Pregame Guesses: UC Berkeley Golden Bears Edition

Harry How

The Bruins should be motivated to avenge last year's loss up in Berkeley.

"Wrecked" by White Fang (via gnartapes)

(This week’s video is a live version of "Wrecked" by White Fang. It’s from their most recent record, "High Expectations" on Burger Records. I actually get a little confused about what label White Fang is with – they used to be on Marriage Records and then I thought they were on Burger Records but sometimes I see them listed with gnartapes. I don’t really understand what’s what there. I do know that White Fang is currently or maybe just completed a tour with Colleen Green, who is on Burger Records, who also have Ty Segall and some other cool artists bands. Anyway, I like this song and like the band and it’s my column so there.)

I’ve always thought "Other than UCLA, what college football team do you root for?" is sort of a lame question. But I get asked it every once in a while and it seems like someone feels the need to post the query every couple of months on the various message board sites I deign to peruse. (I never see it on Bruins Nation, as far as I can recall, which is a testament to the collective intelligence of this particular community.)

As I said, I think the question is weak. I mean, who really cares? And why do people have other teams they root for? Because growing up their dad liked Notre Dame and so they have a soft spot for the Fighting Irish? Or because they got their master’s degree at San Diego State, so they sort of like the Aztecs, mostly because of the tailgate parties? I dunno. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t root for any teams other than UCLA.

But, if you had a gun to my head and forced me to name a few schools I don’t mind, a few teams I sort of like, the list would include Michigan, Virginia, Texas … you know, the big, public schools with good academic reputations.

And my list would definitely include Cal.

In fact, if I really had to pick a "second favorite team" it would be the Golden Bears.

First of all, a lot of my friends from back in high school went to Cal. My high school friends were sort of split evenly between UCLA and Cal, with the "stay in the Valley" bunch picking Cal State Northridge (or CSUN, as we referred to it back then.) Getting into Cal and UCLA was never easy, but it wasn’t like it is today, what with the 4.0s and the perfect SATs not being enough to ensure admission. Back then, you needed good grades and a good test score and you likely got into both. After that, it was just a matter of where you wanted to live and what you wanted to do.

But, really, I/we thought of Cal and UCLA as being two campuses of the same school. Which is what they are, of course. But there was a brotherly or at least a cousinly relationship between the two campuses and the students who went to each. It was always cool to drive up north and hang out with friends in Berkeley, I’ll always crave a loaf of sourdough or a hard roll from the Acme bakery the morning after. I mean, I just like Berkeley, period. It’s a cool place to hang out, grab a meal, see a band.

And you know what? As a UCLA person, I never had a problem acknowledging that Cal was always ranked a little higher on the magazine university lists, always ready to admit that UCLA was "the second highest rated public school." Because, what really was the difference in education between the two? Not much. I don’t think Cal kids had it all over UCLA students because Cal happened to have a few more Nobel Prize winners on its faculty or whatever. The difference between the two was hairsplitting. I knew kids – and others over the years who are younger than I – who got into UCLA but not Cal, who got into both and picked one or the other and even knew a few who got into Cal but not UCLA. Nowadays, with grade inflation and tutoring for standardized tests, who can tell whose student body is more qualified anyway. That said, if there are any Cal folks reading this, I’ll admit for the record that Cal gets rated higher in U.S. News and World Report.

Who cares, anyway? Sure, Cal had the academic bragging rights. But we had the better teams, at least in the sports that mattered to me. I mean, we’re suffering through a terrible drought since our last Rose Bowl appearance and our last Rose Bowl win, but could you imagine how Cal fan feels? And while it’s been a long, long time since John Wooden rolled up a program as our basketball coach, it’s been way longer since Pete Newell was working up in the Bay Area.

Honestly, it took our worst period of football ever – forever known as the Dorrel/Neuhiesel Years – and what was maybe Cal’s best era ever – the Jeff Tedford Years – for the two schools to really be competitive, at least in the modern era (because I’m way too lazy to go back and do a historical comparison.)

