Last Saturday, September 16th, I made one of my periodic pilgramages to a college football game. Every few years, I make my way to either Berkeley to catch a Cal Bears game or to Stanford Stadium to watch the Cardinal. Since I grew up in Oregon, I usually try to go to games that match either the Bears or the Cardinal against either Oregon or Oregon State. On this perfectly beautiful Saturday afternoon, however, I would have the chance to see the Portland State Vikings come to Memorial Stadium for their first ever football game against the California Golden Bears. Growing up in Portland and attending Portland State for a couple semesters, I was excited about going to this game. Some background here. I was raised with the idea that a healthy body makes a healthy mind. The point being that sports were encouraged in our family, and my Dad and I were playing catch with footballs and baseballs when I was only five or six years old. I loved sports, and early on saw the similarities between athleticism and playing music. Gracefulness, motion, fluidity, those were all common characteristics between the two disciplines. It goes even deeper than that. Team sports, such as football, require working together with others in a way similar to playing in a music ensemble. There's give and take, leadership as well as the ability to follow, and a certain type of camaraderie that develops when involved in an enterprising group effort. While I participated in virtually all sports at the grade school level, by the time I got to high school, I'd zeroed in on football. I played on some great teams, and state championships at Jesuit High School in Portland were quite common. The memories gleaned from those formative years remain long lasting and powerful. Accordingly, one of my rituals when I attend a college football game is to walk around the stadium. I like tuning in to the crowd, the students, and seeing the field from different vantage points. The spirit and energy before a game is similar to that prior to a concert or a theatrical performance. Anticipation fills the air. The other thing I always do before the game, to the greatest extent possible, is find my way to the tunnel where the players come out of their dressing rooms. Check the expressions on their faces, their shouts of excitement and impending battle, and I try to get a read on the overall state of the team prior to kickoff. The last time I had been to a Cal Bears game was October 13, 2001, when Joey Harrington and the Oregon Ducks annihilated the Bears, 48-7. It punctuated a horrible season for Cal, in which they won only one game and lost 10. It would be the final season for Tom Holmoe as their head coach. I remember then, that when the players came out of the dressing room, Coach Holmoe came out last, with the rest of the coaches, after the players. That's typical. Interestingly, last Saturday, head coach Jeff Tedford led the team out of the dressing room. Tedford has had tremendous success in turning around the Cal football program since taking over for Holmoe. I wonder if his leading the team out of the dressing room has anything to do with that. Watching the young men in their blue and gold uniforms and cleats swarm from the dressing room to the field is a special moment. They really are young; you can see the baby faces through the face masks, with many of these kids not even shaving yet. Yet, the media would have us believe that these are grown men, "warriors," fully capable of making perfectly executed plays and decisions on the gridiron battlefield and in life in general. In reality, some of these young guys look sort of lost. They're still growing up, after all. One of the players struck me as especially large. Huge thighs. Only about 5'10'' tall. In contrast, the player walking along side of him looked especially tiny. Skinny. I checked the program later and found out that "big thighs" was listed at 335 lbs., and "skinny" weighed in at a mere 177. Something else that struck me as the players came on to the field was the number of female "trainers" on the team. Unheard of in my day, there must have been a dozen young co-eds whose responsibilities to the team included everything between providing water for the players to taping up ankles. Certainly nothing wrong with it, just different than it was 35 years ago. Finally, the game begins. After an early interception that led to a Portland State field goal, Cal took charge. Heavily favored, they passed, ran, and kicked their way to an easy victory, 42-16, with all of the scoring coming in the first half. Over 60,000 fans attended this game, nearly double the 34,552 that half-filled Memorial Stadium back in 2001. There were more students in the Student Section, and more alumni where the alumni sit. More enthusiasm and pride in the team. Winning can do that for a school. I left at halftime. I had two music engagements that night. The first was a typical solo performance. The sports equivalent would be playing singles tennis or golf. An individual effort and performance. In the second engagement, I joined The Relyks for a couple sets at The Clayton Club Saloon. It was the first time I'd played with a rock band in quite some time, and The Relyks are good. During a couple of the songs, when we were cooking along especially well, I couldn't help but think of the similarities between playing on a football team and playing in a band. The little nods and winks and smiles between the players during an especially nice sounding passage. The tearing down of the stage and the equipment after the performance. Ah, that teamwork and camaradarie thing. It really can't be beat. Jim Hudak

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Jim Hudak

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