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Monson: With football gone, where do we cast our lonely eyes?

Published February 4, 2014 8:37 pm

Local gridiron junkies will have to make do with Jazz, college hoops, RSL until camps open again
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

So, now what?

Football, our good friend, has bumped and skidded away, tripping and landing with a thud in a Super Bowl that, competitively speaking, disappointed almost everyone, and then ducking down a back alley, not to be seen for seven months.

We've all been left hanging, left wanting more.

But there is none, not a spiral in sight.

Where, then, do we cast our lonely eyes to find our sports fix?

To college football's national signing day?

That's Wednesday, and though it's not real football, it's the talent pipeline that makes coming schoolboy seasons more enjoyable, at least in theory. None of the local teams is rolling in a stellar class. They've got some nice athletes committing, but, especially in the cases of Utah and BYU, everything is relative to what the competition is doing. And the programs to which the Utes and Cougars like to compare themselves are bringing in a greater number of top athletes. Utah, according to services that do such ratings, ranks near the bottom of the Pac-12 for this incoming group. BYU has a limited number of signees, but has some 30 missionaries returning to the program from points around the globe.

To the Utah Jazz?

The Jazz are working through the troubles a blind man could have seen barreling their way. They take one step up and two steps back, two steps up and one step back. It's the course mapped out for them before this season started. There's no shame in that. The Jazz aren't tanking, per se. They're developing, which, when it comes to the win-loss record, looks almost the same. It's not the same. Out on the floor, in the locker room, in the coaches' offices, they aren't trying to lose games. It's just that they were pruned back during the offseason for that growth, and it's filling back in in uneven clumps and clusters.

"The losses hurt," Marvin Williams says. "But everyone on this team is willing to work to get better."

We can argue over whether the Jazz are being coached to their highest level. But the number of games they win this particular season flat out does not matter. Anyone who argues that is caught in a cloud of delusion. It's all a setup for the future. The youngsters grow, management notes which of those young players are worth keeping and paying, the oldsters' contracts expire, management's flexibility gets more flexible, a big talent and a medium talent are added through the draft, a couple of useful veterans are brought into the mix, and then the Jazz go full throttle. It's management's responsibility to pick the right additions.

Those who think Trey Burke is hitting the rookie wall are right. Those who think he isn't — a number that amounts to only one, Burke himself — are wrong. It's all part of the process. "I'm doing OK," he says. "Your body gets sore. I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to stay fresh - stretching, eating the right foods, getting the right amount of rest. I understand what people say about 'the wall,' but I think it's more a mental thing. For me, I have to just keep going out there and try to make plays for my team."

To the winter Olympics in Sochi?

They're good for who they're for, and since Utah is a hotbed of such frozen sports, they're good for the collective us. I guess. Mix snow and ice and speed and hard edges and blades and pads and sequins and national pride and international competition and it's worth a few looks.

To college basketball?

The NCAA Tournament is a little over a month away, with conference games and tournaments leading up to that pinnacle. It will be fun on a national level, in a limited sort of way since the college game isn't what it used to be on account of so much of the talent perennially leaving early for the NBA. Locally, though, there are few hopes for anything remarkable in the time that remains.

Utah can't win on the road.

BYU can't play defense.

Utah State can't go back to the WAC.

Weber State can't catch a break.

Utah Valley can't capture anyone's attention or imagination.

To spring training and opening day?

By then, we're all ready to venture out of the musty confines of crowded gyms for some fresh air, some fresh baseball, some blue skies, some green cathedrals.

To the NFL draft?

Always a spectacle in the spring. It's not actual football, but it gets us by because … well, it has to.

To the NBA playoffs?

Four teams to watch: the Pacers, the Heat, the Thunder, the Spurs. Everybody else is background noise.

To the NBA draft lottery and the draft itself?

Those will be the biggest local sports events tiding us over until real football starts again in the fall. They will be the center points of the spring and summer, must-watch TV, a bit of luck stirred with basketball business that will affect the fate of the Jazz for seasons to come.

To Real Salt Lake?

Can't yet get American football, get South America's version. It's a long, long soccer season.

To the World Cup?

Pretty cool — if the facilities are completed.

To the opening of football camps, pro and college?

Yeah, when our good friend returns and the world begins to be made whole again.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone.






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