The Last Tango in Berkeley

Friday night I tangoed. Yes, me, Derek Johnson. And I am proud to say, nary a toe was mangled, nary limb was dislocated, nary a head was rammed through a wall. And the lady in my life only laughed at me about fifteen times or so. Not too bad all things considered.

The following afternoon, halfway through a ballgame amid the glorious California sunshine, there was nothing to laugh about at all. There was no dancing from the men in the gold helmets.

The Huskies were being dragged up and down the field by the Bear offense, and trailed 21-10.

I wondered aloud why it was that we were so listless. Why it was that the Bears seemed to effortlessly cut through our defense, like Zorro's sword cutting a swath through a white bedroom sheet?

Cal Quarterback Kyle Boller looked like John Elway in the first 15 minutes and torched the Dawgs for three touchdowns while using the fullback to perfection to confuse the Husky linebackers.

When was somebody going to plug in our coaches' headsets so they could go to work?

In our staff predictions published Friday on Dawgman.com, I had stated that the football gods would deny a Husky blowout, and grant us a close game. I predicted that Washington would win 30-24 and hoped that my lady friend (attending her first football game ever) would come away with a sense appreciation and fun for the action and flavor of college football.

OK. So Boller piles up 248 yards passing in the first quarter and it is looking like he is going to break every single passing record in Pac-10 history. I wondered if I should have not asked for such a close game. "How pompous of you, you dumb jerk", I thought to myself. I was starting to feel like Marlon Brando in The Last Tango in Paris.

Granted, Paul, the character in that movie, had considerably more to deal with psychologically than I did, but I kind of knew where Marlon's character was coming from.

As the game evolved and push came to shove, an old Shakespeare quote came to fruition and brought some much needed comfort.

"The Past is Prologue", said the Bard.

And as they had done 18 times previously in a row, the Huskies did what they had to do and beat the Bears. Two long bombs to Paul Arnold, a 74-yard punt, a defense that suddenly came to life and absolutely stonewalled the Bears from the first quarter until the last drive of the fourth, and Washington left Memorial stadium victorious yet again.

All you can do is shake your head.

You can't help but feel bad for a coach like Tom Holmoe, the same goes for his players. I hope they'll enjoy playing for whoever it is they'll be playing for next year, because they played with heart and emotion.

What exactly is it that separates a Washington from a California? What separates a Rick Neuheisel from a Tom Holmoe?

In many ways the Bears seem to have every bit as much talent as the Huskies. They had the Huskies down, they were playing inspired football, and their crowd was behind them.

However, there is some intangible ingredient that Washington possesses that California does not. Perhaps it is the history of winning, and having a rich tradition, that creates future and continuing successes. Or perhaps, it is having coaches who install tremendous confidence in their players that that gives Washington an edge. Perhaps by simply comparing attendance figures, you can tell therein, that for whatever reason a greater priority is placed on winning at Washington than it is at Cal.

Whatever the reason, I came away from the game feeling happy that my lady friend had witnessed a barnburner. Sure I felt sorry for the struggles of the Cal program but above all, I was thrilled, and satisfied, in the wake of another Husky victory.

Finally, let the record show, that Washington is 1-0, when I go tango dancing a night before a game.
Derek Johnson can be reached at djohnson@dawgman.com.

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