Friday, October 20, 2017

A Sportlots Order to Ease the Pain

It has been a rough October for me, sports-wise at least.  There are three sports entities that I vehemently cheer for: the Green Bay Packers, the Chicago Cubs, and the BYU Cougar football team.  After last night's NLCS clincher, I can safely say that there has been a net loss for my teams this month.  While it was nice to have the Cubs playing in October, there was never really sense that they would get too far this year.  Kershaw made sure of that.  The Packers may have a winning record for the month so far, but there is one loss that will be difficult to overcome: the loss of Aaron Rodgers to injury.  And BYU football this has been nothing short of abject failure.  Last year, they managed a record of 9-4 with the four losses coming against good teams (Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, and Boise State) by a grand total of 7 points.  This year the record stands at 1-6, with the only victory coming against FCS Portland State.  This is worst start to a season since before LaVell Edwards became coach in 1972.  Wilson has them at #120 in his Power Rankings, and to those of us who have watched them play, that feels too high. 

As a consolation, I'll just have to turn to some new BYU acquisitions from Sportlots to remember better days past.  In January, I stated that my 2017 collecting goal was to work on my BYU collection.  I had never considered focusing on collecting BYU players, even as much I love the team, but now I realize that recalling old players and great players from the past has been a good bonding mechanism between me and older family members, and I now want it to be the same with my sons.  I like to pull out the cards when I'm talking sports to my kids, so I decided to ramp up my BYU collection this year.  I started 2017 with a mere 105 cards of former Cougars, but I've been able to more than double that number so far this year.  Remembering that this program has actually won more games than all but 5 other programs since the Edwards era began makes this season a little bit easier to take.

One of the first great QBs to play in Provo was Gifford Nielsen.  He was the first in a string of over a decade's worth of future NFL quarterbacks that gave the school the nickname QB U.  Yes, I know other school's have the same nickname, but with 4 Davey O'Brien winners in 12 years, it certainly fit BYU in the 1980s.

Jim McMahon was the first of those Davey O'Brien winners.  He went on to a long NFL career with five NFL teams. 

I didn't pick up any Steve Young in this order, so we have to skip to the next Davey O'Brien winner, Ty Detmer.  Of course, it's really fun to look back on Ty's playing days.  But his association with this current squad is tough to take.  He is the offensive coordinator of a truly anemic offense that has produced an average of 11 points per game.  Contrast that with Detmer's own Heisman winning season, when the team put up over 40 points per game, and I'm ready to look at some more cards.

John Walsh succeeded Ty Detmer at BYU and probably would be better remembered had he followed someone different.  He played well enough as a sophomore and junior to leave school early and enter the 1995 draft, where he was drafted by the Bengals.  This is one of few autographs I picked up on Sportlots for cheap.

Steve Sarkisian followed Walsh and was actually much better than Walsh, but I have never seen a card of him.  The team ran through a couple of forgettable quarterbacks after that before Brandon Doman took the reins as the first quarterback in the post-LaVell Edwards era.  His 2001 season was outstanding as the team rode him and Doak Walker Award winner Luke Staley to a 12-0 start before falling inexplicably to Hawaii, a loss that killed BCS hopes and sent the Cougars to a disappointing Liberty Bowl, where they lost in uninspiring fashion to Louisville.  Doman, for his part, went on to an NFL career with the 49ers and eventually went into coaching.

Since Sarkisian in 1996, John Beck has been my favorite Cougar quarterback.   He won over BYU fans with some unforgettable wins against arch-rival Utah.  There has only been one since he graduated.  He went on to become a 2nd round draft pick of the Dolphins, where he never fit in with new head honcho Bill Parcells.  He was eventually sent to the Redskins, who gave him several chances to start, but he never could hold on to the job.

Of course, not every BYU great has been a QB.  Jamal Willis was the school's career leading rusher when he graduated.  Austin Collie was on his way to a solid NFL career when a series of scary concussions cut it short.  Reno Mahe had few years as the Eagles' return specialist.  He is now BYU's running backs coach.  He lives in my city and ran for city council last year.  (No, I didn't vote for him, but I've been less than satisfied with the current city council, including those I helped elect.  I have no one to blame but myself.)

Here we have a couple of great BYU tight ends.  I find it interesting that Itula Mili is wearing three different numbers in three different cards here.  These are my first cards of both of these players, as they both played during the period I wasn't collecting.

Here we have a whole bunch of cards of unsung heroes, the players who make their living under the radar.  Some of these guys, like Bart Oates, John Tait, Ryan Denney, and Kurt Gouveia had very long NFL careers.  Ziggy Ansah is almost a household name for his sackmaster abilities, and Brett Keisel became well-known for his beard.  Of these players, Shawn Knight, John Tait, Rob Morris, and Ansah were all NFL 1st Rounders.  These are my first cards of Evan Pilgrim and Ryan Denney.

I also used this Sportlots order to fill in my Brad Sorensen collection.  Sorensen is also a former Cougar, technically, but he transferred to SUU because he was buried at fourth on the depth chart.  He is now Exhibit A in the criticism of ex-BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's inability to handle quarterback talent.  In the two years Sorensen spent at SUU, he flourished into a Walter Payton award finalist and became the school's first ever draft pick.  BYU's quarterback situation was an utter disaster as fans watched the #1 QB recruit in the country be benched in favor of a guy who was prone to throw the ball in the dirt and every quarterback on the roster struggled until Taysom Hill came in and grabbed the starting position.

As a finale of my Sportlots order, I was able to step closer to completing a couple sets, and I finished 1995 Collector's Choice (after only 22 years of working on it!), 2013 Panini Prizm, and 2014 Contenders.

Good luck to everybody's teams this weekend.  I'll be choking down 1-6 BYU taking on 1-6 East Carolina.  At least they might win this one.  But, then again, they might not. . .

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