Thursday, November 29, 2007

"GIVE 'EM THE AXE"

Give 'em the axe where? Right in the neck, the neck, the neck. Right in the neck. Right in the neck, Who?"

Well, we all know who. The Stanford State Indians--that's who! I guess today, that yell is proba­bly not too politically correct. Axing the opposition in the neck is no doubt a little too grue­some for the parents of many of today's tender-eared college kids.

We know the name Indians is frowned upon—which makes some of us want to use it even more.

Saturday is the Big Game.

Thank the Good Lord for giving us fallible memories. Were it not for our inability to remember, women would never have more than one kid; DB’s could never cover after being burned; no one would go on more than one blind date; and my wife would have left me long ago. Since none of us can remember what happened earlier this season, this Saturday is huge. It’s Big Game.

Red Staters think we are so arrogant. No one in the country understands how two schools, one of which couldn't even beat Notre Dame, can refer to their contest as The Big Game. Folks assume that for a game to be labeled "Big" something tangible has to be on the line--you know, the Conference Championship; the right to go to the Rose Bowl; or the holiest of holies, The BCS (whatever that means) championship.

That, of course, is to miss the essence of what College football is all about.

Despite all the bad press, scandals and under the table activities we read about, in the College game, first and foremost, college football is about stu­dent athletes competing against one another.

Sure, there are some thugs. And, yes some kids are there just to go on to the pros.

But for the vast majority of seniors out there, this is the last football game they will ever play. And the combination of adrenalin, coupled with the "Ya' ain't got nothing to lose" mentality inherent in one's final game, makes for some extraordinary moments in sport.

We're not talking about a rivalry where each year Heisman Trophy Candidates rise up to accomplish feats of Olympic proportions.

No, from Jack Hart stopping Skip Face short of the goal line on the last play, and sending the Bears to the Rose Bowl a millennium ago (ok, it was only 1958), to Kevin Moen knocking over the Stanford Trombone player to win the '82 Big Game with no time left on the clock--the rivalry is rife with "ordinary Joes" accom­plishing extraordinary feats of heroism; and athletic agility.

Does the name Levy ring a Bell? (Quasi-modo. Now there’s a name that rings a bell—but I digress).

It's what makes it great. Is there any finer expres­sion of athleticism and beauty in sport than what was once referred to as "The Old College Try"? The Big Game is nothing, if not a show case for “TOCT.”

And the Beauty of "The Old College Try" is that it is not dependent upon physical prowess alone. Heart, determination, courage, guts and grit are the ingredients of "TOCT".

Each kid who takes the field has the opportunity to give it or eschew it. It's not dependent upon genes or nature. It is simply a state of mind, dependent solely upon the depth of one's character and the size of his heart.

"The Old College Try" is not delivered in a vac­uum. It is witnessed by family. One of the finest "fam­ilies" one could ever be associated with.

You see, as you read these words, I will have dis­appeared from the earth as you know it.

Thursday, I leave the Valley to join the "family” and do not re-sur­face until Sunday.

My days and nights are filled with other rummies like myself.

There are dozens of reunion lunches throughout the City. Wherever one gathers, it is the best lunch of the week. For us, The Mother of them all is the Friday Men’s lunch.

It was started by about 7 contemporaries some 30 years ago at the now defunct New Pizza. It was mostly ruggers, and former footballers—-boys, Coach Joe Marvin once called “The fellows who fought the Battle of Berkeley back in the 60’s”. We know what he meant.

That’s when our school yell went from “Roll on you Bears” to “Ashes to ashes/Dust to dust/We hate to go on strike/But we must, we must!”

No one wanted their kids to come to Cal back then. We were considered a bunch of Commie, Pinko, Weirdoes. Actually, worse.

But Franz defined the lunch with this classic: “No invitations. That means no jerks (Ok, maybe he used another word). Just good guys inviting good guys."

We always have a “Speaker.” Last year it was Mike White.

(I don't think this year it'll be Harry--but his kid, Collin, can do it if he wants).

We gather to re-tell the same old stories--laugh way too loud--and return to the halcyon days when everything was possible, and no one could best us--neither footballer nor female.

(In truth, we lost way more times than we won--in both areas--but who's counting). In our minds we gave it "TOCT".

Ours is a friendship held together over all these years--not through our triumphs, but through the re­hashing of our failures. For that's where the laughs are. In the screw ups. In the errors in judgment; in the vain attempts to be more than we thought we were.

Had we been suave. Had we succeeded each time--in class--on the field--with girls--we'd have nothing to talk about.

When the sentence begins with "How 'bout the time......." I can guarantee you it has nothing to do with a personal triumph. Mostly it has to do with some humili­ating failure which the PCer's would consider a lower­ing of self esteem--and which we consider too funny for words.

It is good that we are off by ourselves. For the world would never approve of our past shenanigans. It certainly wouldn't approve of the way we laugh about them now.

We were not nice boys. On the other hand, we were just that--boys. Doing things that boys do, and grown men can look back upon and laugh at.

Maybe it's a guy thing. My kids don't believe me, but no truer words were ever spoken than when we tell them at their moment of failure, "Don't worry. We'll laugh about this later."

If only they knew that it's not succeeding that matters. Giving it the "Old College Try" does. Ain't it great to be a Bear!


Go Bears. And “GIVE ‘EM THE AXE!

Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70
www.jeffwarren.com

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