Friday, September 25, 2015

TEXAS: IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES. IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES.

Daughter Cody on the last legs of her Honeymoon, spending it in Austin to root on the Bears





            In true Nostradamus fashion, Dickens predicted our day in Austin, hooked on the horns of the proverbial dilemma.  What is the measure of success?  Is it a W,  or is it improving to move the program forward?
            If we win, but give up 650 yards in doing so, is that good—or bad?
            Before the season started, a tall good lookin’ guy wrote:  Don’t judge the season on wins and losses….judge it on defense, tackling and hitting.  If we hit, if we tackle (two items which have been missing the past two years), then regardless of our record I will jump on the band wagon and say we are on the right road.”
         He lied.  The W was sweet—sweeter than simply good D.  The only thing sweeter was if it could have come at the hands of Mac Brown that silly little man who conned us out of the 2005 Rose Bowl (remember the “almost bowl”)—despite our being ranked ahead of Texas for all of 2004 until the last week--by lobbying all his coaching buddies and athletic director connections to change their votes so that Texas jumped us in the last week in the polls despite our lead and identical records.  Remember the coach who voted us #3, pre-Mac Brown whine,  and then the next week had us at #12, despite a win.  (We had a new athletic director that year who carried no weight in the “old Boys network,” so she couldn’t make the calls Mac could make—and it hurt us bad).
         We didn’t get our Rose Bowl invite, but who’s counting—especially those of us who remember that it was 45 years ago to the day that Texas clobbered us 56 to 15 right here in Austin.  Diamond Jim Brady and Tom Grieb (he of the Dennis Dummit tackle on the three yard line which was ruled a UCLA TD) reminded me of that over beers before the game.  They were on that Ray Willsey team--and how sweet was Saturday’s victory for them?
         Football in the South is as good as it gets.  They understand and revere the College game.  They love their cheerleaders, band and their traditions. They don’t try to be mod as in Memorial Stadium where some 26 year old hipster blasts in punk music over the loud speakers preventing college bands from adding to the pageantry of the game day experience.
         They don’t run back to back ads on a giant screen telling their fans to call Texas “Austin”, as we do at Cal with constant ads invoking the name Berkeley instead of “Cal.”  (BTW how great was last week’s Wall St. Journal article on Coach Franklin and his Monday coaching conference calls with high school coaches all over the country)?

  The headline was “Cal’s Experiment in Football Crowdsourcing.”  No mention of Berkeley in the article at all, and somehow a nationwide and world wide audience knew who the article was talking about).  Former Chancellor Birgeneau’s directive that we become Berkeley instead of Cal may not be catching on as he hoped.
         We were in the land of “Sir” and “ma’am,” where total strangers addressed me in my Cal shirt and said, “Your kids played well today and deserved to win.”  Such good sportsmanship from strangers, one rarely sees on the Left Coast, but often encounters in the South.  They know what separates College ball from the NFL—and sportsmanship is a big part of it.
         The Cal Tailgate was sold out (usually that means 500 fans and two bartenders), but we didn’t make it over so who knows?  Andy Rogers put on the M.O.A.T. (Mother of all Tailgates—Southern Style).  It was BYOB and all the usual suspects showed up and proudly displayed our colors amidst all the burnt orange of the Longhorns and their fabulous, tented tailgates.  It was pre-game college football at its finest.
         We were seated near the Cal band in the lower corner of the North end zone.  Not bad.  Some were seated nearer to the stars in the sky than the stars on the field and at $100 a pop, that was a little rough to take.
         Goff can throw, Lawler, Davis, et all can catch.  Muhammad can run.  But we know that. 
         Hate to be trite, but sure, Knute Rockne, as a player, popularized the forward pass—and it may be the most fun thing about football from a spectator point of view--however, the game is still won with blocking and tackling. 
         We blocked well—for the most part.  But D?  650 yards—and at one point we were up 45 to 24?  That sounds like a question of schemes—which redounds to coaching as opposed to players.  But maybe I’m wrong.
         Their qb, Jerrod Heard,is a great talent—but he’s not surrounded by much.  Yet, he broke the great Vince Young’s single game total offense record.  (Did you see the video where he donned a Cal jersey after losing a bet to Scot Nady?) http://www.csnbayarea.com/ncaa/vince-young-loses-bet-dons-cal-football-gear
          What does that tell us about our D? 
         Darius White apparently blocked the extra point which gave us the win, but the Austin paper insisted the kid missed it.  That seemed odd.
         If he missed it, who wants to rejoice over the faux pas of a 21 year old?  If it was partially blocked, why not say so and let the kid off the hook?  Tis a puzzlement? (Funny thing is, if you google the kid, it's all about his kicking an 80 yard field goal in practice.  He clearly has an outstanding leg.
         Next week, we are up at Washington, a team that lost to Boise State 16-13, and has defeated two cupcakes since. Definitely a winnable game but in a tough place to play—a place we have not had a lot of success. (I’ll never forget the Bears not understanding the wind in ‘2005, and electing go against it in the 2nd and 4th quarters, putting the field goal kicker at a disadvantage (we won in overtime by a TD).

Everyone remembers how A Tale of Two Cities begins.  But few of us remember what comes after, “It was the worst of times.”  Methinks Dickens was thinking of the 2015 Bears season to date, for he prognosticated 156 years ago:

“it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
              it was the epoc of belief, it was the epoc of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of
              darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had
              nothing before us…..”

On his way to the guillotine, sacrificing his life for another, Sydney Carton had an epiphany:  "It is a far,far better thing that I do,than I have ever done.”

Let’s not lose our head about the Bears, but hold in our hearts that this is truly the best of times—that “Mush” will apply to Huskies—and not our Defense—and that this fall is indeed the “Spring of hope,” he wrote about.
        
        
        
        
        
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