The Athletic

How the Sickos Committee became the ultimate lousy college football champion on the internet

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The easiest way to describe a Sickos college football game is to borrow a twist from former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: You know it when you see it.

Maybe he has back-to-back muffled punts. Or an offense goes backwards more often than it goes forward. Or it’s a battle between a pair of winning teams. And if you’re picking up college football playoff implications or Heisman Trophy highlight reel material, you’ve come to the wrong place.

It may be obvious which games will fit the bill — this weekend features several promising contenders, from Iowa-Northwestern to UMass-New Mexico State — but, other times, a game quite normal can turn into a Sickos game. In either situation, the Twitter account of the Sickos committee is ready to broadcast updates to its more than 55,000 subscribers.

“Sometimes it’s a team that finds a way to win in the most hilarious way and they shouldn’t win those games, but they do,” said George Smith, who considers himself commissioner of the Sickos committee, the official term for an unofficial community of around 10 enlisted officers and around 50 regular contributors per week. “Or the opposite side, like Nebraska last year. Like, ‘There’s no way they can do that again. There’s no way they’ll lose another one-possession game.

“It’s a game that is not conventionally attractive. It’s a little hard to define, but you’re going to have some weird stories.

Smith explains it all with love. He really loves these “unconventional appealing” games and the fanbases of the teams involved. He recently opened a week-long Fubo free trial to watch a specific game aired on the Pac-12 network: Cal-Colorado, a game between the offensively deficient Golden Bears and a previously 0-5 Buffs team that had just pull. head coach Karl Dorrell. Colorado, which built a record as the worst team in the Power 5 this year, ended up earning its first and potentially only victory of the year. Fans flocked to Folsom Field, a beautiful moment for a program that hasn’t had many greats this fall.

“I had a feeling,” Smith said. “I had an idea that I might want to watch the whole game.”

Therein lies the difference between Sickos and football fans who only want to watch high quality matches or Top 25 matches.

The Sickos Committee derives its name and ethos from a popular meme from a 2015 Onion cartoon, featuring a scruffy-looking man labeled “Sickos” staring out a window and saying, “Yes… Ha Ha Ha…YES!” The cartoon has since become shorthand for nearly every sporting event that’s so bad it’s good, in the eyes of the poster.

Ward Sutton, the cartoonist, wrote in an email of his delight that the image caught the attention of so many people – and that they used it to convey their own Schadenfreudian delight at the sight of something terrible thing that happens to someone else.

(Ward Sutton / The Onion)

“The thing to remember is that the Sickos guy is the original creation of (fake) Onion cartoonist Stan Kelly,” Sutton wrote in an email. “I would say Kelly sees the character of Sickos as someone who represents all that is wrong with the world and takes advantage of what Kelly sees as a tragedy.”

For the Sickos committee, the meme was the perfect representation of their corner of the college football internet. The roughly 10 diehard college football fans with access to the account reunited in the fall of 2020 on a Discord server launched by Moon Crew, a community powered by popular and very online college football writers Spencer Hall, Holly Anderson , Jason Kirk, Alex Kirshner and Richard Johnson, among others.

Devoted followers of the writers of projects like Every Day Should Be Saturday and Shutdown Fullcast followed them on Discord, where fans could pay a few dollars a month to access channels and conversations led by the writers themselves. Some threads have focused on personal care or live sporting events beyond college football. A subcategorized channel has been dubbed “Sickos Committee”, for football fans drawn to the weirder and less commercially appealing matches.

The channel still has thousands of members, with around 50 regularly active users each week. They work together to create watchlists of Sickos games and to discuss any Sickos-adjacent topic that is popular that day. Earlier this week, committee members were discussing Jim Mora’s ghost hunt, following news that the UConn coach’s allegedly haunted house would be the subject of a ‘College GameDay’ feature this weekend. -end.

Together, the group of 50-somethings decide which games are must-haves for their very specific interests. Midweek action in the MAC or Sun Belt is still considered. The best game this week, unsurprisingly, is Iowa-Northwestern, a matchup between the nation’s worst offense (Iowa) and a team that hasn’t won a game on American soil in over 12 months (Northwestern).

“They’re taking the very official, bureaucratic-type way that college football governs itself – we have conferences and NCAA committees and subcommittees and like all these things that seem important that ultimately are trying to make sense of the dumbest sport in the world,” says Kirk. “To me, that’s the funniest thing they do. Official watchlists. Official rankings. Taking it as a sacred duty. It’s ridiculous.

“They use very stifling language to do nothing but post memes and GIFs of people failing. It’s a great addition to our internet corner.

Committee members had to think long and hard to find the right tone with the Twitter account. They began posting more intentionally in 2021, using graphics created by committee member Jordan Edmonson, which overlays teams, logos, mascots, and coaches on the Sickos cartoon; Sutton himself has blessed their use of his cartoon as long as they don’t make money from it in the form of merchandise. The meme also sparked a number of fan creations.

“It was mind-blowing to see how it spread and the different places it would appear,” Sutton wrote. “I’m grateful that it doesn’t appear to have been used for any really negative purpose – from what I’ve seen it’s mostly for fun.”

No team has caught the Sickos’ attention more this year than Iowa. Nebraska won the honors a season ago as Huskers game after Huskers game ended in a very painful loss of possession. The Sickos Committee ended up raising nearly $2,000 to donate to the Lincoln Food Bank on behalf of the Huskers.

“It was maybe a little relieved for some of the Nebraska fans that they came to us last year, looking for a way to continue enjoying their team – because you’re not going to stop being a fan of a team if they’re bad,” Smith said. “There’s got to be some kind of fun in it. … They ended up embracing us, which is amazing. And they actually understand what we we’re trying to do, that we’re not trying to make fun of them.

“We’re almost like therapy.”

Smith said he’s always been a fan of bottom-ranked teams, largely because he grew up in Louisiana and went to Louisiana Monroe, where a 6-6 season is rare and appreciated. He insists he’s “not an ironic fan at all” – he really likes fans of programs he considers forgotten.

“Our big thing was, we don’t punch. We’re not mean,” said Edmonson, whose personal fandoms include Dartmouth, North Texas and the University of Texas. “We are about to take advantage of all the madness. We’re not here to be, you know how bad these teams are, right? Because everybody has these teams that they love, like “We’re big fans of UConn or UMass”, things like that. Because when they win, it means so much to them, and it’s so much fun to watch.

“If it was about being sassy and sarcastic, it would get old fast.”

One of the best tweets from the Sickos committee this week was a color-coded breakdown of the very specific scenario that would result in a seven-way tie atop the Big Ten West division, with a 4-8 Northwestern heading to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game.

If you don’t care about division, why not promote chaos? And, if you happen to be a Northwestern fan, why not dream of a longshot like this? It’s a win-win for college football fans whose fandom isn’t tied to college football playoff standings or any of the primary emblems of success at the sport’s highest levels.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everything is beautiful in the eyes of those beholders.

“We’re the Sickos because we watch everything,” Edmonson said. “It’s not the teams that are Sickos. It is we who are sick. We’re the ones at the window looking in, saying ‘Ha Ha Ha… Yes!’ at all those great games.

(Top illustration: Sean Reilly / Athleticism; photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

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