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Cal beats Arizona: The Sweet Taste of Victory

Bears 74 - Wildcats 73

Palms of Victory
Palms of Victory

That. Is why. We do this.

My rule is I don't go to the games I write about. It's hard for me to really understand what's going on without my trusty video, research, and database tools. And there's the pesky matter of emotion clouding my perception of the game.

Tonight I had to break that rule, because I was obligated to go for charity fundraising reasons, and because, well, Arizona. I haven't seen one second of tape of the game. I haven't looked at a box score. I haven't read any postgame quotes. So this one is going to be purely from a fan's perspective. This is a fan blog, after all, and as much effort as I put into understanding what's happening on the court, I ultimately care so much because I'm a fan. I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies or oversights or insults to Arizona fans. Actually, I don't apologize for that last thing. More on that later.

Right now I just want to revel in how happy I am. It's been a tough month, full of losses and whistles and turnovers and criticism. Then tonight happened. Against Arizona. In an imperfect effort. In a Rocky-like game...punches thrown and taken and returned. After a near collapse. A missed shot. An eruption. A victory. Joy.

That. Is why. We do this.

A fan's journal

  • Two hours before gametime, at the traditional CGB meetup at Pappy's, I wander downstairs to see if our crew is there, and I run into...Arizona. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. Tables covered with Arizona logos and Arizona colors and...Arizona wherever you look. This is a Cal sports bar. Anger.

  • Seven minutes before game time. As part of my charity commitment I'm unfortunately high in section 11, in a 50/50 mix of Cal and Arizona fans. After the national anthem, the announcer CLEARLY asks the crowd to remain standing for the alma mater, Hail to California. As soon as the band (and I) sing the first line, an A-RI-ZO-NA chant erupts from all the visiting fans. It drowns out Hail to California, which is low, heartfelt, classy--not loud and obnoxious like the Wildcats. And here's when I lost my mind, and wanted a win more than I can ever remember wanting one before. I was told that the abhorrent Arizona fans were just a few bad apples, not representative of the whole fanbase. No. Every single Arizona fan around me, and hundreds more around the arena, without the basic decency to respect another school's alma mater. I love my university, and everyone in our Cal family, and everything that song represents. And Arizona chooses to spit all over that great tradition because they can't muster the common courtesy to SHUT UP for one minute. They are beneath contempt.

  • We come out moving the ball well, and we're getting nice looks. Not unexpected--Arizona's defense isn't great. The problem is on the other end. They're pounding it inside. Pounding, pounding, pounding. They get layup after layup. I start to worry. How are we going to stop these guys?

  • Suddenly there are fouls on Kingsley. Then fouls on Kam. Two on Kingsley he sits. Then he's back in??? A third. Then a third on Kam. They're still playing? What is happening here? I take solace in the fact Ivan is staying out of foul trouble, but the Arizona layups continue.

  • During a "Hey Alumni, Go!" cheer I am yelling "Bears!" as loud as I can. Because. As we settle back in an Arizona fan behind me says, "Nice try." My head is about to explode so I keep looking forward and yell, "THIS IS OUR HOUSE!" He laughs, "You'd think someone from a great university would know this is an arena, not a house." Clever.

  • We start to lose contact late in the first half. Their shots are too easy. Ours are too hard. The Arizona chants around me are getting louder. Then, a run. Jaylen, Jaylen, Sam, and a great Cuonzo call out of a timeout, Jordan wide open for three. It's only a two point deficit at halftime. Arizona fans curse. I smile. But I'm nervous. They are tearing us up inside and all our bigs are about to foul out. Fear. And hope. Hope. And fear.

  • Kingsley picks up his 4th foul in the first 15 seconds for apparently doing nothing. Doom. We're going to lose.

  • Another flurry. There's some zone defense. Somewhere a quick double team, which we never do. Good switches. Arizona turnover, and another, and another. Jabari hits a bunch of threes. Arizona fans around me are literally punching the bleachers with their fists and cursing, because that's what classy fans do. Sean Miller is going to use all his timeouts. The lead is 6, then 8, then 9. This is too good to be true. And it is.

  • Arizona goes inside again and again and again. York. Ristic. Anderson. How is our lead down to 2?

  • Sam comes out and I look for Chauca, AND HE'S NOT THERE. Jaylen is bringing the ball up. He enters the ball into the high post and makes a UCLA cut, comes off a pin down, and gets a good shot. And another. Over and over the UCLA cut into a good wing option. Hmmm. When did this happen and can I get more?

  • Jordan Mathews. Buckets. So many buckets.

  • The lead hangs around 7 for the longest time. 7 then 5 then 7 again. We're under 8 minutes. The offense is more deliberate. Somehow nobody has fouled out. Arizona fans now lashing out at the refs. I smile again.

  • Everyone has used all their timeouts. Somehow Ivan has picked up a bunch of quick fouls and has four. There are a bunch of dots waving behind the basket, but it doesn't help because Arizona can't miss a free throw. We certainly can, and miss two front ends. We're leaving points at the line and they're not. Ugh, it's tied and the Arizona fan in front of me has now turned and laughed in my face. Then Jordan. THREE. Zeus two. Rabb free throws. I can't breathe.

  • We are up 5 with 1:06 left and the Arizona fans who have been staring back at me on every made bucket decide to leave. They just walk right out. I don't know why I'm surprised. They suck.

  • A 5 point lead with a minute left should be enough. It's not. A silly York three. Then Sam just hands it to Arizona for another layup. HOW ARE WE TIED?

  • Jaylen isn't going to miss is he? Of course he is, because that's what we do. One point lead, they're rushing it up, I'm internally steeling myself for heartbreak...a flurry...I have no idea what's happening...WE WON WE WON WE WON WE WON.

  • This is our house.

  • I go down to find the CGB guys. I jump on atomsareenough's back. Nick yells something incoherent. We won.

That. Is why. We do this.

If you are a sports fan I don't have to explain to you what that moment felt like. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm really sorry.

We have an imperfect team. Our weaknesses are all too evident, and were certainly present tonight. We tried to give the game away via poor free throw shooting and an abysmal turnover. We have to get better.

But for one night, it doesn't matter. What matters is Gabe York's shot fell off the rim, and the students were on the court, and we beat Arizona and silenced their fans. Whatever their strengths and weaknesses, those are our guys, our family, our stalwarts girded for the fray -- they represent us and everything that is great about our university, our alma mater. Tonight they fought through wave after wave of setback and adversity and in the end they gave us a moment we will never forget.

Together. We attack. Glorious. Victorious. Go Bears.