Bear Naked: Oak Grove Hippies Talk Sports


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Tree-Sit Supporter Ayr on Sports

Tree-sit supporter Ayr speaks about the role of sports in his life and shares his feelings on Cal football.

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After a much-extended exercise in arguably misguided environmentalism, its grove-y statesmen have worn out their welcome twice over at Memorial Stadium.

The hippies' novelty wore out rather quickly for the student body, which, over the past handful of years, has re-realized the cleansing powers of the gridiron. Last Wednesday, the courts gave 'em the boot to make it official.

Or have they?

The last time I checked, the tree-sitters were still there. Who are these guys? Have they not a smudge of self-interest? Have they only self-interest?

Last month, the respected Economist ran a report on the protests; near the end of what read on as rather uninformed commentary, the reporter took a shot at the student body, perhaps hinting at an underlying correlation between the predominantly Asian-American makeup of the student body and the fact that, as opposed to their rowdy counterparts of the past, today's undergraduates would rather study.

More often than not, I think I fall under the category of Asian American undergrads who don't study. So to stick it to the assumptive publication across the Atlantic, I decided to take a walk.

Upon my arrival at the oak grove, I was met by Terry from Boston, who confessed that his views are likely the most extreme and in contrast to those of sports fans' before I even began with my questions. And as he opened his mouth, I knew this was going to be one long conversation.

Still, his most resonant response may have been his first. Offering his take on the inappropriate share of attention people give to sports, Terry shared an example.

"MIT, I believe has won one football game each of the last two years ... Yet MIT has a fantastic university," said Terry. "Really top notch ... When I'd do politics there and talk to students, they would really know what I was talking about, I have to say, frankly, much more so than Berkeley students do. And their university football sucks."

He obviously doesn't see much value in collegiate sports, and, hey, I have no problem with someone who feels that way. But when he extended his point to the city's finances of harboring a football team, it, frankly, didn't make sense.

"Why even have a D-1 football team? That's a huge waste of money," said Terry. "If they transparently put it all out there, all the money it brings in and all the money it pours out, there's gonna be more money spent on the football team than it brings in, especially when they spend a billion dollars on the new football stadium."

I can usually put up with people who don't respect sports, but I definitely couldn't stomach this type of nonsensical zero-sum economics.

After sustaining a cordial conversation as long as I could, I thanked him for his time and walked away. Fortunately, I soon found someone else who was more interested in a sports-related discussion.

"Dragon," from Denver, seemed like an earnest man. He shared the popular belief amongst tree-sitters that the new facilities and the oak grove could coexist, but what really made our conversation was his proposal to solving the issues of starving protesters and the divisiveness among those involved.

When I asked for his thoughts on the potential quarterback controversy for the Cal football team, he instead gave me this:

"I've thought of a really good way we can test their skill," said Dragon. "They're trying to starve these people out of the trees, and I figured out a way we can pull the athletes and protesters together because right now, we need some athletes.

"We can take some footballs, cut the seams, fill them full of food, put a wire through and then we can put on some kind of grappling on it. The food that could be in one football could keep them alive for weeks."

Not possible. The SIDs at Cal Athletics would never allow for that. Plus, wouldn't the athletes who offer their "aerial projection" skills run into legal troubles of their own?

"Uhm, I hope not," said Dragon, "but we do have all kinds of circus makeup because we do have a couple clowns who come and protest with us, and we also have an ape suit."

Now it's definitely not possible. But way to strive for unity while spending taxpayers' hard-earned money.

Before I left the grove for good, I made a couple more stops, one of which was with "Ayr." Highly regarded amongst tree-sitters, Ayr usually doesn't talk to my co-workers, but perhaps he found a particular air of harmlessness in me.

During his adolescence, Ayr said he used to be a left-field bleacher bum at Wrigley Field. As firmly as he voiced his views that the oak grove and new student-athlete facilities aren't mutually exclusive -- which, by the way, has its merits -- while agreeing with Terry that there is too big of a focus on sports in society, Ayr is somewhat of a Cal fan.

He even cheered on during the Oregon State game.

"I got to meet some of the (football) players, so I became friends with them," says Ayr. "Or, you know, at least I got to talk to them a little bit, so I wanted them to do good."

And, sure, sports is a mere segment of his childhood, but it seems like there might have been some lasting effects.

"I think growing up a Cub fan definitely helped me appreciate the spirit of the underdog," says Ayr, "and I carry that with me."

Ayr continued, speaking for himself, other Cubs fans and, ironically, tree-cutters all around the world:

"This is the year, you know, it's only been a hundred years, so I think we got it."


Whose year will it be? Tell Andrew at [email protected]

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