Post #512

Berkeley versus Arizona

31st October 2004, late afternoon | Comments (32)

Arizona University p[layers on the sideline

On Saturday night the Girlfriend and I went to watch Berkeley University play Arizona State University at American Football. As someone who played a variety of university sports to a pretty decent level (and who has a BSc and HND in Sport & Exercise Science) I was fairly dissapointed with the performances that both teams put up. I can’t help but think that if my university Rugby League team had been provided with similar funding, opportunities, and social backing, we’d have been a hell of a lot better at Rugby than those guys were at Football.

Maybe it’s the nature of the game and I’m missing something important, but as a rugby player, and a keen follower of American Football in my youth, I was struck buy a profound lack of intelligence on the part of both Berkeley and Arizona. I don’t know quite how to put my finger on it, but if I were associated with either team I’d be pretty annoyed that the (no doubt) hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent hadn’t produced something better than what’s currently on display. (The special teams players were especially terrible, with punts and field goals going wildly astray, and returns fumbled or missed entirely.)

There’s no doubt that it was an entertaining spectacle, but the events on the field didn’t match up to the image of US college sport that I’ve held in my head for years, and it left me rather deflated.

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Comments (32)

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  1. Scott Brianard:

    Friday Night Lights is the pinnacle of American sports.

    Posted 30 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Brian Behrend
  2. Jeff:

    It tends to be the case that the only games worth seeing are baseball and soccer. Football and basketball always seem boring.

    You had it right with the baseball visits ;).

    Posted 1 hour, 1 minute after the fact
  3. Brian Behrend:

    As with everything else, with Friday Night Lights you need to read the book before/instead of watching the movie. Growing up in Texas (and playing and coaching high school football), the movie did a pretty good job showing the emotion and the off the field stuff, but sure did muck up a lot of the football.

    As for Cal versus ASU, those are actually two of the better teams in the country, especially Cal. The PAC-10 isn't exactly known for good all around football, it's always been a conference where offense has ruled. If you want to see well-played college football watch USC or Auburn. Or you can watch my alma mater Texas, just make sure you close your eyes when we try to throw the ball! We do everything else well though.

    Posted 2 hours, 10 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Scott Brianard
    Inspired: ↓ Dougal Campbell
  4. Brian Behrend:

    That reminds me...

    What is Cal-Berkeley referred to as in your neck of the woods Dunstan? It seems to always be Cal in the sports media and Berkeley when referring to the academia.

    I honestly thought it was two different schools for the longest time.

    Posted 2 hours, 12 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Tristan
  5. Mike:

    Every time I check out your weblog, you're always taking pics of guys' asses ;)


    Posted 2 hours, 38 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  6. Ryan Rahn:

    Agreed. I didn't watch the entire game, but as a Sun Devil, I was quite disappointed with 20th ranked ASU, who, up until now hasn't been doing too badly, with a 5-1 record (the one loss being against #1 USC), did not perform nearly as well as they could have, even against Cal. ASU's defense, which seemed to be doing alright in the first part of the game, eventually crumbled.

    Posted 4 hours, 45 minutes after the fact
  7. Mike D.:

    You're right on about the lack of intelligence part. Generally the smartest people in the Pac-10 are at University of Washington. Hot girls though? That's ASU's forte. They do it very very well.

    Posted 4 hours, 53 minutes after the fact
  8. Andrew: in BSD Berkley? :=o

    Posted 7 hours, 14 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Tristan
  9. Alistair Lattimore:

    I still maintain that the players of NFL are soft. I can't help but think what the American public would do if they had easy access to the Australian NRL ( or better yet, Australian Rugby Union (

    Now they are superb examples of athleticism in my opinion. I don't know how the AFL ( would go for spectator value in the states, but by god they are fit ;)

    Posted 9 hours, 7 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Pascal
  10. Lord Conway:

    I know why they were shite Dunstan - if you look closely, Damian Kingsbury is playing (# 98)... It all makes sense now..


    Posted 11 hours, 59 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  11. John B:

    D - Let me argue the counter point. As a former player, one has no idea how fast (and athletic) this game can be until on the field trying to keep up. It is really, really fast. And played for the most part by very skilled athletes.

    I believe that by sitting afar in stands, and watching guys with relatively equal speed, it *can seem* slow -- I've seen that myself.

    Notice the difference in skills and speed by watching weekenders playing in a park.

    I don't denigrate rugby, soccer or Aussie football -- those guys *are* insane and tough as nails -- but with the false confidence from equipment, and the incredible speed, american football is a totally different game onfield than from the stands.

    Posted 13 hours, 30 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan, ↓ Dave
  12. John B:

    I didn't touch your second point -- lack of intelligence. Sometimes so. Sometimes the speed of the game and the odd shape of the football conspire to make people look like idiots.

    I can figure no excuse for the in-your-face brand of stupidity. It kills momentum. It fires up the other team, etc.

    Now I'm done.

    Posted 13 hours, 33 minutes after the fact
  13. John B:

    Okay, not done...talking to this game in particular. The Cal defense was smothering; I thought a young kid made some mistakes in routes run from what I saw (some wide receiver -- forgot his name) and the game situation (Cal up, game in hand as long as no huge mistakes, they started playing a boring brand of ball) all could have conspired to make this particular game a bit boring. Given. Defensive football will make people look bad. They're still skilled. NOW I'm done. ;-)

    Posted 13 hours, 42 minutes after the fact
  14. Pascal:

    Went to New Zealand. Saw some Rugby. Never got back to American Football again.

    Posted 14 hours, 45 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Alistair Lattimore
  15. Dougal Campbell:

    As Brian mentioned, you probably need to watch some SEC football. In our area, college football can be taken rather seriously (fights, divorce, and murder are often attributed to various rivalries). Try watching Auburn, Alabama (though, not this year), UGA, Tennessee, Arkansas, FSU (Atlantic Conference), etc. Those teams will give you some serious college football action. Those sissy west-coast teams don't know what football is really about. ;)

    Posted 15 hours, 20 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Brian Behrend
    Inspired: ↓ Tristan
  16. Bryan:

    Dougal - I think there are some sissies down here in Southern Cal that may disagree with you :-D

    Like the game or not, name another sport where you can watch 300+ pound lineman locking horns on the same field as world-class sprinters, world-class sprinters with hands like duct tape, guys with arms made for major league baseball, kickers capable booming 60-yard+ field goals, and collisions only rivaled in sports like hockey and rugby.

    It's got it all, and that's why Americans love it.


    Posted 18 hours, 21 minutes after the fact
  17. Lawrie:

    the image at the top of this post is one of the most homoerotic things i've ever seen. and i've seen 'hello, dolly!'. twice.

    Posted 21 hours, 56 minutes after the fact
  18. Dunstan:

    It's a disturbing trend, I agree Mike, and I'm afraid that the next few photo posts are just as bad, as the only pics I could get from the game were from the sidelines behind the players. It's arses all the way I'm afraid.

    ...I need to photograph some women's beach volleyball.

    Posted 22 hours, 15 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Mike
  19. Dunstan:

    Wonderful spot, Lord Conway!

    If I'd realised at the time I could have heaved a chair at him or something...

    Posted 22 hours, 19 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Lord Conway
  20. Dunstan:

    John, I don't doubt that they're jolly strong, or that most of them are amazingly fit, I was just pointing out that had I spent my money on running those teams, I'd be rather disappointed with their performance.

    I can't judge their _abilities_ on the basis of a single game (great players can play badly occasionally), but their _performance_ was pretty poor.

    I expected more.

    Posted 22 hours, 25 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ John B
    Inspired: ↓ John B
  21. Lord Conway:

    Dunstan, wouldn't you just love to play against Kingsbury? I mean, being fair and all that, ahem....

    I certainly would.

    Shame I can't post a pic on here by the way, found a good one of you the other day (and it wasn't the one that would get you into trouble with the law enforcement agencies, not to mention the animal cruelty bods)..


    Posted 22 hours, 55 minutes after the fact
  22. John B:

    Sir Dunston (you're a good man): further elaboration --> the biggest point regarding the players quickness & skill level is not their fitness, but that when the faster & better players are on the defensive side of the ball, the offense gets behind the speed of the game, tries to do too much, gets overwhelmed, they look awful, get frustrated, etc. ... it's like everything is moving too fast for them and they can't even do the simple things you expect out of them. But these athletes are extremely competent ... just overmatched. I can't explain the kicking game but many times what you saw was dominant defense performing _very_ well.

    Posted 1 day after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
  23. Derek Featherstone:

    Same was true years ago in Canada -- I played rugby at University (still playing club rugby 10 years later) and we got about 1/500th of the funding that our gridiron football team got. The weird part was that it didn't matter how well we did or how poorly the football team did (or vice versa) - the football team always got the lion's share of the funding.

    College/Uni sports in Canada pale in comparison to what happens south of the border, but I suspect the same problems/observations would hold true, just differing in scale.

    So, what position do/did you play, Dunstan? Me -- I'm still a #9, and will always be...

    Posted 1 day, 4 hours after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Dunstan
  24. Dunstan:

    When I was a kid (and playing union) I played in every single position except tighthead prop (on the right of the scrum). At university (where I played league) I was a utility back, so I fitted in where ever I was needed: wing, centre, fallback, or, very occasionally fly-half or one of the forward positions.

    At uni I was lucky enough to be along side an amazing bunch of players. We quite often fielded a full team of international players (student or student-exile level), with a couple lads who had played, did play, or would go on to play pro/semi-pro.

    Of course, the fact that we were all Sport Science or PE students also helped.

    I was by far the worst player there, but even I managed to put in some decent performances now and then, and there's nothing like playing with professionally minded people for raising your own game.

    However, I haven't played seriously for the past 4 years. I got knocked out in a rather large way playing fly-half (at rugby union) in London, and then got smacked on the head a few times soon after that. Not being able to jog without getting a headache put me off for a while, and with the passing of time I rather lost interest. I tried to make a comeback for my local team in Dorset, but playing with people not-my-teammates-from-uni didn't seem like very much fun, so I packed it in.

