Holding it back!

As time ran out at mucky, drizzly Spartan Stadium last Saturday evening and the chants of "Nine-and-two! Nine-and-two" echoed through the Stanford section, I was tempted to reach out toward the western sky, elbows tucked and fists clenched, and try to hold back the season.

There's a memorable passage in The Great Gatsby, the great American tale, wherein Gatsby's pal Nick spots Gatsby watching the sunset on Long Island sound: fists clenched, elbows tucked and arms flexed.  Nick wonders what the hell's going on, since Tai-Chi hadn't caught on yet in the Hamptons.  So he asks.  And Gatsby replies, matter-of-factly, that he's trying to "hold back the summer."  Probably wants to host a few more gigs at the mansion with eight- or nine-hundred of his closest compadres, the Paul Whiteman Jazz Orchestra and catering by the Plaza Hotel and the Fulton Street Fish Market.  Who wouldn't?

Same thing happens to me every year.  But this year under vastly different circumstances.  I usually dread the end of summer.  The one consolation, admittedly a pretty good one, is the prospect of clear and promising autumn Saturdays on The Farm.

As time ran out at mucky, drizzly Spartan Stadium last Saturday evening and the chants of "Nine-and-two! Nine-and-two" echoed through the Stanford section, I was tempted to reach out toward the western sky, elbows tucked and fists clenched, and try to hold back the season.  Problem was, I was carrying a couple of cold ones at the time and didn't feel like setting them down.  So much for life imitating art.  But, hey, I thought about it, and it's the thought that counts.

And did we have our share of clear and promising Saturdays this year, or what?  So I'm not ready just yet for this thing to conclude, not even in Seattle where we're billeted for Bowling.  I want to hold it back.  Football season on The Farm runs through glorious, picnic weather and pays you a summer dividend. Then, right when you need it most – it's gone, like the black-walnut leaves that were turning color and withering when you weren't paying all that much attention.

I want to savor this season even more than the run for the Roses two years ago.  This was one for the ages.  For a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the pure, therapeutic balm provided in the aftermath of that god-awful, almighty-vengeance-inspiring morning the Tuesday after the Boston College game.  The great thing about college football, at least the way it's done at Stanford, lies in its glorious irrelevance for fans.  It forces you to focus on it for a few hours a week so we can stomach the crap with which we have to deal the rest of the time.  Some people don't get this.  They don't deserve to.  But it's one of the blessings of being a fan.

Caffeine-bitter irony that our bowl-game venue would be the very city where our season  was trashed.  Still, I'll take it. As will the coaches, the seniors, and the rest of the squad, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude for an over-achieving season.  Way back in August, when seven-and-four seemed like a stretch goal, the idea of nine-and-two was virtually unthinkable.  The evening after the Wazzoo debacle, October 13, I would have crawled on my belly to solicit any bowl game.  Good for us all that TW and co. thought otherwise. And kept on winning.

To be sure, the coaches and players made the rest of us think again. And you can bet that there'll be some thinking in the off-season about the promise of 2002 and return of some real studs.  I'll forgive Kenneth Tolon his greased-pig carries on Saturday because it's clear what he's capable of doing on a field that doesn't resemble the perimeter swamp just outside Stanford Stadium. I won't bore you with a roster of returnees – someone else surely will.  My point is that Stanford won't have the luxury of claiming the "over-achievement" mantle in '02.

Still, I'd rather have the luxury furnished by the corps of veterans who'll suit up again.  And that's exactly what we have to look forward to.

Just as an upcoming football season is consolation for the passing of summer, a decisive victory over the overmatched (but game) Spartans more than consoled those few of us in attendance who remember when football at San Jose State was a pretty big deal.

Look at what we've got down there today: a flat, no-drain soccer field that makes a mockery of American Football, uniforms that would have gagged the XFL's design committee, and a chorus line of about 30 pom-pom girls, bouncing and squealing in front of the sparse crowd, who evoke a high-school pep squad.

Okay, they sell beer.  Guess we're even.  Still, we recall a time of honest-to-god cheerleaders who barked fraternity roll-calls at actual sellouts house – against the likes of Arizona State in the Frank Kush era.  Hard to envision a packed today, under any circumstances.  Okay, maybe a Tricked-Out Toyota Pickup Concours dMarket.  'Elegance. Maybe a Flea But Div. 1 college football?  To ask the question is to answer it.  And the answer bodes ill for the Spartans who seem destined to go the way of all programs-on-life-support.  Maybe not as drastic as their ancient rival, UOP, which pulled the plug some years ago, but the program seems bound somewhere south of Div. 1, and soon Coach – despite the brave talk by Fitz Hill.  One thing's for sure: this trumped-up, contrived, Silicon Valley "rivalry" with Stanford is a sham.  Now that Stanford has a solid W, let's mothball this series for a few years and schedule somebody else for a change: Big 12, Big-Ten/Eleven, maybe even play kal twice – hey, maybe they'll win one.  Point is, we need to look forward to some road-trips beyond Area 408.

And from us and ours to you and yours: happy holidays and happy bowling.

P.S.: Good omen at Safeco Field -- train whistles blow every 15 minutes or so, just like those ones of ours that punctuate Card touchdowns. Bring your BootToots™!


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