Wednesday, December 19, 2012

LIFE IN SECTION CC

The bad boy children of parents in section CC



                               Tomorrow we go down for a meet and greet with the new Football Coach Sonny Dykes.  It is for football alumni (even green weenies like moi).  The stadium is new--the coach is new--we are all energized and filled with hope.  It got me to thinking about what it was once like.  I wrote this in 1998  about Section CC--a place in time which will never be visited again.  It may help explain to the new coaching stuff, and new administrators some of the weirdness which goes into being a Cal Alumnus.   If not, it is still worth remembering. I hope you agree. Go Bears,


     We were new comers to Section CC. Our season tickets were on the
50 yard line, but our fiends asked us to join them in CC--a deserted section of Cal’s Memorial stadium, located high atop the last row in the North West corner of the endzone.  It was the fall of 1984 and our first baby was not yet a year old.

     Now I don’t know who founded Section CC.--but my guess is it was Janor and her late husband, Babba Tuck.  They had eight kids and, though they too, had had tickets on the 50, they  soon discovered (which we all learned) that you don’t want to sit shoulder to shoulder and knees to back when taking infants and young kids to Cal Football games.

(Ce Ce Flynn says her parents named her after section CC  Marty Cullom claimed she and some other coach’s wives started sitting in CC back in the 60's to avoid hearing the criticisms of their husbands over on the 50 yard line). 
 
     CC is a world of it’s own.  By tradition the Grand parents (and now great grandparents) sit up in the highest row (row 75)  with their backs supported by the back wall of the stadium. There is method to their madness that goes beyond health benefits. The wall is only about four feet high, so one can stand on that back row and look out across the bay to the Golden Gate and take one of the world’s finest views.  Anyone who has viewed Cal football over the past 30 years knows that often a view of the seagulls flying in from the Golden Gate is eminently more exciting than the holding penalties being called down on the field.

     The stadium benches are uncomfortable, unpainted, full of splinters, narrow and rock hard.  Just what any  long suffering Cal fan expects and deserves.  

    Under the benches is the world’s longest slide--designed that garbage, bottles, cans, bag lunches et all, can be dropped from one’s hand,  and then slide  some fifty rows down where a wire screen catches the debris and holds it for the garbage man’s pick up after the game.

          Unfortunately, binoculars, sunglasses, footballs and other non-disposable items can also be accidentally dropped and they they too get to slide the 50 rows.  Of course, that is why God invented 10 year olds.   They can be sent scampering down the cement stairs to retreive the valuables caught amongst the garbage in the wire netting.

    This poses a small problem with a one year old.  Losing one down the "slide" with the rest of the garbage would not be a good move.  We soon learned the proper technique of placing a sleeping infant in a blanket, and sitting on the blanket in such a manner that the blanket “had walls” which prevent the baby from falling out and sliding 50 rows down into the beer cans.  They have plenty of time to do that when they get older.

     Over the next five years, each of our babies would sleep soundly, awakened  occasionally by the sound of the cannon which exploded only when Cal scored a touch down.  Need I add the children got a lot of uninterrupted sleep.

    Either by design or chance Section CC took on a personality of it’s own.  Were one to walk from the bottom to the top, he would have encountered ex-football coach Truck Cullom and his posse analyzing the line play.  A few rows up and over, Nutzie, Brownie, Mac, Rookie (footballers from the Levy era) would be commenting that Morton was still playing pro ball and how close each of them had come. .  

     Legendary Boalt Hall professor Adrian Kragen and his brood were not far away (ten years ago I told my 98 year old grandmother that I still saw her friend Professor Kragen at the games.  She said “That’s easy for him--he’s only in his 80’s").

     And up top, the kids still run up and down, making paper airplanes while the adults kibbitz about what plays should have been called and which tackles should have been made.

     As Bear fans, we are accustomed to having our hearts broken.   For us, next year never comes--yet we wait, patiently.  


Over the past 35 years, all aspects of life have touched CC.  Children have been born; couples have been divorced; spouses have lost their mates; kids have lost their parents; and even more tragic, parents have lost kids; fortunes have been made; and folks have lost jobs.

