A few weeks ago one of my friends, a fellow foreigner, accused me of being close-minded when it comes to American sports. In a desperate attempt to prove him wrong, and because the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to make a change, I’m going to devote the entirety of this column to football, promising not to mention a single overseas sport.
Unfortunately for my fledgling interest and understanding, I wasn’t on the Farm this past fall quarter during the most successful regular season in Stanford football history, and was similarly stuck back home in the UK last week, when the Card won its first ever BCS bowl. Faced with having to tune in from across the pond, in the middle of a cold and damp English night, and unable to summon the sort of all-encompassing football knowledge of my fellow Daily columnists, I hope you’re not expecting anything too incisive.
Football still makes my brain hurt: just when I think I know what is going on, one of the many referees will throw down a flag and declare a mysteriously unexplained infringement. Thankfully, though, I have ESPN to keep me company. I mostly watch sports on various channels under the umbrella of Sky Sports, and they generally do a great job. When it comes to the NFL, though, it feels weird. I still struggle to have much of an interest in the world of professional football, but the biggest impediment to my growth is having to listen to British people talk about it.
Coverage of American sports should be big, brash and come with a thick American accent. I don’t trust British voices because I can’t really be sure they know anything about the sport. Their very presence just seems unpatriotic-why aren’t they commentating on our own English sports? So my thanks go out to ESPN for simply relaying the same feed that surely went out in the U.S. It was everything I could have dreamed of: loud, flashy, full of references I didn’t understand and complete with made-up words like “winningest” (which is not in the Oxford English Dictionary).
Fueled by coffee and chocolate, the first half of the Orange Bowl left me wishing Virginia Tech’s quarterback had lined up in Cardinal colors. Stanford seemed to stutter its way through and just held onto a one-point lead, while it seemed that Tyrod Taylor was almost single-handedly turning the tide. To be honest, though, the main reason behind this wish of mine was that it would be pretty cool to get a Cardinal jersey with T. Taylor emblazoned across the back.
I began to regret my musings in the second half as Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck made it clear why he was the favorite to be the first pick in the NFL Draft and the Cardinal defense turned up the heat on Taylor, sacking him for some heavy losses. Fortunately, we have a Taylor of our own, running back Stepfan Taylor, who made a couple of impressive long rushes in the second half, putting the Cardinal in position to score touchdowns and keeping alive my dreams of getting a shirt with my name on it.
My fear is that by the time I’m back and better educated for next football season, the outlook for Stanford football may be very different. As I admit to not being a die-hard fan, my interest in what happens in Stanford Stadium is strongly linked to success: if the team racks up loss after loss it might not take much to find another weekend distraction. With Luck now committed to return, it is up to Jim Harbaugh’s replacement to decide how much time I’ll devote to the Red Zone. To the chagrin of the die-hard fans, the same holds true for many other students.
It would be hard to argue that this year’s team wouldn’t have been even stronger if Toby Gerhart had stayed for his final year of eligibility. Whether that would have made a difference in the game against Oregon is something we can never know. Perhaps Stanford might not have won the Orange Bowl last week, but could instead be warming up for an improbable national championship game. Maybe this thought was as big an influence on Luck as his desire to complete his degree. Luck seems assured of a star-studded career. Staying one more year is a big risk for him, but brings the possibility of achieving something really special on the Farm. This year’s success was impressive, but could a multi-year winning streak do more than just bring admirers? Could Stanford become a real football school?
Another friend of mine, a partisan Longhorns fan, recently pointed out: “It’s weird seeing actual football players on campus.”
I hope they’re here to stay.
Tom Taylor may be a fair-weather fan when it comes to football, but he’s eager to learn. Teach him a thing or two at [email protected].