Month: October 2012

NMSU’s football future

So the Aggies lost again, 41-7, in Logan, Utah this past weekend. It was once again a game of missed opportunities, bone-headed penalties, and bad luck. Yes, the Aggies were 31 point underdogs to Utah State, but this is still a hole that’s getting deeper by the second. We could very well be staring down the barrel of a 1-11 season.

The University of Idaho gave coach Robb Akey the axe this past week; he had compiled a record of 20-50 since 2007. I can’t help but wonder if DeWayne Walker could be next. It’s a real shame: Walker is one classy guy, and it’d be a shame to lose him. As a coach, he’s good but not great. Yes, his 10-35 record is unimpressive. But let’s keep in mind that he’s been running this program on a shoestring budget. It’s a well-known fact that there is insurmountable apathy regarding college football in Las Cruces. No one cares about funding or supporting this program.

As a student, it can be quite discouraging. People here simply refuse to support the football team, not having the foresight to realize that we’ll never win unless the students show up to the games. If Virginia Tech’s student support is at 90%, NMSU is at about 15%.

I saw the headline on NMStateSports.com after the Utah State loss: “Multiple Aggies post career highs in WAC loss.” Seriously, who cares about individual accomplishments when we’re getting humiliated every week? The few loyal fans that we have are desperate for wins, and some of us are sick of having Walker sugarcoat everything. He isn’t the kind of guy who’s getting in his players’ faces and ordering them to play better. For all his effort and positive attitude, Walker’s just too low-key to get this program permanently out of the cellar.

Look no further than Mike Leach’s hiring at Washington State. The Cougars were awful during the Paul Wulff era and haven’t been to a bowl game since 2003, but the bombshell hiring of Leach (who went to 10 bowl games in 10 years at Texas Tech) rejuvenated the entire support base for that program, which badly needed a makeover. Leach immediately began to teach his team how to win and not just compete.

The problem is that we’ll never hire someone of Leach’s caliber. Las Cruces is well-known as a coaching graveyard, and we’re in the middle of a new administration change on campus; a new president, a presumably new athletic director, and possibly a new coach will be coming in.

As is well-known around campus, our football team is homeless for the foreseeable future. The WAC is dead, and both NMSU and Idaho are being forced to go independent for 2013 and beyond. Neither program has made any sort of noise this season, further hurting their cause.

There’s a reason Notre Dame and Brigham Young are independent; both schools are enormous and have huge, lucrative TV contracts. NMSU and Idaho will never have the deals that those two schools have. Unless we get some serious donations, NMSU will never get over the hump.

Again, it’s a real shame. Other schools are able to get funding at the drop of a hat. Utah State was actually in a very similar position to us four years ago. They hired Gary Andersen and have been improving ever since – so much so that Andersen has received two extensions in two years. The difference is that USU has made a legit financial commitment to playing NCAA football, while NMSU has not.

Look at what other schools have done. Eleven years ago, Rutgers was in the Big East basement, but they brought in Greg Schiano and the rest is history. Temple hired Al Golden and completely turned that program around. Could something like that happen in Las Cruces? Maybe. But we need to start with some serious cash to invest in the football program. Give Walker one more year, throw some money at the program and see where it goes. We’re not in a position to beg and plead for a conference to pick us up; we just need to roll the dice and see what happens.

Aggies lose a hard-fought game at Idaho

The NMSU Aggies lost by a score of 26-18 last Saturday up in Moscow, Idaho in the second WAC matchup for the Aggies this season and the first for the Vandals. It was also the Vandals first win of the season; both teams are now 1-5.

This time, NMSU turned in a decent performance on both sides of the ball. Watching the highlights, I was impressed with how the defense played. These guys fought hard and didn’t quit all game long. Linebacker Trashaun Nixon intercepted Idaho’s Dominique Blackman on the first play from scrimmage, leading to a 42-yard field goal by Tyler Stampler that put NMSU up 3-0 in the first quarter.

