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Coach Deion Sanders' Colorado Buffaloes suffer their first defeat of the season

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Head coach Deion Sanders and his Colorado Buffaloes suffered their first defeat of the college football season on Saturday, or, as Sanders put it....

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEION SANDERS: It was a good old-fashioned butt kicking.

MARTIN: That's about right. The Oregon Ducks beat Colorado by a score of 42 to 6. But before the game, Colorado had been the talk of college football. Sanders, a larger-than-life personality who starred in not one, but two professional sports back in the day and is in the Football Hall of Fame, took a Colorado team that won only one game last year, completely remade the roster and went on a three-game winning streak to start the season. But we wanted to hear more about why people are so taken with this story. So we called Kevin Blackistone, a Washington Post columnist who also appears regularly on ESPN. Good morning.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So let me just back up for a second. If you don't follow football or care about it, why are people so fascinated by this one college football team? - because, you know, there are quite a few of them.

BLACKISTONE: Sure. Well, Deion Sanders is as much a celebrity athlete as we've ever seen. He's been a celebrity athlete since he was in high school, where he first got the moniker Prime Time. By the time he got to Florida State, where he played three sports, he became known as Neon Deion. And then he comes into football and plays for America's team, the Dallas Cowboys. He plays for the Yankees. At one point, he leads the major leagues in triples. He had 56 stolen bases one year, batted 350, won a Super Bowl. I mean, he did everything, and he did it with street panache. He did it with the imprimatur of a rap star playing sports, and I think that's why he became such a success as a personality as he's become.

MARTIN: So he's kind of a heat-seeking missile. Right. OK.

BLACKISTONE: He is a heat-seeking missile.

MARTIN: All right. So let me play a clip of the Oregon Ducks' head coach, Dan Lanning, giving his locker-room speech. This is just before Saturday's game.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAN LANNING: The Cinderella story is over, man, right? They're fighting for clicks. We're fighting for wins. There's a difference.

MARTIN: Ouch. But what did you make of that statement? Is there something to that?

BLACKISTONE: Sure. I think that the coach of Oregon and Oregon players and all of their fans were a little hard-boiled by all of the media attention that Deion Sanders drew, and that his team was drawing, going into a game against an Oregon team that had been ranked and had great expectations for it all year long and was expected to be really, really good - maybe vying for the national championship. So they wanted some attention. And I think he had just had it. He reached his breaking point. And I'm sure he's not the only coach in America who's done that. And you know what? Deion Sanders is a longtime professional athlete and now a coach. He recognized that. He understood that. He brought smoke, and he got smoke. And there's nothing more to that.

MARTIN: OK, so just 45 seconds left. But he - so he's a big personality, you've told us - Prime Time, Neon Deion. Before he went to Colorado, he was - he got a lot of attention for coaching an HBCU team, which a lot of people were happy about, and they were disappointed when he went to Boulder. Despite the loss...

BLACKISTONE: Right.

MARTIN: ...Would you say he's having an impact on college football?

BLACKISTONE: I would say he's having an impact on college football because he's brought attention to it in a way that hasn't happened in a long time. The games that are on television - and television is putting Colorado and Deion on for a purpose - are getting record viewers. They'll - that'll happen again this week when they play USC. He has definitely brought attention to college football.

MARTIN: All right. That is Kevin Blackistone. Kevin, thank you so much.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILL VAN HORN'S "ALBERTO BALSALM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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