It's Oregon State week... Excited? Yeah, that's what I thought. For Cal fans, OSU is right up there with SC week as the most feared, DOOM-impending week of the year. Images of the closing seconds of 2007 come to mind. 2009 and the memory of Jahvid Best leaping into the endzone still causes most Cal fans to cringe... So you may think the indignities that we've suffered to Oregon State during the Tedford era are bad. And you'd be right. But I take you a time where, hard as it is to believe, it was worse. Long ago days of acid washed Guess jeans, Esprit shirts, and stiff leg dancing to the Valley Girl soundtrack, and that was just the guys. Ah, those halcyon days of the 1980s. Now Cal was no juggernaut in the 80s. In fact we pretty much defined mediocrity. But there was one team in the conference who made people take notice... because they were so bad. That team was our friends from Corvallis. I am not sure there was a worse team in college football for an entire decade (actually two decades if you include the 70s) than Oregon State. During the ten seasons from 1980 through 1989 Oregon State compiled a truly impressive horrific record of 22-85-4... read that again... Over a decade they averaged 2 wins a season against almost 9 losses. Not one winning season. A three year stretch where they won only 3 games. So you'd think CAL probably went no worse than 8-2 against them, right? Oh my friends, you're so naive... after the jump the rest of the story and how I owe being micman, in part, to that 1989 Oregon State game.
For whatever reason, CAL has been unduly cursed against the Beavers. We've seen it this decade. But as I said above, it really started in the 1980s. Against a team that had a total of 22 wins in the entire decade, your California Golden Bears were 4-5. That's right, almost 25% of OSU's wins in the decade came against Cal. Against the rest of the football playing universe Oregon State had a winning percentage of .167. Against Cal, their winning percentage was .556!
By now you've all heard of the extra minute game in 1988... I want to talk about the following year's game, which was rightfully forgotten (as it was happening no doubt) by everyone involved and not involved.
Cal came into the game 2-5. Oregon State came into the game 3-3-1, feeling good about themselves as the week before they had beat UCLA in Corvallis. 29,000 people spread out and made themselves comfortable in Memorial Stadium that day. Here's the Cal band's half time performance... Look at the excitement in Memorial that day!
Cal Band Disney Show 1989 (via brassplayer)
As you can tell from that video, the student section wasn't exactly overflowing. The mic men had been so bad that year, including a mic-couple with the dude wearing aviator glasses, that the student body had rolled them up and off the boards. Literally threw them out of the stadium. Talk about a tough crowd. So for the Oregon State game believe it or not, seriously, they just had an open mic up there… anybody who wanted, could go up to the mic and start leading cheers… it was deliciously absurd in an only at CAL kind of way as a steady parade of drunk coeds would accept dares from their drunken cohorts and go make a fool of themselves on the microphone.
Some background: when I was growing up and going to Cal games as a kid, there were always great micmen who would do great interactive and extemporaneous cheers. A favorite of mine was in 1982 against UCLA. It had rained the night before and that morning and the rain on the new turf smelled bad. So the UCLA crowd yelled to the Cal section "HEY CAL! IT SMELLS IN HERE" to which the Cal students replied "ONLY SINCE YOU GOT HERE!"
Even in the mid 80s there was a micman, Dave McMahon (I think, anyone know?), who was really good, particularly given the product on the field. In 1987 during a game he got everyone in the crowd to simulate being a car shifting into gears. He got the whole stadium to do this. He was on the 50 yard line with the microphone and he would mime shifting through the gears with the crowd making the corresponding gear change whines and then he thrust on the breaks and the whole crowd screeched to a stop. Listen, this is what we had to do for entertainment at Cal football games then. We entertained ourselves or we weren't entertained!
So back to the game... at some point during the 2nd half, while Oregon State was winning, a shirtless guy got up to the mic and said "Hey everybody… on three, you can’t lick our beavers…." My friends and I looked at each other and commented on what a weird cheer for us to be doing… but the guy was earnest and started "1. 2. 3." And sure enough the students then sort of halfheartedly chanted "you can’t lick our beavers." Something about that just didn't sound right and sure enough all of sudden the guy put on his Oregon State shirt and yelled GO OSU!!! The Oregon State visiting section (such as it was) cheered their approval. We were so defeated and apathetic at that point we just sort of collectively waved him away, like "come on dude, we’re down enough without having you rub it in our faces…" So on the one hand I gave the guy huge props… I mean that took some serious cajones (or booze). But on the other hand I remember just thinking, man, this is what it has come to…This great university, the best student section in the PAC 10 and we're getting owned by some punk from Oregon State... And at that point I swore that if it was ever like that again I was going to do something about it (I was smart enough not to try that game).
Anyway, we'd go on to lose that game to the Beavers to ignominiously close out the decade of the 80s 4-5 against the worst team in college football. I don't remember how we lost... I don't remember it being a crushing loss. Or disappointing. Just another inexplicable loss to the Beavers. I vaguely remember Robbie Keen punting the hell out of the ball. And that's it...
But that OSU fan would have a profound impact on me and my life. During the Spring and Summer it ate at me... it ate at my very core as a Cal fan... I had nightmares about it... I'd awake in the middle of the night screaming "YOU CAN'T LICK OUR BEAVERS!!!" I'd see a mocking beaver in every cloud formation... Cars on the freeway would turn into long lines of Beavers coming after me... So I made it my calling to never, ever let what happened at that game happen again... Never again would I sit in the student section defeated... I didn't care how the team did, but I knew one thing damn it! That as god was my witness, that the Cal student section would return to its rightful place as the best damn student section in the conference, if not the country, if not the world!