BCS Title Game Leaves Everyone Wanting More

I’m not lying when I say this, but I fell asleep during the national title game on Monday.

It was that boring.

The snoozefest was only the type of game that a defensive coordinator or a football-loving person from the 1940s could enjoy. This game was better played on a grainy reel with the picture played on the wall and a bleary-eyed coach breaking it down. Ugh.

Yay! You bored all of America! Here's your crystal ball.

National title games are supposed to be exciting. This game was the equivalent of a pitcher’s duel with a bunch of errors.

Whether Alabama and LSU were the best two teams in the nation or not, a title game needs drama. The drama was whether LSU would cross the 50 or not. Yawn.

Give Brent Musberger credit, though, at least he didn’t pull a Kevin Harlan and get caught on camera saying how bored he was.

SEC, if this is representative of your type of exciting big game, you can keep it. What a title game – in any sport – needs is excitement, gut-wrenching coaching decisions, a couple of big plays and a player who elevates above the rest.

Sadly, looking back, there had only been one BCS title game that has had all of those factors. And I was there for it.

January 4, 2006. Rose Bowl. Texas 41, USC 38.

Excitement? With 79 combined points, including 32 in the final quarter, and five lead changes, plus one of the greatest game-winning drives in college history, yeah I’d say there was some excitement.

This guy was worth watching in a BCS Title Game.

Coaches decisions? The only reason Vince Young was able to play Superman in the final moments is because Pete Carroll went for it on 4th-and-2 only to see LenDale White get stuffed. Go for it? Punt? Run a different play? What would you have done?

Big plays? Yes. With Reggie Bush, Matt Lienart and Dwayne Jarrett, USC had all kinds of big plays – even when Bush tried to lateral the ball to a teammate after gaining 35 yards. Then, of course, there was Vince Young who combined for 476 yards of offense. The game set a ridiculous number of offensive records.

Finally, was there a player who became a star? Of course. As I wrote for the Dallas Morning News that day, “Vince Young is a Manimal.” He was a man amongst boys. He single-handedly won that game. He converted a 3rd-and-12 early on that drive, had a 17-yard pass for a first down, then dove into the end zone after an eight-yard run to clinch the game. No doubt he was an animal.

The best part of Monday’s sleeper? That LSU was held scoreless. That was the only high drama. No one wants to watch a field goal fest. How boring was each team’s offense?

Why do we watch football? To be entertained. We want to see big plays and a scoreboard lit up.

Especially in a title game.

Random Pro of the Week: Todd Marinovich

Geez … where to begin on this one?

Sure, you could go with the star at USC. Or the first-round Raiders flameout. The drugs. The arrests. The flop of a career. The fact his father was a psycho. That Todd Marinovich never ate a Big Mac as a kid. That he’s a painter now.

How about that he is a Ginger?

Not only that, but he played on my two favorite football teams from my childhood – USC and the Raiders.

Needless to say, I had a mini-redheaded crush on Todd Marinovich.

The unfortunate thing was that as he was getting arrested, I was starting to read the newspaper on an everyday basis. When he was washing out in the NFL, I was cognizant of his shady character. I was no longer a kid who just cheered for a team or players. I was becoming a sports fan getting disillusioned with athletes that I had previously held in such high regard.

It was like living in Cleveland.

I liked Marinovich when he was at USC. He was Cali-cool. Claimed he surfed naked. That he was molded to be a quarterback. That he threw lefty and was the first QB I saw do that. I liked that he wore No. 13 and that he rocked a sweet redheaded mullet. As a Ginger, I liked that he was too. And he was successful.

Or so I thought.

Well, Mr. Peppery Nipples seemed to revolt against his overbearing father. (Whaaa?!) That Marv Marinovich (great name, by the way) put so much into his son becoming a quarterback that his son did drugs. In the locker room. He shot heroin, took painkillers, mixed a volatile cocktail of drugs into his body because he didn’t give a shit. (If you’d like, take a few minutes and read this exceptional piece in Esquire about Todd from 2010.)

It was around that time that I started to get so interested in sports that I would want to read a lot about them. I was subscribed to both Sports Illustrated and Sports Illustrated for Kids (huuuuuge difference in how sports are covered) and would religiously read the Sports section in the paper. I was more informed on sports than all of my friends.

