When a bit of fun breaks out in college football, man, you’ve got to grab it with two hands and wring out every last guffaw and chortle possible.
Otherwise, the grim clichés and the social-media trolls win. And the whole exercise becomes a joyless struggle for field position.
We need the occasional reminder that it’s OK to smile during certain interludes of the season.
So, thank you Rodrigo Blankenship for getting it. And thanks to Georgia for giving its walk-on redshirt freshman kicker a little bit of leeway to laugh.
While solving the Bulldogs’ kicking concerns, making his past nine kicks, beating Kentucky with a 25-yard game-winner, Blankenship also has made quite a spectacle of himself. Or, more accurately, it’s his spectacles – the thick, black Rec Specs bulging behind his face mask – making a sensation of him.
When Blankenship returned to one of his journalism classes following his four field-goal day at Kentucky – he desires to be a sports broadcaster whenever he holsters his leg – a fellow student was wearing a pair of the clumsy specs in his honor. You can imagine, if the kicks keep splitting the uprights, whole sections of students in the stands adopting the look. It suddenly will be cool to appear that, well, kind of dorky.
“I have seen discussion about it on all the social media. That would be a sight to see,” Blankenship said.
“It wasn’t intended to be a fashion statement, these are prescription,” he said. His eyes rebel against contacts, he said. “It wasn’t intended to be that way; it is turning into that.”
And if a few kicks sail wide, well, the fun is over.
Clark Kent became Superman upon taking off his glasses. In reverse, Blankenship today goes from mild-mannered J-school student to game-winning kicker when he puts on his thick-framed pair. “I know it helps me see the ball clearly. I don’t know if that’s a super power, but they help,” he said with a chuckle.
Blankenship further endeared himself when, in the swirl of celebrating the Kentucky win, he forgot to take off his helmet for the postgame television interview. Not a look that becomes a would-be broadcaster.
Teammates gigged him afterward, but more important, Blankenship could laugh at himself. When he emerged from the belly of the Bulldogs locker room Wednesday evening to do some interviews, he brought along his helmet to wear for the occasion.
At first, Claude Felton, Georgia’s esteemed communications pro, advised against wearing it. As a chant of “Helmet, helmet, helmet,” broke out from assembled media, he relented. And Blankenship suited up to face the microphones and tape recorders.
It was a hoot. Which is not a common experience these days when student-athletes and traditional/nontraditional media intersect.
Among the highlights of his helmeted media session was Blankenship’s response to a question about the one tackle he’s made this season – on a Vanderbilt kickoff return. Refreshingly, he didn’t feel compelled to take the macho high ground.
“If I’m consistently kicking touchbacks then that’s not something I need to worry about. I would like to improve my performance on kickoffs so I don’t have to worry about that in a game,” Blankenship said.
“I’ve made tackles before. It’s not my favorite activity, but I don’t mind it, I suppose. I’m always looking for my Rec Specs afterward because they always pop off.”
By all means and at all costs, save the specs.