by Joe Santoro

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December 2, 2011
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Sports Fodder: Pack appears Hawaii-bound


Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The only question remaining surrounding this disappointing Nevada Wolf Pack football team is where they will end up this bowl season. Most bowl predictions have the Pack playing in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve if Hawaii does not beat BYU this Saturday. Hawaii is a nice place to spend Christmas week if you are a college student looking for a free trip to the beach. But for a football program looking to sell a few bowl game tickets, well, the Pack would be better off holding a bake sale. But this is what happens when your season turns to dust late in the year. You get sent to the middle of the Pacific Ocean and have to spend the early morning hours on Christmas day in the airport.

. . .

The Pack, though, may also find itself watching ESPN like the rest of us this bowl season. Hawaii could indeed beat a mediocre BYU team (they are 8-3 but have played a ridiculously soft schedule) and take the Hawaii Bowl -- the last remaining bowl with ties to the WAC -- away from the Pack. Where would that leave the Pack? Well, how about a return trip to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco? The Kraft Bowl, where nearly 40,000 Pack fans showed up last January, is the best possible bowl scenario for the Pack. Don't expect 40,000 Pack tickets sold (how does 15,000 sound?) but the final ticket numbers would sure beat the 1,000 or so silver and blue faithful that would show up in Hawaii.

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The Wolf Pack men's basketball team hasn't played all that well so far despite its 4-3 record. But the Pack could add a nice feather in its hat Friday night by beating Washington of the Pac-12. The Huskies are 4-1 but they haven't beaten anybody of note (Georgia State, Florida Atlantic, Houston Baptist and Portland) and could be overconfident and unprepared against a Pack team they whipped 90-60 a year ago. At the very least this game will be a great early-season report card for the Pack.

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This year is yet another example of the roller coaster, up and down, wild and wacky ways of Wolf Pack sports. The fortunes of the football and men's basketball team change as often as the unpredictable northern Nevada weather blowing in off the Sierra. A year ago it was the football team flying high with its fancy record and national ranking while the basketball team started 4-13. A year later the football team is stuck in mediocrity once again and the basketball team could be headed to (dare we say it?) March Madness in a few months. It wouldn't take much to win the WAC men's hoops tourney this year. The league is wide open now that Utah State is struggling. New Mexico State looks like the best team in the league but the Aggies never know which players they will lose for one reason or another by the time the tournament rolls around.

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The last thing college football needs is a LSU-Alabama national championship game. Two teams from the same conference in the title game should never happen in football. It would be like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meeting in the World Series. College football is a mess right now with the Penn State scandal and schools and head coaches selling their souls to the highest bidder. It's almost enough to make a sports fan start to pay attention to the NBA and NHL. Almost.

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The hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager of the Boston Red Sox is all the evidence you need to prove that major league managers do very little to affect the performance on the field. The position now is nothing more than a media relations job. Valentine, who loves to be on camera in the spotlight, is the perfect man for the Red Sox's job. The Red Sox manager's job is to make sure all of the $10-$20 million players are in the lineup everyday and then he must talk to the media after the game. That's it. Managers simply play who the general manager tells him to play and then they sit in the corner of the dugout and think about what they will tell the media after the game. Players who don't want to bunt don't bunt. Players who don't want to run don't run. Players who don't want to hit seventh, eighth or ninth don't hit seventh, eighth or ninth. Derek Jeter won't play any other position but shortstop so Derek Jeter only plays shortstop. Tony LaRussa didn't even know who was in his bullpen this October and he still won a World Series. Managers manage the public and the media. The players win and lose the games, that is if they are not too busy drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse.

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If we've learned anything from the Tim Tebow Magical Mystery Tour the last month or so it's that the position of quarterback is the most overrated position in sports. Tebow is proving that if the quarterback simply doesn't mess things up too badly the team can still win. Tim Terrific is a nice story to an otherwise dull NFL season. But the Denver Broncos aren't winning because of Tebow. They are winning in spite of Tebow. They are winning because they have a solid defense and have played a lot of mediocre football teams in a league that is overflowing with mediocre football teams. Tebow is nothing more than the cleanup hitter in baseball who strikes out four times and the fifth time up he gets hit with a fastball on his right hip to drive in the winning run.

Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.


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The Record Courier Updated Dec 2, 2011 03:01PM Published Dec 2, 2011 02:56PM Copyright 2011 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.