In between, Cal has won a couple of games and lost more than we care to count.  As Bear fans, we are accustomed to having our hearts broken.  For us, next year never comes—yet we wait, patiently.

We are a metaphor, like the Fiddler on the Roof—long suffering, in a battle against the gods we cannot hope to win—yet we endure.  We never give up hope.

  No doubt, each of us can run the program (to say nothing of the world) better than those in charge—could play better than those playing—could officiate better than those officiating.

And when all is said an done, we count ourselves lucky if we go 6 and 5.  It’s like the world we live in.  No matter today’s outcome—we always have the kids—each other--and fortunately, next year. 
      
     
   

Thursday, November 29, 2012

WHAT DID A GOOD MAN IN?



Coach Tedford’s story is indeed Shakespearean.   He brought the Cal faithful to heights unheard of for over half a century, and then the rabble rose up and turned him out. 

                Do we at Cal eat our own?  Or was this tragedy avoidable?  

No one cares what this Old Blue thinks, but when we look back at this twenty years from now (I mean when you do, I’ll be dead), I’m guessing that the root cause of this tragedy can be found, not at the Head Coaching level but originated at the highest levels of the University—in the Chancellor’s office.   But more on that later.

To understand any human tragedy, when in doubt, turn to Ecclesiastes.  (No, not “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong; but chance and circumstance happeneth  to them all.” )

 Though that classic line clearly applies here, I would point you to the ironic, “He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it;”

It is so apropos—and so tragic.

Coach Tedford built the Stadium—dug it if you will--(ok, Barkley Simpson and other generous Bears really built it)--and it brought him down—not necessarily in the way you think.

Were we in the old stadium and drawing 29,000 fans, would Coach Tedford have lost his job?  Maybe—the academic angle was huge—probably insurmountable.

But, if he lost his job, he wouldn’t have lost it because there were too few splinters in the backsides of fans in the bleachers.

Actually, what did him in (ultimately) was demon rum.

You see, someone assumed that since certain Alumni and Alumnae were contributing five and six figure amounts, they deserved a small reward—like protection from the capricious outdoor elements plus free food and worse, but best—free booze.

I experienced this myself for the first time during the ASU fiasco—as a guest—I refuse to give up my tics high atop the stadium in DD.

It was during that game that I realized cooking Tedford’s goose would occur in a marinade of Grey Goose.  The last thing a head coach needs is a bunch of alumni grousing over the team’s performance, in a warm, cozy, gathering place, where a lot of booze is being consumed.

If you think a gaggle of wives have opinions about their husbands, try a bevy besotted alumni (read nattering nabobs of negatism) talking about a head coach.

Being Cal Alumni, we tend to have no un-expressed opinions.  Fortified with John Barley Corn, we  suddenly have the courage to, not only express those opinions over and over—but do it rather loudly.  Cue the Mo!

(Few people realize that the sacred section CC was first populated by Marty Cullom and some other coaches’ wives back in the early 60’s because they couldn’t stand hearing fans criticize their husbands from their seats on GG).  

Fans criticize coaches.  It’s what we do—everywhere.  Cal is not unique in this regard.

And being Cal Grads, though Eccesiastes said “There is nothing new under the sun” being wise, he also must have said, “Cal Grads think they know everything under the sun.”

Just as there is a time for every season, a time to live and a time to die, a time to reap and a time to sow—as football fans we (and only we) know there is a time to run, and a time to pass, a time to kick away and a time to fake it, a time to go for one and a time to go for two.

                For the life of us we can’t understand why the head coach doesn’t know what we know and see what we see.   We could do his job with our eyes closed and half our brain tied behind our back—which is how we sound most of the time.

            But it was never about wins and losses.  It was about what it means to don the Blue and Gold.  I got an e-mail last week from “The Beaser”, John Beasley former tight end for Cal who played in the Super Bowl for the Vikings.

            I wear my Blue & Gold proudly back here, as well as my Vikings' 1969 NFL Championship ring.  But, my most prized possession is my CAL diploma! 

