Here in Berkeley I'm living in the International House (affectionately known as I-House). I've previously lived in the International House at Sydney (which we called IH), and sometime soon I'll write more about these places. But earlier today I attended my first college football match, courtesy of some free tickets from I-House. It was the opening game of the season - the California Golden Bears playing at home in Berkeley against Nevada.
Now, I know that college football is a thing here. But I wasn't prepared for just how much of a thing it would be. I-House Berkeley is situated right next to California Memorial Stadium, which has just been rebuilt from the ground up. This was the homecoming match for the stadium and the Bears, who had played in San Francisco last year. As I strolled out of I-House, here was the sight that greeted me:
There were people everywhere. It seemed like half the population of Berkeley was streaming up the road and into the massive stadium - families, older folk, university students alike. And that was nothing compared to inside...
Over 63,000 people turned up to the game. By way of reference, UC Berkeley only has 36,000 students, and the vast majority of people I saw in the streets were just members of the public. As an Australian, having this many people show up to a inter-university sports match is mind-boggling.
The match itself was an error-strewn affair befitting the opening game of the season. The Bears quickly found themselves in a 14-0 hole thanks to some sloppy defence in the first quarter. However, they eventually found some momentum and engineered an exciting comeback to tie the game at 24-24 with 5 minutes left. But critical errors by the Bears in the dying stages of the game allowed Nevada to score a decisive final touchdown to win 31-24 and disappointing the home crowd.
Also somewhat disconcerting to me was just how long American football takes. There's 60 minutes of game time, divided into 4 quarters. But the match took 3 hours 45 minutes to finish! So many things that happen on-field can stop the game clock, and when you throw in a half-time show, timeouts, team strategising, and more, a game really does eat the whole afternoon away. However, the atmosphere was electric, and the crowd was heavily involved throughout. I had a lot of fun, and I'm sure I'll attend more matches this year. Go Bears!