My First Big Game Experience

March 22, 2024

As a freshman, my year has been filled with “firsts”; my first night in the dorms, my first college lecture, my first midterm, and so on. The year isn’t over yet, but so far my favorite first of all was my first Big Game, our big rivalry football game against Stanford, as a Cal student. I have included the addendum of “as a Cal student” because this was technically the third Big Game that I’ve watched. I attended the 2017 game as a scrawny seventh grader (which I deliberately will not include a photo of) to visit my older sister Alexa, who was a Berkeley sophomore at the time. I remember little about the game itself, but I do have fond memories of attending the Bonfire Rally. Bonfire Rally is put on by Cal’s incredible Rally Committee and is exactly what the name implies. Hundreds of students gather in the Greek Theatre the night before the game for a pep rally composed of talented student performances, fevered speakers, and a giant bonfire. The year I went, the fire was created with actual wood, which made the cool November weather feel like hundreds of degrees. Now, a steel and aluminum structure is used which is just as cool but more eco-friendly. I traveled to Berkeley again for the 2021 Big Game, which was also a blast. That visit my sister gave me a mini campus tour, but I didn’t pay much attention. There was obviously no way I’d get into Berkeley, so why get my hopes up?

Flash forward a few years later, and now it was finally my time to experience the Big Game as a Berkeley-obsessed student. My day kicked off with waking up early to get ready and grab breakfast with my roommate Penelope. As a graduation gift, I was given these super cute Cal face decals, which I saved to use and share for the most important game of the season. Once we stuck those on, we were ready to go. My sister kindly volunteered to drive us there, so we met up with her in the late morning and started journeying over to Stanford.

Once we reached the Stanford campus, we met up with our other friends from our building’s floor. My friend Sally kindly invited us to join her family’s tailgate to hang out and grab some lunch. Being from a football-loving family, I’ve attended many tailgates throughout the years, but this one by far was the most elaborate. Sally comes from a divided Big Game household; she and her sister attend Berkeley but their parents are Stanford alumni. Several of her other family members also are Cal and Stanford alumni, so the Big Game has always been a valued family tradition. This means that they had their tailgate down to a science; there was a mounted TV playing the pre-game show, a custom Stanford trailer to haul their supplies, and plenty of great catered eats.

After hanging out for an hour or so, we made our way over to the stadium. We sat in the student section, which is always a good time but had reached a heightened level of energy. I loved seeing everyone decked out in Cal gear and cheering on our team. Not to be corny, but it is genuinely so exhilarating to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about something as you are. I’m not even a football fan, but I do love Berkeley and by extension love our athletics.

The game went by pretty quickly. To be completely honest, I wasn’t watching that closely the entire time because, again, football really isn’t my thing. However, I still kept track of the score and watched enough to gain confidence that we’d be taking home the axe, the game’s equivalent of a trophy. Once we officially won, I joined the rest of the student section in rushing onto the field. The stadium energy was at an all-time high, and it was certainly the highlight of the night. I took some celebratory photos on the field with my sister and my friends before starting the long walk to our parking spot.

Once we got back to the car and my energy started to level, I realized I was pretty tired after a fun but long day. I mustered the strength to make one quick Instagram story post to commemorate my experience before falling asleep. I slept great knowing that the Big Game had exceeded my high expectations.

I’m already gearing up for next year’s game, which will be my first Big Game that’s actually on our campus. I’m really stretching the whole “first” concept, but it is reassuring to know that I still have plenty of memorable experiences ahead. I don’t know much about football, but I do know we’ll surely be keeping the axe another year. Go bears!