Barton pigs out in Phoenix
PHOENIX -- There's been no shortage of storylines leading up to Monday's BCS national championship game between Ohio State and Florida.
Surely everyone with even a passing interest in the game has read about the Buckeyes' high-powered offense against Florida's tough-as-a-brick wall defense.
And they've dissected the Gators' big-play but turnover-prone offense vs. Ohio State's bend-but-don't break defense.
The punt games are pretty even, we know, and the Buckeyes' have a decided edge with the kickers.
But what intangible could prove to be the difference? Well, here's one: Ohio State has the best javelina hunter in the game.
A javelina, a wild pig that has tusks and carries an odor about as bad as anything you can imagine -- locals tell us you can smell one before you see it -- roam fairly free around these parts. And there's a reason for that -- they really aren't afraid of anything, especially considering coyotes and rattlesnakes are also found with great frequency.
What do pigslike on their burgers?
Buckeye redshirt junior offensive lineman Kirk Barton, being the free spirit that he is, took it upon himself to, um, catch one of those pigs after seeing one last year before Ohio State played Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
Barton's plan was to take a few cheeseburgers and set them outside his room at Ohio State's team hotel, the Scottsdale Princess Hotel.
One of the problems, of course, with javelinas is that they talk. Once one found Barton's treat, he (or she, or it, depending on how you tell one javelina from another) told his/her/its friends, and so on, and so on, and ...
"They were chasing Kirk around the facility," said T.J. Downing, one of Barton's linemates. "Barton got a little nervous, man. He doesn't have to much of a vertical [leap]."
And since we can't remember ever reading an injury report that included, "Out, pig bite," any potential injury would have surely been the talk of the town.
Barton walking onthin ice with coach
Remember, Barton drew the ire of coach Jim Tressel after the victory over Michigan in November when he walked into media interview room sporting a victory cigar and disclosed his spent much of his monthly scholarship money on a 350 bottle of champagne.
"We took care of that," Tressel said. "We tell our coaches, 'Raise your voice only in encouragement. And when you teach, there is a different tone.' And so, it wasn't an encouraging tone, OK. I will leave it at that."
"I learned my lesson," said Barton, in a similarly quiet tone.
"The world needs everything, there are all shapes and sizes," he added. "There are all personalities and styles, our team needs that. If we had al the same kind of guys it wouldn't be any fun."
Barton lists NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley as his favorite player. Remember, as a member of the New Orleans Saints, Turley once ripped an opponent's helmet off his head and flung it about 20 yards downfield.
"And Kirk Barton is a great kid. He loves the game of football, loves his teammates. And we need Kirk Barton, that's for sure."
No success yet,but an excuse is ready
Back to the javelinas. Barton didn't attract any of them with his cheeseburgers Thursday night, but was planning to try again Friday. Since the players are off limits until after the game, we couldn't find out if he had any success.
And asked what he was going to do if he caught one, Barton said, "Well ... I don't know."
But it did conjure images of the scene in "Rocky II" where Rocky Balboa is chasing chickens as part of his training.
Barton planned to use that tack if Tressel found out about it.
"I could always tell him I was working on my agility," he laughed.
And that might work, as long as the javelina didn't talk.
Rob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his blogs at vindy.com.