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Taylor: Show the Bears some love

Sorry Cal, but try as you might, I just can’t find it in me to really hate you.

The truth of the matter is that the Stanford-Berkeley rivalry is felt far more strongly across on your side of the Bay. Students here on the Farm are far more irreverent and relaxed about this whole thing.

Take the Band. What makes the LSJUMB so great is that it is so idiosyncratically Stanford. Few, even among the student section, really get the Band’s jokes or have much idea about what its members are doing out there. But not only does that not matter, it is really a key part of what makes the Band great.

Unlike most college marching bands, Stanford’s lacks any kind of military discipline. It has infuriated and upset the powers that be across this great nation, from the University of Notre Dame to ESPN and the entire state of Oregon. Why? Because it felt the need to show off Stanford’s superiority? No. Really because it just seemed funny at the time.

One of the Band’s most famous moments was “The Play,” when it rushed the field and inadvertently turned victory into defeat for the Cardinal. On Saturday, at every break in play, the announcers at Memorial Stadium delightfully reminded everyone that this year was the 30th anniversary of perhaps the most bizarre ending of a college football game ever. We heard from commentators and Cal teammates who had witnessed or been part of the game, but glaringly absent were any of the key players who had gifted Berkeley that win.

From a Stanford perspective that was a shame. It might seem odd to you, but the Band’s accidental treachery is one of my favorite anecdotes from Cardinal history. It’s a lasting episode that defies the seriousness with which many take these intercollegiate rivalries.

The truth is, I have never really found it in my heart to hate California. Of course it feels good to beat the Bears, but it just generally feels good to beat anyone. I also have a lot of friends who went to school across the Bay and, being a much bigger university than Stanford, we are pretty much surrounded by Berkeley alumni in the Bay Area.

Cal has never truly hurt me personally, and beyond a feeling of allegiance to the place I have enjoyed calling home for the last few years, it is easy to feel a soft spot for our nearby cousins. To feel a sense of NorCal brotherhood.

For whatever reason it might be, many Berkeley students really don’t like us. Perhaps it is because of the perceived slights from Stanford students chanting “safety school” or the perception of the entitlement of students here. Both are undeserving reasons for hatred. Stanford and UC-Berkeley are clearly two of the top schools in the entire world–U.S. News has them ranked 11th and 21st, respectively.

I’ve had my skirmishes with Cal fans in the past, besides the now infamous exploits of Ink Bowls past. Last year, on the way down to see Stanford defeat USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum I walked unsuspectingly into an In-N-Out restaurant heaving with students wearing blue and gold, on their way to watch their own team face UCLA; never did I think wearing a red shirt would get me so much attention.

Caught in the moment, the atmosphere felt edgy–or at least as edgy as you can get with college students; this isn’t European soccer after all–and while a handful were willing to cross the divide and chat to me, there was a general feeling of a standoff.

There is nothing like being outnumbered by an opposing team’s fans to inspire dark thoughts. To want to see Berkeley defeated, humiliated, to see the Golden Bears suffer. To see its fans deserting their team and streaming out of the stadium with a large part of the contest still to run. When you are suddenly the minority in a crowd of blue and gold it is easy to want to close ranks. When you begin to notice the obvious bias of the stadium announcers–something that just never seems to quite so blatant at home–you pray for their embarrassment.

But in the cold light of day, far from the antagonism of a football stadium, it is hard to hate your neighbors.

 

Tom Taylor is as magnanimous in defeat as he is in victory. Share your reasonableness with him at tom.taylor@stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @DailyTomTaylor.