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…

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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!!!

Now THIS is BEAR TERRITORY! Cal Football is back!!!

Courtesy Kelley Cox, USAToday

Means FIGHT for CALIFORNIA!

Perfection. That’s about what any Cal fan will tell you Saturday was. (Be sure to read all the way through for a raucous Bear Territory – how YOU should be doing it!)

As I’ve bored you already (and will again I am sure), it was such and awesome honor to have Coach Dykes have me speak to the team last Sunday after practice. They are a FOCUSED group. One of the things I conveyed to them is their focus is shared by the fans and they should feed off that because something special is happening. There is a sense of excitement in the Caliverse and you hear it talking with fans, alumni, past players… This doesn’t happen a lot but there are times in life where you don’t even need retrospect, you can actually sense in the moment that you are at an inflection point. 1990 was one such year for Cal football.  2003 was another. And I believe 2015 (can it REALLY  be 2015 all ready… how is that possible?) is definitely such a time.

And the proof? On the kind of spectacular Bay Area September Saturday that we all brag about and people visiting wonder “why aren’t we livingmemorial stadium view2 here,” more than 60,000 people filled into Memorial Stadium. For a game against an FCS opponent… Truth be told, also for a chance to watch the world famous Grambling State Marching Band who was kind enough to bring along their football team for the game. And while the Grambling band lived up to expectations and then some, and their football team played gamely though over-matched, it was the Cal offensive juggernaut and the rejuvenated defense that had the fans in such high spirits. It was such a sense of good feeling that the Grambling State Marching Band received a standing ovation for their scintillating halftime show… and late in the game down 73-0, when Grambling finally scored, what was left of the crowd gave the visiting team a nice round of applause.  I thought it was a terrifically gracious gesture, as if to say, way to hang in there and keep fighting (and we’ve been there before). It’s what college sports is supposed to be all about.

Speaking of what college sports is all about, a huge – HUGE – shout out to the students who filled the Student Section well before kickoff… THAT is what the team hopes for and NEEDS every week… We are ALL in this thing together… And while the “Bear Territory” got drowned out a little by the piped in music, you could see the players feeding off of you so make  it happen again next week!!  Also a massive “job well done” to everyone in Cal Marketing who worked their asses off to make that big crowd happen. These things don’t happen on accident and by themselves and as much as we’ve complained about some of the marketing in years passed, it’s great to see that group REALLY stepping  up too…

I had a chance to talk with men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin during the game. His #WhyNotCal brings tears to my eyes because it’s so right – WHY NOT CAL!!!!  A lot of us have been saying this for YEARS… We have the world’s greatest public University – arguably the greatest university, period – in the country’s fourth largest media market. We have tradition and pageantry that are second to none… and we have a fan base with the pent up anticipation of a 40 year old ve… well let’s just say we’re ready to EXPLODE! Yep, Cal fans have been thirsting for this mindset for years and finally we’ve got it in both Basketball (men’s AND women’s) and football!  That of course in addition to all the Olympic sports and the mightiest of Cal sports, Rugby.

Others will dissect the game. All i know is this makes me very happy.

Finally, one last word about that Grambling State Marching Band… SENSATIONAL! As I mentioned their halftime show was amazing, and man do they know show business and how to play to a crowd because the finished with California Love and as on cue, the Cal crowd showered them with California love with a standing ovation… That is the first time I have ever seen that for a visiting band – at ANY school.

After the game both bands performed a 5th quarter show for about 7,000 fans who stayed, and were all glad they did. While both bands performed well, there is little doubt it was Grambling State who stole the show.

After receiving a huge ovation the students in the band all waved back to the crowd.  I have to think as they get home, game results aside, they’re going to tell their friends and family and anyone who will listen, what a great time they had in Berkeley. In my book, that’s a pretty great thing to be a part of.

And of course the only fitting  way to end is with Daniel Lasco leading a resounding version of BEAR TERRITORY!  If you made it all this way, thanks much for reading!  GO BEARS!!!

You Know It! You Tell the Story! You Tell the WHOLE DAMN WORLD THIS IS BEAR TERRITORY!

Cal fans, this is it! The season is here and if you’re anything like me you are exploding with excitement…

I was lucky to get to address the team after their practice last Sunday. Click on the video at the top.  The thrust of the talk is that every once in a while – and they don’t happen often – you reach an inflection point in life where you can make the future happen NOW. But you have to be willing to both recognize it and then to go for  it.  It’s called grabbing the brass ring.

Too often in the past, for whatever reason, Cal has not grabbed the brass ring.  I feel this team is ready to do it.  From our reinvigorated defense with among others  Stefan McClureMike Barton and Jalen Jefferson, to our reconstituted offensive line, and of course the many play makers on offense with Goff, Lawler, Treggs, Lasco and everyone else….When I talk to players on this team just in general, I get these sense they know this season can be special.  But when I talked with them as a group on Sunday, I could see in their eyes that they KNOW the future is about them.  Their concentration while I was talking was intense, and as you see at the end, when i told  them they couldn’t sing a song or do a cheer sitting down, up with GUSTO they got to their feet and you see what they did.

And then the Coaches… I’m loving these guys… Sonny is having the players connect with the Cal community in a way we have not seen in years.  The players sing the fight song with fans after games! It’s there in the locker room for  them to see everyday and I know they are READY to sing it with us tomorrow!

The last time I saw this was in 1990 and 1991… That 1991 team by the way remains the last team to win a bowl game on New Years Day and is  the highest ranking team of the last 8 decades.  I  told these guys, and  I believe it, that can be better!

A lot of Cal fans get weighed down in history… I told this team that history is not ON their back it is AT their back… There are decades of Cal fans, you can hear the echos in the corners of the stadium, that every play are at the players’ back.  When they’re on a goal line stand, it’s those Cal fans that have  got their back… on  a deep pass play it’s that Cal history that will be at their back to get them just a little  farther and faster down the field…  As fans, as a program and as the  embodiment of the spirit of Cal we can’t be on  their back, collectively we will be at their back.  They will feel this.

So here is a call out to ALL CAL FANS!!!  Especially Students… We are going to bring back  an old  tradition… We are going to let every foe that comes into Memorial KNOW that they are in Bear Territory!!  So when the team takes the field for kickoff, they want – NO THEY EXPECT – to hear all of us chanting Bear  Territory. The Micmen will start and we want to hear it LOUD and with AUTHORITY.

I have exactly zero doubt this team can have  a phenomenal year.  12-0  is what I am thinking.  But it has to be one game at a time and  it all starts this Saturday!  ARE YOU IN WITH ME?  DO YOU BELIEVE!!!

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