When Ugly is Beautiful

No doubt about it, this one emitted the off-and-on scent of "eau-de-upset" throughout the long, TV commercial-laden afternoon. So what happens? Stanford makes the plays at crunch time: those last agonizing minutes that Big-Game veterans know all too well. In fact, Stanford plays kal the way Washington plays Stanford in Seattle.

 

“It’s not how good you are when you play good. It’s how good you are when you play bad.  And we played pretty good, even though we played bad. Imagine if we’d played good.”

--Litterial Green, Georgia basketball guard, after the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 66-65, in 1992.

 

A National Merit Scholarship may have eluded Litterial Green, but the kid knew what he was talking about. And I submit that the thoughts expressed above capture the essence the ’01 Big Game from the Cardinal perspective. In short, there is such as thing as winning ugly. But there is no such thing as an ugly win.

Take pride in this one, folks. Despite the butt-ugly packaging, the contents amounted to a rare and beautiful thing. We’re seven and two for the first time in nine seasons.

Let me take it a step further, Cardinalmaniacs. Ridicule this reporter as you will but the 104th renewal of the Big Game last week may have been – just may have been – the most impressive Stanford victory thus far this year, bar none.  Think about it.  In the clarity of hindsight, this one was absolutely prime for a kal upset. It had all the incendiary ingredients:

  • A departing, albeit pathetic, coach who is genuinely liked by most of his charges.
  • An absurd point-spread that inevitably has as a psychological impact.
  • A lightly-regarded, forlorn team going nowhere and viewing this one game as the season’s last hurrah – one last opportunity for dignity and esteem.
  • Just enough speed and talent to pull it off.
  • A Stanford team that is already Somewhere-Bowl-bound and subconsciously complacent (I mean, how pumped can you get teeing up against an 0-9 opponent, no matter how many disclaimers you make during the week?).
  • A gameday atmosphere of low energy, even at hallowed-ground tailgate venues wherein gather the inner core of hardcore Cardinalmaniacs.
  • Flat, uncharacteristically sloppy execution by players who take pride in discipline and precision.
  • A kal team that was allowed to hang around and hang around like uninvited guests to your catered tailgate.
  • Brian Allen and Zack Quaccia going down, yet two more in maddeningly continuous series of injuries to major contributors.

No doubt about it, this one emitted the off-and-on scent of “eau-de-upset” throughout the long, TV commercial-laden afternoon. So what happens? Stanford overcomes all of the above and makes the plays at crunch time: those last agonizing minutes that Big-Game veterans know all too well. In fact, Stanford plays kal the way Washington plays Stanford in Seattle. And, unlike the Huskies, the Cardinal draws little inspiration from the crowd noise. In fact, at home, just as in Berkeley, the crowd decibels usually favor the Bears. But again, Stanford overcame this as well in the final moments despite the dry-tank offense’s insistence on handing the ball over so that kal could take yet another shot.

So, the flashy heroics of Luke and Teyo notwithstanding, it still comes down to the final play. But the record will forever show that Stanford made that one, too. Or, as Litterial Green might say, “just think if we’d played good.”

And as long as you’re thinking, just think if we had football cheerleaders who actually led cheers. The crowd wearing red might have even gotten into it – even the Shadyside Rest Home for the Energy Challenged. What’s the deal with these bucket-hatted, tired Aloha-shirted clowns? When will they learn the difference between close-confines basketball cheers and football exhortations? It’s bad enough we have to look at these frizz-haired bozos going through their pointless, acrobat antics like some unsupervised pre-schoolers on a candy factory tour. We also have to listen to their indecipherable, in-joke gibberish. That is, when they deign to gibber anything at all. Most of the time they seem to be satisfied just sort of chasing each other up and down the pink, Tartan track that matches their Aloha shirts. Yo, cheerleader dudes (and dude-ettes): sign up for “yell camp” and learn some audibly coherent cheers appropriate for the wide-open spaces of Stanford Stadium. Here’s kal at 0-9 and they’re rockin’ the house while you fools are moon-walking and mugging for each other’s private entertainment. Pitiful.

Just think if we cheered good.

Happy Thanksgiving – and speed up to run over leprechauns this week.


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