Give Us The Bird

November 28

I am well aware that I’m lucky to have my job — well, maybe it’s a combination of luck and skill — and I am truly grateful for my wife, family, and friends. I’m thankful I was able to cover the excitement of the Giants’ World Series run ( and thankful for Brooks Conrad ), and thankful I have so much fun on the air.

OK, enough of Thanksgiving sentiment. Let’s go buy some crap, cheap.

Black Friday is the biggest ruse in the “free enterprise system,” and yet its greatest example. Yes, you can get deals at four a.m. — if what you’re looking for is in stock. Black Friday has become a holiday of its own.

It’s a chance for certain chain stores to get publicity and traffic, and what gets people to come back ? Those few tales of shopping victory — those who got their flat screen, handbag or Dora the Explorer doll at one-third price. Black Friday is one of the biggest celebrations of greed in American culture, and that’s saying something.

If you were a Black Friday shopper, I hope you knocked yourself out. My time is worth more than that — especially at 5 a.m. I’ll only wake up at that hour for a couple of things — my job and golf. Well, make that three things.

What’s more, n a few weeks I’ll be able to find some of the same items at discount without having to succumb to a commercial come-hither.

***

Here’s what I did on Black Friday: played golf and watched Auburn-Alabama, a terrific game. Auburn rallied from a 24-0 deficit to win the Iron Bowl. It seemed just, because one of Alabama’s touchdowns was greatly aided by a celebration penalty against Auburn’s Nick Fairly after a sack. It was a ridiculous call.

On Saturday, even more ridiculous celebration penalties were meted out against Ohio State players: as they scored touchdowns they formed an “O” with their hands, using black lines on the palms their gloves. All they’re doing is showing a little school spirit, which I’m sure is grating to the opposition — but unsportsmanlike? Puh-leez.

***

Clearly the best and most important game of the weekend happened Friday night in Reno, where the Nevada-Boise State battle was billed as the city’s biggest sporting event since Jack Johnson fought Jim Jefferies in 1910. The game lived up to its billing, as Nevada rallied from a 24-7 halftime deficit to tie the fourth-ranked Broncos, 31-31 in the final ten seconds.

One problem though: Nevada failed to cover deep, as Kellen Moore found Titus Young on a bomb to the Wolfpack’s nine yard line. Nevada coach Chris Ault wanted to bite off somebody’s head — likely his defensive coordinator. Fortunately, no sideline decapitations occurred.

It looked like Boise was going to dodge a bullet and stay alive for the national championship, or at least a BCS bowl as the #4 team. But that was a case of premature celebration: Senior Kyle Brotzman, Mr. Dependable, shanked a 26-yard field goal that would have won the game.

Then, in overtime, he yanked a slightly longer kick. Nevada’s freshman Anthony Martinez drilled a 34-yarder, and Nevada won. Brotzman must have felt like a one-man Wolfpack. It was the biggest win in Nevada’s history.

The missed kicks probably cost Boise tens of millions of dollars. Goobye, BCS Championship or BCS Bowl. Hello, Humanitarian Bowl ( hey, at least it’s a home game ) or the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl right here in San Francisco. Or, as Jesse Palmer called it a couple of times on ABC Saturday, the “Fight The Hunger Bowl.”

***

Boise State’s loss, and LSU’s loss to Arkansas, opened it up for Stanford to move up to 4th and a guaranteed BCS bowl berth with a win over Oregon State. The Cardinal nailed that down with a resounding 38-0 win as Andrew Luck tossed four touchdown passes.

Right now, Stanford isn’t sure where it’s going but TCU and Wisconsin are on track to play in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, Connecticut could play in the Orange Bowl. One of the many absurdities of the locked-in BCS agreements.

With many empty seats at Stanford stadium, with his star quarterback and terrific offense line probably gone next year, coach Jim Harbaugh may be on his way to Ann Arbor or the NFL — depending on the opening and the status of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. Harbaugh seems to enjoy the Bay Area and the 49ers would be smart to send out feelers, if they haven’t already, unofficially.

