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Floaters in the Goldfish Bowl

I'm glad to note that the college -- or for KSU staff, the university -- football bowl season provided the usual comedy relief this year, rivaling that of politics.

I've heard pre-game coin tosses are actually conducted in private ahead of time, and then "re-enacted" for the crowd. The Fiesta Bowl ceremony seemed to confirm this notion.

As team captains and assorted dignitaries convened, an official congratulated each team for showing up, then explained that the coin toss would involve tossing a coin. He presented the roughly hubcap-sized coin for each team's inspection, and noted the Fiesta Bowl insignia on one side represented "heads." The hidden side of the disk, possibly bearing the image of a tortilla chip, presumably denoted "tails."

It fell to the K-State player to make the call, and he proclaimed "heads" in a clear and confident voice. The medallion was duly tossed. After scrutinizing the coin rather briefly, the ref announced "it is heads."

So K-State gets a choice of receiving or deferring the first-half kickoff, right? But the official went right on to say "Oregon is the winner," and offered the choice to the Ducks.

I suspect that regardless of what the coin actually showed -- the TV cameras avoided it for some reason -- the ref was supposed to say "it is tails; Oregon is the winner." But he forgot and called it like he saw it, then continued as though nothing were amiss. Nobody amissed a beat, even though the ref didn't quite stick to the script.

The 'Cats didn't stick to their own script either, unless it called for a lopsided loss. Couldn't even manage a "squeaker," which would've allowed them to salvage a measure of self-respect, albeit sans trophy.

Sometimes the officials distinguished themselves in other unusual ways.

"Now for the coin toss, uhh Doctor ... Good ... ell?

The Rose Bowl camera shifted to Dr. Jane Goodall, groundbreaking primatologist, sporting her trademark grey ponytail, looking at once distinguished and perplexed. She gave the outsized disk an awkward flip, it bounced feebly on the turf, the winning side was identified, and the pre-game show continued.

The official obviously didn't know anything about Dr. Jane Goodall. Awkward.

I'm not saying everybody ought to know of Dr. Goodall -- just the ones who will be introducing her at a nationally televised extravaganza. Lucky the guy didn't dig at his armpits and scratch his head while he was trying to figure out her name.

I take it back. Arguably everybody ought to know about Goodall's work, and its implications for understanding our own species. If you don't know why you ought to know about her, you ought to.

After announcing a penalty for illegal formation, a miked-up Cotton Bowl ref intoned "It's still ..." He'd forgotten which down it was. But he quickly continued: "... repeat the down." Nice save. Bad grammar.

Both Cotton Bowl teams ran a hurry-up offense, racing back to line up for the next play before the defense could do likewise. They did it so well that the TV production couldn't keep up -- no time to run replays of flashy plays in between plays. Like many blessings, this one was mixed. Some of those plays really warranted a second view, but at least the banal commentaries decreased.

After positioning the ball for the coming play, an official rapidly back-pedaled toward his position near the center of the defense. But the Turf Monster's tentacles entangled his feet, and despite some flailing, he tumbled down in a most inelegant fashion. Although Texas A&M needed to run their hurry-up, their QB patiently waited while the ref struggled to sort out his limbs and lurch to his feet, knowing full well that he was holding up the show, not to mention looking majorly uncoordinated as millions of 56-inch flat screens displayed his reddening face in high-def.

At this writing, a few pro football playoffs remain before the Super Bowl, the one with all the cherries. It must be hard to plan each year's production, which has to outshine all previous productions.

In particular, the halftime show must be as extraordinary as it ordinarily is.

Most of the rock bands from the '60s and '70s already have appeared in this venue -- the Stones, the Who, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty.

Michael Jackson was there once, I think, but fortunately he's not available for an encore performance. One of his sisters did the gig too, but the only memorable thing about her presence was a shockingly disturbing all-too-brief glimpse of some of a breast with only the nipple covered, which even I didn't notice until the media's protestations of dismay began a day or so later.

(It's rumored Madonna offered the organizers a cool half-million if they'd let her reprise her earlier display of halftime self-indulgence. It's also rumored they countered with an offer to pay her $10K if she'd never utter the words "super" or "bowl" ever again, especially consecutively; their proposal was tied to a brick and thrown through her window, since Western Union, the post office, the World Wide Web and all phone companies refuse to engage in any activities that could link them to her.)

That's all the football we hard-core fanatics have left until late summer.

Do they play Canadian or Australian football this time of year? Can we order a DVD of the Kennedy clan's old home movies from Amazon?

Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton and now lives outside Hays. hauxwell@ruraltel.net