Monday, November 19, 2007

ROAD TRIP TO SEATTLE

“Road trip.” That’s code for folks who want to have a “bloody” in the morning and late at night think white rolls with slabs of butter slathered on, using the tin foil that it’s wrapped in, rather than a knife, is a good idea.

Show me someone who loves road trips and I’ll show you a prime candidate for any 12 step program. Where do I enroll?

No sense to talk about the game. Like the joke about the man who keeps shooting the bear, and receives some major English discipline at the hands of the slightly wounded animal—for those of us who love Cal—it’s not about the football.

It’s no secret to what’s happened to the Bears this year. Anyone who’s ever played a sport—anyone who’s ever coached a sport—in fact, anyone who’s ever watched a talented teenager slip in his grades knows what the problem is. And knows what the solution is, as well.

These two items which appeared in the paper sum it up:

"Cal coach Jeff Tedford ripped into the team immediately after the game, yelling about elementary things: desire, confidence and execution. Facing the worst team in the Pac-10, without its starting quarterback, the Cal football team had no chance. “

Follett said. “We need to just dig deep inside. I don’t think we’re playing with the heart and passion needed to win games.”

What else is there for us say?

We all flew in on different flights. Different groups were at different places on Friday night. We found ourselves at Tulio’s a great Italian joint in the Vintage Park Hotel.

When you’re from the Napa Valley, you have to love a hotel which (rather than numbers) names its rooms after wineries. Why haven’t we thought of that?

We all took turns waxing eloquently about the season and how it would have been different were we the coach, or were we playing. The later the evening, the more expert we became. Clearly our knowledge rose with the decibel level. Has it ever been any other way?

We were mostly in agreement that there were very few scenarios where we would make it to the BCS championship game, though it was suggested that we telegraph Mac Brown and lobby for his vote.

I’m not sure we were in agreement that the Rose Bowl was entirely out of the picture. I’m sure someone put forth an odd mixture of wins and losses which would get us in the back door to Pasadena. To be sure that was possible we ordered another round.

When you are a Bear fan, hope springs eternal. Rational, common sense takes a vacation.

The gals had hit the Army/Navy store, so Saturday morning, they were all decked out in their finest rain gear.

We were to view the game in the 2nd finest venue in the United States. How it must tick them off when they come down to see a game in Strawberry Canyon.

But Washington in the fall (duh!) is like Vermont without the firey red maples. Colors dominate. The stadium is on the water an seems to soar into the sky. It's breathtaking.


“The Bird” (Jerry Bradley—he of the (St. Helena Jim Hunt) 50 yard TD pass with one second on the clock which beat Penn State some weeks back, had come down from Vancouver and would be having a tailgate. As an aside, Rip Engle was the coach of that Penn State team. He lost his job and a kid named Joe Paterno took his place).

Some of his teammates, Nutzie, Cantlon and Jim Pinson would be showing up as well.

Though most of the locals were slathering on sun screen, the rain was coming down harder than the week before against SC. For them it was a balmy Seattle day.
We bought a couple of cases of Beer and prepared to stuff our selves on all the food Jane had brought.

Just like in Tennessee the Huskie fans in the car next to us couldn’t have been nicer. “You can share our tent as soon as we get it up,” they offered. “Want some chili?”

Our group grew with the rapidity of a teenage beer party tied together with cell phones and text messages. We overran the tent next to us, and another one on the other side as well.

We replayed some past games. Until Tedford, the state of Washington has not been kind to us since 1976 when we eked out a 7 love game.

Specific plays were brought up. They always are. Suddenly, I realized that if it weren’t for those individual plays, Cal would have been the top team in the country for the past 50 years.

My father used to talk about the Rose Bowl (was it against Ohio State?) when we scored on the first play, but it was called back to due a questionable back field in motion penalty. And we know about the fumble in the endzone in the 59 Rose Bowl, and the fumble on the one against Washington in 67 or 68. We know about the fumbled punt against SC with 1:30 to go and the lead. We’re aware of UCLA’s upset of SC costing Chuck Muncie and Joe Roth the Rose Bowl. And we know about the interception in the Endzone against Arizona last year, and the stepping on the line which called the TD back—either one, it turned out would have put us in the Rose Bowl.

And none of us will forget Mac Brown’s lobbying to keep us out of the Rose Bowl in Tedford’s third year.

We can cite by heart half a dozen times a bad call or bad break gave Stanford State the win in the 4th quarter.

And we are the possessors of the Ultimate bad luck Play—Roy Riegles ill-fated dash which ended eventually in a safety, which became the margin of defeat to Georgia Tech in the '29 Rose Bowl (Correction by Ray Shine).

Of course it goes the other way. We remember Bradley’s catch, and Sweeny’s and the ultimate one play—THE PLAY.

Now all fans at every school remember specific plays and specific wins and losses. But my guess is that to put together a big time program, we have to drop the focus on the “what if’s” which have cost us over the years.

We’ve got to drop the “one play” stuff and get behind a program which can win on a consistent level.

Say what you will, We’ve got a big time college coaching staff. No doubt they’ve learned a lot this season.

We’ve all learned—what we’ve always known—talent alone will never win out.
The interesting thing will be to watch how the coaches and the fans react next year. Are we going to boo 20 year old children? If that’s where we’re headed, bring back Frank Wickhorst!

Are we going to keep up our end and produce that Athletic facility, and the Stadium? Or are we going to fold because things aren’t going the way we want them.

Old guys like us can’t affect what’s happening on the field, but we can set a tone.

It’s corny but all these things are intertwined.

Do you ever wonder how the alumni treated Andy Smith, Nibs Price, Brutus Hamilton, Pappy (at least in the early days) and Pete Newell?

People that act like winners, and treat others like winners—tend to be winners.

A tone needs to be set which permeates the entire program.

Mostly, it’s up to Tedford—and he’s brought us miles from where we were. We just need to understand how hard it is to get where we want to be.

One minor suggestion however, is to start by dropping the “one play” did us in philosophy. To be big time, we’ve got to move on.

(Speaking of Big Time, how about Frank Lynch's kid, Trent Dilfer, going up against Rick Bennet's kid, Drew Bennet in Candlestick on Sunday. Two old broken down Cal running backs with pro ballers for kids. It doesn't get any better than that).

Go Bears. Beat Stanford State
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70