|Learning to be a hater|
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2
Before you call for a head?
How many blowouts must you sit through
Before you hang your head in shame?
The answer, my friends
Is blowin' at The Cooler.
The answer is blowin' at The Cooler.
I could, dwellers, dedicate this entire Cooler to the pain and hurt and anger and embarrassment that comes when your team takes its biggest game of the year and turns it into a flaming pile of something in a brown paper bag. However, last year's Cooler on the 'SC-UCLA game already did that, when I lamented, along with Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, that My Team Done Left Me.
No, we will not bother those of you outside of California with the particulars of the latest Bruin-Trojan clash. Instead, we will use this time to ponder a philosophical question:
At what point does the critical mass become, well, critical and massive?
What I mean is this: Midway through the third quarter of the worst ass-whupping I've ever witnessed, 80 percent of the beautiful Rose Bowl was empty. Empty! The only fans who remained were 'SC fans, a sentence more painful to type than you'll ever know. If you've ever had your home turf -- anywhere, Wrigley Field, Riverfront Stadium, Between the Hedges, the Boston Garden -- taken over by the enemy, you will remember it with such clarity and agony, your only recourse can be: Fire my freaking coach.
That was all I heard around the Rose Bowl in the third quarter, as blue-clad fans streamed for the parking lot as if a thousand noxious stinkbombs had been set off in the gorgeous Arroyo Seco.
Fire the coach! Fire the coach! Hey, I've got a different idea ... fire the coach!
Now, is this precious Page 2 space given over to a forum to call for Bob Toledo's head on a platter, preferably with an apple stuffed in his mouth, and several lovely garnishings on the side? I won't say. I will, instead, turn the question over to a nation full of philosophical, deep-thinking dwellers.
Do we, the fans, even know if a coach deserves to be fired?
Do we, the fans, fully grasp the Xs and Os; do we understand the blocking schemes; do we fully comprehend matchups and weaknesses and injuries and adjustments?
Of course not!
All that said, let me lay this on you: You're a fan of, say, a large public university that plays on the West Coast. Your rival is a private university that, say, also plays on the West Coast -- hell, let's throw caution to the wind and even say they play in the same city. Your only desire as a fan of that large public university is to administer justice every November to that private school, understanding that you cannot win all the games, all the time.
Keeping with our theory, let's say your team loses the 2001 game 27-0 in what is generally considered the worst Quit Job in the history of your school. Let us then say that in the 2002 game, you look up at the scoreboard in the fourth quarter and see your team down 52-7.
You may not know Xs and Os. You may not know matchups and weaknesses and tendencies and injuries. You may not even know adjustments.
But you know when your ass is kicked so thoroughly -- and when that ass-kicking has run four years straight -- that decapitation of your coach is the only answer.
You can rely, of course, on three philosophers:
One is your large public university's former head coach, who happened to visit the same postgame tailgate as you. As that former head coach cracked a beer in the gathering dusk outside the Rose Bowl, he imparted words, and those words were: "I don't think we hate 'em enough." He then turned to a former player present at the Bender in the Gloaming, and said: "Remember? We used to preach hate."
The second philosopher would be the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who wisely noted: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
For your consideration.
The third seer would be U2's Bono, who used the song "40" on the album "War" to intone: "How long to sing this song?"
For your consideration.
How long to sing this song?
If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
And, my personal favorite: We don't hate 'em enough. We used to preach hate.
I will leave you dwellers to apply this painful lesson to your own life as a Sports Fan, and use it as balm or rallying cry, whichever you see fit, as I move on to the Weekend List of Five:
1. All that said, still one of life's greatest days
Pre-Thanksgiving Saturday is the autumnal version of same.
That's right: Rivalry Saturday. It rules. From Yale-Harvard to Michigan-Ohio State to Auburn-'Bama to 'SC-UCLA to Wazzu-Washington to Cal-Stanford, this day plain kicks ass, and doesn't even bother taking names.
I love this day. I love it so much, I wish I could time travel from coast to coast.
I'd start out at a tailgate in New Haven, Conn. -- alma mater of my much better half -- where we would mock Harvard relentlessly for its saddle shoes and fur coats and "Boola, Boola" absurdity ... until we realized that all that stuff applies to Yale, too.
Still, I've attended a viewing of The Game at a San Francisco bar/restaurant and I have to say, all biases fully present, that the Harvard crowd was way geekier than the Yale crowd. Yale? Yeah, it was all Ivy League and Bush Family and all that. But Harvard was the full-on Chuck Schick crowd. You remember -- Judge Smails' law intern. Danny, this is Chuck Schick ...
