Thursday, September 22, 2005

Walk Through the Bottomland

Alright, enough spirituality, earnest reflection, and fond reminiscence. It's time to reconnect ourselves with one of the founding principles of this once-proud blog: sports and the hysteria that inevitably surrounds them. Sure, there are a lot of different kinds, like badminton and waterskiing, but there is really only one that matters at this time of year: college football. When I transferred to Stanford some years ago, I thought to myself "Finally! Football again!", and on the way over to the home opener, I downed a standard-sized bottle of Manischewitz Blackberry, a special seasonal wine well beyond the ken of most of you proletariat types. At the insistence of Comrade Wellington, I then downed a second, and attempted to go out for a pass. Shortly thereafter, I found myself swaying to the rhythm, in a manner of speaking, of the Stanford Band, with a cardinal-colored pair of underwear on my head as a sort of turban. Stanford beat Arizona State 51-28 that night. As I've so often observed, with a sad smile and faint shake of my head, "oh, the way we were!"

But, as Mr. Dylan memoraby put it, I was so much older then. Now, I am young again, having regained a childlike sense of wonder. Childlike, that is, if children are known to utter the sorts of words and phrases I did Saturday night, when Stanford lost their 2005 home opener to U.C. Davis, 20-17. Davis, while a fine team, is in the process of transition from Division II to Division 1-AA. As if that weren't enough of an indignity, Davis is quarterbacked by Jon Grant, formerly of Pacific Grove high, and winner of multiple Shoe Games against my alma mater Carmel. In the face of the many world-shattering events going on these days, it is difficult for me to claim this really means much - but, within the context of the game, this is unquestionably the worst thing to ever happen in the once-proud history of Stanford Football.

Clearly, a lot of it had to do with sloppy execution and lackluster effort. The offensive line, in particular, couldn't block a popup ad at this stage in their evolution. However, consider the plays called by Coach Walt Harris, which were as conservative - and low yield - as a government bond. Harris has apologized repeatedly since Saturday night. I think the players ought to apologize, without question, especially the linemen who allowed Trent Edwards, the quarterback on whom the Cardinal's hopes squarely rest, to sustain a terrifying injury to his throwing hand. The coach, however, is in a slightly different position. He has no bearing on the actual execution of the gameplan. He can, however, decide on the plays and the personnel involved. If a coach calls the best plays possible and his team is simply outplayed, he has nothing to apologize for. However, this loss was clearly divine punishment for, among other things, Harris being (uncharacteristically, I should add) such a fucking wimp.

Whither Harris, then? This is not the NBA's Eastern Conference, where coaches are routinely fired two games into the season, and, as Harris cracked, you can't get new players off the waiver wire. I am not going to say that Harris deserves to be fired for this. I am simply going to indulge in one of my favorite techniques: contradistinction. Now, some of you may recall Mike Price, the wildly successful Wazzu coach who was named to replace Dennis Franchione at Alabama. Following an evening in which a few strippers performed in his motel room in Pensacola, Florida, Price was relieved of his duties, without ever having even coached a single game. Although Price had not committed any crime, his firing was justified by many because he had "embarrassed his school". This begs the question: what would embarrass you more: your coach having a belated bachelor party, or your Pac-10 program losing to a team that was Division II when most of its starters were freshmen? And look who lost his job.

There is a lesson to be learned from all of this, however, and it isn't just "Christ, do we suck". Never, ever schedule an opponent from a lesser division. As a major conference program, you just don't "win" these kinds of games in any true sense. If you clobber 'em, you look like a bully. If you win narrowly, it'll give everyone an aneurysm. And if you're one of the pioneering teams that manages to lose one of these kangaroo-court setups, you might as well tattoo "Wait til next year!" on your foreheads and go home and bring on the warm milk. Actually, make that "next decade". There is simply nothing to be gained - kind of like running behind a certain Stanford right tackle. But wait, you argue - can't these games serve as valuable tune-ups? Horseshit. You get good through good competition. This is not to take away anything from U.C. Davis, who were clearly good competition. However, now is as good a time as any to invoke Jeremiah 12:5: "If you have run with the footmen and they have wearied you, how will you contend with the horses?"

1 Comments:

Anonymous seth said...

"There is simply nothing to be gained - kind of like running behind a certain Stanford right tackle."

nice.

9:12 AM  

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