                People not connected with Cal (Read current the coaching staff, most administrators and the Chancellor) don’t get that.

                They pay lip service to it, but they don’t get it.

                Cal is different.  We don’t always have to win, but we have to be DIFFERENT from other schools.  We have to be able to take pride in our kids.

(Maybe that’s just our excuse for certain losses, but it’s what keeps us going).

                I mean do kids today have any thought (or are they taught the significance of playing on the field where Andy Smith’s ashes are scattered?  Would it matter?  Highly unlikely—but highly significant).

                I get e-mails from Jim Burress (we are not “friends”—just Bears) who captained the Bears (and from ’59 to ‘61 never won more than two games in a season).  He had the honor of greeting President Kennedy, when he told 83,000 in Memorial Stadium that there “was more brain power currently at Cal, than in the history of the world with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone at the White House.”

                Not sure the Crimson Tide's captain has a recollection like that.  But it’s one of those little things that sets us apart.

                I was a kid and witnessed all those losses in the mid 50’s and 60’s but LOVED the Bears and what they stood for.  There was always next year!

                Sure, THE PLAY stands head and shoulders above all the rest, but ours is a culture of amazing memories, (Bradley beating Penn State on a pass from Hunt with .01 seconds before the snap—resulting in the firing of Rip Engle and the hiring of a kid, Joe Paterno;  Sweeny beating Stanford State on the last play of the last game of the last season;  Marc Hicks single handedly decimating SC;  Coming from Behind to beat Oregon 42-43 in ’93—the list goes on and on.

                In between those games have been some horrendous losses, but it was never about W’s.  It was about how Cal played football.

                Sure, it varies from year to year, but my memory is that at least we were “tough.”  Willsey used to say we could beat anyone—if we played in a telephone booth.  In ’67 (or was it ’68) I was told not one team beat us the following Saturday, no matter the outcome against us.  They were just too physically beat up to play well (have never made the effort to see whether that’s true or not, but he principal remains the same).  

                Like Pete Newell’s NCAA champs we were never the best—(traditionally) we just worked harder and were tough—plus like the Beaser we were proud of that diploma, and like Burress, we were in an environment where we might shake President Kennedy’s hand.  WE WERE DIFFERENT.

                And that difference, eased the pain of losing.

                From 1959 to 1969 I watched from the stands (or sat on the bench) while Cal won 38 and lost 70.  The stadium was not full—usually around 30,000 (except for Big Game, the southern Schools and an Ohio State or Notre Dame).  It was glorious.  We were proud to be Bears and to root for Bears.  Next year it would be better.

                And we were graduating young adults.

                Give Tedford credit.  He spoiled us.  He started out great.  He showed we could compete at the highest levels.  We came to expect that.

                And when we didn’t--it hurt.  My argument is, that we could have lived with the defeats, had we been “exceptional”—exceptionally tough—resilient—over achievers—gutsy guys who pulled of unexpected upsets—great sportsman—kids who graduated, or at least valued their education--the list goes on.

                Now Tedford is not to blame for this (see opening paragraph).  I blame the Chancellor and Sandy Barbour.  They sent a terrible message when they demoted the finest program on campus, Rugby, and kept (for example) soccer.  They sent a message to the campus community that the pursuit of excellence (as exemplified by the Rugby Program), would not only NOT be rewarded, but would be penalized.   It change the entire tenor of the campus. What counted was political correctness and money.  It was a terrible message to send to the campus community.  And Tedford never should have bought into it.

                (Back when we  had a good relationship I asked Sandy why Rugby was demoted and not soccer—same number of kids, roughly same budge.  “The Directors Cup,”  she replied.

                I can still see Ronald Regan saying on his death bed, "Rock, sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Directors Cup.”

                How stupid was I.

                So Tedford followed the values of the Chancellor and AD—what matters is money (out of state students at the expense of in state kids, professors like Barsky getting paid tax payer money  to teach classes like “how to photograph a student demonstration” , or allowing classes like my daughter took where the final was making a sock doll for an Afghan Orphanage, advocating for the t0 9% of every state high school being admitted--regardless of academic qualifications--the list is endless).

