Stop laughing, Nevada Wolf Pack can still make a bowl (Friday Fodder column)
November 4, 2016
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
The Nevada Wolf Pack football team needs some positive thoughts and encouragement right now, so here it is. The Pack is going to beat the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday in Albuquerque and also whip Utah State and UNLV later this month and go to a bowl game. Stop laughing. It can happen. The Lobos do just one thing — run the football — well. They're awful at just about everything else. The Pack pounded the Lobos just last year at Mackay Stadium and shut down their predictable running game. Utah State and UNLV are, well, Utah State and UNLV. Nobody is denying this is one of the most underachieving teams in recent Wolf Pack history. And nobody is saying the Pack is a good football team. But being good isn't a requirement for victory in the Mountain West.
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The reason for Wolf Pack optimism is new starting quarterback Ty Gangi. Gangi is young and inexperienced and a bit erratic at times but he gives the Pack something it hasn't had in quite a while on offense. Energy and enthusiasm. The Pack just play with a bit more juice with Gangi. There's a bounce in their step, a sense of urgency. Gangi passed for 300 yards in just three quarters against Wyoming two weeks ago after coming off the bench cold. Imagine what he's going to do with two weeks of preparation armed with a game plan tailored to his strengths. If Gangi fails, and the Wyoming game turns out to be a mirage, that will say more about the Pack coaches than it does about Gangi. We've already seen what Gangi can do on his own and it was the most exciting performance by a Wolf Pack quarterback since Cody Fajardo. Now we'll see what he can do when the coaches have had two weeks to mold and shape him.
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What will it take for the Nevada Wolf Pack men's basketball team to qualify for the NCAA tournament this March? It might require a Mountain West tournament title. Don't forget the San Diego State Aztecs won 25 games a year ago and didn't qualify. Nothing is guaranteed when you're in the Mountain West. The expectations are extremely high but there are a lot of questions surrounding this Pack team. Marqueze Coleman, Tyron Criswell and Eric Cooper are gone. Cooper was the team's best 3-point shooter a year ago and Coleman and Criswell gave the team grit and intensity as well as a combined 448 trips to the free throw line, 10.5 rebounds, 80 steals, 190 assists and 28.4 points. The Pack's best players this year are sophomores Cam Oliver and Lindsey Drew. There might still be growing pains.
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Are the Chicago Cubs a dynasty in the making? Don't be so sure. Yes, there's a solid nucleus of good, young talent in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber. But John Lackey is 38-years-old. Jon Lester is 32 and his personal catcher David Ross is now retired. Ben Zobrist is 35. Aroldis Chapman is a free agent this winter. Jason Heyward's contract looks like a dead weight around the Cubs' necks. Baez isn't the second coming of Ryne Sandberg. Schwarber is a designated hitter masquerading as a left fielder. The Cubs will continue to be good for the foreseeable future but World Series titles don't just fall from a tree. Enjoy this one as much as you can, Cubs fans. You might not get another one for a while.
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Manager Joe Maddon almost became the Cubs new billy goat. Maddon nearly cost the Cubs a World Series title by using Chapman until his talented left arm almost fell off. Maddon, for some reason, used Chapman in Game 6 when he didn't really have to. The Cubs were up 7-2 in the seventh when Chapman came on and he was still on the mound in the ninth with a 9-2 lead. That abuse by Maddon left Chapman almost useless in Game 7 and it showed as he blew a three-run lead with four outs to go. Maddon is a great manager and he's loved by his players and by the fans and media in Chicago. But he got a bit lucky in Game 7.
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ESPN is already declaring the Cubs' Game 7 victory as the most memorable baseball game ever played. They're calling this World Series the greatest in history. Enough already. It was a great game, a great World Series and the Cubs' victory is wonderful for the sport of baseball and the city of Chicago. But that's it. There's no greatest baseball game ever played. There's no greatest World Series ever played. Why does ESPN always feel the need to slap ridiculous labels on everything five minutes after they're over? The reason is because ESPN has absolutely no sports perspective. The only thing that matters in ESPN's world are television ratings and internet clicks. Don't encourage them.
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Congratulations, Cleveland Indians fans. Your team is now the lovable losers of major league baseball. The Indians' World Series drought is now 68 years and counting. For decades the Indians were always an afterthought when it came to its long-suffering fan base. The national media attention always focused on the lovable Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. The Indians weren't located on the east coast like the Red Sox and didn't have an overwhelming presence on cable television throughout the country like the Cubs so nobody outside Ohio cared the Indians were so awful for so long. Well, the Cubs and Red Sox have now turned into the New York Yankees. They're no longer lovable. They're now just rich and overhyped. The Indians are now the feel good story of baseball. Congrats, Indians fans You're finally No. 1.