Police Kill too Many People

Police Kill too Many People

I wasn’t quite sure what to title this post. It’s a rare foray for me into current events outside of sports. But the simplicity of it struck me and I thought, really, who could argue against that. The title is meant to be both pointed and vague. Interesting I would guess BOTH the citizenry and the police would agree with that assessment.

And it got me to thinking how it feels like every single issue requires us to take sides based on not wanting to be on the same side as someone else. We see Orlando as either a terrorist attack or a gun control problem. And we see it based on who’s on our side. Crazy thought, can’t it be both? This side-taking seems to be the wash, rinse, repeat of American discourse… I mean, we don’t even know the issue or the argument, but if THAT person feels that way, surely I must be on the other side.  On an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Chris Matthew nailed it:

One of the problems we’ve got in this country is the willingness to take sides on a fight like this without knowing what the hell happened… everyone goes right to their battle stations…

Sometimes I agree with Chris, often times I don’t. He makes a great point here and the beauty of it is you don’t need to even know what he is talking about to see the truth in what he says.

If you’ll allow me, a personal story.

A few summers ago, I wrote a blog about being pulled over and placed in jail for an outstanding bench warrant. To be clear, the bench warrant was bullshit because the original citation was bullshit. While it turned out to be the makings for a funny story, I honestly can’t help but think how those situations could have been different if I was not white. I received the original citation while driving in Tahoe at night on my way back from Gar Woods to my place at Heavenly. It was in winter, it was cold, but, as is my want, I had the windows down in my Jeep because I love the fresh air. I was driving the speed limit, not changing lanes, and not remotely impaired. A Nevada trooper pulled me over claiming he ran my plate and it came up expired. Despite current tags on the plate and having current registration with me, I still received a fix it ticket. I honestly didn’t (and still don’t) believe for a second the trooper, and felt he was fishing and using a pretense thinking I may have been under the influence. When clearly I wasn’t, and when I communicated politely and assertively, i was given the “fix it” ticket. Had I not been white, I would have 100% thought I was being pulled over for Driving While Black, or Hispanic or insert minority. And I think I would have been totally justified in feeling that way.

The arrest, 3 years later, while speeding through the night in eastern Nevada, also makes me question how things could have been different. Again, you can read the blog for details… I was definitely speeding and deserved the ticket. But how I was treated, having an outstanding “bench warrant,” and driving with two other recent Cal grads, and as I have joked, in a Jeep that even with the top off clearly smelled like I was transporting a Reggae band, makes me wonder how things could have been different. In fairness, I may have had the luck of being pulled over by the coolest state trooper ever, and he did seem like a good guy. But still. I’d have to be really naive to think if I was black or Hispanic that would have played out exactly the same.

Given the events of the last few weeks, I’ve found myself wanting to talk about #BlackLivesMatter, police killings, affecting change… But, to be blunt, it’s a very difficult topic for a white guy to bring a nuanced outlook to. I see hypocrisy (I think we’re all hypocrites), for instance do ALL #BlackLivesMatter?  IE why don’t we hear the same volume of outcry from the movement about what is going on in Chicago, where already this year 350 – mainly African Americans – have been murdered? (by the way, the boy at :30 in the below video, Zarriel Trotter, was shot in the back in March, caught in crossfire of a gun fight in Chicago). But on the other hand, I tell myself, hey just because someone doesn’t address EVERYTHING, doesn’t mean they can’t address SOMETHING. I see lots of yelling, and in trying to wrap my head around things, I’ve been called a racist because I don’t toe the line 100%, and that makes it REALLY hard to have a conversation. So that’s what this post is about. But stick with me for a moment more so I can set this up.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we talk to with each other about things that are important to us. How do we reach consensus on things that seem fairly obvious we should be in agreement? I have to be honest, I try very hard not wading into tough social issues online because does it ever change anything? I think, just because I have a thought doesn’t mean I have to share it with everyone. Being a relatively public figure (in my limited circles) to a degree, I always worry that people I like and who bring a lot to my life, may be offended and look at me differently, and I hate to rock the boat so what’s the point. But in so doing, I think I am doing us all a disservice and frankly I’m not giving those friends the respect they deserve; that they can realize I may think differently than they do and we can still be friends. We need to be able to talk honestly with each other, not be afraid to share our thinking and – and this is the important part – be willing to absorb what other people say and possibly have that better inform how we see things.

I have many, many friends who disagree with me on what we might consider core philosophies, that in this day and age people seem to think are deal breakers. And I’ll have people say “How can you be friends with that person…” Yet we’re still not just friends, we’re good friends. One example is gay marriage. Of course I believe in gay marriage. I think what just Kennedy wrote was  one of the most beautiful writings ever from the Supreme Court:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

So given that, you might think that would be a deal breaker for me, but it’s not. I understand how some people feel about this, I appreciate that more people are coming to my side, but I also understand that with some people they approach it from a different perspective. Usually they’re older, usually more religious, but you know, not only does it do me no good to push those people out of my life, or to call them names, or cast aspersions on  their character…  No, I hope that by being a part of each others’ lives they’ll eventually come to my understanding. This may sound weird, but I don’t do it for my benefit, I do it because I want THEM to embrace it, because I know what great people they are. And then, also, selfishly, these good people add more to my life than dismissing them for this issue would be worth. I would be the loser.

So that brings me to #BlackLivesMatter and the ongoing, and intensifying, of the “debate” around police killings. Peggy Noonan wrote a wonderful column on this in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. I could basically quote the entire article, so instead of doing that, I’ll just ask you to read it now… Go ahead, I’ll give you a couple of minutes…. OK, I lied, I’ll post this part:

He asked his fellow senators to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain . . . does not mean it does not exist.” Ignoring the struggles of others “does not make them disappear. It simply leaves you blind and the American family very vulnerable.”

