From the Cheap Seats: "The Good Ole Days"

For years, I have been showing up in these parts chronicling the hopeful trips my son and I have made to see Stanford sports teams and the usually sad trips home. Thus, it is rather odd for me to sound a rather different note after a trip home from a Stanford game. But, folks, there is no denying it: That is one hell of a football team we have.

I have been roaming this planet for over half a century. Due to a young start at the heels of a father who is himself a rabid college football fan, I have been watching college football for most of that time. From an early age I became a rooter, living and dying with the fortunes of "my" team (including a few that I dare not mention here, lest I lose my Bootleg membership, but those were youthful indiscretions). This is the best team I have ever rooted for.

That offense is old school impressive. My other two current teams, Wyoming and Mizzou, both run the spread. Many of the opponents of the teams I watch run the spread or other speed offenses. With that background, it is somewhat jaw dropping to see Stanford (Stanford, for heaven's sake!) line up seven or eight folks shoulder to shoulder, saying "you know exactly what we are going to do," then doing it. Who else does that these days? At any point prior to a couple of years ago, who could have imagined that Stanford (Stanford, for heaven's sake!) would be the king of that mountain?

Equally impressive, though more within Stanford's tradition, is the passing game. Although it is fairly evident that he is special player even on television, in person observation drives home the point that Andrew Luck has amazing football IQ. He commands the field despite the presence of a couple dozen others in the way that good trial lawyers take over a courtroom, despite the presence of others. He almost always puts the ball right where it needs to be. As someone who became a Stanford fan during the Elway era, I thought there would never be another to rival him. But this kid is something special.

The defense? Folks, Stanford shut out three conference opponents. (Stanford, for heaven's sake!) Any long-suffering Stanford football fan (is there any other kind?) would have to find that stunning. Watching one of those shutouts in person gives one new appreciation for the feat. Given the modern rules favoring the offense and the strong offenses in the Pac 10, a shutout is difficult to achieve for the best of defenses. And Stanford's defense managed it three times.

It was an honor to be there for the last one, with Mrs. (Wyo)MizzouCard, Mega(Wyo)MizzouCard and the long-suffering Mini(Wyo)MizzouCard. It was the first time all of us watched a Stanford game together (in person). What a treat it was that Stanford was achieving things none of us thought possible. At least not me. I remember one of my precious few prior trips back to Stanford a years ago when I told a Stanford buddy we should quit playing Notre Dame because we would never be able to compete with them on a regular basis. I remember years of being crushed, year after year, by the evil _._._., with little hope of that ever changing.

Yet there we were, watching Stanford pitch its third shutout in a magical season. Mini was the first to join the party on the field. Then Mega. Mrs. and I were going to stay in the stands, acting dignified. But the pull was too hard to resist. So we found ourselves down on the field with our boys, soaking it all in.

Will it last? That is the question that seems to be on every Stanford fan's mind.

Based upon that half century roaming the planet, I have a definitive answer: No.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying this is necessarily the zenith of Stanford football. Our coach might eschew the many other attractive offers he receives, if he concludes that the Stanford coaching gig is the best one available. [I, for one, am convinced that it is. But I am biased.] The dark cloud of looming NFL labor turmoil might convince our amazing quarterback to come back for another season. We might replace an amazing senior class with new players and old players in new roles that do even more than their predecessors. We might even go that last step beyond where we are going to get this year.

But this is the year that Stanford went beyond what many of us thought possible. That only happens once. In the future, we will know that it is possible. That is wonderful in its own way, but that change in mindset makes the particular type of "I never dreamed we would do this!" giddiness of the current season unavailable in the future. This is that year. We don't ever get to experience this particular feeling again.

So here is some unsolicited advice. For at least a while, forget about what the future holds. Instead, grab onto this amazing team and this amazing season. Milk every bit of joy you can out of it.

You deserve it. You were there for "center the ball for the field goal" and "let's set the season record for quick kicks attempted" and, if you are long enough of tooth, maybe even "I can count five clear rules violations every time they show that damn play." You hung in there through all of that, because this is your team. You earned this the hard way. Just soak it in.

These are the days you once dreamed of, if you dared dream bigger dreams than I did for Stanford football. These are the days you will once look back upon fondly. For just a while, forget about the future, and even the past. Just enjoy the wonders of the present.

Fan Support: Speaking of being the bearer of good news, or at least a possibly helpful perspective, allow me to also note that I was quite impressed with the crowd. The student section was full (or almost so) and enthusiastic. For a game on a day predicted to be rainy against an opponent that does not generate huge fan interest, I thought there was a decent crowd, with pretty good noise on third downs. It was Thanksgiving weekend, after all. Not everybody is willing to subject their family to a holiday weekend in a crowded motel room.

Whale Watching: Speaking of which, a nod has to go to Mrs. (Wyo)MizzouCard for being a good sport. Our Thanksgiving consisted of a "whale watching" trip to Monterey that netted not a single whale. [As someone noted later that day, we have seen as many whales in Wyoming as we have on our whale watching trip in California.] Thanksgiving dinner was at a Jack in the Box. As Mini noted, if you take three or four French fries and smash them together, the result looks and tastes a bit like mashed potatoes. The remainder of the traditional Thanksgiving meal is harder to duplicate at a fast food place, though, unless you count the pressed "turkey" from the sandwich. [Mrs. (Wyo)MizzouCard, who ordered the turkey sandwich, would not count it, in case you were wondering.]

Whale Watching, Part II: As noted below, Mega, Mini, and I spent Friday watching other Stanford sports. As we walked out of the water polo match, the football practice was ending, so we watched the team walk by. Mega, a member of the Wyoming Cowboy football team, noted that "Andrew Luck is as big as [Wyoming's biggest defensive lineman.]" After the hits he delivered on _._._. and Kal defenders this year, some have suggested that Andrew could play linebacker for us. Thought you might be interested to know that he could play defensive line on some Division I football teams. And Owen Marecic and many others are beasts, too. It used to be that only the teams Stanford played had that kind of size.

Other Sports: Speaking of other Stanford sports (what a segue fest this is, huh?), we were able to catch the volleyball, women's basketball, women's soccer, and water polo teams in action. All were winners, most of them decisively. The soccer team, in particular, looks awfully tough. But the family vote for favorite non-football sport to watch goes to water polo. As Mini told his older brother, who had never seen it, "That (stuff) is a blast to watch." It most definitely is, especially when there is a back and forth battle between Stanford and Kal in which the good guys ultimately prevailed. We almost tried to change our reservations to stay for the MPSF final against _._._. on Sunday. If you have never been to a water polo match, you need to start going. It is serious fun. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I did yell at the referees. I was not going to let a little thing like not knowing the rules of the game stop me.

Bootleg Buddies It is always fun to see a few Bootleg luminaries in their natural habitat. Saw our fearless leaders Lars and Jim and others at their CTG tailgate. Saw Bobbk holding court at the Hall of Fame, where we were fortunate to run into several other die hards. And saw muiron wandering the football field after the game with an ear to ear grin. Great to see all of you having such fun.


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