NEWS ALERT ... San Diego State wins Mountain West crown
Aztecs rally from 16-point second-half deficit to post 51-48 victory over New Mexico to win regular-season title and claim top seed for upcoming conference tournament
I believe I saw a bona fide NBA player lighting it up in Taco Bell Arena in Boise on Wednesday night.
Sorry Boise State fans, the player wasn’t on your squad and he is the primary reason why a crowd of 6,892 went home unhappy as Nevada posted an 83-81 double-overtime victory.
Deonte Burton is his name and scoring ability, playmaking and highlight-reel dunks are part of his game.
Burton scored eight of his 25 points in the second overtime as the Wolf Pack prevented the Broncos from reaching the 20-win mark. (see stellar game story here – http://bigstory.ap.org/article/nevada-over-boise-state-83-81-2ot)
Burton is listed at 6-1 but certainly plays a lot bigger than that height. He shushed the entire arena with his mammoth dunk, which I see has made its way to YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehJYxwJ2MKk) and was also named the top play of the day on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
The senior averages 19.9 points and also leads Nevada in assists and steals. But it is more than the numbers that impress you.
He looks like an NBA player. As well as plays like one.
A lot of college players rack up stats but there’s a major difference in putting up big numbers in college and having the ability to play in the NBA.
Burton is enough of a playmaker to play in the NBA. He’s enough of a shooter. He certainly stacks up as an athlete. He appears to have the competitiveness that you need to even get a sniff of playing in the league.
Since I was a college basketball beat writer for 13 seasons – and have covered more than 60 games the past four-plus years while being fortunate enough to have a better job than newspaper life – I learned long ago to put very little stock in NBA mock drafts that are produced in February and March.
But I will predict this now – Deonte Burton’s name will be called in the 2014 NBA Draft. Not sure when as of yet, put possibly in the latter stages of the first round.
You see, I know an NBA player when I see one. And I saw one Wednesday night.
Was doing some Internet pleasure surfing Wednesday and came across video of Winter Olympics gold medal winner Kaitlyn Farrington returning to her stomping grounds in Idaho earlier this week.
Unless you slept through the month of February, you probably learned about Farrington’s existence on the planet because she won the women’s half pipe final in Sochi. But had you ever heard of her say way, way back in January of 2014?
As someone who has covered sports for a living for two decades, I had never heard of the young woman until after she won gold. In fact, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Boise time to see the taped-delay version of her winning gold and that is when I became enlightened.
NBC told us about her background and the fact that her parents sold cows to fund her trips as she became more advanced in the snowboarding world. Then you saw her happy-go-lucky attitude, her smile and just genuine impressive nature and you couldn’t help but be impressed.
I took to Twitter to tell Wheaties that Farrington should be one of the Olympians who lands a Wheaties box cover. Her story from farm girl in small-town Idaho to Olympic gold medalist is the type of story journalists live to tell.
Except there was nobody interested in telling it way, way back in January of 2014.
That point was drummed in by Farrington herself at a press conference in the Sun Valley area and I watched the clip multiple times. Her words really resonated with the journalist inside me and her point is more than valid.
“It’s been amazing to tell my story because nobody cared until now,” Farrington said with a smile and a hearty laugh. “So I get to walk around pretty much doing interviews and tell people how awesome I am. And it’s been really fun because nobody did care and now everyone is caring. It’s crazy because you can come from nothing and be at the top.”
Certainly, winning a gold medal catapults the amount of attention an athlete will receive. And obviously reporters are going to ask the pertinent background questions and paint the picture and tell the tale afterward because, well, now the story is a pretty easy one to write.
Even if an athlete simply makes an Olympic team, his or her story is well worth telling. I can remember covering the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Long Beach in 2004 and every single person from our coverage area who was in the event received the awesome opportunity to speak with me (heavy sarcasm font needed).