Thursday by phone I asked Mr. Scott what reaction he’d received. Colleagues were “very supportive.” “ Orrin Hatch came in and hugged me,” he laughed. Public reaction was “very positive,” though “a minor percentage” disapproved. “Some people asked me to leave the party. Some people feel, they’re white and have been discriminated against as well. My point is, exactly! All discrimination is bad.” Some blacks, he said, are offended that he is Republican.

“I wanted to uncover my own pain and become vulnerable in hopes that others, who may not have my microphone,” will take heart. “I wanted to validate people and their concerns.”

Much progress has been made, he emphasized: “I don’t want us to be mired in the idea we’re losing ground. We’ve made up so much ground in the past 50 years.” But “there are dark corners that need a little light.”

When people are upset, whether it be protesters, office workers, friends… whomever… we have to understand, what are they after?  Are they looking to vent (certainly understandable), score political points (argh), or are they looking to solve a problem and make a difference. I always hope it’s the latter, and if so then I am all in.

police deaths

I post that table NOT to discount anyone’s feelings, or start an argument, or to argue we really need to ramp up police killings of Asians (THAT IS A JOKE!!!!). I post it because I’m not sure everyone is aware of this fact: Too many AMERICANS are being killed by the police. And because I know it’s coming (and I understand why) that is not to say all police killings are unjustified. But I think the chart shows two things that are equally true… Twice as many whites are killed by police as are blacks, and yet you’re 5 times as likely to be killed by police if you’re black than if you’re white. Going to the point with which I start this blog, you don’t have to be on opposite sides on this! Both those #s are stunning. I’m going to guess, a lot of you probably aren’t familiar with those #s. And I blame the media for that. Honestly, when is the last time on the national news you’ve seen footage of a white person being killed by the police?  Yet it happens twice as often as a black person being killed by the police. Let me say explicitly here, yes, the numbers are not proportionate with the population. The point is we have created a false narrative that irresponsibility leads to a mis-identification of the problem and in so doing, drives people, as Chris Matthews says, to their battle stations, which makes arriving at a solution just about impossible.

And this is where I say we have to talk with each other. Not scream at each other, which I see far too often on Facebook (and frankly, the people doing this fall within my general age demographic, not my college-aged friends, which gives me hope!). We should also be able to learn without pandering and patronizing. I love this exchange I had with my friend Matt Cochran:

He posts something. I take the time to read it so I can learn. I respond and then he acknowledges the point I make and is willing to learn. Man, that is how we do things.

Let me give you another tangentially related story that I hope makes that point about not needing to pander. While I was teaching in Malawi, I would insist that my students use correct English, because that is an important aspect of how they were going to get ahead. And they knew it and wanted it. Every once in a while, we would get visitors, usually well-meaning Americans, who would end up speaking to the locals in their sort of bastardized English. They did this so they would “fit in.” One day walking with my students I corrected one on something and he immediately said “You know Ken. We like you so much because you respect us and make us do things the right way.”  That was a remarkably powerful observation from a 17-year old orphan in Malawi. That’s what I mean by not being patronizing to people, just so you can fit it in. I recently read a column by Henry Rollins, which is exactly the “wrong” that I am talking about. Sure, there’s an element of preaching to the choir which will lead to heads nodding and saying “yep, that’s what I’m talking about…”  But what’s his objective? It certainly doesn’t seem like to change minds.  You and I are allowed to feel differently and think differently and we should be honest about that with each other.

While there are many different methods of persuasion,  saying “How you can you be so stupid as to…” usually isn’t a good one. Empathy is a phenomenally powerful tool. So too is familiarity. People are MUCH more likely to be receptive to what you are saying if you bring them in, not push them away. Yelling “here’s why you can’t possibly understand my condition, because you’re the problem” doesn’t help people understand and worse, usually doesn’t make them want to. Unfortunately, hostility is all too often the approach people take, especially on social media, most notably Facebook. While Mr. Rollins’ column is a good example, another would be when certain elements of the #BlackLivesMatter – or others – talk about white privilege it generates an almost – and totally predictable and non-productive – visceral response with many white people who feel the term discounts struggles they’ve had. From my own perspective I’ve had to do a lot to make up for certain deficits I faced growing up (as have many people of every race). I worked hard, I treated people right, I made opportunities for myself. In my mind, class privilege or support privilege were more important. But I absolutely do not rule out the impact in this world of being white, as I described above.

So that was a bunch of words and I’m not entirely positive I made a point, so let me make it here. Absolutely #BlackLivesMatter. Absolutely too many people are killed by the police. This is one of those times where both things are true and we really don’t need to take opposite sides and man our battle stations. We shouldn’t try and “own” being the aggrieved, we should be trying to bring in as many people as possible to be the solution. The ultimate goals should be to have the police stop killing so many people and for #BlackLivesMatter to no longer be a thing, since it will be so patently true  as to not have to be stated.

“Still no bonfire…” When Cal tricked Stanford into cancelling its own bonfire!!!

WARNING!!!!  This VIDEO IS A SPOILER!!!  Is best to watch AFTER you read the article!!!!

To be sure, there are a lot of storied rivalries in college athletics, but the one between Stanford and Cal is unique is so many different areas, and why it’s held in such affection between the communities of the two schools.  Cal and Stanford are only separated by 40 miles.  One is private the other is public. One has multiple elements on the periodic table (Californium, Berkelium and Seaborgium just to name a few) , the other, well  there’s still no Stanfordium (oh no he didn’t, PERIODIC TABLE SMACK DOWN!!). But most importantly, these are two of the premier academic institutions in the world, both regularly appearing in  the top 10 of world listings – Stanford almost always in the top 3 of private schools and Cal almost always the #1 public school.  And one of the very cool aspects is because the Bay Area is such an amazing place, the whole region is filled with alumni of each institution who see each other every day in their work, social lives, philanthropic arenas, you name it. This is one of the key parts of winning the Big Game – bragging rights!!!

So as between good friends, we like to play jokes on each other – and the Big Game is just ripe for such fun. I don’t think I’m getting old when I say it seems like more of this happened in the “old days,” a category that my time at Cal is sadly starting to enter!   So here’s the story about how in 1990 a group of enterprising Cal students tricked Stanford into cancelling its own Big Game bonfire rally – in the grand tradition of Big Game pranks!

