Norm of the storm

Josh Yuen_online

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If you’re going to or are currently at tonight’s game, take a second and recognize where your seat is. How far is it away from the field? How close do you get when taking a short trek down the nearest aisle? Enjoy the beautiful Friday night atmosphere while you can — it’s about to prolong into the late, late, late hours of the night. Gotta love #Pac12AfterDark.

Now imagine this: the Bears, arguably the Pac-12’s coldest team at the moment, have managed to take down the undefeated No. 8 Cougars, quite possibly college football’s hottest team. What a scene! ESPN’s here (as usual), and for the home crowd, the party is about to begin. Yes, it’s a long shot, but stranger things have happened.

Here’s where I’m going with all of this: In the event that the Bears overcome significant odds to upset Wazzu, will you, tonight’s audience, storm the field?

Look, many of you may be questioning the legitimacy even bringing this up. This isn’t Washington, USC or even Stanford. But get with the times, people. If there’s anyone who doubts Wazzu’s firepower on both sides of the ball, you’ll likely see where I’m coming from tonight. Luke Falk isn’t a household name by any means, but he’s been as good as any quarterback through six weeks.

Two weeks ago, the Cougars hosted the then-No. 5 Trojans in a nationally televised battle between two unbeatens and blasted Sam Darnold’s Heisman hopes back to Southern California. And yes, it was quite a scene as many fans stormed the field in a beautifully chaotic moment. It was as exuberant as it should have been, with head coach Mike Leach commenting that it reminded him of “Woodstock, except everybody (had) their clothes on.”

Let’s say Cal’s beleaguered offense manages to steal some of Falk’s swagger and Ross Bowers has the game of his life. It’s midnight on the West Coast, and only half of the nation will have seen the Bears shock the Cougars. What’s left of the student section is jumping up and down, anxious to spill onto the field out of instinct. Do you join them?

It’s a tradition unlike any other and one of the things that makes college sports so unique. But the Pac-12 has gone to great lengths in the past couple of years to keep fans off the field. Before the 2016 season, the conference announced a penalty system under which schools would be fined for court- and field-storming, with multiple offenses adding up to several thousands of dollars.

In last year’s home opening win over Texas, hundreds of fans rushed the field after a hard-fought thriller against a ranked team, costing the school $25,000. And as the university athletic program with the most debt of any school in the nation (yikes!), this won’t sit well with anybody, from the athletic director to the head coach. These rules are in place for good reasons — primarily to protect the safety of players, coaches and fans alike.

But every loyal fan knows how hyped a classic upset is, especially when the underdog is playing at home. Despite these new rules, it’s nearly impossible to keep thousands of jubilant fans from containing themselves. My suggestion is this: If you’re going to rush the field, make sure everyone around you is, too. If Cal is going to take the fine, make it as powerful and memorable as possible — within reason, of course. Don’t mess with any of the players, coaches or officials on the field, but rejoice with the 40,000 or so fans bleeding blue and gold in the late October night.

It would look pretty lame on television and on paper if only a few hundred people cost the school upward of $50,000; so if not everybody is all in, hold off. There are other ways to celebrate a thrilling upset — try Yogurt Park, Pappy’s, or even Sproul Plaza with the band. That said, if there’s a home win for the Bears that deserves a good storming of the field, it’s tonight against Wazzu.

Look, this is all hypothetical and fun, as the Cougars very well may punish the Bears even worse than Oregon and Washington already did. But in the event that the unexpected happens, feel free to hurdle down Memorial Stadium’s steps, very carefully scale down the 15-foot wall to the field and experience a feeling unlike any other. Just make sure everyone else is all in, too.

Josh Yuen covers women’s tennis. Contact him at [email protected].

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