It's the End of The World-Until Next Year
Monday, May 4, 2009
Category: Sports > Spring > Rugby
On Saturday at precisely 9:08 p.m., the world as we knew it ended.
The five-time defending national champion Cal rugby team lost to Brigham Young, 25-22.
What's next, the apocalypse? The Earth must have slipped off its axis when the Bears didn't claim their 25th national title. Right?
Rest assured, the world will continue turning. But it's still easy to forget-especially because no member of the current team had ever fallen short of a national title-that, for the past 30 years, this has always been a possibility.
The only one not standing in complete amazement after the match was Cal coach Jack Clark. It's just what he's been saying all season: Despite their unmatched national success, the Bears aren't invulnerable.
In 26 years at the helm, this is Clark's sixth season without a national title. But this is the first time in program history that the Bears have lost in the championship match.
Forget thinking that Cal is always a lock for the national title. And forget wishing for anything other than a championship game between the top programs in the country. Anyone who witnessed the underdogs upset the 24-time national champions on Saturday knows there's nothing more you can ask of in a title match.
"It just comes naturally to Cal, but it just means more to us," senior Vito Qaqa said.
But does it really? Do five straight national titles dull the shine of a potential sixth?
The Bears never thought they were guaranteed to repeat as national champions, and judging by the despondent looks on their faces, winning last year's national title doesn't mitigate the disappointment of falling short this season.
"I feel a little sick to my stomach, to be honest with you," junior Blaine Scully said.
Although it's little comfort, the blank expressions will eventually fade, the feeling of shock will subside and Cal will still be the winningest program in history. Even BYU realized that.
"We're over the moon and ecstatic, but now we know we have a bigger target on our back," Cougars coach David Smyth said. "You've got to put Cal in a league of their own with what they've done, and we know they're coming back. So it's going to be a mammoth effort just to be coming back."
Next year's championship game could very well be another grudge match between the two programs. But if a rematch does occur, Smyth and his boys won't still be adjusting to the national tournament, and the Bears will be returning with a chip on their shoulder as a reminder of their mortality.
"It's motivation," said senior Colin Hawley, who will return to the team in 2010. "I never want to feel like this again. We're going to make sure we don't. This is a total learning point. It's like a knife in our hearts. We've never been stung like this before."
No one on the team had ever experienced that kind of a loss, but it was always a possibility. The world didn't end, BYU proved to be a top-notch team deserving of a national title and Saturday's match was the beginning of an epic rivalry.
Maybe Cal's 59-7 championship win last year misrepresented the competitiveness of the national tournament. No team can enter the season expecting a title-Cal included.
Has the shock worn off for you yet? Tell Caroline at [email protected]
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