I come from background in radio. I studied to be a sports talk radio show host, and I had my own show for four years and my dream was to be the next big time voice on terrestrial radio. Needless to say, I listen to as much radio in my spare time as I can.
The bottom of the barrel, for me, is listening to sports radio in the Bay Area. I would rather listen to the same five songs they play on the local top-40 station than either of the sports stations (which rarely give me the satisfactory sports coverage I want). On this particular day, I found myself having to listen to one of them because all the other stations were on a commercial break (don’t you hate when that happens?).
September this year happens to be the worst possible month to be a sports fan in the Bay Area. The Giants are not going to the playoffs, the A’s basically clinched and are coasting to a playoff birth, the Raiders are going to have a bad season, the 49ers are going to have a great season (so this season seems like a long wait before the inevitable playoff run), and the Sharks, Warriors and Kings (if you’re into that) all come back in a month or so.
Now, oddly enough, these stations have no choice but to cover college athletics. So, there I was in an overheated Ford Focus, playing Captain Commando with the radio dial and landing on this one particular blowhard who was in the midst of explaining why Jared Goff will win the Heisman Award this year.
Growing up in San Francisco, you learn quickly that the Bay Area – and it’s three largest cities in particular – is more into the professional side of athletics than the amateur. The most important college football team in the history of sports (politically, at least), the 1951 USF Dons (who were not invited to play in the 51′ Orange Bowl after an undefeated season because they had two star black players), is largely forgotten in San Francisco sports history. Meanwhile, one of the most fondly remembered sports teams in Bay Area sports lore is the 1993 San Francisco Giants, who won 103 baseball games and did not appear in that year’s postseason.
My point is: college athletics takes a huge step back when it comes to the attention of Bay Area sports fans. And it isn’t because of the large transplant community that have no ties to either Stanford or Cal (or any of the other college teams for that matter). The fact is: San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are pro-cities.
I’m not belittling the Bay at all. I just need to explain the Bay Area view on college sports before getting to my point.
The Bay Area has had a great lineage of football players. For the most part, people think about Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Tim Brown, Howie Long, Al Davis, etc. No one remembers that John Elway, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Gonzalez, Ron Rivera, Jim Plunkett or James Loften all played as a Cardinal or Golden Bear.
When I applied to college, I knew nothing in terms of what it was like to go to a sports-crazy school. I applied to Cal, UCLA, USC, Penn State, Texas and Notre Dame, amongst others. However, contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with athletics, because while I was a fan of college sports, I wasn’t exposed to the idea of a “sports school.” My brother, a UCLA grad, never called to tell me how awesome the Bruins game was, although (to be fair) they were pretty bad while he was living in Westwood. My older high school friends who went to Cal or USC never mentioned how awesome it was to watch their teams win games.
I ended up at Penn State, and the reasoning was based around their outstanding journalism school.
You could imagine my surprise at how large an event any football game (or important basketball game) became for State College. I was used to blocking off entire weekends to watch football, but not to go out (in the freezing Pennsylvania air), watch a game (on my feet throughout) and lose my voice. Those kinds of energy outputs were always supposed to be for Giants and 49er games for me. Not for college sports.
I graduated, now a fiend for that college sports energy. Suddenly, I loved college sports more than any other sport (except baseball). I was ready to paint my face in school colors and run to whichever bar would allow me to act a fool while watching the game. The problem is that most college bars were subdued places that was more about socializing than watching the game.
And it wasn’t just a bar thing. Watching a few Stanford games over the past few seasons, the crowds are almost laughable. In fact, in 2010, the Cardinals had a team that was led by the best player in college football that year, Andrew Luck, and were a win away from clinching a BCS bowl bid at home. However, the stadium (which had just been refurbished four years before) was empty. Cal didn’t fair much better (AT&T Park was dead during their 2011 season at AT&T Park).
Meanwhile, the Giants caused this kind of ruckus during their 2012 World Series run. I was there; I can guarantee this video does the celebration no justice.
There I am, sweating as I sifted through the static on the radio when I land on this goon talking about Cal’s football team. Aside from the fact that he seemed to be convinced that Ohio (and not Ohio State) was Cal’s last opponent or the fact that Jared Goff’s name is Jared Joff apparently (I mean let’s not get bogged down in the minutiae of simple facts like the name of the guy you’re about to talk about for a full segment), this guy goes on to say how Jared Joff is DEFINITELY going to win the Heisman award.
His arguments included the fact that the west region would vote for Goff, because he’s the darling of the Bay Area. Also, “if that kid from Texas can do it, I don’t see why Joff can’t.”
I remembered why I hate Bay Area sports radio, and turned over to the hip hop station instead. However, the sports fan in me (and the radio guy in me) made the fun, dance-happy dude stop right then and there. I had to ponder the things this clown said.
The first thing I thought, other than the “that was terrible radio, I still can’t believe I can’t get a job at that station” comment, was if this was at all possible. I know Goff is amazing. It’s a fact. In fact, it’s the only fact me and the Ohio State fans could agree on last week. But can he win the Heisman award? Can he be the first true freshman in Heisman history to win the award?