Trailing 17-10 late in the second quarter, Nixon made a big play against Vandal receiver Jahrie Level, forcing and recovering a fumble. NMSU’s next drive would stall, however, and the Vandals finished the half with a 55-yard field goal by Trey Farquhar.

The Aggies’ ground game was paced by Germi Morrison, who had 66 yards rushing. Wide receiver Kemonte Bateman finished with five receptions for 76 yards and a second quarter touchdown. Sophomore receiver Austin Franklin recorded nine catches for 115 yards. Travaughn Colwell, the Aggies’ backup QB, ran for 22 yards from the Wildcat formation.

Andrew Manley completed 28 of 45 passes for 309 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The Aggies’ final touchdown was also contributed by Manley via a QB sneak.

The Aggies had this past week off, and will face WAC foe Utah State in Logan this Saturday. The Vandals lost on the road, 38-7, to Texas State last week; now they head to Ruston, LA to take on the WAC’s leader, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.

The Navajo Code Talkers – the unsung heroes of WWII

platoonIf you met 91-year-old Chester Nez today, you would wonder what makes him so special. And he still insists that he’s no more important than any other U.S. veteran. “I’m no hero. I just wanted to serve my country,” he says with a laugh. But in my opinion, the resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico is an example of what American patriotism is all about.

screen_shot_2013-03-04_at_2.16.53_pmBorn and raised on the “Checkerboard” – a remote wilderness in northwestern New Mexico – Chester certainly comes from a humble background. He grew up among his large family (as well as a number of animals) close to the massive reservation called the Navajo Nation. The

Checkerboard is one of the most sparsely-populated areas near the Nation, and Chester grew up in a traditional Navajo home (a hogan) without electricity or running water.

In fact, Chester Nez isn’t even his real name – rather it was the English name he was assigned at a federally-funded boarding school in Fort Defiance, Arizona. In  school, Chester’s teachers punished him and his friends if they spoke in their native tongue. It was not an easy life for the young man, but he would soon be able to prove his worth and courage.

At the time of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 17-year-old Chester was still in school in Tuba City, Arizona. One day, a group of military recruiters arrived on the school’s campus, eager to recruit young men into the armed forces. Chester, who was tired of boarding school life, decided to join the United States Marine Corps. After all, the Navajo people were traditionally warriors who had fought for their land.

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Chester, along with 28 other Marine recruits from the Navajo Nation, reported for duty at Camp Pendleton in San Diego. There they were informed of a top secret mission that only they could carry out: to devise an unbreakable code based on the Navajo language that could be utilized to communicate radio messages in the heat of battle.

Philip Johnston, a Marine contractor living in California, was a white man who had grown up on the Nation as a missionary kid and knew the Navajo language as his own (Reportedly, he was one of only 30 non-Navajos who knew the language fluently). He pitched the idea for a Navajo code to his bosses in the Marines, and they decided to give it a shot. Every single code that the American forces had come up with had been easily broken by the Japanese, causing hundreds and thousands of casualties in the Pacific campaign. There was no time to waste.

But the 29 Navajo men, soon to be known as “code talkers,” developed a code that was never broken during WWII – or even after! The Navajos used letters from their language to match words in English, using a complex system of encoding. These men had to memorize the code and know it backwards and forwards, almost becoming the code themselves. While the old Morse code system could take up to 30 minutes to record, receive, and transmit the message, the code talkers could do the same in less than a minute. In the first 24 hours of the fight for Iwo Jima, the code talkers transmitted over 800 messages with perfect accuracy.

Chester recalls all of his WWII experiences, from Guadalcanal to Guam, in his riveting memoir Code Talker, which I’m currently reading. It’s a remarkable book that tells a previously untold part of WWII history. Unlike all the other men who served their country bravely in the Pacific, the code talkers did not receive a hero’s welcome when they returned. But in later years, even the top men in the Marine Corps admitted that the Americans could not have secured Iwo Jima had it not been for the courageous Navajo code talkers. The code remained unbroken until 1968, 23 years after the Japanese surrendered.