 

BUST - MEMBERS 3

B.U.S.T.  – Burn the Ugly Stanfurd Tree – was a “secret” group at Cal whose main charter was to devise a way to foil Stanford.  And to drink.  Now I’ve put up the old member list here to really drive home how it was another time and place. See anything missing? Yeah, area codes.  Back then the entire Bay Area was 415 so no reason to list area codes! Over shots of Jaeger up at the Big C, or pints at Raleighs, or Golden Bears at Henry’s, or pitchers at the Bear’s Lair  or… wait a second I see a theme emerging here …  we would throw out idea after idea about what we could do to Stanford.  Finally we thought – you think we could trick them into cancelling their bonfire rally?  We all smiled and we knew what our mission was!

BUST 1991

Look at the handsome group of students!  How devious could they be?

Here was the plan.  We’d capitalize on some embarrassing behavior by their band (I mean, how easy would this be) and by their students that had made news to create a directive from then-President Donald Kennedy that he had no choice but to cancel the bonfire rally.  OK, sounds fun, but how do we do it?

First we needed to create an official memo.  Again, this was pre-Internet so there was no easy way to download letterhead or forms… We had to make it ourselves.  Well turns out I had a book on the history of all college nicknames (of course I would have that book…). So I copied the Stanford logo and created some fake letterhead on an at-that-time kick-ass word processor!  Here is a photo of the original scotch-taped document.

BUST - Letterhead

 

Now we had to create an official looking document that sounded like it came from the President of Stanford – just the right touch of pretentious and superciliousness –  and of course we had to plant an inside joke… so here you go and I think you’ll find our inside joke (and no it’s not that I misspelled cancelled).

BUST - letter

And now the fun would begin!  How would be get the word out?  Remember, this is 1990, so no emails, no internet, no Facebook… Well that group of fine looking Cal students took it upon themselves to go down to Stanford in person.  Over their B.U.S.T. t-shirts on they all put button down shirts and red ties or red sweater (they felt dirty!).  Then they loaded into a few cars with hundreds of copies of the memo.  And down to Palo Alto they drove.

Now, while my brave comrades were doing that, I had to work.  But I wanted to make sure people actually knew about what we were doing.  So I called all the local media outlets and faxed over a copy of the memo to them (Oh my god, even back then I was doing PR!!).  Would it work? Again, just to give you an idea of the times, here is the note sheet I was using.

BUST - Members

 

At about 6PM, we all met in Senior Hall on campus, and we found out some great stuff.  One, the B.U.S.T. group was able to circulate through the campus, posting the flyer all over.  They presented themselves as members of the President’s Student Leadership Committee. Luckily for us, Stanford students had no idea no such group existed!  But best of all, not only were they able to post the flyers,  they actually got Stanford students to post them for them, in dorms, in residence halls, at fraternities!!!  And people were really disappointed the rally had been cancelled!

And then we had to wait.  And wait.  Would they figure it out?  Would they be able to mobilize in time to save the rally?  OK, now you can go watch that video… as the planned 8PM start time for the rally approached, no one was there.  The Stanford football team showed up, no one was there.  9PM.  No one.  10PM.  A few people and now they were trying to get word out that it was a HOAX!  So they got word out that the rally would start at 11.  And in came all the broadcast news teams for live shots of the “cancelled” rally – they had ALL bit on our fax!!!!

And you know what, every single 11PM broadcast news had a story about the cancelled rally, and how it was pulled off by Cal!  And it made it into the papers the next day, even including secondary researched material by reporters!!!

BUST - Examiner

And should Stanford people try and muddle or confuse or cast any doubt on the success of this, I’ll leave you with how the then-NBC affiliate KRON signed off at 11:30PM, which is the title of this post.

I hope you enjoyed this and if it does nothing else I hope it encourages our current generation of Cal students to have fun and do you what you need to do!

GO BEARS!!!

 

Means FIGHT, for California!!!

Means FIGHT, for California!!!

OK Cal fans… When we sing FIGHT FOR CALIFORNIA do we mean it?  When we command everyone YOU TELL THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD THIS IS BEAR TERRITORY are we being serious? I have a lot to say (shocking) but I’m going to start with some straight talk. Now Cal has some AMAZING fans… We have people who have  stuck  with this team despite a 50-year Rose Bowl drought and, quite frankly, more bad seasons than good. The vast majority of the Cal family is awesome… But, I’m embarrassed by some of what I’ve seen the last few weeks (and I include myself  in that).

We’re 5-4. We still have a quarter of the season to play. Here’s the time we show our mettle.  We’re all in this together and it’s time to frickin step up and unite as Bear Nation!!! I’m going to be blunt here – stop your fucking complaining.  Stop going to the blogs and saying “I need a place to vent.” Really, why?  Why do you really need a place to vent? Stop bashing the coaches and questioning their future. Stop questioning the ability of the players.  Yes, the Oregon and UCLA games sucked.  You know that. I know that. They know that.  Do you think you accomplish a thing by petulantly complaining online? You don’t. Well actually you do – you look like Tennessee basketball fans circa 2014. Is that what you want? [UPDATE: After talking with many people and chatting on the blogs, I don’t think I articulated this well enough, so I want to make sure I get this thought in] Now I totally get wanting to talk about the game and particular plays, and to commiserate with others.  But here’s the problem… that sort of rational conversation gets conflated with the absurd, and it all just add to a cacophony of negativity.  Man, if you feel like I do, it’s time for you to make your voice heard (you can do that best in Memorial Saturday night!). I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to leave a comment.

OK, now for some  more typical Fiat Lux pep and perspective.

We’re 3/4th the way through the season. We are 5-4 after losing four straight games of what everyone knew going into the season would be a brutal four game stretch. We all thought we could pull at least one if not two of them out… And we ALMOST did!  And while I’m an avowed sunshine pumper, I really did believe we could win them all.  As you’ll recall I spoke to the team before the season (have I told you this story… a hundred  times…) and said there’s no reason we can’t go 12-0. It’s a competitive frame-of-mind and outlook you simply have to have. But life throws things at you, and when it does how do you handle it? We reset expectations.  Let me quickly run through things to this point and then we’ll get to rest.

