Saturday, September 1, 2007
A Night Of Revemption
It is very hot this week in Hollywood, California. I came home one night to find a neighbor in the courtyard, shirtless, smoking, and whirling around a set of nunchucks. This sort of thing, in the wrong frame of mind, can make the world ominous and unpleasant.
Tonight I went to the Valley to watch Cal's first football game. On my way to the subway this guy driving an old woman around rolled down his window to ask me where the Crossroads of the World was. Fortunately, I could tell him.
The game was against Tennessee. Last year Cal lost to Tennessee; this year Cal's coach kept saying "It's not about revenge; it's about redemption." After the first gin and tonic that became revemption. I will not confirm or deny any rumors that Doug Flutie, appearing on the halftime show, was called Doug Cutie. If it happened it would have been wrong and bad.
At the orientation for UC Berkeley I attended many years ago the student leader types kept talking about Cal. This bothered me. I had never heard of such a thing. What the hell is this? I thought. At the time I believed that the institutions of marriage and high-level college athletics had peaked, and would entirely disappear within the next fifteen to twenty years. It turns out I was wrong.
I have some Cal sports fan credentials. In my sophomore year I had season tickets to the basketball team; I can still churn out a credible "grrr rah" kind of noise when the spirit moves me. Just yesterday I saw an Abdur-Rahim jersey and it took me back. I do harbor a genuine distaste for Stanford as an institution. Plus it's easy to fake predictive ability with a Cal sports team. If they are expected to do well they will fall apart in a critical game. I like that.
But am I really a Cal sports fan? I am, inasmuch as I am an admirer of anything, an admirer of the UC system and of Berkeley in particular. It's a nice thing, a genuinely good thing, the public university. And I spent a year in a Big 12 city with a very serious college football obsession, which is a good way to develop a certain enthusiasm for even the least likable of the Pac 10 schools. By the end of my time there the USC students (televised at the football games!) started looking like hippies to me, people ready at any moment to dart up a tree for a sit-in.
And I have kind of a fan-like personality. I like rooting for things. I like watching a team I identify with win. It makes me happy. I'll do some fist-pumping. I hugged strangers during the Lakers run in the playoffs against Phoenix a couple of years back.
But I'm not sure I like Cal as a football powerhouse. I don't like it being nationally ranked. I don't like the idea of alumni who give money to support the team. I don't like the idea that rooting for Cal actually means something. If Cal loses to San Jose State every year, you can split the difference between being a real fan and being a jokey fan. That's not really true these days, at least before the inevitable mid-season collapse.
On the upside, it's the best marching band going, so there's at least that.
Cal won the game. I got a ride back into Hollywood; we passed all the kids lining up for the nightclubs. A different neighbor was standing in the courtyard smoking wearing those pajamas that are flannel and plaid, but shorts and short sleeves.