Clardy's Corner - 9/1

On this first day of September, we can smell the football fast approaching. Regardless of what you think about the prospects for the coming fall, you feel the annual itch of pigskin pandemonium. But as you pause to ask yourself, or a perturbed loved one asks you, do you understand <i>why</i> football means so much to you? Troy Clardy gives a voice to this innate aching we don't fully understand.

Years ago, back when I was on The Farm, an old friend from back home in Oklahoma e-mailed me. The Super Bowl had just been played a few days before, and I was feeling a bit blue because football season was over. My friend asked me what the big deal was, why I was so attracted to football in the first place.

My response to her was immediate.

"I shall waste no time and just get into it. Football is the most beautiful sport ever invented. Football is 45 men of all shapes, sizes, colors, and walks of life all striving to be the best they can be. Football is the quarterback standing tall in the pocket, in command as he surveys the field for a receiver. Football is the fleet defensive back, knocking away a crucial pass at one moment and making a graceful interception at another. Football is the linebacker sacrificing himself kamikaze-style, diving into the hole and stuffing the running back for no gain. Football is the anonymous offensive lineman as the Secret Service agent; nothing must get between him and the most important person on the field. Football is the bruising fullback, violently bulling over left tackle to get the first down. Football is the psychotic defensive lineman with the quarterback in his sights, the crosshairs centered on his back. Football is even the kicker who can't speak English, but he knows that winning transcends all language barriers.

Football is a ballet and it is a moshpit…

Football is strategy and it is luck…

Football is power and glory, grace and finesse…

Football is an air raid, bombing the defense into submission…

Football is a ground attack, churning and rumbling and devastating the earth…

Football is honor and sacrifice, resilience and resourcefuleness…

Football is winning and living, losing and learning… 

Football is anticipation and it is second-guessing…

Football is a well-oiled machine and it is a rough-hued underdog…

Football is a working hard and it is working smart…

Football is about drive, tenacity, and discipline…

Football is never quitting until the clock says 0:00…

Football is everything American values embody…

Football is life…

…and life is football."

I'm sure that after reading that, my friend made a mental note to herself never to ask me about football again.

Not to go all MizzouCard on everyone, but I can't help it. If you believe the experts, then apparently the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem. OK, that's easy…I am addicted to football.

Baseball is nice. After all, it's tough to beat a day at the park, whether it's Sunken Diamond, the Oakland Coliseum, or Wrigley Field. I enjoy basketball more now than I ever have, thanks to Stanford's roundball renaissance. The atmosphere at hockey game is absolutely electric. I actually checked out a good chuck of the USA-Canada World Cup of Hockey game yesterday; Canada was treating American goalie Robert Esche like he was Sonny Corleone at the toll both. I can't wait until the NHL begins again next mon… oh… oops.

But nothing, nothing compares to football.

And here's the thing…I don't want to solve my "problem". Especially not now. With the calendar now reading ‘September', it's all starting once again. This Saturday will be all college football, all day. Then the NFL gets going next weekend. And after that, arena football keeps me going through June.

Whenever I'm packing for a road trip, I always bring my football with me (you never know when a game of catch is going to break out!). I already documented by addiction to NFL Films in one of last year's columns. If I come across anything football-related while I'm flipping through the channels—NFL Primetime, College GameDay, "Necessary Roughness" (Sinbad and Kathy Ireland? How can you lose?)—it doesn't matter…the remote stops.

So for the next few months I'll be walking with an extra spring in my step. I'll be smiling a bit more. I'll be whistling an NFL Films tune or two. And why not? Football is back. And life is good again.


RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS 

Say what you want about Stanford's apparent lack of homefield advantage, but there's no question that the Card have a great opportunity by starting the season with four straight on The Farm. I think Stanford can win at least three of those first four. And U$C is vulnerable (more on them in a bit). Call me crazy, but if the Card take care of business in September, then come away with one in South Bend, I like our chances the rest of the way…

Two words for this year's Dollies: thumbs up!

Got San Jose State's media guide in the mail yesterday. Their slogan this year: "Remember the Spartans." Boy, if that doesn't sound like it might be the end of an era down there, I don't know what does…

U$C had two big weaknesses entering this season: youth at wide receiver, and inexperience on the offensive line. Both of those weaknesses almost cost them that game against the Hokies last weekend. It might be a fairly rough ride for the Trojans until they get those things tightened up…

Something else that cropped up during the course of that game: Virginia Tech's tight ends were open most of the game. Put that in your mental rolodex for September 25…

Did someone switch Mike Vick with Bryan Randall during the first half of that game last week?

