Seven-Year Bitch Must End

Mike Silver wrote for the Daily Cal from 1984-88. He now works for Sports Illustrated as a senior writer.

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None of my Stanford friends (I know, that sounds like an oxymoron) will be at this year's Big Game, and that shitty little certainty-more than the wretched Tree, the pompous gloating, the criminally feeble fans or the fact that once welcomed onto that sterile golf course of a campus, it is physically impossible to flunk out-is the most compelling reason to detest Satan's school.

This seven-year bitch has got to stop, if only to remind the good people of the Cal community just how psyched we are to be us. Seriously, after you spent a day on this glorious campus, weren't you eternally grateful that you didn't get admitted to that sterile, hand-holding institute of bland? Yet Stanfordites, like my buddy Andy-who, by the way, will be supporting his team during Saturday's Big Game by sitting on a beach in paradise-are convinced that we all have inferiority complexes.

Yeah, and when I'm spooning my wife in bed tonight, I'll secretly be wishing she were Monica Lewinsky.

(Sorry for the tired Clinton-era reference, but, you see, Monica did things to the father of a young lady who attended a certain university, amid much hoopla, and anything I can do to stomp on Stanford's buzz...)

The fact that so many Cardinal (athletic) supporters, and I use that term lightly, are staying away from this year's game tells you all you need to know about what kind of people they are. Like the Stanford rugby team, they're perfectly happy to compete-unless they don't think they have a good chance of winning, at which point they'll take their ball and go home. We in the business of covering big-time sports have a term for such individuals, so allow me to share the benefit of my professional expertise.

It starts with a "P," and it rhymes with "wussies."

Think about it: Stanford people are the ones who walk into a party, slither over to the side of the room, survey the scene and pass judgment on the behavior of others. Cal folks are the party. We unabashedly barge into the joint and take over-loud, proud and unbowed.

Cue the music: It's getting hot in herre. So take off all your clothes...

As a thirtysomething writer for Sports Illustrated, I can tell y'all a few things about what goes down after college, in the so-called real world. Thanks to a massive, prolonged assault on my brain-cell supply, I am not nearly as smart as you, but I am wiser, and one thing I've learned is that the creative, spontaneous originals among us live richer lives than our safe, boring contemporaries.

Let me put it more succinctly: After college, Cal kicks Stanford's ass.

We are doctors who cure diseases and dot-com ziillionaires who've actually contributed more to society than orchestrating IPOs. We're workaday bacon-providers who exude passion and stay-at-home parents who party like rock stars. For that matter, we are rock stars, and denim-empire creators, and matchmakers on the grandest of scales.

How come my boss at the Daily Cal went on to dominate reality TV, creating 'The Bachelor' and the delightfully twisted 'Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire?' while the guy who ran the Stanford Daily at the time became Bill Simon's speechwriter? (OK, on that last point, I'm just talking out of my ass, but you have to admit it SOUNDS plausible.)

Do you think something as wonderfully unique and unfathomable as The Play could have happened the other way around? I was at Memorial Stadium on that crisp, sunny afternoon 20 years ago, and, since many of you weren't born yet, this is the one thing you need to realize about that kickoff return: A few seconds after Mark Harmon's 35-yard field goal gave Stanford a 20-19 lead with four seconds to go, the entire Cal student section rose as one, defiantly, and summoned a sustained and fierce pre-kickoff cheer. I watched it from across the stadium as a high school senior, and I'll never forget the strange sensation: These people are fucking insane.

Then The Play happened, and it all made perfect sense. We are the BEARS. We have fought too hard for this. We are NOT losing this game.

Let me tell you about one other act of defiance, this one coming up on its 10-year anniversary. As Cal was getting spanked in the 1992 Big Game at Memorial, Stanford fans, elated over their 5-0-1 stretch in the once-balanced rivalry, actually showed a pulse and began a taunting chant. The Tree ventured closer and closer to the Cal student section, gyrating in its insipid outfit, until a Cal rugby player named Mark Bingham could stand it no longer. Bingham jumped from the stands, made a beeline for the Plant from Purgatory and chopped its sorry ass to the ground, reminding everyone in attendance that there are some things that simply can't be tolerated. And while I would never advocate such a renegade display of violence, I sincerely hope that if such a gesture ever were to take place again, the culprit would honor his predecessor by pointing a finger to the sky.

That's because 14 months ago Bingham was one of the Flight 93 passengers who fought back against the Sept. 11 terrorists and made the ultimate sacrifice. And though I'm in no way comparing the magnitude of events and circumstances, I will say this: That is a California Golden Bear.

Now, it takes more than passionate fans and overall institutional superiority to win a football game, and for so many of the last 16 years, our players have been less prepared and less focused than their Stanford counterparts. That almost certainly won't be the case in this or future years: After last season, our new athletic administrators went out and hired a good coach, and, sweet mother of the Jesus, Notre Dame confiscated the best college coach in the country.

On Saturday, finally, we can expect our players to be up to the magnitude of the task at hand-and make no mistake, this game is everything. Screw not being bowl-eligible; there is only one Bowl, anyway, and we haven't been to it since 1959. This is much, much bigger than playing in the Hyundai Pimp-Slap Bowl. It's a program-defining moment, a chance to return the Bay Area's mojo to its rightful owners, to take a dump in the Sears Cup and shoot our ridiculously backed-up wads for the first time in forever.

I have no worries. I know you'll be more charged than a Rachael Klein beat-off column by kickoff, and I sincerely pray you'll get the Cal performance you, as unabashed Golden Bear-backers, so richly deserve.

If so, I'll see you on the 50-yard line when it's all over, and the world is once again safe for democracy. Feel free to say hello-I'll be the guy with the cell phone, using what's left of my wretched voice to fuck up someone's Hawaiian vacation. 


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