Canzano: Mailbag looks at 2022... and beyond
Your questions, my answers.
I got terrific questions again this week in the mailbag. Maybe it’s the year-end thinking a lot of us are doing. Maybe it’s just that the readers of this publication are smarter, more evolved, and think deeper than others.
“What story tugged at your heart strings most this year and why?” Jesse Thompson asked.
My mind went to Spencer Webb.
Webb, the Oregon tight end, died in July. He and some friends went to find a place to cool off and were scaling a cliff and rocks not far from Triangle Lake when the 6-foot-6 Webb slipped and fell.
I wrote a column about Webb late that night. I had tears in my eyes as I wrote and finished the piece at 3 a.m. He was 22. Webb got a bad draw in life. He had endured a difficult childhood and deserved better. In the days after his death, I spoke with his brother, a woman he dated, and even talked with the friend who was navigating the rocks beside Webb when he fell.
The two friends were carefully climbing along the cliff, looking for a spot to jump off the rocks and into the pools of water below. Webb lost his footing, per the friend.
“I tried to grab him,” he told me.
We send our kids off to college. They study, get a degree, and return home. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I know. I have a college-aged daughter, who came home at winter break. When she pulled her car into the driveway, I ran out and hugged her.
I said nothing and held her tight for a while.
The photograph I used for today’s mailbag features Webb, crowd surfing, after Oregon’s 30-27 overtime win against No. 7-ranked Washington in 2018. His fellow students stormed the field, picked Webb up, and held him on their shoulders.
Serena Morones, my chief photographer, snapped the picture. There was so much more to Spencer Webb than him simply being a football player, but I thought about the guy every time I went to Autzen Stadium this season.
I appreciate everyone who has read and subscribed to this publication in 2022. Also, I’m grateful to those who have purchased a gift subscription for someone else. And thank you to those who have donated subscriptions for others who are on fixed budgets.
I’m having a lot of fun giving you sourced, in-depth reporting and commentary. Stuff you can’t get anywhere else. I’m locked in and have big plans for 2023. I’m booking travel and am grateful that you’ll be alongside. There are some important stories that need to be told.
Now, onto the mailbag…
Q: The Heisman Trophy is, they say, voted on by 870 working college football journalists (and the living former winners). Are there actually 870 working college football journalists left? — @karichisholm
A: Sure. 800 of them are covering the SEC.
Q: Were you surprised Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff wasn’t on the podium in San Diego for the Holiday Bowl trophy presentation? Larry Scott seemed to always be there. — @KenHollaren
A: No. Kliavkoff is far less interested in getting booed.
Q: What’s your favorite or go-to place in Oregon for a vacation or staycation? For little ol’ me, it’s the gorgeous coast/beaches. — @bbasstravel
A: Pacific City and Manzanita are both great spots.
Q: Have you ever collected sports cards? I’ve collected cards for 45-plus years and the evolution of the hobby with grading and auction companies, skyrocketing values and shadiness is fascinating. — @rrosson12
A: A 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card sold for $12.6 million earlier this year. The owner bought it in 1991 for $50,000. On that note, I started collecting hard-core when I was about 10 years old. I wish someone would have told me to forget the “new” stuff and buy only vintage cards.
Q: If commissioner Kevin Warren leaves the Big Ten that would seem to put the brakes on them grabbing any other Pac-12 teams for the foreseeable future. What does the Pac-12 look like in 10 years? — @jlahaye76A
A: I think the expansion brakes are already pumped. If the Big Ten members wanted to add additional Pac-12 members in this cycle, it would have already happened. Warren’s interest in returning to the NFL may signal that he knows he’s done all he can do in the Big Ten (media rights + expansion) or it may just be an attempt to garner leverage and negotiate an extension with the conference. A decade is an eternity in college athletics, but I think the Pac-12 continues to exist with the core 10 members (plus maybe an expansion team or two) in a decade. The bigger question is what college athletics itself looks like in 10 years.
Q: Pepsi or Coke? — Clyde Carrick
Q: What’s the one game or event in sports history that you wish you could’ve attended? — @TylerHergert
A: In March of 1971, Muhammed Ali fought Joe Frazier in what was called “The Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden. It was the first of three great fights. I would have loved to see Ali fight in his prime. A close second? Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973, including a win in the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths. That would have been epic to see in person. I’d love every reader to answer this one in the comment section.
Q: What are your favorite restaurants in Eugene and Corvallis? — @CryptDads
A: In Eugene it’s Lion & Owl for brunch. Then, dinner at Bar Purlieu and your casual dinner spot is Party Downtown. In Corvallis, for breakfast it’s WiseCracks Cafe. For lunch I am a huge fan of Tacovore. I also like American Dream Pizza and Block 15 Brewery. And Koriander is a sneaky-good dinner spot.