So anyway, Boola Boola.
I'd move on to Columbus, Ohio, for more festivities. I love this rivalry, simply because I always watched it from my safe California home, while that Big Ten crowd froze its collective patootie off. Scarves, pea coats, ski caps -- meanwhile, down at the Rose Bowl, it was shorts, T-shirts and a cry of "Go long, dude!" as we heave a Nerf football around Brookside Golf Course. Still, we had a hardened respect for the Big Ten crowd that dealt with all those gray skies and whipping winds. Plus, a cat at work, Big Al, wore an Ohio State gamer to the newspaper on Friday. You have to love a rivalry where a business writer in San Francisco who attended Rutgers -- but grew up in Cleveland -- wears a Buckeye gamer to his big-city newspaper office.
I will party with those Ohio State-Michigan cowboys any day of the week.
And then, of course, to the West Coast, where special heed is paid to Cal coach Jeff Tedford. In waxing Stanford -- the NorCal equivalent of 'SC, I might add -- this guy has turned a 1-10 team into a 7-5 squad, and overcome a seven-year losing streak to Stanford in the process.
Commence the crafting of the Tedford statue on campus immediately, if not sooner.
2. Sherman v. Sapp: Who do you root for?
Warren Sapp got a legal blast in on Green Bay's Chad Clifton after an interception.
Mike Sherman dropped an F-bomb on Sapp after the game.
Sapp wanted a piece of Sherman on the field.
Sherman did not back down.
I give them both stamps of approval.
Sapp, because his hit was legal, because his hit sent a message, and because he didn't do anything stupid like raising a hand on Sherman when the temptation was strong.
Sherman, because he had just gotten his ass kicked, and he did not want to back down or kiss ass to a guy who had popped his player. Was Sherman out of line? Who cares? He defended his player and did so by dropping the F-bomb to Sapp's face.
In a world sometimes too politically correct, and in the heat of intense competition, I say it's OK. As we learned in the 1983 classic "Risky Business," every now and then, you've got to turn to Warren Sapp and say: "What the f---?"
In sum: If you're a Green Bay Packer, you know your coach dropped it on Sapp.
If you're a Tampa Bay Buc, you know Sapp gives you all he's got.
Can't wait for the playoffs, baby.
3. Vanderjagt: Dutch for "Vinatieri"
Then, on Sunday night, I saw Mike Vanderjagt kick a 54-yarder through the snow to force overtime. I was deeply impressed, but considered three things: One, the wind was at his back; two, he was a mile high; and three, it was not an AFC playoff game. I exhaled.
Then, I saw Vanderjagt kick a 51-yarder to win the game in overtime. I had to realize three things: One, the wind was in his face; two, there was no way he could do it twice; and three, was it time for me to recognize a kicking effort greater than Vinatieri's?
Then, thankfully, Vanderjagt removed his helmet. He sports an earring.
On the "Miami Vice" rule, Vinatieri remains the King.
No kicker can sport an earring in 2002 and surpass Vinatieri. Come on, bro. Who are you, George Michael in Wham?
Still, dude. Great foot.
4. The Rams' dilemma
Breathe into the brown paper bag, Rams Fan.
Repeat after me: Playing Kurt Warner was absolutely the right move.
Let's break it down: Warner won a Super Bowl. Warner took you to another Super Bowl, which you would have won if Adam Vinatieri didn't play Gus the Kicking Mule. Warner's early-season health woes were over with the healing of his hand, and he was ready to rock.
And you offer on the other hand ... Marc Bulger?
That's what I thought.
Now, kill Martz over his decision not to kick a field goal; but lay off the Great Ego by the Mississippi when it comes to the Warner Decision, OK?
5. In summation ...
Part of the beauty of attending your alma mater's events is serendipity; as such, I found myself at the postgame beerfest with my old pal from my freshman dorm. We hadn't seen each other in 13 years, but immediately the talk was easy and free and, of course, about how to heal UCLA football. My boy's complaint: We weren't cheating well enough.
Now, having attended a large public university with a premium on winning, I understood: Cheating is necessary.
Said I to my old pal: "What, you don't think we're cheating now?"
And he said, in total earnestness: "No! That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying we need to get a new coach, so we can pool our resources, and cheat ... as a team!''
I could only raise my aluminum can in a toast.
Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.