Schu Strings: Pac-10 struggles

At the conclusion of college football's national television broadcast, ABC's John Saunders noted that every major conference has claimed the top prize in the BCS. Every conference but one: the Pac-10. It was a fitting comment for a league that struggled in football, and carries those woes into the basketball season

Throughout the course of the football campaign, the so-called experts bestowed top billing upon the Pac-10. For anyone who watched football in the Pac-10 this year, that statement was laughable, and it hit home hard when the conference went head-to-head with other institutions in bowl games.

Only USC carried the banner with pride. It was this year's poster child for a playoff. Time after time after time, conversation after conversation after conversation, this was the consensus: Was anybody playing better football at the end of the year than USC? Troy's rout of Iowa was the league's only saving grace.

A UCLA win over New Mexico hardly counts. It's New Mexico, for Bleep's sake. New Mexico. The only other team that made a strong showing was ASU, probably the biggest underdog in the bowl season, which came just seven points short of upending Kansas State.

Then there were the dogs. Like Washington, which raced to an early 17-point lead only to get trampled by 6-6 Purdue. Or Oregon, which was never competitive against 6-6 Wake Forest. Three teams with .500 records advanced to bowl games. And of those three, two teams—Purdue and Wake Forest—earned victories, both against Pac-10 opponents.

And let us not forget Oregon State, which was absolutely outclassed by Pitt.

If the bowl season is something of a measuring stick, and if the Pac-10 was exposed a fraud, how bad was Arizona?

Well, as bad as Arizona was in football, it's probably going to have to be that good in basketball to give the Pac-10 any honor at all. Most folk I spoke with figured this would be a down year in Pac-10 play. Cat Tracks Editor Brad Allis wrote a piece for the magazine that selected just three spots: Arizona first, Oregon second, Washington State last, and had his dogs pick the rest. Brad was high on Oregon, as most were. It looks a little better if two teams can carry the banner as opposed to just one. And then a funny thing happened to the Ducks. They're looking like frauds in the same vein as the Pac-10 in football. Cal and Stanford trounced a team that was ranked 10th nationally after its loss at home to Arizona. Four games into the season, the defending conference champs are for all intents and purposes out of the running for the league title. And in a weak league at that.

And we haven't even gotten to UCLA, inexcusably ranked 12th in the preseason polls, but now 4-7 and tumbling. A perennial bearer of overall conference good, UCLA is little more than an embarrassing teddy bear in 2003. In the end, I don't think it's a sign of long-term trouble. It's simply a transitional cycle, and the Pac-10 will return to a position of more familiar prominence at some point in the near future. That time can't come soon enough.

Apparently, bitterness sells, at least in the political talk forum. Two men carry the torch for the vitriolic disenfranchised, and their respective approaches are so tired and obnoxious that, for me, it makes it impossible to listen.

On the right, say hello to Michael Savage, whose afternoon talk show on KNST is extremist, egomaniacal tripe. I'd say he was a borderline racist, if say the border were located in Independence, Missouri. The classic yelling façade. Good Americans usurped by corrupt democrats, evil liberals and special interest groups. The very fabric of our once fair land unraveling at the seams. And I thought Dr. Laura was the toughest thing to listen to on radio, followed closely by Tom Leykis. That is, until Savage, who is in a class all his own. A class I'll thankfully miss.

On the left, say hello to Bill Mahar, who at one time on Comedy Central was actually a pretty funny guy, but since his embarrassing September 11 comments and subsequent eventual Politically Incorrect cancellation on ABC, has gone from witty to rampagingly vitriolic. Mahar made a talk show circuit tour to pitch his book fairly recently, and just went out of his way to illustrate how angry he has become. Jay Leno actually ran circles around this guy in a political conversation involving the Bush Administration's assistantce for the needy in Afghanistan, an issue spearheaded by Leno's wife. Leno, who isn't a Bush supporter, was complimentary about its willingness to listen to his wife's agenda, and the assistance that followed. Mahar could see no positives, instead calling Leno naïve, suggesting the Bush Administration, who would otherwise be afraid of what someone of Leno's power might otherwise say, was using him. This wasn't a debate with George Will. It was Jay Leno, and to me, Mahar came off horribly. He was equally as bitter in a second appearance roughly a month later, where he pitched the book and his new HBO show.

With the decline in quality of The Sopranos, and now Mahar's addition to the lineup, I can spend 10 bucks a month on something more productive. Like say, Tangerine Altoids.

The sad thing is that from time to time, these men actually make good points, but it's not worth getting through the piles of putrid pontification to unearth the nugget of occasional wisdom. It's one thing to be upset, to attempt to unveil what are perceived as society's wrongs. I'm all about the ability to speak one's mind. But I'm also all about moving on after myopia sets in. In many ways it's worse than the idiocy of Howard Stern and Anna Nicole Smith. They're simply a form of shock entertainment that doesn't appeal to me. But Savage and Mahar spend so much time talking about how horrible everything is, while pulling down six and seven figures in the process, that I wonder who the true hypocrites really are.

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