Originally published October 2003 (vol. 2, no. 3) in The Bootleg Magazine. "Happy Boot-Day to Us" by Jim Rutter
By the time this issue reaches our readers, we will be about to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the inspiration and creation of The Bootleg, "The UnAuthorized Authority on Cardinal Football." Many of you are not familiar with the origins of our ever-evolving organization, so we are going to wax a tad nostalgic as we look back on a decade of toil and trouble, the thrills of victories and the agonies of defeats.
It all started on the nasty night of October 16, 1993 in the sopping wet stands of Arizona Stadium in Tucson. Without exaggeration, that dismal defeat at the claws of the Wildcats would be one of the most punishing losses in Stanford's proud football history. Coming off disheartening losses against UCLA and Notre Dame, the 2-3 Cardinal (0-2 in the Pac-10) had traveled to Tucson, desperately needing a win. Arizona boasted the country's top-ranked defense as the remnants of "Desert Swarm" were yielding just 158 total yards per game! With an impressive display of wile and wizardry, Walsh & Co. ran up an impressive 244 yards in the first half alone! The Cardinal led 17-0 just six seconds into the second quarter and the normally obnoxious Arizona crowd was stunned to silence.
Fast forwarding to less than two hours later and Card QB Steve Stenstrom had just been savagely sacked and had fumbled after a signaling miscommunication led the Super Swede to drop back for a pass when the sideline staff had called for a run. The score had been knotted at 24-24 and the Cardinal had the ball at its own 14 with 1:04 to go. The Cats recovered with 40 seconds left and ran the clock down before kicking a spirit-stifling, game-stealing field goal. The capacity crowd erupted with their oh-too familiar chants of "U-of-A, U-of-A!" and strains of "Bear Down Arizona" echoed well into the night.
The Arizona loss was an ominous turning point for the 1993 Cardinal. After a defensively dominant 1992 season, in which the "Lynch Mob" and its "G-Men" had carried the team to a ten-win season while Walsh tinkered with his young offense, the Cardinal passing game finally was beginning to dominate in 1993. Steve "Super Swede" Stenstrom would eventually demolish Pac-10 records for season total offense and passing that year, but the defense, decimated by graduation, had been falling flat on its face and the losses had began to wear on the Genius. Valiantly attempting to plug the huge gap created by the graduation of George, Garnett, Lynch, Gordon, Avila, and Tom Williams, overachieving former walk-on LB Toby Norwood, would lead the Card defense with 9 tackles in a heroic effort in Tucson. The beleaguered defense sucked it up and played a stellar game, only to have it ripped from their hearts as the Cardinal offense lost three of six fumbles and suffered four interceptions. Stanford football seemed doomed, not just for the game, but for the season and maybe forever.
Weathering a driving downpour, two dauntless fans, sitting one row apart, were still up on their feet and yelling like madmen for the sparse Stanford rooting section to support its team in defeat: Like twins separated at birth, Jim "Boot" Rutter and Lars "Leg" Ahlstrom had finally met for the first time. After a few minutes of mutual consolation, we quickly realized that we had each found a true kindred Stanford spirit, a rare one that possessed a similar level of unbridled enthusiasm for Stanford sports.
We recognized that more than the team itself, the entire program, including its fan base, was going in the wrong direction. There was no voice of reason, no voice of the people. Political correctness had taken over in the early 90s and fan apathy had reached dangerous levels. The promise of Walsh II, aka Bill's Bliss™, was starting to fade. The defense never really recovered after its fine effort against Arizona. They allowed a ridiculous 467 yards per game over the remaining five games of 1993, including a thoroughly embarrassing 560 to Cal at Stanford Stadium in a 46-17 Big Game fiasco, the first time we had lost to Cal in seven years and Coach Walsh's first ever loss to the Dirty Golden Bears!
