AN APPRECIATION: THE GREAT MORGAN NEWTON ASSPLANT OF 2011

Let's remember the context from a few angles: this is Kentucky football, and if Kentucky football's grand historical metaphor is anything, it is recognizing something important, adjusting to it, and then losing concentration and falling over on their ass. Kentucky hired Bear Bryant, and then lost him to Texas A&M. They saw the future with Hal Mumme, and then watched as scandal devoured the program and his assistants went on to coach pretty much everywhere except Kentucky.

They even hired Rich Brooks, and...shit. That was actually totally cool, Kentucky. We really don't tell you enough how cool it was that you hired Rich Brooks, and then allowed him to live the inspirational retiree pimp lifestyle of casinos, canoeing, and judicious alcohol consumption we hope one day to emulate. Never mind with that whole metaphor. Kentucky football is bad enough to be its own metaphor, and needs no rhetorical assistance.

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So remember how bad this was, and how immediately you as a viewer realized with just one bite that you had tucked into a true shit empanada of a game. This happens every year on the opening Thursday, and is kind of a tradition, but this exceeded the standard miscues and shambolicism of "South Carolina vs. Mississippi State working out the kinks and spraining every muscle in their bodies on live national television." Kentucky would end up with more punts than completed passes. That's bad, but it would get so much worse as it went.

But, hey, just look at Morgan Newton! He's pointing at stuff, and doing quarterback things. That's the worst thing about terrible football games: they look like the real thing, right down to the quarterbacks acting like they know what they're doing. That illusion, in real time, will last something like another four seconds in game tape time.

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Go back and rewind the clip, and you'll see that disaster began not by tripping over a lineman's foot, and not with a stray dirt clod lurking in the grass, and not even with an imbalance of bodyweight left uncoordinated by the body's normally stalwart ability to balance the gangly bipedal human form in motion.

In his mind, there is a mountain. On that mountain sits a cabin, remote, at great remove from the rest of the neural landscape. Other spirits of the brain can only get there by scaling sheer rock faces with only boards and chains to guide them. When they arrive at the top, the kindly hermitic thought greets them with a cup of barley tea, and then asks them to spend a kind afternoon looking at the beautiful expanse of the brain's kingdom below them.

That day, the hermit had to check the mail. This was a real bitch, because the mailbox was three thousand feet down, and the hermit didn't like walking up and down daunting rock faces anymore than you probably do. He thought about how lazy the mailman was, simply chucking the mail into a box at the bottom rather than coming up, what, would halfway each day be unreasonable? Really, the gall of it all when I help pay his salary and--

--and that is why when you live at the top of tall, isolated mountains, you should never, ever get distracted thinking about lazy mailmen. The hermit was Morgan Newton's concentration, and it tripped over a rock and fell three thousand feet to its death, bouncing loudly against the rocks several times on the way down. It was replaced with a bear with vertigo, and despite Morgan Newton running for a 58 yard gain later in the game, it never really recovered.

(By the way, it is a general rule: if you are doing a physical activity, and you end up looking at the sky, you are deeply and irrevocably fucked. Yes, even if you are Taylor Martinez throwing the perfect pass.)

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Credit him with this much: in the midst of the worst four-and-a-half-step drop in 2011, Newton had his eyes upfield, never giving up on the chance to make a completion. On a night when he had three interceptions and seven completions, that stood a very good chance of landing in the hands of popular WR Green Turfington or a Hilltopper defender. Whatever: without optimism this universe is one long march towards zero, and if Morgan Newton is about anything on this horrible, forgotten night, its about making SOMETHING happen.

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The Western Kentucky end actually celebrates the two-hand touch completing the auto-sack, which was our favorite moment aside from all the stumbling, sky-staring, and hilarious failure.

About that failure: please don't assume pointing and laughing is done from some innate meanness. This is all happening so soon it will spin your head, but football players, in what is now less than fifty days, will be playing football. Many of those players will be mentally and physically prepared, honed to a fine edge by not months but years of preparation, study, and hard work. The season is a helpless cake waiting for the knife in their eyes, something to be carved up helplessly.

Good for them. For every one of them, there are two guys who have no idea how much they have no idea what's waiting for them. They are you, two minutes into a thirty minute presentation realizing holy shit I have no idea what I'm talking about, and there are twenty-eight minutes left. He is the runner who cannot find a bathroom between miles seven and twelve of a half-marathon. Morgan Newton is four miles deep in a leaky bathysphere beneath the surface of the ocean, and really, really regretting the decision to be a marine biologist.

(Opening weekend should be like that scene from Spartacus: every safety running haplessly after a long pass misplayed in coverage, every running back who misses an open hole to dive headfirst into three linemen, and every punter who uses the edge of his foot to kick a ball ten yards forward at a ten degree angle to the sideline: they will all rush forward like slaves of Rome saying "No, I AM MORGAN NEWTON," and then stand proudly to be recognized for their valor in failure.)

You've been there, and might be there right now at this very moment. Watch them with the proper amount of reverence, even if you're laughing a buttock or two off in the process, because that utter, hilarious failure you'll watch on opening weekend has its own undimmed and immortal dignity. After all, Kentucky would win this game 14-3, and you know what it says there in the win/loss column? 1-0, that's what it says, stumbling assplants and all. Morgan Newton never surrendered to anything but gravity that night, and for that deserves your applause and admiration.

P.S. He also led to this, which was worth watching this entire hogwallow of a game:

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