Clardy's Corner - 9/7

Tanned, rested and ready for 2005. OK, he's ready. Troy Clardy is back because, well, it's college football season. He's brought his famed Corner back with him, and right out of the gate he's ready to tackle the indomitable East Coast Bias. We're not talking about some editorialist-sitting-at-the-keyboard rant. Troy has journeyed to the belly of the beast...

This week Stanford packs up, hits the road and heads for the East Coast.  This means we're in for a long but eventful road trip to an area of the country that Stanford football rarely visits.  This also means that some media pundit somewhere is going to tell us all about how the Card tend to struggle when they head anywhere east of the Rockies.

Someone will bring up the fact that Stanford hasn't won a regular season game in an Eastern Time Zone state (that actually observes Daylight Savings… sorry, Indiana) since John Elway took the snaps in a 1982 win at Ohio State.

Yes, we know that the East Coast hasn't really been kind to Stanford.  But that shouldn't really be a surprise.  Not to sound like Snoop Dogg, but the East Coast hasn't been kind to the West Coast in general, especially in the media.  In fact, there's a name for the affliction that prevents some media members and college football analysts from giving the Pac-10 any credit for anything at all: the East Coast Bias.

Out in Pac-10 country, we know all about the East Coast Bias.  After all, when we're not too busy trying to figure out who is going to place second behind U$C, we're busy accusing various media members and analysts of having the East Coast Bias.

If someone on ESPN or ABC doesn't give the Pac-10 love, we play the East Coast Bias card.  If someone on Sportsline.com or SI.com calls the Pac-10 soft or weak, we scream, "East Coast Bias!"  If someone tries to call Oregon's uniforms the most hideous in college football, well, we say they're absolutely right.

We've all heard the reasons for why the East Coast Bias exists.  Many of the media outlets that cover college football on a national basis are based back east.  Many of the people who cover college football on a national basis come from the East.  Games out west don't wrap up until the wee hours of the East Coast night.

That last reason really gets me steamed.  Yes, Pac-10 night games don't wrap up until as late as 2:00 in the morning back east.  That's why God invented the TiVo!  Besides, East Coast fans watch Monday Night Football games and MLB playoff games that routinely go well past midnight.  I don't hear people complaining about how late those games end.

Given the late finishes for those games, I really don't think it would kill people to stay up an extra hour on a Saturday night to watch how Arizona-Washington State unfolds.  Okay, maybe that's a bad example.  But I'm sure you get my drift.

Actually, the more I think about it, complaining about the late-ending games isn't a reason why the East Coast Bias exists; it's an excuse, a copout.  A means for people to use the East Coast Bias to justify the Pac-10's supposed inferiority.

To be fair, there are moments when the East Coast Bias card cannot and should not be played.  I was driving down to Stanford while listening to NFL Draft coverage on one of the local radio stations.  When one of the hosts expressed amazement that cal's Aaron Rodgers was still on the board after the first ten picks, one of the other hosts blamed the East Coast Bias.  "If Aaron Rodgers played at Michigan," the host said, presumably with a straight face, "he would have been taken already!"

I almost drove off the road.  Was this guy brain-dead?  The East Coast Bias was holding Aaron Rodgers back?  Really?  If the East Coast Bias was keeping guys from being high draft picks, then how in the world did a quarterback named Alex Smith (from Utah, of all places) get picked number one?  Why did the East Coast-based media outlets spend the bulk of their pre-draft coverage breathlessly telling us that Smith and Rodgers were sure top-three picks?

The moral of this story: pointing the finger at someone and laying the East Coast Bias tag on them is not to be taken lightly.  Do your homework first, or else you sound even sillier than the folks who actually do suffer from an East Coast Bias.

Since I've lived west of the Mississippi all my life, I've only seen the East Coast Bias from this side of the country.  But how is it back on the East Coast?  Would people there readily admit to being biased in their coverage and in their opinions of West Coast sports?  I decided to find out.  A few weeks ago, I had a chance to do some investigative reporting from the front lines of the East Coast Bias.  After a cross-country plane ride, I found myself in, of all places, a town called Bristol, Connecticut.

