Patience the Greatest Virtue for Cal Fans

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When I was a kid, my parents often told me that if I put in hard work and endured the rougher times, I would be rewarded for my perseverance and that light at the end of the tunnel would come soon enough.

Shouldn't that theory also hold true in sports? If fans are willing endure the bleaker eras of their beloved teams, shouldn't they be rewarded with success?

Take a look at the San Francisco Giants. After years of "torturing" their fans, they finally rewarded their faithful with a World Series victory. Or how about the New Orleans Saints? Before Drew Brees showed up, things were looking pretty grim in the Big Easy. Still, those paper bag-donning fans kept supporting their franchise, and were given a Super Bowl win in return.

So when is Cal football going to show its fan base a little love?

The truth about the Bears is that they haven't fit this theory in the past. They get plenty of support from their fans, but they never really give any back.

What's just plain cruel about Cal is that it tempts us into believing in them by convincing us that it's ready to get back on top. Preseason hype and early-season wins (the Oregon game in 2007 is a perfect example) captivate us, and make us sure that it's time for us to feel like champions. Instead, the Bears end up showing us what it feels like to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, like losing when you're up by six with the ball inside the Arizona 30-yard line with under three minutes left.

It's one thing for a team to be bad, but it's another thing for an average team to pretend to be great. It's much harder to be a fan of the latter.

The 2004 season is one that illustrates what Cal football's true nature is. The Bears finished the regular season at 10-1, were ranked No. 4 in the nation, and looked poised to go to the Rose Bowl.

Then the Bears didn't get the Rose Bowl bid, which hurt, but wasn't the end of the world. At least they were going to the Holiday Bowl to play a respectable opponent.

I then spent my 13th birthday watching Cal get dismantled by Texas Tech, which hurt a lot, but things could've been worse. At least Aaron Rodgers would come back for his senior season and get Cal back on top the next year.

A couple weeks later, Rodgers declared for the NFL draft, and in came Joe Ayoob, who was later replaced by Steve Levy. You know things are bad when you have to turn to a fullback to finish out the season at quarterback, though he did lead the Bears to wins in both the Big Game and the Las Vegas Bowl.

I really can't complain too much, as there are many Old Blues with far more disheartening stories than my own. Joe Kapp won't drink tequila until the Bears get back to the Rose Bowl. Think of how many times over the past half-century he's had a salted glass in hand and margarita mix at the ready, only to have to turn back to chardonnay - which he hates.

So why do we keep showing up every year if we know we're just going to end up disappointed? Because, eventually, the Bears are going to find the success we so crave. And when Cal finally gets to where it needs to go, having suffered throughout the entire journey will make the end result taste that much sweeter.

One day, we'll all wake up on New Year's Day and find the Rose Bowl full of Yale Blue and Gold, with no Tommy Trojan or Oregon Duck in sight.

I'm not saying we should just wait around and hope for the best. We need to demand that those in charge actively pursue all possible ways to improve, such as Jeff Tedford finding a replacement for Andy Ludwig, whose offense has been less exciting to watch than C-SPAN. In my opinion, Mike Leach would be a great fit.

I'm just saying that Cal fans out there need not lose faith. Things are going to get better, and you're going to be rewarded for your commitment.

Cal fans have spent enough time in Purgatorio. We're bound to get to Paradiso soon enough.


Watch C-SPAN and drink a glass of chardonnay with Connor at [email protected]

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