Rest in cleats: A game day eulogy

Photo of crowd at a football game
Ireland Wagner/Staff

Thank you all for coming. We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of a dear friend of ours. Fall game days, we miss you already.

The Pac-12 has brought your long and beautiful legacy to an unplanned end. Excuse me, to an intermission.

We watched through the rain, prayed for the Axe to come back and hailed the Big Game as a pilgrimage for students and alumni alike. From the beginning, game days were a much-needed distraction from the work we tend to bury ourselves in.

Now, as a sportsless semester looms, let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

I can still remember my first game. The night before, the whispers up and down my hall were about tickets, not tests. That excitement made the chaos of campus pause for a moment, like a breeze blowing through a battlefield.

8 a.m. — Wake up hungover

Whether it’s from a late night in the stacks or one too many mojitos, Saturday mornings tend to begin with a splitting headache. Let’s just hope it isn’t your first taste of sobriety since Thursday. Whatever the case, shake off the fog and scrounge up something caffeinated — you’re going to need it.

9:30 a.m. — Show up to the pregame out of theme

After eating half a Nature Valley bar, you roll out of bed wearing a borrowed “Cal Grandpa” shirt and shoes that are not yet broken in. No one informed you of the “make anything you can find into a crop top” theme, so you’ll have to pretend you forgot. You can feel the excitement starting to build.

10:30 a.m. — Pretend to know someone in Sigma Alpha Epsilon

“So, where’s your bid?” you might hear on the unswept steps of a fraternity from someone who’s mad that they’re taking a break from beer die. Of course, sneaking into a Greek life pregame is nearly a rite of passage. Just remember to steer clear of the jungle juice and try to figure out who the hell we’re playing.

Noon — Stumble toward the stadium

Once kickoff happens and you realize you’re missing the first quarter, your group starts shuffling toward Durant Avenue. Climbing that hill with your Artichoke slice in hand, you finally empathize with Sisyphus. You understand why a true Bears fan can only be identified by their calf muscles.

If you’re smart — namely, conservative with your alcohol consumption — you won’t have too much trouble getting into the game. Then, you can uncover the real scandal you won’t learn on the tour: Flex dollars work at the snack stand. “Oh, boy! Our Berkeley bucks have a hot dog exchange rate!”

12:45 p.m. — Try to stay until the end of the game

To that one friend who tries to leave a few minutes before the game ends to “beat the traffic”: You’re missing the best part.

Something magical happens when the whole campus focuses its collective attention on the field like the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass. Throughout the stadium, geniuses-in-waiting scream their lungs hoarse at a team that, more often than not, is going to lose.

What a beautiful ritual.

Questions about Cal’s financial stability without a football season are swirling, and this semester will look different without one of our most integral community-building activities.

Yet, the spirit that propelled us up Durant, that kept us in the stands, that glued us to the scoreboard lives on in every student. We may not have the games to prove it, but the community they help create is alive and well.

Game days, we await your triumphant return.

Luke Stiles writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].