On-Scene Report: "Fall Ball Fire-up 2009"

A sunny pre-camp afternoon at Zott's was the scene of the latest engaging episode of "The Jim Harbaugh Show" (which deserves its own slot on the Bay Area TV docket!). Meetin' n' greetin', pressing palms and signing autographs like the polished pro he is, the dynamic young Stanford coach scored in the reddest of Stanford redzones: the hardest of die-hards and most discriminating of railbirds.

On-Scene Report: "Fall Ball Fire-up 2009" 

A fellowship of Stanford faithful were hanging in the garden of beer, not Babylon, for the "Fall Ball Fire-Up 2009" event at Zott's, the popular roadside retreat rebranded years ago as the Alpine Inn. Among toasts of mead, a divine and philosophical address was given.


Under the accommodating shade of a vintage oak tree, Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh pulled out his soapbox and spoke to and with a congregation of well over 100 on a sunny and warm day in scenic Portola Valley. His candid commentary resonated in the hearts and minds of the Bay Area's hardest-core Stanford football fans.


It was abundantly clear that Harbaugh didn't attend the event because it was in his contract or to beef-up boosters. He voluntarily came out to express a genuine appreciation for the community of loyal Stanford followers.


After meeting and greeting fans as he arrived, Harbaugh was introduced and question and answer session followed for more than an hour. Questions for the third-year coach ranged from the status of the starting quarterback, to thoughts on new offensive line coach Greg Roman, to the out-of-conference Wake Forest game, and more.


A fired-up Harbaugh spoke with a passion that would hold the attention of the unruliest third-grader. The conviction of a rising college football program could be heard in the mentor's voice, which inspired frequent applause from the appreciative crowd. The Stanford head coach described the core characteristics of his team as "resilient and relentless"! The man is clearly drinking his own Kardinal Kool-Aid. When handed two 8x10 signs, one with "CAUTIOUS" and one with "OPTIMISM", the confident coach promptly tore the "CAUTIOUS" page in half with ceremonial gusto (while giving creative credit for the origin of the dramatic phrase/gesture to Offensive Coordinator David Shaw).


A partial transcription of the Q & A session with Harbaugh will be available on TheBootleg.com soon.


Booties Represent!


Name tags were provided that held a place for a name and a nickname - so everyone could put a face to a name, and in the case of attendees who happened to be regulars on our website, there was space available for one's BootBoard "handle". Of the "Fall Ball Fire-Up" attendees, a great number were Booties that post and lurk every day on the message boards.


A charter member of The Bootleg since its inception in 1994, Stanford Athletic Board member Tom "tmf79" Feldstein, gave his thoughts on what it would take to witness a successful season for Harbaugh's Heroes.


"I think that we really have to see six wins and a bowl game," Feldstein commented. "I am convinced we will be better than last year, but if that doesn't happen, we are going to lose some of the momentum we are building."


Chris Schwafel, a Stanford football season-ticket-holder of 45 years, expressed without hesitation the one thing he was looking forward to most this season.


"Andrew Luck…the most accurate high school passer in the United States," he stated. "I think he can be one of the best quarterbacks in Stanford history."


This was a popular answer from the collection of Cardinal die-hards. They raved about his presence in the pocket, vision, arm strength and accuracy. Luck is being tossed lofty expectations and during the session Harbaugh confirmed the redshirt freshman is armed and ready to lead the team.


Stanford chemistry student Jonathan Prange was eager to question Harbaugh at FBFU ‘09, but not in a Cardinal context. Prange is from Indianapolis and a lifelong Colts fan who heralds Harbaugh as the second-best Colts quarterback ever (presumably behind Peyton Manning and we forgive him for being too young to have seen Unitas).


"I want to get his thoughts on the '95 AFC Championship game against the Steelers where the Hail Mary pass was called incomplete," Prange said. "I want to ask him if he thinks Aaron Bailey caught the ball. They shouldn't have even been in that situation because Kordell Stewart stepped out of bounds before his touchdown catch."


The Stanford faithful, young and old, were armed with questions and comments for the "preeminent pigskin-passion-promoting personage" that defines Jim Harbaugh. An intimate encounter with a prominent, dynamic NCAA football coach like this is scarce.


A special thanks to Jim "Emeritus" Rutter for helping organize the "non-Bootleg-exclusive" event "Fall Ball Fire-Up 2009". The gathering also served as an informal, but effective mini-fundraiser for deserving Stanford campus student radio station, KZSU 90.1 FM. Rumors were swirling Saturday that a similar Q&A event is being prepared involving Men's Basketball Head Coach Johnny Dawkins. As I learned in talking with yesterday's attendees, Rutter's time and ongoing contributions to the Stanford athletic community are widely respected by the Cardinal family.

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