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04/29/2005: "The Play"

If you're a college football fan in California, particularly northern California, when someone says the two words "The Play" you know exactly what they're talking about: the final play of the 1982 Big Game between Cal and Stanford (the only rivalry game to deserve the title).

The reason I bring it up now in what is just about the furthest day from college football, four months from bowl games, four months until the season starts, is that I have it on video and every time I need a pick me up, I play it on my computer. This is particularly valuable at work whenever some idiot comes up with some idiotic policy.

So let me set the scene and then you can download it and watch it:

The year is 1982. It is John Elway's final season at Stanford. (Yes, the John Elway of Denver Bronco fame.) Back then, not every team from a major conference with a winning record got to go to a bowl game. A lot of it came down to who each of the much smaller list of bowls liked. Coming into the game Cal was 6-4 and Stanford was 5-5 but Stanford was considered to be the better team. At the time some had called Cal the worst 6-4 team ever. Stanford on the other hand was likely to be given a Hall of Fame bowl invitation if they could just win the game to be bowl eligible (which requires a winning record). With just over a minute on the clock, Stanford got the ball back on the 20 yard line down 17-19 after having lost a 7 point lead earlier in the 4th quarter. After a screen pass for a seven yard loss and two incomplete passes, it was 4th and 17. The video starts with this 4th down attempt with 53 seconds left, John Elway's last attempt to save the game and the bowl game invitation for Stanford.

Most videos you'll find of The Play start with 4 seconds left on the clock. But I find that The Play and its significance are much clearer when you see what led up to it. Without that context, a great deal of the impact of the play is lost. The other thing you'll see with most videos is that the audio, which by the way is from Joe Starkey's RADIO broadcast, is edited. What you'll hear is the live audio up until the Kevin Moen crosses into the endzone at which point the audio cuts to Joe Starkey 45 seconds later after the referees decided how to rule on the play. I think this change also hurts the impact of the play. Those 45 seconds of Joe Starkey's speculation and indecision really capture the moment. The first words you miss with the edited audio are "Will it count?" and what you hear instead is "and the , the has/have won!" It completely changes the tone of that moment.

What you get with the video I have is the actual, unedited video with the actual unedited radio/Joe Starkey audio (I hear the TV broadcasters didn't do a very good job with it, and Joe Starkey's call of The Play is incredible). It really is the best video out there. The only downside is that the resolution is lower than I'd like. I'd like to get the actual TV quality video.

I've done my best to talk about it without giving away exactly what happens so that you'll be able to experience the full impact of The Play. Watch the video here (warning 25 MB file that requires Real Player (ugh)).

Isn't it an amazing moment? I just sends shivers down my spine every time I watch it. It really is the most amazing moment in the history of college football.



Replies: 4 Comments

Ken Crawford :

At this point I must invoke 'Crawford's law' which states (as of right now) that any time ALL of the Crawford brothers of a single generation agree on a topic, that opinion is guaranteed to be correct.

Consider it like Papal Infallibility: It rarely happens, but is always acurate.

As an example, I couldn't agree that The Play was the best tactical move of World War II. It clearly belongs atop the list of Civil War tactical moves. And with the Stanford band on the field, it definitely couldn't be the best metal album.

05.02.05 @ 01:22 PM PST

Ken's Brother :

I shall have to defend my brother on this one.
When I think of great moments in sports history, 9 out of the top 10 will always be milestones, 715, 2142, 982 (that was Lou Brocks stolen base record) or like team championship moments. But the play is the only one that even qualifies for title that isn't a milestone or team championship moment.
Any person, sports fan or not, appreciates how brilliantly amazing the Play is. Ya know? I mean here's a good scientific way to determine how awesome the play is. Take 10 book worm ladies who don't like sports at all... make them watch the 10 greatest moments (include the Catch and all those generic ones) and I guarentee you, they'll love the Play the most.
Granted I'll admit my bias, I'd put the play at the top of any top ten list... greatest sports moment, greatest individual moment, greatest metal album, greatest world war ii tactical move... the play is on the top of them all.

05.02.05 @ 11:42 AM PST [homepage]

Ken Crawford :

Oh yeah, well you look like a bucket of... something brown.

OK, so I'm biased. But that doesn't necessarily mean I'm wrong.

In defense of my assertion, last year there was a TV contest on one of the big networks (ABC I think) where each we they showed a handful of amazing plays in college football. Then the viewers could call in or vote over the Internet to pick which one they thought was the most amazing. After a number of weeks of that they had the viewers vote between the winners of the previous weeks. The Play won the whole "contest". I think it speaks volumes because usually Cal and Cal oriented stuff is very underappreciated on the national stage. To win that popularity contest with the "East Coast Bias" of college football, is a pretty convincing argument that it is indeed THE most amazing moment in the history of college football.

What do you have to say abou that Mr. smiling faces! ;-P

05.02.05 @ 10:53 AM PST

Paul :

Not that you're not biased or anything. smile If I were a stanford fan, it would be the most disappointing moment in the history of college football. smile But, alas, I am not. I am simply contrarian.

Paul

04.29.05 @ 04:09 PM PST

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