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ACC Week: Underlying Literary Themes in the ACC

The Individual In Nature
Nature is at war with each of us and proves our vulnerability, and People are out of place in Nature and need technology to survive.
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`Vulnerability' was a foreign concept to Florida State, winner of a dozen championships in 14 years since it raided and quickly sacked the conference in 1992, but then, these things happen quickly; the Berlin Wall was impregnable, was it not? Up to the moment it was breached and shattered, like so many Seminole offensive linemen, and a second long-denied mandate of the indifferent universe - entropy - descended to rule the great fallen bear and its one-time satellites alike. Once great power has failed in the primitive dust of Afghanistan, or in a home shutout loss to the warlord defense of Wake Forest, the edifices it's built to fortify itself against Nature's barrage must crumble; we all must succumb, eventually, to that abhorrent vacuum.

He who fills the void will not necessarily be the nearest facsimile of the deposed in terms of brute strength, or even resources, but rather he who innovates, improvises, evolves amid the harsh new realities. So it was not Miami assuming the throne, as long imagined before the mighty U was strangled by the ossification of its own, uh, "cultural revolution," but those same Demon Deacons - no doubt inspired by Mart Laar's "Estonian Miracle" - who at precisely the right moment quietly deregulated their offensive strategy for an unorthodox grab-bag of reverses, misdirection, screens and highly efficient passing gadgets, favored a conservative but firm defense and rode a cresting wave of turnovers (+13) and opportunistic Reggie Ball-playing into power over stunned opposition.

So you want to be a champion, do you? Welcome to hell, kid.
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Yet today the bear stirs, restless again, and grows rhetorically hostile to the long-prized democracy flowering in its brief hibernation. Its stance is aggressive, backed by reforms designed to simultaneously bring it into the 21st Century and to crush the unworthy upstarts who suddenly - appallingly - view it as an equal. Some of the old regime are returning to prominence alongside well-heeled new blood in FSU's leaner, meaner, more ruthless posturing, backed by tremendous natural resources and a growing commitment to re-arming what, while greatly diminished, remains one of the world's most dangerous, potentially overwhelming stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, awaiting deployment in the name of regional pride, stability and the rightness of man's dominion over nature, dammit.

An Individual's Relation to the Gods
The gods mock the individual and torture him or her for presuming to be great.
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How much mountain Butch Davis scaled his own self at Miami, and how much the `Canes' long, probation-addled "Reform the Storm" arc in the late nineties was enacted from recruiting prowess borne on the shoulders of his more laissez-faire, NFL-jumping predecessors, is beside the point - in the end, the hubris to presume donning wax wings for a flight at the empty lucre and prestige of pro boss-dom is akin to putting away childish things for the true destinies of manhood always amounts to the same display of insolence in the eyes of the gods. To Jimmy Johnson, the rare but necessary chosen one, much was given at the next level, and much received in return, but his pride quickly excommunicated him to the Elba of incoherent jaw sessions with Terry Bradshaw, where his main purpose is to grin and bear malicious parodies by the fat guy from MadTV. Dennis Erickson, suffering the more familiar pratfalls of campus men in the pros, was spewed back into the college ranks, where, humbled, he was again allowed to thrive in an unlikely setting until re-stricken with doomed ambition. His second NFL rejection will be his last, and surely bodes ominously for the immediate fate of the People's Republic of Arizona State, which cannot be allowed to benefit from Erickson's callous exit from Idaho.

Davis, for forsaking a certain champion on the presumption he could turn the NFL's staggering, worm-eaten Lazarus into a stable member of the society, was dealt a more creative torment: not only was he obligated to shepard the inevitable demise of two of the Browns' failed number one overall picks - one of whom, prominently, couldn't beat out an undrafted free agent at quarterback - but was actually allowed to succeed to a point in his second season, when Cleveland earned a wild card bid and led comfortably at Pittsburgh in the third quarter, 24-7. But the gods, this is why they are the gods: Davis watched his team blow the lead at the shaky hands of Former XFL MVP Tommy Maddox, lose 18 of its next 27 games and force him into premature, disgraceful resignation as a prelude to two seasons of unemployment. After which they struck him with a terrible disease.

Ready for the NFL, is he? Make blind his eyes to the true nature of the beast Courtney Brown! Then we'll see who's ready.
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But the fates, fickle as they are, may be prepared to smile on Davis' adventures in North Carolina - already, they've bestowed on him one of the best incoming classes in the ACC, and instilled in his returning players the wisdom to make the right decisions for the team. Their capricious demands must still be sated by ritual sacrifice of freshmen from the student section, naturally, but the ego decked in powder blue is traditionally the ego that remains in check over the long run.

Human Relations
Parents should not sacrifice all for a better life for their children.
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Bobby Bowden came to this realization the hard way through the very public trials of the beloved Jeffy, the same way he'll come to it re: Terry if Florida State loses to Clemson for the fourth time in five years. This one is fairly obvious, I think.

Growth and Initiation
A person grows only in so far as he or she must face a crisis of confidence or identity.
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One's charge in society, professionally, is to rise above others' expectations of him, which of course blurs the lines of failure and success depending on those expectations. If Kyle Wright was a PS#82, say, rather than the top-rated passer in the nation out of high school, or played at North Carolina instead of a school renowned for its quarterbacks, would he be considered a failure for completing a mere 60 percent of his passes, mocked for only winning two-thirds of his career starts, fighting for his position and possible future livelihood with a 26:17 touchdown:interception ratio in two years?

Those, of course, are not Kyle Wright's circumstances, and not the criteria on which he'll be judged at Miami when his eligibility is finished in January. The golden child, heir apparent, etc. who a year ago still had a fast track future as one of the best young prospects at one of the most successful schools, only has one last, desperate chance now to redeem his identity as an indecisive, coach-killing incompetent at a scarred program where he might not belong on the field at all, much less deserve to stake his claim in its prolific history, per the expectations.

In the first month of the season, Wright will have two opportunities to resolve his crisis in a twelve-day span, for good or ill: it's not possible to imagine him leaving Miami with any measure of confidence, much less the respect of others, if the former isn't moving boulders of resolve in his psyche when the Hurricanes visit Oklahoma on Sept. 8, or when Texas A&M comes to the Orange Bowl on a Thursday night on Sept. 20, for a national audience from which there is no hiding and no sympathy.