A Primer for Stanford Football and The Bootleg
Originally written by longtime Bootleg subscriber and poster, Terry, in May 2005 and updated in May 2008.
A while back, some parents of Stanford players commented that they've learned a lot about Stanford football by reading the Bootleg. That got me thinking about what it would be like for a new arrival to start reading the Bootleg. It occurred to me that a lot of what we write here assumes quite a bit of familiarity with Stanford. We also assume familiarity with previous discussions we've had on this board over the years. For somebody who is new to Stanford, it must seem like we're all talking in code sometimes. I thought it might be helpful to provide some background information that will help new people understand some of the discussion on this board. So, here's a quick primer on some terms relating to Stanford football and the Bootleg…
"Arrillaga" – The name of the building that houses the Athletic Department, the football coaches' offices, the football locker room, and the weight room.
"Arrillaga" – The name of the university's new recreation center.
"Arrillaga" – The name of the university's recently opened alumni center.
"Arrillaga" – Stanford alumnus John Arrillaga. He built the new stadium. Our Athletic Director takes his calls. See also "Don Corleone."
"The Band" – The Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, or LSJUMB. You can love them or you can hate them, but nobody seems to be able to ignore them. The Band is the one student organization that consistently supports football. For that, I love them. We should never lose sight of the fact that they, unlike many others, show up faithfully, devote their time generously, and support the program. But they do it in their own way. The Band delights in being 18 to 22 years old with the freedom to be completely irresponsible and to act outrageously. The Band tries to push the limits of taste and cleverness; it succeeds in pushing the limits of taste far more often than it succeeds in pushing the limits of cleverness. I've often wondered why someone would watch the Band's halftime shows, and then get outraged or offended. I mean, come on, folks – we all know the Band is trying to be outrageous and offensive. If you don't want to be outraged and offended, then just don't watch, OK? Is that so hard to figure out? Among the Band's most infamous moments were The Play in the 1982 Big Game, the spotted owl show up in Oregon in 1990, and the 1997 Notre Dame halftime show. (See "The Play," "spotted owl show," and "potato famine show.") Other favorites include the Band's impromptu concert outside the courthouse during the O.J. Simpson trial and the Band's tribute to marriage at the BYU game a few years ago ("marriage is a union between a man and a woman... and a woman... and a woman..."). If you're sorry you missed those chances to be outraged and offended, stick around – they'll come up with something new to outrage and offend you soon enough. If you see a scraggly bunch of students on campus who look like a roving transvestite Halloween party, and some of them are carrying musical instruments, well, that would be the Band.
"Beer Ban" – Believe it or not, fans used to be allowed to bring beer into Stanford Stadium. I'm not talking about just cans or six-packs, though they were plentiful; I'm talking about kegs. Kegs, in the stands, in the student section. Needless to say, this really enhanced the spirit displayed by the students (even if some of them didn't give a flying fig about the game by the time we got to the end). Several unfortunate incidents occurred in the late 1980s, including a rash of fights at the Big Game and the death of a fan who ran across El Camino at halftime to buy more beer. Andy Geiger, who was Faber's Dean, uh, I mean our A.D. at the time, decreed that there would be no more fun of any kind. Stanford Stadium has been dry ever since (though there are rumors of moonshine smuggled in by bootleggers, or even Bootleggers). Is it a mere coincidence that attendance was better before the beer ban?
"Dana Bible" – Dana Bible used to be a reference to the paradigmatic incompetent offensive coordinator. This term is now obsolete. It has been replaced by "David Kelly."
"The Big Game" – Come on, do you have to ask? The Big Game is one of the oldest, longest running rivalries in college football. You should mark it on your calendar and save the date... for the rest of your life. Of course, Stanford vs. Cal is not just a rivalry in football. It's a rivalry in everything. It's the Hatfields and the McCoys. The Montagues and the Capulets. Athens and Sparta. Wyatt Earp and the Clanton Brothers. The Jets and the Sharks. Ali and Frazier. Tupac and the Notorious BIG. The Deltas and Dean Wormer. Some people talk about it as a "friendly rivalry," with friends or family members or spouses attending opposite schools and rooting for opposite sides. Sure, it can be friendly. And it should be friendly, really. But make no mistake, I still want to kick their bear butt.
"Biggest Upset Ever" – Stanford 24, USC 23, October 6, 2007. If you don't already know what I'm talking about, you must have stumbled on the Bootleg by mistake while looking for Oprah.com. See "We bow to no program."
"Black trim" – The football team's uniforms for years were a classic, clean, red-and-white. In 2002, black trim was added. Traditionalists hated it. The team started losing immediately and hasn't recovered since. Mere coincidence? Rumor has it that the black trim will be gone in the fall of 2008, which will be a welcome change... so long as the new uniforms aren't designed by the same nimrod at Nike who created the freak show costumes they wear at Oregon.
"Bonfire at Lake Lag" – For years, Stanford held a traditional bonfire during the week of the Big Game. The bonfire was on the lake bed of the rather optimistically named Lake Lagunita, which is a seasonal lake that is full in the spring after the rainy season, and dry in the fall, except for those frequent years when it is dry all year long. A number of years ago, however, somebody discovered that Lake Lagunita was the home of a colony of tiger salamanders. No more bonfires at Lake Lag. No, I am not making this up, even though it certainly sounds like a joke. Personally, I think salamander fricassee is quite tasty, but there's always a spoilsport.
"Bookman up the middle" – Anthony Bookman was a Stanford tailback in the mid-1990s who had tremendous speed. Give him a little daylight, a little room to run, and he was gone. One thing he couldn't do, however, was move the pile. Or break tackles. That's because he was about 5'8" and 175. Bookman split time with a bigger back, Mike Mitchell, who was about 6'0" and 220. Nevertheless, we had an offensive coordinator, Dana Bible, whose favorite play was Bookman up the middle. For several years, that phrase was used on the Bootleg to symbolize offensive stupidity. See also "Dana Bible," "Shotgun Draw," "Short-Side Sweep."
