BearBacker Voices: Northern Lights
It was April 1990, and the Cincinnati Bengals were on the clock. The team’s brain trust thought, considered, ruminated, and – wait a second, let me check the thesaurus – pondered their choice. In due course, they sent the name of James Francis, linebacker, up to the Commissioner. And Dallas Cowboys fans like me cursed the Bengals, cursed them for taking Francis out from under the very nose of Jimmy Johnson. Francis was a can’t-miss prospect, a stud linebacker in an era where linebackers were the up-and-coming superstars of the defense. And – this was the hardest part – he was from the B. (We just called it “Baylor” back then, which was the style at the time.)
The Cowboys would recover; they’d take an unheralded underclassman RB from Florida later in that round, somebody named Smith. But the B wouldn’t fare so well. Francis (who would play nine years for the Bengals and the Hated Redskins) was the last Baylor player taken in the top fifteen. Only one other B gridder, stalwart lineman Daryl Gardener, would go in the first round in the years since 1990. The stylishly-named LaCurtis Jones went in that draft too, in the fourth round, and the Ravens would take Gary Baxter in the second round in 2001. Those are the high spots in Baylor’s post-Teaff NFL draft history, which is about as pretty as the sixth-runner-up for Homecoming Queen at Plainview High.
2007 would be something of an improvement. Daniel Sepulveda (two-time Ray Guy Award winner, unanimous consensus first-team All-American, hero of American youth) would go in the fourth round, albeit to the Hated Steelers. And cornerback C.J. Wilson would go the Mildly Despised Carolina Panthers in the seventh round. This is a positive step, undeniably.
But one couldn’t help noticing that Shawn Bell was left out. True, the draft is always a crapshoot (see Quinn, Brady, public humiliation of). And it’s true that Bell had torn his ACL playing against the Agriculturalists, and the quarterback talent this year was deep – but you’d think that some team, somewhere, could use a bit of the B on their squad. (Maybe everywhere except Atlanta; you wouldn’t want to see a Michael Vick understudy who knew the ins and outs of the live bear-cub market.) Bell wasn’t drafted, and didn’t sign as a free agent, and that generally means you start thinking about grad school or learning how to sell real estate.
But Bell bounced back. (Try saying that three times fast.) He ended up signing with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. Now, the CFL is generally the place where quarterbacks go to die (exemplia gratia: former Cougar High QB Andre Ware was as big a bust with the B.C. Lions as he was with the Detroit Lions). And if the CFL was Texas college football, the Lions would be the local version of the UTEP Miners – undistinguished and out of the way. (The CFL, historically, is dominated by the Toronto Argonauts – the local version of the Texas Longhorns -- and the Edmonton Eskimos, located in the big, flat, empty Agriculturalist plains of Alberta.)
But the Lions did win the Grey Cup last year, and – let’s face it – living in Vancouver has, shall we say, certain advantages over living in Baylor. To wit:
Average Kickoff Temperature at Home Opener:
Vancouver: 72 degrees under the B.C. Place dome.
Annual Summertime Event:
Vancouver: The “Celebration of Light” international fireworks competition, with fireworks representatives from different countries vying for the title.
Vancouver: The Gaslight District, featuring restaurants, antique shops, and designer fashions.
In The Movies:
Vancouver: Over 200 movies filming each year, most recently the Fantastic Four sequel, featuring the delectable Jessica Alba in spandex.
Vancouver: The open-air farmer’s market on Granville Island, adjacent to many craft shops, and featuring fresh seafood, vegetables, and a really nice coconut pie.
Vancouver: A hub for Asian culture, with a vibrant Chinatown and several five-star dim-sum palaces.
Vancouver: Pamela Anderson.
Vancouver: According to Wikipedia – and I’m just including this for information purposes and not for tourism purposes – “Vancouver police generally do not arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana.”
Vancouver: Hundreds of downtown high-rise apartment buildings with glittering green windows.
The Symbol of Our Freedom
Vancouver: The vibrant downtown is a frequent stop for Alaska-bound cruise ships.
Big Event in 1986:
Vancouver: The 1986 World’s Fair, the most successful such fair in history, with 50 million visitors looking at pavilions from 54 nations.
Vancouver: The XXI Olympic Winter Games, complete with luge, bobsled, and visitors from every nation asking what the hell is up with the outfits that the men’s figure skaters are wearing.