Remember the day you got into Stanford? The moment that email hit your inbox? You waited with bated breath for it to load, first the subject, then the graphic and the contents of the message. In disbelief you read it over and over again. You still know the exact, exact place you were when you received that fortuitous message. You remember your thoughts, emotions and that ineffable feeling.
Well sometime not too long ago, there was another producer of that emotion. It was a consistent feeling, one that came reliably every week during the fall. Instead of unfolding on paper or a phone screen, it unfolded in the hollow air in front of your very eyes. You could go to Stanford Stadium on a Saturday and expect a show. You could expect a performance to match the caliber of the dazzling academics of the school. Oftentimes, in fact, the Cardinal would exceed even your wildest expectations.
Last season Stanford was a powerhouse, had a Heisman finalist and was in contention for the College Football Playoff until the very last day of the season. Each game had fireworks, signature plays and memorable moments.
This season has been different.
After Stanford’s disappointing 10-5 loss to Colorado, the Cardinal have fallen out of the race for the Roses, and any hope for a FBS bowl game is almost extinguished. At this point, with an underwhelming 4-3 record, Stanford needs to start counting winnable games to even become bowl eligible. Who would have thought that would be a reality a month ago?
Stanford still has two winnable home games, against Oregon State and Rice, but with road trips to Arizona, Cal and Oregon, away wins will not come easy. Stanford needs to seriously figure out its offense if it intends to win again. The defense was great each of the last two weeks, and, in fact, could rival the offensive unit at scoring points.
Stanford is really in uncharted territory now, with a quarterback crisis unlike anything in the last eight years, and a plethora of problems across the offensive line and most facets of the attacking game. For Stanford to salvage what’s left of the season, it would require a monumental turnaround. The team still has three Pac-12 North games remaining on the slate, so there is a lot to play for. But with each loss, the team seems less motivated and more anemic.
The squad that trudged off the field against the Buffaloes looked like the antithesis of what a Shaw football squad is meant to be. So on behalf of the football program, I would like to apologize to you, Freshman. This is not what Stanford football is. This is not what it is supposed to feel like.
Stanford needs to reinvent itself on offense. It needs to play better in all aspects of the game, coaching included. But with time and talent, and practice and patience, Stanford will rebound, no doubt.
You have seen glimpses of the past, of the glory. An explosive pass to Michael Rector, a Christian McCaffrey punt return, a Solomon Thomas sack or maybe a Quenton Meeks pick-six. Those little spurts of brilliance, however fleeting, are an homage to a bygone era of Stanford football.
With each of those plays and moments, we are brought back to the past. Maybe it’s like your memory of that Stanford admissions email hitting your inbox. You will never again have that same feeling, but you certainly remember it, even if you cannot articulate its meaning or rationalize its significance.
And that, in essence, is the joy of a touchdown.
Even without comprehending what it means — save the score of the game — or its greater significance, a touchdown brings joy, fervor and adoration. You may not yet have experienced it first-hand — a running back breaking free in the backfield or a returner juking past the last defender — but one day you will. You will, in unison with your classmates, jump up and down as the band plays “All Right Now.”
Maybe it will come in the Big Game against Cal or versus arch-rival Oregon, but be it next week or next season, Stanford will return to its former power, and remind us all of the joy of a touchdown.
Tell Michael Spelfogel the letter is a dead medium at mspel ‘at’ stanford.edu.