You might have heard of Bristol.  It's home to the Otis Elevator tower shaft, at 28 stories the third-tallest building in the state.  Oh yeah, it's also home to a company called ESPN.

That's right, this otherwise invisible town in the countryside west of Hartford is the world headquarters of sports broadcasting.  But for more than a few sports fans, Bristol is the place where the "E" in ESPN stands for "East Coast Bias."

So while I was on ESPN's campus, I asked a few folks for their thoughts on the East Coast Bias, and whether ESPN was its main source.  On one hand, everyone there denied a flat-out intentional bias.  But at the same time, they also pointed out that many of the folks who work there are from New York.  Or from Boston.  Or from somewhere in between.  Or they went to Syracuse or Fordham or Florida or some other major Eastern broadcasting school.  So given those things, they explained, there is certain to be, at the very least, an East Coast slant.  Then they went back to watching Red Sox-Tigers on TV.

So there I had it, straight from the horses' mouths in Bristol.  And it makes sense.  You go with what you know.  It's only human nature.  I certainly do that every week.  In fact, I could easily be accused of having a "West Coast Bias."

And you know what?  I certainly wouldn't deny it.  Someone has to stick up for the Pac-10 and what we do out here.  To steal the line that an East Coast team made famous last fall, "Why not us?"

That might be also be a good slogan for Stanford this year.

I try to combat the East Coast Bias every week in these Corners, but the Card have a chance to really swing some hammers for the West Coast this weekend.  After all, the best way to combat the East Coast Bias is to beat the East Coast teams on their turf.  A win for Stanford this weekend won't mean the West has won the war.  But if it forces people back east to pay more attention and show more respect for the Pac-10, I'd consider that particular mission accomplished.


RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

What are my keys for Stanford this weekend at Navy?  Glad you asked.  I think the two biggest things the Stanford defense needs to do are withstand Navy's initial punches, then rack up the hits on their option quarterback Lamar Owens.  Watching their game against Maryland, I was impressed by Owens' athleticism and toughness.  But he made some rookie mistakes, and as he started taking hits, he became less effective.  On offense, Stanford had better account for their outside linebacker David Mahoney.  That young man posed some problems for the Terps, as he was all over the field.  Above all, Stanford needs to be more physical than Navy.  The Middies don't have the size, nor do they have the depth.  Stanford needs to take advantage and wear Navy down on both sides of the ball…

Marshawn Lynch gained 22 pounds of pure muscle this off-season.  After I heard that news, I wanted to cry.  Reggie Bush may be a more versatile weapon, but Lynch is the best pure running back in the Pac-10…

The year's first Quote of the Week comes from cal radio announcer Joe Starkey, after Bears quarterback Joe Ayoob had just thrown his 10th straight incompletion: "You know, I think right now the game is moving too fast for him."  Mike Pawlawski said the same thing on the TV side.  Yikes.  If you're a quarterback at a BCS-conference school and a game against Sacramento State is moving too fast for you, you've got a lot of work to do…

The good news for Oregon: they showed few, if any, ill effects from the heat and humidity an early-September game in Houston can bring.  Their conditioning and their depth were enough to get them past the Cougars, who were cramped and exhausted by the middle of the third quarter…

The bad news for Oregon: their kickoff game was a huge disappointment.  They had short kickoffs, and they allowed long returns.  Right now I'm this close to predicting two kickoff returns of 40 yards or more for T.J. Rushing on October 1…

Don't look now, but Arizona may actually have an offense.  Even though they lost, Wildcat quarterback Richard Kovalcheck looked good in the second half, and true freshman wide receiver Michael Thomas looks like he could be something special…

