The biggest joke of all is on us, not the NFL | NevadaAppeal.com

The biggest joke of all is on us, not the NFL

Joe Santoro
For the Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

You cannot hurt the National Football League. Go ahead, laugh at the NFL. Make jokes, call it names, question its sanity and intelligence. It’s all just meaningless noise and chatter. Once the games start up again we’re going to flock like mindless robots, beer in one hand, TV remote in the other with a bowl of chips or a platter of wings in front of us, and watch. And the NFL will continue to make a bigger profit than almost every country known to man. Tom Brady lets the air out of a few footballs and the NFL punishes him like he stole a bicycle from a 4-year-old. Ridiculous, right? Of course. We know it. Brady knows it. The NFL knows it. But we can’t stop talking about it. That’s the biggest joke of all.

. . .

The UNLV Rebels have been in the Mountain West since the league started in 1999. The Nevada Wolf Pack has called the Mountain West home since the fall of 2012. Here we are in the spring of 2015 and the Wolf Pack is a stronger Mountain West member than UNLV in the three sports that matter. The Wolf Pack’s football, men’s basketball and baseball teams this year have compiled a 56-40 record while UNLV’s same sports have gone 42-54. In head to head competition in those three sports, the Pack holds a 7-3 edge against the Rebels. Huge financial resources, a large population base and overpaid coaches, it seems, aren’t the key to athletic success after all.

. . .

The one thing Las Vegas does have, though, is incredible baseball players. The two best players in the major leagues over the next dozen years just might be Las Vegas natives Bryce Harper (Las Vegas High) and Kris Bryant (Bonanza High). Harper is 22 years old and Bryant is 23. They both seem Cooperstown bound right now. We understand everyone born north of Tonopah has been bred to despise anything that touches Las Vegas. But take pride in Bryant and Harper, northern Nevada. They are, after all, Nevadans. True Nevadans. Born and raised. It’s OK to cheer these guys. And, don’t forget, they were smart enough not to go to UNLV.

. . .

The Wolf Pack baseball team is second in the nation in runs scored, second in doubles, third in on base percentage, fourth in slugging and seventh in batting average. The Pack can slug it out with any team in the country. How this team fares over the next month in the regionals and College World Series, though, will depend on pitching. And you have to like its chances. The Pack doesn’t have the most talented pitching staff in the nation but it might have the most competitive. The pitchers are fighters. You want to know what the phrase Battle Born means? Well, take a look at this Pack pitching staff. It will compete on every pitch and its biggest strength is it’s not afraid of the moment. That, alone, can take a college baseball team a long way.

. . .

Has any Wolf Pack team in school history dominated its conference like this year’s baseball team? It’s already cruised to the league’s regular season title. It will no doubt win the Mountain West tournament next week at home. It leads the conference in batting average and earned run average. There’s no question the Conference’s Player of the Year (Ryan Howell, Austin Byler, Trenton Brooks, Kewby Meyer, Cal Stevenson or Bryce Greager) and Coach of the Year (Jay Johnson) will be wearing Wolf Pack silver and blue. It also has a good shot at winning Pitcher of the Year (Christian Stolo or Adam Whitt). The Mountain West is simply a Pack party this year.

. . .

We’ve been saying it for years but nobody listened or seemed to care because, well, nobody cared about baseball up on north Virginia Street. But now that this team has everybody’s attention, it’s time for the Wolf Pack athletic department to do its part. It’s time to upgrade Peccole Park. The little erector set of a stadium tucked away at the far end of campus is stuck in the 1990s and needs some major improvements. It’s certainly not fitting for a program that’s going to compete for a national title over the next month. There aren’t nearly enough seats between first and third base and the concession stands and restrooms are inadequate. And that’s just for starters. It’s simply an uncomfortable place to watch a baseball game. It’s a Little League park on steroids. It’s time the athletic department protects and supports a program that deserves it.

. . .

Has the success of this year’s Pack baseball team reminded you how meaningless Wolf Pack football truly is? It should. The baseball team is going to compete for a national title over the next month. That will never happen in football. The best the Pack football team can ever hope for is a spot in a meaningless bowl game. That’s not the Pack’s fault. It’s just the nature of the sport. Football at the Mountain West level is nothing more than a tailgate party. It’s a way to pay bills. Success in football is going 7-6 in a bad conference and losing a bowl game to another bad team. In baseball and men’s basketball that will eventually get the coach fired.