The Deep Cut is a companion piece to the Opponent Preview, in which I take a closer look at something related to the opponent, with a humorous slant.
In 2018, a writer at a prominent UCLA sports blog set about designing an experiment to test the psychological bounds of sports fandom. Over the course of the summer, the writer’s family was forced to watch Stanford football for days on end, with one individual given a telestrator and put in control over the images displayed. The following notes represent a chronicle of their descent into madness. This is:
The Stanford Football Prison Experiment
I welcomed the subjects (I felt it was necessary to refer to my family as subjects, in order to feel less guilt about what was about to occur) into the room, and explained the parameters of the experiment to them:
- Each day, the subjects would be woken up and brought into the main viewing room. The subjects would then be shown various football games that the Stanford Cardinal have participated in. One subject, Subject D, was placed in charge of the telestrator, and was told that he was in control of the viewing experience and he should promote positive feelings about Stanford football. This included using the telestrator to slow things down and showcase things like proper blocking technique or tackling form.
- 3 meals a day would be provided to subjects. Most meals would be provided by Chick-fil-a, the official chicken sponsor of college football, in order to reinforce a love of college football as the days progress.
- 2 bathroom breaks will be given for each subject, and in order to keep the subjects attention fully on Stanford football, a separate television set has been set up in the toilet area for maximum viewing exposure. The hallway to the bathroom has also been lined with Fatheads of Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey.
- Subjects are given 8 hours of sleep at night, but are prohibited from napping while the games are in progress.
Almost immediately, I can see the subjects internalizing their roles in the experiment. Subject D took to the telestrator with gusto, spending 10 minutes during the first game breaking down a McCaffrey slip screen and the downfield blocking of the Cardinal receivers. Subjects A and C both watched the games with a look of amusement on their faces, while Subject B has begun looking for ways to busy herself instead of watching the game. She will need to be closely monitored in the days to come.
The subjects are already beginning to complain about their all-Chick-fil-a diet. Taking a cue from the Pac-12 bowl games, I have chosen to supplement their diets with Cheez Its, in honor of the renamed Cactus Bowl. In addition, ice cold Dr. Pepper is now being provided throughout the day, served by a Larry Culpepper impersonator (p.s. just a heads up to Joe but I expensed this. Hope that’s ok).
On the football front, I am already starting to see some patterns. The participants become more engaged when they see Andrew Luck at quarterback, from Subject D’s focus on proper arm mechanics to Subject A commenting about how much the Indianapolis Colts have messed up a sure thing every time Luck makes a good throw. On the opposite end of the spectrum, audible groans have been heard at the beginning of each game if the subjects hear the words “Kevin Hogan.”
The introduction of Totinos Pizza Rolls has led to Subject C to develop a new coping method for watching the games. Each time Stanford calls a punt while inside the opponent’s 40 yard line, he forces himself to eat 10 Totinos rolls before the Cardinal get the ball back. In response to this, I have begun to adjust the queue of games, playing more Stanford games against tough opponents like Utah and Washington, to see what the tolerance levels of the subjects is when exposed to a large dearth of offense.
Subject B has been placed in solitary confinement, and I have had to hire a new Larry Culpepper impersonator. I caught the previous one sneaking in a copy of People Magazine to Subject B, which is a clear piece of contraband. As punishment, Subject B was forced to watch David Shaw at different press conferences for an hour. When she emerged from solitary confinement, she was much more quiet, only muttering things about proper execution.
The rest of the subjects are beginning to crack as well. Subject D, who is still in charge of the highlights, has decided that a focus on pad level is important and has asked if he could physically demonstrate how to gain leverage on the offensive line. Subject A has begun loudly proclaiming that Andrew Luck isn’t half the quarterback John Elway was and how fun it was to watch Elway lace it up for the Cardinal back in the day (note: Subject A was not alive when John Elway was in college). Subject C is still the most stable, which I can only attribute to a genuine appreciation of Stanford’s style of football.
Subject B has been allowed to leave the experiment, both because the physical and mental toil has become clear and because she stated “if you don’t let me leave right now, you are kicked out of this family forever.”
Keller Chryst just threw a touchdown pass which caused Subject A to enter convulsions. Actually, I’m not sure if it was the Chryst pass that caused it, or the 130 Totinos pizza rolls he’s eaten over the past few days. In response, the Totinos have been removed, replaced by Subway subs in an attempt to get the subjects to “Eat Fresh.”
As Subject D was explaining to no one in particular about how Tyler Gaffney’s two-sport prowess helped him on the football field, Subjects A and C launched a quick-strike offensive, pinning Subject D down and removing the telestrator from his grasp. Interestingly enough, that was also the extent of their revolt - with the telestrator in their hands, Subjects A and C choose to let the game play without stopping for any extra breakdown of the action. I let the revolt continue like this for a few hours, then put in a Stanford/UC Berkeley game to lull the subjects into a false sense of security before I, with the aid of Larry Culpepper 2, went in and returned the telestrator into the hands of Subject D.
Subjects A and C have taken turns in solitary David Shaw confinement.
As a reward for hitting the first week mark, I queue’d up a few Stanford/Oregon games. I assumed that by this point, the subjects would be so enamored with Stanford football, or at the very least be experiencing Stockholm Syndrome, that they would cheer the Cardinal on against any foe, but watching Oregon’s fun, engaging offense set something off in the subjects. They began chanting, beating their chests and cheering whenever an Oregon QB executed an RPO. The Chick-fil-a Sauce was repurposed into war paint, as was the Taco Bell hot sauce (Taco Bell was introduced this day as well, but only the tacos because funds are starting to run low and those are super cheap).
I have not seen Larry Culpepper 2 today. I fear the subjects have sacrificed him to their new offensive god.
Subject A has begun writing “10-2” on the walls. Toby Gerhart has executed a dive play for 3 yards.
I have decided to end the experiment today. Notes have become hard to come by in the last week, as the grind of Stanford football has worn down the subjects into a state of extreme malleability. Plus, it turns out that serving people junk food for 2 straight weeks was not a good idea. My bad on that.
Overall, it is hard to say that the subjects gained an appreciation of Stanford football. Quite the contrary, the subjects grew to hate the monotonous, never-changing nature of the football presented to them. Occasional glimpses of differing styles were sanctuaries for the subjects, especially if the opposing team had anything resembling a competent passing game. On the opposite end, games against teams with a similar playstyle, such as Utah, were particularly brutal for the subjects to endure, to the point where I’m afraid my non-existent psychology license could be revoked for cruelty towards test subjects. Subject D proved to be an interesting case. By being given some level of control, he remained more engrossed for a longer period of time, but, by the end, even he too began openly wishing for the sweet release of death rather than watch another counter run to the left side.
I hope these findings prove enlightening to the greater scientific community.