It's everywhere we look - print, television, the Web. It's coming from local media, fans, even the Athletic Department. Retrospectives, sharing of memories, taking of mementos... you'd think it was Demolition Day at old Yankee Stadium. Why does everyone hear Memorial's swan song... when it's not actually being sung?
If your spouse (or significant other) were going in for a beneficial reconstructive surgery... would you hold a funeral for that person? Gather all the friends and family together, talk about all the good times they'd miss? Would the group speak longingly of that person in the past tense, speak of how everyone was so sad that they'd never him/her again?
For the grand majority of us, this would not be the case - yet many people are taking this very course of action. For some reason, much had been made of Saturday's game as "the final game in Memorial Stadium." Official UC Berkeley websites read, "Celebration Planned for Final Home Game in Memorial Stadium." Local media articles splash headlines like "Final Game Played At Cal’s Memorial Stadium." Cal fans on the Internet post pictures entitled "Final Big Game at Memorial Stadium." Even the great California Golden Blogs is not immune to the effects of the phenomenon. Sounds like old Memorial's on her way out - time for drydock, soon to be decommissioned and demolished to make way for a brand-new, never-before-seen football mecca of completely unique design and form.
...except that it's not.
Memorial Stadium is not being demolished. It's not leaving, it's not being spirited away in the night by mischievous imps. It's simply being renovated. Sure, it'll hold a few less people. Yes, it will look nicer and have better facilities for players and fans alike. But it's the same place. It's taking a year off, but come 2012, it'll be better than ever - and it'll still the birthplace of card stunts, still the jewel of Strawberry Canyon, still the home of Andy Smith, Pappy Waldorf and Joe Kapp.
It's understandable for fans to be hyperbolic when it comes to things of this nature; perhaps even the local media can be excused if they're just trying to reach readers. The most curious and distressing source of this false nostalgia is the Athletic Department itself. They've urged us not to miss "the final home game." At the game itself, PA announcements incessantly referred to "the final game at Memorial Stadium." Postgame ceremonies with Birgeneau and Barbour. Halftime retrospectives with respected names like Hardy Nickerson, Russell White, Bob Calonico. Everything the Athletic Department does evokes a sense that Memorial Stadium is going away. Far short of inviting us to look toward the future, they instead exhort us to reflect on the past - which we do. We buy into it. Fans, student mic-men, reporters - we continue to see the end of an era when, in fact, it is only a continuation. This, it seems, is what the Athletic Department would prefer we do. It begs the question... why?
Why frame the discussion like this? Why speak of Memorial as a member of the dearly departed? Whether their intent is merely respectful, or rather a preparation for a new turn of events... is yet to be seen.
The University is in dire financial straits; perhaps they feel the time truly has come to say goodbye to "Memorial Stadium." Naming rights can be a sizeable windfall to an athletic department; it may be that Cal's has reached this point. While much more common for basketball arenas, Minnesota and Texas Tech show us that possibilities are available for football stadiums as well. Would our benefactor be a corporation? Would it be a generous alumnus or alumna? The pomp, circumstance, and air of finality given to Saturday's game could indeed be a stepping stone, a way to start to ease the public into news that our renovated environs will not be as familiar as we have been led to believe they would. Of course, they may simply be a somewhat misguided way to say "see you later" to an old friend.
Whatever the case, let us all remember that our beloved Memorial Stadium is not gone, and is not going away. Let us speak of her in the present tense, not as a loved one who has passed into the great beyond. She is not, as the saying goes, for the ages. She's been put under anesthesia and rolled into the operating room. After a much needed procedure and a little time for recovery, she'll be back before we know it. The same, only better - and healthier than she's been in a long, long time.