                He was trained by them that excellence doesn’t matter—revenue does. 

                Once the eyes have been removed from the prize (the relentless pursuit of all around excellence), wierdness sets in and the slippery slope weaves its magic.
(So if the Chancellor and Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott ask for a sacrificial lamb, La ‘Affare Lupois occurs.  Can you imagine a Ray Willsey, George Wofman, Pete Newell,  Joe Kapp, or Bruce Snider not accepting responsibility and blaming it on a 27 year old assistant coach?)

Remmber Papa Warren’s favorite poem:
                You don’t go down with a short hard fall, you just short of shuffle along,
                ‘till you lighten your load with the moral code and you can’t tell right from wrong.

And, sorry, that is just Un-Cal to some of us.  We were raised on the pursuit of excellence—even if our teams lost—and they mostly did.

                That mentality permeated the campus and affected the football program.  How I would have loved to have seen Tedford (and Montgomery) step up and say, “Hey, we’re all Bears here.  We’ll cut 5% off our programs so you don’t have to decimate winning programs where kids graduate (like Rugby)."

                But that was/is not part of the culture anymore.  I doubt Brutus Hamilton, Nibs Price, or Pappy Waldorf would have allowed baseball to be axed.

                But I’m old—a Luddite. I see the world differently than the out-of-staters-non-Cal-people who are running things today.  

                It’s a new world.  And for some of us, that is a tragedy, akin to what  happened to a fine man like Jeff Tedford.  From white helmets to the essence of what it means to buckle up for Cal, the program lost its way—and that wasn’t necessarily the coach's fault.  It was ours.

                 We could have created an atmosphere where he would have succeeded, and due to leadership (or lack there of) from on high, we  hurt a good man—who ended up hurting a storied program.

It's enough to drive one to drink.

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren '70

P.S.  I don't print gossip, but my deep throat who told me about Lupois 10 days before it was public says Cal's decided.  I have  no idea whether it is true, so I won't say anything, but if he's right, I will let you know that he knew well ahead of the offical announcement.  If he's wrong, I'll blame George Bush.
               
               
               
               
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

NO EXCUSE FOR EXCUSES



               
Churchill’s quote about Russia, “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”  fits Cal to a Tee.

Who can figure us out?

On the plus side, (to site just a couple of examples) Solly Fulp and Justin Parnarese stepped up big time and helped out in ways only one’s lifetime next door neighbor would.  The Athletic Department is currently bending over backwards for Cal fans.  Though the Stadium is still working out kinks, (and parking is a nightmare for  some) the hosts and hostesses that greet you are unfailingly polite and add a terrific feel good feeling, to a disappointing season.

Then there are the minuses—and that creates the enigma.

Once again, Shakespeare nailed it:  

 And oftentimes excusing of a fault doth make the fault the worse by the excuse”.

How humiliating was it that Friday night a couple of two-bit TV announcers felt compelled to make excuses for the Bears on national TV:

 They’ve had an awful lot of injuries this year.”

Last year they had no home field to play on—had to play home games at AT&T Park” 

I HATE being patronized by empty suits.

At least now we know whose fault it is we’ve been losing.  It’s George Bush’s fault!

I’m from the Napa Valley.  I love winers.  But despise whiners—and excuse makers even more. 

Of course I think the Wall St. Journal over did it with their headline last week:

SANDY CUTS WIDE SWATH OF DAMAGE.

That was piling on.

    Injuries?  We’re Cal.  We are no stranger to injuries.  How about when we lost the greatest athlete to come to Cal since Craig Morton, Rick Bennett, to a car accident on a drive up to the Lair of the Bear?  Or  how about perhaps the greatest athlete ever to have attended the University (I’m not forgetting Jensen, Chapman, Munci et al)—Stan Dzura—who was also injured in a car wreck down under during a rugby tour?  The list is endless—from Johnny Ozscweski to Jahvid Best.

I don’t remember hearing whining about all those injuries.

