As most of the country knows, it was not the best of sports weekends in the Bay Area. Maybe the only darker time in Bay Area sports history came on December 23, 1972. Roger Staubach led the Cowboys on an incredible comeback win that knocked the 49ers out of the playoffs. And earlier that day, the Oakland Raiders' season had ended with a little play that came to be known as "The Immaculate Reception."
But those two gut punches to the Bay Area's sports psyche came in just one day. This time around, the death blows came fast and furious all weekend long, from Friday night in Miami to Monday night in Oakland. The roll call of failure would be awe-inspiring if it weren't so painful to read. The Giants fail. The A's have the carrot yanked away from them yet again, with each ALCS loss more crushing than the last.
What the Bay Area's baseball nines started, the local football teams continued. The Bears got drummed back to reality by Steven Jackson and the Oregon State Beavers. San Jose State gave up a late touchdown pass to Rice, of all teams. Vincent White's boys up at St. Mary's got handled by Montana State. Someone switched Kordell Stewart with John Elway in the fourth quarter as the Raiders came from ahead to lose to the Chicago Bears.
Sigh. Not good.
Some teams did their part. The Niners beat the Detroit Lions; few would have been surprised if Mariucci's crew had actually come away with that one. In preseason hockey, Sharks fans got to witness an event they probably won't see again this year: a win over the Colorado Avalanche. De La Salle ran its impressive streak to 142. But by and large, the Bay Area stunk up the joint, and the most colossal failures came with the nation watching. Only Siegfried and Roy fans had a rougher weekend.
So when I got home from the A's collapse on Monday night, I'd had it. My tank was on ‘E'. And in my weakened state, an almost heretical thought crossed my mind - I was through with sports. Maybe I needed to step away from a few days, get my mind fresh, head to sports detox for the rest of the week.
And that was my mental state on Monday night. And Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon, too. Then, finally, the breakthrough I needed. I finally realized what week this was.
Yep, it's time once again for Stanford Football's annual trip to a place that most of you know I'm not too fond of. And it's also time once again for Stanford Football's annual meeting with a team that most of you know I'm not too fond of.
South Central Los Angeles will be the scene for this year's matchup between the beloved Stanford Cardinal and the U$C Trojans, the team you love to hate. The overbearing band. The only song they know… the one that's boring and slow. The obnoxious fans. That damn horse. The unsafe location. The tiny visitors' radio booth.
All of those forces will be at work this weekend. Plus, there will be a special little wrinkle to this year's matchup, something that hasn't been seen since an actor was running things in Sacramento. For the first time since 1971, Stanford will play the Trojans under the L.A. Coliseum lights.
That's right, a night game in South Central. You can thank FOX Sports Net for that.
I know up in Seattle, the Washington Huskies try to avoid scheduling too many night games, especially after daylight savings time ends. This is done with the safety of those who depart from Husky Stadium by boat in mind.
For the foreseeable future, Big Game will always kick off at 12:30p. Late afternoon and evening kickoffs are not options. This is done largely for safety reasons, too - neither school wants to allow too much time for, shall we say, pregame festivities.
Seriously… is there any logical reason for the L.A. Coliseum to host a night game? You mean to tell me that U$C and FOX officials can't take a tour of what surrounds Exposition Park and say, "you know, maybe a night game here isn't a very good idea?" The perils of boating in the dark and the embarrassment of public drunkenness are apparently good enough reasons for schools to avoid night games; what better reason could there be for "That Think Tank on Figueroa" to reconsider hosting night games than "multiple gunshot wounds"?
So as I stared into the abyss the other day, I saw the U$C Trojans (and the possible loss of life) staring me in the face. Quite frankly, it was just the perfect tonic. If last weekend's events still have you feeling blue, whether you're a Bay Area sports fan, a Bucs fan, or a Braves fan, just think ahead to wait awaits Stanford this Saturday: another chance to beat U$C. If that doesn't rekindle your fire, then, well, maybe your pilot light's out.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
Kudos to "a Stanford grad" for writing that letter to Stanford students that appeared earlier this week on the website. I can't wait to see every student (and alum) showing up in full force to welcome the team back to Stanford Stadium next week…
Last year I harped on the lack of creativity that we seemed to see in Stanford's offense. This year, I'm impressed by it. Even though the execution isn't quite there yet, I like the fact that Stanford is at least trying reverses, lateral passes, and other ways to keep the opposing defenses off balance…
Where would the Beavers be without Steven Jackson? Oh yeah, they'd be where Arizona State is right now…
Quote of the Week, courtesy of U$C true freshman quarterback (and future superstar) John David Booty, who knows what he'd tell the coaches if he is asked to get in the game this weekend: "I would definitely ask, 'Why?' or 'Are you sure, coach?'"
Tough break for Wazzu LB Will Derting, who has been suspended from the team until the investigation surrounding his DUI incident concludes…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… this just in: Dante Hall is good. Real good.
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… did you see Troy Walters do his thing on Monday night? Four key catches for 42 yards, all of them coming during the Jayson-Blair-must-have-written-this-script comeback that punctuated the Indianapolis Colts' improbable win at Tampa Bay…
Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Yankees-Red Sox. Oh God. It's like watching Darth Vader vs. General Zod. There are no good guys to cheer for, at least not for the sane baseball fan anyway. Who the heck do you root for in this one?
Do you realize that the first full week of Pac-10 action, with all 10 teams squaring off in conference play, isn't until October 25? Just thought I'd mention that…
Stanford @ U$C. This won't be pretty. If you're looking for a high-flying offensive shootout, you'd be better off flipping over to a Mountain West game. Don't be surprised if this is game is dictated by the running games of both teams. With their key injuries and slightly wounded psyche, the Trojans are vulnerable, and to be honest, it wouldn't surprise me to see Stanford pull off a win. In fact, my heart and my gut both say Stanford wins this game. Unfortunately, my brain says Trojans, and my brain usually wins those battles. I "like" U$C by 7.
Oregon @ Arizona State. A-State certainly did a number on Oregon last year, with Andrew Walter hanging half-a-thousand yards on the Duck secondary. This year, Arizona State wins it on the ground. And besides, the Sun Devils have to beat somebody in the Pac-10, don't they? Don't they? I like Arizona State by 11.
UCLA @ Arizona. The most unwatchable game of the week. Will Arizona score in this one? I'm not counting on it. I like UCLA by 19.
Last week (straight up): 3-1, (ATS): 2-2.
This year (straight up): 6-3, (ATS): 6-3.
Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at email@example.com! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag…
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings at 8:30 on Fox Sports Bay Area.
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