"The Borg" – The Borg derives its name from the grim, relentless, merciless, aggressive, remorseless collective life-form in the Star Trek series, whose goal was to assimilate everything into itself. The Borg originally referred to fans who held the dark, pessimistic, intractable view that Stanford football was circling the drain, due in part to the incompetence of its coach and due in part to the university's insistence on devoting resources to non-revenue sports rather than focusing on football. The Borg made its first appearance during a losing streak in 1997-1998. The Borg spawned a counter-movement of fans adhering to a more optimistic outlook, known as the Stepfords. See "Stepfords." With our Rose Bowl trip in 1999 and our very successful 2001 season, the Stepfords apparently were vindicated. But the Borg struck back, with a vengeance. Resistance was futile. We were all assimilated. See "Buddy" and "Walt."
"Buddy" – Buddy still is a bad word around here. The scars just haven't healed yet. Buddy is a shorthand way of referring to the nightmare that was the 2002 through 2004 seasons. Buddy's glib, almost hyperactive persona was endearing at first, coming after years of the taciturn Willingham. Like a golden retriever after a triple espresso, he overwhelmed us with his energy and his eagerness to please. It turned out that he had about as much coaching ability as my golden retriever, and he made a much bigger mess.
"Cal" – A university built on an earthquake fault in the East Bay. See "safety school."
"Centering the ball" – In our first game in the new Stanford Stadium, we had a first and goal at the Navy 2 yard line with 6 seconds left in the first half. We trailed 10-0. We had time to run a quick play, then kick a field goal -- or maybe run two plays in an attempt to score a TD. Instead, Walt Harris ordered our QB to take several steps to his left, then slide to the ground, putting the ball closer to the center of the field for a field goal attempt. It was the call of a coach who has appears to have given up on his offense... which he had, as he demonstrated with his playcalling for the rest of the year. See also "Quick kick."
"Cordova/Benjamin" – The quarterback controversy that defined the mid-1970s. Stanford's coach, Jack Christiansen, persisted in giving playing time to Mike Cordova, he of the career 45% completion rate, while using Guy Benjamin as a back-up. Rumor had it that Coach Christiansen liked Cordova because Cordova was dating his daughter, and didn't like Benjamin because Benjamin smoked a lot of dope. I don't know about the dating-his-daughter part, but I can believe the smoking-dope part. Hey, it was the ‘70s. Eventually, the year after Cordova graduated and Christiansen was fired, Benjamin became an All American. See also "Waldvogel."
"The Dollies" – The Dollies are Stanford's divine divas of dance. These five comely coeds bring spirit, smiles, and style to numerous Stanford and community events, athletic and otherwise. The Dollies are one of Stanford's most popular, best loved traditions. In a mind-boggling, dumbfounding, stupefying paradox, the Dollies – one of Stanford's truly classy institutions – actually are part of The Band, which is... uh... not often described as "classy." Let's just say it, The Band would need passports and security clearances to get within four area codes of classy. But somehow, those merry masters of madcap melody manage to sober up enough to get it right year after year when they select the new Dollies. It's kind of a "Beauties and the Beast" thing. And remember, the Dollies are not cheerleaders. "Divine divas of cheer" doesn't have the same ring to it.
"Door Number 1" – An all-too-common reason for recruits to disappear from Stanford's prospect list is rejection by the admissions office. Remember on "Let's Make a Deal" when Monty Hall would ask a contestant whether he wanted to keep the new Kenmore washer and dryer or take what was behind Door Number 1? And you just knew there was a donkey behind Door Number 1, and you were hollering "no, don't do it, keep the Kenmore washer and dryer," and the moron took Door Number 1 anyway, and Door Number 1 opened up, and there was the donkey, just like you knew it would be? Well, if somebody asks "what happened to such-and-such a recruit, he's not mentioning us any more" and the answer is "Door Number 1," that means we can all guess what's behind that door. Some years, we have more disappearances due to Door Number 1 than Argentina had in a year of the dirty war. See also "OU" and "Montag."
"Enthusiasm unknown to mankind" or "EUTM" – A Jim Harbaugh catch-phrase. Harbaugh says that when he was growing up, his father used to exhort him to do things with enthusiasm unknown to mankind. So EUTM is part of Harbaugh's DNA – and it shows. When Harbaugh was hired, he vowed in his first press conference "to attack this endeavor with enthusiasm unknown to mankind." He now urges his team to practice and play with that same enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And Harbaugh doesn't just talk the talk, he also walks the walk... even when it might be wiser to just relax a little bit. That's just how he rolls.
"The Farm" – A nickname for our university. The nickname has nothing to do with an agriculture curriculum at the university (there is none), nor does it derive from all the manure shoveled in our direction by Buddy and Walt. Rather, the university's founder, Leland Stanford, owned a trotting horse farm near Palo Alto. When he and his wife, Jane, decided to start a university, they chose their horse farm as the site of the university. To this day, there still are horses and cattle grazing on Stanford land. But if that sounds a little too "Green Acres" for your taste, don't worry. We also have a Bloomingdale's on Stanford land. And a Victoria's Secret, which is where the percussion section of the Band gets its uniforms (the men, anyway). See "The Band."
