“Oh my god, the most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heart rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!”
Announcer Joe Starkey’s frenetic call of the 1982 Big Game, the age-old football rivalry between Cal and Stanford, is just as famous as the moment it recounts — a moment so unfathomable that it has been immortalized as “The Play.” With less than a minute left in the game, Stanford’s star quarterback led what looked like a winning drive. The crowd went wild, and Stanford’s marching band leapt to the field. A squib kick with four seconds remaining, followed by a flurry of lateral passes involving four Cal players, took the Bears to the end zone, where one tripped over the trombonist and scored an impossible touchdown sealing Cal’s victory.
Big Game has spawned numerous traditions, including a cable car rally in San Francisco; a canned food drive and t-shirt exchange; a tree-chopping rally; and the grand Big Game rally. It is also a yearly battle to reclaim the Axe, a tradition that, surprisingly, is rooted in baseball. Stanford introduced the Axe in 1899 to rally its student body for a three-game series. Cal students stole it when they dashed Stanford’s hopes, and a wild goose chase ensued through San Francisco until the Axe landed safely in Berkeley. It remained there until a group of Stanford students stole it back in 1930. After several years of attempted raids and retaliatory strikes, the two student body presidents signed an agreement that designated the Axe as an annual trophy for the winner of the Big Game.