One Final Signoff: Thank You, Menlo College

Brian Brownfield-

I’ve had a unique journey at Menlo College for seven semesters: starting Menlo Ultimate, broadcasting, wearing neon clothes, and growing a terrible mustache. As this semester’s wound down, I’ve known that the end is inevitable. My days as a student are numbered and I will be moving on to bigger and better things.

My experience here at Menlo has been enhanced by writing for the Menlo Oak Press for three semesters as the Sports Editor. As someone who is a lifelong sports fan, it has been a privilege to be a part of the rejuvenation of something so historic on campus. The Menlo Oak Press has seen various forms dating back to the 1930s, and this is the first online version ever produced. With the help of Taylor Morrow and Valentino Stradford, the Press came back to life in the fall of 2015 and is here to stay. Our amazing staff of writers work diligently to produce to the most coherent articles that cover such a wide range of topics. I have tried taking this wide-range approach into the sports section, covering a bevy of sports that are featured at Menlo College, the Bay Area, and around the country. I hope that you have enjoyed reading my pieces as much as I have enjoyed putting them together.

As this is my final publication, I want to leave you with my five greatest sports confessions and predictions. Before I begin, it should be brought to your attention that I am a fan of the following teams: the Oakland Athletics, Dallas Cowboys, and San Jose Sharks. I have done my best to keep personal biases out of my articles, but now it is time to let everyone know what goes on inside my brain when it comes to sports.

The NFL should abolish ties

In no professional sport (aside from soccer, where scoring is typically at a premium) do games end with two teams tied. Not often do ties occur in the National Football League, but this is a near-historic year for the league. The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals tied 6-6 on October 23, and one week later the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins finished in a 27-27 draw. These two games made the 2016 season the first to feature two ties since 1997, and just the third season since overtime was created in 1974. I could easily bash kickers for their poor performance (both ties this year featured several missed field goals that could have won the games), but the real issue here is that the tie exists in the first place.

The NFL modified its sudden-death overtime rules to allow each team a chance to possess the football, starting in 2012. The game can now only end after one possession if the first team with the ball scores a touchdown, or a safety is recorded. This means if one team kicks a field goal, the other team gets the ball and has a chance to do the same. Previously, the first team to score in any way would win the game. From 1974 to 2011, there were just 17 ties. Since then, there have been five ties. Doing simple math, that’s 17 ties in 37 years, followed by five ties in the last five years. There could have been one more on November 27, after a Kansas City Chiefs field goal, as time expired, defeated the Denver Broncos. There needs to be some form of victory, especially with ties wreaking havoc in playoff seeding.

My solution: adopt some form of overtime that is untimed, and each team gets a chance to score. Start with the ball on your own 20-yard line. Kick a field goal? The other team has to match you, or do better. If they match you, we go into another round. Repeat the process until one team has more points than the other. It’s a similar style to the shootout in hockey, which is quite popular during the regular season, and is also similar to college football overtime, though there would be some differences between the two. It would provide a winner and a loser, and a higher entertainment value for a league complaining about ratings being down.

Tony Romo will not thrive elsewhere in the NFL

Let’s be clear: as an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, I have always loved quarterback Tony Romo. Since his first start in 2006, Tony Romo has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. Despite having a reputation for choking in the fourth quarter of games, he is the owner of the best passer rating in the fourth quarter since 2006. He only has two wins in the postseason, but that has often been a product of less-than-stellar team play from the Cowboys in the playoffs. In 2014, he led the NFL in completion percentage and threw for 34 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions behind the Cowboys offensive line which is heralded as being the best in the league. His biggest problem in recent years has been his health, highlighted by his third severe back injury in 2016 (a broken vertebrae).

In his absence, the Cowboys have often faltered with no quality backup quarterbacks. Dak Prescott was forced into duty this year, and the Cowboys have taken off to new levels. The team is 11-1, as of the writing of this article, with those 11 wins coming in consecutive games, the longest winning streak in team history. Romo’s time as starting quarterback for the Cowboys is over, and now it is rumored that he will be traded in the offseason instead of remaining on the roster. While many think he can be successful with any playoff contender lacking a solid quarterback (think the Denver Broncos), I disagree. His success has been a product of the play of his offensive line. No team in the NFL has an offensive line as massive and athletic as the Cowboys. They keep the quarterback protected better than most, providing a clean pocket and open lanes to throw the football. With someone as fragile as Romo, an offensive line becomes a must, not just for his success, but for his health. If he winds up leaving the Cowboys, his best days will officially be behind him.