We started the season with awesome, fun wins against Grambling and San Diego State at home.

Then we went down to Texas and in a thrilling game showed all our offensive fireworks and beat the Longhorns in Austin… And we started something new… Recognizing and embracing that Cal is THE flagship of the University of California, Coach Dykes embraced the state flag to symbolically make that  statement. So in Texas, Chris Borrayo carried in the State flag and WE FANS LOVED IT (and couldn’t believe we never thought of that before…).  It was awesome to see the California Golden Bears taking the field under the banner of the state flag.

The State Flag, brought in by THE University of California

Then we head up to Washington… Now outside of the California schools, Cal fans probably want to beat the the Huskies the most, but the Huskies had sort of owned us the last six years… So we go into Husky Stadium, another loud, hostile environment and come away with a win.  And here’s a cool thing, we were so inspired by the team carrying out the California flag in Texas, we decided to bring a huge one to every away game.  And so as the team took the field, there it was, and though it’s hard to see, one of the people holding the flag is Kate Dykes, Sonny’s wife.  I don’t know, something about that is so cool to me. I wrote a blog about what happened to my buddy 10-year old Emmett after the game… I really would love for you to read it again, because you’ll see what we should be rooting so hard for this team… the kind of guys we have on the team and the sort of culture that Sonny is building.

Means FIGHT for California!

Then we come home to play Wazzu. And pull out an exciting win – and by the way Wazzu is now 6-3 and a missed last second field goal (sound familiar) away from beating Stanford and in first in the Pac 12.  We win, thanks in no small part to an AMAZING run by Vic Enwere to pick up a 1st down on 3rd and 36!!!! That leads to one of my all time favorite tweets, which perfectly captures the ethos of what student athlete means at Cal:

Then we go to Utah for THE nationally televised game of the week, with ESPN College Game Day in town. Oh, and my friend Robert Glickman OWNED GameDay:

And even thought we lost, people were actually encouraged. We went into a hostile environment, playing a top 5 team in the country, and even with lots of mistakes, we came this close to beating them. I know there are no moral victories, and the players and coaches will be the first to say it, but I was proud of the team. They didn’t wilt, they played hard, they just came up a little short.

And then… Then we go down to UCLA and just have a lousy game. As much as we don’t want these sorts of games to happen, they happen. And it’s so frustrating for a huge number of Cal fans because the California games are so special.  We hate losing to UCLA. HATE IT.  If you’ll allow me this… It was made worse for me because I was in Ohio for business meetings. I left Columbus a 1PM to bring the flag with me, landed at LAX at 5, friends met me and we went to the Rose Bowl and then a red eye back to Columbus for 8AM meetings on Friday that would go all day only to turn around for a Saturday 8AM flight back to San Francisco… Which was fine, except I had to deal with the morons in the UCLA athletic department, who wanted to kick me out of the Rose Bowl for having the gall to unfurl the state flag as the team came out.  The self irony on display was incredible, but they lacked both the self awareness and intelligence to realize it.

Then home against USC and again, just so close. We just couldn’t pull it out.  And suffer a 6 point loss. But it was a solid effort – and again no moral victories – that you couldn’t be too down on the team.  Sure, it was super annoying losing for the, I can’t believe I’m typing this, 13th time in a row to USC, but the team played hard, was well prepared and just came up a bit short.

Well at least it didn’t rain much….

And that’s where we get to last weekend. Just a terrible game in Eugene. And people are not happy… now I get it… and truth to be told, I was pretty unhappy as I sat in the rain and watched the Duck fans have so much fun… And frankly I embarrass myself when I get like that.  I tweeted out a few tweets on my unhappiness from the game, nothing terrible mind you, just normal fan stuff…

And I want to own it so I can be embarrassed by it because here’s why.  The players know it was an awful game. The coaches know it was an awful game. I say this to people all the time, but just because you’re thinking something doesn’t mean you have to say it out loud, and that goes for me too.  Especially on the Internet where it lives forever and who knows who sees it… It’s one thing to say comments while your’re at a bar or the game or home watching TV, because that disappears into the ether. But stuff on the internet… not so much… And I got annoyed at my friend Matt Foley, which he didn’t deserve, so I want to apologize here,  and just all in all, it’s better for me to just shut up.

OK, so that was a lot… the reason I went into all that is to put things in perspective.  Yeah, we started off hot, then we lost four in a row… but heck two of the losses were terrific games where we just came up short.  We have FIVE wins already… nothing is guaranteed but I’m feeling good about our chances the rest of the season.

I’m not telling anyone how to be a fan.  But I’m telling you, this is when we need to rally around the team. Stop with the hand wringing when the season isn’t even over. Buck up!!!! This is where we get to show what kind of fans we are. We are one win away from a Bowl game. 2 wins away from a pretty damn solid season… 3 wins away from a GOOOOD season… and 4 wins (hello Bowl game!) away from a great, full-on turn around… The players have it in them, I know they do, to make this happen. I know the coaches do. I BELIEVE that they do.

Saturday night against Oregon State is the time to actually SHOW UP ON TIME. Students, for the first time since Grambling, get there early, show the team your support.  When you pass a player on campus nod and just say “GO BEARS!” Alumni, same goes for you.  Yeah, it’s a 7:30 start… you know what, that makes it easy to get there on time. Night games at Memorial are FUN!!!  I love this team.  We have some of the best guys on this team I can ever remember having at Cal. They’ve done nothing but represent this great University, great. They are terrific people. They are committed to Cal.  And they have been fighting all season long.  I believe in them. I believe in you as Cal fans. We’d had a tough stretch these past 5 years and now is our chance to throw off the shackles and to enjoy the palms of victory and success!!! Not to get too philosophical, but be the change you want to see!!!

