Maybe This Year

Cleaning house this morning. New Year's day blew by and the work-year grind begins. Found these items in a paper pile as I was mucking out my file cabinet. Follows are columns I wanted to write in 2005 but didn't.

Cajon Speedway. I planned a piece for spring, but the track never opened.

Nutrition column. There's so much bullshit surrounding the topic, I thought a straightforward column would shine. I interviewed sport nutritionists at San Diego State, UCSD, and the State of California. Turned out the subject was too big, interviews too boring, couldn't find a way in.

University of San Diego football. Gads, championship football in San Diego. The Toreros went 11-1, won their conference (Pioneer Football League), and won the Sports Network Cup, which, according to their blurb "...honors the nation's top I-AA mid-major college football program. Those institutions eligible to receive The Sports Network Cup currently include the 22 programs of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Northeast Conference (NEC), and Pioneer Football League (PFL), which participate in football at a non-scholarship or limited scholarship level."

It's not the Super Bowl, but it's more than we've seen out of the Aztecs or Chargers. This record, by the way, is the doing of second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.

When I started following Toreros football, I often felt a metal, sour taste in my mouth, like the taste of a filling that falls out while eating ice cream. Seemed like it happened every time I read, "Jim Harbaugh." I didn't know why; the name was only marginally familiar, distant as the name of an old girlfriend's younger brother. Then, during the act of placing a bet on Chicago (+3 at Detroit), I recalled the connection and began to violently sweat and cringe. Could not control myself. See, I'd lost too many bets on teams he played for and, thus, an evil association was burned into my mind: "Jim Harbaugh equals loss of my money." And there is nothing like losing money to turn you against a player, particularly a quarterback. But, now, studying his record, 15 years after his repeated raids on my gambling stash, when the scar tissue on my back has toughened to the point where I can honestly state I am mostly pain-free, I will admit I might have been overly harsh in my judgment. Harbaugh played in the NFL for 15 years, which puts him in the top 2 percent. He played for Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore, San Diego, and Carolina. Retired 2001. He was voted into the Pro Bowl, Comeback Player of the Year, AFC Player of the Year, and so on. Unhappily, he was none of those things for me.

But, he is, apparently, a fine head coach, and I want to do at least one column on him and the USD football program.

Roger Clemens. I'm worried he's going to retire before I get to him. The man is not human. After winning seven Cy Young awards (the guy is 43 years old), he finished last year with an impossible 1.87 ERA, his best. His best.

Wanted to write one on the Los Angeles Clippers. What do they want?

The 2005 Chargers. Inexplicable team. They either played better than they were (beat Indianapolis and New England on the road) or played worse than they were. Never found a steady beat.

Here's one: "Who is the worst owner in the NFL?" The perennial champ, the Bidwell clan, masters of the Arizona Cardinals, generations of unremitting incompetence, have a challenger in John York. York is the husband of Denise DeBartolo York, owner of the San Francisco 49ers. Denise got the franchise from her brother Edward (5 Super Bowls, 16 postseason games) the old-fashioned way, through lawyers. Denise acquired title in May of 2000 and handed operations to hubby. York is the rich-girl husband, too arrogant and insecure to hire smart people, instead hires six vice presidents who have no football experience, but have a finely tuned talent to mouth the word "Yes" with sincerity. Indeed, the 'Niners are bottom-feeders, and they have no prospects of getting better, no prospects of building a new stadium; they're down, way down, but will they stay down over decades?

World Baseball Classic. Baseball was voted out of the Olympics in July, so Major League Baseball created this World Baseball Classic thing. Exactly how that came to pass, who was behind it, who pays for it, what does the winner get, and why should anybody care?

It is disturbing that 201 National Olympic Committees showed up for the 2004 Olympics in Athens and only 16 national baseball teams have entered the World Baseball Classic. This is supposed to help baseball? Since the semifinals and finals will be played in March, at Petco Park, I have hopes this column will make it to daylight.

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