OFF THE GRASS - PART II.
I'm not usually a big fan of sequels. Typically, a movie, book or in this case a weekly feature says all there is to say about a particular subject the first time around.
Caddyshack II was awful –
the original was so funny, they should have left it alone. Replacing Rodney
Dangerfield with Jackie Mason as the film's comedic anchor is the ultimate
diss to a guy who already doesn't get any respect.
Ghostbusters II, Revenge of the Nerds II and any Bad News Bears movie without Walter Matthau should have gone straight to the discount rack at the video store.
There are a few exceptions: Rocky II was great, Godfather Part II – even better. You can't top Toy Story 2 (Buzz Lightyear really gets to develop his character). And my son won't stop raving about the latest Harry Potter installment.
College football fans rushing onto the playing field after the game isn't normally a topic that would (or should) take two weeks to explore, analyze and satirize. However, this past Wednesday happened to be the twentieth anniversary of perhaps the most famous "field-storming" episode in football history.
Throw the national rankings and win/loss records out the window; when California plays Stanford, it's always a big game – especially if you live in the Bay Area. November 20, 1982 was no exception. Visiting Stanford, at 5-5 and looking forward to making a rare post-season bowl appearance, was favored to win.
Stanford also had the best quarterback in the nation in John Elway so the game's outcome seemed imminent. Except that this was the Cal-Stanford game so it really came as no surprise that Cal was ahead 19-17 with about one minute to play.
To make matters worse for the Cardinal faithful, Stanford faced a dire fourth-and-seventeen situation from their own thirteen yard line. (Remember, sportsfans, this was 1982. Elway had not yet solidified his Hall of Fame status by making countless improbable fourth quarter comebacks with the Denver Broncos).
Long story short: after two great passes and two running plays, Stanford was lining up for a 35-yard, game winning field goal with eight seconds left in the game. The kick was good, but Cal would get one more shot because Stanford left four seconds on the clock.
The kickoff was a squibbler down the middle of the field picked up by Cal's Kevin Moen. He'd run about ten yards then lateral to another Cal player, who'd lateral to another, then another, then another and finally back to Moen who would take the ball into the Stanford end zone for a touchdown.
Five laterals leading to the winning touchdown on the game's final play – unbelievable. But what makes this game memorable twenty years later is the fact that most of the Stanford band had charged the field when the play clock struck zero – long before the fifth lateral.
By the time Moen had reached the Stanford twenty yard line there wasn't a Cardinal player in sight. But he had to make a few nifty moves around the horn section, through a group of parading drummers and over a couple of dancing tubas.
The replay isn't clear, but I think some wise guy tried to take Moen out with a flying oboe. I can't help but wonder what the officials would have done had some overzealous flutist decided to tackle Moen short of the goal line.
After scoring, Moen flattened a trombone player. (The irony being that the kid joined the band because he didn't want to get hurt playing football).
"The Hail Mary", "The Catch", "The Drive", "The Immaculate Reception" - all descriptive titles that conjure up images of historic football feats. But what do you call a sequence of events that you really had to see to believe?
The last four seconds of that Cal-Stanford game twenty years ago turned out to be so inexplicably bizarre that it is known to this day simply as "The Play". Because there really is no logical "catch phrase" that adequately describes what happened.
All the recent sports media talk about prohibiting fans from participating in post-game, on-field celebrations seems futile to me. How the heck are stadium security officials supposed to keep fans off the field after the game when they can't even keep the school band in the stands during the game?
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