Heck, I even attended a swimming practice of a 13-year-old named Jessica Schmitt two weeks before the event. She had qualified in the 200 breaststroke and was in the same event as past Olympic medal winners like Amanda Beard and Staci Stitts.
Basically, the youngster had no realistic chance of making the Olympic team but just reaching an unheard of level for someone heading into eighth grade was a quite a feat and a story well worth telling.
Yet move forward nearly a decade later and newspapers are no longer a force. The industry decline was brutal and thousands of excellent journalists are now in other lines of work. Things like storytelling and enterprise reporting are a lost art.
So what happens is the niche sports suffer. Very little attention is paid to them in the first place and when staffs are cut and coverage standards drop, fewer of the hard-to-find stories are discovered.
Stories about people like Kaitlyn Farrington – a snowboarder – are still there to be found. It’s just that nobody is looking to find them.
The cool thing is we all know Kaitlyn Farrington now – I see her wearing a Cheez-It jacket so I know she has at least one sponsor – and she surely won’t sneak up on us when the 2018 Winter Games roll around.
There will be plenty of people lined up to interview her in January of 2018. Her rags-to-riches tale will still be a good one and the overwhelming storyline will be whether or not she can repeat as a gold medal winner.
Farrington is definitely enjoying the attention she is currently receiving and is certainly soaking in the moment. Sifting through her Twitter timeline, you can see she did a round of interviews in New York and attended the Daytona 500.
You know, stuff that wouldn’t have come her way back in the olden days of January, 2014.
The attention will die down over the coming months and Farrington’s life will regain some form of normalcy.
But you know, I’d actually be interested in hearing what Farrington’s life is like six months from now. But I fear there will be nobody poking around to tell us.
Then again, I’m probably due to make a drive from Boise to Sun Valley. So Kaitlyn, hit me up in July or August on Twitter @MrSportsBlog. We can do this storytelling thing right – and do it right here on this website.
Rick Pitino has a pet peeve.
He doesn’t think highly of people who use social media and who spend a lot of time on the Internet.
Which pretty much means the Louisville basketball coach is thumbing his nose at everybody.
Here is what the coach of the defending NCAA champions thinks of social media, thanks to a screen shot somebody on Twitter took of his comments.
The famous coach went on to say most of what you find on social media is “insulting.”
That left me to ponder something.
I kind of find it insulting that married people cheat on their spouses.
When it comes down to it, what kind of scumbag has sex with a woman in public at a restaurant in Louisville when he is married to a different female?
Particularly one who is allegedly serving as a role model to 13 to 15 college kids every season.
Oh, you mean Slick Rick did that? Nooooooooooooooooo!
The guy who is chastising Americans for “not paying attention to what they should be?”
LOL – look that acronym up Rick if you don’t know what it means. Or perhaps ask your wife to Google it for you.
Pitino is an outstanding basketball coach but he’s always been a big phony. A lot of people in professional and college athletics cheat on their wives but it becomes extra galling when somebody spends a great deal of time cultivating his image and carves out a public image that makes him seem better than others.
But Pitino is no better at ethics than numerous other hypocrites. The extortion trial that was associated with his affair exposed him badly and he became a national punchline over his claims the sex lasted all of 15 seconds.
As Shania Twain might sing – “That don’t impress me much.”
Good ol’ Rick wanted to look cool after Louisville won the national title last April so he made it known he would be getting a tattoo.
We all know what word he didn’t get tattooed on his skin:
Ever do something different and out of the ordinary on a Saturday night?
I sure did – I was live and in the flesh at a minor-league hockey game in Boise, Idaho on Saturday night.
The Idaho Steelheads took advantage of the big occasion by posting a 6-3 victory over the Bakersfield Condors behind three power-play goals at cozy CenturyLink Arena. William Rapuzzi scored two goals for the Steelheads and goaltender Pat Nagle made 34 saves.
Most people in the vicinity of the arena were watching a free concert by the Goo Goo Dolls on a downtown street. But I was indoors catching my second hockey game in my four-plus years of living in the fine city of Boise.