Are you with me…

YOU KNOW IT!!!!

YOU TELL THE STORY!!!

YOU TELL THE WHOLE DAMN WORLD THIS IS BEAR TERRITORY!!!

That’s (STILL) the Only Song They Know

A few years ago I wrote this blog post for the good folks over at California Golden Blogs. As we prepare to play USC tomorrow I wanted to update because after a couple of tough losses we still have the brass ring in front of us to grab. Some of you are a little bummed after the UCLA game and I have one piece of advice for you… GET OVER IT!!! We’re 5-2. This thing is ours to take, so get on board and be a part of it!

I was trying to come up with an opening for this little trip down amnesia lane regarding the 1991 CAL – USC game… but the Los Angeles Times did such a great job capturing the moment I decided to let their great work get us started. So from the Los Angeles Times, November 3, 1991

BERKELEY — California mocked about everything that USC holds dear Saturday in its record-breaking 52-30 rout of the Trojans.

 

The Golden Bears’ offense mocked the Trojans’ defense, getting 601 total yards to fall 22 yards shy of Notre Dame’s record for a USC opponent, established in a 26-6 Irish victory in 1946.

 

In particular, junior tailback Russell White mocked the Trojans’ rushing defense, running for a USC opponent-record 229 yards and three touchdowns, and senior quarterback Mike Pawlawski mocked the Trojans’ passing defense, throwing for 212 yards and three touchdowns.

 

In the stands, Cal students mocked the Trojan band.

 

To the tune of “Tribute to Troy,” the song that is played incessantly by the USC band, they sang the following lyrics:

It’s the only song you know

It’s boring and it’s slow

We really wish you’d go

 

And if he had made the trip, the white horse that serves as USC’s mascot might have been shot down by the hillside cannon above Memorial Stadium that shoots blanks every time the Golden Bears score.

 

As it was, the horse, Traveler, spent the day safe at home in Southern California, which is where the befuddled Trojans returned Saturday night with the booming sound of the cannon still ringing in their ears.

Ah, yes… Just picture it folks. Pre-internet… All those USC alumni, um “students” and followers in the southland starting their Sunday mornings by picking up the LA Times and reading about how everything they hold dear had just been obliterated. It wasn’t bad enough their team had just been routed, but the band – THE BAND – had just been humiliated on national TV too…

That is the only song you know…

That was twenty years ago! (The weird thing is I am only 15 years older, so I’m not sure how that works…) We talked about this early in the year but seeing as the pride of South Central will be making their appearance in Berkeley tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to revisit this again.
A little more than twenty years ago, all was right in the world on the USC front. They were sucking. Oh were they sucking. As most of you know, even the younger folks, CAL was having some kind of special year in 1991. It had started in 1990 when Coach Snyder led the Golden Bears to their first bowl appearance in more than a decade. In that year we had ended an 18 game losing streak to UCLA and fought to a hard earned tie against the Trojans in the Coliseum (a game which we should have won… see, being a Bear fan never changes).

Heading into the 1991 season CAL fans were primed for something special and we weren’t about to be disappointed. After barely losing to Washington in one of the most epic battles old Memorial Stadium had ever seen, CAL entered the game against U$¢ ranked in the top 10 at 6-1.

It was nationally televised on ABC – our third nationally televised game of the year. This was some heady stuff. There were representatives from all the bowls just clamoring to experience CAL football. There was a sense of anticipation as 70,000+ people filled Memorial. It was a glorious sunny day; just a picture post card day in Strawberry Canyon. Back then we still had bonfire rallies when the LA teams would come to town. So that Friday night, 5,000 people filled the Greek and that was my chance to teach the students a mocking song for the SC band. Now when I last told this story I gave credit for this to my roommate, Mike Pawlawski but really it was his then girlfriend and soccer player Tracy who was the lyricist (as she reminded me over and over). As I am guessing all of you know, Mike was the starting QB and a great fun guy. That week, Mike, Tracy and I were hanging out and started putting lyrics to that insipid SC dirge… It went like this:

That, is the only song you know
It’s boring and it’s slow
You really need to go….

Elegant. Simple. True. So that Friday night, with the team and Coach Snyder at the Greek, I taught it to the students and instructed them that the following day, every time the SC band played it, we would answer back in serenade… And that is exactly what we did… It was hilarious… As we piled up the score, the SC band, with every 1-2 yard gain by an SC rusher, would strike up the song and sure enough the entire student section would answer back… It was, I think, the CAL student section’s finest hour. As you saw, the LA Times printed it verbatim, it was picked up repeatedly by the ABC broadcast, it was commented on in the OC Register, the Bay Area papers, ESPN… it was awesome… now as the game wore on, the lyrics evolved into not so family friendly lyrics, which I wasn’t particularly comfortable with, but hey, what are you going to do.

Here’s something I’ve never shared with anybody… I have a regret from that game…. I wanted to keep extemporaneously updating the lyrics, but I wasn’t sure if I could get the students to do it… Immediately after the game I knew they would have and I had blown it… It was very simple once we got to 52… the lyrics would have gone something like this:

Hey, SC here’s news for you

The scoreboard’s in clear view

It’s CAL with FIFTY TWO

Hey, SC here something new

Tommy Trojan’s through

Your horse will soon be gluuuuue

I share that with you because the lesson is, never… ever… ever… pass up on opportunity to mock USC.

The other particularly great moment to this day remains my favorite cheer. SC has deluded themselves into thinking they’re a great academic school, if not on par, then close to CAL. I laugh. I just laughed again. You should be laughing when you read that. Their coach had also said that most players who chose CAL didn’t choose CAL as their first choice… So with that in mind, late in the game, I had the whole student section yell:

“HEY U! S! C!
WHAT!
SCHOOL!
WAS!

YOUR!
FIRST!
CHOICE!”

The alumni section ROARED their approval. The SC students and fans that were left gave us the highest compliment by flipping off the student section… By chance, there was a quiet moment in the ABC broadcast and that chant was picked up clear as a bell by the broadcast. It was glorious!