The surviving code talkers were finally recognized at the Pentagon in 1992, and were presented Congressional Medals of Honor in 2001 by President George W. Bush. The families of the deceased code talkers were also recognized.

Ironically, the country that the Navajos fought so hard to defend was not particularly fond of Native Americans. The wars between Indians and the Americans had been well-documented as the U.S. attempted to settle territories further west, including Navajoland. The Navajos were finally allowed to return to their homeland in 1868 – as long as they gave up their weapons and submitted to the U.S. government.

In fact, Native Americans weren’t even allowed to vote in 1942, when Chester and his friends were recruited into the Marines. Frankly, if anyone had the right to be angry or frustrated with America, it would be the Native Americans.

But that’s what makes this story all the more impressive: that the Navajo men were able to serve their country, even when it hadn’t served them. The Navajo Nation tribal council had actually signed a unanimous declaration before the Pearl Harbor attack that stated that the Native Americans would be willing to fight for the United States should a war break out. There is no doubt that these men loved America; in fact, the Navajo code word for America translated to “our mother.”

Their courage, sacrifices, and bravery lives on, and Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original 29, is working hard to preserve their place in history.

The original 29 code talkers are as follows:

  • Charles Begay (1912-1998)
  • Roy Begay (1910-1944)
  • Samuel Begay (1914-1984)
  • John Benally (1917-1980)
  • Wilsie Bitsie (1922-2000)
  • Cosey Brown (1925-1974)
  • John Brown, Jr. (1921-2009)
  • John Chee
  • Benjamin Cleveland
  • Eugene Crawford (1911-1993)
  • David Curley (1917-1979)
  • Lowell Damon
  • George Dennison (1918-1973)
  • James Dixon (1924-1997)
  • Carl Gorman (1907-1998)
  • Oscar Ilthma
  • Allen June (1921-2010)
  • Alfred Leonard (1923-1999)
  • Johnny Manuelito (1920-1968)
  • William McCabe (1913-1969)
  • Chester Nez (1921-)
  • Jack Nez (1914-1976)
  • Lloyd Oliver (1923-2011)
  • Joe Palmer (1922-2006)
  • Frank Pete (1920-1974)
  • Nelson Thompson (1910-1983)
  • Harry Tsosie (1925-1946)
  • John Willie, Jr. (1926-2000)
  • William Yazzie (1914-2006)

W.

Whether you love him or hate him, Oliver Stone is a great filmmaker. In 2008, he released his most ambitious project yet – and it was, ironically enough, about someone who people also either love or hate: George W. Bush.

There have been many presidential biopics in the past few decades. Granted, I haven’t seen many of them as I don’t see myself as a political person, but this one was outstanding. A star-studded cast is led by the terrific Josh Brolin as Bush, Richard Dreyfuss as Vice President Dick Cheney, James Cromwell as George H.W. Bush, and Jeffrey Wright as Colin Powell. One other notable mention is Elizabeth Banks as Laura Bush. Banks, normally known for lower-profile movies like InvincibleThe 40-Year-Old Virgin, and Seabiscuit, does an excellent job in a make-it-or-break-it type of role. Film veterans Thandie Newton and Scott Glenn also turn in solid performances as Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, respectively.

The strengths of this film lie in Stone’s direction and Brolin’s excellent acting. Despite Stone’s reputation as a left-winger, he does a noteworthy job of not portraying Bush as either a complete genius or as a dumb redneck. Bush’s presidency was far from perfect, and the film takes aim at the questionable policies and undercover intelligence that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Stone takes us on a journey of Bush’s eventful life, which includes his party days at Yale, his troubles with alcohol, his sometimes-strained relationship with his father, his recommitment to his Christian faith, and his first few encounters with Laura.

