“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!



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!



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…