So in the spring of 1994, Lars and I started sharing a few thoughts back and forth and then sent out samples of our radical ranting and raving to a circle of Stanford friends – naturally by fax as e-mail was not yet available. Our frustrations poured out in a collection of mischievous missives. It was as if Pop Warner himself had come to us in a dream and asked us to become the Cardinal equivalent of congressional watchdogs! The reaction was so surprisingly strong that we decided almost immediately to turn it into a full-fledged newsletter: The Bootleg, a name chosen for its multiple association with football, unauthorized publications, and illicit distribution of alcoholic beverages. My father, Dr. Richard Rutter, agreed to serve as a voice of reason, editing out over-the-top content that might cause a true commotion. We quickly came to refer to him as "The Conscience". After a couple of early issues generated very positive feedback, we started charging a modest fee to cover our production and distribution costs…..and well, okay, maybe a few post-game beers and peanuts at the Dutch Goose! The first "lifetime subscriptions" to the newsletter were offered for $100 each and, in a pivotal show of support, 21 die-hards (" The Immortal Twenty-one") each sent us a C-note.
At the 1994 season opener at Northwestern's Dyche Stadium, we distributed red-ink copies of The Bootleg to somewhat confused Stanford fans. No one really had a clue about the source of the revolutionary little rag. By the conclusion of that game, which ended in a 41-41 sister-kissing buzz-kill, the "little sheet" had become a modest cult phenomenon. "The Rogue Rebel of Restroom Reading" was off and running. An entire season of production was accomplished while still managing to attend all six of the team's 1994 road games. It was not pretty as the team struggled mightily, but we kept on plugging. We introduced Manningmania™, hanging our hopes on a talented young receiver who showed early signs of some day surpassing Stanford legends Washington, Vataha, Hill, Lofton, and Margerum. We had to hang onto something, even if it was an unrealistic pigskin pipe dream.
OK, so perhaps we were a tad aggressive in the early days. Some people in the department got the impression that we were out to subvert the program, which was never, ever the case. We were guys who wanted to have fun. Our aim was to be irreverent and flippant. We thought we were funny, although humor, like beauty, is often in the eyes of the beholder. Memorable early features included "Random Bitch Session", "Point/Counterpoint", "Pigskin Flashback", "Poetry Corner", "Unconfirmed Rumormill", "Kibbles & Bits", "Terribly Tough Trivia", "The Report Card-inal", and the ever-popular "Things that are (408)". Yes, we may have crossed the line with "97 Reasons to Hate Cal", but basically, we focused on bashing the insufficiently Cardinal-covering Bay Area media. We bashed San Francisco Comical columnist and Cal alum Glenn Dickey in fun and Ralph "The Razor" Barbieri for real. We bashed Barry Tompkins for being soft on Cal. We bashed our own apathetic fans. We bashed everyone who did not share our fervent belief that Stanford football was the center of the universe. In a bout of frustration, we even bashed our own beloved "Murph" and he still doesn't seem to have gotten over it. We exposed Washington's 33% graduation rate, we exposed Duke basketball's shameful SAT scores. We weren't against everything. We liked Leon Vickers' knee-high socks. We liked defensive coordinator Fred Von Appen's Kraut-like candor. We liked under-appreciated receiver Mark "100%" Harris's hands and Jason "Diamond in the Rough" White's attitude. We liked yell juice!
That freshman year of The Bootleg was filled with myriad moments of fun and frustration. On September 17, 1994, the "Authorized Authorities" at the athletic department ran roughshod over the First Amendment and senselessly seized copies of The Bootleg to prevent further distribution to fans at the San Jose State game. The next week against Arizona, we ran our very first ad in the Stanford Daily. By the U$C game on October 15th, we had arranged to launch an aerial assault, having a banner message flown above the stadium seven times. The following week in Corvallis, The Bootleg led a popular uprising at Parker Stadium. With just 1:27 left in the game, the Beavers had a last ditch fourth & five at the Cardinal 32. Recalling the Cardinal's 31-33 humiliation back in 1979, we personally rallied several hundred members of the Farm Faithful™ to salvage a nerve-wracking, but thrilling 35-29 victory. Sweet.