And, for the record, they kicked our ass last year in year of one the Jim Mora Era.

But even after last year’s game, I don’t really hate Cal. I’m still fine with Cal. If someone gave me a Cal sweatshirt as a gift, I’d wear it to Costco.

To me, Cal fan is not USC fan. Cal fan is not Arizona basketball fan (easily the dumbest fan of all). Cal fan is not Oregon football fan (perhaps the most universally hostile fan of all).

No Cal fan is the fan I sort of like who apparently hates my guts.

And that’s the part I don’t get.

Because while me and my UCLA friends are fine with Cal for the reasons I laid out above, Cal fan hates UCLA.

They don’t just root against us as a conference rival – they don’t like us the way we don’t like USC.

And that creates this weird relationship where they are cussing us out under their breath and we’re either laughing at their outrage or just ignoring them.

I know they consider us the "little brother" because their campus was the first founded by the University of California, but I have to tell you the relationship with Cal feels like the one I had with my little brother when he overreacted to some stupid thing that happened when we were kids.

He’d be all pissed off and trying to punch me or something, but I could never work up an acceptable level of return-anger. He’d be so red in the face he’d almost be crying and the more upset he got, the more I’d laugh in his face.

I’m sorry Cal fan, I know you beat us last year and I know you had some good times with us during our darkest days, but I’m still giggling at your hostility. I don’t get it, what did we ever do to you? Steal your fight song? Really, you’re mad about the fight song? Guess what – we started using that fight song before you were born – do you really care?

I don’t really have an explanation for it – maybe some of you do and you can tell me about it in the comments. All I can say is that usually I just ignore Cal fan hate, but sometimes I just have to laugh at it.

Anyhoo …

I missed the first half of last week’s Utah game. I arrived at Smith House in Century City at halftime to watch the rest of the game with a few friends, who were a few beers ahead of me the rest of the night. Which is always sort of weird, being the one sober guy at the table. They described a first half in which Utah was able to move the ball on us whenever they wanted and we were struggling and so on and so on. But the score was 21-17 UCLA. Weird. They made it seem like we were fortunate to be ahead and it felt like they expected Utah to just take it to us in the second half.

That didn’t happen.

But the second half was weird in a way. We won a close game, despite forcing like half a dozen turnovers. We kept intercepting passes, but couldn’t put Utah away until pretty late in the game. And that’s weird because you just can’t count on getting that many interceptions and you have to wonder what would have happened if a few of those tipped balls had landed incomplete instead of in the hands of a Bruin player. It’s almost like asking: Are interceptions a result of a defender making a great play or the quarterback and/or receiver just fucking up? And if it’s the latter, what would have happened in the game if they didn’t make mistakes?

But, as you know, what could have happened, happened. We got the picks and we won the game.

I’m not expecting a the game to be that close tomorrow. Sorry Cal fan if that pisses you off, but really, you hate us anyway. Cal is not good at football this season. I mean, they weren’t really that good last year when they beat us up there, but they are legitimately worse this year. And we’re better than we were last year and we’re at home. (Poor Cal fan, if we handle them tomorrow, they’re going to have to watch their two least favorite teams play next week in a battle of undefeated, Top Ten teams. Ouch.)

I rarely feel this way, but I’m actually expecting us to get off to a solid start and just lead wire to wire. Cal might be slightly better than, say, New Mexico State, but we have much more motivation to be sharp from the opening kick off than we did against the Aggies. The only danger I could imagine is a team that looks past Cal to the next two games, games that will really show us where we are as a program.

And with that, here are your Pregame Guesses, California Golden Bears Edition:

  1. What number will be higher in the game: Cal touchdowns or Malcolm Jones carries?
  2. I'm making the first half point spread UCLA -13. Who will cover Achilles' first half point spread?
  3. What number will be higher: Total points combined in the game or UCLA's penalty yards?

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