Brolin nails the mannerisms and accent of Bush, but never in a cheesy, SNL-esque way. His controlled, mature performance should’ve gotten more recognition than it did (three nominations, no wins for best lead actor).

Stone was quoted in an interview as saying, “I wanted a fair, true portrait of the man…(the movie) will contain surprises for both Bush supporters and his detractors.” And Stone manages to hit the nail on the head in his biopic of America’s 43rd president, helped by a dynamic script written by Stanley Weiser, who had previously penned Stone’s 1987 hit Wall Street.

In short, even if you, like me, don’t consider yourself political, this is an important film that helps establish the legacy of one of America’s most controversial recent public figures.

Aggies lose to UTSA

The New Mexico State Aggies lost at home to new WAC member UTSA by a score of 35-14 last Saturday in Aggie Memorial Stadium in the conference opener for both schools. Quarterback Andrew Manley threw for 276 yards, two TDs and two picks for NMSU, while sophomore receiver Austin Franklin had seven catches for 105 yards and a score.

The Aggies were once again humiliated on their home turf, losing to a program that is two years old – yes, you read that correctly. The defense got torched once again play after play, down after down. It was painful to watch and my friends and I left early in the third quarter. Aggie defenders missed assignments left and right, and the offense couldn’t take advantage. We also kept coughing up the football, leading directly to scores from the Roadrunners.

The Aggies’ defense isn’t the only unit to blame. I’m getting more and more irate at our so-called “offensive coordinator” every week – Jerry McManus can’t do anything right when he calls the plays, even though he has a decent nucleus of talent at the skill positions. Andrew Manley is looking worse and worse at quarterback, his offensive line is mediocre at best, and the running game can’t get going due to the failures of the O-line. It’s really, really hard to believe that this was some of the same crew that stunned Minnesota last year.

Before Saturday, we were undefeated in the annual Tough Enough to Wear Pink game, a theme that focuses on breast cancer awareness and research. And now our season is rapidly going down the drain. We face the 0-5 Idaho Vandals on the road next week, and if we can’t beat them, our season is officially over.

Let me clarify: it’s not just the offense’s fault, the defense’s fault, or all the bone-headed turnovers that we’ve been making. The problem is the insurmountable apathy surrounding NMSU football. We haven’t made a bowl game in 50-plus years (the longest such drought in the nation). I think Coach Walker has done a decent job on a shoestring budget, but regardless of the weekly letdowns, he’s not willing to ruffle some feathers. You know, to get up at the press conference and take the bull by the horns and demand that his players perform better. At this point in his tenure (year four), it would be wise for Walker to stand up, ruffle some feathers, and get more funding for the team.

If there was ever a bad time for our football team to implode, this is it. We’re already homeless, without a conference in 2013. Part of our future success down the road hinged on this season being a landmark one for the program. Up until now, our schedule has been reasonable. Losing to Ohio and UTEP is perfectly alright; losing to UNM and UTSA is far from alright. I can’t understand why no one’s doing their job on the field or in the coordinator’s box.

Again, I don’t entirely blame Coach Walker. He’s actually done a pretty decent job up until now. But his new assistants who were hired in the offseason have done diddly-squat to improve any part of this team; in fact, they’ve added to the problem.

Some pessimistic fans and boosters say that if the Aggies can’t win this year, they never will. I’m not willing to go that far, but Walker’s dismal 10-34 record speaks volumes about how little anyone cares to improve this team. The depressing number of people at the games is not helping anything either; only about 14,000 people showed up last week in a stadium that holds 30,000.

In short, this team needs major help. We need a bombshell hire on the coaching staff to shake things up and to get the players more enthusiastic. It really seems like nobody on the team cares anymore. Think about it – these poor seniors have been here since Walker started, losing 24 more games than they’ve won. And frankly, I don’t see anybody standing up in the locker room and saying “enough is enough.”