NorcalNick: Easily the best part of my experience with CGB, the very reason I come back every day, has been forging connections and friendships. And one of the first connections I made was with Bryan Harland.
And one of Bryan’s greatest gifts to all of us was his help in forging more friendships. Bryan, with the help of other Cal Band alums, helped to organize and host a tailgate every week, and was unfailingly welcoming to anybody and everybody he met. He didn’t need to know anything about you – if you were a Cal fan, you were invited to the tailgate. And if you weren’t a Cal fan? Well, then you were probably invited too.
Because of his larger-than-life kindness and friendliness, the ‘Drink Squad’ tailgates quickly became an unofficial CGB meet-and-greet hang out before every home game. And they became the highlight of game day. When my wife and I came home after a rough work day, we would remind each other that it would only be a few more days until we’d be sharing a beer with the rest of the drink squad.
Bryan was instrumental in building that community, and his willingness to share that community with everybody was his gift to us. Losing him irrevocably diminishes our community, and it is our duty as friends and as Bears to honor and remember him. With that in mind, here are some thoughts and memories from those who knew our good friend Bryan.
Sam Fielder: I met Bryan just about 11 months ago at a CGB Happy Hour in my honor when I was in town. There was a fiasco with everyone meeting up and being late and me leaving and then coming back but once we finally all got settled in, it was like being with friends I'd had my entire life. Bryan was the life of the party and every little occasion throughout the night was celebrated with a shot of Jameson. I'm not much of a drinker (my wife calls me a no-weight) but I ended up doing 3 shots of Jameson that night, a small fraction of the 32 total shots that our happy little group consumed. Of course there was plenty of food and other drinks that were abundant as well, and at the end of the night the total bill was well north of $700. As we tried to sort through it and establish who owed what, Bryan just grabbed it, plunked down his credit card, and said it was all on him. That's just the kind of a guy he was.
Eight months later, at the initial tailgate for the 2013 football season I had the honor of introducing him and my Dad, and of course Bryan was as fun as ever. "Holy crap man! I can't believe you guys came all the way out here! This is awesome!" His smile was infectious, his laugh was contagious, and he will be sorely missed by any and all that encountered him.
Scott Chong: I hadn't even met Bryan in person when he invited me to the Drink Squad tailgate.
Within minutes of arrival, I was greeted, hugged, and found myself shotgunning my first beer.
He just had a knack for making everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
At the last HH I attended, he gave me a really hard time about being such a dreamy-looking celebrity...and then bought everyone an extra round of Jamesons while we were laughing about it.
Best of all, my daughter Jocey didn't mind tagging along with me to the tailgates because "Uncle Bryan" kept sneaking her treats when he thought I wasn't looking.
I don't think I can attend another HH or tailgate without thinking about him. And I may very well get chills and cry the first time I hear the crowd cheer, "Cal Band Great."
He was a good man, a great friend, and I'll miss him very much.
Leland Wong: When I first met Bryan, I didn't actually meet Bryan. He gave me a firm handshake, a warm smile, and said "Hi, I'm Bryan, also known as TwistNHook." And that is the kind of guy Bryan was. He was funny and always able to have a good time. His fun-loving personality was great; he always had something funny to say or a way to get people to laugh.
The best part about Bryan was that he not only always had a great time himself, but he always made sure the people around him were enjoying themselves. Like Sam said, he generously made sure the drinks were flowing for his friends; as someone who doesn't drink, he always made a point to make sure I had a water or "the best root beer" he ever had in hand.
I was never lucky enough to go to one of his famed tailgates, but by all accounts, they exemplify the kind of man Bryan was. Everyone seemed to have a blast with enough food and drinks for all, but the best part about the tailgates--and the best part of Bryan--was that welcoming spirit. If you just uttered the word "tailgate" in anticipation of a Cal game, he would immediately invite you. It doesn't matter if you were a member of the Cal family or dressed in the visiting team's colors. You would be invited and accepted. You would have a great time and Bryan would make sure of that.
That kind and loving heart is what I'll miss most about Bryan. I last saw him about two months ago (when he was gushing over Scott's smile). When I went to shake his hand, he slapped my hand away and gave me a huge hug. Now, that is truly who Bryan was. A man with a big, warm heart who cared for his friends. He made sure we were all enjoying ourselves, having fun, and laughing. When he spoke to you, he had a genuine interest in how you're doing and offered any help or advice he could. When the bill came, he couldn't care less if he was paying more than his share. And when it was time to leave, he made sure everyone had a safe way to get home. He was a great man with a lot of love for his friends. His fun-loving and kind-hearted personality showed in everything he did.
LeonPowe: My experience was almost exactly the same as UncleSam22's. I too attended a happy hour in my co-honor earlier this year (January) along with TheBuckeyeBear. And then meeting him again at the Cal Drink Squad tailgate before the Northwestern game. I had only interacted with Bryan over CGB and hadn't known him outside of an internet context but within minutes of first meeting him, it was as if we were friends from college. He was warm, gracious and made it his mission to make sure everyone was having a great time and was enjoying themselves. He will be missed.