I attended three NHL games in the past six or seven years – I went to NHL games in St. Paul, Minn., (great arena) and Nashville, Tenn. (dumpy arena) while on road trips when I was covering the San Diego Chargers for a living and also caught a game in Anaheim (another good arena) – and a few things were still the same.
The players wore skates and helmets, there was a fight (not a good one so no highlights, sorry Ted Leitner) and I couldn’t tell you any of their names.
The night I hung out at the Minnesota Wild game was the first time I had ever heard of Marian Gaborik (two goals and one assist in front of me against Calgary) and everybody in the Twin Cities forgot his strong performance by the following day when Adrian Peterson set an NFL single-game rushing record against the Chargers.
So it is a bit interesting to attend a minor-league game in a sport in which I couldn’t name 10 players who play at the highest level even if you were to put a million bucks on the table and dared me. I assume there was a prospect or two on the ice as the Steelheads have a working agreement with the NHL Dallas Stars but there really wasn’t anyone who jumped out as being on a different level than the rest of the players on the ice.
And, of course, I’m not totally clueless about the sport’s nuances. I covered the minor-league San Diego Gulls when I was breaking into the business. That team was filled with former and future NHL players and set a professional hockey record for wins (62) in a season and matched the mark for most points (132).
No records appear to be on the agenda for the Steelheads but the atmosphere was nice and the fans seemed to have a good time. The venue of just over 5,000 capacity is solid – though trying to buy something on the jammed-up concourse is a bit of a pain in between periods.
I’ve covered a half-dozen or so basketball games in the building over the past few years – including an NBA exhibition game in October – and the facility is much better suited for watching people shoot pucks and commit crosschecking penalties as opposed to shooting 3-pointers and slamming home dunks.
Sure you’re all wondering when I will again return to the rink. Good question.
The only other time I attended a hockey game in Boise was during the NBA’s 2011 All-Star break. So considering this weekend was the 2014 All-Star break and I assume that means I’m scheduled to go back in 2017.
But perhaps I will target the 2015 All-Star break … after all, it never hurts to occasionally do something way, way out of the ordinary.
The news that Michael Sam will be the first openly gay NFL player sure prompts a lot of thoughts.
For the first time in forever, I thought of one our favorite pastimes as teenagers. There was a mall called Parkway Plaza where there were several cubbyholes for pay phones (yes, I’m aware some of you have never seen a pay phone) on the main concourses.
Whoever wasn’t to the far right was in big-time trouble when one of those openings appeared. That was because the person on the far right would yell “I’m gay!” super loud and push you further into the center of the mall while he jumped into the pay phone area and would be out of sight.
And what happened every single time was some older adult would turn around and shoot you one of the most disgusted looks of all-time, not knowing that it wasn’t you delivering the declaration.
One time a woman turned around and said “you should be ashamed of yourself” to one of my shocked friends.
It was all fun and games as a kid but fast forward to the second decade of the 21st century and I don’t think today’s teenage kids are caught up in the homophobia of my era.
But when it comes down to it, it’s really not the 20-year-olds of today that most worry me about Sam’s decision to reveal his sexual preference. It’s those guys that are close to my age – and the ones much, much older.
As soon as Sam announced he was gay on Sunday night, stories immediately appeared on how the Missouri star – the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, the best conference in college football – would see his draft stock drop sharply.
One anonymous general manager said he didn’t think Sam would even be drafted.
That last line is really, really sad. Pathetic, even.
NFL teams sign all kinds of shady people – women beaters, people who shoot or stab others, drug addicts, Aaron Hernandez and Richie Incognito to name two despicable humans – and the only question that matters in those cases is this:
Can he help us win football games?
So a guy who was being mentioned as a possible third-round pick goes all the way off the draft board because he was honest and up front about who he is OFF-THE-FIELD?
Yeah, that makes total sense.
