"There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
This is easily Mario Savio’s most famous quote. Anytime people talk about Berkeley and the 60s, it usually pops up. They even have a gaunt Ryan Gosling playing the video of Savio saying it in the depressing movie “Half Nelson.” And I am sure that the protestors sitting in the trees right now (unless the removal of their encampment has caused them to finally depart) know it backwards and forwards. They might even think that their actions are on the same level as Mario’s. It wouldn’t be the first time. In my 4 years at Cal, I saw legions and legions of “activists” seemingly more interested in stroking their own ego as the “next Mario Savio” than say, actually causing some real change in the world. After all, if RunningWolf and his cadre of merry tree-sitters wanted to really stop the progress of the stadium upgrade, don’t you think there would be better ways than sitting in a tree and lying about anything and everything?
Perhaps a letter writing campaign or going door to door to explain their personal views to Berkeley citizens might work better. But no, the professional protesting class seems more fit to wage a guerrilla PR campaign of smoke and mirrors. Some oak trees planted next to the stadium? Well, they just HAVE to be ancient old grove oaks. Court order goes against my enemy even though it in no way involved our arguments and in fact weakened our ability to stay in the trees? DECLARE TOTAL VICTORY! A skeleton found with a Mexican coin discovered 80 years ago? Sacred Indian Burial Ground! Let’s bring in some local Native Americans for a PR opportunity.
No, the machine that I see here isn’t the UC, which has been on the defensive pretty much since Day 1. The machine I see here is the professional protesting class still holding on to the last shreds of the 60s. But that was a different time, a different place. The “People” came together there, because of direct pressure upon every single Cal student placed by the administration. It wasn’t Israel-Palestine. It wasn’t South African Apartheid or Darfur. It wasn’t Tibet, hanging chads, or Affirmative Action. It was direct restrictions placed on every single student, keeping them from setting up tables on Sproul Plaza.
To us, today, that seems INSANE. We’ve seen thousands and thousands of people tabling on Sproul Plaza. We might have tabled ourselves. I know I was out there every semester with my fraternity promoting a blood drive. And if Berdahl had come down and forced us to take off that giant blood drop suit, I’d sure as hell be protesting. I’m sure you all would be, too.
But nothing exists like that anymore. Not only does the Memorial Upgrade plan not restrict the free speech of 30,000 people, it actually has a stunningly large amount of positives. Not that you’d hear any of them, thanks to the poor PR campaign run by Cal. Upgrading the facilities will keep Tedford. Keeping Tedford will (hopefully) keep the team good. And keeping the team good has a host of positive side effects.
National prominence for Cal. People think Cal and Berkeley are two different things. For some reason, the Berkeley establishment wants to continue this. Why not be stellar at academics AND athletics? Why not create a tradition of excellence in academics AND athletics? Only myopic resistance against growing past the 60s could disagree. I ask, why not have it all! In my humble estimation, Cal is the greatest university America has. If it takes being good at sports to promote that view, then so be it.
Increased civic pride. When you say I went to Berkeley, how many people have a positive reaction to that and how many have a negative? How many people wonder why you’re hair isn’t that long? Or if you have long hair, how many people think that plays right into stereotypes? People in the rest of the world seem to LOVE Berkeley, but for some reason that isn’t reflected as much in America. Having a successful football team can change that.
Memories. I have an amazing set of football-related memories from my 4 years at Cal. But I was in the marching band. I practiced hours a week in preparation for the games. I could not leave and had to go to every game. But we were alone in that, mostly. I remember the half empty Memorial stadium. I remember people leaving by halftime after the band performance. I remember epic apathy about the football. I remember the picture in the Daily Cal of that dude holding up the Fire Holmoe sign in a nearly empty student section (he was my roommate, after all……). Sure, it was great that people focused so greatly on the band when the team was terrible. But that’s not really the overarching point here.
Starting with Big Game 2002, the atmosphere at Memorial Stadium has been wholly different. It has started getting MORE and MORE packed, culminating in record attendance levels this past season. When you get so many dozens of thousands of people together, the energy level is amazing. When you rush the field after a hard fought victory (U$C 2003 comes to mind), you never forget. When you see Marshawn driving the injury cart, you will never forget. When we finally beat Stanford for the 7th straight time, you will never forget. DeCoud’s hit. That Oregon’s TEs dropped 4th down pass. The trick play for a touchdown against Baylor on Tedford’s first ever play. Marshawn stiff-arming Patrick Chung. How many of us will ever forget these memories?
I see so many families making the trek up to the stadium. How many children have been raised at the altar of Pappy Waldorf and Andrew Smith? How many will be? How many families bond on a warm fall day cheering on their beloved Golden Bears? I can only hope that this Memorial Upgrade happens not only so that I can continue to enjoy Cal football in a world class setting, but so that my children and my children’s children can do so. This isn’t just about you or I, it’s about future generations of California fans who deserve to have the same special memories we have had since 2002.