Pathos of Nate Longshore

Posted by: Avinash on Thursday, August 14th, 2008

It seems football, more than any other sport, provides us with an interminable offseason of endless chatter that rinses and repeats the same old storylines. By the time we get to opening day we’re so exhausted of the cycle we’re just happy for the release of the kickoff.

“He played admirably through three and a half quarters most of the time…it was just one thing here or there. During inopportune times, we’d turn the football over. Some of it was [his] responsibility and some of it wasn’t, but he’s the one who shouldered the blame for the whole deal.”

In my first year of covering Cal football fullscale, one question has loomed over everything else, practically sapping all the fun out of covering the team so everyone can play their own version of ESPN talking head. People have obsessed over the topic on message boards and communities alike, exhausting the subject by retreading the same points ad verbatim.

It’s a poisonous thing, a quarterback controversy is, and it can cripple a fanbase like divided leadership can cripple an army. It takes all the entertainment out of football and places the followers of the team in a foul mood. Questions about booing our team members arise for not displaying Pareto efficiency. Ask 49ers fans how they’re feeling this year.

In this day and age, we desire certainty in our decisions and our choices, but when we search for the optimal, we are often not satisfied with the options we’re presented. More importantly, in this empowered age, everyone wants to be right almost as much as they want their teams to succeed. And even if Longshore does have a solid season, you have a feeling he’ll never be fully accepted by a fanbase that favors one quarterback over the other by almost a two-to-one margin.

“He didn’t play perfect. It wasn’t carelessness. It was out of eagerness to be successful and trying to do his part. But there are a lot of reasons for interceptions. Sometimes they definitely fall on the quarterback, but it’s a team sport. It could be a wrong route, a tipped ball or a broken protection. We learned last year that everybody is accountable for our lack of success.”

In the NFL, Donovan McNabb is the posterchild of such frustrations from a divided fanbase. When the spotlight gets bigger, he doesn’t seem to rise along with it, and the murmurs grow to turn loose Kevin Kolb to see if he can get them the extra step. You’d expect more levity in college, but the attitude seems to lean toward instant gratification. Fans should get what they want, right?

Even when kickoff begins, we will not hear the last of Longshore’s detractors. Every day he’ll be questioned, good game or bad game. They will be crowing when he throws a pick, or puts too much air on the ball, or if he tries to float one into double coverage. Again, what has Longshore done for us lately?

Yet you can’t help but feel sorry for Nate in what appears to be a no-win situation; even if he is successful people will gripe that Cal won in spite of him rather than because of him. And in between the mistakes, there will be other throws where you remember what a great talent he is, how sparkling the offense can look under his command.

His vulnerability this season delves beyond the mechanical and physical realm, even beyond his statistics. With Nate no longer the certain incumbent, how will he respond to the pressure of the populace and the determined competitor fighting for the role he was appointed to hold two years back? It’ll be exciting to see the answer as the opening weeks unfold, to see whether imperfect veteran or raw youth prevail.

“Right now is the best time of my career,” Longshore said. “I’m so excited. I think we’re going to surprise some people. There’s focus and an intensity when you’re out there that is unparalleled since I’ve been here.”

(Quotes from Ted Miller’s and Jonathan Okanes’s articles)

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