Instead of dropping tens of thousands of dollars a night in strip bars, Michael Sam will be home resting up and perhaps doing extra studying of the opponent’s offense. You surely don’t need to worry about him chasing women all night on a road trip and/or cheating on his wife, like many of these clowns often do.
One front office executive said the following in an article published by Sports Illustrated shortly after Sam’s announcement:
“In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable but at this point in time, it’s still a man’s-man game,” the guy hiding behind anonymity said. “To call someone a (gay slur) is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”
The phrase “man’s-man game” by someone not brave enough to put his name on his comments kind of jumps out at you, doesn’t it?
My job description called on me to frequent NFL locker rooms in two different stints of covering the San Diego Chargers – a five-year span in the late 1990s and a two-year stint in 2007-08. I definitely heard the term that is used to refer to gay people on occasion but I will say I heard the P-word that stands for a woman’s genitalia much, much more.
I can remember the last time I heard the gay slur used in the Chargers’ locker room. It was late in the 2008 season and it was used by a player in reference to the team’s assistant public relations director. The player and a reporter for another entity saw the PR guy walk by and once he was out of sight, both expressed their disdain for the guy and out popped the term and the reporter responded with a different offensive term.
But addressing other players with those terms was a very rare occurrence – at least during the period the locker room was open to the media. Like I said, the preferred way to denigrate someone was using a term referring to women, not ones offensive to gay people.
Like any workplace, there will be some players uncomfortable with Sam’s openness about being gay. But I’m pretty confident there will be many, many more players who don’t really care.
The problem is that the older decision-makers do care. Some of them care way too much. That was clear by the comments – all anonymous, the typical cowardly NFL way – that appeared after Sam revealed his truth.
The NFL is the ultimate all-boys club and those executives at the top of the scale have typically been in the game for a long, long time. All the way back to when football was a “man’s-man game” and they were brought up in this environment and buy into the system.
No player wants to be thought of as soft and that’s what the view is from the lens of older executives when they suspect a player might be gay. Imagine how many players have dropped on draft boards over the years due to suspicion because they – like Sam – weren’t seen in the company of females.
So perhaps this is where Michael Sam’s biggest obstacle lies – with decision-makers of NFL teams. Heck, his college team at Missouri knew he was all gay all last season and they somehow still managed to go 12-2 and finish fifth in the country.
NFL teams always say they are about winning. Here’s an opportunity to really prove it.
Instead of dropping a bona fide NFL player off the draft board, how about assessing whether or not he can be an asset to your organization, the same way you do for every other player you analyze?
So I had no idea who was going to win the Super Bowl.
That seems a little silly now after the shellacking we all witnessed when the Seattle Seahawks made the Denver Broncos look like a powder-puff squad from Omaha.
But I’m pretty sure the memory that is going to stick with me for years won’t be Percy Harvin’s kickoff-return score, Malcolm Smith’s pick-six or Denver’s first snap from center.
What I was stunned to learn was that there were some people who picked their Super Bowl winner based on the prediction of a manatee.
Yes, a manatee.
Buffet the Manatee apparently had predicted the past six Super Bowl winners and confidently decided on the Broncos to win this year’s big game.
Sure hope to read a press release from Buffet explaining why he or she was on the wrong end of a 43-8 score.
Hey, if a manatee can predict a game, it surely can release a statement describing what went wrong. That’s a heck of a lot easier than breaking down Seattle’s defensive tendencies. Just ask Peyton Manning.
I’m not sure what the evaluation process entails for a manatee to make his or her pick. But a published report that says Buffet made the pick after two team placards were dropped into its tank in Sarasota, Fla.
Doesn’t seem overly scientific to me. The handlers should at least send Buffet to Super Bowl Media Day to do research.
God knows Buffet has to be smarter than some of the human creatures allowed to crash the event.
But it turns out the manatee also has come competition in this prediction contest. Somebody called Eli the Ape also makes a prediction.
