I Was There (And It Hurt): Tennessee-Cal

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I was thrilled to my orange-painted toes to learn my beloved Vawls were playing Cal for their season opener. Since they had come all the way to the west coast (like they were coming just to see me!), I thought the least I could do was make the trip up to Berkeley to meet them.

I drove up in the middle of the night on Friday (miraculously escaping the L.A. Labor Day mass exodus crush), slept about four hours, and woke up to find downtown San Francisco, well, a lot like home:

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It wasn’t the sea of orange that blankets Knoxville every Saturday, but everywhere you looked there was someone rocking that eye-popping shade:

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Radio estimates numbered the Tennessee faithful making the trip at 10,000. Not that difficult to believe:

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After passing a delightful and tipsy afternoon watching Michigan-App. State and Notre Dame-Georgia Tech in an orange-packed sports bar, we made our way up the hill to the stadium.

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Which was, quite frankly, a dump. Dear Cal Athletics: You have a really, really, really good football team. Jettison the hippies from the oak trees (that aren’t even indigenous to the area), break ground, and get the Bears some facilities to match already. My high school stadium outstrips this one.

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The lovely and talented Coach Trooper Taylor surveys the scene:

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And we were off.

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It was a heart attack of a game right from the start. Just relentless. Score. Score. Score. Score.

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And nothing went the way we thought it would. Every preconception that wasn’t completely turned on its head was exaggerated beyond anyone’s expectations. The maligned O-line (see what I did there?) did a bang-up job (and there?) of keeping most of the pressure off injured QB Erik Ainge, whose broken pinky and Historically Fragile Psyche didn’t seem to hamper him half as much as we feared. The receiving corps acquitted themselves passably (I can’t stop). Most crucially, the specter Tennessee fans know as Bad Erik was nowhere to be seen.

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But it wasn’t enough. It’s a strange sensation to fear for the game as our defense takes the field. It’s completely foreign to me to doubt the prowess of a Chavis-crafted unit (much as it’s second nature to dread our special teams, excepting the ones that kick– the two touchdowns that put Cal over the top were direct results of a kick return and a fumble) but they never showed up to play. We knew the defense was suspect going in. We had no inkling they’d be suspect to the tune of forty-fucking-five. It’s been said elsewhere and I’ll repeat it for the cheap seats: At Tennessee? Thirty-one points should be a win.

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And here’s what hurt the worst: Not the scoreboard. Not the chants of “PAC-10-FOOT-BALL!!” that followed us out of the stadium, shouted by fans of a team that’s scheduled to play two (2) currently ranked teams the rest of the season. Not the fact that, after the #12 team, beat the #15, they rushed their own field (prompting a hiss from my girlfriend, “Jesus, act like you’ve been somewhere“). It was the attitude. That laid-back, it’s-only-a-game sense that is just heresy to my SEC sensibilities. I was carrying on a cell-phone conversation for much of the third quarter at normal volume with no difficulties whatsoever. UNacceptable.

Hey, Berkeley? The Golden Bears? Are fucking good. Forsett could play most anywhere in the country. Jackson? Will be a goddamn star before too much longer. They deserve your support. Raise your voice, dammit. (And if you’re going to rush the field, don’t do it at a walk.)

39 thoughts on “I Was There (And It Hurt): Tennessee-Cal

  1. Yeah, no one I know actually thought we’d pull this one out. Too many question marks. What we REALLY didn’t think we’d do was hang 31 on them and still not come away with a win.

  2. I did NOT know they rushed the field.. erm “rushed” the field.

    Also, based on eday’s recounting of the events that transpired on our patio after halftime, I’m pretty sure I owe you an apology… so.. sorry.

  3. I have look over these pictures at least a dozen times now, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out how you managed to get such great “Fall light” considering it is still the first weekend of September.

  4. It amazes me to go to a non-Southern stadium…it’s like a funeral. We went to the ass-whippin that USC gave my Hogs in Cali and even though they were winning handily, the crowd was just not into it like we would have been at home even if we were losing. I don’t understand it.
    And Holly, I was in Aspen at a bar this Saturday and you would have thought that I was a Rocky Top alum myself. It was tough for me to do, but I cheered my ass off for you guys.

