Via Leonpowe: I think it's really important for me to talk about how much his (Ken) being mic-man impacted my Cal fandom. I grew up a pretty big sports fan - my dad and I went to lots of pro sports when I was growing up - Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and a couple of UCLA games (pro sports . . get it?). But, my high school was terrible at major sports, my junior and senior years we won a total of 5 football and basketball games combined. So I was really looking forward to attending Cal as a freshman in 1992 - I mean we'd have Heisman Candidate Russell White with a team coming of a National #7 ranking . . . what could go wrong? (Oh Cal Sports, always ready to teach a life lesson).
Anyways, behind Gilby and some injuries, we floundered to a 4-7 record. And while I remember some lingering gut punch defeats from that season - what stands out in my memory a lot more was just how much fun it was to attend a college football game - even though the product on the field was less than spectacular, the guy standing on the boards made the games fun.
And that guy was Ken Montgomery. How did he do it? He knew the game - that much was clear - especially in the interceding years when we've had a lot of other mic men (and women) who have ranged from pretty good to terrible. The first and most important part was knowing when to cheer and make noise and when to shut up and when to crack jokes. It was really the last part - not that he was cracking jokes, but he was definitely having a lot of fun with the opportunity to be mic-man. It was a constant conversation with the student section, knowing what to say, commanding, but friendly hat really enriched my game experience as a freshman. And when I speak to alums who are slightly older than I am (my freshman year was the last year Ken was mic man) they mainly remember the same thing. Ken made the game fun. And that, more than anything, contributed to being a Cal fan for life.
But lest you think that he is just about Cal sports, Montgomery too has dedicated much of his time and energy to philanthropic efforts in Africa. He spent a year volunteering at Malawi Children's Village, a village based orphan and other vulnerable children support program in Mangochi, Malawi. It now supports over 2,000 HIV/AIDS orphans living with members of their extended family in 37 villages. MCV supports children from birth to eighteen years providing, shelter, food, safety, health care and education until they can live independent healthy lives. There Montgomery designed and implemented intensive math and English tutorial programs for the high school aged children. These efforts helped MCV orphans pass the national exam (similar to the US SAT) at a rate four times greater than the national average! Upon returning to the United State Montgomery served as president of the board of the US Non Profit that over saw it and along with other board members spearheaded efforts to raise funds which built a new high school and vocational training center. In a small coincidence, one of Montgomery's students just recently graduated from University and in July will be making his first trip to the United States to train for the Clinton Global Initiative!
From his 2011 Q&A:
There are few legends among the Cal spirit squads, but Montgomery is one of them. Long considered the Teddy Roosevelt of Cal Mic Men (for being thoroughly awesome in every way, and a pioneer of sorts), Montgomery is the man current Mic Men should idolize and replicate. His passion and love for all things Cal translated into some of the most raucous student sections that ever populated Memorial Stadium and Harmon Gymnasium in the early 90s.
He explains how he fell into the role:
So, I hate to sound like one of those people living in the past, but I remember it like it was yesterday. CAL was down by I think 7. So I turned to the crowd, which had been apathetic, and said "Hey Everyone. We are playing the defending national champions... we are only down by 7. The team is playing great. But you don't seem to be in the game. Listen, we come here to have fun right?" And to my surprise a lot of people shouted back "YEAH!" And then I said "So are you ready to start making some noise and getting behind the team?" And again, more people shouted "YEAH!" So then I said "O.K., here's what we're going to do. It's an oldie, it's simple and effective. On three, everyone yell GO BEARS!.... One, two, three", and then you know what, everyone yelled "GO BEARS!!!"
I can't explain what a high it was and how exhilarating to have everyone do what I just told them to do. Then I said "You can't cheer sitting down, you all need to stand up!" That's right, back in the day people actually sat down during the games... So then everyone got up... again, I was thinking to myself "wow, they're doing what I'm saying." So we did another Go Bears! and that is how it all started... So a little later Miami was about to punt and I got everyone chanting "Block that kick! Block that kick!" and you know what, we blocked the punt!!! The crowd went wild, and while I am sure it was unrelated, it got everyone thinking they could have an impact on the game. It was awesome.
He shares one of his favorite memories:
On our way back we stopped by the office where I worked while I was at CAL. Now across Harrison Street was the GAP HQ. So from my office I could see Don Fisher, CEO and founder of the GAP as well as huge CAL alum - was in his office. So down on the street I had the band play the fight song up towards Don's office... He looked out his 6th floor window and pumped his fist, which was cool. But as we were getting on the bus, Don came running across the street to thank us and play another song. I mean, how cool is that? This titan of American business, the owner of one of the iconic American brands that is - literally - a part of the very fabric of America, dropped what he was doing and rushed down to the street because he was so excited about hearing the CAL band! That is the kind of stuff I just love.