Not Eli the Manning, silly. Eli the Ape.
Who names an ape Eli anyway?
Eli chose the Seahawks so the ape’s streak of picking winners has now reached seven. So you have to wonder if Marshawn Lynch leaked Eli those closely guarded secrets he declines to tell anybody else.
Maybe Eli the Ape has Richard Sherman on speed dial. Maybe the ape met Pete Carroll sometime in the past.
Eli lives in a zoo in Salt Lake City and the ape’s method of picking winners involves running into a papier-mache helmet. One of Eli’s handlers told reporters that there was no hesitation in Eli’s pick of the Seahawks.
I promise you this is real and not some made-up reality show episode.
Since we have a manatee and ape both making Super Bowl predictions, you know there are going to be copy-cat critters coming out of the woodwork.
I’m sure there’s an Iggy the Iguana that wants to get into the act and maybe an Ernie the Elk (hopefully no relation to Ernie Els). There’s got to be a walrus or a hyena or perhaps even an anteater that is ready to throw their hats in the ring too.
Think that’s ridiculous? Nah, not really.
Having a final score of 43-8 in the Super Bowl is way, way more ridiculous than an ape nailing the winner or a manatee shamefully going into hiding after failing to get it right.
And I will remember next Super Bowl Sunday not to trust the manatee.
First it was a problem because Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman talks too much.
Now it’s a problem that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch doesn’t talk enough.
The real problem is that Lynch’s disdain of participating in media interviews has somehow become the big story of Super Bowl week for the second straight day.
That more than anything tells you how boring a Super Bowl week in the New York City area has become. Or perhaps how out-of-touch, collectively, the media has become in relation to what fans truly care about.
Seriously, were reporters thinking a player who wouldn’t even talk to the Seattle media in the regular season was going to show up during Super Bowl week all cherry and bubbly and throwing Skittles to everybody?
Lynch not wanting to talk shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone and it’s now a big deal for one reason only – the egos of sports media types who always feel they are much, much more important than they truly are.
Heck, all most of these people need to do is look at what their pay stubs say. That will provide the true barometer of where they fit amidst all the millionaires they cover.
See, I’m supposed to defend them and express outrage at Lynch’s tactics because I served as a NFL and college beat writer for 16 consecutive seasons and covered three Super Bowls among other big events. But I never had an interest in the follow-the-pack mentality that too many sportswriters live by and I certainly have no interest in it now.
When you’re in battle on a daily basis, reporters get way too worked up about meaningless things. And 99 percent of them having nothing to do with what is supposed to be the most important thing – serving the needs and desires of the customers/subscribers.
If you’re in the media field, talk to normal folks about your gig. They don’t want to hear about YOU.
They want to know what Tony Gwynn or Philip Rivers are like or hear about your travels to famous places like Lambeau Field or the Big House in Ann Arbor. They might get impressed that a legend like Meadowlark Lemon spent 45 minutes on the phone with you or that Don Coryell had you over to his home for an interview but that has to do with those folks being icons, not you.
The fans have no interest in any of the particulars that come with being a sportswriter. They don’t understand why you’re still at the stadium four hours after the game ended, they don’t get it when you complain about all the pain-in-the-butt logistics issues involved with covering a Super Bowl and they surely don’t give a hoot when a player decides he doesn’t want to talk to you.
So the fans see this episode playing out with Marshawn Lynch and it just feeds into what they already think – that media types are spoiled, pushy slimeballs and not to be trusted.
They adore the athletes … they could care less about any NFL reporter. Period.
On Wednesday, Lynch did express that his fans don’t seem to care whether he conducts interviews. He also explained his disdain for interacting with the media.
“I really don’t have too much to say, boss,” Lynch said. “I really don’t. I appreciate it, but I don’t get it. I’m just here so I won’t get fined, boss. That’s the only reason I’m here.”
