Sep 04

Week 1 Musings Around the Pac-12

After what much of the national college football media is seemingly celebrating as a rough opening week for the new Pac-12, here are a few thoughts:

  • There is much handwringing over USC’s second-half performance in a 19-17 win against Minnesota at the Coliseum. The Trojan offense, whether you want to blame scheme or execution (Lane Kiffin had no shame pointing the finger at his players), allowing what will likely be a subpar Golden Gopher defense to hold it to zero second-half points is simply unacceptable.
  • I’ll be seeing bubble screens in my sleep for weeks. Your team would be easy to defend, too, if what seemed like half of the plays were a sideways pass followed by crossed fingers that Robert Woods or Marqise Lee would make a freak athletic play to gain yards.
  • I feel badly for Minnesota’s fans, who are likely hopeful that they may have a decent team this season. I’m guessing by the time the Gophers are 1-6 or 2-7 in late October, they’ll feel otherwise.
  • Kudos to Matt Barkley and Woods (whose Twitter handle seems far from presumptuous after his 17-catch opener) for their record-setting performances. Let’s hope they get a little more help from their coaches and teammates on offense next week in the Pac-12 opener against Utah, also 1-0 after a similarly underwhelming win over Montana State in Norm Chow’s debut as offensive coordinator.
  • The new video board at the Coliseum is, to put it simply, fantastic. A bigger surprise: it actually worked without malfunction for the entire game.

The Coliseum's new videoboard may have been the best part of USC's season-opening win over Minnesota

  • Now if they can only fix the thermometer. It’s been 70 degrees in the Coliseum since at least 1991.
  • If people in L.A. are concerned that the Trojans needed a last-minute Torin Harris interception to hold off the Gophers, what are people in Seattle thinking after UW needed a last-minute Desmond Trufant interception to beat defending FCS champ Eastern Washington, 30-27, in Seattle? The Huskies gave up 473 passing yards to the Eagles. Up next: pass-happy Hawaii, which used a surprising running attack to whip new Pac-12 member Colorado, 34-17, last night.
  • What’s the name of the QB who engineered Eastern Washington’s near upset, you ask? Well, it’s Bo Levi Mitchell, of course. No, really, it is. His nickname: Gunslinger.
  • Oregon’s Chip Kelly is quickly becoming the anti-Pete Carroll. In his time at USC, Carroll’s teams became known for not showing up once or twice a year for apparently inconsequential games, but always showing up on the big stage. USC’s lone loss in the Carroll Era in what one would consider a “big game” came with 19 seconds left in one of the greatest college football games ever played. Kelly’s Ducks, on the other hand laid their latest egg on a big stage in Dallas, being run around, over and through by a well-prepared – and simply faster and more athletic – LSU team. That’s four shots on a big stage, against a big-time opponent with time to prepare for the Ducks “revolutionary” attack. And that’s four losses – the 2009 opener at Boise State, the 2010 Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State, the BCS title game against Auburn and now LSU. And, worse, only the defeat by Auburn in the BCS title game in January avoids the tag of “embarrassing.”
  • According to reports from friend and Oregon alum Aaron Cooper, LSU fans on the scene in Dallas once again lived down to their national image. I can only imagine what it must’ve been like to attend the 2005 Capital One Bowl, when LSU faced Iowa – Hawkeye fans being the worst I’ve ever had to deal with at any college football game, until USC dropped the hammer on them in the 2003 Orange Bowl. I’m happy the world survived the possible meltdown of rancor and stupidity a meeting of those two fan bases could cause.
  • Arizona State’s defense looked predictably vicious in a decimation of FCS team UC Davis. If the Devils can keep from suffering any more injuries – they’ve really been snakebitten – that defense can keep them around against just about every team on their schedule.
  • Uh-oh: Is Oregon State back? And by back, I mean the futile Oregon State we all grew to know during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. An overtime loss to Sacramento State – an FCS rival of none other than UC Davis – does not bode well. Nor does this week’s trip to defending Big-10 champion Wisconsin, which looked lethal in their Thursday night opener against UNLV.
  • Apparently only 31,000 folks showed up at Candlestick Park to watch Cal beat Fresno State on Saturday night. And the AP report circulating about the game almost gleefully pointed out that Fresno fans outnumbered those from across the bay. No word on whether former Bear and Bulldog running back Tracy Slocum (or his bottom bitch) was in the house.
  • Jeff Tuel’s fractured clavicle may spell the end of Paul Wulff’s brief tenure at Wazzu. The Cougars were looking to the junior quarterback to team with stud sophomore receiver Marquess Wilson in an effort to break a 5-32 run the past three seasons. Though WSU predictably hammered Idaho State, the loss of Tuel cannot be understated looking ahead.
  • Speaking of coaches whose tenures may soon be over, UCLA’s defense was overmatched (again) in its opening loss to Houston. Though the Bruin offense had a big day – even with the loss of QB Kevin Prince to a concussion – UCLA’s defense resembled the embarrassing mess it was for much of 2010. And, by embarrassing, I mean watch this. The road to six wins and a bowl berth – likely the bare minimum that would keep Rick Neuheisel on the job in Westwood – just got that much longer.