The Oakland Athletics are tanking until they get a new stadium

Times have been absolutely brutal for the Green and Gold the past few seasons. The theme for this team that never has a large payroll has been trading away their best talent for prospects. Once those prospects pan out in the big leagues, they are traded away, and the cycle continues. It becomes a perpetual rebuilding phase in Oakland, and it has left the team stuck in the bottom of the standings and left the fans disgruntled with management. From 2012-2014, the A’s made the playoffs each of those three seasons. In the two seasons since, the team has lost at least 90 games and traded away stars such as Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Scott Kazmir, Josh Reddick, Rich Hill, Derek Norris, and so on.

At the same time, A’s have been trying to get a new stadium built to replace the dilapidated Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. After failed attempts to move to Fremont and San Jose, the A’s have not had much success finding a spot in Oakland. After getting seemingly little help from the MLB in providing a solution, the team has gotten even more frugal in its spending on the roster. It’s simple knowledge: if you don’t spend any money on the baseball team, the team won’t win games. This trend is going to continue until the MLB provides assistance in Oakland getting a new stadium. The A’s believe that a new stadium would provide them with the necessary bump in revenue to spend more on the roster, increasing their level of competition. While I don’t necessarily think that’s the only way for this team to get better, it certainly would help. The A’s will do whatever possible to strip the team bare to the bones as opposed to winning just to get a new stadium. This means stars like Sonny Gray and Khris Davis will surely be gone within the next year.

Martin Jones will be the best goalie in the NHL for the next ten years

The San Jose Sharks reached their first ever Stanley Cup Final in 2016 thanks to the play of goalie Martin Jones. Sure, the Sharks featured one of the most prolific offensive attacks in the NHL, but that has been a constant in San Jose for the last ten years. The missing factor was a goalkeeper who could take the other team completely out of the game. Evgeni Nabokov and Antti Niemi were great, but stumbled in the postseason. The Sharks got rid of Niemi before last season, and acquired Martin Jones in a trade from the Boston Bruins (after he was traded there from the Los Angeles Kings). In his first season as starting netminder, Jones immediately let his presence be known to the rest of the league. He was third in wins (37), second in shutouts (6), and featured a 2.27 goals-against-average. His postseason numbers were even better, with a goals-against-average of 2.16, 3 shutouts, and an NHL-record 14 wins. He became that one goalie that no team wanted to face.

As scary as it is to think about, Jones has been even better this season. He already leads the league with 13 wins, is allowing just 1.99 goals per game, and has a pair of shutouts. His level of play seems to elevate when the opposition gets better. Looking at a few of the splits, when the Sharks win, Jones has allowed just 13 goals. That’s exactly one per game, with a remarkable 0.961 save percentage. When the Sharks have the lead after the second period, they are 9-1 with Jones in the net, and Jones has a save percentage of 0.959. It is important to note that Jones is only 26 years of age and a three-year pro, so he has a lot of learning and growth left. The accelerated rate of growth for Jones is startling for the rest of the NHL, and his play alone will make the Sharks perennial Stanley Cup contenders as long as he is in the South Bay. Regardless of where he ends up, no goalie will be better for the next ten years than Martin Jones. His ability to manage the crease and move laterally in traffic is so rare that his level of play will not be matched when he enters his prime. Lookout world, here comes the next best goalie in hockey.

Menlo College will win a national title in the next five years

Call it a bit of homer pick, but I’ve been broadcasting games at Menlo for the last three years, and I have seen how the athletic programs have improved. The switch from the California Pacific Conference to the Golden State Athletic Conference was supposed to result in a down period for the Oaks. This has not been the case, evident by five trips to the playoffs and one GSAC title in the first year-and-a-half. National recognition has been increasing for all of the school’s programs, and it’s only a matter of time before one of these teams busts through and wins the first national title in school history. Men’s Soccer won the school’s first GSAC championship this year, but was eliminated in the first round of the NAIA national tournament. Baseball features one of the most explosive offenses in the country, but has failed to reach the national tournament since entering the GSAC. Either of these programs could be ready to take the next step, but you could make case for any of the teams in the athletic offering. While I may not be a student at Menlo anymore, I look forward to following these teams closely and rooting them on in their quest for greatness.
Thank you again, Menlo College, for an incredible seven semesters as a student. It’s time to GET OUTTA HERE BRIAN.