So there is Lynch providing an honest answer – which is usually all any sportswriter can ask for in an age where there is tons of dishonesty and phoniness. But it’s now not good enough because the media doesn’t like it when somebody doesn’t feel they are important.
In fact, the Pro Football Writers Association put out a statement criticizing Lynch’s lack of cooperation and the missive included this embarrassing sentence – “Several of our long-standing and high profile members were appalled by Mr. Lynch’s conduct and refusal to answer any questions.” (And, um, high-profile should be hyphenated).
Talk about an egotistical holier-than-thou sentence. And making yourself part of the story is always a great way to expose a true lack of objectivity.
So now Thursday will again become another media-created circus over whether Marshawn Lynch talks to reporters. While I admit it would be hilarious if Lynch shows up and spends a full hour smiling and cracking jokes and explaining “Beast Mode” and filling up notebooks, I hope he digs in deeper and is just as uncooperative as he has been the past two days.
As Lynch very well knows, the only people who care that he won’t talk at length are the people the fans care about the least.
And anytime you have to force someone to talk to you – you’ve already lost. By a landslide.
There are a lot of highly disappointed people in San Diego today so I would like to ask all of them this:
If someone told you after that dreadful preseason that the Chargers would actually win a playoff game in Mike McCoy’s first season as coach, wouldn’t you have jumped for joy and been ecstatic?
It wouldn’t have seemed possible to rebound to a playoff-level team that quickly. It usually takes a franchise a few seasons to recover after Norv Turner puts his lack of toughness stamp on a roster.
Yeah, it is understandable that fans are unhappy after the Chargers lost 24-17 to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. Especially since the offense didn’t score over the first three quarters before suddenly racking up 17 points in the final quarter.
It does make you wonder what offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was thinking about over the first three quarters. Hopefully it didn’t go down this way:
First quarter – Whisenhunt thinking about his interview with the Detroit Lions and picturing Matthew Stafford throwing interceptions and that’s why he refuses to call pass plays.
Second quarter – Whisenhunt thinking about his interview with the Tennessee Titans and wondering how come Vanderbilt had better skill players than the Titans and suddenly becomes too scared to call any plays that might stretch the field.
Third quarter – Whisenhunt thinking about his interview with the Cleveland Browns and realizing that lowly franchise fired their most recent coach after one season and his brain shuts off until the fourth quarter starts.
Yeah, it’s never a good time to have the guy running your offense interview for head-coaching jobs on THREE consecutive days when the biggest game of the season is looming. Try doing that at your current job when the biggest project of the year is being worked on and see how well that goes.
So no matter what spin control you hear from anyone, that is a distraction. It is definitely fair to ask why Whisenhunt didn’t adjust the ball-control game plan sooner, particularly since the running back needed to make it work against Denver again – Ryan Mathews – departed with an ankle injury.
The slowness to adjust is magnified by the fact the Chargers didn’t get that one final chance. The defense allowed the Broncos to convert three third downs on the final drive – the worst being a third-and-17 with three minutes left – and Peyton Manning got to put off his trip to “Omaha” and will instead play against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in next Sunday’s AFC title game.
The Chargers now begin their offseason and what needs to be remembered is this:
The team won four straight December games to reach the playoffs when it could’ve folded. McCoy changed the culture from the sagging Norvocaine-infested mess into one of hope. And once again – the Chargers won a playoff game.
Playoff wins still count – even if they are against the Cincinnati Bengals and even if Andy Dalton is the quarterback.
Whisenhunt will move on from Sunday’s game and will deservedly again become a head coach. He worked wonders with quarterback Philip Rivers and Mathews finally became a solid back and rookie receiver Keenan Allen took advantage of his opportunities. It wasn’t a Don Coryell-like offense but the Chargers made major strides.
Anyway, be disappointed all you want over Sunday’s performance. Be mad your team fell one step short of the AFC Championship Game.
But if you can’t find any reason to be satisfied when a team overachieves and wins a playoff game in a season they have no business even being in the playoffs, then you’re not following sports properly.
