Welcome to the refreshed California Golden Blogs! To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card. We’re collecting all of the stories here and featuring the best ones across our network as well. Come Fan With Us!
We’ve done this post a few times before: How did you first become a fan of our beloved California Golden Bears?
In case you missed it the first time, here are three stories from three of your beloved editors from nearly a decade ago, back when we thought Cal would be winning seven to eight games a year for the rest of our lives (not really. But imagine that world!).
TwistNHook: In November 2000, I remember standing out there at Memorial Stadium. Cal was mediocre that year and the year before Stanford had gone to the Rose Bowl. So, the fact that we were currently battling them in OT was insane. We might beat Stanford. We could do this. This was unbelievable, they were supposed to crush us. We were terrible. We…………had hope.
Then, in the blink of an eye, there was a breakdown in coverage, a Stanford player caught the game winning TD and everything stopped. Nobody moved. We had clawed our way back into the game in the 4th quarter only to see another crushing defeat. The student section stood still for minutes at a time. And I remember looking down one row and seeing this 5th year student crying. Crying? Over a football game?
This was only my second year at Cal. Only my second Big Game. Both years at Cal had been, how you say, bad. The year before Kyle Boller (the original Jesus In Cleats) was thrown into the fire, we sucked, and Deltha was our only offense (and he played on defense). And 2000, we were slightly better. But still, nowhere near good. So, ya, it kinda sucked that we had lost Big Game 2000. And it kinda sucked that we had lost it in such a brutal fashion.
But to me, that’s just what we did, lose football games (and in specific Big Games). There was no frame of reference for success. Success at a football game related to how much fun I had with my friends while the game went on, not how well the team did. There generally was an inverse relationship between team success and my fun back then. The worse the team did, the less focused on the game me and my friends were. The more fun we had just relaxing.
So, to see somebody crying over a football game. To see somebody genuinely passionate, that confused me. I couldn’t see it from her angle. 5 years. 5 years! Not a single Big Game victory. 5 years of terrible, terrible football. And that’s how it ended for her.
2 years later, in my final Big Game, we won 30-7, we rushed the field and there were tears. But tears of joy. Not from me, of course. I don’t cry. I’m a boy.
For the first 3 years of my Cal career, I really didn’t care. I went to every single home game from 99-2001 (save for 1 which conflicted with my cousin’s bat mitzvah), not because I wanted to see the team, but because I had to. And it was fun. It was a mildly cool experience. But we didn’t care. Sorry to say it. We just plain didn’t care.
That all changed in September 2002. With merely one halfback option, thrown for a 60 yard touchdown bomb. It truly shocked the Cal world. For a single TD against a sorry Baylor team, we celebrated like it was VJ and VE Day all rolled up into one. This was a new era, this was a new team. This was a new time. The night after the Big Game, we bitterly cursed the freshmen in the band (now well graduated), mocking them for not knowing what it meant, what we had truly done that day. To them, they might have a mental appreciation, but not a gutteral or emotional appreciation. To them it was just a Big Game win, one of many to come.
But for us, it was for all of our friends, who spent years following Cal, going to Cal games, marching at halftime, just to watch us fall to those damnable red fools down South. It wasn’t just for us. It was for the classes that came before us, who never got to experience that.
I’m not exactly an Old Blue, but that’s what these Newer Blues don’t get. They don’t have that frame of reference of failure. I wish desperately sometimes that I had started in 2002 or later. That I never had to suffer 3 years of the Holmoecaust. But I think it makes me a better fan for it.
Instead of saying “4-1, I can’t believe we lost that 1” I can say “4-1, I can’t believe we made it past 2!” That is my story. What’s yours?