I like Oregon State. I really do. I think, on paper, they're the second best team in the Pac-10. But that schedule is just too much. Good luck this weekend in Baton Rouge, fellas (and next weekend in Boise)…you're going to need it…

OK, so maybe it's the Stanford fan in me, but why do I suspect that the Bears might be in for a little disappointment this year? I've mentioned this before, but that three-game stretch at Southern Miss, at Oregon State, and at U$C will be telling…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… hats off to the folks in Athens. We all heard about the incomplete venues, the moody infrastructure, and the dark terrorism cloud looming over the event. So what happens? Some wahoo gets on the diving board, and some idiot slightly disrupts the marathon. That's it. Considering all the things that could have apparently gone wrong, it seems like things couldn't have gone more smoothly over there…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… no love in this column to Peyton Manning, whose high pass down the middle against the Jets completely exposed Troy Walters to a hit that broke his arm. Out until November. At best. That's rough, especially considering Troy was looking like he was on the way up in the NFL world…


E-MAILBAG

Thanks for filling up my gocardinal@knbr.com account! Good stuff from a lot of you…

Tony from Capistrano Beach, California writes: "Thank you for such a clear and objective piece on the Mike Williams situation.  One of the significant problems we face today is the total lack of responsibility for their own actions assumed by people in general and athletes in the spotlight specifically.  The problem is exacerbated by those who rush to make excuses for them.  I commend U$C for their "stand up" support, and I am pleased that, in spite of the motivations behind its decision, the NCAA has sent a clear signal to the field.  I'm just sorry that it is too late for basketball..."

I couldn't agree more with you. It's kind of a shame that the NCAA had to make an example of the kid, but when the kid acted the way he did and tried to sweet talk his way back into a system that he had dissed (even though that system has been very good to him), I can't feel bad for him.

Bob from parts unknown writes: "I thought your column was spot on regarding the parties in the case.  I agree with your comments on the handling of the situation by the respective principals.  As an aside, I believe USC is continuing grant in aid during the fall even though Williams can't participate.  This seems like a nice thing for the kid.  He gets to grow up, prepare for life after SC and enjoy the other side of the college experience."

I can't believe that U$C might actually be the good guy in all this. I can't believe I actually just typed that sentence.

Alan of Chandler, Arizona writes: "Interesting and thought provoking take, although I disagree with your bottom line that it was ALL Mike's fault.  BTW did you ever make any judgment mistakes when you were 20 years of age? I know I did.  It's asking a lot for a young person to be able to extrapolate all the end conditions of a initial decision of this magnitude that was made by our sacred courts of law."

We all made judgment mistakes back when we were 20…heck, I've probably made at least six during this column alone! It is asking a lot, but a decision that big needs to be gone over with the finest-toothed comb you can find. Just in case things didn't work out, Mike needed to have an exit plan ready. But the way he acted, and the way this whole thing seemed to be handled, it seemed like the only exit plan he was concerned about was his own exit from U$C.

Even Teejers checked in: "Come on, Troy…Mike Williams not ready for the NFL?????  Tell that to the teams in the first half of the 1st round draft that would have been all over this young man had the NFL NOT SCREWED him.  You're right about SC, you're right about the NCAA, you're partly right about Mike Williams, but you're dead wrong about the NFL.  They f----d Mike Williams.  Period."

Actually from what I heard, as the draft got closer and before the door got slammed, pretty much all of the NFL teams had him as the fifth or sixth best receiver in the draft at best; some had him as low as tenth. And the only reason a lot of folks were even taking more than a preliminary glance at him was because of his size.

If the NFL lets Mike Williams in, that opens the floodgates to a whole bunch of far less talented kids to blow off an education and try for the pros. For every Kobe Bryant there has to be at least 50 Korleone Youngs. The same thing would happen to football, and that wouldn't be good for the kids (who are not ready for NFL-level football) or the sport. The NFL did what it had to do to protect itself.

Having said all of this, can we find a way to get Reggie Bush into the NFL this year?

-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at gocardinal@knbr.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 9:30 on Fox Sports Bay Area. Clardy also hosts Cardinal men's basketball pregame shows on Stanford radio network flagship station KNEW in San Francisco.


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