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

Dreaming of Rose Bowls….

emmett-uw

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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Cal Football 2014 – WERE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!!!

VICTORY!

YES!!!  Cal Football 2014 was WILDLY ENTERTAINING!  Let’s put a few things in perspective… Last year our Cal Bears were 1-11.  We were blown out by historic margins in all but 2 games.  But through it all, game after game, blowout after blowout, I stayed through to the end.

Staying til the end against Oregon State

This year that all changed.  Cal quintupled its win total over last year.  The games were competitive. The games were FUN.  So you’ll forgive me for not moping over the loss on Saturday and instead being excited about what happened this year!!

You know, I realize I can be the most annoying positive person on the planet. I just hate wallowing in misery and defeat (and I’ve experience plenty). It’s just how I get through life, seems to work for me but certainly not you have to do it.  So leaving Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon,  like everyone I was disappointed in the loss.  But I certainly wasn’t disappointed in the season.  And I wasn’t upset and I wasn’t disappointed for me.  I was disappointed for the players and the coaches. I’ve seen how much they have embraced the Cal community. So I just want to share my thoughts on why I loved this season so much and why I am so excited for next year.

I’ve seen how incredibly accessible these coaches are (and their families) to the fans. I would find it hard to believe there is another coaching staff in American who is as interactive with the fans and community as this staff is. Heck even their wives – if you go to the game and you’re sitting by her, be prepared for Kate Dykes to come over and high five after every great play!

For instance, Offensive Line Coach Zach Yenser and his awesome wife Beth were nice enough to invite me (a Thanksgiving orphan) over to dinner for Thanksgiving.  Beth and Zach and his folks, sister and brother-in-law provided one of the nicest Thanksgivings possible (and son Graham provided the entertainment!).  And here’s the thing.

They’re all southerners.  And you know what they all said – THEY LOVE CALIFORNIA.  They said that the Student Section for the Big Game was better than any student section in the SEC.

And they’re not alone. Heck several of the coaches live within walking distance of Memorial Stadium including famously Tony Franklin  who has a loft in downtown Berkeley.  They have welcomed back former players.  They have our current players singing the fight song after game – when do you remember that happening?  The classroom performance is on its way up.  We have players who you should be proud are at Cal.

Adcock

Going into the season, after what can only be described as a brutal 2013 campaign,  fans were almost uniformly of the same belief; we wanted to see 3 or 4 wins, a win over a traditional  rival would be nice, and we wanted to see the team be  competitive.  Well you know what, we got two of the three.  Cal was in just about EVERY game.  3 of our losses were one possession losses, including a Hail Mary.  We fought back  HARD against USC.  We held our own against Oregon (look at how other teams not named Arizona did).  We were two awful official calls at the end of the game away from beating UCLA.

We were taken out of the Big Game game by nationally embarrassing officiating.  And through all that we got something else, some wildly entertaining football.

In fact, that  stretch of Arizona, Colorado and Wazzu was quite possible the most amazing stretch of craziness one team has ever had.  Even the national media like the New York Post were taking note:

NY POST Cal crazy

That last point can’t be glossed over.  After last year (with the exception of the Northwestern game), and 2012, and even 2011 (even though we had more wins) and 2010 it had been a while since Cal games were fun.  Honestly,  think back to those years and just how not enjoyable the games were.  Sure we won some games, but even then they never felt fun.  Did ANYBODY have fun at the Holiday Bowl against Texas? Something was wrong. Well this year, almost every game was fun.

This year started off beating beating Northwestern in Chicago with about 5K Cal fans in attendance!

And as the game came to an end the players did something no one expected… they joined the crowd in singing Fight.  Every fan there got goose bumps on that!

Heck I was even in Tucson for the Hail Mary loss, but there’s no denying that was a FUN game and even managed to lead a few cheers without pulling anything or breaking a hip !(hey once a micman always a micman!)

I was up in Corvallis for the win!

I was at SC for the loss, but was so proud  of how we fought back and was great to see old friends and meet new ones!

