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Where I Come From: Tailgating Traditions

As part of our SBN contract, I now have to stare at this logo for 10 minutes an hour on the hour.  Every hour.
As part of our SBN contract, I now have to stare at this logo for 10 minutes an hour on the hour. Every hour.

This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.  Buy the game for advanced game metrics, but keep it for the most realistic Passion Of The Tebow simulation available on the open market.

Welcome to day 3 of the EA Sports NCAA Football 2011 post-orama.  We've really enjoyed selling out this week and look forward to discussing today's topic, which is tailgating.  Tailgating is something that I love, because, as I stated in Monday's post, I enjoy Cal sports mostly for the socialization.  Win, lose, as long as I get to chatter aimlessly to those unlucky around me, I'm satisfied. 

So, yes, today's post should be a lot of fun.  I've been having a lot of fun promoting EA Sports and EA Sports merchandise.  I've already shaved my chest hair into the EA Sports logo.  I'm considering getting a tattoo sleeve of the front cover of NCAA Football 2011.  But instead, let's just discuss tailgating traditions.  We'll talk about ours, you talk about yours.  GO BEARS!


The Cal gameday experience

Tailgating at Cal is a lot of walking in a dense urban area. While other schools have their stadiums in the middle of nowhere or, worse, a giant parking lot, Cal's stadium is nestled in the middle of Berkeley itself. There is minimal, if any parking. You have to donate at least 4 kidneys to get access to the lots closest to the action. Traffic is brutal as it gets closer to game time. Thus, most fans either take the BART train in or drive in hours early and park far away.

The BART stop closes to the stadium is still a 20 minute walk completely uphill to get to the stadium. Cal runs game day trolleys (think San Francisco Trolleys) for some, but most just do the walk.

Very little tailgating itself takes place near the stadium. While other schools try to pack as much tailgating in to the area directly surrounding the stadium, most fans tailgate either at bars in Berkeley (none of which are remotely close to the stadium) or at a constellation of parking lots available to the average non-obscenely wealthy fan. None of which are all that close to the stadium. So, while tailgating at UCLA is at a golf course and tailgating at Stanford is at a Rodin Sculpture Garden next to the Masoleum of Leland Jr. himself, tailgating at Cal is standing in a parking lot or at a bar or at a fraternity.

There is some on-campus tailgating, but it is limited. Then, after the game is over, it's a lot more walking. But at least this time, it's down hill! I submit that these Gameday realities either cannot or can only be found at few other cfb venues/locations around the country... it's what sets us apart from the rest.

An average gameday

You start your day on Telegraph, eating a Top Dog. Then you walk through campus, giving a listen to the band on the way. The arduous walk uphill gets you ready for the game and Cal fans are everywhere, trying to stake out a place to tailgate in an area generally tailgate unfriendly. A delightful mix of fraternity debauchery and family friendly fun times combines for a uniquely Cal atmosphere.

The Band has a pre-game concert 1.5 hours before gametime at Sproul Plaza. They play that days halftime show, a few fight songs, and then start the long march up through campus to the stadium. Here, I followed them and charted their progress:

There are a variety of Cal Band traditions that would take a history major to determine. They scream at a library. They sing a song that may come from the time of the sinking of the Titanic. And most importantly, they dance. Oh how they dance:







The Band isn't the only musical aspect to campus. The various a capella groups wander seemingly aimlessly throughout campus singing all the Cal cheering songs to the picnickers et al:


So, to see the campus alive with the sound of all kinds of music, that is what makes a proper fall day.


There is a great history of attacking opposing team mascots. In specific, the Stanford Tree. We hate that thing. After the 1996 Big Game, where Stanford beat Cal, Cal students rushed the field and tore the Tree apart. Years later, chunks of the Tree are still up on display in fraternities all around Berkeley. That was great.

