Tuesday, September 04, 2012

NEVADA 31 CAL 24. IT'S WHY WE DRINK



    “This is our house!”  

                That’s how we all felt.  Proud to be Bears.  Confident.   Chins up—stomachs in.  Our hearts burst with pride as we walked up the broad steps gazing up at the glass and steel press box/luxury suites which seemed to float above the western rim like a space station which had just docked for refueling.

We were in the Bigs now—no longer the poor cousins of the PCC—er Pac 12.

Cindy and I sit high atop Section D.  Though we have ESP tics, rather than shivering in the ESP section between the 40’s,  we can bask in the sun (talk D with Mosher and O with Volker) and in between gaze across the bay, take in the Golden Gate , the Campanile, and then look down upon the broad, graceful, alabaster promenade below.

Not only that, when standing up against the wall at the top of the stairs, I can ogle the gals in their Blue and gold (guess they didn’t get the memo about the white bonnets) as they search for their seats.

 As amply endowed alumnae  ascended the stairs,  I remembered that in the 60’s it was cool to hang out with Eldrige Cleaver.  Saturday it was cooler to see elder cleavage hanging out,

(As Cal fans we need something to cheer for).

There can’t be a better football view in the country than the last row of section D.

On the field, the Nevada Wolfpack must have had 200 guys warming up.  They had so many players that they had two sets of uniforms and two sets of helmets—one in white unis with dark helmets and one in white  pants, dark  shirts and white helmets.  

Then the unthinkable occurred.  A program with over 100 years of Blue and Gold tradition had taken the field with white helmets, royal blue shirts and white pants.  The Bigs?  This was Bush  (not that one).

 It was the first of a thousand pin pricks which would puncture our balloon.

It was as though one had finally landed a date with a decked out  Sweetheart of Sigma Chi and then discovered, at the most inopportune time,  that she actually was a Sigma Chi.

After spending $321,000,000 preserving the traditional Romanesque façade, some faceless bureaucrat sucker punched us, tossed out tradition and dressed up our kids to look like that Jack-in –the-Box clown in the TV commercials.  All that was missing was the crown and the painted smile.
However, we can’t blame the coaches, the Chancellor or the athletic department.   It’s time we admitted it’s not their fault.  It’s George Bush’s fault.

And what the Hey!  Nevada hadn’t beaten us at home since 1903 so at least the odds were that we’d  christen the season with a big W, so why let little things like a piddling $50,000 expenditure (100 Helmets cost $300 to $500 apiece—I’m guessing we didn’t scrimp),  ruin an already cloudy day?  And thanks to Larry Scott’s Pac 12 network contract, it’s not like the athletic department needs to be prudent with the Regents’ money.   

If we need money to buy red helmets for the next game, we can always cut an unpopular woman’s sport.

I also thought it was brilliant how across the way someone had sculptured what Yoko Ono used to call “Concept Art”.  It was a sculpture of porta potties along the Eastern Rim.  In the old days, ancient blue porta potties used to be silhouetted against the hillside.  They looked disgusting.   

I know that for $321,000,000 dollars, no one forgot to spend a couple hundred grand to put permanent bathrooms on the Eastern side above the stadium.  The faux porta potties  (Trumpe l'oeil, I assume) looked real.  It was extremely clever.

But I digress.

The game started on a perfect note.  Nevada kicked off and the fastest man on the field, Brian Bigalow almost broke it all the way.  He was brought down at the 36.  Great field position.  (As an aside, if he’s good enough (read fast) to return kick offs, how come he only touched the ball on one offensive play?)

The Bears O came on the field.  Something was askew.  The QB wasn’t #15, Zach Maynard.

It was #16, Alan Bridgford.  At 6’3”, 220lbs. he looked like the re-incarnation of Craig Morton.  (Morton BTW, had been graciously invited to view the game from the University Club Level where the jazz combo was playing a modern arrangement of  “Tea for One”—Kapp didn’t make the cut--more on that later).

Like Morton when he entered his first game as a Sophomore against Penn State, Bridgford took the snap and heaved a long deep pass—what we used to call a “Bomb” before that became politically incorrect. 

I thought he’d panicked and just thrown it away as there was no one in the area when he let it go.  In reality it was a near perfect pass to a specific spot.  Keenen Allen, raced under it, dove and the ball bounced off his hands.  It would have been a circus catch, but it was inches away from setting an entirely different tone for the game.

Where was Zach Maynard?

It was reported that he’d missed a tutoring session months ago, and to hold him accountable, Coach Tedford was  holding him out. 