"The Fence" – A cyclone fence used to stand between the first row of seats and the field in Stanford Stadium. The fence was a universally despised eyesore. Most of the time, the main functions of the fence were to prevent youngsters in the family section from getting autographs after the game, and to prevent hordes of shadysiders from spontaneously bolting out of their seats and rushing the field. See "shady side." Once every two years, the fence used to help control the unruly and abusive hooligans in the Cal student section, who show up with booze in their bloodstreams and mayhem on their minds. Of course, when drunken mobs of Berkeley students really wanted to rush the field, the fence didn't stop them – as in 1997, when the Cal student section rushed the field at the end of the game and tore down the goal-posts... after a Cal loss. I guess maybe they weren't clear on the concept. Or maybe they just didn't get in. Stanford fans were anxious for the fence to follow the Berlin Wall into the dustbin of history. And with the new stadium in 2006, it did.
"Friday faxes" – When the Bootleg started back in the mid-1990s, it was a newsletter distributed by fax on the Friday morning before each football game. Those days were the golden age of the Bootleg in some ways. The Bootleg was different then: it was mostly a vehicle for the editors' opinions rather than a news source. It was nicknamed the Rebel Rogue of Restroom Reading, with an emphasis on rogue. Back then, the Bootleg was sometimes informative, occasionally scathing, often wickedly funny, and always entertaining. We used to wait for those Friday faxes to come in, and then go howling down the hallways to find other Stanford fans who would appreciate the latest outrageous, cutting, non-PC humor.
"Goat" – In sports, the term "goat" evokes unhappy images: Bill Buckner and Ralph Branca and Scott Norwood and Charlie Brown. But on the Bootleg, the term "goat" is associated with very high praise – better than Player of the Week, better than All Pac 10, better than the Stanford Hall of Fame. An athlete who has demonstrated excellence and achievement and character and determination and resilience and fortitude, and then something beyond all that, may get the highest honor a Stanford athlete can have: Terry McGrath, one of our regulars around here, may name a goat after him. Yes, a real goat. Whether an athlete is goat-worthy is determined in the sole discretion of the ultimate judge, Terry McGrath, because, well, they're his goats.
"The Goose, the O, and Zott's" – Three long-established, well-known watering holes near campus: the Dutch Goose, the Oasis, and the Alpine Inn (formerly Rossotti's, or Zott's). Popular among students (only those 21 or older, of course) and alumni alike. A good place to grab a burger, some fries, and a beer. Or two. Or just forget the burger and fries, and let's just have another beer.
"He's not young, he's just bad" – The theme of an infamous post by Long Winded during the dark days of the 1998 season. Somebody opined on this board that our 1998 team was suffering due to inexperience and would improve the following year. It might even have been me who posted that. Long Winded responded by going down the line-up, one unfortunate player at a time, brutally ripping each player to shreds and concluding in each case, "he's not young, he's just bad." It was a tour de force, a classic of the genre. Jeff Cronshagen's father came looking for Long Winded at tailgaters after that, but I guess Long Winded must have been home arranging his sock drawer. Long Winded turned out to be wrong, of course, as Stanford went to the Rose Bowl the very next year with essentially the same players, but it was one of the epochal posts in the history of this board. Long Winded later moved beyond merely trashing the players, and repeatedly posted that the entire program is dead and that there was no point in being a Stanford fan. Then he took his own advice and left the Bootleg. Of course, he's just as wrong about our program as he was back in 1998... as I will be delighted to point out when our team starts winning and Long Winded returns.
"The Immortal Twenty-One" – The Stanford Axe made its first appearance at a bonfire in 1899, where it was used to decapitate a bear in effigy. (There is no record of the number of salamanders that joined the bear as bonfire casualties.) The next day, at a Stanford-Cal baseball game, the Axe was again used to show Stanford's regard for bears. After the game, Cal partisans seized the Axe and whisked it away. For the next 31 years, Cal held the Axe, occasionally trotting it out to taunt us. In 1930, a group of 21 Stanford men hatched an elaborate plot to recover the Axe. After Cal's annual Axe Rally, as the Axe was being returned to its bank vault in Berkeley, several of the Stanford group stepped forward posing as photographers and said "We want to take a picture." The Axe was brought forth. In a burst of flash powder and tear gas, the Stanford men seized the Axe, passed it from man to man like a relay baton, spirited it into a waiting getaway car, and returned it to campus, where the heroes immediately were hailed as the Immortal Twenty-One. Three years later, the two schools agreed to make the Axe a perpetual trophy awarded annually to the winner of the Big Game. Remarkably, the Immortal Twenty-One's game plan worked again over 40 years later. In 1973, a group of Stanford students persuaded the Cal Rally Committee to bring the Axe to a Palo Alto restaurant. The reason? All together now: "We want to take a picture." The Axe was brought forward and promptly was stolen again, demonstrating just how much they learn at Cal in 43 years. It's called the Stanford Axe for a reason: it's our Axe; Cal just borrows it from time to time. Stanford has held the Axe for 14 of the last 21 years, and 31 of the last 47 years. The all-time Big Game tally stands at 55 wins for Stanford, 44 wins for Cal, and 11 ties, showing that there is indeed some measure of justice in the world.
"Kibbles and Bits" – An occasional Bootleg feature over the years. It used to be a staple of the old Friday fax Bootleg. Kibbles and Bits is a miscellany of short blurbs, usually just a line or two, ranging from the interesting to the off-beat to the bizarre. Most of the time, the Kibbles and Bits are statistics, facts about our team, and facts about upcoming opponents. On occasion, they extend well beyond that. I love some of those off-topic Kibbles and Bits. You never can tell when it might come in handy to know the back-up quarterback on our 1968 team, or the favorite rock bands of the USC song girls, or the airspeed velocity of the African swallow. I never could figure out which were the kibbles and which were the bits, though.