And no, I’m not going to order “chill pills” for the fans like one of the Chargers’ less-than-intelligent executives did last season.
But no matter what happened Sunday in Denver, the 2013 season was a successful one for the Chargers. Period.
Seemed like most of the college football season, we were told Boston College’s Andre Williams was the best running back in the country.
Of course, those of us who live in the West knew that wasn’t true – it was either Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey or Washington’s Bishop Sankey who deserved that title. But you know, the East Coast falls asleep way too early to catch on that USC isn’t the only school West of Texas who participates in college football.
But we all know better now that the BCS title game has been played. It sure isn’t Williams, the Doak Walker Award winner. It sure isn’t Carey, the best running back in Arizona history. And it isn’t even Sankey, who has the looks of a future bell-cow back in the NFL.
Auburn’s Tre Mason is the best running back in college football. By far.
Jameis Winston may have produced the game-ending drive to give Florida State a 34-31 victory over Auburn in Monday’s title game at the Rose Bowl but he wasn’t close to being the star of the contest. That title belongs to Mason, who bludgeoned the Seminoles’ stingy defense for 195 rushing yards. (see stellar game recap here — http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/football/ncaaf-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NCAAF/results/2013-2014/recap41986.html)
Winston may have the Heisman Trophy on his mantle – wait, do college kids even have mantles? – and will rightfully have his game-winning touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin replayed over and over. But the most enduring memory of the final BCS game will forever be Mason’s scintillating 37-yard scoring run with 1:19 to play.
If Mason wasn’t so good, he might have been tackled on the play. If Mason gets tackled, perhaps Auburn works the clock down and scores a touchdown and Winston has no time to orchestrate a final drive.
But Mason was too good and so, so darn good that he somehow was still going strong on his 34th carry of the game.
He bulled through a tackle attempt by Florida State’s overmatched Jalen Ramsey at the 20-yard line and sailed into the end zone to finish off a scoring run worthy of being the game-winning points of the biggest contest of the season.
Watch the play again. Poor Ramsey couldn’t have tackled Mason if he had O.J. Simpson’s knife, George Zimmerman’s guns or an American tank at his disposal. No chance.
Mason finished the season with an Auburn-record 1,816 rushing yards. He surpassed the school mark of former Heisman winner Bo Jackson.
Repeat – the great Bo Jackson!
Perhaps the oddest part of the entire evening is that Mason felt he let Auburn fans down. Yes, really.
“We wanted to have the biggest turnaround in college football,” Mason said afterward. “I want to apologize for not fulfilling that. I tried to do everything to give us the best chance to win the national championship and I failed.”
Mason is only a junior but you have to figure that he will bypass his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Running back is the one position where it behooves a player to leave early as there is only so much pounding the body can take before it begins to break down.
One college game typically doesn’t alter a player’s draft stock all that much. NFL talent evaluators rely more on the overall body of work and the measurables as opposed to getting caught up in any single contest.
But when you are the very best player on the field in the BCS title game – and excel like Mason did in the most pressure-packed moments – it tends to elevate your status and people take notice.
Kind of like how the entire sporting world caught on Monday – when Tre Mason was the best football player on the Rose Bowl turf.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Jan. 5, 2014 will be remembered forever when it comes to San Diego sports history.
Since San Diego sports teams usually fall short when milestone victories stare them in the eyes, the double-double of the Chargers winning a playoff game and San Diego State’s college basketball team upsetting Kansas qualifies as one memorable day.
And something that also dwarfs both accomplishments occurred – longtime Padres announcer and San Diego icon Jerry Coleman died at the age of 89.
Makes you wonder what the sports Gods in heaven had in mind to have all three things occur on the same day.
It wasn’t all that long ago when the Chargers appeared destined to be watching the playoffs on television. Four straight victories to end the regular season got them into the postseason and now the team has posted a sharp 27-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals to reach the divisional round against the Denver Broncos next Sunday.
