On the Internet you can learn how to build a bomb, order a bride, sell your used bubble gum and watch people's sex lives on web cams. You can trace your ancestry with the click of a button, but you can't learn about the Lumberjacks.
June and July is the time of year where we at Cat Tracks put together our annual Football Yearbook. Since the book has to be completed almost a month before camp opens, getting timely information can be a challenge. Often times we wait until the last minute in an effort to get the most up-to-date stories into the publication.
One of the last things we write is the opponent profiles. We don't want to tout a player who is injured or leaves the team. We don't want to make predictions based on flawed information. We try to be as accurate as possible.
This year I assigned the profiles to Ben "Thrill22" Hansen. I had a lot on my plate and he had a spare 17 minutes while covering basketball recruiting. Armed with the Internet, the latest preseason magazines and a few team prospectuses Ben went to work. A few weeks later I get an e-mail with all of these nice concise profiles. Eleven to be exact. Eleven, not twelve. You see the Wildcats play 12 games this season. For some reason Ben did not include a preview on NAU. Perplexed, I gave him a call.
"I couldn't find any information on NAU," Ben explained.
"Nothing?" I questioned the master of hyperbole, thinking he was exaggerating.
Ben explained all of the sources he checked and I went off to prove him wrong. I am the editor after all. I should be able to find information on the NAU football team. I am a professional after all.
I am now convinced that the NAU athletic department should be running the CIA. Nobody keeps secrets from the public better. I know nothing about this team.
With a trip to Vegas to cover recruiting on the horizon, I had to act fast. It was Friday and my deadline was Sunday. I had no time to contact the SID in Flagstaff, but I had the Internet, I was going to be fine, or so I thought. I can download the new Austin Powers movie a week before it opens, but I can't find a current roster for a prominent Division IAA football program.
My first stop was ESPN.com. They bill themselves as the worldwide leader in sports and I believe them. After a few clicks I was at the NAU team page. There was a 2002 schedule, last year's statistical leaders and…absolutely nothing else. I had an old roster, some old stats and no news.
My next stop was google.com, Google for those of you in the dark is generally considered the best search engine on the net. I typed in "Northern Arizona Football" and sat back for the results to pour in.
Not surprisingly the first few responses were for the NAU Athletics home page. The seemed like an obvious place to find all the choice tid bits for my brief profile. This looked to be easy, I was at the home of the Lumberjacks after all. At the top of the page was a link to the "Outlook".
"Ha!" I said as the link opened and a wealth of information appeared on my screen. I began typing the story when I suddenly realized that it was the 2001 outlook. Here it was five weeks before the season opener, and I had the spring prospectus from over a year ago. Not to be deterred I scanned the page to find various articles on the team. What I learned was that the ‘Jacks were picked to finish fourth in the Big Sky, hoped to rally support in Tucson and had a linebacker who was voted 3rd team All-American. That was it!
More visits to google and I relized that by entering "Northern Arizona Football" into the search field I could learn more about the Blue Ridge High School team then I could about the one of the state's three college football teams.
I continued to peruse the Internet for another hour before I reverted back to my old college ways. Remember back in college when your social life took precedent over research? Suddenly you had a five-page paper due and just a half of page of notes. I did that a few times and pulled good grades. I quickly developed a writing style chock full of adjectives and filler. I could take that half page of notes, two paragraphs from the text and a 20-minute trip into the library into a serviceable paper that usually earned me a "B". That's sort of what I did for the NAU preview.
I looked at the five or six notes I jotted down and tried to compose a serviceable profile. While I'm not sure I succeeded, I did come up with enough words to fill space. So how bad is it? Judge for yourself:
August 31, vs. Northern Arizona
2001 record: 8-4 (lost to Sam Houston State in the I AA playoffs)
The Lumberjacks return to Tucson for the first time since 1945. Arizona beat the ‘Jacks 52-6 in the first game since the end of World War II and the margin of victory may not be much different. The Lumberjacks are a good I AA club, but they don't look to have enough to seriously challenge the Wildcats. Their last game against a Pac-10 team was a 45-10 loss last year against Oregon State.