Q: Did you find out where Kenny Dillingham’s mind was at for the last few games. Had he checked out from the OSU game and thinking about ASU? — David Gressett
A: I spoke with Dillingham in a 20-minute interview on Friday. The new Arizona State head coach insisted he was not distracted in the final weeks. He said: “I was so all-in at Oregon — all in.”
Listen to the interview:
Dillingham pointed out that Oregon scored 34 points vs. an Oregon State defense that had not allowed more than 17 points in any home game before the Civil War.
Said Dillingham, “I was all-in on trying to win a Pac-12 championship. I was all-in on trying to go to the Rose Bowl. I was all-in on trying to go to the final four.”
Q: What the heck is going on with Gary Payton II? — @jhassler80
A: Payton underwent abdominal surgery in the offseason. He has rehabilitated. Best I can tell, the Trail Blazers feel he should be ready to start playing but he’s not in agreement. Coach Chauncey Billups told reporters that Payton is close and hinted that he is dealing with psychological obstacles.
Billups said: “I always tell people a lot of times like nobody really understands like when you have an injury, you have surgery, there’s not just the physical component that you have to get over, there’s a mental component as well. You don’t want to get hurt again, you don’t want to re-injure yourself, and I think that that’s kind of where it is with G is like, he’s just trying to get over that.”
Q: In all the years you’ve covered sports in Oregon, where does 2022 rank? Excitement level, expectations, story lines, etc. —@Z_Bro88
A: The college football in 2022 was fantastic. Oregon and Oregon State delivered a combined 20 victories. They were both relevant and interesting. The head coaches are poised to contend for a Pac-12 title next season.
Beyond that, 2022 was a mixed bag for the state. The summer featured the World Track & Field Championships in Eugene, but the scene wasn’t for everyone. The Thorns won the NWSL championship, but the biggest story with the club was the fallout from the franchise’s troubling sex-abuse scandal. The Trail Blazers got off to a fun start, but are sitting at 18-17 today.
I enjoyed watching the small college coaches (Shantay Legans at the University of Portland and Jase Coburn at Portland State) build their men’s basketball programs. The women’s college basketball in the state was compelling again in 2022. But I think 2023 will be a much bigger and more impactful all-around year for the state of Oregon.
Q: With the way things are shaping up, as far as sheer firepower of next years Pac-12, do you think there is a downside that is likely (2-3 conference losses possible for champ)? — @gdorius
A: There’s a chance this conference will be so good at the top that it will cannibalize itself. But I think we’ll see 1-2 teams separate themselves. Also, I think the narrative nationally will be that the Pac-12 is a solid football conference. That perception will help with preseason rankings. I expect to see Utah, USC, Washington, Oregon State and Oregon all solidly ranked in the preseason Top 25.
Q: Favorite eatery on Maui? — Andrew Laine
A: The best food has to be Mama’s Fish House. Make your reservation months ahead of time. Some of my other favorites include Gannon’s (best view), Ferraro’s (best Italian), Ko (very solid), Monkeypod (great, but small portions) and Kimo’s (best fish tacos). Best shaved ice? Ululani’s in Kihei.
Q: Who is your early favorite to win Pac-12 in football next year? — @johnniethek
A: If QB Cam Rising comes back at Utah, the Utes would be my preseason pick. After that? It’s anyone’s title to win. You could make a case for Washington, Oregon State, Oregon and USC.
Q: What are the financial ramifications of an appearance in the Las Vegas or Holiday Bowl? Even if the Pac-12 splits bowl payouts evenly, will both schools take a bath? — @RJBobbyPDX
A: They won’t lose money. Each participating school received a stipend from the bowl/conference to cover transportation, lodging, meals and entertainment.The Pac-12 pools the conference’s bowl payouts and divides them equally among the members. That pooled revenue in 2022: ~$20 million.
The Holiday Bowl paid the Pac-12 $3.27 million for Oregon’s participation, for example. The Las Vegas Bowl paid the conference $1.45 million. The Rose Bowl (Utah) and Cotton Bowl (USC) will each pay $4 million to the Pac-12.
Q: With opt outs, early signing period and the shuffling of coaches between season end and bowling season, do we start to view bowl games as a precursor and launching point to the upcoming season instead of the cherry on top for the current season? — @elliott_PDX
A: I’m already viewing it that way. I’m currently 5-0 against the spread in my Pac-12 bowl-game picks. A big part of that is that I included a “Who wants to be there more?” factor in making my picks. It’s not hard to tell.
Q: Assuming SDSU is brought into the Pac-12, how long do you see it taking the Aztecs to begin competing for a conference championship in football and men’s basketball? As a follow up, which roadies should Aztec fans put top of their list? — @jlahaye76
A: Utah provided the blueprint to compete quickly. It invested heavily in football, particularly. It was ready to go. I’ll bet San Diego State is already studying that, but the Utes had already been competing on the national stage (2004 and 2008) before they arrived in the Pac-12. Keep that in mind.
