So, from the start of last week through the second week of December, I won’t be able to use any more vacation days. In achieving this, I will unlock the elusive 11-day Christmas vacation (where Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays – I get these as paid days off – and I only need 5 vacation days to pad it out for the full 11), where I plan to do nothing but watch college football and be a huge waste of space. It’s going to be glorious.
That makes travel between now and then … limited. And yet, for the last four years (including 2014), I’ve gone down to San Francisco to attend a Husky football game against whichever Bay Area opponent happens to be hosting that particular year. The two Stanford games have been demoralizing in very different ways. But, the two Cal games have been revelations of fun and excitement!
Since I was unable to use any vacation days for this trip, I had to schedule my flights around work. As such, I didn’t fly out of SeaTac until around 6pm on Friday. I purchased this reservation with credit card points, so it was sort of free (but, as an added bonus, I opted to pay for a first class upgrade). Essentially, it boiled down to $125 for a comfortable seat, the opportunity to board and leave the plane first, and all the red wine I could drink in around 2 hours. It may have been a needless extravagance, but you don’t know how much wine I can take down in a short period of time. Besides, I had to kickstart the party into high gear, considering a couple of my friends had flown down earlier in the day.
I was picked up and whisked away to dinner at a Sushi place. Sushi and sake and beer; not a bad way to close up a Friday evening.
And a GREAT way to pack on a hangover for Saturday morning! Every year, without fail, I’m stuck in the backseat of a car, keeping my head down and my eyes closed for the longest ride of my life, WILLING myself to refrain from puking. Last year, we had to stop the drive to Palo Alto before we even left the city so I could throw up on the side of the road. This year’s drive to Berkeley went much more smoothly. I managed to keep down my breakfast and whatever pill I was handed to keep the nausea at bay. From there, I was a mimosa and a Coors Light away from recovery.
So, we got a couple laughs from Cal fans when they noticed our flag was backwards. “Tailgating, how quaint! Come, Bob, take a picture of the yokels!”
Apparently, they don’t tailgate at Cal. Nerds, amirite? Luckily, my Frisco friends were able to find this public parking lot where we could pay a fee, park our cars, and set up a beer pong table and a mini-grill for some games and food and such. Thankfully, the Dawg fans dominated the parking lot tailgate scene. Doubly thankfully, we got pretty much the only shady spot so we didn’t all die under the oppressive heat.
My beer ponging skills were severely lacking on this day; certainly well below my own expectations of myself. Gonna have to go back to the film room and watch the tape on what went wrong, followed by some early mornings on the practice table (#NoTimeForSleep).
We were, like, a mile from the stadium. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a game at California Memorial Stadium, but it’s a long walk up a low-grade hill. We arrived on the scene at around 10am and started heading over to the field at about 2:30pm, so there was That Many drinking hours in between. Did I mention the oppressive heat? There was oppressive heat.
We had seats in the Husky section, which was nice. They shoe-horned a Cal alumni band in between us and the Husky band, which was less nice. Those old fucks were good sports, though. We even got to sing along to Separate Ways and Basket Case as our football team was crushing their shit in.
Being as plastered as I was, there aren’t a whole lot of specifics I remember about the game. As I’d written before, I didn’t have the best feeling about this one going in. I thought we were in for a shoot-out, which was (what I thought was) the best-case scenario. Turns out there was an even BETTER case scenario than the best, and that was total domination.
The not-quite Victory Formation; final play of the game …
I remember the first touchdown we scored, which was a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown from Shaq Thompson (which is, like, his 12th return touchdown of the year? 40th? 1,033rd?), because we were at the exact opposite end of the field, and all we could say to one another was, “No fucking way! Is that Shaq?!? No fucking WAY! OH MY GOD IT IS!!!” Followed by a bunch of waiting around as they reviewed the fumble, followed by more rapturous cheering when it was confirmed.
For the record, the John Ross 86-yard touchdown was another one of those exact same moments. Because he caught the ball around the line of scrimmage, it looked like he was going to be tackled for a minor/modest gain, and then he just kept making people miss, weaving in and out of traffic, all the way to the endzone, with less than two minutes left to go before half. In fact, I think that one was ALSO reviewed!
A lot of delayed gratification in this game. We had our usual bouts of Pac-12 referee ineptitude, which is
always never fun. Once we got past halftime and our defense continued to be very stout against what had been – up until this game – a totally dynamic offense, it was nothing but a party for the Husky fans in attendance. The party was made all the more relieving as the sun started to set and we got some shade in our section.
Other than the few details I drunkenly (and hungoverly) recall, I got a good sense that Cyler Miles took a big step forward in this game. He looked more confident, more decisive, and more willing to throw the ball DOWN field and not just towards the sidelines. Granted, Cal wasn’t known to have the best defense in the nation, but after the first few starts out of Miles, I will take this in a heartbeat.
The Husky defense was superb. We forced three turnovers – all fumble recoveries – and held Cal to 368 yards of offense. That’s a team that averages over 500 yards per game, and a team that racked up 589 yards and 60 points against the Cougars in Pullman the week before. Jared Goff – their quarterback who has taken a real step forward in this Bear-Raid offense this year – managed less than six yards per attempt through the air. Our defensive line harassed him all day, with Hau’oli Kikaha taking over the national lead in sacks with (I think) something like 10.5 in six games.
It’s funny how one game can really alter your outlook. People need to realize this defense is legit and has no less than four guys who should be drafted in the first couple of rounds. Appreciate it now, while you still can! And hope that our current coaching staff can refill the coffers once they all mass-exodus on us at season’s end. Kikaha, with Danny Shelton, Marcus Peters, and of course the immortal Shaq Thompson, are all going to be excellent pros in the very near future. We’ll get to say we knew them way back when.
Also, not for nothing, but I couldn’t help but praise Tosh Lupoi to anyone wearing Cal colors as we walked out of the stadium, triumphant. That is, when I wasn’t berating them for all being such huge nerds (I’m actually really fun to be around when I’m drunk, I promise).
After a long day of drinking (including two hangovers – one before and one after the tailgate), it was time to drive back to the city for some fireworks off in the distance and some Chinese food. I tried spicy pork intestine; BETTER than you’d think. Then, we watched a bunch of New Girl on Hulu before passing out.
I had just enough time for breakfast and an hour’s worth of morning NFL games before I had to take an UberX to the airport. My flight took off sometime after 1pm and I didn’t get back to my apartment until the Seahawks game ended. It wasn’t quite the perfect weekend, but it’ll do. Until next October, and next year’s Stanford game. One of these times, I’m going to witness the Huskies beating them. And BOY will the Cardinal fans not hear the end of it.