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Sports Watching & Wondering

John Randolph RogersThere was a time, not too long ago when Baseball was the most important sport in this country. There were just two leagues, and the champion of each league played in the World Series. We were usually in school when they were played, and the teachers would announce the scores of the games, at the beginning or ending of the classes. They knew that we could not concentrate on our studies, if we were wondering what the score was. The heroes in the games were larger than life, and they were household names.

The Dodgers and the Angels are both in the MLB Playoffs. This accomplishment does not seem to be generating a lot of excitement. Possibly it is because this sport is now overshadowed by professional football and basketball. Except for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, baseball does not have many superstars. I mean, in my day, everyone wanted to see Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax and Maury Wills. Even casual fans knew the name of every player on the team's roster. Today, only a few of them know even two or three names. So, the excitement and interest is not there.

Regrettably, for local fans, the Dodgers are underdogs to the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Angels have not done well against the Boston Red Sox. So, the chances of either of the local teams making it to the World Series are extremely slim.

UCLA will play Oregon this Saturday at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks lost their opening game to Boise State, but they have since won four in a row. Included in their victories is a big-time shellacking of the heavily favored Cal Bears. UCLA now has a record of 3-1, and that is a big improvement over last year. They are a steadily improving team, but I don't think that they are ready for Oregon. Maybe next year. Oregon has managed to achieve their outstanding record, without the services of LeGarrette Blount, the team's best running back.

A player on the winning Boise State team provoked him, and Blount punched him in the mouth. Blunt was then suspended from the team for the entire season, and since he is a senior, this ended his college football career. Feeling that this punishment was too severe, I called the University of Oregon and left messages for President Richard Lariviere and Football Coach Chip Kelly. I suggested that Blount's punishment should be a maximum of a five-game suspension, or less.

Coach Kelly called me back and he was polite, but noncommittal. I was surprised and pleased to learn that the University has started the process of reinstating Blount. I do not know how long this will take, or if they will be successful, but I think that it is the right thing for them to do. I also hope that Mr. Blount will not get into any more fights. It would be a nice surprise for him and the Oregon fans, if he was allowed to play this Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

USC will have the week off, and then they will travel to South Bend, Indiana to meet much improved Notre Dame. It is difficult for any visiting team to win back there, as many disappointed ones have discovered. Notre Dame and USC have identical 4-1 records. USC lost to Washington, Washington lost to Notre Dame, so there you go. Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen has one of the strongest, most accurate arms of any quarterback in college football. He will throw often, and he will throw deep. So, if the USC defensive team is not at his peak, it'll give up a lot of touchdowns. USC quarterback sensation Matt Barkley will need to be at his best, under very difficult circumstances. USC would be well advised to take a page from the Stanford playbook and do more running. You may not have noticed, but Stanford has become the old SC. They have Toby Gerhart, a monster of a running back, and they seem to give the ball to him every time they have it. It is nearly impossible for players to tackle him, and the unlucky ones who do usually need assistance from Blue Shield or the Red Cross. There was a time when a Stanford team had a great quarterback, and a bunch of pencil neck geeks trying to help him. They were very smart, but they lost most of their games. Now they have a bunch of real athletes, who are also very smart, so they have become very dangerous, as their future opponents will discover.

I think that the world is tired of hearing about Brett Favre. In the most ballyhooed regular NFL football game ever, he led the Vikings to a 30-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers. They game more than exceeded its expectations, and Favre completed 24 of 31 passes. People on the West Coast cannot fully appreciate how traumatic it was for the fans of the Packers to see Favre wearing the uniform of the Minnesota Vikings. Out here, we like sports. Back there, to many of them, their teams are the most important things in their lives. How many people in Southern California would voluntarily sit in freezing weather for three hours to watch a football game? I think you already know the answer to that question. Many of them will attend every game, whether it is hot, cold, or raining.

They have this compulsion to be there. It frightens me to even watch them sitting there freezing. Well, I guess someone has to do it, just as long as it isn't me.

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