For more on Pac-12 football, the advertising industry and other events worthy of a mini-rant, send me a follow request on Twitter: @thrants

Aug 06

Monotonous and witless … it’s Joe Buck

Dear Joe Buck,

Just because you have your job(s) because your father was one of the best and most legendary announcers ever doesn’t mean you carry so much weight into your job. You’re not half as witty as you think you are, you’re twice as arrogant as you’d hope to be and the whole monotonous announcer act doesn’t mean you “take your job seriously.” It means you sound like you’re talking while on the verge of falling asleep or while trying to pinch out an extra-difficult deuce in the men’s room. Get over yourself. It’s ok if a baseball game is exciting and amusing and fun. It’s a sporting event. You’re not announcing the onset of World War III.

I will not speak in anything other than this dour tone, even if the Martians land a spaceship on the mound during the sixth inning.

Finally, stop dropping your voice another octave or six every time something bad happens to the Yankees. Outside of New York and the nation’s best front runners, no one seems as unhappy as you when Sabathia gives up a three-run bomb to Ellsbury.

You are your father’s son in name only. Don’t believe it? Good luck ever matching up to this:

Jack Buck Calls Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series HR




Jul 05

Jam That Prius Where Your Minivan’s Sun Don’t Shine

I was reading this whinefest the other day. And, as someone who has been commuting in Southern California for nearly two decades now, it brought to mind one of my longest-running internal arguments.

What cars are home to the most annoying drivers? On current Southern California freeways, here are my clear top three:

  • Minivan drivers
  • Prius drivers
  • Toyota drivers in general

Certainly, you can make a case for “gardener truck guy” or “my BMW can’t be held under 90 at anytime guy,” but for consistency’s sake, no groups come close to the above three in my book.


Apparently, Prius drivers park as well as they do most other things.


But, picking a “winner”? Well, that’s is a tough one for me. Here are some basic thoughts.

  • It seems that anyone in operation of a minivan immediately loses about 50 IQ points as soon as they put the minivan into “Drive.” 60 in the fast lane or carpool lane is unacceptable, period. And, no, I don’t care if your entire stick-figure family is in the car. Why do I need to be “safer” if kids are in the car? You’re the unsafe one, wandering around the freeway’s passing and HOV lanes at unsafely slow speeds.
  • Prius drivers are either as braindead as the average minivan driver or seem to think the Prius is an old-school Honda CRX (Was anyone driving a CRX in the late 80s and early 90s not a douchebag?). The guy who gets “sad” looking at the other lanes in the earlier linked story is a great example of the first type. And, type 2, you’re not saving the environment by driving 90-plus and weaving your little car between lanes with that smug, “I’m better than you” look on your face.
  • Finally, does anyone operating a Toyota have the slightest clue of where his or her destination is? Or why it takes them 20 minutes longer than anyone else to arrive there? Or that it’s ok to make a lane change at full speed without jamming on their brakes though the lane next to them is wide open?

I never thought anyone could challenge minivan drivers for total domination in this department. For me, their historical lead is too big for Toyota (and the subset of Prius drivers) to overcome … at this point. But, get back to me in six months. You never know.

(By the way, the “jealous of the carpool” guy in the linked story should get together with the sad guy. I’m sure that’d be a fun lunch meeting)