Sports Fodder: Pack bandwagon a little empty
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
The momentum generated from the Nevada Wolf Pack’s amazing, incredible 13-1 football season in 2010 has already worn off as we approach the one-year anniversary (Nov. 26) of the greatest victory (over Boise State) in the history of Wolf Pack sports. That once-a-century season doesn’t seem to have had any lasting, meaningful effect on the Pack on or off the field. The team is a mere 6-4 on the field and fans are staying away from Mackay Stadium in bunches. Last week’s game at home drew just 11,639 and the Western Athletic Conference title was on the line. The only crowd at Mackay this year larger than 16,600 was for UNLV. Wasn’t it just last January that nearly 40,000 Pack fans went to San Francisco for a bowl game?
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The crowd situation is even worse for the men’s basketball team. Yes, the last golden year (2006-07) is now nearly five years in the past but it seems like five decades ago. The last two home games have attracted less than 3,000 fans each time. Those were the Pack’s first crowds under 3,000 since a mere 2,933 showed up to watch Montana State on Dec. 11, 2000. The secret to success at the gate for Wolf Pack football and men’s basketball is not a secret at all. No matter how many mascots you have running around entertaining the crowd, no matter how many Nike promotions or cute videos you put up on the scoreboard, no matter how loud you play the music, it all comes down to one thing. In order for Pack football and men’s hoops to draw consistently well, the teams have to win, win big and then keep winning. Until the end of time.
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If the Pack football team doesn’t sweep its last two games to earn at least a share of the WAC title, this year will be considered a huge letdown. This was not a strong year for the WAC no matter how you spin it. Hawaii and Fresno State were both horrible. And Boise State was off playing with its new Mountain West Conference friends. To not win a Boise-free WAC, well, that’s not exactly what anyone expected coming off a 13-1 season. But it does make you give thanks this Thanksgiving weekend for what happened in 2010 even more.
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It is way too early, though, to give up on this Pack football team as well as this Pack men’s basketball team. The football team could still win its final two games in the regular season, win a WAC title and then go out and win its bowl game to finish a very commendable 9-4. Don’t forget this team started 1-3 on the road. The basketball team, despite having to grind out victories over Prairie View and Longwood this week, is still talented enough to win the WAC and go to the NCAA tournament. WAC basketball is also down this year. This might be the easiest path to a football or men’s basketball conference title the Pack will get in quite some time after this year.
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Justin Verlander winning the American League Most Valuable Player award is laughable. Verlander only played in 34 games. How did the Detroit Tigers manage to play their other 128 games without him? He only pitched 251 innings. How did the Tigers manage to get through their other 1,187 innings without him? Verlander had a great year. But he also wasn’t exactly Bob Gibson in 1968, another pitcher MVP. He allowed three or more runs in 15 of his 34 starts. Gibson had 10 such games in 34 starts. Gibson also never pitched less than seven innings in 1968. Verlander had eight games when he didn’t get through seven. Gibson completed 28 of his 34 starts. Verlander completed four. The Tigers also could have won the weak A.L. Central without him. Verlander wasn’t even his team’s MVP. Miguel Cabrera led the league in hitting (.344) and had 111 runs scored, 48 doubles, 30 homers, 105 RBI, 108 walks and an OPS of 1.033. And he played in 161 games.
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The odds of Boise State football leaving the Mountain West for the Big East are growing slimmer by the day. It was reported this week that BYU will not join the Big East for football. The lack of a BYU in the Big East has to make the conference a whole lot less attractive to Boise. The Broncos need some quality teams west of the Mississippi to make the move to the Big East feasible. But nothing should surprise us in college football anymore.
Joe Santoro is a freelance writer for the Sierra Nevada Media Group.