The cowardly Knight

There is a general rule of thumb, an unspoken trust, if you will, that if you make a bet then you have to stick it out until the end, regardless of the outcome. Without rules or boundaries, there would be lawlessness. Be it a Friday night poker game or a high-stakes game at a casino, if someone is bragging about how great their hand is, naturally it’s expected that the player is going all in.

I was confident in my hand the entire week heading up to the game and so was Ashley Burns, managing editor of UCF’s newspaper, the Central Florida Future. The deal: Whoever loses has to don the shirt of the opposing team and hug the opposing team’s mascot. Sounds simple enough.

Fast forward to Saturday night. I sat patiently holding my UCF T-shirt in hand as the clock wound down to halftime. The Bulls were winning handily 21-0, and things were looking good. By the end of the third quarter, the grin was stuck on my face. I made my way down to the sidelines to locate Rocky and round up Mr. Burns. That’s when my plan hit a snag.

Burns, the ultimate braggart – who had marked his words and guaranteed a Knight victory – was nowhere to be found. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and waited on the sidelines. With less than five minutes remaining in the game, I decided to give Burnsy a call. His response was shocking.

“I hightailed it out of there, man,” he said. “Look for my column, I owe the whole Bull nation an apology. I stuck my foot in my mouth.”

What blasphemy!

After all the smack talk and guarantees, he couldn’t even stay to bite the bullet. He was on I-4 heading back to safe ground faster than the UCF offensive line could give up a sack. I bit my tongue in disgust. We had made an honest bet and the cowardly Knight bailed.

This was the same guy who is quoted as saying, “But I can guarantee that if our boys really are that hungry, they’re going to feast on some raw Bull this weekend.” Was this before or after Andre Hall made the entire UCF team miss tackles en-route to a 26-yard touchdown reception? I guess the feast was postponed.

“I welcome Mr. Hall to step up against our defensive line,” Burns said in a column on Sept. 12. “I’m pretty sure that Paul Carrington and Chris Welch won’t be as hospitable as I am right now.” Wrong again. Not only was the UCF defensive line hospitable to Hall – to the tune of 155 yards – they let him bring guests. Quarterback Pat Julmiste and freshman sensation Ricky Ponton combined for 148 yards on the ground.

Feeling wronged, I walked over to the UCF sideline and confronted Knightro. As classless as the UCF fans were, Knightro lived up the title. He held his sword up to my neck as I held up my hands and gave him the Bull horns. I’ll admit, I was frightened for a moment considering Rocky the Bull was nearly jumped while making his way to the stadium by Orange County’s finest.

Dejected, I tossed my UCF shirt into the stands to a Bulls fan with a painted chest. Leaving the field, I looked up at the Jumbotron to see the Bulls fans ripping my shirt to shreds in front of the remaining fans. Call it a baptism; I wash myself clean of the time I spent at UCF.

Thinking on it now, I can’t blame Burns. When your team is 0-16, why not bet the house? It doesn’t take guts or strength to guarantee a victory when your team has been losing for nearly two consecutive years. We’re not talking about a bold prediction here, just a unintelligent one. The bleeding has to stop sometime, right? You almost have to feel sorry for them.

Maybe if they go winless again they’ll approve the construction of a space-age floating athletic facility. A winless season equals a stadium, right?

I learned two things from this weekend. First, I learned that South Carolina is just bad. It wasn’t that UCF was good or did spectacular things; USC’s only win this year was against a hapless and borderline-hopeless team.

Second, I learned that if you’re going to talk the talk, make sure you’ve got the courage to walk the walk. I’m willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt, but I’m sure that’s the last time a bet will be made between the Oracle and the Future.

UCF was dominated in every phase of the game Saturday, including class. The bet could be renewed next year when the Knights are 0-20something, but I wouldn’t want to drive all the way to the Citrus Bowl to embarrass their editor – again.