"Leland Stanford" – The university's founder, Leland Stanford, was a 19th century business tycoon. He left behind a law practice back east to make a fortune running a store that sold supplies to gold miners during the gold rush. He made a bigger fortune in the railroad business as one of the "Big Four" behind the Central Pacific, which built the western half of the Transcontinental Railroad. When the two halves of the railroad were joined, it was Leland Stanford who drove in the "golden spike." (According to some reports, he needed a mulligan after whiffing his first try.) Leland Stanford served as Governor of California and later as a Senator. As Governor, he supervised the establishment of the university that is now San Jose State University. Obviously that didn't come out right, so he took another crack at founding a university later in his life, establishing our university. This time, he nailed it (giving San Jose State the inferiority complex it has had ever since, and rightfully so). Some would say Leland Stanford was a robber baron, in light of his use of his position as Governor to funnel money and land to his railroad, his exploitation of immigrant laborers, and the murky financial dealings between his railroad and his construction company. But he was a member of the bar, so his ethics must have been above reproach... right?
"LSJU" – Leland Stanford Junior University. No, a "junior university" is not the same thing as a "junior college." Leland and Jane Stanford named the university after their deceased son, Leland Stanford Junior. The dead kid's remains are in a mausoleum on campus (no, I'm not talking about the Stadium). That has kind of a creepy Norman Bates feel to it, when you think about it.
"Montag" – Montag Hall (formerly Bakewell Hall) is the building to which the admissions office moved a few years ago from its previous location in the Old Union ("OU"). The term "Montag" sometimes is used as shorthand for the admissions office, as "OU" once was. Whatever it's called, all you really need to know is that the admissions office is arbitrary and evil. It exists to reject highly qualified athletes. For the coaches, dealing with admissions is like being a gladiator in the Roman Empire. You fight like hell to stay alive, then you turn to the Emperor to see whether it's thumbs up or thumbs down. And whichever it is, there's not a doggone thing you can do about it. See also "Door Number 1."
"Murph" – Murph derives from recently retired Stanford broadcasting legend Bob Murphy. Murph can be either a verb or a noun. "To Murph" is to conduct an interview of a Stanford player so that the only possible answer is "yes, I agree." An example of Murphing: "Trent, it looked like you really had good chemistry with Evan out there today, I guess all those summer workouts must have paid off, when all you guys worked so hard all summer long, just for that moment, so that you could tell exactly where he was going, and that's what allowed you to hit him for that long pass on the corner pattern against the two-deep zone coverage in the third quarter, which reminded me of a pass Bobby Garrett threw to Sam Morley in our great win against Michigan in 1952. Talk about that." Trent: "Uh, right, Murph." Trent, you've been Murphed! A secondary meaning of "to Murph" is to toss in references to former Stanford athletes who most of us never saw and many of us never heard of, but who were good friends with Murph back in the day. This type of Murphing also shows up in the last example. Sometimes, Murphing involves Murphy pulling one of his old buddies out of the crowd and putting him on the microphone, which is how we end up listening to an old alum talking about a 1951 baseball road trip during a football pre-game show. As a noun, a "Murph" is a play call that Murphy says happened, and that he wishes had happened, and that almost happened, but didn't really happen. An example of a Murph: "Childress goes high for the rebound and the putback! Wow, did he really get up there! He's just so athletic, as we were discussing with Joe Chez in the hotel today!... Oh, and he almost got it, but the Bruins came down with it and scored at the other end." When you only have radio coverage, with no TV, a Murph is especially entertaining.
"Darrin Nelson" – Darrin Nelson was perhaps the greatest running back in Stanford history (I say "perhaps" only as a nod to the great Ernie Nevers). Nelson ran for more than 4,000 yards, caught more than 200 passes, and had over 6,800 all purpose yards. He still holds many school records and ranks high in the Pac 10 and NCAA record books. He was one of the most exciting, electrifying, dazzling players you've ever seen, with blazing speed and moves that were not to be believed. A true Stanford legend. See also "Darrin Nelson."
"Darrin Nelson" – Darrin Nelson is a senior associate athletic director at Stanford. In his role with the athletic department, he sometimes has helped make life more difficult for the Bootleg. But we like him anyway. See also "Darrin Nelson."
"The Old Lady" – An affectionate nickname for the old Stanford Stadium. There was a lot of history in the Stadium, a lot of memories. Lots of great Stanford games, a Super Bowl, Olympic soccer, world-class track meets, World Cup soccer, graduation ceremonies, the list goes on. Sure, like a beloved grandmother, she had her little eccentricities. Sure, she was showing her age a little. Sure, she needed some touching up – like removal of the track, and removal of the fence, and moving the seats closer to the field, and closing in the open end of the bowl, and new bathrooms, and new concessions, and earthquake retrofitting, and better ingress and egress, and electrical and plumbing upgrades. But otherwise, the Old Lady was in great shape... Oh, who am I kidding – I was delighted to see them fire up the bulldozers and knock her down. Sorry, grandma.
"OU" – OU stands for Old Union, which is the building in the center of campus in which the admissions office long was housed. The admissions office moved a few years ago. See "Montag." But Booties are slow to change (see "black trim"), so you still will see occasional references to OU or Old Union.
"The Play" – The five-lateral tiptoe-through-the-tubas kickoff return on the final play of the 1982 Big Game, enabling Cal to win the game after Stanford had apparently won a comeback victory with a field goal 4 seconds earlier. The end of the kickoff return went winding crazily through members of the Band, who came on the field before the play was over. Trombone player Gary Tyrrell (who used to be an occasional Bootie – Gary, are you out there?), earned more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame when he was hammered in the end zone by the Cal player who carried the ball over the goal line. (Of course, most Band members are usually hammered, so this was nothing new.) He became the symbol of the Band's most infamous moment. The officials, who will have to live with this debacle on their consciences until the end of time, or even longer, and who deserve to spend a few thousand years in purgatory, or maybe in Berkeley, inexplicably allowed The Play to stand, despite numerous illegalities, the fact that one runner's knee was down, and the fact that one official had blown it dead while it was in progress. After The Play, the karmic scales began to balance out, with Stanford winning the Axe in 15 of the next 19 years, including our own miraculous comeback in 1990. But the football fates still owe us for The Play – big-time. And if the football fates are listening, I'm hereby calling in our chips for this year. Do you hear me up there? I said this year! Bonus points to anyone who can name a current Bootie who was there on the field as a Band member that day. Hint: rhymes with "Teejers."
