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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dessert or Disaster?

One Halloween I visited my grandma, who upon my arrival invited me to help myself to the remaining contents of the candy dish. For any seven-year-old worth his weight in chocolate, having free rein on a bowl of sweets can be dangerous.

Immediately I surveyed the situation. The Junior Mints were gone. Absent were the Fun Size Milky Ways. I couldn’t find an orange Tootsie Roll Pop to save my life. These were all known commodities to me, and without their presence, the bowl of diversity was reduced to an army of yellow boxes.

I had no idea what Milk Duds were. But I had meticulously counted twenty-three miniature boxes, and they were mine. All mine!

While my imagination ran wild with the multiple possibilities of what one box could hold, my fidgety little fingers were a step ahead. I hastily poured the contents into my palm. As I examined them with excitement, the little brown beans beamed the promise of chocolatey optimism on the outside.

Much to my dismay, I savored nothing but the taste of poison on the inside. And I had twenty-two boxes to go.

For a little over two decades, I’ve actually come to appreciate the bitter surprise waiting for me at the end of every Cal basketball season. Nonetheless, I’m just a baby compared to a lot of these long-suffering Old Blues.

As Lucy's football is to Charlie Brown, the prospects of a Pac-10 championship are to the Golden Bears.

In fact, the last 49 years have concluded fruitlessly. During this period, UCLA has finished first in the conference a whopping 26 times. Arizona? Ten. Even Oregon State (!) has six championships to their credit.

You’ll find a big goose egg next to California’s name.

Call me a sports sadist if you will; such is the fate that has awaited every Cal fan young and old.

Like the time in 1994 when Jason Kidd led the Bears to the brink of the Pac-10 title. The only obstacle left was to end the season with a win at Washington State, a team they were heavily favored to beat.

They lost handily. No biggie. I was ten and had a lifetime to go.

Sadly, we wouldn’t even come that close again for another millennium. Seven years later of coming up short, I was a freshman team manager at Cal, my hopeful nature was renewed. Early in 2001-02, they played at Oregon, but no one had an idea how significant the third conference game of the season would be.

Comfortably ahead by eight points with 4:13 to play, the Bears’ offense inexplicably stalled as the Ducks reeled off ten points in a row to win. So what, right? There were still fifteen games to go in the conference schedule. Cal later finished the Pac-10 slate at 12-6, their best record in half a decade.

Oregon, on the other hand, finished 14-4, earning their first ever Pac-10 title. Turns out that “inconsequential” result in Eugene decided it, and unbeknownst to the Bears, championship rings disintegrated in their hands into a fine paste. MY championship ring. Ouch.

And how could I forget 2006? This time all the cards were in our favor. We could clinch the Pac-10 title at home against UCLA, a team the Bears had already defeated on the road earlier in the year. All signs pointed to victory.

Except the scoreboard. The Bears blew an 11-point lead and were pushed to overtime. In the extra period, Cal scored the first three points and it seemed that order had been restored. Unfortunately—and almost predictably—the Bruins responded with the last 12 points of the game.

Yoink. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory has been a theme all too common in Berkeley.

So here we stand again. Tomorrow, the conference title is on the line once more, and this Cal team has more advantages to fulfill its objective than a kid in a Jelly Belly factory on Halloween. Arizona State is the villain, and they have to win in our house. The Bears have already beaten them in Tempe. It’s Senior Day. For the first time all year, a sellout crowd will attend the game.

Win and this program will exorcise five decades of demons.

Makes me crave for some Milk Duds right about now.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Freddie Roach's New Protege: Jamie Kavanagh

Last week my third article for featured Irish welterweight prospect Jamie Kavanagh. See how the fearless 19-year-old traveled over 5,000 miles to Hollywood for a no-strings-attached tryout with Freddie Roach--and came away with a contract! -- Introducing...Jamie Kavanagh

My First Fight Ringside!

I covered the whole Martirosyan vs. Ouma fight card live from Press Row for last month. Here's my write-up, which was submitted in real-time! Hope you enjoy it. -- "The Nightmare" Survives "The Dream"