Berkelium 97: The last time I saw Bryan (in person) really exemplified the kind of guy he was. We were first introduced by Twist several years ago at a rugby game or open spring practice or some other Cal event. By the time the 2011 Holiday Bowl rolled around, I hadn't seen him in a couple years. We mostly interacted through CGB and I was constantly entertained by his humorous comments and impressed by the breadth of his classic Simpsons references. Anyway, I joined him, the Cal Drink Squad, and several others (including some CGB folks who stopped by) at another one of his legendary tailgates. Although I hadn't seen him in a while, it was like we were old buddies. He was warm and accommodating and wanted to ensure that everyone at the tailgate--friend, stranger, or even Texas fan--was having a great time. He was happy to share food, drink, and good times with everyone nearby. We shotgunned beers, cheered as the Cal band paraded through the parking lot, and looked ahead to glorious vengeance against the detestable Mack Brown. While the game itself was less than pleasant, I fondly recall the Holiday Bowl thanks to Bryan and his tailgate.
Although he was taken from us far too soon, I hope he is in a better place now. A place where Cal visits the Rose Bowl more than once every 54 years. A place where elevator music is replaced by Cal band tunes. A place where all meals are enjoyed in the company of friends and fellow Cal supporters. A place where when people say "Cal Band Great," they're talking about Bryan. He was a great person and he will be missed.
Vlad Belo: I only met Bryan in person once. It was when Cal played Ohio State in Columbus in 2012. Bryan was, of course, the point man for organizing a kickass tailgate at a premium location near the stadium (with the help of one of CALumbus Bear's numerous business contacts in town). Though I "knew" Bryan as "CalBandGreat" on CGB for a long time, I met him for the first time when I went to the tailgate that beautiful sunny day. He was friendly and fun -- I felt like I had known him for years even though I just met him in person for the first time.
Later that day, after the game, a large group of us Cal folks ended up at Matt the Millers for dinner in the Grandview Heights section of Columbus. That is a night I'll never forget. So. Much. Fun. And a huge reason for that was Bryan. I don't know if it's still on YouTube out there, but Bryan led our group in a spirited singing of the Cal Drinking Song. Not once, but twice. (Or was it more?!?) I think the locals who chose to dine at Matt the Millers in Grandview that night were annoyed at their choice that evening. Bryan made sure we made that place Bear Territory. It was a great time. I'll cherish it now more than ever.
You are missed already, Bryan and will continue to be missed.
CAL BAND GREAT!
Avinash Kunnath: Bryan was one of the old originals at CGB, here before many of us even realized how big this thing would become, back when there were treesitters to eject from trees and Jahvid Best was piling up yards like autumn leaves. He was one of the first people to make this community the special place that it is, and I'm really happy that I was able to know him.
Bryan is the best kind of sports fan, someone who could never be too shaken by the worst of losses while exulting in the greatest of wins (in fact as far as he was concerned, every Saturday was a reason to celebrate life, win or loss). Almost all our interactions would come in some parking lot. he would always carry a can of beer in one hand, with a smile lighting up the rest of whatever tailgate was about to shotgun down.
He would always be there for the good times and do his best to cast off the bad times. I remember how sad he was when Cal baseball was cut and how happy he was to be part of that wild ride to the World Series. His memory of last week's Cal-UCLA game: "I had Twist and Golden Oso over to watch the game and had a great time." That game was pretty tough to watch for even the sturdiest golden bear, and Bryan was enjoying life like he always does. There's always next week, always next season, and always friends to share those experiences with regardless.
(The angriest I ever made him was when I suggested moving the Cal Band from RR. I remember that quote all too well: "I too have no affiliation with the band and think anyone who considers moving them to be worse than Hitler." That's going in the memoirs.)
It was guys like Bryan that made me realize that there was a reason I wanted to be a part of Twist's little social online experiment. Unlike so many of the other little virtual sports bars on the Internet that make you feel like you're wasting your years away fighting random NIMBY-types, CGB was a place that was fun to sit back and talk with a bunch of people who shared a common connection. It was a place to share a love for Cal sports, a love for the good times at Berkeley, a love for being a Golden Bear.
Yeah, the Rose Bowl might not come this year or next year or even longer than that, but every year we'll drink to California. That's what Bryan taught me. A drink to him too.
atomsareenough: I didn't know Bryan very long, but he was one of those guys that you feel is your bro pretty much immediately after you meet him. Maybe it's the bond created by a few too many shots of Jameson (usually coming upon Bryan's insistence), but it was there and it was real. Bryan was one of the most gregarious and genuine guys you could ever meet. I got to hang out with him several times at our occasional CGB happy hours, and at a couple of games, and he was always the life of the party, sometimes to a fault :) He never failed to be encouraging, generous, and warm towards everyone he met. He took pains to make sure everyone else was having a good time. He was quick to smile and share a laugh. His loyalty to his friends and his teams was true and unceasing, and although he hated to lose, he took things in stride. I always enjoyed being around him, and his welcoming spirit and engaging disposition were key to ensuring that our CGB get-togethers weren't just awkward gatherings of internet nerds, but were more like family reunions.
I'll miss you, bro.