This Saturday, Stanford will travel to Berkeley to take on their century old rival Cal in the Big Game. While this rivalry has lost some of its luster for many fans both locally and globally from both schools, this game will always be THE game for me. Growing up in a Stanford household, beating Cal was right next to eating, sleeping, and breathing. I learned “The Dirty Golden Bear” song at a very young age and if you don’t know what it is, I highly suggest looking it up and learning it. My first Stanford-Cal game was in 1997 and I have only missed one since.
I haven’t cared that when these two teams meet, the score is usually one-sided and when one team wins, it’s usually one of many in a streak like Stanford currently has going looking for number 7 in a row. If Cal is good, I want to ruin their season and if Cal is bad, I want to keep piling sand on their heads. I never want to see Cal win a game and that is a true rivalry feeling. If Stanford were to go 11-1 and that one loss was to Cal, only a National Championship victory would ease that pain and if I am being honest, I still wouldn’t forget it. Reverse the wins and losses and if Stanford were to go 1-11, if that win were against Cal, the season would definitely suck but the victory over Cal would last me until the following season.
The funny thing about the pleasure of beating Cal or the pain of losing to Cal is we all have our favorite moments and our worst moments. Now, I was not alive for “The Play” nor was any current Cal student or alumni post 2000 even though they will act like they were there but that loss sucks just watching and hearing Joe Starkey climax but that wasn’t the worst loss to be a part of. That loss is reserved for the 2009 Big Game that Cal won at Stanford 34-28.
Stanford had Toby Gerhart, Andrew Luck, and a 14-0 lead. Stanford would blow that lead and be down by 10 twice in the game. In the 4th quarter, Stanford had the ball with a chance to win the game. It was the ultimate rush as Gerhart had a 29-yard rush to the Cal 13-yardline. The only question that was rushing through my mind was if Stanford was going to score too fast. And then, Luck made one of his only mistakes in college on the next play as he threw a game-ending interception. The reason why this loss ranks as number #1 in my book isn’t just the loss itself but the Cal students and fans rushed the field. It was the worst thing to ever see live and luckily for me, that was the last time Cal has had the Stanford Axe.
Fast forward almost exactly a year to the date, Stanford showed up to Berkeley with a look that I had never seen from the players, coaches and fans. We were salivating for a win. Cal has usually been a hostile place for Stanford fans but many people including myself walked into that stadium like we owned the place. On the field, it started pregame with Jamal-Rashad Patterson getting in the face of the Cal players and getting ejected. There was absolutely no fear from anyone dressed in red and white that day. Stanford would have great moments such as Luck running over a Cal player and Doug Baldwin making spectacular catches all over the field. And when the clock struck 00:00 and Stanford won 48-14, we rushed the field and celebrated like it was the last time Stanford would ever play a football game again.
That feeling is something too many fans need to get back in their systems. This game matters more than any other game on the schedule. It’s a chance for a year’s worth of bragging rights. For the Cal fan base, it’s a chance to show Stanford and the admissions process that they belonged. For Stanford, it’s a chance to keep the world round.
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