Sports fodder: Mackay not close as best stadium in MW
Special to the Sun
The Sporting News, in its college football preview issue, lists the Nevada Wolf Pack’s Mackay Stadium as the best venue in the Mountain West. While that is a nice sentiment and something for the Wolf Pack to put on a poster or season ticket brochure, it is also not even remotely true.
The Sporting News, whose heyday was its coverage of baseball in the 1920s, 30s and 40s before the invention of television, obviously has never been to a Mountain West football game.
Do they know that Boise State, San Diego State and Fresno State are in the conference? How, exactly, is Mackay the best venue? Attendance? The Pack was seventh in league attendance last year. Home-field advantage?
Winning big conference games at home with a title on the line hasn’t been the Pack’s strong suit since Nov. 26, 2010. Aesthetics?
The stadium is an erector set, it is rarely full, the lights seem to throw only slightly more illumination than a lava lamp and the video board looks like it is always showing a VHS tape from 1985.
There’s a reason Mackay is about to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation.
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Don’t get me wrong. Mackay Stadium has been the site of some pretty amazing moments.
And there have been days or nights when the erector set was a suitable setting for those incredible moments, like in 2010 against Cal and Boise State, 1995 against UNLV, 1991 against Weber State and 1990 against Boise.
But those moments were special because of the athletes, the coaches and the circumstances.
Not the stadium. There really is no Mackay Magic. If there was, then why did it only appear when Chris Vargas came off the bench, Jeff Horton showed up wearing red for the first time, Kyle Brotzman got the yips or when Colin Kaepernick carried the ball?
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Which venue is the worst for football in the Mountain West?
That’s easy. UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium is in the running, but that honor belongs to San Jose State.
The eight-decade-old stadium has seen better days. Or so they say. Nobody goes to the games. The Spartans averaged just 15,068 fans a game at home last year.
It has the most character of all the football stadiums in the Mountain West but that isn’t saying much for a conference that is less than two decades old.
And character is just a nice way of saying the place is outdated and falling apart. Betty White has more character than Rosamund Pike. But which one would you rather take out on date?
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The Wolf Pack athletic department never forgets to remind everyone that the Pack’s football game at Texas A&M this season is its first against a SEC team in its history. But while that is technically true, it is sort of like saying that Kim Kardashian is the most popular writer in America because 33 million people read her every thought on Twitter. Texas A&M played the bulk of its history in the Southwest Conference and Big 12. It has only been in the SEC for three seasons. They are an SEC team only slightly more than the Houston Astros are an American League team or Boise State was a Big East team for, oh, five minutes. When the Pack played Tulane in 1992 that was more of a true SEC opponent than Texas A&M. Tulane had been in the SEC for 35 years until 1966. When the Pack plays Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State or even Vanderbilt, then tell me they are playing an SEC team.
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Austin Byler is the best ambassador for the University of Nevada since Colin Kaepernick played in the Super Bowl. Byler, one of the greatest hitters in Wolf Pack baseball history, wrote an open letter to the Wolf Pack fans and the Northern Nevada community that appears on nevadawolfpack.com that is truly a love letter. The Wolf Pack needs to make as many copies of Byler’s letter as the budget allows and hand it to every prospective recruit it wants to someday wear the Silver and Blue. It’s the best recruiting tool the Pack has been handed since the formation of Lake Tahoe, sunsets in the Sierra and all of those special and unique opportunities that only Nevada can present an 18-year-old leaving home for the first time.
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The similarities between Byler and former Wolf Pack star Lyle Overbay are uncanny. Both played four seasons for the Wolf Pack. Both were left-handed sluggers. Overbay hit 39 homers at Nevada, Byler hit 40. Both were amazing leaders and classy representatives for the university each day they put on their uniform. Both left the Wolf Pack at age 22 to play for the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Both made their pro debuts for the Missoula Osprey. Overbay drove in 101 runs in his first year at Missoula in 1999 and Byler is hitting .333 (5-for-15) with six walks, two doubles and three RBIs in his first five pro games. Overbay retired after last season after 14 years in the major leagues as arguably the greatest professional athlete in Wolf Pack history. It was almost as if he handed the torch to Byler this year.
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Kansas City Royals fans, which fell asleep for nearly 30 years until their heroes went to the World Series last fall, have been making a joke out of baseball’s all-star voting. The latest results released Monday show that seven Royals could start in the mid-season exhibition game this July in Cincinnati. While some of the Royals are deserving to start, a few choices (namely second baseman Omar Infante and shortstop Alcides Escobar) makes a mockery of the process. This is what you get when you put all of the voting on the Internet. The nation assumes that Royal fans simply love their players and are just showing their support. The real reason might just be that Royals fans want the American League to lose the All-Star Game and the right to home field advantage in the World Series. The Royals, don’t forget, lost Game 7 at home last fall (as well as Game 1) to the San Francisco Giants.
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