It’s that very special time of year again. The time of the season that gives you warm and fuzzy feelings inside and brings you closer to friends and family. A moment in time where everywhere you look is decorated with bright colors to honor the occasion. An event worth celebrating that only comes once a year.
No — I’m not talking about Christmas.
Sept. 4 is the first Cal football game of the 2021 season. A home game against Nevada is enough of a reason for crowds to show up, but this isn’t just any old home game. Fans will return to the stadium in full force, ready to show their in-person support for a team that’s gone far too long without it.
There’s no good way to put into words how important fans are to the game of football. The sheer motivation that thousands of cheers from faithful followers in the stands brings to a team is immeasurable.
Fans introduce positive reinforcement back into Memorial Stadium. When Cal scores a touchdown, loyal Bears will be there to scream at the top of their lungs with exhilaration. The noise from the stands reverberating into the field can cause players’ adrenaline to spike, potentially improving their performance.
In close proximity to the recently renamed FTX Field are rows of fraternity and sorority houses, united under the sole purpose of honoring their team. Cal alumni walk the streets adorned in blue and gold, holding a beverage in hand or a steaming hot dog that they purchased from the local street vendor. There are too many amazing things about home football games to even keep track of them all.
Good things about game days aside, the Bears’ homecoming at FTX Field comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the Berkeley area, especially as students return to in-person instruction.
The game Sept. 4 is a cause for reflection. We are still very much facing a pandemic, but it’s been 18 months and 97.2% of the undergraduate campus is fully vaccinated. The tough question of whether or not we should fully celebrate the Nevada game while still amid the COVID-19 pandemic is one that I face on a personal level, having recently been diagnosed with the virus months after receiving both doses of the vaccine.
I’m excited about the game and the fact that my quarantine ends just days before, leaving me with the possibility of attending, but I’m anxious about the future of campus and at the prospect that more of my peers might become infected in the coming weeks and months.
The pandemic has created many levels of uncertainty and fans returning to stadiums are not exempt from it. Football needs fans, but fans also need to prioritize their health and well-being. Memorial Stadium is an outdoor venue which could help minimize potential spread, but there are other game day events that have the potential to put attendees at risk.
The age-old question of “should we invest so much time and money into our school’s football program while our campus environment is not completely safe from the effects of COVID-19” still rings true, even after a tumultuous 2020 season without fans in attendance.
With so many variables to consider, the blue and gold’s advent will be bittersweet. Christmas in September can’t come fast enough, but it certainly won’t feel normal in the way that pre-pandemic games did.
Nevertheless, it’s good to have the bears home and it’s good to be home — even if my current home is the small room I’m quarantining from the rest of my house in.
Mia Horne is the sports editor. Contact her at email@example.com.