An Open Letter to Students

6500 Stanford undergraduate students are today digging deep into their fall quarter studies, yet they are still a week and a half away from their first home game. This year's quirky schedule reminds many alums of how precious the home game experience is at Stanford Stadium, and one such Stanford grad has decided to deliver an open message to today's students: <i>Take advantage of these unique and glorious experiences</i>...

A message from a graduate:

Let me tell you Stanford students why I'm jealous of you, despite the fact that I am now comfortably ensconsed in a well-paying job while you slave away deep into the night writing papers and solving math problems.  Let me tell you why I'm jealous despite the nice car that I drive while you wait in the rain for the Marguerite shuttle to arrive.  Let me tell you why I'm jealous: while I sit at home and watch Stanford Football games on TV, you lucky kids get to go to Stanford Stadium and watch the Cardinal in person.

Trust me, there are few better places to be on a Saturday afternoon than amongst your dorm- and class-mates, cheering wildly as the Card engineer another drive down the pristine turf upon which Brodie, Plunkett, and Elway played so many years before.  You are yelling and pulling for Stanford in the same stadium in which "Touchdown" Tommy Vardell used to plunge dramatically across the goal line, in which Troy Walters used to scamper and slither his way to ostensibly un-gainable yards after the catch, in which Sharcus Steen (quite possibly the greatest name in the history of Stanford Football) used to lay massive hits on opposing running backs.

In the same seat where you have the pleasure of sitting each home game Saturday, a former Stanford student just like you witnessed quarterback Don Bunce, along with his famous Thunderchicken defense of 1971, repeat the team's feat of the year before and win nine games on its way to a Rose Bowl victory.  You have the pleasure of watching the man in the visor, Head Coach Buddy Teevens, patrol the same sidelines where Pop Warner, John Ralston, and Bill Walsh used to shout orders to their men on the field.  The history which infuses Stanford Stadium, it is astounding and it is humbling, and that is why you, Stanford students, are so lucky.

But the Stanford Football experience is not only about what happened in the past.  Quite the contrary, for to attend a Stanford game today is to witness one of the nation's foremost programs play an enthralling game at the highest level.  Stanford Football here and now is just as exciting, if not more so, than it was in the past when names like Nelson, Husak, and Garcia were more commonplace in Palo Alto.  And it is for this reason that I must ask you, Stanford students of the present, to do a few things:

Go to Chuck Taylor grove before the game begins.  Sit there with some friends, barbecue some hot dogs, and enjoy a little pre-game festivity.  Wait, especially, for the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band to come parading through the Grove.  Try to decipher the significance of the designs painted on the insides of the tubas (I'll help you out - they probably have to do with substances banned in this country).  Marvel at the 55-year old men with white beards who still have the energy and passion to play for the country's most notorious and witty musical group.  Try and predict what sort of wacky, random halftime show the Band has cooked up for that day, but you probably won't guess correctly unless you yourself are also a bit insane.

Once you enter the Stadium, take a stroll around the outer concourse.  Encounter the seemingly ancient alumni, who still faithfully attend each and every home game, with their Stanford caps perched on their heads.  Right behind the older folks you'll see the local kids, the 8- to 12-year olds clutching their footballs and begging their parents to play a little catch.  These kids are dreaming of one day donning the cardinal and white themselves and hauling in a touchdown pass for Stanford.  Also wearing their Stanford hats proudly, these children will instantly jettison their headwear in the name of slaloming at full speed around older attendees on their way toward an imaginary end zone.

Remember the vibrancy with which those children play their pretend football as you take your seat in the student section - you will need that same kind of energy to be a true Stanford fan.  Jingle your keys for the opening kickoff, scream right along with your manic Yell Leaders as they exhort you to yell "Over-rated" at the USC Trojans, and go nuts when Trent Edwards hits Alex Smith over the middle yet again for a 15-yard gain and a Stanford first down.

Once you've cheered the team on for a good while, take a quick break and stroll around the upper concourse of the stadium, under the seats.  Gaze at the rickety wooden infrastructure which holds up this most venerable of football houses.  Feel the supports shake (they won't break - they've survived earthquakes, you know) as Stanford drives the length of the field and the 85,500-strong crowd becomes more and more energized.

Do not marvel for too long at the engineering of this venue which has hosted Olympics, Super Bowls, and World Cup matches, however.  There is a football game to catch, after all, and your painted chest will be needed to round out the "GO STANFORD" that you and your buddies form in the stands.  Dance like you've never danced before when the Band plays "All Right Now" after a Stanford score, and remember to jump when everyone says "5-6-7-8-WOO!"  Revel in the fact that your university boasts the best theme song in the land, and that your Band gets to play it so often, since they play it each time Stanford puts points on the board.

Do you see why I am so envious of you, you Stanford students?  If you don't yet understand, wait until the game nears its conclusion.  Stanford will be icing the game as its defense closes around its opponent with a cold precision, just as the sun begins to set.  Shadows will begin to creep across the field, but you will still be bathed in sunlight on your side of the stadium.  It will be difficult for you to decide which is prettier: the view of the hills beyond the stadium to the West or the score of the game on Stanford's brand new scoreboard.

And as the final strains of the game-ending celebratory "All Right Now" wash over you, think of all the fans like me that have come before you, and those who will come after you, and be thankful that you are a part of the glorious tradition that is Stanford Football.  Go Card.


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