For Bears, Thinking Pink Means More

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Why is it still so pink in here?

Wasn't Thursday night's game against Oregon the designated Pink Zone home game?

Two nights later at Haas Pavilion, the players of the No. 6 Cal women's basketball team still had pink shoelaces, the fan giveaways were still pink T-shirts and the referees were still officiating with pink whistles.

In fact, Breast Cancer Awareness Week-a national event organized by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association-wasn't over until yesterday.

And since Feb. 13, teams across the nation have brought attention to a disease that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The Bears officially participated against the Ducks, who wore pink uniforms for a second annual event that offered a reduced admission price to fans dressed in pink.

But on Saturday, Cal showed that one night of awareness wasn't enough.

That a 62-40 victory over Oregon State was not as important as a victory over a vicious disease.

That 18 assists on 26 field goals for the Bears were an afterthought compared to one assist to a crucial cause.

That senior forward Ashley Walker, the new school leader in all-time rebounding, is only an athletic parallel to Carol Ann Read, a revered leader in the fight against breast cancer.

That a roster with two starting players from Oakland is trivial in relation to a woman in whose name a breast health center was recently established in Oakland.

That a basketball game was about more than just basketball.

Indeed, sports have become a popular arena for issues that transcend the world of slam dunks and grand slams.

From the AIDS awareness projects of former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson to the LIVESTRONG wristbands of cyclist Lance Armstrong, efforts by people involved in sports across the country have recognized the relative irrelevance of their professions to life itself.

Saturday night's game against the Beavers was no exception, as pamphlets and donation boxes found their way around the gym.

But this Cal team is not foreign to merging basketball and community.

Last summer, junior Rama N'diaye led the Bears to her native country of Senegal, where she and her teammates spent time at African clinics and orphanages, doing their part to make a difference.

Cal coach Joanne Boyle, who is on the WBCA Board of Directors, pledged that she would match every dollar up to $10,000 donated to the SEEDS Foundation, which benefits African youth.

At a home game several weeks ago, fans were treated to a brief game of wheelchair basketball during halftime.

And at the break on Saturday, with the Bears and Oregon State in their respective locker rooms, the Mt. Diablo Warriors played a short scrimmage, giving young adults with various disabilities a chance to shine on the hardwood.

Excuse a little idealistic optimism, but if anyone in the crowd of 2,405 learned one fact about breast cancer or donated one dollar or put basketball in perspective for one moment, then the event was successful.

The post-game press conference was shorter than usual. It became clear that a group of reporters asking questions about basketball was second to a group of children asking players for autographs.

Walker quickly returned to the court, sat down at a table with two teammates and began signing hats and posters, smiling for pictures and chatting with the fans who anxiously awaited the player who had just made a mark in the Cal record books.

She hadn't changed out of her uniform, her basketball shoes were still on and her pink shoelaces were still tied tight.


What cause are you playing for? Tell Jeff at [email protected]

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