Smile! You're in jail!

So, I knew exactly what was going on with Marinovich. Or Marijuanovich as he got to be known.

Marinovich’s career stunk. Too much pressure. Too many drugs to get away from the pressure. Too much revolting against The Man, which can easily be traced back to his dad.

It’s unfortunate. But in a way, it’s good. All kids need an athlete to let them down. It’s eye-opening. It’s more real that believing your favorite player is a good person when he clearly isn’t. It’s about pulling the curtain back a little bit and seeing what life has to offer. It sucks sometimes. Yet, it’s also an important lesson. I wish for all kids to have their own version of Todd Marinovich. Just to let them know.

The USC-Stanford Shootout Contributes to a Sports Jinx

I was fortunate enough to get a late-moment invite to the thrilling USC-Stanford game on Saturday night and enjoy, in person, one of the best college football games I have ever seen.

But, one thing about the night bothered me.

Moments after Nickell Robey delivered the Trojans a pick-six against all-world Andrew Luck, the public address man at the Coliseum said “As a reminder, fans are prohibited from running onto the field at the end of play.”

It's illegal to rush the field. And it should be illegal to jinx your own team.

I immediately thought to myself, with just over 3:00 on the clock, that the PA guy jinxed the upset. I was right.

Obviously the jinx is well-known throughout sports. Even casual sports fans are well aware of the jinxes, maybe because of the Madden Curse that has blended the NFL and gamers. Injuries have cursed Eddie George, Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Shaun Alexander, Vince Young and this year’s cover boy, Peyton Hillis. There’s just too much evidence for it to not be considered coincidental.

Or, the Sports Illustrated jinx, which spans much more history than the Madden Curse. Fans will write the magazine when their favorite team or player is featured on the cover, knowing that doom awaits their beloved squad.

Even a lot of players are superstitious to jinxes. Wade Boggs famously held the same routine for his entire playing career (Leading us to note that fried chicken in the Red Sox clubhouse was not new to John Lackey, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett this season.) How often do you see baseball players jump over the foul lines? Or basketball players go through the same motions at the free throw line? Athletes of all kinds tie their shoes a certain way, or perform some mundane duty the same way in the hopes of maintaining whatever success they had from the first time they did it.

(Tangent: I played high school baseball with a player who had one pant leg all the way down and one hiked up to his knee. His reasoning was that the one game he did that – by accident at first – he had four hits.)

With so many jinxes and curses throughout sports, why even tempt the gods? Why announce to the 90,000 rowdy fans that in the chance your team upsets the No. 4-ranked team in the nation that it’s illegal to rush the field?

Simply put, why play with fate?

Utah State Was Not Appalachian State Or Memphis State

Utah State was just two minutes away from becoming the latest version of Appalachian State, circa 2007 and we were so ready to crow in that victory.

Alas, it was not to be. Sometimes the thrill of writing is changing your direction midway through your thoughts and being more pleased with the finished product.

Appalachian State shocked Michigan in 1997. (Photo by NY Times)

Here we were, ready to write about Michigan in two different scenarios – the Appalachian State meltdown and the last time the defending college football champ was upset came in 1998 when … yup, Michigan lost.

Following the RichRod era, Michigan has enough to worry about without us dancing on their graves.

Yet, as the TV switched from Auburn escaping and USC playing Minnesota, there seemed to be enough similarities of Utah State’s near upset to the first game in 1991 when little-known Memphis State knocked off No. 16 USC.

Continue reading

No NFL in Los Angeles? No Problem

As we are about to start on another season without a National Football League franchise in Los Angeles – its 17th – should we really be concerned about having a team in the second largest market in the nation?

In the 16 seasons since the Raiders and Rams left, the NFL has exploded, new teams have popped up and despite the most recent lockout, the game is as popular as ever. It is easily the No. 1 sport in America.

Since Christmas Eve, 1994 there has not been a NFL team in L.A. when the Raiders and Rams drew a combined ~95,000, or a little more than the capacity of one of the stadiums. Mrs. Throwback Attack was at the Rams game that day. I was home watching the Raiders. Upon further review, neither of us were sad to see the teams leave.

