Zafran: A love affair: Stanford Athletics’ Valentine’s Day pairings

Feb. 14, 2022, 11:08 p.m.

February 14: Valentine’s Day. What a lovely holiday it is. All around campus, romance is flourishing. Frosh are finally asking out the crushes they’ve had since NSO. Problem-set partners are doing more than just problem sets together. Exchanges of flowers and chocolates are taking place every hour. 

Yet while I write this, watching these interactions from the window as I sit alone in COVID-19 isolation, I am envy-free. Did I cancel my own Valentine’s Day plans yesterday because I was sent into isolation? Yes. Is that embarrassing to write in a newspaper article? No — she almost certainly won’t read this. I am not jealous of these Valentine’s Day occurrences because they are short-lived. By the end of the week, nearly all will return to normal. 

But some romances do outlast this period. I’m not referring to the people who put on a public display of affection in the lecture hall. As a matter of fact, I’m not even talking about real person-to-person relationships. I’m talking about the surefire affection we’ve seen unfold on the football field, out on the hardwood and even on the baseball diamond. Some Stanford players and coaches have an undying love that, although sometimes isn’t for the best, can always be counted on.

So in honor of today, here is a non-exhaustive list of love affairs in Stanford Athletics:

David Shaw and the Fade Route

At the end of the Stanford vs. Oregon football game this year, Tanner McKee took a snap at the four-yard line with five seconds left in regulation. The score was 24-17 in favor of the Ducks, and Shaw had John Humphries, facing one-on-one coverage, run a fade route. When the ball sailed over his head right in front of the student section as the clock hit zero, disappointment filled the air.

Lo and behold, a (questionable) flag was thrown and Stanford would get one last shot to tie things up. Surely David Shaw wouldn’t call another fade route. And surely he wouldn’t call it to the other side, where Elijah Higgins would have to look into the sun.

Oh Shaw, I never should have doubted you and your fade route. I guess as the saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Fran Belibi and the Pregame Dunk

If you went to a Stanford women’s basketball game and didn’t see Fran Belibi dunk during warmups, did you really go to a Stanford women’s basketball game?

Fran Belibi dunks before one of the women's basketball team's games with the rest of her teammates looking on.
Fran Belibi dunks before one of her team’s games.

Going to see the reigning national champions is always special. I was tempted to write about the love affair between Haley Jones and her nifty footwork in the paint, but Belibi and her ritualistic pre-game dunk makes a strong case for the best Stanford Valentine’s Day tandem. It’s not every day that you get to see the first person to dunk in a women’s college basketball game since 2013 (unless you go to Stanford, I suppose).

Women’s Golf and Utter Domination

Why don’t we talk about the women’s golf team more often? If you needed an example of domination, I’d point you in their direction.

The program went a perfect four-for-four in tournaments during their fall season, winning the Molly, the Windy City Collegiate Classic, the Stanford Intercollegiate and the Pac-12 Preview

I mean, heck, they won the Pac-12 Preview without four of their best golfers! Where were they? Competing in the Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship, each representing their own home country on one of the biggest stages there is. 

I love winning. Everyone does. But, perhaps nobody loves winning more than the women’s golf team.

Brock Jones and Every Dude at This School

Brock Jones is a star on the baseball diamond. The California native was named to almost every preseason All-American first team there is for this upcoming season. He’s started every game in his collegiate career. Needless to say, the man is good at baseball.

But, did you know that he was also a member of the football team his freshman year? Playing both baseball AND football for your university — find me someone who doesn’t think that’s the dream. Plus, his ‘stache provides all the more justification for a mancrush. This is Brock’s world, and we’re all living in it.

Stanford Recruiting and Athletes With Cool Names

Growing up, I had a favorite Stanford athlete. Of course Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffery were national stars on the gridiron, but a different football player stole my heart: Jet Toner.

I mean, how can you not fall in love with the man at first sight? Not only did the former Cardinal kicker have one of the coolest names out there, but he was actually good at what he did too. Third in school history for career points and made field goals, and a school-record 113 consecutive made PAT’s — that’s excellence if I’ve seen it. 

Interestingly enough, the more knowledgeable I became about Stanford Athletics, the more I realized there are other people out there who also have cool names. For some reason, plenty of athletes at this school have names that I would define as above average. Are the recruiting coaches being subsidized for bringing in athletes with fun names? I used to think Zach Zafran was a cool name, but it pales in comparison to these people:

Kale Lucas: His first name is Kale. Enough said.

Thunder Keck: Is it rain? Is it lightning? No, it’s Thunder Keck. Bonus points for having the middle name Justice. And extra bonus points for always dropping the best comments on the Stanford Missed Connections Instagram page.

Shield Taylor: Such a fitting name, as the fullback is definitely going to act as a tailback’s shield once David Shaw returns to the brand of football that will have us watching the Cardinal line up in the I-Formation on second down (no seriously, please bring it back, David).

Real Woods: Even though one of his wrestling teammates sent me to the emergency room in an intramural flag football game, it can’t be ignored how cool his name is. I thought Tiger Woods was a cool Stanford name, but the hype for Real is real.

Jerod Haase and Winning Random Quad-1 Games

It’s almost like Jerod Haase took a page out of David Shaw’s book when he decided to beat the number 5 team in the country at the time, USC, just to lose to unranked Washington four days later.

For a team trying to sneak it’s way into the NCAA tournament, there are certainly some quality wins that Stanford men’s basketball has on its resume. But, there are also some iffy performances that don’t help their case. 

Whether it was allowing Dartmouth to take them to overtime, losing to Colorado, or beating USC twice, this season has shown us that this Stanford team loves to keep people on their toes, wondering whether they’ll walk away with a win on any given night, regardless of the opponent.

Zach Zafran was the Vol. 262 managing editor for the sports section. Now a senior staff writer, he has previous experience reporting and writing with SFGATE. You can find Zach around campus wearing swim trunks no matter the weather. Follow him on Twitter at @ZachZafran and contact him at sports 'at'

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