Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Good Time on the Way to A Good Time

So many tailgates, so little time. Actually, the line is Bobby Tuck's. So apropos. He said it at the UCLA game a couple weeks back.

What a day that was. The glorious weather defined it to a tee. Before the game, The brotherhood gathered (no, they can only be identified on pain of death, or having a blind date with a girl from Stanford) passed around the correct inside info. It would be Riley.

What a ways we've come. For many of us, Cal vs. UCLA means having to face Mecca in hopes of an upset. That Saturday it was reversed. We were the 17 point favorites and deserving of the honor.

How Tedford has changed things.

The 59 Rose Bowl team was honored for the 50th anniversary of that '58 season. As a 10 year old, I saw every home game that year and watched the Rose Bowl, live, on black and white TV. After Hart and Patton Stopped Skip Face's two point conversion attempt in the Big Game to put us in the Rose Bowl, Joe Kapp signed my program and gave me his Chin Strap. At Ten, that was about as good as it got. (After Saturday that may be the best it's been in 50 years).

Today, the fumble at the goal line in Pasadena would have been reversed as Hart clearly crossed the plain, but Iowa, behind Randy Duncan probably would have won anyway. Funny how Cal Fans fixate on "What-could-have-beens.

What a fun team that was. The late Ron Wheatcroft was my hero. I would wear #81 for the rest of my life, until I arrived at Cal some 8 years later. Freshman coach Truck Cullom said "No exceptions." Numbers were handed out by positions (alphabetically). Being a "W", I was saddled with #89 that Freshman season, and being a Green Weeney (Sout team red-shirt), #47 the following year. Had I only had #81 (Karma) I would have won the Heisman for sure. I tried to tell them.

Last week, it was a monsoon and the opportunistic Bear defense flexed its muscle and led us to a fine win in weather which many feared would give the Ducks an advantage.

Tried to avoid the rain by standing under the trees, until I realized there weren't any.

Now we were back in the top 25 and playing for a Rose Bowl spot in November. Little did we know as we prepared for the Road Trip to SC that the "What-could-have-beens" would raise their ugly heads again. But I'm ahead of myself.
We were 22 point underdogs to SC. How did that happen?

Rooting for the Bears against SC was like pulling for MCain against Obama. In order to win, each and every battle ground state was going to have to go our way.

Despite our thoughts, the grown ups in Vegas thought the odds were long. Troubling.

Our den mother, Linda, had arranged for a group of us to stay at the Fairmontin Newport. A bus would drive us to SC.

We met with other Bear fans for drinks at The Beach Comber, an isolated bar on the beach in Chrystal Bay State Park. We were ordered not to miss the 4:30 sunset. Not wanting to arouse Linda's ire by being late, Stoney and Carlisle managed to get there by 1:30. Whew. What to do for three hours until the sun sets? Hmmmmmmmmmm.

We caught up with them and other fans around 4. We hashed and rehashed and hashed again all the possibilities--who would play, whether we should pass or run--what had to happen for us to get to the Rose Bowl, and lastly, why in the premiere soccer State in the Union, and belonging to a University dedicated to attracting "under-represented minorities", we can't recruit a Latino (or foreign born) soccer player who can kick off into the end zone.

It's hard for those of us raised in Northern California to believe that real people actually live, swim, run and dine on a beach as a part of their everyday lives. To us it's Fantasy Land.

Once the sun set ,dinner was ordered and we once again repeated everything we'd said over margaritas before dinner.

Eight am Saturday morning found us jogging (ok waddling) from the Newport Pier to the Balboa Pier. The air was fresh, the setting un-real. During the run we talked a little Cal football.

Now it was time for Brunch at Mutt Lynch's and a (Larry Blake's Ratskeller sized) schooner of beer. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen after 10 o'clock.

Flat screened TV's on every wall played the nation's games. The omelets were outstanding, and the waitresses dressed as though Hooters was for sissies. "Having a good time on the way to a good time," opined Stoney. I'm not sure what the Jesuits concept of Heaven is, but this was pretty close.

The excitement building up to kick off was electric.

