Picture this: It’s a Saturday morning during fall 2019. You’re awoken by the sound of your hallmate blasting music out of their portable speaker. Just as you’re about to question the entire reason for your existence, you notice their obnoxiously blue and gold outfit and remember that it’s actually a game day, one of the few days a year this kind of behavior can be tolerated. You forgive your hallmate and mentally prepare for the excitement the day has in store.
Celebrating game days is an almost essential part of the brief four years we’re given as undergraduates. There’s an abundance of game day propaganda that circulates when the fall season rolls around that makes not participating in the festivities much harder than succumbing to the longstanding tradition. We’re primed by the media and our school to want to commemorate the day on which our football team either wins — or, if you’re Stanford playing Cal in 2019 — loses.
When you open Instagram during football season, you’re bombarded with pictures of students in customized outfits with colors to match their school, Barstool Sports posts mocking rival universities with crudely made memes and discussions of which way the score of the game might go. Game day advertisements are impossible to avoid, so why not just give into the pressure?
Before I came to college, I knew that football games held a lot of significance to the university experience, but I could not have predicted the lengths I would go to in order to celebrate a football game with my friends. Waking up early on a Saturday combined with the long uphill walk from my residence hall to Memorial Stadium were just some of the sacrifices I made to make the most of my game day.
Game days look different for different communities at Cal, and my freshman year game days were just one example of how important they are to upholding our school spirit. If you’re part of the Greek life community, then you probably celebrate (during a normal, nonpandemic year) by dancing to blaringly loud music in large crowds at frats.
If you’re a football player, your game day is filled with the pressure of bringing home a win for your school and advancing your team’s ranking in hopes of winning a championship. Game days for you are not one big party like they are for the rest of the school, but might become one once the game ends and you have a victory on your hands.
Regardless of what community you belong to, many highlights of the day are universally enjoyed. One noteworthy Cal game day perk that some might remember from pre-pandemic times are the hotdogs sold outside of Memorial Stadium. Whether you like hotdogs or not, you have to admit that walking past the smell of beef and onions on a portable grill made your mouth water.
Another invariably experienced game day tradition is waiting in a long line outside the stadium to be let into the student section. Why was the line always so long? I thought that UC Berkeley students were supposed to be known for their poor attendance at sporting events. I respect the stadium workers for their ability to control the crowds, but I regret many wasted game day minutes spent baking under the sun in line when I could have been enjoying my time in the stands.
However you choose to spend your game days, it’s an uncontested fact that they bring people from all parts of the school together. The game day propaganda we see everywhere reminds us of why we appreciate our football team and our school at large. Past game days have served as a unifying force — everyone loves a good ol’ football victory for the bears — while future game days will cause us to reminisce on a time when we weren’t able to congregate.
Hopefully next year, we’ll feel grateful to be able to return to a typical college experience, complete with game days and in-person classes — the whole nine yards. Game days are vital to maintaining school spirit and creating solidarity among the student body and, as an added bonus, they’re also really fun. Here’s to future game days. May they be all we expect and more.