The mantra went something like this:
There are three things in sports that you have no control over - the weather, the officials, and your opponents. If you spend your time worrying and complaining about how they are affecting your performance, chances of winning are slim. If, on the other hand, you manage to adapt to them – by either blocking them out or using them to your advantage – the only thing that can keep you from victory is yourself.
My favorite part of the mantra, the part my coach always happened to accidentally omit from his little talks, answered the doubts that might arise from the foregoing. It went something like this:
If any of the three uncontrollables get really bad, let me handle it.
So on Saturday in Eugene, as the rain fell and the penalty flags flew, I knew things had gotten pretty bad when the poster-boy for sideline cool – our very own Coach Tedford – was forced to yank off his headset, run 10 yards onto the field, and physically tap an official to get the man to turn around, losing at least two more seconds as the unprepared official had to then find his whistle, shove it in his mouth, and finally blow it to signal a timeout for the Bears.
Less than a minute later, as Tom Schneider’s kick fell just wide of the uprights and my fellow blue and gold supporters sunk depressingly back into their respective puddles, I mean seats, we all were left with one question: what if?
What if the linesman had been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the coaching staff of the team that was driving for the go-ahead score with less than two minutes remaining – a no-brainer to me, but I’m not a certified official – and thus been able to blow his whistle when Tedford first signaled for the time-out, at least two seconds before it was called?
After the game Schneider was quoted in several publications saying he might not have had time to accurately get a line on the wind. In other words – two more seconds would have been nice.
And while that was one of the most blatant examples (for those of us in attendance) of the atrocious officiating at the ballgame, it was certainly not the first instance of the afternoon.
From the missed fumble call at the beginning of the first quarter, to a number of missed holding penalties, to the so-called illegal block called on the Hampton interception (which looked like little more than a shove from our angle, yet managed to move the ball from a sure seven points at the Oregon one yard line all the way back to zero) the officiating was laughable.
“Don’t be too hard on them,” kidded an 11 yr. old Cal fan to my left, “they’re volunteers.”
Sadly, the crew was anything but. Had they been, the Cal contingent might have eased up on them a bit. But the zebras at Saturday’s game were paid – equally - by both teams.
Meaning that despite what the game probably looked like from your living room – I’ve heard rumors a few of our complaints were unjustified – from our view the officials could have done a much better job at hiding their allegiance to a certain green and gold colored squad.
|Autzen: Cal vs Oregon|
Going along with the idea of using a setback to your advantage though, the “homer” chants the Cal crowd conjured up in the second quarter were rather impressive. Only surpassed for loudest chant of the day by the “Roll On You Bears” the Berkeley boys induced late in the second half.
Unfortunately, crowd noise doesn’t score touchdowns, players do.
Bottom line: after practicing all week with wet footballs, Ayoob and friends couldn’t quite get it done.
Which begs the question, do the Cal coaches preach the three uncontrollables? And if so, when was the last time they reminded the boys to start dreaming about them?
Because with the #1 USC Trojans coming to town, you can almost expect the officials to show more than a little respect for the defending national champions when it comes to penalties.
This was the thought that worried Cal fans on their way out of Autzen. “If we don’t adjust better to the officiating come next Saturday, it’s going to be a long afternoon in Memorial,” said one Cal fan as we approached the stadium exit.
“I hear ya,” I said in response.
And as the words left my mouth, my mind completed the conversation in silence. Let’s hope the weather’s nice too.
On A Lighter Note
The fans at Autzen, as always, were a joy and a hoot to cheer alongside. My personal favorite was the green hard-hat wearing, yellow poncho man parked on his motorized wheelchair a few yards in front of our section. Every time the Ducks would do something good or the Bears would do the opposite, he’d be the first to quack as loud as humanly possible in our direction.
I tell ya, it takes a real man to quack at you and be damn proud of it. And this fan was 300+ pounds of hunka, hunka, real Oregon man. Quack, quack.
Hooray for Heated Buses!
In addition to the opposing fans, Cal fans were also singing the praises of the game-day shuttles, which ran from high schools, train stations, and fast food joints in and around Eugene to the stadium, beginning four hours prior to kick-off.
After the game, when everyone - even the Oregon fans - was ready to go home to a warm shower, the organization of the shuttles was impeccable. Huge signs directed fans into cordoned off areas for each individual stop, well-trained hired help knew exactly how many fans to let onto each bus, and once full, a woman in the middle of it all blasted an air horn to alert the drivers it was time to go. Moments later a slew of new, heated and dry buses took their spots and the fun started all over again.
As my dad and I stood in line for the River Road shuttle, I looked from one drenched, shivering Cal fan to the next, and exchanged a number of understated nods of approval, so as not to alert the Ducks to their second victory of the day.
The game-day transportation was legit. And, after four-plus hours in a poncho, much appreciated.
Now if they could just do something about that rain …
Until next time…
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