The people at Esquire, none of whom we know nor know us, are diabolically clever, and funny, and deliciously mean-spirited.
And they do freelance work for UCLA, apparently. Or Tennessee. Or the Oakland Raiders. Or all three.
|Lane Kiffin must deal with another sort of bracketology. (Getty Images)|
Still, they're the folks at Esquire, and that's how it goes. They have 16 fashion/music types, 16 television stars, 16 movie stars, 15 sports figures ...
And Lane Kiffin as a 16 seed. Now that's funny. Really funny. So funny that it's going to stick with the soon-to-be-beleaguered coach of the USC Trojans until the day when he is (a) fired, (b) finds another job in football, or (c) is named Secretary of the Interior in the Van Susteren Administration.
More bitingly, he is named a 16 seed in the sports bracket with the analysis, "Such a pretty girl. Sure raises a ruckus."
Damn. Killed him. Killed him dead. In a wise-guy humiliating way, of course.
Now maybe the Esquirians couldn't get to 16 women, although they eliminated the growth industry of the English soccer WAG. They did have Scott Podsednik's wife as a 10, and identified her as though she will have to reach the quarterfinals to be allowed her own name, and the "Panamanian Cricket Team" (guess why) as an 11.
In other words, they either didn't have anyone else (Milka Duno, the race car driver never made it, which may be an oversight) in mind, or they were gunning for Kiffin from the start as the punch line that he is.
And if he is a punch line, he never won't be, because when the Internet rains down on you, it does not let up. Ever.
This is part of the reward for being fast-tracked through life based on an accomplished father, a working (though not breathtaking) knowledge of the subject, rugged good looks and a hit-and-go résumé that would make John Calipari look like Pope John Paul II.
But until now, he'd never actually been assigned a different gender, and thrown into a conversation starter like a bracket with figure skater Tanith Belbin, broadcaster Erin Andrews and tennis players Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova.
In a world of testosterone-fueled absurdist fantasy, dovetailing as it does with the world of testosterone-fueled football fixation, to be reduced this way is as devastating as it gets.
And it speaks more than any Tennessee or Raider blog about Kiffin's place in the world of athlebrity. Even Tiger Woods with all his issues comes off better in GuyWorld.
And GuyWorld is Kiffin's target constituency, especially on the trail of high school and junior college talent. I mean, you think Rick Neuheisel or Jeff Tedford or Chip Kelly isn't going to go into a recruit's home and play the Esquire card? Well, OK, Kelly has his own deck of troubles these days, so let's say Mike Riley instead.
Maybe we're making more of this than there is. Then again, Kiffin is still more artifice than artist, résumé-wise, and even if he can laugh it off for public consumption, which he will, it will still grind at his incisors that a part of his constituency thinks of him as a vapid, shallow woman. Of which, and let us be clear on this, only "vapid" and "shallow" are the actual pejoratives.
Except of course to the folks who find 64-woman brackets amusing, and yes, that's part of the GuyWorld constituency too.
Put simply, Kiffin can't like this, but if he shows he doesn't like it, it will be repeated well past the point of nausea. And if he shows he finds it amusing, which is probably the way most PR people would tell him to handle it, the next step will only be worse, and the one after that, and the one after that.
Because he is a punch line, a punch line he made himself. He offered himself as a piñata, and now the kids getting their swings in are bigger and more precise in their methods.
Part of the art of coaching is the art of seeming bigger than life, of winning a room over with one's mere presence, or dominating those around him simply by being present. And being diminished or undermined in any way gets an outsized reaction at a fairly visceral level.
We will leave you to decide just how much smaller Lane Kiffin seems by losing in the first round to golfer Natalie Gulbis. But put it this way -- if the job was to belittle a guy who lives with the illusion of authority, this was as good as it gets.
Although now that we think about it, maybe Esquire just belittled Natalie Gulbis by putting her in the same pod as Lane Kiffin. Hmm, now there's a thought.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.