being firmly in the "Let's not kill the refs/umps" camp, I saw the penalty as a combination of these events:

* It's a rule intended to weed out the Miami Hurricane-of-the-80s-style taunting and celebrating. On that basis, I'd say the rule is a good thing.

* It was unnecessarily enforced in this case, as a salute doesn't seem quite as egregious as some of the preening that goes on, or the shout-outs to one's sponsors.

* It came at the absolute worst time for the Wildcats, which is why it stands out so much.

* It's easy to be mad at something that seems arbitrary, if one watches a season's worth of college games — or even within that particular game itself.

But, just as there are plenty of holding calls which go unflagged, or traveling calls missed in every basketball game, that doesn't mean the ones that are called are bogus.

As one of my co-workers pointed out, wouldn't it have been better if he just didn't do it?

K-State fans, again, I'm sorry for your loss.

Cheer up, though.

With Wichitans DeMarcus Robinson and brothers Arthur and Bryce Brown on board, the future looks bright.

Years from now, no one will remember this.

Unless, of course, the Internet still exists for a few more years.

Run 'n' Gun is The Eagle Sports staff's weekly look at the offbeat side of sports.

Related content