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Chargers, Real or Not, Are on Top

November 11, 1987|Dave Distel

Excuse me, but . . .

Aren't there five teams in the American Football Conference West?

You can understand my confusion if you have listened to network television commentators talk about the way things seem to be stacking up in the AFC West.

We are advised that Seattle, one of the teams to beat, is 5-3 and Denver, another of the teams to beat, is 4-3-1. The Raiders, long shots not to be trusted, are wallowing at 3-5, and Kansas City, yawn, is 1-7.

That seems to be it.

Or is it? Isn't there someone else?

Oh yes, the Chargers are 7-1. The impression I get is that the Chargers are somewhat of an illusion, maybe the ultimate in fantasy football. They are there, but then again, they aren't.

It is as if where the Chargers happen to be is of no consequence to The Big Picture.

Are the Chargers for real? Have you heard that question?

Frankly, that question cannot really be answered yet. The Chargers have played neither Seattle nor Denver. However, being 7-1 sure beats being 5-3 or 4-3-1, like those certifiably "for real" teams.

Besides, I don't think the Chargers themselves are too concerned about how they are perceived outside their own backyards.

For the time being, surreal is more fun than for real.

Didn't Todd Santos set an all-time career NCAA passing record against Brigham Young University on Saturday?

You know he did and I know he did, but it sure was lost on BYU.

I was watching the game on television, hanging on long after the outcome was no longer in doubt. I was watching to see if Santos got the yardage he needed to break the record, and also to see in what way the moment would be recognized.

This, to me, was a significant accomplishment. This was not, after all, a record for a left-handed freshman playing under a full moon in Montana. This was a major college quarterback surpassing all those who had gone before him.

As Santos drew closer and closer to the 211 yards he needed, the broadcasters, obviously the voices of a Utah-based network, were doing their best to chart his progress. Little else of note was happening.

When Santos connected with Ron Slack for a gain of 23 with less than two minutes to play, the announcers said they thought the record had been broken. But they seemed tentative because there was no acknowledgement from the public address announcer, not even a timeout for the few seconds it would take to toss the historic ball to the sidelines.

Finally, they concluded that the record had been broken, but SDSU was breaking the huddle and the game was going on without interruption.

Unbelievable.

Call it poor sportsmanship or poor judgment or maybe just sour grapes, snubbing this student/athlete who passed so many of BYU's storied quarterbacks on his way to the top.

The party line from the BYU athletic department was that it had a bad experience last year when a game was interrupted to recognize Colorado State's Steve Bartalo, who had broken the Western Athletic Conference's career rushing record. BYU asserted that the pause caused momentum to shift and Colorado State won the game.

That's (a) a lame excuse for losing a football game and (b) an equally lame justification for slighting Santos.

What's more, the score at the time Santos set the record was 38-14 in BYU's favor with 1:40 to play. If BYU thought that lead was in peril, it should fire its defensive coordinator.

This was clearly an occasion when BYU's athletic department flunked human relations.

However, John Stohlton, BYU's executive vice president, traveled to SDSU Tuesday to present Santos with a belated game ball and offer an apology.

Give BYU's administration a passing grade in diplomacy.

If the Sockers got rid of Jean Willrich, how did he happen to score the winning goal in their season opener?

Easy. He scored it against them. He broke a 3-3 tie with 2:25 to play as the Wichita Wings beat the Sockers, 5-3, last Saturday night.

How many times have we marveled at--and wondered about--the idiosyncrasies of the Major Indoor Soccer League? Here was the captain of the best team indoor soccer has produced, and he gets traded to the season-opening opponent a few days before the season opener.

Bizarre.

This all transpired because the MISL, in its perennial financial struggle, has a salary cap of $1.275 million per team . . . and the Sockers had to do some trimming to get that low.

So they trade Willrich . . . for two third-round draft choices. As far as Socker fans are concerned, this is like trading for air. I'd be surprised if any but the most fanatical of followers can identify even one player the franchise has ever drafted.

What we have here is a league sacrificing credibility at the altar of the bottom line. Keep it up, and the bottom line won't make any difference.

No credibility, no MISL.

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