My recommended early road trips would include all of the college towns (Oregon, OSU, Colorado and WSU). The trips to ASU/Arizona are a nice getaway for a lot of us, but I doubt the San Diego crowd craves the sunshine. Berkeley and the walk on Telegraph Ave. is groovy. And Seattle is a fun city with lots to do, too.
Q: This Oregon football season feels so odd to me. Satisfying to win 10 games and a fun bowl win + great signing day. But losing to both your rivals, and get trounced by Georgia just leave me torn about how to feel. What are your thoughts on the overall success for Lanning in his first season? — @grant_driver
A: You’re a victim of high expectations. The Ducks were expected to compete for a College Football Playoff berth or a Rose Bowl and instead landed in the Holiday Bowl. I don’t blame you if you feel flat about that. But let’s remember, Lanning was a first-time, first-year head coach and posted 10 victories.
My grade for Lanning’s first season: B+.
He needs to work on game management, but I liked a lot of what I saw. The recruiting victories are evidence of his momentum. Washington and Oregon State were both really good this season. Oregon wasn’t at its best in those games and lost both. Tip your cap to the Huskies and Beavers. They earned it.
Q: Considering the level of QB talent coming into or coming back to the Pac-12 next year, is it the best collection of QBs in Pac-12 history? If not, when was it the best? — @jkimball5506
A: This is a conference that has produced some great QBs over the years. Justin Herbert, Dan Fouts, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith and Marcus Mariota starred at Oregon. John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Andrew Luck were beasts at Stanford. USC had Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. ASU had Jake Plummer, UCLA had Troy Aikman, WSU had Drew Bledsoe and Oregon State had Derek Anderson. No question, Warren Moon was great at UW. Aaron Rodgers, Craig Morton, Kyle Boller and Steve Bartkowski carried Cal for years. But I don’t think we’ve seen a complete quarterback group that is as solid as the one that will suit up next season in the Pac-12.
Q: Why does it seem the Ducks get more coverage than the Beavers or is it just me. — Rick Railey
A: I don’t think it’s just you. Oregon football, particularly, has had more success and enthusiasm in the last five years and that has created habits in local media. Oregon State broke through this season. So did Washington. I’m trying to do a good job of covering all of the interesting Pac-12 teams with this endeavor. I traveled to Utah in the mid-season to see Utah vs. USC, for example. I wrote more about Washington State and Washington this season as well. I’m going to cover what matters and go where the good stories take me. The suggestion box is open.
Q: Any update on Pac-12 media negotiations and potential expansion? — @SDSU_Alum2003
A: I believe the Pac-12 will announce a deal in early 2023 that mostly blends ESPN and Amazon. Insiders tell me the average distribution will beat the Big 12’s figure ($31.6 million per school). I expect expansion news will come rapidly in the wake of the media rights announcement.
Q: When can a mailbag be void of TV negotiation questions and why is the answer “immediately”? — @Econtourage
A: That’s not really a question, pal. But I agree. Get the deal done. The on-field and on-court stuff is where our attention should be.
A: Fansville looks far more interesting to me. I mean, Brian Bosworth is the sheriff. Fansville is a town. The Heisman House has some luxury items but it’s just a house filled with a bunch of guys reminiscing. I don’t need more Tim Tebow in my life.
Q: What’s your favorite New Year’s tradition — @calebgpowell
A: Trying to convince our youngest two daughters that 9 p.m. PT actually is midnight. That happens every year. Also, I enjoy going around the room and asking my family members what they were most proud of in the last year and what one goal they have for the next year. I’m fascinated by their answers.
Q: It seems like it has been eons since we’ve heard any updates from the Portland Diamond Project. Are you aware of any action on the front to bring the MLB to PDX? Is this effort fading away or is it still alive and kicking? — @exrati1
A: I am told the group is still active in securing land options to build a stadium and surrounding development. I think the pandemic and MLB’s foot-shuffling on relocating the A’s and Rays hurt momentum. The next 12-18 months are critical for the effort. Portland is an expansion — not relocation — candidate at this point. That puts the pressure on MLB. Does the league want to expand? If so, is Portland still on commissioner Rob Manfred’s short list? Those are important questions for 2023.
Q: Could Coach Prime keep up with Ralphie (CU's live mascot and best in sports) or would his injured foot slow him down too much? — @DeadCharlie07
A: I really don’t want to see this race. I want to remember a young, youthful Deion Sanders intercepting a pass and racing through the opposing team, high-stepping his way to a TD. I don’t want to see Coach Prime, age 55, get dragged 40 yards on the pregame field in Boulder by a buffalo. Leave the dangerous work to the buffalo handlers please.
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