    I don't think I'll ever manage to match the intensity and enjoyment I felt playing league at university. It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

    Posted 1 day, 4 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Derek Featherstone
    Inspired: ↓ Derek Featherstone
  25. Tim Hill:

    pfft rugby, soccer is where its at. faking injuries to get penalties etc...

    Posted 1 day, 5 hours after the fact
  26. Lord Conway:

    Oh come on Dunstan, tell the truth.... Firstly, their were other contenders for the worst player in the team - be it myself or Fonz for starters, and what about Kingsbury? We were Premier League and he was GM Vauxhall Conference (northern section).

    I know what you mean about not playing again as it doesn't feel the same. I wouldn't mind having a trot out though if I can get a few mates to play - I'm trying to convince Fordy to take the field for some shampoo rugby in the new year.

    I'm with you regarding Gridiron by the way - I was one of those that habitually watched it as a kid when it was introduced to the UK (was it me, or was every game Minnesota 'suprisingly' beating Chicago?) I still don't mind watching it, but I find it all one big set piece, and personally I much prefer the flair and dynamic footy of the current Tri-Series, superleague, NRL & of course the bloodbath that is State of Origin..

    Posted 1 day, 6 hours after the fact
  27. Derek Featherstone:

    Egads -- eerily, despite the fact that I am a scrum half, in my career I've played every position on the field except prop (both tight and loose head). In my final year at Uni, I played 8 positions in 7 games -- in one match I played number eight, flanker, fly half, and inside centre. Utility player is still an evil phrase in my books... ;)

    There isn't much rugby league on over here, though it does exist. We use it as a training anad fitness exercise mostly -- there is nothing quite like it...

    I keep thinking of retiring (I'm 33), but just the other day my wife asked me when I was going to start training for next year... so, perhaps one more crack at it!

    Posted 1 day, 9 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dunstan
  28. Dave:

    I think the problem with Rugby in the States, well in my experience at least, is that it's very poorly understood. Most people who I met in the US when I told them I played Rugby jumped back as if it was the most brutal sport on earth.

    I think and that stupid Friends episode kinda proves it, that people think Rugby is just a free for all with few rules.

    BTW I'm a currently out of action Flanker (well I've played everywhere in the forwards) who has plenty of time to talk about Rugby since I've got a broken ankle!

    Posted 1 day, 14 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ John B
    Inspired: ↓ John B, ↓ Dunstan, ↓ Dunstan
  29. John B:

    Played football and baseball through college -- growing up, my uncle -- who was a defenseman in hockey through his college years and a pretty roughneck guy onfield -- wouldn't allow me to play with him on his rugby team (St Paul Pigs traveling team, I'm sure not premiere in any way but they traveled to England on a yearly basis). I was basically barred from playing until my "real" sports career was over.

    I think you're given the impression here (US) that rugby's a ton of fun but a recipe to end sports careers if you have potential in other major US sports. That's what I was told anyway.

    Seemed to me like it was close to the same game with fewer between-play breaks, more free-wheeling action, and fewer guys on regular weight-training and/or <wink>chemical</wink> programs. And probably just fewer athletes (here in US) looking to play it ... that's about it. It also seemed to me there weren't an outrageous number of injuries on his squad. And the guys tackled differently. Less flying nun stuff. (Not going into Aussie football - those guys are insane).

    My uncle had multiple screws in his ankles; I twisted mine up pretty bad in football, and still can't fully extend my left arm due to a helmet on elbow tackle -- am glad I can still play old man baseball now. Those bodies get killed in football. Never knew what might've been in rugby but his boys had a ball playing while I worked _hard_ getting ready for football.

    Posted 1 day, 15 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dave
  30. Dunstan:

    I HATE that episode of Friends!!

    Posted 1 day, 15 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dave
  31. Dunstan:

    Oh, and I'm terribly sorry about your ankle :o(

    Posted 1 day, 15 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Dave
  32. Tristan:

    Wow! Someone actually went to one of our games. How did you like the band? I was the one with the black and white uniform and the hat, you know? Anyway...

    In regards to Brian's question, I know here (at Berkeley) we call it Cal for everything, but I think most other people know either Berkeley or University of California Berkeley. We're actually the "University of California", even though the rest of the UC schools don't like us using that name exclusively, it's the right one to use. That's why we're "Cal" and not "Berkeley" in sports. And we call the band the "University of California Marching Band" (web site:, my design), which confuses some people, who think perhaps the band belongs to the entire state university system.

    And Andrew -- yes, as in BSD Berkeley. We do football now too!

    Dougal -- This sissy west coast team is #4 in the nation now. ;-)

    As for the game, I did think it was pretty sloppy, but if you've been following Cal football for the last few games (or all of them, as in my case) you'd know that three of our best receivers were injured and couldn't play, which made for some interesting switch ups last minute. Hopefully we can get some of them back for Oregon.

    And here's a little insight into the spirit of Cal -- we say this a lot: Go Bears!

    Posted 2 days, 17 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Brian Behrend, ↑ Andrew, ↑ Dougal Campbell

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