Jeff Tedford, Josh Nunes, Jesse Owens, Lew Wolff, Petaluma Little Leaguers
****My apologies for being so late with this. I have a new computer and being so far behind the curve, I’ve had problems with it. Hopefully, they’re now cured.
THE EXCITEMENT is building over the opening of the rebuilt Memorial Stadium at Cal, with the first game only 10 days away, on Sept. 1 against Nevada Reno.
The Cal players have been in the stadium for only a couple of days of practice. “They were really excited,” coach Jeff Tedford told writers (no TV allowed) at an informational meeting today over lunch in the new Simpson High Performance Center. The dining room was far superior to the Hall of Fame room that was used earlier for media lunches and many events. It is truly a new world for Cal football.
The logistics alone made practicing in the stadium much better. For practices at Witter Field above the stadium, players had to either walk or drive around the stadium. Now, they go directly from their dressing room through a tunnel to the field.
Beyond that, though, the players were just excited to be back in the stadium, especially one with so many added features. “I had to remind them that it’s still all about how well we play,” Tedford said.
He had the same feeling about recruiting. “There’s no doubt that the new stadium and High Performance Center will help recruiting,” he said. “I felt we were doing well before, which shows the appeal of the University and the area. Now, we have that last hurdle removed.
“Our goal is always to win the conference and compete for the national title, as well. Larry Scott (Pac-12 commissioner) is a smart man and he has good people around him. This new television network is a good idea, and I know he’s working on some other ideas, as well. We’ve always had a strong conference and he wants to make it even more of a factor nationally.”
Tedford feels more confident going into this season than he has in some time, primarily because he’s got a settled quarterback situation for the first time since Aaron Rodgers left. Zach Maynard took charge in the second half of last season, and Tedford looks for continued improvement this year.
“It just clicked in for him,” said Tedford. “He finally understood the speed of the game and started making much better decisions. The last half of the season, he was in the top 13 statistically of quarterbacks in the country, and he was the only one of those 13 who was in his first year as the starter.”
Tedford also has confidence in Maynard’s backup, Allan Bridgeford. When I asked him if he’d be comfortable playing Bridgeford if Maynard were injured, he said, “Absolutely! He isn’t the runner Zach is but he can make all the throws and accurately. He’s come a long way.”
The competition in the Pac-12 is daunting, with USC ranked as No. 1 in the country in some polls and Oregon being a consistent threat with that nonstop offense.
There are many other obstacles for the Bears this season, including a schedule without a bye. “I’ve never experienced that,” Tedford said. “Ideally, you like to have a bye in midseason. We’ll just have to see how it works out.”
There are also back-to-back games against Ohio State and USC. Ouch!
Still, Tedford is clearly more optimistic about the season ahead, with the new stadium and high performance center finished. He says complimentary things about AT&T Park and the Giants management, especially Cal alum Larry Baer, but it was an artificial environment, nothing like being on the campus at Berkeley.
He cited several aspects about the team when he was asked why he thought the Bears could compete with USC and Oregon. A five-deep running back rotation was one, as were the freshman receivers; Bryce Treggs is listed as the starter opposite Keenan Allen, and Chris Harper and Maurice Harris, a redshirt freshman, are backups. At cornerback, Marc Anthony and Steve Williams are very experienced, and Tedford thought that might be the Bears’ strongest position.
One question mark early was the replacement for punter Bryan Anger, who was a big weapon for the Bears. But freshman Cole Leininger has been absolutely booming the ball in practice and squad games, and he seems to have the perfect personality for the job. “He never changes expression,” marveled Tedford. “You think that once in a while, you’d like to see a smile, but that’s all you get.”
Tedford’s support remains strong among both the academic and athletic administrations, and he also has support from the big donors among the alumni, who have been around long enough to know how difficult it is to win at football at Cal. It is only the younger alums, who got spoiled by Tedford’s early success, who have been sniping at him.
Still, he wants to do better. The loss to Texas in the Holiday Bowl after last season left a very bitter taste in his mouth. With the impetus of the “new” Memorial Stadium, he is aiming to get the Bears back on the fast track.
JOSH NUNES was named Stanford’s starting quarterback yesterday by coach David Shaw, with the first game next Friday against San Jose State, but only time will tell whether that’s good news.
Nunes follows Andrew Luck, and it can be very difficult following a great quarterback. Joe Ayoob could tell him about that. Ayoob followed Aaron Rodgers and got unrelenting criticism from young Cal alums and even his fellow students for, well, not being Aaron Rodgers. I would hope Stanford fans and students will give Nunes more of a chance, but there’s no guarantee.
Little is known about Nunes, other than that he was rated the nation’s 13th best pro-type quarterback in high school by Rivals.com. He played in four games in 2010 as Luck’s backup but threw just two passes, completing one for seven yards. He did not play last year.
He also won’t have as talented a team as Luck had.
It may be that Nunes will seize this opportunity and have a great collegiate career. I think it much more likely, though, that he’ll be known as the guy who wasn’t Andrew Luck.
