Thursday, September 18, 2008

TRAIN LAND TO TERP LAND

It's such a "Boola Boola" thing. Taking the train to an away game. I could see myself--raccoon coat, Cal pennant on a stick, Freshman beanie on my pate, and a hip flask filled with scotch.

Wanting to appear mature, I decided I didn't need the coat, pennant or Beanie. Three out of four ain't bad.

As an eighth grader I'd been bitten by Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie. Like Simon and Garfunkel I wanted to look for America, and Am Trak--from beautiful downtown Emeryville (would I have time for a couple of hands at the Key Club?) to Union Station in D.C. was just the ticket. Besides isn't "Let's take the train," man code for "Bloodies for breakfast--no questions asked?"

Little did I realize that most train riders were more trans-fat than trans-continental.

The Goobs would fly to New York join our two daughters for a girlie, girlie girl week, while Dadeo counted corn stalks in Iowa.

It would be 69 hours of bliss, starting at 8:55 am Tuesday and ending at 1pm on Friday--almost in time to catch Lefty Stern and Sandy Barbour's V.I.P tour of Annapolis. Each leg of the trip, I could put down my book and fantasize about the glorious Bear victory, and how many places we would move up in the rankings.

Would Best be on the Heisman Watch after Saturday? Would Riley have a breakout game? Would Alex Mack add a few pancakes to his collection? None of that foolish family or business stuff could take my mind off the Bears for four straight days. Ah….Heaven!

"Not so fast Kowalski!"

As the Goobs said to eldest daughter Casey upon arriving in the Big Apple, "Guess what happened to Dad?"

The Casers would reply without batting an eye, "He forgot his phone."

"How did you know that?"

"Because it is the single most important thing he needed to take with him."

Damn kids.

As we pulled out of Emeryville, I patted my pocket for my phone. Oh, I found the Altoids in the metal box-about the same shape-but no phone. After ripping everything apart, I sank to my knees and cried dried tears which wouldn't come. With dumb luck, the phone was in my car. With my luck, it was on the bench in the station.

I had to keep in touch with the office, confirm hotels and car rentals--to say nothing of tracking down Linda, Mary, Buz, Ras and the bunch at errant tailgates in an unknown land.

Little did I know that the same Gods who were watching over me would have "Bear Duty" come Saturday--but I'm ahead of myself.

I was on a big time Bucket List Adventure. Nothing could wreck this trip, even though I deserved to be shot. The Zephyr to Chicago and Capitol Limited to D.C. was an opportunity I couldn't afford to pass up.

Well, not exactly. With a return flight at $139, and a deluxe sleeper (one with a shower and private toilet) at just over two grand, one could definitely afford to pass it up.

Judging by the size of our sleeper, that came to about $500 per square foot, but who's counting? My grammar school pal, Johnny Drews joined me, so splitting the cost made it fairly reasonable. Plus they threw in what they called "meals."

I report. You decide.

Of course they didn't tell us that the shower and the toilet were in the same water-proof stall. This may be the age of multi-tasking, but I'm not sure this is what we had in mind.

Oh well. At least we could start out as two happy guys and arrive in D.C. as one happy couple.

I won't bore you with the details (if you have no life, go to www.jeffwarren.com/ and go to Weekly St. Helena Star Column "ALLL ABOARD!!! for the gory details of the first half of the trip)

Despite all the glories of this fabulous trip, whatever your politics; whatever your opinion of Government sponsored Health Care, ride the government subsidized Amtrak before you cast your vote. But I digress.

Met up with the Cal group around midnight, Friday in the Hotel Bar. We were only 13 hours late. Not sure they waited for me before having a drink.


Don't ask why we were that late. Suffice it to say, Accurate information on Amtrak is an oxymoron. Amtrak is a lot like China. What they tell you, and what is true don't necessarily jive. The words "customer" and "service" are never to be found in the same sentence. As Churchill said, "Civil Servants are neither."

(My favorite was when the elderly lady in front of me asked where she should sit in the dining car. The porter pointed to a place and yelled, right here. She said "Are you pointing?" He interrupted and yelled back, "Yes, I am. Are you deaf?" She replied, politely, "No I'm blind." She had the red tipped cane, but apparently was making it difficult on the union workers).

Come Saturday morning the adrenalin was flowing. We met the Stretch family for a tailgate before the game.

