Discover more from Bald Faced Truth by John Canzano
Canzano: College football spans the globe
Where and how do you watch games?
The 12:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC for Saturday’s Colorado vs. Oregon game works well for you and me. But it isn’t good at all for Dennis Tan.
He lives in Singapore.
The game begins at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday morning there. Which means the “Quack Attack” group that typically gathers to watch the weekly game together at a restaurant there is fresh out of luck.
“Sadly,” he told me, “we’ll have to watch from our laptops at home.”
One of the curses of being a sportswriter is that you can’t turn off the sports faucet in your head. I’m always hunting for the next column. I imagine stand-up comedians do the same thing as they walk about the world, scribbling absurdities and broken thoughts on napkins.
It could be worse. I once talked with a contractor who specialized in drywall, for example, who told me he can’t walk into a room without noting imperfections in the interior walls. It tortures him. And Miami coach Mario Cristobal sent me a cute video clip of one of his young sons playing flag football years ago, followed immediately with thoughts on the kid’s footwork.
A couple of weekends ago I was traveling to Lubbock, Tex. for UO’s first road game of the football season. I was changing planes in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport when I noticed a contingent of Oregon fans boarding the plane wearing green T-shirts printed with “New York Ducks” on the chest. I made a mental note to explore a column about quirky regionalized fan groups who watch games together.
Dennis Tan signed up for a paid subscription to this publication this week. His Ducks are ranked No. 10, undefeated, playing at home against No. 19 Colorado. He doesn’t want to miss a thing. We ended up in an extended conversation about his viewing-party club.
Tan, 64, has a wife and two sons. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1985 and now works as a business consultant in Singapore. He hasn’t seen a game at Autzen Stadium in person since Rich Brooks was the coach. But on college-football Saturdays Tan immerses himself in his college team alongside some others in Singapore and feels connected.
The universities in his country are strait-laced academic institutions with no sports culture, Tan said.
No football games.
“UO,” he said, “is on the extreme.”
Colorado is now there, too. The Buffaloes engineered a remarkable turnaround under Deion Sanders. They’re relevant, interesting and 3-0. The first two weeks of the college football season brought a combined 16 million viewers to the FOX broadcasts. Then, last Saturday night the Colorado vs. Colorado State game drew 9.3 million viewers despite kicking off at 10:20 p.m. ET.
On Sunday as the “60 Minutes” television show approached, CBS promoted the upcoming episode during its NFL games. The promo touted that the show included exclusive 1-on-1 interviews with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Coach Prime.
As a friend of mine said: “Because — of course.”
The ‘hype train’ stands to lose momentum Saturday, when Colorado enters the stadium as a three-touchdown underdog against the Ducks. I’m still not sure how good Oregon will be this season, but I’m convinced Colorado’s defense won’t be able to stop the Ducks.
Oregon coach Dan Lanning used part of his Monday news conference to stoke the fire. He said: “Super pumped about the crowd we’re about to see at Autzen.” But now, I’m left thinking about the crowds in Singapore, New York City and other places around the globe.
In the summer of 2007, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I received a package from a captain in the Air Force who was stationed at Kirkuk Regional Air Base. A counter-intelligence detachment comprised of several members from the Pacific Northwest had started listening to my sports-radio podcast to pass the time in Iraq.
Inside the package, was a carefully folded American flag that they’d flown over the airbase. Also, there was a photograph of the group and a letter expressing their thanks for helping make them feel a little closer to home.
It still chokes me up.
Truth is, I felt closer to them.
I recently read a piece that featured a professor of psychology at Columbia University who said being part of a fan group is a primal instinct. It helps foster a sense of identity, builds social networks and helps with mental health.
The benefits are the same whether it’s the Ducks, Beavers, Cougars, Huskies or even One Direction, Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Those “fandoms” help people connect over shared passions, interests and create a sense of security.
Oregon’s Bo Nix for the Heisman?
How about Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.?
You get shared beliefs in fan groups. Some of those thoughts veer into the delusional, but scheming with like-minded folks beats the grind of the regular work week. That’s sort of the point of sports, isn’t it? To be a diversion?
I suspect it’s why this Pac-12 football season has felt especially good in some faraway corners of the conference. There are eight ranked teams. The conference appears formidable. Its champion should absolutely be in the mix for a College Football Playoff berth. All this fun is coming after 14 months of failed negotiations and defections that destroyed a 108-year-old entity.
Tan told me he’s “heartbroken” over the demise of the Pac-12. He blames Larry Scott most of all, calling the ex-commissioner “the man who killed Pac-12.” Joining the Big Ten in 2024 may mean that UO games kickoff more frequently between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. on Sunday in Singapore.
“God forgive me,” Tan told me, “for missing church where my wife would have to excuse my absence.”
• WHERE ARE YOU WATCHING?: I’d love to know where you’re spending your college football Saturday. Going to the Oregon-Colorado game at Autzen Stadium? Or to the Oregon State vs. Washington State game on the Palouse? Somewhere else?
Tailgating in your living room with family and friends? Or in a New York City sports bar? Or maybe watching in Singapore in a pair of pajamas?
Tell me in the comment section.
• RED-HOT PICKS: I went 10-1 last week picking the Pac-12 football winners, straight up. I was a respectable 5-1 in my picks against the spread.
This season I have a 31-3 record picking the winners straight-up (91 percent) and I’m 17-8 against the point spread (68 percent). Maybe I need to take this column to Las Vegas. Either that or brace for a correction.
I will update on Thursday with my official picks. Make sure you’re subscribed if you want to receive my Week 4 predictions and thoughts in real time.
• STORM WATCH: Colorado fans get a wide berth from me. They endured a 1-11 football season a year ago. Things were dire. But the Buffaloes fans stormed the field on Saturday night after CU’s double-overtime win vs. Colorado State.
Either Colorado’s fans forgot they were a 23.5-point favorite or they’re just stunned they are 3-0 and stoked the magical ride is continuing. Decide for yourself. Oregon is a 21-point favorite at home this week. If the 10th-ranked Ducks win the game and fans jump the rails and storm the field to celebrate they will be justifiably criticized.
• RANKED AND READY: No. 14 Oregon State is playing at No. 21 Washington State on Saturday. The game is on FOX at 4 p.m. This week felt like a great time to get WSU athletic director Pat Chun on “Canzano & Wilner: The Podcast.”
Chun talked about the misconceptions about WSU and OSU when it comes to television ratings. He noted that Washington State drew more than 2.5 million TV viewers during its win over Wisconsin in Week 2 that went head-to-head vs. the Texas-Alabama game. Chun also pointed out that Oregon State drew more than 3 million viewers in its season-opening win over San Jose State.
“Saturday is another opportunity to show ratings do matter,” he said. “Here are two schools that will put up a respectable rating on Saturday even with all the great football games going around this weekend.”
• WHERE THE MONEY IS BURIED: We all knew that SMU had donors with deep pockets, but those Texas-based cats flexed in a big-time way last week. The group raised $100 million in just seven days and used only 30 donors to do it. The money will be used to help with the athletic department’s transition to the ACC.
AD Rick Hart said: “The news has energized not just our fanbase, but the Dallas community.”
I spoke with Chris Schoemann — the executive director of “The Boulevard Collective” — during the summer when the Pac-12 was talking about adding SMU via expansion. The group had launched a study of the buying power of the various Pac-12 NIL collectives and knew where SMU would rank.
Schoemann told me then: “It’s behind only Division Street. That’s where we are.”
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