Of course, it’s the Big Game, but it’s also the Big Party in the Stanford parking lots

This year, the Big Game was the Big Draw as the Cal Bears and Stanford Cardinal played their annual grudge match in front of real fans – a sharp departure from last year’s empty stadium during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium was empty, the stands devoid of supporters for the biggest game of the year in the old rivalry. This year, fans of both teams took to the grassy parking lots outside Stanford Stadium.

For Ted Zayner, 65, of Woodside, the 124th Big Game was the first time in two years that he had parked his red 1996 Ford F150 in his favorite spot under towering eucalyptus trees – the same place he stayed near 40 years. A red moss finger, a red moss ax, a “Beat Cal” sign and a cartoon of the Stanford tree and fence, known as “Tree-Fence” – a game of “defense »- decorated the front windshield.

“It’s been two years since we’ve had the chance to do something like this for the Big Game, let alone the regular hatchbacks, so it was great to be back on campus,” Zayner said. “It’s the biggest day of the year for football, regardless of the teams’ records. It doesn’t matter how the seasons have gone for each respective team, and I think that’s especially true this year.

Nearby, Randall Williams, 41, of Newark, and Lonell Chattmon, 54, of Hollister, San Benito County, gathered with more than a dozen friends to barbecue, play dominoes on a table in red plastic, smoke cigars and listen to music before the game. . The group ate freshly caught bluefin tuna and huffed at My Father Cigars, laughing and munching to the sound of ’90s hip-hop. Chattmon was the only man equipped with Cal gear in a sea of ​​red gear from Stanford and a told The Chronicle he felt like he was reuniting with family – even though parents rooted opposing teams. The group has attended college football games, including many big games, together over the past six or seven years, he said.

“It’s like we just picked up where we left off,” said Chattmon, referring to the 2020 season where fans weren’t allowed to attend the Big Game. “It’s good to be back here with everything we’ve been through in the last year and a half with the pandemic and things like that. It’s good to have the opportunity to be here with friends.

Signs are seen in a car ahead of the annual big game between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal in Stanford, Calif. On Saturday, November 20, 2021.Stephen Lam / The Chronicle

Williams – a Stanford fan who has had memberships since 2000 – said the historic rivalry between the Bay Area teams is not rooted in resentment, but in respect. He pointed to the friendly tradition of Big Game hatchbacks, saying that anyone can wander from hatchback to hatchback asking for a beer, a bite to eat or just a friendly chat, and “it’s always a good time” among the fans.

The kids had fun with long sticks they found in the grass, played baseball in the dirt, and threw corn holes with their families. Fans placed flags emblazoned with the Stanford tree, and the hatchbacks were open and teeming with stacks of burgers, hot dogs, deli sandwiches, cookies and liquor.

In Lot 10, clouds of barbecue smoke drifted through the leafy trees, and blue and red colored tents dotted the grassy fields, music of different genres blaring from car radios, telephones and boomboxes mounted on it. the trunks: “70s soul, 80s rock, 90s hip-hop.

Travis Parsons, 47, told The Chronicle he was a kid during “The Play” in 1982, when Cal won the Big Game over Stanford in a last-minute savage touchdown. He remembers coming down to the field and running with the players “long after everyone has entered the field”. The Stanford Band also spilled out onto the pitch, mistakenly thinking the game was over.

“It was a great introduction to the Cal-Stanford rivalry,” Parsons said with a broad smile.

Signs are seen in a car ahead of the annual big game between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal in Stanford, Calif. On Saturday, November 20, 2021.
Signs are seen in a car ahead of the annual big game between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal in Stanford, Calif. On Saturday, November 20, 2021.Stephen Lam / The Chronicle

Parsons said he and his family were hoping for a win from Cal, but said barbecuing with friends and family and watching kids throw a soccer ball “is a bit of the magic” of the tailgate.

“The fact that we couldn’t do it last year, it’s even more wonderful to be all together,” he said.

With almost 2-month-old daughter Casey strapped to her chest and 2-year-old son Lucas in tow, Bryan Navarro, 33, of Pittsburg joined family members at their tailgate table, which was decorated with a miniature Christmas tree with googly eyes, a red bow on the tip and red Converse-style shoes.

He said he has been attending Stanford games “since before I can remember,” saying his parents had been taking the family to games since the 1980s when he was a child.

“I am so happy and proud to continue the traditions that my parents made with me when I was a child, with my own children,” said Navarro.

Lauren Hernández is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ByLHernandez


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