After the game, nobody wanted to leave. The fans stayed 15, 20, 30 minutes just soaking in the joy. We did the loudest C-A-L cheer I had ever heard in the stadium.

There were celebrations all around campus… Parts of the band would show up at Henry’s and at Raleighs as everyone would raise their glasses. Coach Snyder stopped in Henry’s and the entire place broke out in Bear Territory. Those moments last forever…

And from coast to coast people read about how dominant CAL was… as in the New York Times “CAL EXPLODES AGAINST USC” and just what a thorough beat down we gave them:

“It was a lot of fun,” said Pawlawski, who has never masked his dislike for the Trojans, despite having grown up in Southern California. “It’s not going to change my dislike for them at all.”

As Sports Illustrated reported “In Berkeley, as California was beating the Trojans, 52-30, Cal students derided the USC band.”

So I hope that gets you a little fired up for the game on Saturday. We had a hick-up last Thursday, but now is our chance to take over the season. We are 5-2.  I’m calling out the students… Tomorrow, you need to be there early and you need to be loud. You need to get this song going again… Obviously it works best when we’re winning so you need to be loud and help the team. And I’m calling out all my fellow alumni and non students… … I don’t expect everyone to stand the whole game, but when our Golden Bears take the field, and the band is playing Fight, you should be roaring and you should be on your feet.

As I said to the team before the season, this is our time. This team, these players, these true student athletes who exemplify the very spirit of CAL… these sons of California deserve your support. They want your support. They need your support.

FIGHT FOR CALIFORNIA!!!

BEAT SC AND GO BEARS!!!!

 

Do Yourself a Favor – Be 10 Again and Dream of Rose Bowls

Dreaming of Rose Bowls….

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The California Golden Bears are 4-0 in football! No, that doesn’t quite sound right… let me say that again…

The CAL BEARS ARE FOUR and OH!!!! We’re back in the polls at 24!!! And we can now add Seattle to Austin as being Bear Territory!

I wasn’t sure what photo to use to headline this post. Or what to write for that matter… A recap of another exhilarating road win… another demon crossed off our list… extending our perfect record to 4-0.  Back in the national rankings… So what photo to use… An action shot of a play? One of friends, or the band? The giant California flag we brought?

Nope. Others can recap the game better than I can. This weekend, and the moment captured up there in particular, reminds me of why we love sports. And why I love and am so passionate about Cal. That’s my buddy Emmett. A few weeks ago I talked his dad Dave Tjen – one of the most hard core Cal fans I know – into joining me in Seattle for Emmett’s first ever Cal road game.

Seattle, consider yourself annexed… #BEARTERRITORY

We stayed at the team hotel and throughout Friday evening as we just relaxed, had dinner and hung out in the lobby, player after player would come up and say hi to Emmett and high five or fist bump him… Daniel Lasco, Steven Moore, Mike Barton, Kenny Lawler, Stefan McClure and so many others… Coach Dykes came up and said hi, and a little later Kate Dykes – who is simply sensational – came and joined us for a while too. Later, well after midnight, Emmett was so excited he couldn’t get to sleep.

After the game we hung around with the families to see the players and staff and just soak in the good feelings of another win. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating because it amazes me how many people don’t get this; winning is more fun than losing.  And winning is also really hard, so when you win, you need to enjoy it.

So after the game, even though they were tired and sore and beat up, all of the players once they saw Emmett’s beaming smile would break into smile and come talk with him and pose for a photo. Jared Goff, Jalen JeffersonChris Borrayo, Stephen Anderson

It is absolutely endearing how the guys treat our fans, and especially our young fans. And then something REALLY special happened… both Trevor Davis and Chris Borrrayo gave Emmett their game gloves… now to say Emmett was excited would be an understatement.

So after dinner and getting back to the hotel, when Emmet was finally able to get to sleep, he went to sleep the only way a 10 year old would know how; wearing those gloves he was given!  I can only wonder what he was dreaming about… Ah, to be ten again!

People get on me sometimes because when it comes to Cal I’m relentlessly, or unrelentingly, positive. I just don’t have time or the room in my life for being negative and bitching and moaning. Am I disappointed when we lose, oh yea I am. Do I find myself thinking that it’s crazy I allow something over which I have no control, played by a bunch of 18-22 year old guys, to impact my emotional state and mood?  Yep. And it is. But it’s what makes life so incredibly fun.

I even got a hug from Kate Dykes – actually a few… and you know what, hugs of joy are awesome!  We need more of those! After our next win, hug the Cal fan next to you!

ken and kate

I want to close this out with my other favorite moment of the weekend. Last week in Austin, Stephen Anderson dropped a pass – an easy pass – that would have clinched the victory in much less dramatic fashion than it took to get the win over Texas… But because this is a TEAM we still won the game… the team gets your back!

But, when he came over with the team to celebrate with the fans he wasn’t looking so happy… and then, oh and then you could hear it, his mother yelling “WIPE THAT SAD LOOK OFF YOUR FACE!!!” Nobody, but nobody, is messing around with Charlene Anderson!  I LOVED IT!!! He talked about it here and about how his mom is always there for a kiss… and sure enough, after the game on Saturday…

This team has something special going but they know it’s all about focusing on the next game… The next game is ALWAYS the most important game. But if they do that they should embrace Coach Martin’s rallying call “WHY NOT CAL!”  So there you go.  Cal is 4-0. We haven’t lost a game. We’ve won twice on the road already. Don’t worry about the flaws, you have no control over it. Just appreciate and enjoy the wins. And you know what, don’t be afraid to be a 10-year old again and DREAM of a Rose Bowl…

ON THREE – GO BEARS!!!! 25 Years and still going strong!

1990 micman

25 years ago this week, easily one of the most momentous occasions in my life happened… I’d like to say I was 14, but I know no one will believe it. On September 15, 1990, during a Cal Football game against the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes, I stepped out of the student section in Memorial Stadium to commandeer the mic and begin my stint as micman. Nothing in my life has meant more to me than my relationship with Cal and that moment cemented for me for all time just how impactful it would be. It has been a phenomenal ride that to this day allows me to meet so many great people from every walk of life, every age, from students to alumni to notables and fans alike. But if you’ll allow me I’d like to set this up just a bit.