                Injuries haven’t kept a deserving young man, Brenden Bigelow on the bench despite record shattering offensive stats.

                Lack of facilities doesn’t cause special team breakdowns (Lack  of attention to detail causes that).

                Injuries did not cause Cal to lead the nation in penalties.

                Injuries did not cause Cal to play small in The Big Game.

                Injuries did not cause us to shed our dignity and pummel an over matched Presbyterian College.

                Injuries did not cause Cal to be last in the Pac 12 in graduation rates, or be 112 out of 122 schools in another academic metric.  
           
Injuries did not cause Cal to opt for a field goal when tied with Ohio State in the fourth Quarter.  

Injuries did not cause Cal to opt for a field goal when on the one against Southern Utah.

(Quick Quiz:  Who said the following regarding short yardage and field goals?

"When you get inside the 1-yard line, it is too close to take a field goal.”

“I think for the offensive mindset, it’s better to go for the touchdown. I know that my offensive players would rather try to put it in."

You’re right.  That was a younger Jeff Tedford.  You kin look-it-up—I did). 

 BTW a tall good lookin’ guy wrote back then: 

I’m no expert, but Tedford appears to be an unbelievable leader.  The kids believe in themselves and let it all hang out.  That’s all one can ask.”

Excuses? 

 Alexander Pope put it well:  

“An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie, guarded.” 

                Cal wants us—Alumni who love our school--Loyal Californians, all—to live by excuses, to buy into excuses, to believe the excuses—and worse—to pass them along to others. 

 Most of us weren’t raised that way, and I dare say we certainly weren’t educated that way at Cal.

                This is not about a coach’s wins and losses.  This is not about criticizing 20 year olds. 

                This is about institutional failure--a failure of character.

                 When is someone going to stop apologizing for not producing a program we can all be proud of?  Do we have to get Eric Siegel to re-write Love Story so we can all puke in unison as Ali McGraw says, “Football means never having to say you’re sorry?”

                Name your excuse de jure:

                “Desean Jackson’s touchdown was called back against Arizona because it was the first year of instant replay.”

                “Mac Brown cried on TV—costing us a trip to the Rose Bowl.”

                “We have terrible facilities—we can’t recruit.” (Unlike that up to date L.A. Coliseum situated on a campus smack dab  in the heart of scenic Watts).

                “Tree sitters  named Dumpster Muffin, Oak and Burlap hurt recruiting (Could have solved that with one well placed chain saw).

                “Cal is academically too difficult” (Apparently not.  Now that we are last in the Pac 12 in graduation rates, our new motto appears to be, “Come to Cal:  Where you won’t have to hit on defense 0R hit the books.”)

                “He (insert outstanding athlete’s name here--there’ve been half a dozen) doesn’t grasp the offense.” (Maybe it could have been simplified for Longshore, Lynch, Best, and now Bigelow).

                “It’s the legislature.  They won’t fund us properly.” (Actually, it’s the citizens of the state telling their legislators NOT to fund us because they are sick of us courting out of state and foreign students, while teaching sub-par classes where kids make sock dolls for finals—and NOT putting the citizens of the state first and foremost).  Or maybe they’re just tired of the excuses put forth.

                The Excuse extraordinaire? 

                       La Affaire Lupoi:  “It was Tosh’s fault we lost five recruits.”  Really?

                                “We didn’t want to compromise the integrity of our salary structure” (rationale for why Lupoi was only offered a 10% raise out of the box, instead to the final figure rumored to have been  near $300,000).  

                After "shouldda been a bear-Huskie Freshman Shaq Thompson" intercepted that Maynard pass (he also starred in the Huskies upset of the Indians) one has to wonder about the efficacy of the “integrity of the salary structure” concept.   If current coaches lose their jobs due to a new regime, might they have thought differently of the benefits of retaining Tosh—at whatever price?       
           
                And the worst of all:  It was Tosh’s fault we faked injuries to try to stop Oregon’s powerful offense. 