Twenty-four of us piled into a van (once it would have been a Volkswagon--now we are old and so tres chic, that we get individual seats) and headed to a Macdonald's just outside the stadium--not for the happy meal-but to park.

Before arriving at our designated tailgate, we walked around and noted that every SUV had a flat screen TV in the back. In fact the only thing "flat" in L.A. appeared to be the screened TV's.

Cal folk in L.A. Once again, the heirs of Eldridge Cleaver meet the heirs of Elder Cleavage.

The Game? First, who saw it in the seats SC gives us? Not only are they deep behind the endzone, they are off in the corner facing east, so one has to turn at an angle just to watch the game, where the nearest part of the endzone is 60 yards away. It is so bush league.

One would think the Chancellor's could get together and solve that one. It's way too disrespectful (The year with Rogers on the 9 yard line with 1:32 to go, we were all down there in that end zone where visiting teams usually sit). Perhaps they thought that was way to fair.

(We cheated and traded a couple Franklins to sit on the 50). We hadn't come all this way to only estimate what was going on between the lines.

Our D played its heart out. Probably, the better team won. That being said, their first touch was a drop in the endzone. Are we whiners or do a disproportionate amount of calls go against us? Yes, they were flagged more, but the crucial ones?

Here's a $50 tip for free. When a play is anywhere close in the endzone for a Touch (a foot in bounds, crossing the plain, juggled ball etc.) and the coach doesn't want to waste a time out on a challenge, designate someone (right defensive end, for example) to jump off sides as they line up for the hurried up PAT. The penalty is only half the distance, and they're gonna kick it anyway. That would give a coach (and the boys upstairs) time to look at replays which might make a challenge wise. Of course, one wouldn't do that late in the game where a two point conversion would make a difference.

Secondly, the lineman downfield on our TD pass. Of course, we couldn't see it from the stands, but on my TIVO, the stadium announcers did a good job. NOT ONE interior lineman was beyond the line of scrimmage. The best the refs could come up with was to say that Ross, the inside receiver, was on the line of scrimmage (making him ineligible), however, the ball is on the 27 and he has his foot behind the 28-Boetang (the outside guy) is on the 27. BOGUS, BUSH LEAGUE CALL.

10 to 10 is an entirely different ball game-but we always think that.

We were going with Alex Mack as our only first string O lineman. Their defensive speed was just too much for us. The O line, usually so dominant just couldn't open any holes, and we couldn't get to the outside. Maualuga can play.

(Speaking of Mack, my daughter says we should go to this link and vote once a day to help him win a senior class football award).

Secondly, their DB's make statements when they hit. Mays is all world. All too often, our DB's dive for the runner's legs and (no sense naming names) some guys missed some big time tackles. Maybe we're just not big enough to be that physical. But they took us to school in that area.

Jahvid Best appears to be hampered somewhat. That explosive burst as he pulls away from guys (even on short gains) doesn't quite seem to be there-at least when viewed from the stands.

At game's end SC had the ball deep in our territory (as we had rightly eschewed a punt and gone for it on 4th down). Pete Carrol didn't try to pass for a score-but he didn't take a knee either.

It was a grey area, but for those of us who were in the stands in New York when Joe Pisarchcek, handed off with just seconds left, and the Eagles scooped up the fumble for a winning score, one has to wonder why he was running it rather than playing it safe. BCS, anyone?

Anyway, it was a quiet ride back to Newport Beach where we hit the hotel bar and saw the horrid replay's we hadn't seen in the stands. We hashed and rehashed and hashed again all the possibilities.

Then we hit the sack and reconnoitered the following morning for 8am Mass (ok, for brunch at Mutt Lynch's) down at the beach. Somehow the music didn't seem as good. The women didn't look as pretty. And the food wasn't like the morning before when "we were having a good time on the way to a good time."

We hashed and rehashed and hashed again all the possibilities. Then drove to the airport to come home and watch the replays and hash and rehash all the possibilities.

The only thing good about all those margin calls and the economic meltdown is that it leaves time for important stuff-like hashing, rehashing and hashing all over again what might have been. If you have a spare one, please fed ex it to me. I need to get a life

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren '70

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