Harbaugh has probably done all he can at Stanford, and he has the opportunity to make several times more money than the school will pay him, either in the NFL or at his alma mater, Michigan. Rich Rodriguez is balancing on a wobbly leg and Wolverine fans are clamoring for Harbaugh, so he would be welcomed with open arms. Michigan just got pummeled by Ohio State again, so it sets up well for Harbaugh to be the White Knight.

If Luck chooses to wait a year until after a new CBA, he may lose a lot of money because there will likely be a rookie salary cap in a new deal. That could cost him tens of millions of dollars. That’ll be hard to walk away from, no matter how much Luck enjoys life on the farm.

***

All Luck has to do is look at Matt Leinart and Jake Locker. Both looked to be possible #1 picks — Leinart in his junior year — but the longer they stayed in college the more money they lost. This year, Locker’s stock has dropped worse than GM in 2008. He didn’t help himself Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Locker made several poor plays but the Huskies still beat the Cal Bears on the last play of the game to remain in bowl contention (ugh) at 5-6. At 5-7, Cal drops out of the bowl picture for the first time since Jeff Tedford took over as coach. The gloomy weather was a fitting backdrop to the end of the Bears’ season.

On top of that, assistant coach Tosh Lupoi was suspended for having defensive lineman Aaron Tipoti fake an injury during the Oregon game. If you’ll remember, Tipoti looked to the sideline after a play was over, then looked like he was hit by a sniper. This was one of three questionable injuries, apparently designed to slow down Oregon’s fast paced offense. It worked, because Cal almost beat Oregon — but it makes Cal, Tedford and his staff, look like fools.

The clock might not be ticking yet for Tedford, but Old Blue will want an immediate turnaround. For one thing, Tedford desperately needs a quarterback. All this means he’ll try to get a quick fix at the Junior College level.

To his credit, he has raised the bar at Cal and has successfully campaigned for improved facilities — which include a renovated Memorial Stadium, to be reopened in 2012. However, Tedford has been unable to take the Bears to that next level. He will need to do so in the next couple of years, trying to convince recruits that a year at AT and T Park won’t be the worst thing in the world.

***

It’s a brutal fact of sports that sometimes a game is not won, but lost because someone really screwed up. That was the case for Boise State’s Brotzman, and it was the case Saturday night in the USC-Notre Dame drench-fest. The Irish came up with a late touchdown to make it 20-16 Irish, but USC saw the winning touchdown slip through the hands of a wide open Ronald Johnson in the final minute.

This game also gave us this little jewel: USC Athletic Director Pat Haden telling ABC sideline reporter Shelley Smith that Lane Kiffin has done a “sensational” job this year. I respect Haden and I think he’s doing his darndest to make Troy a clean program ( possibly for the first time ), but that was a little too much snake oil for me.

***

Speaking of snake oil: the back-slapping blue coats who run the bowl system and BCS will tell you that this weekend was great because people are talking about and debating college football. Frankly, if they decided the post-season via magic beans, people would be doing the same thing. Just because people talk about it, does not necessarily make it a good thing.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee argued for the BCS by presenting an argument against it. He said Boise State and TCU didn’t deserve a shot at the national title game because they hadn’t played a strong schedule, not as strong as the “Murderer’s Row” teams from the SEC and Big Ten face. First of all, if you look at the schedule of Ohio State you’d find that laughable.

Beyond that, Gee is saying that a team with a supposedly weak schedule is getting an unfair shot at the title — under the current BCS system. That would be a flaw. Boise State is right in arguing that teams such as Ohio State don’t want to schedule them, so they load up on weaker teams to move up the rankings.

For Boise, the point is now moot but TCU is very much alive for the Rose Bowl. Stanford will likely go either to the Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl, a fitting prize for maybe the best team The Farm has ever produced. And Luck, the best Stanford quarterback since John Elway, is going to make it a very close vote for the Heisman, but may be a narrow loser to Cam Newton.

There we go, talking about the BCS again. That must mean it’s good, right ? I talk about it because it’s part of my job, but the fact remains: big-time college football is dirty and the BCS is a stacked deck: they will remain so as long as fans keep buying in.

***

Oh, golf ? Again, thanks for asking. A 92 at Metropolitan Golf Links in Oakland, my lowest round since I renewed my relationship with the Cruel Mistress. Great. That’ll screw up my index.

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