A couple of Sundays ago I had the incredible privilege and thrill to address the Cal Football  team after practice as they prepared to head into a new season. I wrote about it here and I think it’s safe to say you’ll be hearing this story over and over as I get older!

I’m a big believer in seizing a moment when life presents it. I believe this year has the potential to be a special year for the Cal Football team. Now these moments don’t come along often… They’re what I call “Brass Ring Moments.” I relayed to the team that the opportunity this year is theirs. They just have to recognize it. They have to believe they can take it. And then, and this is the important part, they have to actually go and GRAB THE BRASS RING!!!

Hey Chancellor Tien... GO!!!!

Hey Chancellor Tien… GO!!!! “GO BEARS!!!”

Well 1990 was one of those moments for me. And because, I’m sure without really thinking, I grabbed the brass ring, my life has been changed in ways I would have never imagined.

When I was a kid growing up, my friends and I would hop on BART and venture into Berkeley to go to Cal games… We would eat at Blondies, pass all the houses…  I dreamed of one day sitting in that student section as a Cal student… If we had a day off from school, my best friend J.R. DeLaney and I would go with his sister who was a student and tag along (I’m sure she loved that) and would actually sit in classrooms and just be in awed reverence of where we were.

ucla 1991

Do not attempt to wear these short shorts at home. *Rugby players exempted

So when I finally made it into Cal we were in the middle of a pretty rough stretch. But as I said, 1990 was going to be different. Now a little back story is that I had sort of been an informal mic-man at hoops games for a while. There was a guy that used to do it – Dave, and I cannot remember his last name, so if anyone know him let me know. He was a good guy and I think a good mic-man. If he wasn’t at a game, I would lead some cheers and I liked it. My friends and I always sat in the same place at Harmon; first row directly opposite opposing team bench (that way we could taunt them more). So people definitely knew who I was.

At the time, I was also the doorman at Raleigh’s so people knew me from there too. Matter-of-fact, when we had a line at Raleigh’s I would let people in based on whether they could answer CAL trivia or sing lyrics to the fight songs.  All this is my way of saying that when I eventually took the mic people were familiar with me and knew my passion.

So it was September 15, 1990. Miami was coming off of their National Championship. The week before, CAL had beat Wisconsin, in Madison. This was also Russell White’s first game in Memorial… There was a sense something big could be happening… even so, back then Cal wasn’t much of a draw and only 47,000 people there that day.

So we’re playing Miami tight in an entertaining game. But the students just weren’t really “into” it. At that time there was a “team” of micmen, and they were terrible. Now I don’t want that to sound too harsh because their hearts were in the right place, but they just didn’t quite have that intangible you need to be a great micman. So I think it was the third quarter and while CAL had the ball, one of the mic folks started chanting a defense chant… I have no idea what he was thinking (hey sometimes we all blank on situations) but I distinctly remember dropping my head into my hands in resigned frustration.

So two of my friends with me at the game, Erin and DeAnn, totally started saying “you should go down and do it…” Well, to be honest, it didn’t take much encouragement😉 So I walked down the steps, went up to the podium and literally said “Would you mind giving me the mic…” and I just took the microphone. And there I was in front of 7,000 of my fellow students with no plan or intentions that day of doing this.

Honestly, I remember it like it was yesterday and the title of this entry is how it all started. CAL was down by 7.  I turned to the crowd, which had been apathetic, and said “Hey Everyone. We are playing the defending national champions… we are only down by 7. The team is playing great. But you don’t seem to be in the game. Listen, we come here to have fun right?” And sort of to my surprise a lot of people shouted back “YEAH!” And then I said “So are you ready to start making some noise and getting behind the team?” And again, more people shouted “YEAH!” So then I said “O.K., here’s what we’re going to do. It’s an oldie, it’s simple and effective. On three, everyone yell GO BEARS!…. One, two, three”, and then you know what, everyone yelled “GO BEARS!!!”

I can’t explain what a high it was and how exhilarating to have everyone do what I just told them to do. Then I said “You can’t cheer sitting down, you all need to stand up!” That’s right, back in the day people actually sat down during the games… So then everyone got up… again, I was thinking to myself “wow, they’re doing what I’m saying.” So we did another Go Bears! and that is how it all started… Now, sometimes in life you need providence… So a little later Miami was about to punt and I got everyone chanting “Block that kick! Block that kick!” and you know what, we blocked the punt!!! Now we had absolutely nothing to do with it… So I of course immediately turned to the students and said “THAT WAS ALL YOU!!!” a they went wild, and while I am sure it was unrelated, it got everyone thinking they could have an impact on the game. It was awesome.

Even though we lost the game literally hundreds of people came up to me after, in the stadium, at parties at Raleigh’s and told me I should keep doing it.

That Monday, when I got back from classes I had three messages on my answering machine. One was from then AD Dave Maggard. I would later find out that Jack Clark was standing with him on the sidelines during the game and told him “You need to get that guy (me) doing that permanently!” The second message was from Coach Snyder thanking me. Now think how cool that is for the football coach to call a student he didn’t know to thank him for something like that. The third message was from Diane Milano asking me to come meet with her to do it full time.

And that’s basically how it started.  It was an amazing three year run that ended with the Big Game in 1992 and the student section ceremoniously rolling me up! You could not have had a better exit for a micman!

I made sure to hand off my wallet to a friend before getting rolled up! Made it all the way to the top!

And 25 years later Cal is as big a part of my life as it was then… I’m so incredibly fortunate that I get to stay so involved… I’m telling you, they’re going to be wheeling me out at the bonfire rallies when I can no longer walk!

We live in an amazing time, because of technology and social media, where traditional boundaries don’t exist… as a result I have so many friends that span generations… From people well into retirement, to my own age, in their 30s and for me the most fun, students at Cal.  It amazes me how people see the world… and it works… It also always amazes me people stay friends with me, but man am I glad they do!!

