Clardy's Corner - 10/31

In his latest column, Troy Clardy compares the scary state of football in the Bay Area with the embarrassment of riches in Beantown. Who will be the Bay Area's savior? Read on then share your thoughts with him on the board!

There are more than a few folks out there who believe that ESPN has only one agenda: to promote everything that's happening in the Boston sports scene. Sadly, those folks will probably get a lot of ammunition for those theories over the next few weeks.

There are more than a few people out there who think Boston is the sports center of the universe. Sadly, they may be right for the next few weeks. After all, they don't call that town "The Hub" for nothing, right?

There are so many things happening in the Boston sports scene – and it's all positive – that many folks up there are calling this The Golden Age of Boston sports. Bold statement. But, when you take a look at everything that's happening in Beantown, it's not that far-fetched.

For the first time in over a decade, Boston Celtics fans can legitimately look forward to the season ahead, not with dread, but with delight. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen have a lot of folks around here pulling out their old Larry Bird jerseys, or heading down to the store to buy some new green gear. Their TD Banknorth Garden-mates, the Boston Bruins, have a new coach and are off to a good start.

Boston College is soaring to heights they haven't experienced since Doug Flutie was playing himself to a Heisman Trophy. Eagles QB Matt Ryan may likely be doing the same thing 23 years later. Watching him lead that comeback against Virginia Tech last week was incredible. Watching multiple shots of him showing us his pregame meal on the sidelines, however, was not.

The New England Patriots are making a mockery of everyone else. I mean, they're not just beating teams. They're not just embarrassing teams. They are removing their opponent's souls and backing over them with a monster truck on national TV. This week, they'll try to do the same thing against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI ½, maybe the most anticipated regular season game since "49ers-Cowboys" meant something.

Oh, and by the way, the Red Sox are World Champions. Again.

Heck, even the non-Boston based New England teams are bursting onto the scene. The UConn Huskies are in control in the Big East. And it's not even basketball season yet.

Being here in New England, I'm watching this all up close and personal. Yes, life is good for Boston fans. The weather is great, the trees have almost finished turning, and all of the big teams are doing big things.

All of this, of course, is bad news for everyone else who could care less. Like Bay Area football fans, for instance. Unless you count the San Jose SaberCats, it's been a rough year for football by the bay.

Did any NFL team make bigger splashes this offseason than the San Francisco 49ers? Well, besides the Patriots? They signed Nate Clements to a staggeringly large contract, they made all the right moves on draft day, and they appeared poised to take control of an up-for-grabs NFC West. Best of all, the NFL let Mike Nolan wear suits on the sidelines for all home games.

Then the season rolls around, and... disaster. Frank Gore: injured. Manny Lawson: injured. Alex Smith: injured. Trent Dilfer: taking snaps. I feel badly for the folks who paid good money to watch the Saints make themselves at home at Candlestick last week. Mike Nolan looks good, but nothing else about that team does right now.

No one expected much from the Oakland Raiders this year, but that doesn't ease the disappointment. Nor does it excuse the boringly awful brand of football the Silver and Black have put their fans through this year. If it hadn't been for that international snoozefest between the Giants and the Dolphins in London, that Raiders-Titans game would have been last week's biggest waste of TV time.

How bad was it? I called my grandmother on Monday. She and my granddad live in Oakland. They have Raider PSLs, and they've had season tickets dating back to the 1970s. When I was talking with her and I brought up the Raiders, she quickly dismissed them and changed the subject. That has never happened before, ever. That's how disillusioning things are in the Black Hole right now.

Meanwhile in Berkeley, the sky is falling, just like the Bears' rankings in the polls. In just 15 days, cal went from "#1 in waiting" to "also receiving votes." Jeff Tedford is no longer the toast of Telegraph, and Bearfan is experiencing a whole new level of disappointment. Which is really saying something. It would make me kinda sad, if I wasn't a Cardinalmaniac.

Which brings me to the main point of this Corner: when it comes to Bay Area football, the only team that has a little something to crow about right now is the Stanford Cardinal.

Yes, Stanford is 3-5. Yes, the Card dropped one in disappointing fashion up in Corvallis last week. Yes, Sam Brownback had a longer run than the Cardinal's rushing game produced against the Beavers. And yes, a losing season is still a very real possibility for this team.

