By Mark Purdy
Jeff Tedford, the Cal football coach, wants his team's followers to be psyched for Saturday's big season opener against Tennessee. "I'd like to challenge our fans to step up," he said the other day. He must not have looked out his office window. There, right next to Memorial Stadium, some enthusiastic Berkeley folks haven't just stepped up. They have climbed up. Into the trees, that is. Maybe you've heard. Since December, protesters have occupied the grove of oaks and redwoods outside Memorial Stadium. They live on improvised platforms amid the branches as they try to stop the university's plans for a sports performance center on the site, the first step of a stadium expansion and renovation.
The tree occupation has created some interesting interaction. Cal's weight room is on the stadium's mezzanine level, so when players are pumping iron in the morning, they find themselves roughly at eye level with the Tree People, maybe 30 feet away through open windows. "There's some smack talk," confirmed Thomas DeCoud, a Cal defensive back. "You know, we might yell, `Get out of the trees!' And they might sarcastically yell back, `Go football team, go!' Nothing real vicious. It's kind of annoying, having them up there. But what can you do?" Uh, get out the leaf blowers? "I don't talk to them," Cal tackle Mike Teppe (sic) said. "But I can tell you one thing: they do smell. You don't want to be downwind of them. . . . I'm kind of excited to see what the people from Tennessee do with the Tree People."
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