  5. The funniest “rushing” of the field I’ve ever seen was at UVA, where all these little skinny 18 yr olds in sun dresses were attempting to delicately climb over the fence to get down to the field without flashing the world (this was pre-Britney and Paris). Who wears a sun dress and heels to a football game? (given, this was the South, but still…)

  6. OH. Did I mention how lackluster the Cal women are? My crew had the only brushed hair in the joint. This was my first visit to a non-SEC stadium I’m old enough to remember, and I ain’t all that anxious to venture out again. Berkeley and SF at large were lovely, though.

  7. The Student Section is full of young freshmen who are still learning what football is. The alumni are full of yuppies and soon-to-be yuppies who treat a Cal game as a chance to get acquainted with their old chums who are now making big bucks at their various SF firms. Strewn about them are diehards like me. We’ll be loud around October. Meh, best you can hope for from these people.

    I can’t defend my crowd, but hey, things keep on happening. The As and the Giants have huge loyal fanbases, the Raiders and the 49ers are a week away from kicking off, the Warriors still have the Bay Area buzzing. It just doesn’t mean as much to them–too many things happen here for most people to keep track of (If Cal is undefeated or a Rose Bowl berth is on the line when they play USC though, then things might be a little different).

    (Although it means a lot to me. Go Bears!)

  8. Holly I probably owe you a second apology for not stealing TGC’s phone when he wasn’t looking.

    I didn’t think UT looked bad. Everyone is down on them, but they’ll score enough to play with everyone all year. A freak fumble return and a returned punt by a great player were the difference in the game. To a top 25 team on the road, that’s the only difference in the game? I think the Vols will be okay this year.

  9. I don’t remember anything he said after halftime. It’s all good.

    I’m not entirely pessimistic, actually. I maybe should have mentioned that, but as usual, spite won the day.

    That said: If we can’t get to Tebow like we couldn’t get to Longshore, holy hell are we ever in for it.

  10. The student section rushed the field? Goddamnit, we’re getting far too rush happy. That’s pathetic.

    As far as the cheering gos, that’s how pretty much all sports are on the west coast. Why? Cause in general there’s other better things to do and we know a loss isn’t the end of the world. The student section will (probably) get better as the season progresses and the mike men improve. Other than maybe the young alumni, the rest of the stadium is always pretty worthless.

  11. And that reminds me of something else–is there a bylaw prohibiting the announcers from saying “tackle”, or were they showing off for the ABC employees? “So-and-so, taking defensive responsibility on the play” was heard MORE THAN ONCE. He fucking tackled him. Don’t give us a treatise.

  12. I will make no apologies about the sports fans in the Bay Area. I have adopted Cal as my college team only due to geographic consideration, but I hate pretty much everything else about Bezerkley.

    I’m glad the weather was spectacular on Saturday. The game looked phenomonal in HD and I was yelling my ass off at home, over on the other side of that big ass hill you were halfway up.

  13. A term such as “tackling” would be deemed too violent and offensive in Berkeley. “Assuming responsibility” is far more PC.

  14. I like your summary. The Tennessee fans were great. On the boards, I read how well the Vols treated my Cal brethen, and had the opportunity to experience that southern hospitality first hand.

    One thing I’ve been hearing from every Vol is how crappy our stadium is. Pisses me off. Tedford deserves better.

    My two cents: some students rushed the field, but not many. Not even 10%, I don’t think. I really dislike the arrogant, “act like you’ve been there before” attitude, though. What’s wrong with being really excited about a win?

  15. I too like your sumamry.

    I had a nice chat with a couple of Vol fans on my way to the Bart station about the remainder of the season. Everyone I met was a really good sport and I hope I returned the favor.

    Berkeley hasn’t had a really good football team until recently (since the 1950s) and really prides itself on its academics so I think (in addition to the hippies in the trees) a new stadium here is more of an uphill battle than it might elsewhere. Even though it’s being slowly ripped apart by the Hayward fault :)

  16. What’s wrong with being really excited about a win?

    They weren’t acting all that excited. That was my point. They sort of meandered onto the field. Maybe that’s just how things work out here, but where I come from it’s supposed to be celebratory, not an afterthought. I’m just used to more emotion from fans, and the Bears certainly deserve that kind of support.

  17. Okay, I hear ya. Yeah, it was rather lackluster. A big portion of our fans are still pretty lame and just getting into football.

    Good luck against the Gators! Go Vols!

  18. Can you guys please stop nitpicking about CAL? You lost to them so deal with it. I do not give a fig about CAL, but on TV it seemed like the stadium was loud and that’s all that matters. It might not hold as many as Fort Neyland, but they hold their own.