But, Stanford Football does still feature that year-old stadium that is still second-best in the Pac-10, and by far the best in the Bay Area. The players are putting forth an effort every Saturday and playing like football matters to them again. The new coach with the national name has changed the culture, and in a positive way so far. And, of course, that win over 41-point favorite U$C doesn't hurt matters much, either.

Just about every Cardinalmaniac was hoping Stanford would just find a way to be competitive this season. So far, they have. And even though it would be disappointing to not be getting on a plane and heading to a bowl game somewhere in December, the fact that it's still a possibility as the calendar turns to November is a victory in itself.

So if Bay Area football fans have been looking for good news lately, chances are they've had to look to The Farm to find it. I know, it's kind of like that old saying, "in a world of blind men, the one-eyed man is king." But it's still something.

But, by and large, Bay Area football as a whole hasn't done much this fall to make the nation stand up and take notice. And unfortunately, it seems like the Boston sports scene is holding most of ESPN's and the nation's attention right now. That is, until something else big happens in New York.


RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

Big win for A-State. Imagine what the score of that game would have been if the Sun Devils hadn't been on the wrong end of two critical replay reversals...

Bears fans had better pray that Nate Longshore's ankle completely heals soon, because he is not the same quarterback in his current state. We've all seen Longshore unleash some frozen ropes, absolute lasers. But against Arizona State especially, Longshore's ankle prevented him from stepping into his throws and putting some mustard on his passes. That's exactly what happened on both of Longshore's game-deciding interceptions. Until he gets completely healthy, cal might have to expect more of the same from Longshore...

Who says football isn't a one-man sport? After UCLA lost RB Khalil Bell to an ACL injury early in the first quarter, their offense went right back in the tank. If Chris Markey's turf toe prevents him from being a factor, it could be a rough ending for the Bruins' season...

I'm not calling Mark Rypien fat or anything, but let's just say it's obvious that retirement was been very good to the former Super Bowl MVP...

Ugh... what's that smell? It's the Washington Huskies defense. You could see the stink lines through the TV set I was watching that game on. The Huskies defense is funkier than the Ohio Players...

Why do teams out-think themselves in short-yardage situations? Why do they feel the need to get cute on 4th-and-one? U$C may be asking themselves that very question right now. They recovered an Oregon fumble on the opening kick, and they faced 4th-and-one from the Ducks' 13. Instead of powering ahead for the first down, they tried an end-around to Joe McKnight, who got tackled in the backfield for a one-yard loss. Why?...

So when TrojanFan holds up two fingers while their band is playing this week, does that signify two losses? Just wondering...

Not a Pac-10 thought, but... have you seen what Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards are doing in Cleveland? Don't look now, but the Browns have become fun to watch...

Not a Pac-10 thought, but... if I had more guts, I would have walked into the office for Halloween wearing a Pac-Man Jones jersey and making it rain with Monopoly money around everywhere I went. That's the scariest costume I can think right now!...


PAC-10 PICKS

I just didn't have the guts to pick UCLA to beat cal last week. Dangit...

UCLA @ Arizona. If the Bruins had all their weapons, this wouldn't be much of a game. But since the Bruins don't have most, or any, of their weapons, I like Arizona by 13.

Arizona State @ Oregon. The tests get bigger for Arizona State, as this team they face a good team on the road. Once again, the Sun Devils will be down early. This time, I don't think they have enough to complete a comeback. I like Oregon by 10.

Oregon State @ U$C. These appear to be two teams heading in opposite directions, with the up-and-coming Beavers facing the spiraling Trojans. Even though I think Oregon State is frisky enough to make things a little interesting, I can't pick them to best U$C. Not yet, anyway. I like U$C by 18.

Washington State @ cal. Speaking of frisky, how about Washington State? Their defense looked good against a depleted UCLA squad. Do they have enough to take down the Bears? Do they? Do they? No. I like cal by 14.

Last week: 2-2 (straight-up), 2-2 (ATS).
This year: 14-6 (straight-up), 11-8-1 (ATS).
Last year: 21-15 (straight-up), 17-19 (ATS).


Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Have a different set of expectations for Stanford Football this year? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or at troyc@thebootleg.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!


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