A Sports Sunday

Today’s best football name: Derek Belch, Stanford kicker.

California 31, Oregon 24: Wow — a matter of divided loyalties in our house. Kate and I went to Cal (she even graduated) and we’ve lived in Berkeley for decades. On the other side of the coin, Thom is a Duck and enough of a fan that a couple years ago he went out to Autzen Stadium in Eugene to watch Cal and Oregon play in a cold, windy, soaking rain. Oregon won in overtime that day, then got thumped in Berkeley last year (Thom and some friends came down here for that one). If you’re a fan, you know yesterday was a big deal; if you’re not, suffice it to say that both teams are very good and the game actually got some national attention. It was far from a perfect game — Oregon gave the ball to Cal four times in the fourth quarter, and still Cal just squeaked by.

For Kate and me, the game was a different kind of challenge. We turned off our TV earlier in the week. So while the Ducks and Bears engaged in a great gridiron struggle far to the north, we were in Berkeley testing whether a household so deprived of video capability could long endure a game with Cal’s radio guy Joe Starkey as the only source of play-by-play. It’s altogether fitting and proper for me to report that despite the usually frustrating and occasionally comic shortcomings of Starkey’s work, we stuck with the game to the end.

Guest observation: Dave Barry, who grew up in Pittsburgh, recalling the denouement of the 1960 Pirates-Yankees World Series:

“That series went seven games, and I vividly remember how it ended. School was out for the day, and I was heading home, pushing my bike up a step hill, listening to my cheapo little radio, my eyes staring vacantly ahead, my mind locked on the game. A delivery truck came by, and the driver stopped and asked if he could listen. Actually, he more or less told me he was going to listen; I said OK.

“The truck driver turned out to be a rabid Yankee fan. The game was very close, and we stood on opposite sides of my bike for the final two innings, rooting for opposite teams, he chain-smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes, both of us hanging on every word coming out of my tinny little speaker.

“And, of course, if you were around back then and did not live in Russia, you know what happened: God, in a sincere effort to make for all those fly balls he directed toward me in Little League, had Bill Mazeroski — Bill Mazeroski! — hit a home run to win it for the Pirates.

“I was insane with joy. The truck driver was devastated. But I will never forget what he said to me. He looked me square in the eye, one baseball fan to another, after a tough but fair fight, and he said a seriously bad word. Several, in fact. Then he got in his truck and drove away.”

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