One game, one meager game, in January, finally, after a forlorn career of tepid December festivals of anonymity, and the nearly epic run of Reggie Ball, Starting Quarterback, reaches its anticlimactic, premature conclusion.
The academic bell has tolled for all-ACC corner Kenny Scott, too, but it's Ball, of course, who captured our imaginations in so many ways vile and sublime. Others, they may be laughing, making their usual fun at Ball's expense, going so far as to chortle, even, at the diminutive underachiever's apparently having flubbed his culminating term in anticipation of, one can only assume, impending Arena League riches. This is just like them. SMQ, for his part, feels some intangible sense of loss for the child-man so mercilessly booted about by critics and gleeful antagonists for so long. Pundits tut he never improved from his freshman season, and yet Ball played on. Cat calls echo in the seats to throw Calvin Johnson the damn ball, dammit, on every play, and yet Ball was there, alternately underthrowing and just ignoring completely his moneymaker with stubborn, maddening consistency, week after week. Rivals mocked his substantial contributions to the success of their own schools, and yet Ball forged ahead, game after game, year after year, eluding the bench if not defenders, 49 times a baffling question mark ripe for implosion, and 30 of those times an equally baffling winner. We never got you, Reggie Ball. And now, the finish line in sight, his final opportunity to crash across the tape of his turbulent marathon in a heap of vindictive victory, our tortured, enigmatic survivor ensures - characteristically, in the most unlikely, underwhelming possible way - we never will.
They can take his eligibility, at last, but the helmet...the helmet stays on. Forever.