Wide Right: Bowling
by Jeff Cockey, 12/30/02

Ah, Pacific Bell Park: the house that Barry built. I used to live just outside of San Francisco, and I have many fond memories of the city by the bay. The many Alcatraz audio tours, listening to Whitey talk about how he knifed the barber shop guard because his side burns were cut too short. And who can forget The Birdman, who educated himself better than any of Jeffersonís boys could have dreamed to do, while serving a life sentence in the 4 by 6 cell in D-Block up on the third tier. To smell the salt air as I rode the ferry through the shark-infested harbor . . . seeing the sea lions lay around in their bloated laziness . . . is this what gave E! the idea for the Anna Nicole show? To walk down pier 39 amid the sea gull droppings and street "performers" painted head to toe in silver and gold, just standing there atop wooden boxes like life-size begging trophies . . . brings back the memories.

Beautiful San Francisco . . . . . . get ready for the Hokies.

We are 9-4. We play in one of the tougher conferences this year. We scored more points on the national champion than any other team in the past three years Ė and we did it in their house. We schooled last yearís SEC champion, and this years MAC champion.

We beat a team in Texas A&M that handed Oklahoma the loss that knocked them out of national championship contention. We easily handled a strong UVa team (charity comment for the Hoos). We have the best running back tandem in the country, the best special teams in the nation, a true triple threat quarterback, a record tying wide receiver, and an amazing fan base . . . so Iím sure you can understand why we were chosen to go to the West Coast Nut Bowl.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you The Inaugural Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl. I think they short-changed us here. Maybe itís just me but did they even try to fit a few more sponsors in there? Did they give it 110%?

Instead, maybe we should be going to: The Inaugural Diamond Walnut San Francisco, we-care-so-much-about-this-football-game-that-we-put-it-in-a-baseball-park Bowl. If they put in the extra effort we might be lucky enough to attend: The Inaugural Diamond Walnut San Francisco, Bondís-Brand-Steroids, Bowl. I am sure that we would have been pleased if we were going to: The Inaugural Diamond Walnut San Francisco, could-we-possibly-pick-two-teams-that-no-one-in-this-city-is-interested-in-seeing, Bowl. Frankly, I feel slighted.

Not to take anything away from Air Force or our Hokies. I mean only to make fun of the names that some of these bowls have been given. The days of sponsorship have certainly taken over, and that is no more evident than in the name of our bowl. This in mind, I feel that some sponsors have truly missed a golden opportunity this year.

Letís run down the list, shall we:

Up first we have the New Orleans Bowl. Talk about playing second fiddle. Does a city that hosts a BCS bowl really need another football attraction? Well they now have a second bowl, and so they should draw more attention to it, bring it out of the shadow of the Sugar Bowl. A name like "New Orleans Bowl" doesnít draw as much attention as say the, Girls-Gone-Wild-Bowl. Were the GGW execs and the bowl committee asleep at the wheel? This would definitely sell more tickets or at least get more people to tune into the broadcast, if only for the commercials.

We just wrapped up the ConAgra Hawaii Bowl. Maybe the Viagra Hawaii bowl would have worked, or should they have been a double sponsor with the GGW Bowl? Bob Dole could perform the official coin toss. This would be classic.

You would think that Las Vegas, the city of sin, would find a sponsor more enticing than Sega. Maybe the Every-Addiction-Under-One-Roof Bowl. Or possibly the Vince-Vaughn-Double-Down-Bowl. I even like the simple approach . . . the Let-It-Ride-Bowl. Could we have had the Bunny-Ranch-Bowl? Probably not the most PC bowl in the land but the ratings would be high. And really it has been proven that no matter the caliber of the team, as long as the ratings are high, the Fighting Irish can play anywhere they undeservingly choose.

Notre Dame, now there is a great gig . . . beat a sub-par ranked team (Fla. State) before anyone realizes that they are pretenders, and sneak by Michigan (every fat kid kicks a home run once in awhile) and suddenly you get thrust into the Gator Bowl where WVU should be playing. Notre Dame lucked by Pitt, which I wholeheartedly believe would demolish the Irish if they played now (as would Michigan). The Irish barely escaped the powerhouse that is Purdue. The skin of their teeth got them past the "unbeatable" Spartans of Michigan State (didnít they go an impressive 4-8), and they were handed a victory by Air Force.