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Two Cal legends – Mike  Pawlawski and Joe Starkey! And some schmo

As I often say to the students who are my friends “I may be more than twice your age, but I have half your maturity so it all works out.” Never, ever get old… Don’t do it.  When I go to a basketball game I would much rather sit in The Bench than in the good seats so you’ll frequently see this, where I’m clearing bringing up the average age of the section! Somehow, for some reason they keep letting me in.

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It’s been a crazy Walter Mitty experience for me that let me do things, like talk to the football team, or lead the Cal band, that continues to astound me.

If you made it this far thanks for being a part of this with me.  All of you have made the last 25 years absolutely amazing for me… I mean that… not to get all Lou Gehrig, but I really do consider myself the luckiest person to ever have attended this amazing university.  And between you and me, I’m hoping the next 25 are just as amazing… I’d be remiss to leave you without one, last cheer… So… GIVE ME A C!!!!

YOLO! Why I’m Fist Bumping the Spirit of Mark Bingham on 9/11

mark-and-me

YOLO!!!!  You Only Live Once!!

Oh do I get grief for that.  And for my obsession with the fist bump – the exploding fist bump!  So I thought I would take a moment to share with you the genesis of that.

Yep, it’s 9/11, so time for my annual homage to my great friend Mark Bingham, who was taken from us entirely too early 14 years ago today. It would almost be impossible for any of you reading this, who likely know me, to not know of Mark Bingham.  Mark was one of the heroes of United 93 who in a selfless last act of courage helped bring down the aircraft which experts believe had the US Capitol Building as its target.

Mark was one of my best friends.  Now the great thing about Mark is you could probably ask 20 people and each of them would also say about him “Mark was one of my best friends,” such was the infectious, suck-the-marrow-out-of-the-bone approach to life and friends  Mark lived.  Back in 2001 I, along with Cal Rugby Coach Jack Clark and Cal Rugby Alum Jon Beck were interviewed for a story about Mark in the Daily Cal which you can read here.

One of the tough things about losing a great friend so young is you expect a certain arc in life.  You selfishly expect to enjoy that person’s friendship and company, to experience the highs and lows, and that they will grow old with you and to share in all that life has to offer.  When that’s taken from you, you feel a loss that’s more profound… and lonelier than you imagine it’s going to be.

I am sure you all have friends with whom you share some great memory that only you share. And at the simple drop of a word will make you laugh and connect.  Mark and I had many of those but I think my favorite was bauble.  Back in 1988, there was an SNL skit of the Winter Olympics with Tom Hanks playing a very gay ice skater; it was hilarious. At one point a very excited Dick Button is gushing about Hanks taming  the ice when all of a sudden he goes stumbling because as Button exclaims “There’s a bauble!”  So whenever Mark or I would trip or stumble we would both simultaneously say “BAUBLE!!!”

So back to the exploding fist bump – because it’s really not a fist bump without the explosion at the end!  After 9/11, I made two commitments to myself to honor Mark’s memory; to let go of pettiness and to enjoy the hell out of life and make an impact.  That first one, well let’s say I struggle with that one… I mean I try, but as anyone who has argued a point with me on Cal sports blog will attest, I fail at it.  Too often.  Like I said, I’m trying!  Life is just too short to let pettiness dictate who we are or how we live.

But the exploding fist bump, often accompanied by a smile and a YOLO!   That’s my sort of daily, physical reminder that life is supposed to be fun.  It’s meant to be lived and enjoyed and laughed at and sung along to and danced with and devoured and experienced… Because I am telling you right now, not one of those victims on the planes or on the ground or in the Pentagon or the World Trade Center planned on dying that day. But they did.  And no one plans on getting killed in a car accident, or finding out they have terminal cancer, or losing a loved one to some tragic accident today.  But that will happen.  To thousands of people.

So what do we do?  We live, that’s what.  If  you’ve made it this far and will indulge me, I’d like to share with you advice that Robert Gordon Sproul, one of the great presidents of the University of California, gave to an audience in Berkeley. It’s really informed how I approach life and why I so often throw away my dignity in the moment!

If man’s brief stay on Earth may be compared to a splash on the sea of life, his circle of friends and associates is the ripple therewith set in motion.  The larger the splash, the stronger the ripple tends to be and the farther and wider it will extend.

Some men profess indifference to the ripple they create, but modesty or blindness may be suspected in that.  Few of us can turn existence into living without the inspiration and the help that comes from others. The more actively we live, the more important others become – for they are both audience and fellow actors. Among them must be sought a supporting cast for the role we dream of playing and the critics who will help us play it well.  One cannot light a torch in a vacuum.

That’s sort of how I’ve approached life.  I don’t know, maybe at the end it will have been a mistake, but I don’t think so. I jump into the water doing a great big cannon ball!!

That old photo up there of Mark and me…  17 years ago… seems impossible. Even though it’s an awful photo of me, I love it because what it represents.  It’s taken at a restaurant in Chicago during a crazy summer weekend that all started with a phone call on a Friday from Mark:  “Ken, let’s go to Chicago for the weekend,” and so we did.  Got on a plane the next morning at 6AM… Went to a Cubs game.  Had some great meals.  Went to the museums.  Went to some bars and stayed out entirely too late and were exhausted getting into the office fresh off our return flight on Monday morning.  But man, what a weekend.  And son-of-a-gun here I am today!

So that brings me back to the exploding fist bump. That simple little gesture is my tribute to Mark. It’s a reminder to not take life too seriously and to live my life to its fullest.  So the next time I fist bump you – and insist you explode the fist with me – that’s why.  And if it makes you smile – and even better laugh – despite yourself, then I’ve accomplished something that day.  So today give me that fist bump, let’s see it explode and go ahead and say it…. YOLO!!!!

If you have your own great memory of Mark I’d love to hear it.  And in honor of Mark, with all the hale and heartiness you can muster, GO BEARS!!!