Did anyone else catch last week's USA Today Coaches' Poll?  Stanford received zero votes.  Washington received four votes.  Four!  Someone please explain that to me…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… speaking of polls, last week Notre Dame received one vote in the AP poll and was tied for 44th place.  This week? Notre Dame received 345 votes, good enough to be considered the 20th-best team in the land by the AP.  You had to know that was coming…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… unless you're watching a running team, say goodbye to being able to watch a college football game in three-and-a-half hours or less.  More teams are becoming pass-happy, and the clock stoppages after each incompletion makes games longer.  And although I'm glad to see replay in college football, challenges and reviews are also going to draw games out…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… Texas A&M loses at ClemsonOklahoma drops a stinkbomb at home against TCUNebraska, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State all record unconvincing wins over Maine, Florida International, Illinois State, and Montana State, respectively.  Do all of these results mean that the Big XII is - gasp - overrated?  Maybe the bigger question is this: am I the only person who has had that heretical thought cross his mind?

I guarantee you this: if a few Pac-10 teams had struggled this past weekend, you never would have heard the end of how soft the Pac-10 is, how weak the Pac-10 is, and how inferior the Pac-10 is to the other BCS conferences.  You know, the East Coast Bias stuff…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… here's another heretical thought I had over the weekend: good riddance to Jerry Rice.  Despite not being guaranteed a roster spot, Rice signed with Denver this spring, maintaining that all he wanted was a chance to compete.  Rice earned the roster spot, but was named the number-four receiver.  Rice wanted to be the number-three receiver.  So instead of being happy that he competed and got the roster spot (whether he deserved it is open for debate), it suddenly wasn't good enough anymore, so Rice decided to retire.  I defended Rice when some people got upset at him for wearing Steve Largent's retired number in Seattle.  But I can't defend this.  Jerry Rice is, statistically, the greatest receiver in pro football history, and guys with his credentials should go out with class.  Instead, Rice had to have one more diva moment on his way out the door…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… I love football.  It's no secret.  Heck, I devoted a whole Corner to why I love football last year.  It is the ultimate team sport.  It is the ultimate fan sport.  Because of those things, football has a role as the one sport in this country that heals and brings all people together.  We saw it after 9-11, and we're seeing it now after Hurricane Katrina.  With that storm and the ensuing chaos destroying so many lives, football is one of the few things that can bring the survivors together, give them something to look forward to, and give them some hope in some area of their lives.  That became clearer to me than ever after I read how New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn spent his day last Saturday.  Yes, there are more important things going on in the world than a bunch of men running around and chasing an oblong object for three hours.  But I don't think there's any question that those three hours can lift the spirits of those affected by this catastrophe.  Along with food, water, medicine, and shelter, those people need hope.  Heck, I think we all need a little hope right now.  Football can provide that for us.  Maybe football's not so trivial after all…


E-MAILBAG

Nothing in the E-mailbag for this week, because this is the first Corner of the season!  Your e-mails helped take last year's Corners to new levels, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you all again throughout this season!  So if you've got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or on anything else that's on your mind, drop me a line at troyc@thebootleg.com!  The best e-mails I get will end up in next week's Corner…


PAC-10 PICKS

The Rose Bowl Race - er, Fiesta Bowl Race begins this week with the Bears heading to Seattle.  Once again, I'll be giving my predictions for Pac-10 conference games this year.  Once again, I'll be abstaining from picking Pac-10 conference games involving Stanford.  As always, these picks are for entertainment purposes only!

cal @ Washington.  I would like to think the Bears' struggle against the Division I-AA Sacramento State Hornets means hard times ahead for Jeff Tedford and his crew.  But as long as Marshawn Lynch is healthy, it's going to be hard for me to go against them.  The Huskies had their hearts broken last week, and I'd imagine that they are in for more of the same, and not just this weekend either.  Unless Ayoob doesn't complete a pass in this game, too, I like cal by 24.

Last year: 25-7 (straight-up), 15-17 (ATS).

Troy Clardy is a host and reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, airing Saturdays on FSN Bay Area.


Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg?  If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine.  Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!


The Bootleg Top Stories