Todays effort by the women's tennis team has got me thinking ...
You know, being a Bear for over 20 years now (including 21 as an “Old Blue”), I’ve come to notice a few things about Cal.
Oh we do rock. We few, we happy few. We band of Bears. Despite their protestations to the contrary, others do begrudge us our admittance and membership in this exclusive Navy Blue and Gold club. And hell yeah, that feels kind of good.
And we come out of the true UC grinder stronger in a very proto-Nietzchean way. Both academically and athletically. Coming out of this crucible has given us an understanding of pain, un-met promises, and the agony of never grabbing that golden ring that most others will never know. Let’s face it, Cal sports is the epitome of the Stine*: the bait-and-switch; the three card monte; raising our hopes only to dash them at the end; being a bridesmaid but never the bride; etc etc etc.
Since my freshman year in 1982 I can almost count on two hands the number of times Cal sports exceeded expectations (note: that leaves out all Rugby wins). There was The Play. There was the first win over Fucla in hoops back with KJ and Leonard Taylor. There was the convincing Citrus Bowl win during the Bruce Snyder years. There was the “national championship” in the NIT. There was winning the Pac-8 championships in Hockey a few years back. There was beating Fucla in hoops in the Pac-10 tourney. There was the last-secone miracle goal against $C in the Water Polo championships two years back, And there was JT’s success.
Other than that? Unmet expectations, predictable collapse, nearly constant and uncountable disappointment, and strong but short efforts against other teams (such as today's noble effort by women's tennis).
But still, we cheer, we root, we hope, and we believe. Because that’s what being a Cal fan and an Old Blue is about. It’s about understanding that the effort is sometimes more important than the result. And it’s about respecting and bleeding true blue and gold. It’s about pride in ourselves, not just in the number of titles we’ve won, and realizing that we have to work – sometimes damned hard – for our accomplishments and our failures. It’s something Furds will not understand, and something Trojies and babybruins will mock. But it’s what makes us Golden Bears.
And let me tell you, Pilot, that aint easy. In fact, it usually sucks. But, here comes Nietzche again, and we understand, and deal, and accept, and are the better for it. Sometimes it’s a lot like being Belgian or Dutch – you know, the red-headed stepchildren. The ones who always get stomped but have moments of glory.
The best part of all of this is knowing that we earn what we get. Our wins (whether upsets or not) are sweet, and we don’t take them for granted. We’re not spoiled or complacent (except for Rugby), and we savor every success - both iIn sports and in life. Think about it, just getting in to UC, we have achieved! And proud we are of all of us.
So, Fucla may have their 102 championships (and counting). $C may have a total chokehold on the Pac-10 football titles. Furd may have the Axe -- and congratulations and good work to all of them. But we have the knowledge that no matter what else life may throw at us, it can never ever come close to the pain, hardship, struggle, and constant effort of being a Cal fan.
Hell, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
* Stine: A term devised in 1985 based on a guy I know who would try and act mysteriously or unpredictably in order to gain an advantage in poker. It never worked, and so Stine is now used to denote any sort of twist of fate - usually in the negative.