"Jim Plunkett" – Jim Plunkett was perhaps the greatest player in Stanford history. He won the Heisman Trophy, despite the fact that Stanford's media relations office (headed at that time by Bob Murphy) characteristically did almost nothing to promote Plunkett, spending only $179 (no, I'm not making this up). Plunkett led Stanford to a win in the Rose Bowl, set numerous Stanford and NCAA records, and was the top overall pick in the NFL draft. His jersey number, # 16, is one of two Stanford jersey numbers to be retired, along with # 1 in honor of Ernie Nevers. Plunkett often can be seen on campus at football and basketball games. Plunkett grew up in San Jose in very modest circumstances, which once led a numbskull writer to ask in a press conference: "Lemme get this straight, Jim. Is it blind mother, deaf father, or the other way around?"
"Posty" – A Posty is an award for a great post on the Bootleg. It's kind of like an Emmy, a Grammy, or an Oscar, except without the actual award, the national recognition, the media coverage, the permanent distinction, or the boost to your career (though the Grammy didn't do that much for the Starland Vocal Band's career either). There is nobody in charge of awarding Posties. Any of us can award one. When you see a great post, you post a reply declaring a Posty. But let's keep our standards high, OK? If we lower our standards, then the next thing you know, somebody will be giving a Posty to Trojan Al.
"Potato Famine Show" – The Band's halftime show in the 1997 Notre Dame game was entitled "These Irish, why must they fight?" The show featured a character named "Seamus O'Hungry," and the narrator commented that the Irish people have "a sparse cultural heritage that consists only of fighting and starving." The script included a line suggested that Notre Dame's teams should be nicknamed "the Blighting Irish." It was a brilliant, inspired, witty, satirical lampooning of the Fighting Irish nickname and the ridiculous leprechaun mascot. Uh, wait a minute... sorry, what I mean is that it was an utterly inappropriate, offensive, tasteless display that should be roundly condemned.
"Prince Lightfoot" – Prince Lightfoot was a Yurok Indian named Timm Williams. For many years, back when Stanford's nickname was the "Indians," Williams performed traditional Yurok dances at Stanford football games. In 1972, coming off two straight Rose Bowl victories, Stanford dropped the "Indians" nickname and told Williams he was no longer welcome. See "Robber Barons." Stanford hasn't won the Rose Bowl since. I don't know what that means; I'm just saying that's what happened.
"Quick kick" – The quick kick was a tactic employed in the days before sophisticated passing offenses, back in the old "three yards and a cloud of dust" days. A team facing third down and long yardage back then knew it had virtually no chance of making a first down, and would occasionally choose to play for field position by punting on third down. The quick kick was thought to be virtually extinct, as modern passing offenses rendered this tactic obsolete by increasing the chance of a third-and-long conversion. These days, no rational coach would give up the football in exchange for a few yards of field position. Or so we thought, before Stanford's 2006 season, when the air was filled with quick kicks. See also "Walt."
"Robber Barons" – Stanford's athletic teams used to be called the "Indians." In 1972, due to concerns raised by Native American students and others, Stanford dropped "Indians" as its nickname and mascot. But the university had not really settled on a replacement. For the next nine years, we lived in a state of perpetual mascot confusion. A number of alternatives were suggested... Cardinals (the bird), which was used on a semi-official basis during this nine-year period... Trees, Sequoias, or Redwoods, because the university's seal features the landmark redwood tree for which the City of Palo Alto is named (Sequoias could have been shortened to Seqs, which would have allowed the students to cheer "Seqs! Seqs! Seqs!" – say it out loud)... Griffins, or Gryphons, because mythological beasts are cool, no other school had the name, and there are a couple of griffin statues on campus... Railroaders or Spikes, due to the railroad background of our founder... Steaming Manhole Covers, because, well, if you've walked across campus early on a brisk January morning, you get it... Space Cowboys, because, uh, well, it was the 1970s (see the Benjamin part of "Cordova/Benjamin")... The students voted. The winner was "Robber Barons," in a touching gesture to honor our founder. See "Leland Stanford." The administration looked within its heart and determined that just as "Indians" was offensive to Native Americans, "Robber Barons" was offensive to fabulously wealthy, exploitative, rapacious, old white business tycoons. So they rejected it. After nine years, the administration picked "Cardinal." The color. You know, like the Harvard Crimson. Nine years to decide we wanted to be like Harvard?
"Sears Cup" – The award for the best overall college athletic program was known for years as the Sears Cup. Sears no longer sponsors it, so the award now generally is known as the Directors' Cup, but the Sears name still is used by many. Stanford wins this award every year. The Borg views the Sears Cup as a pernicious influence. The Borg believes the Stanford athletic department allows the pursuit of the Sears Cup to divert resources away from the football program to the non-revenue sports (the so-called "Sears Cup sports"). Not only that, the Borg believes the athletic director and administration try to generate hoopla around the Sears Cup to distract people from the shortcomings of the football program. For the Borg, the Sears Cup has become a symbol of everything that's wrong with Stanford's athletic program, an object of scorn. This led to the Bootleg's memorable catch-phrase expressing disgust at particularly revolting developments, which first appeared in one of the old Friday faxes: "Hand me the Sears Cup, I think I'm going to be sick!" The Stepfords, on the other hand, believe that success is all good, we want to win in all sports across the board, and success in football is compatible with winning the Sears Cup. Of course, even the Stepfords realize that we all have to keep the relative importance in perspective: at an important point in a football game a few years ago, a fan on the sunny side rose up and hollered out: "I'd trade the Sears Cup for a first down right now!"