The Stadium was withing walking distance. The weather oppressively hot.

The Stadium was packed. Unlike at SC, our seats were actually in the Stadium-down around the 10.

We (the team) were flat. For three quarters they pushed us around on offense and defense. Receivers had difficulty getting separation. Riley was not on (though I have to be nice as he told my daughter, a senior at Cal, her father was "Kick ass" or was it "Bad ass") for taking the train. I didn't like the language, but liked the compliment.

Holes were not opened up. Their QB threw well, and we couldn't get pressure.

Seeing Sandy in the Hotel afterwards, I asked what the NCAA rule was regarding when a team can leave town before a home game. She said 48 hours and said they did everything right and the kids had been working on an Eastern "Schedule" all weak--that they had an 8pm curfew the night before.

I'm no expert. Let's face it. SC came in and slaughtered Virginia a couple of weeks ago. Clearly teams have flown east and won.

But some grad student ought to look it up and do some analysis.

It appeared our kids had no legs. Someone should ask the kids--or ask the pros--or ask anyone who has made these trips (Tennessee vs. UCLA comes to mind this year), to see how travel affects play.

I have no idea what the reality is. I didnt' travel. I do remember Hawley talking about "cement legs" on the road. Was that due to travel-jet lag?

Also, and I know this is above my pay scale, the traveling squad lifted weights Friday morning.

My kid,JJ, a walk on at Notre Dame under Willingham, said walk ons and redshirts lifted on Friday--actually it was their toughest day, but the travel squad did not. Doesn't mean they're right. Just means there are different approaches.

Is it fair to look into whether lifing on Friday is a good idea or not?

We all know about adrenalin. We know about the hypothalamus and the fight or flight response. We know about serotonin, dopamine, and epinephron.

From Wikipedia: Epinephrine is a "fight or flight" hormone, and plays a central role in the short-term stress reaction. It is released from the adrenal glands when danger threatens or in an emergency. Such triggers may be threatening, exciting, or environmental stressor conditions such as high noise levels, or bright light.

Point is, as a kid I can recall barely clearing the uprights when kicking extra points in practice. On Friday nights, the ball not only went over the uprights, it went across the street and into the house on the other side of the street.

Epinephrine is what allows old ladies to lift cars off kids--you've all read about it.

Alas, it doesn't last. It's about quick bursts. The question (and I assume they've studied this and I've got my head up my…..) is does lifting on Friday use up that stored nervous energy, a bi-product of epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, etc which begins to form some 48 hours before actual game time?

It's important that kids stay in class, but for one game a year, on the east coast, should we go back 48 hours early, instead of arriving at 4pm for a 12 o'clock game the next day?

My question was not well received.

Perhaps it has nothing to do with it. I'm surely no expert. But why not research it closely and make a decision based on those facts? If we want to be big time, shouldn't we be experts in this area?

Maybe they had just been reading the press clippings from the week before. But they are much more athletic than Maryland.

They fought back hard--Riley eventually had over 400 yards, and the receivers made some great catches. However, it was against a pre-vent defense, so that has to be taken into consideration.

My guess, is that this is a good team. One that can beat SC-certainly one that can play with them.

`Lastly, I'm a Riley guy. I think he's a gamer, I know he's a winner, and he should be the starter. But Saturday was not his day (despite his 4th quarter stats). No prob. Were I running the world, I'd have put in the next guy and give him a shot. (On the other hand, I can't even remember a cell phone, so consider the source).

I come from a time when Football was considered a daily competition--with no job secure, no matter what. Building confidence is important. But there are lots of ways to do that.

We are supposed to be preparing these kids for life after college. In the job world, it's simple: Don't make your sales quotas, and your territory goes to someone else. Don't get enough new business, they hire someone who will.

Tedford is the man. He knows what he's doing. He brought us to where we are. We shouldn't second guess. He has earned a lot of latitude. We should let him know we're backing him whomever he plays--or if he plays both.

He should know that he has our support no matter who he plays or what he decides. Dumpster Muffin may differ with this opinion. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates (a former Bear) doesn't care what the bears do as long as they go left.

This is a good team. We are going to have a fun season. No doubt we will win some games we should lose and verse visa (which is vice versa, vice versa).

Anyway, it's great to be a Bear and be back in my own bed. And my bad luck, my phone was in the car--so I have to continue working--making and returning calls.

Go bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren '70

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