Twenty-one years ago today, I became a sports fan.
But growing up as a Philadelphia sports fan, not many of those 21 years were fruitful. And none were even close to as good as this past year.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Each of my three years at Stanford — do I really only have one left? — has been great. How many college students get to witness their team play in three straight BCS bowl games?
But as fun as my freshman and sophomore years were, this junior year has truly been special. At the risk of sounding like Emile Hirsch in “The Girl Next Door,” I wanted to dedicate my final print column of the school year to the things I will always remember from the Stanford sports year that was.
Beating USC, again
Riding up to the third level of the Stanford Stadium press box before Stanford took on USC in September, an ESPN.com Pac-12 blogger who will remain nameless and I had a conversation. I believe I used some icebreaker like, “Should be a good game today.”
“If USC plays well, they’ll win by 20,” the blogger responded.
Ah, if only the college football world knew then what it knows now. But then, No. 2 USC was the clear favorite, and it made the victory so much sweeter.
The USC game marked my third regular season Stanford football game doing play-by-play for KZSU. You could say I was still in the transition between fan and media member…
And when Matt Barkley’s desperate heave on fourth down clinched Stanford’s victory, I lost it. I went full Hawk Harrelson homer, and it was awesome. My first big upset call on the radio. I certainly didn’t know I’d call a bigger one two months later.
Autzen Stadium is an intimidating place, especially when it’s dark, cold, windy and rainy – and you call the game from the rooftop.
I should’ve known the game would go well when I had an almost identical interaction with a different Stanford football writer, who laughed at me when I said that I thought the 21-point spread in the Ducks’ favor was way too high.
But before you crown me a genius and a hero, I must admit that, unlike our editor in chief Miles Bennett-Smith, I picked Stanford to lose a close game. The Ducks were just too good at home, I thought.
I spent the game in a perpetual state of disbelief — not that the game was close, but at how low the score was. When doing play-by-play, especially if one of the teams plays as fast as Oregon does, it’s very hard to process what’s going on; you just have to react to each play.
So when Alejandro Maldonado’s 41-yard field goal bounced off the left upright, I quickly realized what was about to happen. Jordan Williamson was going to have a chance at redemption. And when his 37-yarder snuck inside the left upright, I lost it again, though I promised myself after USC I never would.
But the kick going in wasn’t the moment I’ll always remember. That moment came a few minutes later, when Williamson came out of the locker room to film a postgame interview with me.
Jordan isn’t just another player, he’s one of my friends. My 2012 Fiesta Bowl memory is giving Jordan a hug at the airport and telling him that I was there for him. It made the hug on the field at Oregon so much more special; it was the defining moment of the year for me.
“Rags to Roses”
As you now know from Joseph Beyda’s preface, this offseason, I have been a part of the most exhilarating project of my life with Joey and George Chen: “Rags to Roses.”
Being able to talk to players and coaches from so many different backgrounds who played so many different roles in the path to the Rose Bowl victory has been simply awesome. I got to interview Andrew Luck, Jim Harbaugh, David DeCastro, three members of the Tunnel Workers Union and so many more key people.
But the thing that I’ll always remember from the project is playing press coverage on Joey with George at quarterback during our frequent football work breaks on the street outside of The Daily.
Maybe one day, someone will write about our football heroics.
If you want Sam Fisher to reenact his “full Hawk Harrelson homer” broadcast while celebrating his 21st birthday tonight, let him know at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter at @SamFisher908.