So I guess I ask, WERE WE NOT ENTERTAINED!!!

Cal football is amazing.  It’s a chance for all of us to come together and reunite with old friends and meet new ones as we support this most amazing of institutions!

Once  again Cal fans  came out in force for the Big Game bonfire rally!  And here’s something cool – Spike Dykes, Coach Dyke’s dad told me “This is as a good as  anything we have in Texas!”

So with all  that’s happened this year, I wondered, why were people so unhappy after Saturday’s loss. And looking at this post it dawned on my, by going to Northwestern and Oregon State, I got to experience two more wins than a lot of people who weren’t able to travel with team.  And by going to Tucson and SC i got two more losses 😉  But they were fun. Sure, there’s the absolutely understandable revised expectations.  We started out 4-1 and  suddenly a bowl seemed not only reasonable, but possible. That of course didn’t take into account our season was incredibly front loaded in terms of winnable games.

But man, this is the time to show our mettle.  Second guessing is totally understandable, and I do it. Coaches don’t care and I’m sure they do it themselves.  And I wouldn’t for a second invalidate your feelings of disappointment.   This is when we get to show the great fans we are – and we are great fans.  So as we get some time to reflect on this season, instead of proverbially stomping our feet and issuing ultimatums , how about doing something else. Spending that time  THANKING THE  TEAM for making football fun again and reminding why we love Cal Football.  #GOBEARS!!!

Don’t forget we’ve got Goff coming back as a junior.  And all those receivers.  And Lasco. And most of the Oline.  And the defense will have another year under its belt.  And so will the coaches!  I am EXCITED about 2015!

As  always if you like this please feel free to share.  And if you don’t like it feel free to share how stupid it is!

GO BEARS!!!

It’s Official – @Pac12 Officially Says Officials are Incompetent

 

pac12 refs morons

(Pac12 officials being Pac12 officials.   Big Game, 2011)

Let’s begin with this.   Complaining about referees and umpires is a favorite pastime of fans around the world.  It’s fun.  It really is. And truth be told, there’s something really entertaining about it when bad calls go against a home team and the crowd gets riled up.  That sort of primal booing gets us going.

We normally hear about how “complaining about officials is for losers.”  And I sort of agree with it. But in the case of the Pac12, so often the officiating in a game is so egregious it warrants discussion and gets attention from national media.

This past Saturday in The Big Game between Stanford and Cal at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, we experienced one of the most hideous displays of officiating people can remember.  And here’s the thing… it wasn’t one call, like in Oregon v Oklahoma.  It was ongoing all game. Even rival USC conceded our game was the worst officiated game!

On the very first play of the game, Cal’s Michael Lowe was EJECTED for an alleged targeting play by umpire Rick DiBernardo.  First play of the game.  No one can ever remember seeing that.  Let’s say for the sake of argument the call was correct.  Later in the game Stanford’s Ronnie Harris takes a completely cheap shot on Cal’s Trevor Davis.  Watch the video.  A few things to note. The pass was well overthrown.  The play is done.  Davis is clearly no longer going for the ball.  And yet Stanford’s Harris hits Davis in the neck and head with his forearm.  A play that should lead to a penalty and ejection.  And here’s the kicker, the official (two in fact) ARE RIGHT THERE as the play happened in the wide open field.  No penalty.

and here’s another view.

Again, the best part is the official IS RIGHT THERE, and yet no flag.  BTW, this sort of play isn’t uncommon for Stanford in Big Games under Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football (seriously,  that’s how Stanford refers to their head football coach) David Shaw.

The personification of Stanford Football

Last year, Shane Skov, one of the dirtiest players in the conference (who was also arrested for DUI), delivered this cheap shot, where he launched himself and delivered helmet to helmet to Cal QB Jared Goff, injuring him so he had to leave the game, which prompted the national broadcasters to say he should have been ejected.  But there was no flag,  let alone ejection.

