From the 2006 through the 2008 seasons I held season tickets in Section II, row 19. Before the 2009 season I was expecting great things. Rose Bowl, maybe, National Champions? Hey why not? In short I was drinking the Kool-Aid, and for the first three games of the season, it was some of the sweetest, best tasting, nectar of the gods.
So I felt compelled to up my game in anticipation of this glorious campaign, and paid more of a "donation" to get better seats for 2009. Low and behold, when I received my new tickets I was upgraded to section F, row 20. After the jump, I'll describe what I discovered in this section of Bear Territory. You can expect the same hard hitting reportage you have come to enjoy from other posters, about an area of Bear Territory (seemingly) few CGB'ers have visited.
Before we get to Section F, a few words about the good fans of Section II. They were, on the whole, a rowdy rambunctious bunch, the perfect type of fans to have around you to celebrate a glorious Cal victory. Sure, we had a couple of little old people (who always came to the game late and left early, always wearing heavy jackets whatever the weather), but on the whole, as hearty a band of cutthroats you could wish for to lead into battle anywhere.
Board her on the upward roll and she's ours mates!
I saw so many great games with this crew, Oregon '06, Tennessee '07, so many. True, in '08 the people behind us were constantly asking who the players' names were, since the names had been removed from their jerseys, but what about the time the guy to the left of me snuck in 30 top dogs to share with the whole row at half time? Every time the student section started their chant of "Hey Alumni, make some noise", I was always able to feel smug in my (unvoiced) answer of "stupid kids, we are making tons of noise" along with my fully voiced chant of "Bears".
So when I got to our seats on September 5 against Maryland, I was pumped. And yes, these seats had a much better view from the 20 yard line instead of the goal line view in Section II. I always get to the game early, so when I got there, there were only a few fans. Then the rest of the section slowly filled in. My first inkling that their might be a problem was what the fans were wearing. I mean, this was supposed to be a "blue-out". The old blues all were wearing something Cal related, a faded hat, a scarf of "the play". But come on people, wear your colors!
Anyway the game got underway, and me and my son (who has been to most of the Cal games with me) proceeded to do our usual thing, which is to shout "OOOOO" as loud as we possibly can when the other team has the ball, only stopping when the ball is snapped to take a breath. Well, we made it to the first TV time out, when the old blue in front of us said "Wow, you guys are really loud", and his wife chimed in with "You two harmonize so well". Next comment (from him), "So, do you guys have season tickets"? "Oh yes, and we never miss a game". Was that a groan I heard?
Early in the the first quarter, Maryland received a false start penalty, and I stood up a turned around, and tried to fire up the fans in Section F, and said something to the effect of "that was great, we caused that penalty, lets keep up the noise". Their response: they laughed at me. So sad, they know they suck, and are perfectly happy that way.
My next interaction with the old blues revealed an aspect of mine that many people hate me for (well mainly my son). They were grumbling about the slow start that Cal had gotten off to (we were leading 7-0 at this point, and were kicking off the ball to Maryland), I told them, don't worry, Maryland will fumble the kickoff, and we will recover the ball. And that's exactly what happened. For the rest of the game they kept asking me to predict good things for Cal, but that's not the way it works, a strange compulsion has to strike me before I make any predictions.
As you all know, Cal beat Maryland 52-13, and had Tedford been the type to run up the score, we could have won by much more. At this point, the Kool-aid was still refreshing, but we didn't know how bad Maryland really was last year. But I did know how bad the fans of Section F, row 20 were. They aren't all old blues, the Cal fans behind us all were 40-ish dads with their 10 year old sons, daughters etc... But you can't expect the kids to do a man's job, and the fathers were all acting like restrained role models of good behavior. And all the Radios? What is the deal with that? You are at the game, the action is right in front of you, and you want to cut yourself off from your fellow fans TO LISTEN TO THE RADIO? These things should be banned.
So Avi and Hydrotech can write penetrating analyses of the Offensive lines, break down why plays succeed or fail, perform detailed statical models to predict future game results, but has anyone analyzed the fans? Well Cugel is here to step into that void. What follows are my observations and grades of Cal fans, and anything else I found interesting on the games I attended. The grades are of course a subjective blend of what I saw near me, and the response of the stadium as a whole.
Maryland: Grade B+
A lot of buzz for the first game of a highly anticipated season, but blue-out? Ha! Asking Cal fans to do anything in unison (well except booing Tiger) is like herding cats. Plus, a blow out, so the excitement level in the 4th quarter was understandably diminished.
Eastern Washington: Grade C+
Ok, it is a FCS team, but a pretty good one. It would have been nice to have more fans at the game, and the fog cover didn't help the excitement level, but its hard for me to rag on Cal fans for this one.
Minnesota: Grade A-
Of course the grade makes sense in that if you are going to travel thousands miles for an away game, you are much more likely to be a rabid fan, and most of them were. This was a bittersweet game for me personally, since my son was set to join me, but had to take a later flight. Most unfortunately his first flight had mechanical trouble, which meant he would miss the connecting fight, and thus miss the game. I stood around the gates for a half hour before the game looking for a Cal fan to give his ticket to, but came up empty.
Luckily, I made friends with Suzy, a Cal fan from Southern California, who was kind enough to let me use some of her sunscreen, and we high-fived and watched the game together. Suzy, if you read this, thanks for making my Minneapolis visit more pleasurable. I found Minneapolis to be a wonderful, friendly place to visit. I stayed at the Graves 601, were I encountered a strange cultural phenomenon; a entire mob of extremely attractive young ladies with uniformly extremely douchy male companions. Maybe it was just another night clubbing, or maybe they were filming a new reality show. I never found out.
