A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Wise Walrus Of Strawberry Canyon

(Above: the statue of Pappy at Faculty Glade, erected by Pappy's Boys.)

Cal's 52-34 beatdown by Ohio State last Saturday was pretty bad – although Cal still leads OSU in Nobel Prize winners, 22-3 - but it wasn't the worst humiliation the Bears have suffered at the hands of the Buckeyes.
That came at the 1950 Rose Bowl, but not during the game. It happened at halftime, when the Cal Marching Band was upstaged by the Ohio State Marching Band, whose spiffy costumes and high-stepping strutting made Cal's old-fashioned, military-style band look mundane by comparison.
The fans booed. The Daily Cal wrote scathing editorials. Even President Robert Gordon Sproul got into the act, saying, "The band smells." The band's director, a respected music professor who had led the band for 16 years, was fired.
Enter the hero of the story: football coach Pappy Waldorf.
Two years later, the Bears were in Columbus to play Ohio State, and while they were there Pappy secretly filmed the OSU band and gave the film to the Cal band, which copied all the moves.
But they couldn't copy Ohio State's band uniforms, which were – shudder - red. So they copied Michigan's maize-and-blue uniforms instead.
Next October 3 would have been Pappy's 111th birthday, which gives me an excuse to write about the greatest football coach who ever lived.
Yes, there were coaches who won more games, although Pappy's 67-32-4 record, including three straight Rose Bowl appearances and back-to-back 10-win seasons, is not too shabby.
But the thing that sets Pappy apart from the rest is that they did it with fear, while he did it with love.
Nobody can ever remember him cursing or yelling at a player. Never.
In fact, he didn't even correct players' mistakes during a game. As far as he was concerned, that's what practices were for. Game time was for keeping their spirits up and doing the X's and O's.
When he corrected a player's mistake at practice, he had a four-step technique that was described for me by one of his assistant coaches, John Ralston, who went on to employ Pappy's methods with great success at Stanford.
Step 1: Make physical contact. If you can, put your arm around his shoulder.
Step: 2: Praise him for something good he did. Only then do you get to:
Step 3: Point out the mistake and show him how to correct it, followed immediately by:
Step 4; Put your arm around him again and reassure him that he's still your boy and you still love him.
I know it sounds too good to be true, like a story out of a boy's dime novel. But Pappy believed his real job was to build character, and that the victories would follow.
And he did build their characters – many of "Pappy's Boys," as they call themselves, went on to have happy families and successful careers – and the victories did follow.
The newspapers dubbed him "The Wise Walrus of Strawberry Canyon," and Clark Kerr, who succeeded Sproul as president, said, "I considered him to be our best teacher. He had more moral impact on more students than did any other faculty member."
Pappy died in 1981, leaving a wife, two daughters and 542 sons.
Yes, martinets like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have won more games. But nobody's ever going to call them Pappy.