"Seattle Bowl" – The Seattle Bowl, also known as the Siberia Bowl, was Stanford's reward for its superb 9-2 regular season in 2001. Stanford finished in the top 10 in the BCS poll, knocked off two teams that were ranked in the top 5, and came within a play or two of winning the conference championship. However, by finishing in a three-way tie for second place, Stanford found itself in a scramble for bowl game slots, and we were the odd man out. So we ended up in frigid Seattle, playing on a baseball field, on a Thursday afternoon, two days after Christmas. Seattle at the winter solstice has about 6 hours of daylight, a high likelihood of rain or snow, permafrost on the field, and dogsleds in the streets. In late December, the fish that are tossed through the air at the Pike Place Market are frozen by the time they're caught. Those and other attractions drew dozens of fans from all over the country. The atmosphere was... uh, about what you would expect. Oddly, our team played as though it were stuck in a crummy bowl in a cold, dreary location after spending Christmas in a hotel room. In fact, our team played as though the coaching staff already had decided to jump ship and was just mailing it in. Which, of course, was the case. See "USB." If I were a cynic, I might have wondered whether our coaching staff was interested in making Stanford look bad so recruits would choose USB over Stanford... but that would be way too far-fetched, wouldn't it? See "Oliver Stone."
"The Sheriff" – Nickname for former coach Tyrone Willingham: the Sheriff of Willingham, who was going to clean up the town and restore order, get it? One of the numerous Bootleg-coined phrases from the old "rebel rogue" days. See also "Friday faxes," "Willingham."
"Short-Side Sweep" – Stanford has a long history of innovative football. Some of the cornerstones of modern football got their start at Stanford – the T formation, the west coast offense. But for a school with such a great heritage of offensive football, we've had a remarkable number of play callers with boneheaded offensive tendencies. Before "Bookman up the middle," before the "shotgun draw," Stanford had the "short-side sweep." Back in the Jack Elway era, Stanford would run a sweep around one end, trying to get the ball into the open field, but inevitably would run the play to the short side of the field – thereby ensuring that we would be hemmed in by the sideline and would not find the running room we were seeking. But that didn't stop us from running that play over and over... and over... and over... For years afterward, fans in Section E would yell "short-side sweep" in response to predictable or boneheaded playcalling.
"Shotgun Draw" – The shotgun draw was the cornerstone of Stanford's running game during David Kelly's single season as our offensive coordinator in 2003. The shotgun draw isn't inherently a bad play, with the right personnel, the right scheme, and at the right time. However, we just didn't have the right personnel. So we compensated for our personnel deficiencies by running it out of the wrong scheme and at the wrong time. And that summarizes the font of inimitable offensive brilliance that was David Kelly. See also "Buddy."
"Spotted Owl Show" – The Band's 1990 halftime show at Oregon took on the timber industry, unemployed loggers, and environmentalism. Logging in some forests in the northwest had been halted, throwing loggers out of work, because the logging was infringing on the habitat of the spotted owl. The Band offered its typically sensitive take on the situation, with a script that included lines such as "Mr. Spotted Owl! Your environment has been destroyed, your home is now a roll of Brawny and your family has flown the coop. What are you going to do?" "Me? I'm going to Disneyland." The chainsaw was a nice touch.
"Stepfords" – Fans holding an optimistic, hopeful, upbeat view of the future of Stanford football, and believing that success in football can co-exist with success in other sports. The Stepfords arose as a counterpoint to the Borg. See "The Borg." The Borg originally coined the term "Stepfords" as a derisive way of describing those who held this Panglossian world view, suggesting that they had been brainwashed by the athletic director's official party line. Later, Stepfords embraced the label as their own, taking pride in their Stepfordism. There was a resurgence of Stepford sentiment when Jim Harbaugh was hired. But the Borg is always lurking just beneath the surface.
"Sunny side" and "shady side" – The two sides of Stanford Stadium. One side faces the sun; the other side has its back to the sun and falls under the shade of the press box in the afternoon. But "sunny side" and "shady side" aren't just locations; they're states of mind. The sunny side traditionally has been the home of the student section, the band, and many of the younger alumni. The shady side is where you can find many of the older alumni. The sunny side is rowdier and louder. The shady side is more restrained. The sunnysiders often criticize the shadysiders for their supposed lack of spirit – yet many sunnysiders eventually become shadysiders. There's a natural progression from the student section, to the nearby alumni sections on the sunny side, to the shady side. It's a part of growing up, a normal process of maturing. Of course, some folks never grow up. They stay on the sunny side, desperately trying to hold on to their youth, sweltering in the heat of September and early October while trying to convince themselves that they love the sunshine. The sunnysiders hold the shadysiders in contempt for their reserved manner, all the while envying their shade. Meanwhile, the shadysiders are the backbone of the program, the heart and soul of the Stanford fan base. Unlike the more fickle sunnysiders, the shadysiders keep showing up, every year. They keep buying season tickets, donating to the Buck/Cardinal Club, and endowing scholarships. The sunnysiders are young and energetic; the shadysiders are mature, responsible adults. The sunnysiders are excitement and emotion and noise, the shadysiders are a deep current of support that keeps flowing, year after year. The sunnysiders are James Dean, with attitude and unpredictability; the shadysiders are Jimmy Stewart, with solidity and quiet assurance. The sunnysiders are Madonna, once contemporary and hot and young, trying hard to be cool even as they outgrow the role; the shadysiders are Tony Bennett, older, with lots of miles on them, widely presumed to be dead, but comfortable in knowing who they are and that they still have it after all these years. The sunnysiders are Bill Clinton, energetic, sometimes brilliant, often late, sometimes never showing up at all, watching the game with one eye while keeping the other eye on the comely young women in the student section; the shadysiders are Franklin Roosevelt, hanging in there year after year, through depression and disaster and recovery and triumph, providing support, encouragement, and assurance, but only rarely getting up out of their seats. . . . At least that's how it was for many years, all the way up until this year. For the 2008 season, the students and band will move to the shady side. The stadium will be changed, changed utterly. Who knows what sort of disturbance in the Force this will cause, and what will come of it? With the students gone, will the sunnysiders start acting their age, instead of pretending they're still in college? With prime new seats available on the sunny side, will there be a migration of older and crankier fans to the sunny side, with cries of "down in front" resounding through the sunny side sections? With the students moving across the way, will anarchy be loosed on the world, or at least on the shady side? Will the students liven things up, perhaps waking up some of the shadysiders, or at least making it easier to identify the ones who passed away in their seats two seasons ago? You never know. . .