And of course, no discipline from David Shaw, he of the “Stanford way” fame. (apologies to my Stanford friends, I’m still peeved about that dirty hit)

But that was just setting the table so that the national media could join in.

Late in the 3rd quarter, Cal ran a play for an apparent touchdown as it was ruled on the field.  It was reviewed and determined tho to not be a TD.  Inexplicably the ball was placed at the 1 yard line even thought the ball was either across the endzone or inches short.

On the next play, Cal QB Luke Rubenzer ran a QB sneak and scored.  TOUCHDOWN!  But wait a second, once again the booth official wanted to review and, incredulously, said it was not a TD. You have to understand that in order to overrule a call on the field there has to be “clear and irrefutable video evidence.”

Here is what the reply official could see – there was no clear shot looking down the goal line

And then Jared Goff threw a perfect pass to Kenny Lawler, which was caught for a TD.  But once again the booth buzzed the field and overturned the call. The stadium was in an apoplectic fit with chants of “REF! YOU! SUCK!…. REF! YOU! SUCK!” raining down.

The officiating was so egregiously bad, respected former official and Vice President of Officiating for the NFL and current Fox Sports commentator Mike Pereira felt compelled to do a special commentary on just how bad it was – Bandits in the Booth Cost Cal.  Take a couple of minutes to click on that link to see him rip into the officials.  He literally calls them bandits!! When have you ever heard a commentator use such strong language?

You have to ask yourself if it was in fact corrupt?  Because here’s the sad thing, the Pac12 was embarrassed nationally in basketball last year when it was revealed that its officials were instructed to target Sean Miller, head coach of Arizona, with a technical.

I will give the Pac12 and Larry Scott credit.  Late tonight, after most deadlines, they publicly acknowledged how bad the officials were:

http://pac-12.com/article/2014/11/24/pac-12-clarifies-replay-reviews-stanford-california-game

SAN FRANCISCO – The Pac-12 Conference acknowledged that its instant replay crew made two errors in the Stanford-California game Saturday, November 22, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott announced today.

During a California possession late in the third quarter, the instant replay crew reviewed three consecutive on-field touchdown calls by the game officials on one California offensive possession.

The NCAA Playing Rules state that to reverse an on-field ruling, the replay official must be convinced beyond all doubt by indisputable video evidence.

Through the Conference’s officiating and game management review process, it was determined that there was not enough evidence through video replay for the instant replay crew to overturn the second and third touchdown calls made by the officials on the field.

The replay crew will be held accountable for the errors through the Conference’s disciplinary process.

But I don’t want to stop there because there’s one more play which absolutely must draw into question the integrity of the officials in Saturday’s game.  Here is a photo sequence of it:

Joined_Image_Onside_Kick_recovery_2

Let me explain what’s happening here. In the first frame you see Cal attempting an onside kick.  In the second frame you see the scrum for the ball and Stephen Anderson coming out with it.  In the third frame you see him running ten yards away – but the officials (unlike every other person in the stadium) don’t seem to see him.  So there is STILL no call by the officials.  Finally, in the 4th frame, you see the back judge Joe Johnston and the field judge Jeffrey Yock, who are still trying to untangle the scrum – not looking downfield to Anderson –  INEXPLICABLY signal Stanford ball.

Think about that for a second.  What is going on?  They CLEARLY cannot see a ball let alone who has possession because THE BALL IS NOT THERE.  Yet with certainty they signal, Stanford ball.  Here’s why that’s important.  Had the ball actually been there, then the call on  the field would have stood under review (I mean come on…).  HOW can the officials make such a blatantly bad call?  It honestly can only be one of two choices – inept or corrupt.  I honestly don’t know  which it is.

So what do you say?  We have official acknowledgement that Pac12 officials in multiple sports are either corrupt or incompetent.  Which do you think it is?

 

Good Night Bryan and Thank You

bryan jess and me

This morning I received the awful news that a wonderful friend of mine died last night.  He wasn’t killed.  He didn’t suffer in a terrible car accident.  He didn’t die from a long battle with a fatal condition.  From what I understand, he got home from work last night, while watching TV with his fiance he fell asleep… and never woke up.  Just quietly, peacefully and uneventfully like that.

