25 November 2019

Glory, Glory Hallelujah

Cal head coach Justin Wilcox holding up the Stanfurd Axe
On Saturday Cal ended a nine-game losing streak to their bitter rivals from Stanfurd with a thrilling last minute 24-20 victory. I was there and went through all manner of emotion, many of them were very dark. At times, particularly in the 4th quarter it looked as if another crushing defeat was in the offing. I've seen enough to know. But I also know that things can change quickly and I -- and most importantly the Bears -- never gave up. Glory was to be ours this day. Quarterback Chase Garbers scampered for a touchdown with just over a minute left to give the Bears their first lead of the game. The defense then held and the celebrations began.

This was my 42nd Big Game -- my first was in 1964 -- and ranks in my top ten, squeezing in at the number five position.

A lot of people obsess about sports and take it far too seriously letting the results of a game ruin their mood or make them testy and even angry (my late great father was one such person). Very few sports events effect me for more than a few minutes or a few hours after they are completed no matter how long I've spent anticipating them. But Saturday's win is the kind that will linger with me in most positive ways for a few more days yet -- maybe weeks.

Photo by author, immediately after game
Cal football is in my DNA. My mother went to Cal and attended games as a student. She took me to my first Big Game. I went to Big Games with my father, some cousins, many friends over the years, my wife and my oldest daughter. I've made friends through Cal football. In some respects this devotion has been difficult because the Bears have not exactly excelled at football for the last 60 years, with only a few years of consistent glory. But in other respects the love I feel for the team is easy and natural. After all the team represents the number one institute of higher education in the world. The band is always excellent, the spirit songs are inspiring, the setting for home games is stunning. The traditions are meaningful and inspiring and the mascot, Oski, is my higher power. Most importantly the Bears have been part of the backdrop of my life since, well virtually since birth. Like Christmas I've loved the Bears as a small child, as a cynical teen, as a hard-drinking young adult, as a sober young father, as a matured middle aged man and now as senior citizen.

Loyalty is love practiced. I am and will forever be loyal to the Golden Bears and the biggest part of that loyalty is rooting the Bears on against their hated rivals. To lose to them year after year this past decade has been excruciating. To be relieved of that pain with such an exciting win is not just cathartic but invigorating.

Author with Jaylinn Hawkins, a Big Game hero
When the last seconds had ticked off I looked to the heavens and exclaimed loudly "that's for you, Kevin!" thinking of my great friend Kevin Lindsey who I had attended so many Big Games with including the last one the Golden Bears had won. On my way to romp on the field I high-fived the drum major of the Cal band and he hugged me. I did "snow angels" on the field. Patted players on the back and got my picture taken with a few of them. I literally skipped with joy. Some people might find the notion of doing a jig in celebration of a sports victory to be a bit silly. I would agree with them but then add, so what if it is. I've suffered enough depression (not just from Cal losses) over the years that I'm going to take any opportunity I can get to be happy and make the most of it.

Damn but I'm happy now. Go Bears!

(With special thanks to Chase Garbers, Nikko Remigio, Evan Weaver, Cameron Bynum the Cal O and D lines and everyone else who suited up on Saturday and thanks to coach Wilcox and his staff and thanks to Mom and Dad for making me a Cal fan I sense you up there looking down on me and smiling and saying, "Go Bears!")

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