Nov. 20, 2009
STANFORD, Calif. - Big Game parties are not confined to the Bay Area, California, or even the United States. The most notable will be taking place 5,000 miles away, in a U.S. Embassy before a head of state.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will be a guest of U.S. Ambassador John Roos and his wife Susie Roos for a special live telecast in Tokyo of the Big Game over the Armed Forces Network. Why the interest? Because they all went to Stanford.
Hatoyama not only earned a Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Stanford in 1976, he met his wife, Miyuki, there and spent many fall Saturdays at Stanford Stadium.
John ('77, JD '80) and Susie ('78) also experienced the heady days of Stanford football during the mid-70s.
A Stanford football helmet served as an icebreaker during the initial diplomatic meeting between the Prime Minister-elect and the ambassador. Roos presented Hatoyama with the helmet during a meeting that was meant to allay concerns about the U.S.-Japan alliance following Hatoyama's August election victory. It seemed to have succeeded, as the two recalled their days at Stanford and talked football.
On Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in Tokyo, they will gather again and talk more football, adding the lexicon of "Toby Gerhart" and "Andrew Luck" to their common experiences of "Guy Benjamin" and "Mike Cordova."
The idea for a Japanese Big Game viewing party came from Susie, an active member of the Buck/Cardinal Club. She had been trying to watch Stanford football all season via Slingbox, with varying success.
With the Big Game in mind, she next turned to Stanford Athletics marketing specialist David Vargas in mid-October and asked, "Can you help us figure this out?"
Searching for a way to transmit a football game to Japan, a group that involved Vargas, Mike Gleeson, Charlie McCoy, and Jim Young at Stanford and several I.T. specialists at the Embassy, investigated the technical aspects, tested various methods, researched rights issues.
Finally, after weeks of behind-the-scenes work, the Big Game Tokyo-style will finally happen at last.
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MEN'S TENNIS: Stanford at San Quentin
There was only moment of apprehension during the clinic that the Stanford men's tennis team held at notorious San Quentin State Prison on Saturday morning.
The instructions were that each teams of two would play four games against Stanford players. With his score tied, 2-2, an inmate named Raphael - no last names or crimes were to be revealed - expected a deciding fifth game.
When his strong request was not immediately granted, Raphael walked over to Stanford coach John Whitlinger and said, "This isn't Palo Alto. This is San Quentin."
"You're right, whatever you want," Whitlinger said.
Raphael was one of about 20 inmates who greeted Whitlinger and seven Stanford players. They followed doubles games with a clinic on the single court. The Stanford team was then led on a tour of the facility by guards and inmates.
At one point, the Stanford players stepped into a jail cell, already occupied by two inmates.
"That probably was what stands out for me," Whitlinger said. "Just how small the jail cell was."
This was different, for sure. Stanford was not allowed to bring racquet covers, cell phones or cameras. The security process was thorough and what followed was even a little unnerving - the sound of the gates locking behind them and the understanding that if they were taken hostage, there would be no negotiating with inmates.
The San Quentin tennis players weren't bad, equivalent to about 3.0-3.5 level, and had plenty of questions for Stanford. And the Cardinal players were just as eager to respond, making Whitlinger proud for being so engaging to the prisoners. Afterward, one gave a moving talk about how much it meant to them, to have Stanford come.
"It was something we'll never forget," Whitlinger said. "It meant a lot to them, to have a little bit of contact with the outside world. It made me feel good about how special they thought it was for us to come there. And it was special. It was great for everybody. I'd do it again, for sure."
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BASEBALL: Strasburg-Storen team up
The Washington National's possible future starter-closer tandem of top draft pick Stephen Strasburg and former Stanford righthander Drew Storen was in evidence Saturday during the Arizona Fall League.
According to MASN Sports, Storen, the 10th-overall pick in the June amateur draft, struck out two in a scoreless eighth and ninth inning to seal Phoenix's 1-0 victory. Storen pitched at 93-94 mph, touched 96 and showed a swing-and-miss slider that ranged from 83-86 mph. In a league known for its high offensive environment, Storen lowered his ERA to 0.71 in 12 2/3 innings, with 11 strikeouts and three walks (including one intentional walk).
"He challenges hitters, he has above-average breaking balls - both the slider and the curveball - and he's not afraid to throw any pitch in any count," pitching coach Paul Menhart told MASN Sports. "Hitters are constantly wondering what he's going to throw because they know it's going to be somewhere around the plate, and he takes advantage of that."
Strasburg, the former San Diego State phenom, twisted his left knee Thursday while shagging fly balls during batting practice and was scratched from the league championship game. The injury, however, is not considered serious. Strasburg went 4-1 with a 4.26 ERA in five starts.
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WOMEN'S GOLF: Wie wins
A Twitter update from Stanford student and LPGA rookie Michelle Wie after her first pro victory, at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Sunday:
-such a great weekend. first stanford football dominated and now this! wooowwwwwwwww i love life
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WOMEN'S SWIMMING: Smit to compete in TV dual
Stanford senior Julia Smit will be among 36 top American swimmers (18 men and 18 women) that will compete against a squad of Europeans at the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, a made-for-TV event Dec. 18-19 in Manchester, England.
The meet, which includes Olympic gold medalists Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol and Rebecca Soni will pit the U.S. against a team of swimmers from Great Britain, Germany and Italy. It will be broadcast by NBC on Dec. 27.
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WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL: In the hunt
In the most balanced Pac-10 season to date, the Stanford women's volleyball team is in a three-way tie for first place. It's unusual because Stanford (18-7 overall) has four conference losses. That's never happened before.
In 23 years of Pac-10 play, no team has ever won a title with three losses.
Stanford (11-4) is tied with Washington (11-4) and UCLA (10-4) in the loss column. The Cardinal has three Pac-10 matches remaining, beginning with Arizona Friday night in Tucson.
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HOME GAME OF THE WEEK: The Big Game, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
A big week in Stanford sports - NCAA soccer matches, the Big Splash men's water polo game, home basketball, the NCAA cross country championships - is highlighted by the 112th Big Game.
Rose Bowl hopes, Heisman dreams. Bay Area bragging rights. This game's got it all when Stanford (7-3, 6-2) plays Cal (7-3, 4-3) at Stanford Stadium.
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics
Ideas for future notebook items are welcomed. Please contact David Kiefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions of the weekly Cardinal Insider can be found on the main page of gostanford.com by clicking on "General Releases" from the "Sports" pull-down menu.