FODDER: Japan earned its soccer win

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Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . If the United States' women's soccer team had to lose in the World Cup finals, it's nice that it was to Japan. A soccer game is not going to wipe out the devastation caused by an earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear disaster, but if there was ever a country needing something to rally around and feel good about, it is Japan. And don't show your soccer ignorance by suggesting the U.S. choked in the final. Japan showed tremendous heart by rallying twice to tie the game. They earned the World Cup.

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A U.S. victory wouldn't have triggered a soccer explosion in this country. That already happened in 1999 when the women won the World Cup. Most every little girl in this country already plays soccer thanks to Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett and the rest of that historic 1999 team. And a World Cup title this year would not have changed how this country views women's soccer or women's sports in general. Most men couldn't care less about women's sports. That wouldn't have changed. And most women, unless they play the sport, couldn't care less about sports at all. That also wouldn't have changed.

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Can Colin Kaepernick turn himself into a pocket quarterback? Can he win games on a consistent basis with his arm instead of his legs? Can he read a defense in the pocket and find his third and fourth receiver? That is going to be the former Wolf Pack quarterback's biggest challenge in the NFL. Kaepernick, don't forget, was pulled from a game in the middle of his senior year at Nevada because he wasn't reading the defense to the liking of his head coach. And that was against one of the worst defenses in the nation (Utah State). It is important that the 49ers have patience with Kaepernick this year and don't try to force feed him into the league.

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It's all well and good that the Arizona Diamondbacks have robbed the Reno Aces this year of such talent as Wily Mo Pena, Brandon Allen, Sean Burroughs and Cody Ransom. That's why the Aces exist, to serve as the waiting room for the Diamondbacks. But it's also a reminder of how difficult it is to be a fan of a Triple-A team. The Aces are arguably the best team in the Pacific Coast League this year and have a legitimate chance of winning the championship in September. But Aces fans might not recognize their team come playoff time. It's not about the players or the baseball, Aces fans. It's about the $2 beer nights, the young girls dancing on top of the dugouts, the dizzy bat races, Friday night fireworks and the constant never-ending, ear-splitting music.

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Does northern Nevada care about the Arizona Diamondbacks yet? It doesn't seem so. You rarely see a Diamondbacks hat or shirt at Aces Ballpark. This is still a San Francisco Giants town and always will be. There were more Giants hats and shirts at Aces ballpark this week with the Giants' Triple-A affiliate (the Fresno Grizzlies) in town than Diamondbacks hats and shirts in the three years combined that the Aces have been in Reno.

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All of the concern over NBA players like Deron Williams and Sasha Vujacic going to Turkey to play during the NBA lockout is a bit silly. Yes, they might get hurt. But these guys would pull more muscles and break more of a sweat playing golf and poker and keeping their girlfriends off their wives' radar during the lockout than playing meaningless games in Turkey against a bunch of guys who wouldn't get off the bench in a D-League game. These guys are just looking for someone to pay them six figures a month (Kobe Bryant wants $1 million a month) for a European vacation.

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The most exciting two weeks in the history of the NFL is about to take place as soon as the lockout ends. Hundreds (thousands?) of free agents (NFL players, college players who weren't drafted in April) will be on the open market in a feeding frenzy never seen before in the league's history. It's a fantasy football player's dream and nightmare all rolled into one.

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There are still 78 days until the Nevada Wolf Pack football team opens its home schedule at Mackay Stadium against UNLV on Oct. 8. But you don't have to wait that long to see this year's Wolf Pack football team. The unofficial Wolf Pack home opener will be Sept. 17 at San Jose State. Pack fans love going to the Bay area. About 40,062 of you (out of the announced crowd of 40,063) showed up at San Francisco's AT&T Park in January to see the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl victory over Boston College. There will be plenty of seats available on Sept. 17 at San Jose's Spartan Stadium (their biggest crowd was 20,239 last year). Pack fans can easily turn it into a Pack home game.


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