Marcus Mariota may have yet to officially arrive, but he’s well on his way and he’s got ESPN’s Joe Tessitore to thank for it.
It didn’t take the Oregon Ducks long to put their first touchdown on the board last Saturday night, but it took Joe Tessitore even less to cheapen a stock (or raise it depending on how you look at it) whose worth is seemingly on the rise. Listening to Tessitore’s repeated attempts at the pronunciation of the freshmen signal-caller’s name, gave nails on a chalkboard, speaker feedback and Carl Lewis’ singing voice hope regarding mass appeal. Not since Mitch Kramer’s (Dazed and Confused) nervous and awkward nose grabs has something emanating from my television set left me with such angst. Sling Blade, Nell, and Chewbacca think the ESPN veteran lacked articulation, and even “frat guy” marveled at the level of confidence he displayed with each and every vocalization.
Mar-i-o-TAH! Mar-i-o-TAH! He emphasized with a level of enthusiasm reserved solely for those who know they’re right, and are reveling in the fact that others are wrong. Problem being, he wasn’t, and in many cases they were.
At the onset, Tessitore spun a yarn of a conversation between Marcus’ mother and the athletic department in which she insisted the name be pronounced as he later did, however the conversation has since been dismissed and the alleged pronunciation debunked both by the mother and father, and by the quarterback himself. Something was amok, and we’re all worse for the wear.
Due to ESPN’s misinformation, coupled with the near immediate rout which ensued, viewers were left with the Tessitore and Matt Millen variety show, headlined by nearly 3 hours worth of Mar-i-o-TAH’s and wisecracks regarding it. Penn and Teller they were not, but had one of them muted himself like the latter of the aforementioned, all of us would’ve been the winners.
Since the game, a frenzy of activity has surrounded the budding controversy, leaving everyone wondering if the boys in the booth were speaking the truth, or if they’d been the victims of a high-end hoax. Marcus’s mother was contacted via phone, his father – who was in attendance – was queried by the media, and the University of Oregon’s newest media darling was left with questions of phonetics, rather than pass attempts and zone reads. Instead of focusing on the impressive performance on the field, local and national reporters found themselves “hooked on phonics,” opposed to witnesses to an impressive starting debut.
If what we saw last weekend was a sign of things to come, Oregon fans and fans of the college game could be on the cusp of a long and enjoyable ride. Marcus Mariota appears to have the arm, the legs, and the indefinable “it” necessary to make a very big splash in the college football pool. He was accurate, quick with the ball, and poised beyond his years, all aspects of the game, and none a product of his name.
Mariota has put him on the map, but it’s his game that’s going to have to keep him there.