Give Tedford an A+  for cracking down on academic malfeasance (though he could have punished him by having him run stadium steps until he puked for two weeks straight).  Cal, as you know has had a declining APR for each of the last four years.  Last year’s was 923.  So low, in fact, that if we end up after this year (with  a four year average) below 930, we will not be Bowl eligible—not copacetic for the (once) greatest university in the world.

All of us should admire Coach Tedford’s stand on academic performance.

 But even as I was lauding Tedford’s courage at Stoney’s tailgate après la game, a quote in Sunday’s Chron the next day delivered a failing grade. 

Remember that first pass which was just inches off?

Keenan Allen was quoted as saying, “All camp Zach's been with the ones (starters). We haven't taken many reps with Bridge. ... It definitely would have helped us if Bridge had taken the reps in practice."

Did no one think of that?  Anyone read about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours (of practice)?  Who amongst us doesn’t think that had Bridgeford practiced that first pass play more often with Allen that it would have been completed and perhaps changed the entire tenor of the game?

Ouch!

On the other hand, Nevada ran for 450 yards—and neither Bridgeford nor Maynard has put in much time at outside linebacker.

Speaking of which,  I know it’s easy to 2nd guess, but if you TIVO'd it, check out the footwork of the outside linebackers.  On almost every play, right after the snap, (if they’re not rushing) they begin shuffling towards the middle—thereby allowing Fajardo to get outside.  When they did rush, they crashed down on the fullback, crushing him, but (once again) allowing Fajardo to pick up yardage, or time to throw, outside. 

Don’t blame the kids.  It’s a faulty scheme.

Future  star, linebacker McCain said, “We were getting tired out there, and we lost technique." 


Climbing to row 72 is work.  Playing D in Memorial stadium is a game.  Tired at 20?
Wait till this D meets the Oregon Ducks and their hurry up offense.

 Don’t we have about 23 conditioning coaches?   Even the TV announcer said early in the 3rd quarter that the Bears D appeared tired.  There is never an excuse for being out of shape.  That, at least, is one thing a team can control.

To experience all the new features,  at half time I walked through the tunnel around the West side of the stadium.  The concession stands were jammed.  (Proof they’re providing what folks want). 

It was difficult to navigate (a compliment).  The men’s head was clean and moved fairly fast.  

 It was an interesting experience to heed nature’s call without standing in a puddle of water.

As I was wearing heels I checked out the ladies head as well.

All world improvement, except a minor design flaw with the paper towels were yards away from the sink.

Then it hit me.  I hadn’t seen anyone I knew. 

In fact, I was reminded of Treasure of Sierra Madre when Alfonso Bedoya says to Bogie, “Badges.  We don’t need no stinkin’ Badges.

Not.

To get anywhere you needed a “badge”—or at least a wrist band.  In a stadium where I used to park my VW during rugby practice and spring ball—inside the upper level tunnel—every door I passed had an armed security guard with an AK-47, staring at me:  “Don’t even think of trying to enter here.”   Was the message they delivered.  (Ok, it’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the point).

Memorial Stadium is now officially segregated by levels of donations.  If your friends gave more than you, don’t expect to see them inside the arena.   They’re at a club level above yours.

Can “Occupy the Good seats”  be far  behind?

($50 tip for free to the marketing department.  My friend said that from the other (East ) side, you could see all the vacant seats that haven’t been sold for ESP.  Invite boy scouts, or vets to come and fill them so it looks like the seating plan is a success).

I guess most people sit in the stands to see the Bears on the field.  I go to the field to see the Bears in the stands. 

Now Cal had not only separated the 1% from the 99%--it had separated the 1% from each other.

Over Beers afterwards, I so tried to stick up for Tedford’s decision on Maynard. 

Everyone shouted me down.  “Out coached” were the words most often used.  “Unprepared” was the next most expressed sentiment.  The number of penalties—especially  substitution violations--really upset people.  (On the other hand Nevada had 11 penalties).

But academics should come first—and it took guts to bench Maynard.  The general feeling was that stadium steps should have been the punishment.  Who can say?

Our classmate, the Chron’s Bruce Jenkins, wrote “Make no mistake, though, there are certain games that simply must be won.”

He nailed it. Make no mistake.  Nevada is a really good team.   But it was a must win.  With all the money and facilities we can devote to recruiting players, with rare exceptions, we should always defeat teams from the Mountain West Conference.

I guess those clown hats didn’t intimidate them the way we had thought.  Maybe we needed the pointy hat on top.

Next week there is no game, but the squad will suit up for a flag football contest against Southern Utah.  I wonder if there is a special trophy case for our victories against Portland State, Eastern Washington, Presbyterian,  and no doubt, SU?

I know.  All the other schools do it—but at one time we always thought Cal was different.  Now with our stadium, TV contract, unis, schedule and gpa—we are just like them. 

Welcome to the Bigs, Jack!