Annual Big Game Unites Cal Students and Fans

Even Less Enthusiastic Supporters Revel in Festivities of Football Game Against Stanford

Annie Liu/Illustration

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Unless you've been spending your summer before your freshman year hiding in caves, you've heard about the Big Game-the annual football contest between Cal and Stanford.

Needless to say, you've seen "The Play," often ranked as the number one sports moment in all of history.

Maybe you've had a chance to catch a glimpse of the Axe: the prized trophy held by the most recent winner of the Big Game.

Simply put, the Big Game is the single largest event in the Berkeley school calendar. Students who could care less about sporting events find themselves jumping up and down in Memorial Stadium trying to throw off the cadence of the Cardinal's offense.

Sadly enough, the Big Game has lost most of its luster since that unforgettable moment in 1982. Most cite the fact that the game usually means little in terms of deciding the Pac-10 title and that there are few major upsets.

But all is not lost. Over the course of the 110-year history of the Big Game, the sporting event has evolved into something much larger.

The week leading up to the game itself-cleverly named "Big Game Week"-brings the student body together in various ways.

The most visible sign that the Big Game is around the corner is the absence of red from everyone's attire. The simplest way of showing solidarity is to make sure your biggest rival's school colors are nowhere to be seen on campus.

For some this may involve helping save the lives of others by participating in "Get the Red Out," a competition to see which school can donate the most blood.

Other students take part in competitive contests with their Stanford counterparts. Berkeley's acapella groups, the Cal Marching Band and the Cal Sailing Club are a few of the many groups that put their pride on the line every year.

The week comes to a climax the night before the game during the Cal Bonfire Rally. The centerpiece of the event is the largest bonfire west of the Mississippi River, but it is hardly the only noteworthy occasion of the night.

Former and current Bears will make their way on to the stage of the Greek Theatre to tell stories of games played long ago to the crowd of thousands.

Like in 1948 when Jim "Truck" Cullom blocked an extra point to give Cal the narrowest margin of victory, 7-6.

Or when Steve Sweeney caught a last second touchdown pass from Vince Ferragamo to put the Bears on top in 1972.

And then of course there is the time that Cal was down 20-19 with four ticks on the clock to go. After fielding the kickoff, the Bears zigzagged their way down the field using five laterals until the ball ended up in Kevin Moen's hands, the same hands that had initially fielded the kickoff. Moen proceeded to snake his way through the Stanford band and make it into the end zone.

Some observers viewed The Play as a mockery of football.

Others like Joe Starkey, who called the game for KGO-AM 810 radio, would consider it, "The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending ... exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football."

These stories remind all in attendance at the rally that whether or not the national media respects the traditions surrounding the Big Game is a moot point-the only thing that matters come Saturday is who returns home with the Axe in hand.


Contact Mustafa Shaikh at [email protected]

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