The most convincing win of Notre Dame's season came against 2-9 Stanford. To top it all off, the Irish showed their true colors with their embarrassing, hang your head in shame, bury it in the sand, loss at the end of the year to Southern Cal. Yet they still, with wounds gaping from the lashing they received from USC, have the nerve to cry about being left out of the BCS. Not only that, but the Gator Bowl chose the ACCís 4th -place NC State as their opponent. How accommodating. Now the Irish might actually have a shot at whining, I mean winning.

This way they can spend the entire off-season complaining about how they should have gone to a BCS bowl. And you know what? They would have a point . . . what with their spectacular showing against Oregon State a few years ago when they caused the Mike Vick-led Hokies to play Clemson in the Gator. The Irish puffed out their chests, deserving to be in a BCS bowl, and made like road kill for the Beavers. Donít give up the fight Irish fans Ė you definitely deserve to be in a top bowl . . .

Switching gears . . .

Living in Boston, it is assumed that I am surrounded by BC fans, and I am, but oddly enough you would be surprised at how many Big Ten and Miami fans are here. Understandably, at least three or four conversations per day break out concerning the National Championship game. I have set up camp on the Miami side of the argument and am there to offer support against the Big Ten dreamers who truly believe that Maurice Clarett is better than most NFL running backs.

First things first, Clarett is a spectacular freshman running back; however, anyone with enough talent to receive a college football scholarship can run well in a mediocre league. Yes, I said that the Big Ten is a mediocre league. Big Ten groupies will talk and talk about how they have all of these teams ranked in the top 25, but frankly the conference is not what it used to be. The pollsters vote them as highly as they do based upon their prestige and history not upon their current abilities.

Not only will Miami embarrass Ohio State more than they did Nebraska last year, but I dare say that Va. Tech, West Va., and Pitt could also beat Ohio State. Ohio State does not deserve to be in the title game, they are not even the best team in their own conference. How can you say with any kind of certainty that you are the Big Ten Champions when you donít even play every team in your own conference? Are you kidding me Ė what kind of a conference set up is that? Sure there are other conferences that donít play every team but they at least have a conference championship game.

A brilliant setup leading to another unexciting NC. I would rather watch "Joe Billionaire" or "Trading Spaces." I think we should all get together and petition ESPN to replay the í99 Sugar Bowl (still the most exciting college game ever played). I would bet that the ESPN ratings for the replay would be higher than this yearís Fiesta. Just a thought. I am personally hoping for a Tough Enough III marathon to coincide with the Hurricane thrashing. I think Jonah has a shot at the contract Ė "Where you from, kid? Where you from?"

Well if you agree with my assessment of the Big Ten, here is another attempt to lose you to the other side: my NCAA rankings. This year has shown us many things. We have seen teams step it up whom we never thought would. We have seen mid-season turnarounds, and overrated flops. There have been great running backs and good quarterbacks and through it all, I have come up with the official Wide Right rankings.

Starting with the best and working our way down . . .

CONFERENCES:
Big Twelve
Big East
Pac 10
Big Ten
SEC
ACC
The Ivy League
MAC
Any area high school league
WAC
NFC East

QUARTERBACKS:
Brad Banks
Carson Palmer
Byron Leftwich
Danny Wuerffel

RUNNING BACKS:
Avon Cobourne
Willis McGahee
Lee Suggs
Hmmmm . . . the top three are from the Big East? Am I just a fan or might I know what Iím talking about?
Larry Johnson
Maurice Clarett

RECEIVERS:
Larry Fitzgerald, in a class of his own. This kid is amazing . . . please turn pro Ė soon.
Every guy from Miami
My boy, Ernest Wilford
No one from Ohio State (do they even know what a spiral is in the Big Ten? Maybe when the olí ball coach is finished with his bang-up job in Washington he can go to the Little Ten and teach them how to "pitch and catch.")

DEFENSIVE UNITS:
This is easy . . . every team in the PAC 10 deserves this award. All they know how to play in the PAC 10 is defense. Thatís what they preach from day one. They are defensive machines. They are the 2000 Baltimore Ravens of the NCAA. Each PAC 10 team fields 10 Ray Lewisí and a Jason Taylor for every defensive down. It is a wonder anyone can score on them, ever. When you speak Ďdefenseí and ĎPAC 10,í one word comes to mind:

Synonymous.

Gotta go. I think that bottle of NyQuil that I drank is starting to take effect.

          

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