"Tavita" – In the movie and Broadway show "42nd Street," the star of a new musical is injured shortly before opening night and is replaced by an unknown chorus girl. The director tells the girl, "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" And of course, she does – she's a smashing success and the show is a hit. It's an old plot, almost too trite to be true. But Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard lived that dream. In October 2007, Stanford's starting QB, T.C. Ostrander, was sidelined for medical reasons before Stanford's game against # 1 ranked USC. Tavita Pritchard, whose entire college career consisted of one pass completion, was pushed into the starting line-up. The result: Tavita led Stanford to the upset that shocked the world. Among Stanford fans, the name "Tavita" forever will be used to describe a reserve player who steps up and does something unexpected and wonderful. See "Biggest Upset Ever."
"Ted's tarp" – Ted Leland's solution to declining attendance in the old stadium was similar to the Soviet Communist Party's solution to internal conflicts: the Communists turned the losers of power struggles into non-persons; Ted Leland turned empty seats into non-seats. He covered them with a tarp. A really big tarp, covering most of the seats in the north end zone. Maybe he figured nobody would notice. With the opening of the new stadium, the tarp was retired. But I hope they kept it – they may need it if our team doesn't improve.
"Texas" – Our opening game in the 1999 season was at Texas. Stanford had won just 4 of its last 17 games. The Borg had our coach in its gun sights, and was ready to pull the trigger at the first sign of weakness. See "The Borg." The Stepfords took encouragement from the upbeat finish to the 1998 season and the large number of experienced returning players. See "Stepfords." For months, all of us were focused on the opening game in Texas, which Teejers repeatedly proclaimed "huge." I got a bad feeling about that game when I drove down to the Monterey area the day before the game to spend the weekend and I drove past a motel named (I kid you not) the "Borg Motel." The next day, we were horrified witnesses to what is sometimes called "The Annihilation in Austin." The FCC later took scores of complaints for allowing such a terrifying program to air on a Saturday morning. Texas won, 69-17 – and the game wasn't as close as the score indicates. If Texas had tried to run up the score, we could have seen some big numbers. In the stands in Austin, one Stanford fan turned to another as the game got out of hand and said, "This isn't even funny." Moments later, Texas completely muffed a field goal attempt, never got the kick off, and ended up scoring a touchdown on the play anyway. Back in the stands, that same Stanford fan said, "OK, now this is funny." Before the game was over, the Bootboard was swamped by a tsunami of posts calling for the immediate firing of the coaching staff, preferably before the end of the 3rd quarter. I'm telling you, it was hard to be a Stepford at that moment. The only rallying cry the Stepfords could offer: "Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" And you know what? They were right. Stanford reeled off 8 wins in its next 10 games, won the Pac 10 title, and went to the Rose Bowl. So, "Texas" simultaneously evokes both utter futility and hope for better times. Maybe that just goes to show you, losing 69-17 isn't all bad. . . . Naw, I'm lying. It stinks.
"Thunderdome" – One of The Bootleg's "free" message boards. Remember the law of Thunderdome: "two men enter, one man leaves." The reigning gladiator in Thunderdome is not Mad Max, but Dr. Football, also known as johnnyo53. Although, come to think of it, has anyone ever seen Mad Max and the Doc together? Or for that matter, has anybody seen Aunty Entity and the Doc together? In Thunderdome, love's got nothing to do with it. Thunderdome is no place for the weak. Anyone who would survive in Thunderdome must go head to head with the Doc. Be warned that he does not suffer fools lightly. And if he thinks you're a fool – which he probably will – he's not shy about telling you... IN CAPITAL LETTERS, JUST TO MAKE SURE YOU GET HIS POINT, YOU PINHEADED JOCKSNIFFING NITWIT.
"The Tree" – The Band's mascot. Not the university's mascot, but the Band's mascot. And that explains a lot, doesn't it? Actually, I like the Tree. My kids always loved the Tree when they were little. The Tree is one of the most recognizable mascots in college sports. But there's a big wild card with the Tree – the person who is selected as the Tree makes his or her own costume every year. The quality of the costumes varies tremendously. We've had some real stinkers, bad enough to tempt me to turn in my Sierra Club card and start contributing to the timber industry.
"Brian Treggs" – A former Cal player. Believe it or not, there was another time in the not-so-distant past when Cal players and fans were just as arrogant as they are now. In 1991, Cal rolled through its schedule and came into the Big Game with a top 10 ranking and a 9-1 record, having lost only to top-ranked Washington. Some Cal players were feeling pretty cocky, and they weren't shy about it. The week before the game, Treggs brashly offered that if Cal lost to Stanford, he would move to Palo Alto. Stanford thoroughly whipped the overconfident Bears, running the ball down their throats with fullback Touchdown Tommy Vardell running behind offensive tackle Bob Whitfield ("Highway 70") all day long. We're still waiting for Treggs to make good on his promise (not that we really want him here, come to think of it). Here's hoping that every Cal visit to Stanford Stadium will be equally satisfying for the Cardinal faithful, if not for Palo Alto real estate agents.