But, by far, the best part was when American hero Mark Bingham (who would later be on Flight 93 on 9/11) singlehandedly took out the tree:

From famous sports journalist and Cal alum Mike Silver:

Let me tell you about one other act of defiance, this one coming up on its 10-year anniversary. As Cal was getting spanked in the 1992 Big Game at Memorial, Stanford fans, elated over their 5-0-1 stretch in the once-balanced rivalry, actually showed a pulse and began a taunting chant. The Tree ventured closer and closer to the Cal student section, gyrating in its insipid outfit, until a Cal rugby player named Mark Bingham could stand it no longer. Bingham jumped from the stands, made a beeline for the Plant from Purgatory and chopped its sorry ass to the ground, reminding everyone in attendance that there are some things that simply can't be tolerated. And while I would never advocate such a renegade display of violence, I sincerely hope that if such a gesture ever were to take place again, the culprit would honor his predecessor by pointing a finger to the sky.

That's because 14 months ago Bingham was one of the Flight 93 passengers who fought back against the Sept. 11 terrorists and made the ultimate sacrifice. And though I'm in no way comparing the magnitude of events and circumstances, I will say this: That is a California Golden Bear.

Yes. That is a Golden Bear.

Wisdom For First Timers

To appreciate the beauty of Strawberry Canyon, head up to the west rim of the stadium. A good way to throw off our offense is to clap and cheer when the announcer exclaims: "First Down Bears!"- it's a time-honored tradition started by our very own Cal fans, no less. Be conscious of clothing color choice when attending games (AVOID RED-THIS IS BEAR TERRITORY). Check out the video board at halftime for card stunts. The Band usually comes onto the field at 20.00 minutes before game time, at 14.20 yell "U-C!" at 13.80 yell "Blue!" at 13.30 yell "Gold!" and at 12.50 yell "Bears!"

If you really wanna try something new, check out Tightwad Hill. It's a hill directly above the stadium (which is nestled in the middle of a giant range of hills). For huge games (such as USC), throngs of people gather there to watch the game for free:



Notice all the people sitting on the hill to the left of the California banner. It is the home of the Victory Cannon, which is shot every time Cal scores:





We might not have a signature drink, but do have a signature drinking song. More info here:


And here are the lyrics to the California Drinking Song:

Oh, they had a little party down in Newport;
There was Harry, there was Mary, there was Grace.
Oh, they had a little party down in Newport,
And they had to carry Harry from the place.

Oh, they had to carry Harry to the ferry,
And the ferry carried Harry to the shore;
And the reason that they had to carry Harry to the ferry
Was that Harry couldn't carry any more.

For California, for California,
The hills send back the cry,
We're out to do or die,
For California, for California,
We'll win the game or know the reason why.

And when the game is over, we will buy a keg of booze,
And drink to California 'till we wobble in our shoes.

So drink, tra la la,
Drink, tra la la,
Drink, drank, drunk last night,
Drunk the night before;
Gonna get drunk tonight
Like I never got drunk before;
For when I'm drunk, I'm as happy as can be
For I am member of the Souse family.

Now the Souse family is the best family
That ever came over from old Germany.
There's the Highland Dutch, and the Lowland Dutch,
The Rotterdam Dutch, and the Irish.

Sing glorious, victorious,
One keg of beer for the four of us.
Sing glory be to God that there are no more of us,
For one of us could drink it all alone. Damn near.
Here's to the Irish, dead drunk. The lucky stiffs....

Clothes, clothes, CLOTHES (my favorite part!)

As it is Berkeley, there is no real dress code. People range from t-shirts and shorts to full blown double breasted suits (and I looked sick in that, so don't be hatting now). The weather in Berkeley stays really nice, so it is not uncommon to have a day December game be pretty warm.

The #1 rule most of all is to never, ever, EVER wear red. Ever. People will start the "TAKE OFF THAT RED {Insert Item Of Clothing Here}" Chant. God forbid you go near the student section in red. If we're playing Stanford or USC and you do that, you'll probably be accosted by drunkards. Sure, police will probably step in and protect you but is it really worth it?


So, there is our information on tailgating.  What's yours?  GO BEARS!