It’s so tragic it’s almost poetic.  Bryan was such a kind soul and paradoxical to his rally-the-troops way of getting friends together for drinks or a game, he was in fact a quiet man.  He was intelligent and thoughtful, he was sensitive to other people’s condition and feelings.  There was an interesting hard-to-explain calming quality about Bryan.

The photo above was taken earlier this year.  That’s Bryan, his fiance Jessica and me enjoying dinner with other friends Rico and his wife Cat, after an A’s game.  That was pretty much a perfect day for Bryan.  A ballgame, a good meal and drinks over a great conversation with good friends. My heart breaks for Jessica. Her pain is 1000 times more intense than mine.

No conversation about Bryan would be complete without mentioning his love of Cal sports and for his love of bringing people together to enjoy them.  His tailgates were legendary.  Here is one from earlier this year and that’s Bryan right there enjoying the hell out of bringing so many friends together. Tomorrow’s game is going to be hard.

OSU tailgate

The funny thing is it’s not like Bryan and I were lifetime friends… we’ve only really known each other for a few years. But in that brief time a bond was created, the sort of connection that makes life so special.  We’d have late night discussions on Facebook about sports and work and life.. we had the same profession so we’d talk about that and Bryan would say to me “When you start your own company I want to be the first employee…”  We’d agree that Cheers was better than Seinfeld.  That this would be the year the A’s would win the World Series or that Cal would go to the Rose Bowl. We’d talk about how great Jessica is…

Bryan’s passing, in such an non-eventful way and far, far too prematurely reinforces in me the philosophy I hold so dear and share with others.  Carpe Diem.  You have to seize the day.  As I say over and over, life is meant to be lived and for you to have an impact on it.  There’s a great speech by Robert Gordon Sproul, UC Class of 1913 and President of the University from 1930 – 1958, an excerpt of which I’d like to share with you:

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 was Bryan to a T.  So tomorrow as I know Bryan would want I’ll get together with friends at the Cal game and cheer GO BEARS and, as much as I hate the stuff, I’ll raise a shot of Jameson to him.

The very last thing Bryan posted on his Facebook is below, and I can’t think of a more fitting last thought from Bryan.  Fiat Lux Bryan, keep that torch burning bright.

Bryan facebook post

Thanks for reading and if you have thoughts and memories of Bryan you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a reply.

AMERICA!!!! (And Cal and UCLA)

Lydia and Joseph2 Yo Yos2

Just a quickie today… what I love about America and makes my heart swell.  The two smiling people – and they are ALWAYS smiling – in the above photo are Lydia and Joseph.  They have been serving up simple, awesome and incredibly reasonably priced Japanese lunches to patrons in San Francisco from their modest Jackson Square walk-in deli for 25 years.  On any given day there’s a line out the door and down Pacific Avenue as customers wait to order Chicken Teriyaki over rice with a side of salad… for $6!

Lydia and Joseph are first generation Americans and for my money are living the American dream.  Today, with even huger smiles than usual, they apologized that they would not be open on Friday. Turns out they have to drive their son Justin to Los Angeles as he checks in for his freshman year at UCLA!!!  And as if just getting into UCLA isn’t enough, Justin plans on studying biochem. Come on dude, try pushing yourself a little!

While congratulating Joseph, I asked him he had any mixed feelings as he frequently wears a Cal t-shirt.  He said to me “My son told me I have to to stop wearing it…. but I’ll still wear it! GO BEARS!”

So to Justin I say congrats on getting accepted to UCLA!  To Lydia and Joseph congrats to you on raising a great kid.  And thank you.  Not just for years of great food, but most importantly, thank you for reminding us the American dream is alive and well.

Why I Fist Bump 9/11 – Mark Bingham

Image

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 12 years ago.  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 “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 California Golden Blogs 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…  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!!!