Manifesto Urging the Revival of Passionate Homerism [MURPH]
MURPH - PHASE THREE: Reinstate the Junior Rooter Section!
A long ago time, there was no "Silicon Valley", only the Santa Clara Valley and, to the north, the Mid-Peninsula. Up in space, astronauts actually went places instead of circling aimlessly. Nearer to home, La Honda was sort of scary and not because of the real estate prices. Families traveled in station wagons outfitted with fake mahogany paneling rather than side air bags. And Stanford played exciting football in a huge wooden bowl that held precisely 86,352. It was in this milieu that a bold social experiment known as the "Junior Rooter" section evolved. The Junior Rooter section was a collaboration between the Stanford Department of Athletics, the YMCA and, according to some, Professor Phillip Zimbardo. It taught kids valuable lessons about fiscal responsibility, second-degree sunburn, and injustice, while giving them ample opportunity to practice their hand at projectile physics, petty cruelty, antiauthoritarianism and ageism. And best of all, perhaps, it was adult-free. The Junior Rooter experience started with a late summer trip down to the local YMCA where, for the paltry sum of $3.50, a young rooter received a punch card allowing access to all home games excepting USC & Cal. A few weeks allowance money for a full season of major college football action? There had to be a catch. And there was. A typical Junior Rooter Saturday began sometime after the "Banana Splits" ended. Your mother pushed you out the door with no instructions other than keeping your egg sandwich (packaged lovingly in an alligator baggie) out of the sun and watching out for the Zodiac killer on the way home. You slung your combo lock over your sting-ray's handlebars and pedaled off feeling something like Dennis Hopper. There was no Junior Rooter "Fun Zone", so when you arrived at the stadium it was straight through the gates to watch the players warming up. And that was when the catch manifested itself. Inside the stadium, Rooters weren't allowed to roam freely. Rather we were funneled to sections A and AA, the Vladivostok and Irkutsk respectively of Pac-8 fandom. From that distant and splintery perch, Mike Boryla was an ant, John Winesberry a speck of dust, and Rod Garcia an unfounded rumor.
To make things worse, although vast stretches - whole time zones- of empty benches separated Rooters from the nearest fans, we were compelled to stay put in sections A and AA. This wasn't just Siberia, this was a prepubescent gulag cordoned off by nylon rope. Needless to say, a Solzhenitsyn-esque indignation soon burned within every Rooter's breast. Quite naturally, this rage became focused on the guards who were deployed at the bottom of the stands. The guards were disguised as avuncular yell leaders in red sweaters but nobody fell for it. They shouted cheers from the 1940s into a microphone, exhorting us to join in. It was a ploy to distract us from the bitter realities of the gulag and even the eight-year-olds could see that. By the end of the first quarter, the law of the jungle prevailed in the Junior Rooter section. Every back had a bull's-eye on it and only suckers sat down low. Back then, beer was allowed in the stadium and myriad vendors hawked grainy chocolate malts. Beer and malts meant ammo aplenty - pull tabs, malt tops, malt spoons, and bottle caps-in the dirt beneath the seats. After sifting through the Ralstocene Epoch and the Shaugnessic Age down to the Warnerian Era, you'd stockpiled enough missiles to get you to halftime. But down at the microphone, the guards were persisting with their charade. Give me an 'S' . . . give me a 'T' . . . a dismembered pull tab became a miniature catapult . . . give me an 'A' . . . give me an 'N' . . . if you snapped your fingers just so, a bottle cap flew a long way . . . give me an 'F' . . . give me an 'O' . . . three wooden malt spoons made a sort of ninja star and the guards didn't like that at all . . . give me an 'R' . . . give me a 'D' . . . and suddenly there was a break - some Rooters were going under the rope - look at that old guy chasing after them with his lumbago and his saddle shoes.
By the fourth quarter, the only Rooters left in sections A and AA were the suck-ups and the escapability-impaired. The rest of us had gotten beyond the nylon curtain and insinuated ourselves amongst the bourgeoisie in sections C and CC. From there, you could still see the guards shouting but you couldn't hear them. The atmosphere was pleasantly hedonistic and the on-field action close enough to follow. Boryla passed to Winesberry. Touchdown Stanford. The band commenced playing "All Right Now." The tubas were white and they were decorated with messages and paintings of green leaves. And over there, some guy was trotting out to kick the game-winning PAT. Call off Erich Von Daniken and Leonard Nimoy. The mysterious Rod Garcia really did exist.
And what exactly, you ask, does this hazy reminiscence have to do with MURPH? Well, although some Junior Rooters no doubt continued their descent into serious delinquency, many of us became lifetime fans. And maybe it had a lot to do with being let off the leash and allowed to experience Stanford football on our own terms. So the next time you're at a Stanford game and you see a grade school kid (not your kid, of course) who looks like s/he would rather be spending three hours at home playing Game Boy and finishing middle school applications, ask yourself if that kid will grow up to be a Stanford fan.
John Jasberg only half-remembers the Junior Rooter section. He welcomes your corrections at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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