    I went to a game at UF last year (against Bama) and was visiting SF the ensuing week. We managed to get tickets for the Oregon-California match up and it seemed like Cal was just as loud as it was in The Swamp. As I recall, isn’t Ben Hill Griffin Stadium supposed to be one of the loudest?

    The students did not rush the field, at least on the TV version. Maybe they’re allowed on the field after the game (similar to Clemson, perhaps)? If they did rush, then why did they wait for so long until after the game was over to “rush” on the field?

    Please stop with your over exaggerations and nitpicking. You sound like little whiney babies. Give CAL the credit they deserve.

    I’m just so sick and tired of us SEC fans claiming that we’re so much better in every aspect of college football. We not always back it up and it is embarrassing because everyone will forever talk about it. Just check the ESPN boards. The SEC was made the laughing stock because of Tennessee and Auburn. Do as your girlfriend says and act like you’ve been there before. Be gracious when you win or lose, don’t nitpick and find excuses to take away from any school.

    You make SEC fans look like sore losers and people that have no life. Move on, the game happened already, worry about Florida now. I’m sure that if you lose to UF, you’ll create another post bashing them somehow. I bet it’ll be to the tune of “our tailgates are better…” or blah, blah, blah!

    Sick ‘em, Dawgs!

  19. Spoken like a team that just lost to freaking South Carolina in one of the worst-played games I’ve seen.

    Did you even read my post? The Cal Bears DO deserve respect, and I feel like they’re not getting it from their fans. That was my point, but I suppose allowances must be made for the reading comprehension skills of a Georgia fan.

  20. So do they not teach reading and comprehension in Georgia? Or was it your turn to follow the dog with a plastic baggie?

  21. Georgia –
    I normally wouldn’t bother to say anything to someone who clearly has so little knowledge. I know I’m wasting my breath, but here goes.
    1) Were you at the UT-Cal game? No? She was, so for you to try and argue about the atmosphere is like a man telling a woman what labor is like. Don’t do that. Moving on.
    2) Apparently your “helper” did you a disservice and didn’t read this post to you in its entirety. Let me give you the short version, she gave Cal credit and was gracious in a difficult defeat. If anything, she was telling the fans to support their team more vociferously. The end.
    3) She has moved on. She posted this over a week ago. Why don’t you move on and try to win a game? You might feel better.

  22. If that was “rushing the field”, then Tennessee has never ever seen “rushing the field. For God’s sake, no one left the student section until more than 2 minutes after the gun. 80% of the student section turned around and walked upstairs out of the stadium. Sure, there was a crowd of yahoos on the field, but they sauntered out there. They sure as hell didn’t “rush the field”.

    In 1982, when Cal beat Stanford by executing five flawless laterals, and destroying the ‘furdie trombonist (no, it wasn’t a freakin’ tuba), Cal fans “rushed the field”. After beating Tennessee in 2007, as was expected, they did NOT “rush the field”. I was at both games. There’s a huge difference.

  23. Exactly my point. Leave it to a Home Depot fan to insult someone. You may have a good program, Tennessee, but when it comes to losing you guys are the worst.

    Ya’ll misrepresented the SEC. You embarrassed us. We lost to South Carolina, yeah, but how is your lovely 1-2 going to feel after tomorrow? It’ll be another 5-loss season for the VolsInTears.

    Since you guys did not win, you have to find something to whine about. You are trying to distract everyone from the loss and focus on negative aspects of CAL. Good job, sore losers.

    You over exaggerated everything in your post and I cannot believe that the other VolsInTears fans are eating it like dead roadkill.

    The concept of “Rushing the field” is simple. You RUSH the field immediately after the win. You don’t wait 5-10 minutes after to “rush.” In that case, it is a very slow “rush.” Even on TV you could not see this “rush” that you speak of.

    For all of those who bashed me, good job. You showed YOUR lack of reading comprehension. It must be those Home Depot-colored glasses you are wearing.

    Even then, if you didn’t want them to rush, why didn’t you just beat them? Plain and simple. You’re just looking for an excuse.

    Oh yeah, if you were able to make a call, it was probably because your defense was on the field. There appeared to be a ton of VolsInTears fans at the game, but not a single peep from them was heard on TV.

    Oh, yeah, jhc, as far as Georgia winning a game, I kind of forgot that you are undefeated… oh wait, you’re not. Come talk to me after tomorrow when you switch off to 1-2.

    Don’t throw stones from glass houses.

    Sick ‘em, Dawgs!

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