If there was ever a year to start off being a Cal football fan, 2004 was the best and the worst.
It was the best because it was the best. We were rock stars. We were awesome. We dominated our opponents. We owned our Big Game rivalry. We had the best worst loss you can ever have—going toe-to-toe with the eventual (redacted) national champions and nearly coming out on top. We rolled through the rest of the conference. We landed a top-notch recruiting class that would keep us in contention for another half-decade. We felt like we were on top of the world.
It was the worst because it became the expectation. Like suddenly us young dumb frosh thought Cal was this rising powerhouse that would dominate college football for years to come, just because we had a hot head coach and a bunch of great players with new talent on the way. And in the end we learned the hard way that Cal football has not been fair, has never been fair, and that even great seasons can end in the bitterest of disappointments.
2004 feels like it belongs in a time capsule I just dug up behind Pappy's statue. The Furd were a flaming wreck that would transition from Buddy Teevens to Walt Harris that season and were about to learn the feeling of losing to UC Davis. Oregon was the program that was just starting to figure out how every week could be a Fashion Week. Washington was about to rejuvenate themselves with one of the most unappreciated coaches in college football in Ty Willingham. And UCLA was still firming themselves up with a young aspiring leader named Karl Dorrell.
A decade later, the world has flipped on its head. The conference has flipped around and we've gone upside-down along with it. The expectations have gone from "be the best" to "do your best". So I can imagine we didn't gain too many fans to Bear Territory last season, and we'll have our difficulties to gain traction this year. That's the worst part of seasons like these--we lose so many potential prospective fans at a time when we need more of them than ever before.
So here's for hoping a 2004 is on the horizon.
What was your first season like as a Cal fan? What did people expect of the team before the season and how did they perform? How long did it take you to latch onto the Bears for life?