Scott Chong: My great-grandfather went to Cal. He was an ME/CE and designed the lighting system on the Bay Bridge. Sadly enough, his gift for math, design, and calligraphy didn’t pass down as I am a math idjut, my handwriting looks like hieroglyphs, and I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler. Both of my grandfathers went to Cal. One worked as an engineer for United, and the other served in the army and then worked for the Atomic Energy Commission as an accountant. My lack of math skillz is starting to make me look like the runt of the litter…
My parents met at Cal in a good old fashioned boy-meets-girl, girl-says-hell no, boy-stalks-girl, girl-facepalms-but-admits-boy-is-strangely-cute, kind of story. Many moons later, I started going to Cal football games with my dad around age 8. Quite honestly, I didn’t become a real football or basketball fan until I was junior high/high school age. But, my dad always made it a special experience to go to games with him. We would drive out early to have breakfast with my grandparents. My grandmother used to be one of the best cooks anywhere. She would prepare a farmer-style spread that makes me salivate just thinking about it – eggs, home fries, bacon, sausages, home-made biscuits and gravy. Then, she’d pack up a special half-time snack (sandwiches, chips, dessert, mac or potato salad, hard-boiled egg) and send us on our way. After watching the Cal Band perform their pre-game concert on Sproul. We’d hit the ice cream shop on Bancroft and then walk up to the stadium to watch the team warm-up. In later years, we’d march up with the band to enjoy their on the move renditions of the Cal Drinking Song and the song featuring the Titanic sinking. Usually, the game itself featured Cal getting the snot kicked out of them. (I did have a few good years while growing up thanks to Pawlawski and Russell White under Coach Synder) Afterwards, we’d take my grandfather back home where my grandmother would have another enormous meal waiting for us. For the Big Games, Grandma would take her show on the road and prepare the best tailgate spread you’ve ever seen. To this day, her fried chicken is still the best that I’ve had anywhere.
We didn’t start going to basketball games until I was older…but it just so happens that we that the beginning of our bball fan-dom coincided with the arrival of a certain Jason Kidd. That pretty much sealed the deal. In later years, I got up early and ran with the bulls for student tickets. I blew off studying for the GRE to watch the team win an NIT championship in NY. I also almost got suspended from my residency for not scheduling any patients for a night clinic session so I could attend Cal-ucla.
My parents still attend all the home football/basketball games and will often travel to support the team for select away games. With the arrival of the offspring, particularly Psycho Teething Baby, I’ve been home-bound the last few years. CGB has been a great way of sharing a game-day experience with other fans as well as keeping up to speed. (Mrs. Kod just sighs a lot when I make her watch replays on tv.)
So, I suppose the combination of food and fun times with my dad made it an easy indoctrination into the Way of the Bear. Even though my mom insisted that I apply to other UC’s and even to ’furd, I knew where I wanted to go. In fact, I sent ’furds “do you want to come here?” postcard back to them covered with Cal stickers. They actually sent me a 2nd letter asking me to “clarify.” Douches.
The girls are a little too young to sit through games, but I’m looking forward to bringing them within the next few years. The older one already thinks that the proper response to “Hurray!” is “Go Bears!” :)
Nick Kranz: My great grandfather and great grandmother met at Cal in the 1910s (and I have a Cal songbook from the era that doesn’t even include ‘Big C’ because it wasn’t written yet!). Their son (my grandfather) went to Cal on the GI bill after serving in the European Theater of WWII. His daughter (my mother) went to Cal, where she met my father.
Cal fandom is in my blood. I attended 8 Big Games prior to my college years. As a preteen I loved Sean Dawkins and Ed Gray and I couldn’t understand why the 49ers wanted Mooch. As a high-schooler I loved Nick Harris and Andre Carter, hated Tom Holmoe and Ty Willingham, and was utterly convinced that Ben Braun was the guy to take Cal to the promised land (oops). It was my dream to attend Berkeley.
I applied to Cal, Davis, and Santa Cruz, and was only accepted to UCSC. while I tried to decide which college housing to choose as a Banana Slug, my father insisted I appeal to both Davis and Berkeley. A few weeks later Davis sent back their response: Rejected again. I sent in an enrollment fee to Santa Cruz. Another week later and I come home from a track meet. My mom handed me an unusually thick envelope. …Seriously, Berkeley accepted me on appeal?!? You’ve gotta be kidding me! This is the greatest thing ever!!!
5 months later I’m in the student section as we all hold hands and pray as Tyler Frederickson lines up for a field goal in triple OT against USC. 6 years later and I’m getting married to the girl I met at Berkeley.
I’m a very lucky guy.
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