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The Mystique of THE BLUE SLIPPERS

By Coach Bob Shoup
 
As originally told by Coach Bob Shoup but more recently re-told by John Luebtow, “the keeper of the Blue Slippers”.
 
The Mystique of THE BLUE SLIPPERS   The Mystique of THE BLUE SLIPPERS   The Mystique of THE BLUE SLIPPERS   The Mystique of THE BLUE SLIPPERS
 
Superstition and ritual in sports is found in all sports venues. It is generally something initially developed in hindsight, almost by accident and then called upon in future events. Such superstitions arise when an athlete or team has an exceptional performance and then tries to establish “cause and effect” by trying to link any odd or unusual circumstances at the time with the performance breakthrough itself. After this link is made in the mind of the athlete or athletes, through visualization or guided imagery, which today is the very basis of sports psychology, the athlete or athletes call upon this “mojo” before each competition.

The ritual mystique of the Blue Slippers at then California Lutheran College began early in the 1964 season when our three-year-old football program reached its lowest ebb. Going in to the season, the young Kingsmen had won eight and lost eight after two seasons of suspect competition. Now, after a stunning 13-8 win over La Verne College, CLC was in the midst of a depressing losing streak. We lost to Occidental 28-7, were blanked by Southern Utah 26-0 and humiliated by Claremont- Mudd 28-13.

The next game was to be our longest road trip to play a very tough Colorado College team, and it was their homecoming game. In early October, the team flew into Colorado Springs and was met by an old city transit bus. We were taken to the edge of town to a very tired, single-story motel. The extra bags were put in the garage storage area among beat-up furniture, lost-and-found articles and miscellaneous hotel supplies. It had been a very long day, and we were tired and did not have much spirit or enthusiasm. We had eaten on the plane so the next order of business was to get back on the bus and go five miles downtown where the campus was located for a practice session. Many players had to stand on the crowded bus.

The college was on a beautiful site and the leaves had begun to change on the trees. We got off the bus below campus at the stadium field level in our game uniforms. The air was crisp and clean. As we began to loosen up and go through a light practice, our spirits began to rise and a vocal camaraderie began to assert itself. We were not intimidated but were like school kids on an outing.

This scene was then overshadowed from above with band music and cheers. Colorado College was having its homecoming pep rally. Clearly we could hear from the PA system that …”this team from California is in the midst of a losing streak and we have beaten them before and we expect them to be an easy opponent.” With that, we Kingsmen began to shout and cheer and the entire Colorado College student body and alumni came over to the edge of the stadium to see what was going on.

The next day was fabulous. Sunny, but cool. We cleaned out our rooms, loaded up our gear and got on the bus to go to the college to tape and dress for the game. That Saturday we controlled the Colorado College gridiron, and as we found out after our victory, the game was recorded for local television to be played that evening. For me personally it was my best single game at Cal Lutheran, with over 120 yards rushing, a long punt return and one touchdown. The final score was 29-6. The line of John Paris, Fred Kemp, Jim Tschida, Cary Washburn, Roger Young and Jerry Palmquist, and Safety / Wide Receiver Skip Mooney and others was stunning. Everything went right. The holes were there for us on offense and not for Colorado on Defense. After the losing games we experienced prior to this game and as history has shown, this was the turning point in our team’s confidence and morale and set the stage for the Blue Slippers and the beginning of multiple years of winning seasons, national rankings and a national championship.

That Saturday evening some of us on the team found a “local watering hole” for a little “imbibing” and to watch ourselves on TV. Although we discovered that we were not so welcome sitting there imbibing and cheering ourselves on as we “devoured the locals”, but, fear not, for when you enter an establishment with “the big boys”…nobody bothers you.

The next morning as we boarded the bus to depart…the Blue Slippers…entered our lives. We were all seated and ready to leave when Coach Shoup and Coach Garrison entered the bus laughing. Standing in front of the bus, Coach Shoup honored us with accolades about his pleasure with the victory and then he held up this scummey, dirty, disgusting old pair of women’s slippers and told us the cleaning woman had found them in my room and wanted to return them to me. Everybody laughed, but with this bit of humorous injection from the coaches and the joy of a great upset victory under our belts, the appearance of the Blue Slippers became identified with a magic moment in our lives…a magic performance, and I became “the keeper of the Blue Slippers” until 1967.

The next week, CLC routed George Fox 59-0. We then won 33-9 over Cal Tech and 14-8 over a very tough Cal State team. The following week, we went to Pomona but the slippers stayed home and we lost 14-8. The legend began. The last game was our Homecoming, and we beat UC Riverside 7-0. After that for some strange reason they became like a “mystical good luck charm”, even being hung up in the locker room with a white shoelace for players to touch or give homage to at game time. Then suddenly, they mysteriously vanished.

During the next 10 years, CLU won eight state championships and a national title in 1971. In 1975 the CLU Kingsmen were the #1 rated team in both the NAIA Division II and the NCAA Division III, and even today we virtually control our conference and are nationally ranked.

POSTSCRIPT

The Blue Slippers “good luck symbol” has been with the Kingsmen ever since they were found. Although no one is ready to “bet the farm” that they hold a mysterious power that transformed the Kingsmen into the powerhouse they have become, no one is also willing to question this possibility.

The legend will continue…
 
 
 
 
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