If you visit, I highly recommend The Local, good food, lots of great beers, their claim to fame is that they serve more Jameson whiskey than any other establishment in the US. Had my first taste of Jameson 18 year, stuff is awesome. I also learned for the first time the joy of texting. I had always viewed texting teenagers as little better than morons, just call the person for Christ's sake! But I actually texted my son as we watched the Texas - Texas Tech game, and I guess it has its uses.
And remember, as long as TFC Bank Stadium is there, Minnesota's first loss there will always be to California.
USC: Grade A-
I certainly thought we would bounce back to defeat USC after the debacle in Eugene. It was not to be, but at least Cal fans remained vocal and passionate, even into the fourth quarter. Sigh. It was a winnable game, if only Riley hadn't thrown that pick, and then tightened up, but sadly, he did.
Washington State: Grade C+
Ok, so the bloom had come off the season, but really, there was still a lot to play for, and we need the fans. Loud fans. Instead Bear fans seamed listless. Sure they cheered all the scoring, but there didn't seam to be the passion from the crowd when we were on defense. One of the kids behind me started making mocking "O" chants, really the nerve of kids these days. Of course, I blame the parents.
Oregon State: Grade Incomplete
Of course we all remember what happened in that game, an event that cast our disappointing season in a new light, rendering all the disappointment trivial to our fears for the health of our star player. Not that I've been to every Cal game, but I've never experienced anything like the deathly silence 56,000 fans. It was an eerie, disconcerting experience. Even as rabid a fan as I am, I couldn't work myself up to same fever pitch after the game resumed. I think it worth noting that the Oregon State fans were extremely classy (not that this is surprising, but still worth noting).
Arizona: Grade A-
Finally, small though it was, the crowd had some energy. Was it because it was a close, tight game throughout? Was it because Arizona was ranked and we weren't? Who knows. But at least I wasn't embarrassed by the Cal fans that were there; Mr. Radiohead even turned around and was high-fiving me! Now that's progress. After the final whistle, I shook hands with the old blues in front of us, and asked them if they were going to make it to the Big Game. They said no, but wished us luck. I know this post is somewhat mocking of the fans in my new section (yeah I just received my 2010 tickets for the same seats), but I can't really hate them, they're nice people, if less than demonstrative as I would like.
Stanfurd: Grade A
Ah, this is what the Cal fans should be like, every single game. The only reason its not an A+ is because so many of the younger element passed out drunk in the first quarter, or were tossed out of stadium for being drunk & disorderly (Cal on Cal violence!). Really people, know your limit; you're no good to your team, we need you for all four quarters. By the time we scored our first touchdown in the 2nd quarter, I was strangely confident that we were sure to win. I have no idea why; it was the pull of some illogical subterranean emotion, but it kept me suffused with a warm glow throughout the rest of the game. Oh and thank the Stanfurd administration for the opportunity to boo Tiger. BOOOOOOOOOOOO. So much fun.
What I take pride in (beside the performance of the team) was that even though Cal fans were outnumbered, we were at least as loud as the Stanfurdites; we really brought our A game to Palo Alto. If only we could do that at every home game.
Utah - Poinsettia Bowl: Grade B+
Before the game a couple of unusual things occurred. We got to San Diego, checked into our hotel and consulted the guide book to find somewhere to eat. My son was pitching for a place that was in "Top Gun", but guide book said the food was just so-so, so I vetoed that idea. Picked a place, drove there but it wasn't there. Hmmm, maybe we should have not just used the same book from the last time we here, for the Holiday Bowl vs. A&M. Oh well, tried to find a place by walking around the Gaslight area. But consensus was not easily achieved. Finally stumbled into Osteria Panevino on 5th Avenue, looked a bit pricey, but at this point I was so hungry I was past caring.
Anyway, after a full dinner/late lunch, with appetizers, wine & dessert I ask for the check, but no, my waiter tells me its been paid for. Huh? Say what? Someone paid for the four of us? We were all tricked out in our Cal gear, and this older Italian gentleman says that he was at the Big Game in 1982 (well he was old enough), and picked up our tab in honor of "The Play". I can neither deny or confirm his claim, but the day was certainly looking up at this point.
The other unusual event happened when we got to Qualcomm, my son asked some Utah fans if he could use there restroom, they said sure and took us to where they were tailgating (near a porta-potty). We had gotten there rather early, and we ended up hanging with them for some time, drinking Coors Light and red Kool-aid with vodka, and shooting the shit about College football. They were a very friendly bunch, and I know its a small sample, but I think they'll be a good fit in the Pac-12. I also discovered just how much they hate BYU, its us and Stanfurd x 10. They call it the Holy War, and after talking with them all I can think of is Shiites & Sunnis going at it.
I had a hard time grading the Cal fans in this game, certainly the ones near me were vocal enough, but it was a really poor showing. Like the Big Game, the whole family went, and Mrs. Cugel was really unhappy that we were traveling right before Christmas, which may explain why there were so few fans. Also the Poinsettia Bowl after the taste of the Kool-aid at the beginning of the season? This sommelier doesn't think they go well together. The fans seemed as dispirited as the team's disjointed play in the 3rd quarter.
So the 2010 season will be the last one before Memorial Stadium is remodeled. I really hope that we, the fans, can make this final season a memorable one, and bring our A game to every Saturday (and Friday if you're going to Reno). I know we can't control what happens on the field by screaming like manics form our seats, but we should give the team the best chance it has to win, and that starts with a home field advantage: your job, Cal fans.