Peace and a pigskin: chicken soup for the sporting soul

March 6, 2013, 10:50 p.m.

This week I’m going to try something different. This column isn’t coming to you from a one-room double in Lantana or the Terman Engineering Library in Huang, but from the Main Quad, empty on a Tuesday morning save for the chirps of birds and the laughs of tourists. (One just gave me a thumbs up!)

It’s week nine, and we’re all buried below both the academic challenges we so often share with others and the personal struggles we wish we could be more open about. A little bit of peace is a lot harder to find right about now.

That’s why I’m sitting on one of these oversized flowerpots (treepots?), not the stone-hard wooden chair my room is outfitted with. Instead of perfect pixels, I’m writing in improvisatory ink, smearing a whole lot of it along the way.

Yet as this is still a sports column, I can’t get carried away — fine, more carried away — with my current feeling of Zen. So I’m going to talk about something equally peaceful that some friends and I have been doing a whole lot of lately: tossing around a football.

It doesn’t sound earth shattering, and you’re probably doubting whether something so simple merits the time it takes you to read 700 words. But there’s no better study break than spending half an hour in the sun, losing yourself in a terra-cotta ellipsoid with a couple of friends. It’s more active than watching pro sports, more laid-back than playing for an IM team and, if done right, less frustrating than either.

I must admit that my football-tossing days almost came to an end early, like with practically every other sport I’ve ever played. One night at The Daily’s office, I tried to strip the ball from football editor Sam Fisher, an actual former player. I missed by about three feet, cutting him just below the eye (and breaking a fingernail!).

But after I had served my self-imposed, two-week suspension for the incident, I gave it another shot after lunch on Friday. The going was rough, my hands still greasy from Manz’s soggy potato chips, and it’s taken a few more afternoon sessions of catch for me to find any semblance of a spiral. But I’ve found out quite a lot about the friends I’m throwing with in the process.

My freshman-year roommate, for example, grew up watching a different kind of football south of the border. But he still throws a deceptively tight spiral.

My best friend, who can’t serve a tennis ball anymore since he shattered his elbow as a kid, can still airmail the pigskin over my head in an attempt to show me up.

Even Sam, the offensive lineman at heart who is still getting back to top form after that debilitating upper-cheek laceration, can roll out better than your average student group in a fall-quarter freshman dorm.

As for me? Well, I’m a bit of a Josh Nunes: great deep ball, no control underneath and an injury almost certainly in my future.

When there are too many of us to simply play catch, we split up into teams and run plays — but not the way you’d expect. We rotate quarterbacks, each one getting just a single play (read: Hail Mary). You choose your receivers, you choose their routes and then you get mad at your favorite Thursday sports columnist when he can’t tell a hitch from a post. It’s all part of the fun.

So if you came here looking for the usual — soapboxing about why hockey is the best thing, like, ever, sentimental musings from a life-long Stanford fan or semi-original analysis of some startling event in the sporting world — I’m sorry to disappoint. I’ve been too busy worrying about how Sam is going to get his revenge for that cheap shot, working on my “spiral” to de-stress before finals and finding some inner peace by playing catch on the lawn in front of Manzanita Dining to think of anything more profound to write about.

Joseph Beyda, while writing this column, suffered a hallucination that involved Sam popping out of nowhere with a weighted football ready to beam him — it was really just a tourist asking for a picture. Express your sympathy for or amusement with Joseph’s irrational fear at jbeyda “at” and follow him on Twitter @DailyJBeyda.

Joseph Beyda is the editor in chief of The Stanford Daily. Previously he has worked as the executive editor, webmaster, football editor, a sports desk editor, the paper's summer managing editor and a beat reporter for football, baseball and women's soccer. He co-authored The Daily's recent football book, "Rags to Roses," and covered the soccer team's national title run for the New York Times. Joseph is a senior from Cupertino, Calif. majoring in Electrical Engineering. To contact him, please email jbeyda "at"

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