The first playoff victory in five years pretty much wipes off any remaining Norvocaine from the underachieving Norv Turner era. The Bengals were 8-0 at home this season before San Diego went in and took advantage of overmatched Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton.
The Chargers and Broncos split two meetings this season with San Diego winning in Denver. And since Peyton Manning is 0-2 against the Chargers in the playoffs – and all the pressure is on his team, not San Diego – perhaps a really stunning upset is still a possibility.
Funny how efficient Philip Rivers somehow is without Turner fouling things up, huh?
As for San Diego State, winning in Kansas’ famed arena is no small feat. The Jayhawks had won 68 consecutive home nonconference games before being outplayed by the Aztecs and losing 61-57.
Seems like ages ago now when barely 2,000 fans would show up to watch San Diego State games as they wobbled to 20-loss seasons. I used to cover that program when it was a complete joke so things like winning at Kansas still confuse the frontal cortex for a few seconds.
The Aztecs are 12-1 with their lone loss occurring against top-ranked Arizona. There is a good enough supporting cast in guard Xavier Thames and frontcourt players Josh Davis, JJ O’Brien and Winston Shepard for San Diego State to perhaps make a Sweet 16 run this March. Even more of a chance if emerging sophomore big man Skylar Spencer has more outings like his line against Kansas – 13 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots.
Not long before the Aztecs finished off their victory – one worthy of Coleman’s famous “Oh Doctor” – word began circulating that Coleman had passed away.
The former War hero and New York Yankees second baseman became a baseball icon in San Diego. Even his disastrous one-season stint as a manager – remember how Rollie Fingers would rip him to shreds in the media? – didn’t dent his popularity.
The baseball fans in San Diego all grew up with Coleman on the airwaves – reciting his call of the game-ending forceout against the Chicago Cubs in 1984 as the Padres won their first-ever pennant, or laughing about his on-air foul-ups that became known as “Colemanisms.”
Here are several of his more-popular doozies …
“Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen.”
“McCovey swings and misses and its fouled back.”
“There’s a deep fly ball to right field. Winfield goes back, back, his head hits the wall and it’s rolling toward second base.”
“Jesus Alou is in the on-deck circus.”
“They’ve taken the foot off Johnny Grubb. Uh, they’ve taken the shoe off Johnny Grubb.”
“Ozzie Smith just made another play that I’ve never seen anyone else make before, and I’ve seen him make it more often than anyone else ever has.”
“The first pitch to Tucker Ashford is grounded into left field. No, wait a minute. It’s ball one. Low and outside.”
“Hector Torres, how can you communicate with Enzo Hernandez when he speaks Spanish and you speak Mexican?”
“Reggie Smith of the Dodgers and Gary Matthews of the homers hit Braves in that game.”
“Kansas City is at Chicago tonight, or is it Chicago at Kansas City? Well, no matter as Kansas City leads in the eighth 4 to 4.”
“On the mound is Randy Jones, the left-hander with the Karl Marx hairdo.”
“Hats off to drug abusers everywhere.”
“Whenever you get an inflamed tendon, you’ve got a problem. OK, here’s the next pitch to Gene Tendon.”
And of course this hard-to-beat visual might have been the best one ever:
“There’s a hard shot to LeMaster and he throws Madlock into the dugout.”
There are hundreds more as any Padres fan knows and the misspeaks became part of the Coleman legend. I remember writing a story on him he was approaching his 70th birthday and he had no issues at all with “Colemanisms” being part of his lore.
In fact, I also remember that the interview may have never ended if I didn’t need it to. In a sports world where too many people have inflated egos, there were no issues like that when it came to Coleman, one of the most popular people in San Diego sports history.
Hmmm, maybe there was a valid reason why Coleman died on the same day as epic Chargers and Aztecs victories.
It just makes it easier to remember on which day a great man left the earth.