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I'm down with the 'dogs'

By Maxx Wolfson

Tuesday October 2, 2001

They were so close.

No, I'm not talking about an Arizona football team that lost by 27 points to an average Washington State team, because that was anything but close.

I'm talking about the California Golden Bears.

The Bears, arguably the worst team in the Pac-10, almost beat mighty Washington Saturday night, losing by three points, 31-28. This could have been a devastating loss for the Huskies, a team that probably would have been eliminated from conference title contention, even if it would be its only loss.

Let me be clear - I hate the Golden Bears as much as the Sun Devils or the Trojans, but there was something about the team Saturday that made me become a fan.

I love the underdog. Maybe it is because of my love for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 1988 and won't erase that miserable streak for at least another season, or maybe it's because my high school basketball in Woodland Hills, Calif., had a tough enough time beating our girls' team, let alone another team in our conference.

I don't know the exact reason that I always cheer for the long shot, but if I had to guess, it would date back to my days when I played in the Maccabi games.

What are the Maccabi games, you might ask? They are the Olympics for Jewish teenagers. It's when the future Larry Browns and the future Leigh Steinbergs hit the court and show they can do more than be coaches or player representatives. When I was 14 years old, I played basketball for team Los Angeles.

I know what you're thinking - Jewish kids can't play basketball. But some of us actually had some game.

Los Angeles played host to the games that year, and as the host, we had three different teams - gold, silver and bronze.

I played on the bronze team coached by someone who didn't know the difference between a basketball and a Gentile. It was bad.

We were short, skinny and white. Lucky for us, so was everyone else. Surprisingly, we cruised through the tournament, losing only one game to Team Chicago. I still don't think all of those players were Jewish. Does Jameel Washington sound Jewish to you?

We were scheduled to face the gold team, which was supposed to be the best from Los Angeles.

Like Cal was against Washington, we were the overwhelming underdogs. We thought we had no chance. Four players on that team currently play college basketball and one could have a future in the NBA.

The closest thing we had to that was my friend Brandon, who was named MVP of our Parks and Rec league when we were kids.

To make a long story short, we lost the game and the bronze medal by only one point. We all played out of our minds, and even though we lost, we were happy with the result. Whenever a couple of us get together we always reminisce about that game. From that point on I learned to never count out the underdog. We almost counted ourselves out of that game. If we had, I feel that we would have lost by more than one point.

Cal is most likely going to be the underdog for their remaining games this season.

After the a week off, the Bears play No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 UCLA and an Oregon State team better than their record indicates.

But don't count out the 0-4 Bears just yet.

In the words of Chris Berman, or Boomer or Swami or whatever other nicknames he gives himself, "that's why they play the games."


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