"USB" – University of South Bend. See "insufferable arrogance."
"USC" – The other private university in California that plays Division IA football. Stands for "University of Second Choice" or "University of Spoiled Children." See "insufferable arrogance."
"Waiver wire" – After losing to UC Davis in 2005, Walt Harris was asked what he planned to do. His response? "There is no waiver wire, we can't bring in new players." Come on, coach, in the name of Pop Warner, you shouldn't have needed new players to beat UC frickin' Davis! All you had to do was get the guys you had to play up to their abilities... which he never managed to do. Walt found himself on the waiver wire one season later.
"Waldvogel" – Jerry Waldvogel was the third quarterback in the Cordova/Benjamin controversy. Some people thought he should be the starter. Any time a group started chanting "we want Benjamin," there was bound to be a lone voice who called out "Waldvogel!" He's now a college biology professor. See "Cordova/Benjamin."
"The Walk" – The Stanford football team does not dress at the Stadium. Rather, the team puts on its uniforms in the locker room at Arrillaga, and then walks through Chuck Taylor Grove to the Stadium as fans line the way, cheering. This is a tradition dating back to the days when there were no locker rooms at the Stadium, so the team had to dress elsewhere and walk down. We may have lost touch with other traditions – such as classy uniforms, Prince Lightfoot, and the Bonfire at Lake Lag – but doggone it, at least we still make our players walk a quarter of a mile to get to the showers after the game.
"Walsh I" – Like Camelot, it existed only for a brief, shining moment, but it was glorious. Bill Walsh's first head coaching job was at Stanford in 1977-1978. He brought what would later be known as the west coast offense. Walsh was brilliant, innovative, energetic, sophisticated, and exciting. "Walsh I" was good – a true Genius.
"Walsh II" – Bill Walsh returned to Stanford in 1992 after stepping down as the 49ers coach. Walsh, following his bliss, had a tremendous 10-win season in his first year. After that one good year, things fell apart. The center could not hold, as Yeats might have said (or too often, the center held and drew a yellow hanky, as Keith Jackson might have said). Stanford flailed to a losing record the next two years before Walsh stepped down. "Following my bliss," a phrase coined by mythology scholar Joseph Campbell and used by Walsh in the press conference announcing his return, now sounds like a bitter catch-phrase evoking the shattered dreams and unfulfilled promises of Walsh II. "Walsh II" is the bad part of the Genius' return.
"Walt" – Walt Harris coached Stanford in 2005 and 2006. Walt was a dour personality who lost his faith in his team. By the time he was done, most of the fans had become dour personalities who had lost their faith in Walt.
"We bow to no program" – Not long after Jim Harbaugh was hired as Stanford's coach, before he had coached a game at Stanford, he got into a public spat with USC coach Pete Carroll. In the spring of 2007, Harbaugh told a reporter that he had heard Carroll would stay at USC for just one more season. Carroll took exception to the comment. When reporters asked Harbaugh if he would apologize to Carroll and USC, he pointedly refused to back down, instead putting a stake in the ground by saying: "We bow to no man. We bow to no program here at Stanford University." Well, that poured jet fuel on a five-alarm fire. The national media were all over it... the new coach of a last-place team, which was coming off perhaps the worst season in its history, was poking a stick in the eye of the biggest, baddest team in the nation, the biggest odds-on favorite to win it all since the U.S. invaded Grenada, the team with equal numbers of NFL prospects and entries on police blotters... The story wrote itself, and everybody piled on. Jim Rome predicted that USC would bury Stanford by 100 points when the teams met in the fall. Many writers and fans (USC fans and Stanford fans alike) thought Rome's prediction was too conservative. Harbaugh again got Carroll's – and the media's – attention a few months later, when he told reporters that he thought USC's 2007 team would be "the best team in the history of college football." Carroll didn't know whether Harbaugh was being sarcastic and mocking him, or was being sincere and just didn't know that you don't say those things, but either way, Carroll was not amused. Carroll's reaction, as described by one reporter: "'Gotta love Jim, don't you?' Carroll chirped, making it rather clear how little he loves Jim. 'There's no way I'd ever try to understand what that's about. Thanks, Jim.'" This sparked another round of predictions that Carroll would take Harbaugh to the woodshed when their teams met. By the time the teams lined up in the L.A. Coliseum in the fall, Stanford was a 41 point underdog, in part because of the belief that USC and Carroll surely would teach Harbaugh a lesson. But a funny thing happened... Harbaugh proved that he didn't just have a big mouth, he actually could back it up. "We bow to no program" indeed! See "Biggest Upset Ever."
"We smoke these guys" – Back in the early days of the Bootleg's Friday faxes, every issue included a game preview that ended with the same prediction: "We smoke these guys." The prediction didn't always come true... but what's the harm in dreaming of the way things really ought to be? You never know what's going to happen. Just ask Pete Carroll.
"Willingham" – Our former coach... A tough disciplinarian, who was just what Stanford needed after Walsh II... A lazy recruiter, who contacted top recruits too late or not at all, who neglected recruiting on the offensive line, and who didn't bring in many more players than Stanford would have attracted based solely on the school's reputation... An example of Stanford's progressive views in hiring a minority coach... A man who didn't give a darn about the fans and who never said a grateful word about his time at Stanford, which he now refers to as "a university where I once coached"... A man who took us to our first Rose Bowl in 28 years... A man who called a fake punt against us while sitting on a 50 point lead late in the 4th quarter... A good man who did good things for the program... Not merely the Devil incarnate, but the guy to whom the Devil incarnate reports... Take your pick.
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