By Claire Walla
There I was, at the Holiday Bowl, in a stadium brought to life by fierce opposition, standing within a solid sea of navy blue T-shirts, with a flashy blue pompom in one hand and a golden paw print painted on my cheek.
Before this year, I didn’t care much for football.
Before this game, I didn’t care much about the absence of football at UC Santa Cruz.
In fact, the closest thing I had to football loyalty came by way of my father, a die-hard Chicago Bears fan who had suffered for most of his life rooting for a football team that had historically found more success on Saturday Night Live than on the gridiron.
But this year things were different.
The Chicago Bears have finally managed to live up to their name. Chicago’s successful record (13-3) has already made them this year’s NFC North Division titleholder, giving the team a realistic shot at getting to the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years (which would also give my father a much-needed break from seasonal cynicism).
Chicago’s record was 12-2 when I was offered the chance to go to the Holiday Bowl to see the Cal Bears in action. Because of my newfound appreciation for Bears, I set course for the San Diego Holiday Bowl, eager to enter into the world of football fandom and watch Cal duke it out against Texas A&M.
Much like Chicago, the Cal Bears have had a rough past.
The thing about Bears, it seems, is that even when they show signs of promise, they somehow manage to snap back to old ways and blow it in the end.
Though Cal blew a chance to play in the Rose Bowl, the fact that they secured a Bowl spot is no small feat, and Cal fans were in good spirits the day of the game.
The city of San Diego was already crawling with Bears fans of all shapes and sizes by the time I got there. There were armies of people in navy tees, all unified with a golden script that either read, "Cal," or "Go Bears!" These people marked the course of every path I took, spanning the city as far as the eye could see.
I had never felt more like a Slug.
In a last minute attempt to join the crowd, I quickly secured an illumined, navy hat of my own and crowned myself a Bear fan. Suddenly worthy of recognition, I heard "Go Bears!" whenever I passed a fellow Cal fan, to which I always replied, "Go Bears!"
This all made me wonder how football would change the face of UCSC. Or, would football change the face of UCSC?
As the Bear’s game progressed, Cal took the lead – we cheered. And when Cal maintained the lead, we continued to cheer. Soon Cal was looking at a blowout, and the game was over (45-10) – and the cheers persisted.
The mass of navy-clad fans was unstoppable; even as they piled out of the stadium, cheers reverberated in the parking lot. Football was beginning to wear on me.
The temporality of excitement was suddenly apparent.
I took off my hat, happy once again to be a Slug.
The next day, Cal fans eagerly read the morning headlines, but – for the most part – they were packing up their cars and heading home.
The hype had simmered and – once again – I found myself no longer caring whether or not UCSC had a team of its own.
After all, there was still my Dad, a true Bears fan, who would no doubt continue to update me on the state of his Bears-and that season is not yet over.
This weekend, the Chicago Bears go head to head against the New Orleans Saints, in a game that will clinch a spot in the Super Bowl for one of the two teams.