"When you have plenty of good strong hating you don't need hope because the hating will be enough to nourish you." - Absalom, Absalom!
Rivalry has a way of making nothing else matter.
It's just the black hats and the white hats and a simple objective for each. Win and keep living. Lose, and you crawl back home listening to the shouts of those damned gloating imbeciles.
That's where Stanford football is right now. Just win. That's it.
The season's already a failure. The loss to Utah was just the latest indignity in a season where Stanford has slid from a preseason #11 ranking all the way to a 5-5 team with one of the most inept offenses in the country. After the loss to Arizona State, this season became just about putting lipstick on a pig or nail polish on an armadillo or a bow on an elephant seal. At the bottom of the slide, the fans and the program want just one thing that they can look at and say, "Well, at least we did that."
Beat Oregon? No, definitely not. Beat Utah and assure yourself of a spot in a bowl game? Not quite. Beat Cal? That's kind of all that's left now.
While going to a bowl game would be nice, it's kind of hard to give a shit about the San Francisco Bowl or the Cactus Bowl. It's kind of hard to muster up interest about who you play and if you'll win when you're the Pac-12's 7th-best team and you're matched up against the Big Ten's 8th-best team. And while beating UCLA next week would be nice (if unexpected), the Cardinal's season is really just about this week against their rival in their house.
If you don't beat Cal, what's left? The odds say they'll end the second straight season with a defeat in the Rose Bowl. Except this time it'll just be in the building, without the buildup. This week is all that matters.
So what's going to get it done on the field?
Last week, the offense was beyond inept once again. Kevin Hogan's 31 pass attempts - including sacks - netted 72 total yards. It's hard to win games consistently when every possession becomes a high-leverage possession. The defense played well, but they'll be stressed to the limit this week. The Bears average 40.7 points a game - 9th in the country - and are 13th in total offense. Perhaps that might not matter against a defense that's better than any other in the Pac-12, but it's not something to take lightly.
You're got to find something deeper inside you this week. Is the fact that you hate - hate - that team over there enough to get it done?
The postgame press conference room at Stanford Stadium isn't much bigger than a jail cell. It's probably a 12x12 room of white bricks, about 15 chairs, four cameras, a table and a microphone. Behind the room where David Shaw speaks after games, there's the football team's locker room. The peculiar thing about it is that you can hear almost every word from the locker room when you stand in the press room. After the loss to Utah, John Flacco - a safety not even on the weekly two-deep - launched into an impassioned, profanity-laced speech to the team. Reporters could hear almost every word. Did that muster up enough hate for losing and hate for Cal?
Because now, the goal is really, really simple. Just win. Just beat Cal.
There's a win streak on the line. There's pride on the line. There's a bowl game on the line.
And I hope that hate will be enough to get it done.