Monday, October 22, 2012

STANFORD. THE UNFORGIVEABLE SIN



            

    Like the school we love, we alumni have it backwards.  We party hearty before the game when what we should be doing is hitting the John Barley Corn après le deluge.

When C.K. Chesterton said,

"There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”  Clearly he had not been in Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

               Could you believe it?   What were the chances that the guy that prepped Obama for his first debate would wind up writing the script for the Bears on Saturday?  Dull, listless—not engaged—we’d seen it just a couple of weeks earlier.

Playing the Big Game, small--is big.  Make no mistake.
                Sorry.  Performance counts, but as my wife told me on our honeymoon, “Performance is important, but if you can’t perform well, at least you have to make it interesting. “

                And interesting it wasn’t (the game that is).

                In our day kids surreptitiously popped Bennies.  Saturday it looked like the kids popped Prozac. 

                Of course, the Calendar is not without blame.  This is the first time in recorded history The Bears took on the Indians before all the grapes up here were harvested.  We flaunted the football Gods by playing  an October-jest in exchange for 30 pieces of silver.  (Can't wait for the last Thursday in November to celebrate Halloween).

                Blanch Dubois said “Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable.”  The only unforgiveable sin at Big Game is dullness.

                Especially this week when we were celebrating the 30th anniversary of the most exciting play in the history of College football.  Does no one have a sense of the theatrical?  Of the Moment?

                This is not on the kids.  No doubt they played their hearts out.  We were the ones who removed the “Big” from the Big Game.         

Of course, anyone who paid attention to the once glamorous festivities the week before, knew what was coming.

                No bonfire.  No coaches at the Guardsmen Lunch--arriving late at an annual dinner.  No combined coaches’ TV interview.  You get the picture.  Where once coaches (from both teams, BTW) used to gin up the rivalry while we reveled in the gin—now they’re pretty much disdainful of the whole process—and us in particular.

                Alumni and Alumnae who used to donate regularly in the thousands of dollars, have been rendered insignificant to TV which donates in the tens of millions of dollars.  Our contributions are now a pittance, and we’re being treated accordingly.  “Welcome to the nineties, Mr. Bahnks.”

                Still, we gave it the old College Try.  We donned our colors and turned out for the week’s festivities and early morning tailgates.   

Kapp and Moen, the Cal Band and Pom Pon Girls, joined the Men’s lunch Friday and joined in a resounding rendition of “Bear Territory”.  The adrenaline was flowing.

Andy and the Bad Boys threw the M.O.A.T (The Mother of All Tailgates), where Bloody Mary’s flowed like tax payer money to Solyndra, and Fox News brought its camera crew to film the brats and dogs (Fare and Blintzes) and beer and wine at the usual hang out. 

                Sporting my “Bear Hug” tie and Blue Blazer, I soon realized that I was probably the only one in the Stadium so attired (a great metaphor for one completely out of touch).  

Once men wore school ties to Big Game—in honor of its importance.   I had assumed that at least some Indian Alumni would “prep up” in their red ties and red blazers, but I guess the boys at Avis refused to lend them their coats.
                As the game unraveled I felt bad for the kids—especially the Seniors.  Big Game (being the last game of the year) was a game where once coaches got all their Seniors in for at least one play.  (Cal has 19 Seniors, 11 non-starters, six of them did not get into the game). That’s another tradition that wilted like autumn leaves with an October game.

                Still, it didn’t start out like a yawner.

                Cal struck first, forcing a fumble.  We looked hyped up and ready to play. 
 
                Sofeli carried for no gain, but the Indians were called for a personal foul and we picked up 15 down to their 38 (in field goal range—the football gods were on our side).

                Then they turned on us.  A five yard loss.  A four yard pass to Allen, and then a sack and fumble for a 7 yard lost.  We punted,  and the Indians marched down but got sloppy as well and missed a field goal.
                We responded with two incompletes and on 3rd and ten a draw for a rousing pick up of three yards (Three yards was to be our total rushing yardage for the entire game!)

                No doubt,  by this time the National TV audience must have been wondering if they were watching the Big Lame rather than a Big Game.

                I’m old school.  I could see us pounding out a physical running game which churned up yardage and consumed the clock.  But if one doesn’t have the talent (or won’t play the talent we have—that’s code for why does Brendan Bigelow get only two touches, and the “Best tight end int the game” gets only one ball thrown to him?)—then it’s incumbent upon the powers that be to provide some pizzazz.  

                Where were the plays especially designed for this game and this game alone?  No reverses, no fake kicks, no onside kicks, no flea flickers, no blocked punts, no double passes, no end arounds—nada, zilch, niente, nothing!  No imagination—just routine futility.

                This is College football!  Who didn’t get the memo?

                (Just to stick it in their eye, we could have put a man in motion, then done a quick pitch to one back around end, who then pitched it to the other (mimicking (safely) the play).  Two safe laterals.  The Stadium would have been up for grabs—and the coaches would have been lauded by all.  Something silly like that could have done so much for so many.

                You know, we do have an awful lot of good players.  (The D shut the Indians down in the second half).   They just don’t seem to get utilized.

Young Jackson(who had three interceptions and was defensive player of the week) when he filled in for Marc Antoney (Et tu Brute),  barely played.  Bigelow was once again under utilized.  I like Zach Maynard (and think were he used differently he could be more successful), but after he missed a few (even when rolling left) shouldn’t someone else have had a shot—just to see if he could inject some fire?

They talk about the best tight end in the country (Rodgers), and one ball gets thrown to him?

Stanford State’s D line dominated our offensive line—and had 5 sacks.   

Someone sent me these numbers: 

First Big Game in the new Memorial, and not even one TD scored by Cal. The last time Cal didn't have aTD in a Big Game was in 1998, then 1977!  
 1 of 14 first down conversions,
23 vs. 37 minutes time of possession,
3 turnovers,
217 total yards,
and get this - 3 yards rushing on 28 attempts, for a whopping 3.8 inches (.1
yard) per carry!  

Not our best performance and our worst on the boring scale.  As we look to the future we have to remember that at Cal it’s never just about the Game—it’s how the game is played—on the field and in the classroom.

(At least the streaker knows he wasn't wearing any clothes).

If we have to lose, we have to lose with dignity.  We must always (especially Big Game) play with a spirit of joy and reckless abandon. We have to put kids in a position not only to succeed, but where The Old College Try is honored and encouraged—where merit is rewarded.

Sure football is blocking and tackling.  It’s a collision sport, and the Indians out hit us, big time.   But we of all schools should honor “The Play”—and the joy it brought to so many. 

                If Big Game is played just like any other game, then it ain’t “Big”—it’s just another game—like playing the Presbyterian Blue Hose.  

                Remember Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, “I am big.  It’s the Pictures that got small.”

                It's called the Big Game for a reason.  It was played “small”—Big people don't play Small in Big Games. 

Remember:  It's not the won loss records which will determine the future of Cal Football.  It's how we approach the game.

I've often said, Tedford is a good man.  He's a good father and a good family man.  He's a good football man.  He knows the game.  He has kept us scandal free.

I can't imagine a more difficult place to coach.  We want excellence on the field, but hamstring the coaches by demanding that they follow the rules, and exceed standards in other programs.  

To paraphrase the yell, "We Aren't SC!"

We are Cal.  And we are different.  One doesn't "get that" at his own peril.

"Winning is not everything and it is far better to play the game squarely and lose than to win at the sacrifice of an ideal."   Andy Smith



Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70





               
               
               
               
               
               
               

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