Monday, October 07, 2013


After 11 years and 10 months on Death Row, Caryl Chessman was executed in San Quentin. 
            I know this because our first assignment in English 1A was to write a paper on the pros and cons of the Death Penalty.   I got a “D.”   Being from a small rural town (St. Helena was not tres chic as it is today), you can guess my thoughts.  

            I’d never had a “D” before, but then again, I’d never heard of political correctness, either.

                        I quickly learned that in order to survive academically, one had to go from slightly to the right of Barry Goldwater to slightly to the left of Eldridge Cleaver.  (Ok, I lied.  It had more to do with chicks digging radicals than with getting good grades).   For whichever reasons it proved propitious to propagate profs propaganda profligately.  

            Overnight I was anti-death penalty.  It is now clear in my mind that it should be brought back.   If being too cruel and unusual for murderers and rapists, the punishment  fits the crime when talking about playing piped in music to Memorial Stadium, instead of letting us hear the Cal Band play during time outs and between quarters.

            My ticket has a pic of a football player, not Bono.

            I just can’t hear Art Arlet intoning,  “And now here’s Neal Diamond and Sweet Caroline, na na na.”  

            It interests me how the powers that be have somehow forgotten why we attend College football games.

            It’s not just about the football.  If we wanted to see the best athletes play a great game, we’d be waiting for Sunday and tailgating in Candlestick Park.

            We go to Memorial Stadium (wishfully on Saturday afternoons at 12:30 or 1) to see old friends; to visit with old professors; to watch fathers toss balls to their sons and mothers pass along traditions to their daughters;  to watch enthusiastic students (and remember what it was like when we were there); to listen to the cannon explode after a score;  to listen to the yells; to watch the card stunts;  to revel in the “school spirit;”  to watch young men give “the old college try,” though they may never be pro material;  to see the band (or bands) march;  and to hear the band play; (while occasional glancing at the cheerleaders and hoping no one notices).

            Having your ear drums busted from speakers right above one’s head and being unable to talk without shouting to one’s friends and family, is disrupting and degrades the game day experience.

            That being said, this game day experience was extraordinary. 

            As always in California, it starts with the weather.  It was a perfect short-sleeved fall day.  

As God often does on Saturdays at Cal, he made the sky an azure blue to honor the Bears. 

            The athletic department put on a terrific football alumni gathering on Kleeburger (Maxwell) Field, and Mike White was presented with the Glen Seaborg Trophy for lifetime achievement.

            (Not many schools boast a Nobel Laureate as a former Chancellor—especially one who instead of attempting to cut sports—actually helped start the Pac 8 conference—and demanded such excellence that we went to the Rose Bowl and won the NCAA Tournament in the same year—with kids who mostly graduated). 

            Those were the days.  

(Dr. Seaborg’s kid, David reminded us that Seaborg is an anagram for “Go Bears.”)

            Mike played in the 50’s, coached in the 1970’s and now (in his own 70’s) runs Camp Blue at the Lair.  He looks about 10 years old and is a consummate Loyal Old Blue.   Jack Hart (yes, the one who with Patten stopped Skip Face from scoring a two point Conversion in the ’58 Big Game, allowing Cal to go to the Rose Bowl (whatever that is), over half a century ago), presented him with the trophy.

            Coach Dykes had come out earlier and mingled with the aging alumni—a classy move.

            The beer was cold and the burgers warm—usually it’s the other way around—and a good time was had by all—though there was much lamenting about the lack of ex-Cal athletes in the athletic department.  

            The major gripe herd over and over?  “They just don’t get it.”

            What can be said about the game?  It was probably a lot like my wife’s honeymoon—filled great anticipation, high expectations, interrupted by occasional thrills, moments of pure ecstasy, but ultimately disappointing.   Maybe this is why we love the Bears so.  Like them, I know what it’s like to fumble away a great opportunity.

            And no purple pill is going to apply a quick fix to what ails either of us.

            The game was eminently winnable.  Jarod Goff threw for a record 504 yards, surpassing Pat Barnes.  

            How a few members of the Tea Party were able to shut down an entire defensive scheme is a puzzlement to me.
            I always hesitate to criticize youngsters (coaches and administrators are grown ups and getting paid, so they’re fair game), but there appear to be some “technique” problems on the defense.  

            They remind me of myself dating co-eds back in college.  Neither one of us seems to be able to wrap our arms around our intended targets.  

            As Truck’s kid said,  “You’d think with 100 helmets we could find 11 hats that could tackle.”

            I’m a huge Brandon Bigelow fan.  But he does something strange which is inexplicable.  Great runners like O.J. (ok great slashers) and Barry Sanders make defenders miss.

            Young Brandon (strong, extremely fast and yes, shifty), often runs “in to” defenders at the most inopportune time.  He gets hit harder than anyone I’ve ever seen.  It’s as though his last move is “in to” the tackler, instead of “away from” him.  I just can’t explain it.  He doesn’t seem to “feel” blind side pressure—and it’s painful to watch.

            The Bear Raid is thrilling to watch and it’s a big play offense, but it is not a running offense.  WSU (they run the same formations—Coach Leach and Dykes used to work together), had the ball inside their own one, and ran from that spread formation (when a quick hand off or even QB sneak was called for), and we penetrated for a safety.  

            As to the injuries?  Also inexplicable.  Some years it just happens—although, it begs the question, “If during practice we run the “hurry up” (to get it just right) and then in games we run over 90 plays when we used to run around 60, could the kids be more tired and more susceptible to injury?”  The Cougars run a similar scheme, so I wonder what their injury rate is—or Oregon’s?

What about the strength and conditioning regimen and length of practices?  Logic would dictate that those conditioning programs and practice lengths would have to change with the advent of the hurry up, whether it’s called, the Pistol, Spread, read option, run and shoot——whatever. 

            On a final note, the announced attendance was 44,682.  Now maybe that’s how many tics were sold in advance, but the stadium sat barely half that.  Unlike piped in music and denying band members the chance to play, exaggeration is not a capital offense.  However, a little rendition might be in order.  Playing loose with the facts can become a habit.  Folks tell me I do it all the time.

            One final, final note.  Running a “commercial” on the mini-me-tron (is there a worse Stadium TV in the country?) in the Stadium, which ends with 4 different students saying “Berkely,” “Berkeley,” Berkeley,” “Berkeley,”  is not a way to convince alumni that the school is serious about keeping “Cal” as the brand for all sports and alumni activities.   That commercial should go the way of Piped in Music.

            On a positive note, Cal Prof, Randy Wayne Schekman was just awarded the Nobel Prize for work on how cells organize their transport system.  Now if we can just get him into the BART negotiations…….

Go Bears,
Jeffrey Earl Warren ‘70

P.S.  Can’t tell you how many guys said on Saturday they were going to take me up on the Cab offer.  Make them look bad—stop by before they do if you get up this way.



Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jeff, Informative and entertaining as always.


Daniel Gottlieb said...

Always a great read Jeff. I made it up for the Football Alumni tailgate (played in 94 and 95 - another dark period as I was on the sidelines for the 61-0 USC game) and had a great time at the event. I, like yourself, lamented the stale environment created by the lack of the band playing and the piped in music. I tripped to the game from Arizona with my 1-year-old for his first football game and can't see myself making the trip again when it feels so corporate. I also think it is hard to judge when there was about zero excitement in the air from the fans and the initial fumble by the goal line seemed to solidify the sense of impending doom.