If you watched Stanford play Arizona two weeks ago, you might have noticed that the camera crew was deliberately avoiding any shots of the stadium.
The reason was simple: No one showed up to the game.
After two seasons with BCS bowl berths and back-to-back Heisman runners up, the No. 18 team in the country couldn’t sell its own product and fill its stadium against a top conference opponent
THAT is Stanford football.
See, Stanford fans — and the term “fans” should be used in the absolute loosest sense of the word — are just like their rugby team: They’ll only show up if they’re 110 percent sure of victory. Otherwise, they’d rather go yachting, or do other pretentious rich people stuff.
But I can’t blame them. Going to Stanford is probably like eating out at some overpriced five-star restaurant. The whole time you’re there, you get pampered like a Kardashian. When your food comes, it’s small, overcooked and bland. Finally, at the end of the evening, you get stuck with a bill that could be mistaken for an Ferrari purchase, and you’re left wondering, “Was that really worth it?”
Not at Cal. As a Bear, you scrap and fight your way up to the crowded counter to order some weird exotic food whose name you can’t even pronounce. Sometimes, it works out, other times, you end up with food poisoning (that Dim Sum place on Durant is to be avoided).
Either way, it’s always exciting, and it’s always satisfying.
Stanford athletics realizes that vanilla quality of its product. They understand that they’ve become the red-headed stepchild of the Pac-12 — attention-deprived and inherently perceived as inferior to its 11 siblings.
So they try to act out for attention. They employ an inebriated tree who often doesn’t wear pants as their mascot. Then they assume that the term “marching band” is interchangeable with “a collection of people who own instruments and have two legs.” The result makes Nicki Minaj seem talented.
And still, no one seems to really care.
The opposite is the case at Cal. Walking up to the game two weeks ago (the same day as the Stanford-Arizona game), I expected to find Memorial Stadium half empty. The Bears were 1-4, had played some horrendous football to start the season and seemed poised for a blowout at the hands of No. 25 UCLA. Accordingly, I figured most fans would sit out this beating.
Instead, I found a nearly sold-out Memorial filled with an electric energy usually reserved for games featuring top-10 teams.
THAT is Cal football. We take the good with the bad. Whether the Bears are going to hang 63 points up on Presbyterian or have Oregon return the favor, we show up. Cal never does what it’s supposed to, which is what makes rooting for this team so awesome.
Losing is what makes winning fun. Without losing, winning means nothing.
That’s what Stanford “fans” don’t realize. Instead, they need grade inflation and lists of easy classes for athletes to make them feel good about themselves.
Saturday’s Big Game marks the 30th anniversary of The Play, which in itself serves as a demonstration of the fundamental differences that separate the two schools. The Play itself shows what Cal is all about: that nothing is ever over until we say it is. If it had been Gale Gilbert marching his team down for the go-ahead field goal, I can guarantee you that Stanford fans wouldn’t have stuck around to see if their team had any magic left.
But not Cal fans. We know that you have to stare down defeat in order to really taste victory. And that’s what makes us awesome.
We may lose more games than we win, but to quote the legendary Jack Clark, if you want a Cal team to quit, you better bring a weapon.
Connor Byrne covers football. Contact him at [email protected]
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