SPORTS BOOKS: I often get e-mails from public relations people offering me review copies of sports books. The strangest I’ve seen in some time is one which professes to tell us how the Southeastern Conference became No. 1 in football. Does it really take 350 words to explain the simple formula for coaches: Tell athletes you’re recruiting that they won’t have to go to class or open a book. Just play football.
ONE OF Americans’ favorite myths, that Jesse Owens embarrassed Adolf Hitler in front of the world at the 1936 Olympics was reinforced by the recent PBS special on Owens. As much as I admire Owens, the facts do not support the story Americans believe.
In 1936, there was no television, no Internet to spread the news, only the printed word, and the Nazis had already shown their willingness to censor what went out from Germany. They probably didn’t heavily censor American reports from the Olympics, but they certainly did for other countries.
In addition, the Nazis had very good film makers working on their version of the Olympics. I’ve since seen one of those films. It did not mention Owens but glorified the job the Germans had done in presenting the Olympics. It was a grand spectacle.
Meanwhile, I doubt that the Owens story resonated with many non-black Americans of that day. The United States was still heavily segregated, even in the armed forces in the World War which was coming. Southern colleges did not play black athletes until the mid-‘50s, 20 years after the Berlin Olympics.
The Jesse Owens story is a heartwarming one but unfortunately, the main story for the rest of the world was that the 1936 Berlin Olympics were a resounding success. It was a clear propaganda triumph for the Nazis, for which we can thank Avery Brundage and the rest of the fat cats on he International Olympic Committee, who were oblivious to everything except their well doing.
AFTER MELKY CABRERA tested positive for artificial testosterone, Victor Conte, who started all this with the BALCO laboratory, said that the MLB test didn’t have the best test for discovering artificial testosterone, that players could smear it on after a game and know that the substance could not be detected after six hours – which would be plenty of time for it to disappear before a test the next day.
Major league baseball and the Players Association immediately came out with a release saying that MLB has the best system available, better than other tests.
Of course, both groups have a vested interest in this. MLB doesn’t want to lose a lot of players and neither does the Players Association.
When I talk to people around baseball, they just assume that many players are still taking something, whether it’s the artificial testostorone or human growth hormones, which can’t be detected by urine tests, which is all the union will allow. Nobody I’ve talked to is especially bothered by this because they understand that players will always do whatever they can to get an edge. That’s the history of baseball, though it’s ignored by sanctimonious sportswriters.
I also know that commissioner Bud Selig has been a complete hypocrite on this, ignoring evidence of steroids until he was forcibly reminded of it. Now, he talks fervently about cleaning up the sport. If talking out of both sides of your mouth ever becomes an Olympic sport, Selig will be a clear winner.
THE GIANTS have rebounded well this week, beating the Dodgers in the first two games of the key series in Los Angeles, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy has become more aggressive, taking out Tim Lincecum at the first sign of trouble on Tuesday night, just one out into the sixth inning.
Bochy has been known for his willingness to let his top starters work out of trouble, but Lincecum is no longer in that category, at least for this season. The Giants are now in a serious playoff run and every game counts. Lincecum has been unable to right the ship when things start to go south on him, and Bochy needs to get him out of the game immediately. Same with Barry Zito, who can go south in a hurry. When Zito starts going one ball, two balls, three balls early in the game, it’s going to be a disaster if he stays in there.
SPOTTED AT the first Giants-Dodgers game Tuesday night, Lew Wolff, apparently oblivious to the fact that the team he and John Fisher own, the A’s, was battling for a playoff berth with a game at the Oakland Coliseum. Of course, we’ve long known that Wolff doesn’t care whether the A’s win or lose. Scratch that. Actually, he prefers they lose, so he can continue to argue that he can’t win in Oakland. Every time the A’s have one of those walk-off wins, it probably drives a stake in Wolff’s heart.
Meanwhile, general manager Billy Beane is wheeling and dealing, often surprising people with his moves. Last year’s rookie hero, Jamile Weeks, was sent down yesterday, probably as a wake-up call. Weeks is very talented but he let the offensive part of his game take a real slide this year. He took his demotion well, promising that he’d work on what needed to be worked on. I hope so. He has too much ability to squander it.
Earlier, catcher Kurk Suzuki was traded to the Washington Nationals in what was thought by many to be a salary dump. I don’t think so. I think the A’s got the best of Suzuki, who was worn out and not having a good year. Manager Bob Melvin was not using him much, saying he was resting him so he could come back as a hitter, but I think the real reason was that he didn’t think Suzuki was helping the team. He may help the Nationals, working with a young pitching staff, but I don’t think there’s much left in the tank.
LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES: If you want to know why professional athletes are spoiled, take a look at all the attention being focused on the Petaluma players in the Little League World Series.
I don’t know what will eventually happen with these youngsters but I’ll guarantee you there are 12-year-olds out there today who will eventually be playing major league baseball, football or basketball who will get this kind of attention for years before they’re pros. How do you expect them to act when they’re in their 20s?
TV: I’ll be on “Chronicle Live” on Comcast at 5 p.m. Friday, re-broadcast at 11.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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