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Time to correct misconceptions

In the grand game of Bullfeathers, we have a new entry. It involves, through no fault of their own, the Southern California Trojans.

By now, of course, we have all taken turns tossing adjectives in the general direction of the Trojans. They are very good. No, they are great. No, they are wonderful. No, they are a slice of pie and a hunk of ice cream.

And so it goes. The Trojans were so impressive, by golly, that most of us are finally willing to forget about that Tusk video. Watch them force the state of Oklahoma into hiding, and you cannot help but talk about the strength of the USC team, dissecting, analyzing, projecting, predicting the future. Then someone goes off the deep end.

"You know," they say, "Southern California is so darned good, I bet they would beat the San Francisco 49ers."

If you know the game, that is precisely the point where you are supposed to shout: "Bullfeathers!"

Every couple of years or so, this happens. It happened when Miami was playing the part of Southern Cal, or FSU, or Alabama, or whomever. A college team looks so strong, so cohesive, that after a while, someone is overcome to the point they think the old alma mater could do the same thing to a professional team.

Well, they wouldn't.

The 49ers, weak and woeful, would play name-that-score with the Trojans even if Dennis Erickson was still coaching. So would the confused and confounded Cardinals, the historically bad and bewildered Bengals and the rotten and wretched Raiders. Even the battered, beaten Bucs would win over the Trojans, provided Michael Pittman kept his fumbles in single digits.

There is the Orange Bowl, and there is hyperbole. College teams would not beat pro teams any more than high school teams would beat college teams. Consider this: The best players of college ball? Next year, they may or may not start for awful teams in the NFL. Some of them will fall on their noses.

If this seems like common sense to you, and it should, then you don't get my e-mail.

Speaking of Bullfeathers, though, there are a lot of contestants. These days, there are a lot of things that are repeated until they sound like they're true. Only they're not.

For instance, if you listen, you can still hear critics carp about the number of football scholarships that colleges give out. If an NFL team can make do with 53 players, the grand lie begins, then why does a college team need 85?

First off: No team in the NFL has played with 53 players since the days of leather helmets. That's simply the limit any team can carry at any time, not counting injured reserve or practice squad.

Consider the Bucs: This season, counting from the final camp cutdown, they finished with 53 players on the roster, 10 on injured reserve, eight on the practice squad. Over the course of the season, the Bucs signed and released 25 other players. Add it up, and you get 96 players. If the Bucs had needed more, well, the streets are full of prospects. That's a little easier than pulling a kid out of botany class.

Here's a Bullfeathers for you. The Devil Rays are going to be better next year. No matter what the calendar says, it's way past next year for the Rays. They have been economically eliminated for a decade.

Every time there is a Winter Olympics, I get hit with this batch of Bullfeathers. Some skating maven will lean over in the middle of a routine, and you will hear a loud whisper about how much better condition the figure skaters are than hockey players because their routines are longer than an average hockey shift.

Please. Look, I like figure skating, a sport where the competition is never over until the fat lady calls for a knee-whacking. But this is balderdash (the English version of Bullfeathers).

No offense to Brian Boitano, but he skated once a night, without heavy equipment, and no one was trying to put a stick handle in his eye. Call me a loon, but hey, I'll take Gretzky.

In life, sometimes you have to see through the blarney (yes, the Irish edition). No, the players don't play for the fans. Yes, it is about the money. No, no one writes a story on 1C trying to sell newspapers. (If you read a story on 1C, you've already bought it.) Yes, fans are smart enough to understand the intricacies of, say, a dropped pass.

You want Bullfeathers? The BCS is Bullfeathers. College presidents who say the absence of a playoff is because of academics are Bullfeathers. Otherwise, let's cancel the NCAA basketball tournament, too. Players associations that defend athletes wailing on fans, usually the wrong fans, are Bullfeathers.

Forty-yard dash times are Bullfeathers. When do guards run 40 yards? And if scouts are trying to get a measurement, why don't players run in pads? Wunderlic tests are Bullfeathers. Enough kids have graduated despite low test scores to convince me that SAT scores are Bullfeathers. Anything Pete Rose says is Bullfeathers.

In Tampa Bay, we have a favorite game of Bullfeathers. It's called Cutting Up Yesterday's Pie.

You know the game. Every time Jon Gruden loses a game, which is fairly frequent these days, people want to give Tony Dungy more credit for a Super Bowl two seasons old. It's a fairly silly game, to be honest. Most cities look fondly on the good old days; we're still deciding shares.

Come on, people. Tampa Bay needed both men to win the trophy. They needed Dungy's foundation. They needed Gruden's energy.

Anything else is Ferdinand in full plumage.