(This post is a bit of a “brain dump” because I don’t know exactly what I want to say, but I feel oddly compelled to write it)
What’s the goal of Cal Football? Or perhaps more precisely what is each of our desire for Cal football?
Of course one could easily just resort to an answer like ‘to win the Rose Bowl’. Of course you can substitute or add your favorite level of on-the-field success whether that be as lofty as a national championship or meek as bowl appearances most years.
But why? What’s the point of all of this? What do we accomplish by seeing the team win? I mean, I don’t personally achieve anything, with the possible exception of perserverence, by watching Cal football games every year until they accomplish the above determined goal. So is it just a desire for the emotional high of witnessing something you’ve been desiring for years? And if it is, what are we willing to sacrifice to get that emotional high?
In thinking about this I started thinking about the sacrifices I’m making for this goal. For starters, every year I give a couple thousand dollars to the program so that I can sit in the stands and witness the specticle. For my family, it’s a HUGE percentage of our entertainment budget, so much so that it creates a minor strain come budget time. (Have I mentioned how much I love my wife and how supportive she is of my desires?)
But it’s not just money. There’s time, the 100’s of hours that have been poored into this blog over the last few years and in the side-job of writing for Rivals to get press passes and access to the players. Not to mention the time of actually going to the games or making time to watch them on TV when I don’t go to the games. Plus the wear and tear on my cars, which I put over 9000 miles on this year chasing the Bears around. Then there’s the emotional investment, that my heart genuinely hurts when I witness a heart-breaking game. There’s the hours I spending thinking about the games and the team.
So what is it that I desire for these sacrifices?
One thing my mind continually drifts to is the joy of taking my family to the games. It’s something that my boys and I cherish as a common activity. Some people go hiking or take the boat out on the lake. My family goes to Bears games. I must admit that this portion of it is huge for me. It’s a family activity, one we can cherish for years.
But the reality is that it was just as much a family activity when the Bears were 3-8 or even the dreaded 1-10. As such, it’s clearly not sufficient that the team just show up on Saturday and play. I enjoy myself a great deal more these days despite the fact that I’m not as close to the 50 yard line as I was 10 years ago and I have far less room than I ever did before.
So winning is important, there is no doubt about that.
But what else is important? Just that the games are fun to watch? How about the players and the coaches? What matters about them? Just that they win? Or perhaps just that the games are fun? What about integrity? What about promoting the school? What about giving 85 kids scholarships (really it’s more than that as the football program funds a bunch of other sports programs too), many of whom would have trouble affording college otherwise? What about the academic exemption that allow kids with less than perfect grades to attend Cal, is that important?
The more I think about it, the more I think it is a huge ball of intertwined spaghetti that can not be pulled apart. It’s ALL of it. It’s about family and about the team. It’s about winning and having a good time. It’s about the school and the fans. It’s about helping the players/students and about asking for something from them. It’s about all of us being part of something that is bigger than ourselves, something collective for us to put our hopes and desires into.
I guess my overall point is that while I like a winning Cal football team, it’s just as important to me that Tedford is a class act and that the kids playing on the field are getting a real education. It’s important that it build up the University. And to repeat, it is important that the team strive to win and take the steps to evolve and improve itself so that it does win in the long term. We all want a Rose Bowl before we die…
…but let’s not forget that’s not all we want.