His numbers are there: 103 completions in 168 attempts with 1,306 passing yards, seven touchdowns to four interceptions. He also a 135.6 quarterback rating, a 61.3 completion percentage, a rushing touchdown and he’s done that while being sacked 12 times in three games (two of which were against ranked teams).
He looked his best this past weekend, against a top-5 Ohio State team that could eventually end up being the Big Ten champions this season, going 31-for-53 with 371 yards and three touchdowns. He made very few errant throws against a very talented Ohio State secondary, only getting intercepted once. If he kept progressing and improving the way he has through these three games, he would probably end with numbers that lead (or are close to leading) the nation.
That said, he has no chance of being a Heisman award finalist (let alone a winner) and it has nothing to do with his skill set, talent, numbers or even politics. What Mr. Blowhard didn’t know, was that his argument (which would have sounded better out of the lips of one of the station’s marketing intern’s lips who undoubtably knows less about college sports than Jon Snow knows about anything) is the exact reason this kid has no chance to get a nomination for the award, much less a win.
Schools often begin to campaign for their best players, especially if they stack up nationally, to be considered for the Heisman award very early in the year. And when I write “schools,” I mean from all corners of the nation. My senior year in 2010-2011, Temple was heavily campaigning for their star running back Bernard Pierce to be considered. He had no real chance, because of the politics that go into the Heisman. That said, the push Temple had for him began to heat up as the reporters and beat writers and sports radio personalities began to talk about Pierce being a legit Heisman candidate. By the time Temple rolled into State College to play Penn State that season, ESPN was mentioning him as a Heisman candidate.
“Running” for the Heisman is very much like a political campaign or (an even better example) being a “Best Picture” contender at the Oscars. You need to have the hype, the backing and the momentum to win (as well as other BS-ee credentials like “the big game against a ranked opponent” or “the highlight reel play”). In order to get said hype, you need to start with the media in your general area. The Bay Area could be a great asset to a potential Heisman candidate, but because most of them ignore Cal, Stanford and the like, they don’t help out in the hype department. Instead, you have idiots like Mr. Blowhard yapping about Heisman awards without even knowing how to say this kid’s name.
After thinking about that, my head started asking myself if Goff could be a Heisman one day. In theory, sure. But, if he has no hype and Cal doesn’t become a football juggernaut over the next three seasons (which could happen, but let’s leave that idea alone for now) and Memorial Stadium doesn’t become a place that ESPN or Fox feel like they have to broadcast from as often as possible, everything begins to look bleak.
“Why?” you ask.
Because the national media hates the Pac-12. It’s always been true. Growing up, I may have not been raised to be the beast of a college sports fan that I am now, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch or know what good is compared to bad. So many good players, teams and coaches been born through the linage of Pac-12 athletics, and yet the eastern outlets ignore anything not named USC that comes from out here. And no one can tell me different (because there is a blatant east-coast bias in the sports media, and you can’t truely appreciate it until you go from living out west to living out east and you just want ONE sports highlight on Sportscenter to include you favorite team).
So since the national media (much of which is based out east) covers what they see, they push for guys who play they see, and with most Pac-12 games either being too late for their tastes or on at the same time as one of their beloved power teams from down south, they ignore the Pac-12.
The only time this changes is if: a) USC has a good player (USC has seven Heisman winners*, the next closes school from the Pac-12 is Colorado/Oregon State/Stanford/UCLA who have one a piece); b) the Pac-12 has someone play outrageously in a bowl game*.
The Pac-12 could be the best conference in the world, and it’ll never be mentioned as a top-end conference when compared to the SEC, Big Ten or ACC. This year, I think Oregon, UCLA or even Stanford could outplay the champion of any of the aforementioned conference, and yet, Oregon, UCLA and Stanford need to play perfect to have a chance to play in the BCS Championship game. If there is a one-loss SEC team, they’ll be ranked ahead of a one-loss Pac-12 team, but they would appear ahead of an undefeated Pac-12 team too.
Because of this public bias against the Pac-12, the likelihood of a player (no matter how good he is) who isn’t on east coast sets, who isn’t hyped in his own community and comes from a non-tradional school, is so low. So, once again, I sat, thinking about the outrageousness of Mr. Blowhard professing that Jared Joff (or Goff if we have to stick to the facts) is the no doubt Heisman winner in 2013. All I could come up with was that Goff has no chance.
And, the funny thing is, I’m okay with that.
I don’t want a Heisman award winning quarterback. I don’t even want one who deservedly wins the award. I want a guy who goes out there and plays a great game of football, makes the game fun to watch and *most importantly* helps rebuild this program.
I love Cal. It sits in one of the best college towns in America, has a foundation for a good fan base and is in the most beautiful place in America. It represents the people of the Bay Area. I don’t mean the stereotype people think of when they think of the Bay Area (Stanford fills that quota), I also don’t mean the transplant/hipsters-esque world we live in. I mean the heart of the Bay, the identity no one who isn’t from here knows about. Cal, the gold and blue, represents that so well…fighters who are about keeping justice in tact and keeping our morals/ideals alive. Not to mention that Cal is an amazing school. It deserves the athletic identity of any great university. I think a quarterback who can help build that back is more important than a bronze statue and a Nissan commercial during the BCS Championship game telecast.
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