Upon going to the United States, I was really excited to go to American University sports events. My expectations were high, but they couldn’t possibly match what was waiting for me when I visited a football game between the San Diego State University Aztecs and the University of California Golden Bears.
It was a hot Sunday when we arrived at the parking lot of Qualcomm Stadium. On my left students were playing Beerpong, on my right students were playing Flipcup, and in front of me students were partying on top of some cars. These festivities are part of an American tradition called tailgating – a gathering of fans before the start of a game to get in the right mood by barbequing and having some drinks. Tailgating is unlike anything you will see in Europe, which is a shame, as it’s an incredibly fun experience.
After enjoying the tailgate, we went into the stadium, where a tremendous show ensued. Under guidance from the marching band, the cheerleaders and the Diamonds, another cheer team, were doing their thing to get the crowd hyped for the game. The crowd erupted as the Aztec football players stormed onto the pitch. The same football players I had met a few weeks earlier during the Football Swarm – an event where students get the chance to meet and practice with the football team. As soon as the opposing team came out of the tunnel the atmosphere in the stadium completely turned around. The cheers faded as thousands of students started chanting “F*** Cal! F*** Cal!” The Aztecs and the Golden Bears were big rivals and it definitely showed throughout the game.
The Aztecs played a great game in the first half and we were up 31-21 at halftime. With every Aztec touchdown, the fireworks seemed to get brighter and the cheers seemed to get louder. The cheerleaders kept the crowd involved with their cheers and dances and the “I believe that we will win” song got more and more intense as the game ensued. The halftime show reminded me of the opening ceremony of the European Championship of soccer from the past summer. The marching band put up an unbelievable show while the crowd united to scream the words of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. After a humorous Kiss Cam on the big screen, it was time for the second half.
The second half was one as crazy as I have ever seen. The game seemed to be over multiple times as the Aztecs kept expanding their lead, but the Golden Bears wouldn’t give up and kept coming back in the game. There were a little over 10 seconds left till the end when the Golden Bears had the chance to win the game at the Aztec 22-yard line. The Golden Bears had just miraculously recovered the ball after scoring a touchdown with less than a minute left to advance the score to 45-40.
The Golden Bears snapped the ball and their quarterback threw it towards the Aztec’s end zone. A touchdown would put the Golden Bears ahead and their receiver was ready for an easy catch-and-rush to win the game. The ball seemed to be floating in the air forever as the crowd turned silent, holding their breath. Just when it seemed to be all over, SDSU’s Damontae Kazee came out of nowhere and jumped in front of his opponent to intercept the ball. An unbelievable noise followed as the crowd erupted. We had just beaten our big rivals from the University of California, one of the countries’ best college football teams. The team celebrated like they had just won the championship and the crowd didn’t hold anything back while loudly singing the Aztecs fight song.
After elaborately celebrating the victory, it was time to go home. It had been an amazing day: the atmosphere, the tailgate, the band and the cheerleaders, the game – it was an unbelievable show that I will never forget.
By Alexander Baanen