And that’s one of the reasons why it’s not a big deal to have the NFL in L.A.

But, looking out the window of the Throwback Attack headquarters – situation in beautiful Southern California – we now realize why the NFL has not fully been embraced since leaving.

While there are massive heat waves encompassing the nation and a hurricane chewing up the eastern seaboard, it’s 80-something here, clear and gorgeous. It’s like that almost every day. The weather, the natural geography of Southern California and the idea of constant activity in the greater L.A. area allow too many people too many other choices.

Want to go to the beach? It’s within, at most, an hour’s drive for anyone. Want to go for a hike, or enjoy the mountains? Again, at most an hour’s dive.

A gameday experience is expensive. NFL ticket prices are high, along with parking, entertainment expenses (food, drink, team gear) will set back a pair of people a couple hundred bucks. In L.A., people would rather spend their money on all the other options – terrific food and some of the world’s best entertainment.

Let’s also not forget that Las Vegas is about a four-and-a-half hour drive for everyone in the Los Angeles area. For a couple hundred bucks – the same price as one NFL game – you can eat like a king, stay in a fancy hotel, drink until your liver explodes and have a lifetime of stories – from PG to X rated. Plus, you might come home with some winnings which is far better than just returning home from a game with a W.

Please, stay in Oakland.

Los Angeles is also a huge melting pot of people, gathered here because of the beauty and the ability to try and live out pie-in-the-sky dreams. It is full of transplants from around the country. Why do you think every year more and more people come from the Midwest? It’s because they watch a Big 10 team in the Rose Bowl and it’s 70 degrees and sunny while they’re stuck in a grey slate of snow and ice and misery. “Pack up the house, Mildred, we’re moving there!” All the people that move here already have a “home” team. Walk into a sports bar on any given Sunday during the football season and you’re bound to see at least 10 different jerseys or shirts of teams outside of SoCal. It’s a destination for people to live – manifest destiny, if you will – and they bring their team with them.

Plus, in the 16 seasons without a team any fan of the NFL has adopted a team to call their own. People in Orange County have become Chargers fans. Others like the Packers, or the Steeler, or the Cowboys because of their traditions. Think about it – a junior in high school has not had an NFL team in his lifetime. You think in the five or so years he’s been a fan of the game he hasn’t drawn some allegiances to a team?

Does bringing a team to L.A. really create a new fan base? Sure, it will be exciting, but the teams mentioned to fill Farmer’s Field – with a potential opening in 2016, another five years! – are not some of the best in the NFL. You think the fickle, front-running fans of L.A. will root for a crappy team? (Besides, when USC was dominating college football, that was L.A.’s taste of pro football since they had celebrities, [Matt Leinart] guys getting paid [most everyone] and a bunch of front-running fans. Now that USC has come back to earth a little bit, tickets are easier to come by and, as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.)

If the NFL really, truly wanted a team in the second largest market in America, why would they allow teams to be built from the ground up in Jacksonville, Carolina, Houston and Cleveland and allow the old Browns to move to Baltimore? Oh, sure, there’s plenty of legal jargon that I don’t care about – and neither do you, frankly – but if the NFL is supposedly so powerful, they could force themselves into L.A.

To recap:

  1. The weather and surrounding geography of L.A. entices people to do more things than go to football games.
  2. People in L.A. have far more options on spending their money than, say, people in Minneapolis.
  3. The culture of L.A. would rather worry about arts and entertainment, being foodies and shopping.
  4. Las Vegas beckons.
  5. Transplants scattered across SoCal already have a rooting interest in other teams.
  6. L.A. fans would not have patience for a bad team to grow. Besides, it’s a large market and you have to succeed. The Chargers get a pass every year because they are in a smaller market, but a team in L.A. that doesn’t win would lose any fans and fast.
  7. The NFL is grandstanding and says it cares, yet a lot of teams have been created without coming to L.A. The NFL is laughing all the way to the bank.
By the time Farmer’s Field opens, it will have been 22 years that the NFL has not been in L.A. That gives people here a lot more time to examine those reasons above and just keep the NFL in cities that need the distraction. You’re welcome, Cleveland.