A few weeks ago at Peter and Jen’s baby shower (since then, Eli has been born!), I had a great time reconnecting with old Berkeley friends.
One person who was not from Cal was Chris, Eddie Chin’s wife. She humorously told Mike Park and I, “there is a third person in our marriage – Cal Golden Bear (or, Oski).” I laughed uncontrollably – I thought that was a hilarious way of describing Eddie’s fandom. My wife Tina didn’t think it was funny.
Anyhow, Chris continued to describe Cal fandom and she says, “I don’t know any other school where the fans root so hard for their team… especially when they’re not very good.” I laughed again, but it was an embarrassed laugh. I tried to make it look like I was laughing at Eddie, though.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about Chris’s assessment, mostly whenever I’d scramble around Queens looking for where to watch the latest Cal Football game.
As usual, it’s been an emotionally trying year for our football team. There was the heartbreaker in Maryland, where we had no business scheduling a game at 9 am pst. Then there was the Arizone game, furiously watched by updating my browser until the 3rd quarter became unbearable. The SC game was somewhat expected, but still my hopes were up when we stayed close enough to tie the game yet to be denied by the refs. And then finally, there was the osu game this past weekend – no comment.
What’s most frustrating is that we would be 10-0 if we were in the big ten.
Back to fandom, though, I actually think Chris’s take on Cal athletics and its fans is true – we have the most die-hard fans, but we’re not very good.
Every Cal grad I know (and hang out with in nyc) follows the football team from week to week, and this includes men AND women, sports fans AND non-sports fans. It’s really quite remarkable. Off the top of my head, crazy Cal fans include Dave S., Dareyn S., Karen C., Eddie, Mike P., Rebecca, Jerry L. Devon S., Renju, J., etc.
And what’s kinda nonsensical about this fandom is that we’re not that good! It’s hard for me to admit, but it’s true. I’d like to think we’re in the same category as sc because we’re always near the top of the pac 10 in recent years, but everyone outside of the East Bay would say that there’s absolutely NO WAY we’re in the same conversation.
From the outside looking in, our most recent reputation (because we were downright horrible when I was in school) is probably like a michigan state, byu, west virgina, boston college, or texas tech. We’re that team that’s dangerous, but generally 3-5 losses a year, with some flirting with the top of the polls once in awhile.
I’m still trying to figure out why we’re so crazy committed to our teams, though, more than the average alums. I can understand why sc fans get so excited, but us, it’s harder to understand. My general take is:
1) We all loved going to Cal
2) We were horrible in the major sports for so long, it feels good to just be ranked or get to the ncaa tourney (I know this is quite silly, but whenever Cal is in the tourney, I ALWAYS pick them to get to the sweet 16 – see how this fandom goes against practical wisdom? Btw, Dave Song probably picks them to win it.).
3) We’ve felt so close to being at the top. Our pride leads us to believe we can be at the top, and we’ll try whatever we can to be at the top, but let’s face it, we’re not at the top, and it’ll be a long way to the top.
Anyhow, these are my thoughts. One day, I hope to be able to tell the following people that Cal is the best football or basketball team in the country:
My wife Tina
My brother Stephen
Mike and Frank Favilla
Anyone affiliated with USC
Chris, Eddie’s wife.