                Throwing young men like Tosh under the bus doomed Cal’s program.  OK to serve up a sacrificial lamb to Pac 12 Commish Larry Scott and the Chancellor for appearances sake, but both the AD and Head Coach should have stepped up and accepted responsibility—it occurred under their watch--and not use the EXCUSE that it was some assistant which perpetrated the fraud.       
            
                (Remember Bear Bryant,  “When anything good happens they (the players) did it.  When anything bad happens, we (the coaches) did it.”

                Not at Cal.  It’s always the kids’ fault for “not executing properly.”

                And the excuses for why we are last in the Pac 12 in graduation rates—48% graduation success rate and a 47% Federal Graduation Success Rate. 

                Listen to Coach Tedford on graduation rates:  

This score is clearly unacceptable.  While there is little a college coach can do to prevent players from entering the draft for professional leagues, we have an obligation and responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure our student-athletes succeed academically.  We have many student-athletes who want to pursue NFL dreams, but it is essential that we emphasize the importance of them graduating in a timely fashion.”

                Did you read that and think the excuse is that we can’t do anything about kids going pro and it’s hurting our graduation rates?

                 Sandy also makes reference to kids going to the pros in her statement as well.

At the same time, the report shows that the GSR for Cal football fell to 48 percent, down from 54 percent the previous year due, in large part, to the fact that only seven of 19 incoming freshmen in 2005 graduated within six years. ….. Five student-athletes from that same class elected to enter the NFL draft before completing their degree requirements.”

Once again, are they saying kids going pro are hurting our rates?

IF THAT IS WHAT THEY (OR THEIR LAWYERS) ARE LEADING YOU TO BELIEVE, IT IS CATEGORICALLY UNTRUE!  

Now, nothing they said is false—it’s just lawyerly misleading:    If you believe that Bill Clinton “Did not have sexual relations with that woman,” both the Coach’s and the AD’s excuses are permissible.  

As you will read below, if the players who left for the pros were making academic progress, they would NOT have hurt our totals—in fact they would have helped.

The words  are from the NCAA Website, and you can call and talk to Maria DeJulio, NCAA Research Contractor, at 913-397-7668 yourself, since I’m sure you won’t take my word for it.

In addition, the GSR will subtract students from the entering cohort who are considered allowable exclusions (i.e., those who either die or become permanently disabled, those who leave the school to join the armed forces, foreign services or attend a church mission), as well as those who would have been academically eligible to compete had they returned to the institution.

Apparently, our kids who went to the pros weren't "ALLOWABLE EXCLUSIONS".

So not only are we getting excuses, we are getting half truths.  The kids who left were clearly not on a path to graduate, or they wouldn't have counted against us. If they were on the path to graduate, they would have helped our numbers.  The truth is being obfuscated and now distorted.   Not a neat thing to do at an institution of higher learning.

But the grade thing is no joke.  A tall good lookin’ guy has been writing about it for years and he’s been heavily criticized for making Cal look bad by speaking about sock doll classes and dozens of other Micks which are available to athletes and all students in general.

This all starts at the top—way above Coach Tedford.   That was the entire point of the campaign to help Rugby to Save Cal—not the other way around.  Cal (the entire University) is on a downward slide due to questionable decisions at the top.

Remember my Grandfather’s favorite poem, The Lure of the Tropics, by Jeremy Hay:

“You don't go down with a hard, short fall; you just sort of shuffle along,
And lighten your load of the moral code, till you can't tell the right from the wrong.” 
     
Where would we be today had we fessed up that there is something wrong with US.   The question becomes,  could we now be where WE WOULD HAVE BEEN IF we had spent more time analyzing our weaknesses, and less time building alibis to cover them?

It’s happening before our eyes and it’s no one’s fault but ours.  What’s the excuse?  We foster a climate of excuse making, because we buy into it.  It takes two to make an excuse—one to speak it, and one to accept it.

We permit it.  We condone it.  We don’t disavow it.  That’s the enigma.  We know better.

We need to demand more.  Since when did we decide to settle for mediocrity in any corner of the Greatest University in the World?

                Or As Steve Martin was fond of saying, “Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me!”