Monday, July 28, 2008

The Sydney Morning Herald: Aussie has Wardrobe Malfunction at College Football Game

(This is from the Australian paper’s travel section.)


The manicured lawns of the University of California, Berkeley campus stretch up the hill as hordes of yellow and blue "Cal" supporters stream towards Memorial Stadium. This is bear territory - Golden Bear territory. And I'm wearing a bright red jacket, red-and-white shoes and a red scarf.

Rookie error number one: wearing red to a California Bears home game when the opposition, the Washington State Cougars, are sporting red and white.  It's college football game day in Berkeley and the California girls are excited. A bouncing blonde prances towards us as though she's stepped out of a varsity flick. "Hi, hi, hi!" she beams. A sorority sister for sure.  As three Aussies carrying a cooler filled with beer, we're trying our best to blend in with the fans. It's not working. We've heard rumours of pre-match parties in the car park, fondly dubbed "tailgating". Sports fans allegedly park their trucks and booze in the truck's tray. Bring it on.

A smoky barbecue scent wafts towards us, lifting our spirits. But there's nothing raucous about this scene. A female madrigal group is clustered in a half-circle singing team songs, a capella. With actions. It's a gathering for Cal alumni and everyone is wearing blue and yellow.  We sidestep the oldies and continue towards the stadium. On an Astroturf pitch in front of the stadium kids toss footballs in the "funzone" and a digital clock counts down to game time.  As Queen's We Will Rock You fades, the UC marching band rolls up the hill, beating their drums and flashing their brass.

"You're wearing a red jacket at a Cal game?" a beer-bellied supporter jeers. "Bad move. Real bad move."

The sun has dropped, as has the temperature, but I need no further encouragement. I fold my jacket away and head for the grandstand.  The marching band is on the field, twisting and dancing as they play, true musical athletes. For their finale, they weave into formation to spell "Cal" in cursive. Brilliant. Off come the caps, placed over the hearts, and we're praising the "land of the free and the home of the brave". The players burst onto the field with their helmets and shoulder pads, thumping their chests. It's all here - topless fans with a letter each on their bodies spelling G-O B-E-A-R-S!, pompom-touting cheerleaders, whistle-happy referees.

But the highlight is the half-time entertainment. The marching band returns playing theme songs from classic arcade games. They weave into formation again, creating a video game screen as Mario and Luigi dash through the maze.  We meet the president of the "Cal Moms" fan club wearing a cap emblazoned with her son's name and number, and the boys are swept up in the cheering frenzy. As our Bears score a touchdown with 10 minutes left to play, we head for the exit, triumphant. The boys are clutching a Cal cap each, but the spirit of the game is more than merchandise deep. Go Bears!

No comments: