being a cal fan

340117294_185f49fc763A 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.

Sigh.

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

Minjue

Dave Choi

Matt Yi

Matt Schweingruber

Jeff Bush

Gus

Danny Chai

Mike and Frank Favilla

Anyone affiliated with USC

Chris, Eddie’s wife.

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17 responses to “being a cal fan

  1. “I don’t know any other school where the fans root so hard for their team… especially when they’re not very good.” Cf. Holiday Bowl, 2005.

  2. In complete defense of my team, we should have been in the rose bowl that year. We had some injuries at receiver that hurt us, and I think the letdown factor (for not being in the rose bowl, a considerably more prestigious and lucrative bowl) was too great to overcome.

    We gave USC, the eventual champion, their toughest game that year at SC. This was when we were at full strength. Texas Tech is one of those teams that can surprise any team with its unconventional offense, and for that one game, we got beat.

    As you can see, I’m still bitter. And my disdain for UT has brought some conflict issues into my marriage, which is why Tina is at the top of the list when it comes to the day Cal wins the National Championship.

  3. everyone can dream….but i want cal to do well too. represent the pac10. (maybe i can say that tho cuz i don’t really believe cal will be better than us in bball. football, sigh, is another story.) 😀

  4. go bears 🙂 i feel like sometimes i’m punishing myself by being a cal fan. and don’t get me started on texas… i’m still quite bitter. you can ask my friends who went there. they all know. even worse was i was at that holiday bowl 😦

  5. great post. you summed up our pain. on a positive note, we’ve come a long way from 1-10. and you do see things in the media like “they’ll face a real test this weekend when they play Cal.” that was crazy talk when we were in school. the Bears are a force to be reckoned with now. but yeah, chris’ comments were hilarious.

  6. I’m with you – but in the meanwhile I think we all need to chip in for a winter vacation house in San Diego. Mike brings up a good point too, esp. leading up to T-giving: Thank God for Rutgers!

  7. oh whoops, nm the UT hoodie is sold out already. that’s what happens when you attend a school with a good football team and good fans.

  8. GO BEARS!
    Great blog, Drew. I’m just hoping for the day when Cal football and Cal basketball are both very good. It seems like they take turns being good and not-so-good.

    As for that USC-Cal game — we should have won. Didn’t Cal have first and goal and couldn’t score (or came away with only a field goal) at the end?

  9. Yeah, we totally should have won that game… btw, on my way back from Houston to NYC, I saw this guy at the Houston Airport wearing a Cal jacket. I introduced myself to him and it turns out he was the Cal Football recruiting director and linebackers coach! It was so cool… he gave me his card, and I told him I’m proud to be a Golden Bear…

  10. hey drew! what makes me sad is that the more we lose, the less we are televised. i had to watch many game highlights this year on youtube (after the fact) because the games were only on a specific satellite station (usually CSN) or only local to the bay. though not many yet, we have some solid recruits this year and so there’s more hope for next year and a few years to follow. next year, riley *should* get better. we’ll take down SC when they play up north in 2009. =)

  11. hey drew. great post. i’m reading it way later than it was originally posted but i just had to comment.
    i experienced being a Cal fan overseas for three years and though it was pretty depressing to have wake up at 4am to “follow” cal football games on ESPN Gamecast, it was worth it. but there’s no pain like waking up early in the morning (in the case where i couldn’t stay up or wake up in the middle of the night), going to espn page (which always loads painfully slow) to find out that Cal had lost another close one to USC or some other worthy opponent. there’s nothing like that feeling knowing that you are probably the only one in that country who feels that pain. no one understands. haha.
    but i did meet this 65 year old m-nary who was a cal grad and we had good fun comparing our cal memories. he still emails his colleague who is a trojan every time we play. we are both waiting to send that email. it will come.

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