Joe Santoro: Pack may play football in 2020 because money | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: Pack may play football in 2020 because money

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
Nevada football players during a scrimmage Aug. 8 at Mackay Stadium.
Katie Rihn/University of Nevada

Don’t be stunned if the Nevada Wolf Pack football team plays games sometime in the next three months. The Mountain West, remember, is a follower, not a leader. The Big Ten’s decision this week to start its football season the weekend of Oct. 24 is probably all the Mountain West needs to do the same. It’s likely the Mountain West is now simply waiting for the big brother Pac-12 to also completely disregard the health and safety of its athletes and announce it, too, will play games starting next month. None of the reasons why the Big Ten, Mountain West and Pac-12 decided to put off football until next spring have disappeared. The nation remains in a pandemic and we have already seen numerous college football games either canceled or postponed due to athletes testing positive for the coronavirus. The western half of the United States, in case you haven’t gone outside the past two months, also has the added concern of actually trying to breathe outdoors because California’s wild fires have made the skies unhealthy. Unhealthy air and a pandemic, though, might not matter to the Pac-12 and Mountain West when it comes to raking in some of that easy television money that college football provides. Coaches and athletic directors still have to be paid, you know.

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Will Northern Nevada ever warm up to the Las Vegas Raiders? Is there any state pride in Northern Nevada knowing that Nevada has joined the NFL and might have the greatest stadium in the history of professional sports? Of course not. And we get it. The Fremont Cannon is still red (thanks, Jay Norvell, once again). The rivalry between North and South is real. So don’t expect Northern Nevada to suddenly paint itself silver and black because the Raiders now live within the state lines. Las Vegas, after all, is no more a part of Nevada as Washington, D.C., is a part of Maryland or Virginia. There are also far too many San Francisco 49ers fans here who will always despise the Raiders. The Raiders, don’t forget, also call themselves the Las Vegas Raiders, not the Nevada Raiders. It’s still OK to boo the Raiders.

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The Raiders, though, seem out of place in Las Vegas. This is an organization that would seem more at home in Bakersfield than Las Vegas. They were also out of place in Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 90s but they made it work when they became the symbol of the Southern California street gangs. The Raiders nurtured that image and welcomed it. And it sold a lot of hats and jerseys. They certainly didn’t become Hollywood’s team. The Raiders were always a working class type of organization, a team of the people, the underdog. It was a biker bar type of team. Gritty, tough, no-nonsense. Work hard, play even harder. Break all the rules and invent new ones. The Raiders belong more in Reno than they do in Las Vegas. Southern Nevadans like to paint a picture of Northern Nevadans as living in trailers on cinder blocks with a rusted out Ford pickup in front of the house. That used to be the Raiders’ image, too. But maybe the Raiders have finally gone Hollywood. They are, after all, now living where Hollywood goes to play.

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The Raiders made Nevada 1-0 in the NFL last week by beating the Carolina Panthers. But Carolina is just a glorified ACC team. The Raiders will now christen Allegiant Stadium Monday night against the New Orleans Saints and will then take on the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs on the road and the Buffalo Bills at home. The next four games will tell us if the Raiders are a possible playoff team this year.

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The San Francisco 49ers played last Sunday as if they are still stunned by what happened in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. George Kittle is limping and Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t have enough help. Garoppolo is not an elite quarterback. He’s not awful. But he can’t do it alone. He’s not Tom Brady of 2007. He’s more like Tom Brady of 2020. If the 49ers don’t go to the east coast and whip both the New York Jets and Giants the next two weeks then we might be looking at a first-to-worst situation in the NFC West this season.

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Would anybody watch a Denver Nuggets-Miami Heat NBA Finals? To be fair, watching anybody play in an arena with no fans, fake noise and flickering images of people watching the game on their computer is, well, difficult. But Nuggets-Heat would be tough to get excited about under any circumstances. The NBA, as we’ve said all along, desperately needs LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, this year more than ever. We’re not saying the outcome is fixed. We’re just saying don’t be stunned to see LeBron playing the Heat or Celtics in a couple weeks. This entire NBA postseason has had the feel of a scripted, overwritten television drama where the hero (LeBron) always ends up smiling. Expect that to continue.

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The Air Force Falcons, as of Thursday morning, will play two football games this season against Navy (Oct. 3) and Army (Nov. 7). The Mountain West has shut down its football season but Air Force can play two games? Why is that? Does the nation’s security depend upon it? If Air Force can play two rivalry games, why can’t the Wolf Pack take on the UNLV Rebels? Why is one school’s rivalry game more important than another?