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.
               
               
               
               
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