At the Rose Bowl the next week, we suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune as the Cardinal defense inexplicably failed to double cover UCLA wide receiver J.J. Stokes on a two-point conversion that gave the Bruins a demoralizing 31-30 comeback victory. Then, on a muddy, rain-soaked night in Palo Alto, Stanford got its first win over Washington in 12 years, but QB Stenstrom broke a finger and was out for the remainder of the season.
The next week we staged the "First Annual BootGate" tailgate party. BootGate was a magical event, highlighted by six-foot deli sandwiches and a platter of genuine roasted Oregon duck. Cable channel BayTV actually covered Bootgate™ on live television. The incomparable LSJUMB performed at our tailgater, complete with Dollies dancing to our all-time favorite routine: "Honky Tonk Woman!" We were on such a roll we even had corporate sponsors (The Monterey Mushroom Company and Kaufman Bros., LP) pay for two kegs of beer. Bootgear™ became a modest phenomenon as fans started sporting Bootleg hat, t-shirts and sweatshirts. It was a rabid Cardinal fan's "Kodak Moment."
Even though The Bootleg got a favorable mention from Rodney Gilmore on his television broadcast with Phil Stone, the Cardinal that went out and got roasted by the Oregon Ducks. We got smoked, 55-21! The Conscience lost his mind over Rich Brooks' poor sportsmanship as Brooks allowed back-up Duck QB Tony Graziani to continue throwing deep with a 27-point lead in the fourth quarter. "The Conscience" was seen angrily confronting random Duck fans with the now famous rant "Go Beavers!" We thought we had reached a new low, but we were wrong. With Stenstrom on the sidelines the next week, the Walsh-designed Stanford offense completed just 11 passes in a 24-23 loss to Cal in Berkeley, the Cardinal's third one-point loss of the year in what would prove to be Bill's final game as a coach. Somehow, some random Bear tailback named Tyrone Edwards had rushed for over 200 yards against a thoroughly decimated Stanford defense.
Today The Bootleg is more than a publication, more than a website and a slick magazine. The Bootleg is a freedom movement. It is a passionate community that won't be denied. We are the guys who know who the walk-ons are, the guys who care whether WR Evan Moore redshirts, and whether running back J.R. Lemon changes his jersey number. We are the guys who follow the recruitment of that linebacker from some obscure town in eastern Montana on a daily basis. We are the ones who care. Who else was going to break the news of the unfortunate demise of "Irma", the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig belonging to linebacker Coy Gibbs? Who else had the guts to profile fourth-string quarterback and magician John Ynostroza? Who else was willing to do research on the famous gay pride statue desecration incident? Who else flew in "Buns of Steel" (the consensus all-century Cardinal flag runner) to make a cameo appearance at the 1996 Big Game?
Much has changed over the years as The Bootleg has grown and expanded. Next month, on our website, we will continue our trip down memory lane as we discuss the continuing evolution of our "Labor of Love" and how we got to where we are today. Please tune in and, as always, keep the faith!
The Bootleg Magazine is (was, from 2001-2007) a monthly print publication that brings Stanford fans the important and insightful feature stories on Cardinal sports they so badly crave, yet cannot find. We bring you deep player and coach profiles, behind-the-scenes scoop, looks ahead, looks back and more. We successfully concluded Year One of the magazine and are rolling successfully in this our sophomore edition with even better stories, writing, photos and exclusive features. Our first three issues of Year Two have drawn rave reviews, sending an incomparable buzz throughout the Stanford Athletics community. To get this magazine before you miss out on any more of its unparalleled excellence, go to XXXXX; Buy yourself a year (or two!) of this glossy goldmine, or treat that favored friend or family member to the "gift that keeps on giving" today! We emphatically recommend that you places copious orders today for the best head start on holiday shopping in your life, nothing will quite wow them like the only magazine that cover-to-cover specializes in Stanford sports? Order today what is unquestionably the best stocking stuffer on the planet for Cardinalmaniacs™ today!!!