I could spend all day listing decisions I made that in hindsight were awful.
– Buying a new Honda Accord a year before meeting my girlfriend and moving to The City, where cars are expensive to insure and impossible to park.
– Spending multiple hours writing posts on why the 49ers should trade for Jay Cutler.
– Skipping kindergarten (OK, that was my parents’ decision, but still — what would have been the harm in letting me fingerpaint and nap for a year?).
But perhaps no decision was more boneheaded than going to a college without a football team. Sure, UC Santa Cruz supplied great scenery and weather, a fun college town (go on, experience the joy of drinking a tall can at the Boardwalk, I dare you) and several cheap taquerias, but NO football team.
Since I have no ties to Cal or Stanford besides proximity and a couple relatives who went there, I’ve never made a point to follow either team as a hardcore fan or attend multiple games at either team’s stadium. Even though Cal’s had some OK-to-decent teams over the past decade and Stanford Stadium is one of the nicest venues in the Bay Area in terms of sightlines and ease of getting in and out, neither place really FEELS like big-time college football.
This is why it was beyond awesome to watch my first game at Husky Stadium on Saturday.
Sure, the game was kind of a stinker if you’re looking for some decent competition — the Bears pretty much gave up midway through the second quarter as the game descended into a Husky highlight reel while the crowd repeatedly chanted “ONE MORE YEAR” to Jake Locker (who’d be an absolute idiot not to leave for the NFL after this, his junior season).
But the atmosphere, whoa. First, the sound pours directly onto the field and the opposing players, which means when you scream as loud as you can to spur the home team’s defense you actually have some sort of effect on the action.
The stadium itself looks fantastic, like a quainter Qwest Field (more on what happened there later). It’s also right on Lake Washington, where at halftime boats pull up to the shore that serve as floating bars, so if you don’t mind walking a couple hundred yards away from the field you can actually purchase booze during the game (no tall cans like the Boardwalk, but the Boardwalk doesn’t have a full bar either).
Since Sports Girl Liz (my girlfriend, for those who don’t frequent this site too often) is a UW alum, I’ve pretty much adopted the Huskies as my de facto college football team. One would think she would return the favor and become a Lakers fan (same colors, after all), but Liz has some sort of weird affinity for Monta Ellis and is a glutton for punishment I guess, so she pulls for the Warriors. Her loss. But I enjoyed UW’s 42-10 thrashing of the heartless Bears, not just because of the fact that it meant that my girlfriend’s mood was sure to be considerably better for the rest of our trip to Seattle, but because I finally felt what it was like to tailgate and watch a college football game in a raucous environment.
With all the fun we had, I still couldn’t stop from wondering what if. What if I had avoided the dreadlocks and hacky sacks and gone to a school with a legit sports program? Sure I had fun playing on my intramural flag football team at UCSC (aptly named “The Title IX’s”), but I always knew I was missing something. In Seattle over the weekend, I fully found out what that something was.
The Flight Back Home
I love flying Virgin America. I love the mood lighting, the TVs that actually work (thanks for nothing, Lufthansa — that 11-hour trip from Paris was awesome when I was in the only row where the screens stayed dark the entire flight) and that they give you just enough leg room so that my 6’2″ frame doesn’t feel like I’m being smuggled from Tijuana into San Diego in the back of a Econoline Van with 30 of my closest friends.
You know who else loves Virgin? Tim Lincecum, who was sitting in seat 1A. First class of course, but still surprising when SGL caught his eye as we walked by (I thought she was holding up the line to our seats and told her to keep going, so all I caught was the back of Lincecum’s head…but it was definitely him). I sent him a message via the inflight chat application that read, “hey Tim congrats on Cy No. 2,” or something, but shockingly he did not respond. Did he somehow forget when we met last year in Novato? I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I heard the sounds of muffled sobbing when the clock hit 4:20 and we were still in the air on our descent to San Francisco.
SEVEN AND NINE!!!!
One thing the Virgin TVs were not offering was any football. No Fox, not even CBS since the channels were all misplaced on the dial (no, not even Richard Branson is perfect). So I was left to stick with ESPN News and watch the ticker to check the 49ers’ progress against the Seahawks in a game that SGL and I almost bought tickets for but thought better of it (finally, a decision that looks good in hindsight!).
After getting home and checking out the fourth quarter, I have a hard time ripping Mike Singletary for being too aggressive. Sure, that double reverse on the punt return turned out horribly, and most teams would have run out the clock with less than 2 minutes to go in regulation instead of going for it through the air with Alex Smith.
But isn’t this what we as fans want, a coach and team who act aggressively and play to win? Didn’t we all kill Nolan for coaching like a wuss, when his only gambles were onside kicks at strange times? And sure, Frank Gore ran for over 200 yards against the Seahawks earlier in the season, but Gore hasn’t been the same runner after suffering an ankle injury in that very same game, and the 49ers’ weapons are obviously better utilized in a wide open passing scheme than trying to replicate the 1972 Miami Dolphins. And it’s not Smith’s fault his team lost. He isn’t deathly accurate in the clutch like Joe Montana, but who is? At least he gave the 49ers two clear chances at instant victory, only to hit the helmets of his two best receivers (Vernon Davis due to an absolute whiff and Michael Crabtree due to — gulp — alligator arms).
Now we’re left with an anticlimactic MNF game where the only suspense will be whether Singletary calls 2 timeouts in the first quarter or 3 (that IS an annoying part about Singletary, the idea that each game is an exception to the rule and that timeouts can and should be called in any situation the coach decides, on a whim…that’s true in a sense, but the tendency for time management in the Nolan/Singletary eras to be handled with the same ineptitude as the officials handled the 49ers/Seahawks game a couple days ago is getting old really fast).
Oh well, this season will give me another chance to chant “SEVEN…AND…NINE” really loudly for the third year in a row. The first time I was doing it as an optimistic shout-out to the potential the 49ers were showing at the end of the 2007 season. Last year it was done as a joke, but with some legitimate optimism about what the future holds with Singletary at the helm. This year I don’t know what it’ll mean, but I’ll say it anyway. Even in hindsight, stupid chants which help blow off steam after yet another disappointing football season are never a bad idea.