Lessons in Humility

Gail Tate's observations from a long and frustrating afternoon on the wrong side of the Bay.

On our biennial expedition into the heart of darkness (a.k.a. Berkeley), dodging an assortment of projectiles and insults from the indigenous tribes on our trek into and out of Memorial Stadium, we were forced again to confront a long-standing precept deeply rooted in Cal culture.  Dr. Margaret Mead would have really gotten into this stuff because it’s the kind of shared principle that binds primitive peoples together in social community.  In this case, to this culture, anyone wearing red and/or white garments at the Big Game betrays an inherent arrogance and general demeanor of social snotty-ness and a screaming need for some kind of comeuppance that’s way overdue.  Ideally administered, of course, by those infallible arbiters of social and economic justice: anyone associated with the University of California.

That the city of Berkeley, and virtually all institutions associated with it, has become a laughing-stock synonym for everything that’s half-assed, intellectually bankrupt and upside-down within a larger society based on common sense (and a market economy) is conveniently lost on these dolts. But that’s an entirely different story for another time and place.  The focus here is on the comeuppance upon which we, uh, came up in game 11.

Boy, were we ever “come-upped” this year.  Not that we really needed to be, mind you, given what seemed to be the weekly hurt put on us by most of the Pac-10 this season. Still, I submit that what befell the football squad and us this year in the seismically exposed Evil Arena of Raspberry Ravine is a good thing.  If it’s not, we need to make it into one.  We have no choice.  What we do have is the rubble and shards of a season mercifully ended on an all-too predictable and fitting note: a bitter pimp-slapping administered by symbolic warriors in shoulder-pads who represent those self-same, fuzzy-logic champions of the people.  Delusional grandeur notwithstanding, the fuzzy logicians had their day in the fog-shrouded sun.  They won big.  They ended their historic Big Game drought and rained on our parade.  They put their first decent season in the books since Mooch bailed on them for the Niners’ job. They were even able to stretch out their fantasy about “The Play”.  Kind of like the way Hamburger Helper stretches miserable casseroles into rancid leftovers.  They could strut, gloat, howl and bay at the moon, vandalize their publicly-supported athletic facilities, make Cal fans of themselves and generally spit and excrete on the symbolic grave of their athletic nemesis and social betters: namely, us.  Oh, yeah, and the ax-holes have the Axe now, too.  Let’s hope they don’t vandalize it.

Okay, now that we are officially come-upped, what to do?

First, and don’t laugh, it’s actually good to know that there’s football pulse over there.  Time was when football respectability at Cal was a continual impetus for program improvement at Stanford.  I hate it when I hear people imply that beating Cal is the litmus test for Stanford football coaches.  It should never be. Mediocrity, or worse, should never be papered over with the clips from the Sunday sports section after we clock Cal.  But when Cal is good, and putting a hurt on us, it gets the attention of people who are otherwise blasé about such matters.  This is a good thing.  It forces issues and action items.

Next, this particular loss, coming as it did at the climax of this particular season, should be burned into the collective unconscious of this team and coaching staff.  Especially the returnees.  They should remember how it felt.  What it was like to get the bum’s rush out of the stadium like you were crashing somebody’s party.  What it was like to see the Axe handed over like the rare treasure that was no longer yours – the family heirloom you were starting to take for granted relinquished to the people who foreclosed on your mortgage because you no longer had the cash flow to support it.  Feel it.  And remember.  Then come kicking-ass back to settle scores next year.  There are a number of them, remember.  Including the one to the sanctimonious clods who think you needed the comeuppance. Have them come up, or in this case down, and get theirs.  And really, really give it to them.  You’ve got months to stew about it.  Starting right now.

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