Bigger Than The Big Game

Nick Harris is a student at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education. Respond to this column at [email protected]

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Nothing would mean more to the fans of the University of California than a Big Game defeat of Stanford. The victories over the Bruins and Trojans were nice. A Rose Bowl appearance and a national ranking would have even been better.

But winning the Big Game - and having the Axe in our house - is more valuable to the masses of Cal fans than having Ralph Nader elected President of the United States.

In all seriousness, the Big Game is significant for anyone who identifies themselves in any capacity with the University of California at Berkeley.

The Big Game is for the student who was denied admission to Stanford; for the professor whose research was disputed by his or her counterpart across the Bay; for the sorority girl whose ex-boyfriend goes to school over there; for the frat boy who wants to drink in celebration instead of drowning away another loss to the Tree; for the custodian who will, this week, have to spend his time scrubbing Stanford graffiti from the walls around campus.

For the Cal Band that so desperately wants to sing our victory song "You Tell the Story;" for the alum who cannot stand his neighbor's gloating for another year; for the countless boosters and Cal football fanatics that pray for nothing else than winning the Big Game.

And especially for the boys that all of these people are vicariously living through this week - the Cal football team.

For the football players, Big Game week is unlike any other week this season. It is a time for the team to recover its preseason air of confidence and forget about all of the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past season.

This confidence that has surrounded the team since early Sunday morning has had a strange effect on some of the players.

Cuts and bruises from the Oregon game have disappeared, guys that were walking with a limp are strutting like John Travolta at the end of "Saturday Night Fever," and freshmen that thought that playing Stanford was just another ordinary matchup found out why it's call the Big Game.

Big Game week is also a time for the team to renew its yearly traditions. Early in the week, the entire team votes for the players they feel should represent them as captains for the Big Game. The players that earn respect and admiration through leadership and courageous performances are the ones that receive this wonderful gift from their teammates. This is one of the greatest honors that a Cal football player can receive - and no one can ever take it away from them.

Later in the week, first-year players produce a talent show that rivals Saturday Night Live. I won't go into particulars, but I can tell you that in years past, it has been one of the funniest things I have ever seen. Last year's show was so creative and funny, I wouldn't mind paying to see it again.

A week of confidence, tradition, preparation and entertainment culminates with individual speeches that are given to the team by every senior.

Tonight will mark the last time that the 16 of us seniors will be given the opportunity to articulate our experience to the friends we call teammates, and the men we call Coach. It will be a glorious night, one that is filled with the laughter and tears of the times we were so blessed to have had playing this wonderful game of football.

Tomorrow, the Golden Bears will play in the 103rd Big Game. Memorial Stadium will be filled to capacity with all sorts of Cal football loyalists. Students, alumni, professors, administrators and all of the others will flood our beautiful home. They will each have a significant bone to pick with the Cardinal.

Just know that the boys wearing blue and gold have a much bigger bone to pick than anyone else.

Go Bears!


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