By The Bakersfield Californian
After I heard the words "Big Mike" and "tailgating" in the same sentence, I knew I was a goner. In this case, I was going to the BC/City College of San Francisco State title game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium (won by the Renegades, 35-14).
I'd never met Big Mike before, but Big Mike sounded like a guy who could lay out a professional-caliber tailgate party. They don't give you the name Big Mike for fun. Names like that are earned with blood, sweat and red-hot mesquite.
I hadn't been to a BC football game in 20 or 30 years. I remember some of the BC/Taft games in the '60s: Bakersfield, that perennial bully from a large metropolitan area -- to paraphrase "The Best of Times" -- against Taft, the small, scrappy oil town with the ferocious Al Baldock as the coach.
Hard to forget the games against Fullerton led by Hal Sherbeck. I had a connection to those games in that I played junior tennis with Sherbeck's sons -- Eric and David -- and stayed at their house several times during tournaments.
I never had the guts to mention the Renegades when I was a guest of the Sherbecks. Better to let it lie. However, the games were epic.
If you had to pick a game, watching the 10-2 'Gades lock in against the 10-1 Rams on a 59-degree-at-kickoff-day was an easy one. There was a sense that the town was coming together over the team much like it had in the '60s and '70s before high school sports stole some of BC's thunder.
"A friend of mine named Big Mike is tailgating," said Wade, a friend of our son Sam's. "It's supposed to be something."
Wade had tickets. The game was scheduled for 2 p.m. and it was 12:45 before we headed to BC. By the time we parked and made it to the stadium, we weren't sure whether Big Mike would still be there and so we stopped at a market and bought two bags of chips, two tri-tip sandwiches, six barbecued baby back ribs and a six-pack of Indian Pale Ale.
Parking in the lot under the solar panels on Mount Vernon, we spread out our lunch on the back of my 1991 Honda Accord.
"This has to be the sorriest tailgate party I've ever seen," said Rog.
Good thing we weren't parked across Big Mike. You don't tailgate on the back of a 1991 Honda when you have a guy like Big Mike laying out a pro-quality spread.
"Hey, I went to Big Mike's tailgate party," said Wade, during halftime. "Gino from Luigi's was part of that deal."
Double good thing we hadn't parked near them; otherwise they might have laughed themselves to death.
We sat in Section T on the east side at about the 20-yard line. I'd forgotten what a great place Memorial is to watch a game. Especially with a red Pendleton blanket folded over and spread underneath to blunt the hard seats.
The crowd was in good spirits, and why shouldn't they have been?
BC had a superb team, terrific coaching and a tailgatingly happy crowd. The first half looked like Alabama playing the Iowa State Teachers College.
Rog bought a giant bag of kettle corn. Kettle corn is a step forward in stadium food. Kettle corn delivers the salt we need with the sugar we crave.
In the second quarter, defensive end John Oglesby scooped up a fumble and ran it for a 35-yard touchdown. It's fun to see a big man run that fast and far.
During halftime, I met Tom Oglesby, John's dad, and Tom's sister, Liz (sister Susie and her family were there also).
John's grandfather John Oglesby was the ag teacher at BC for 25 years and taught many Kern County farmers. He and his students (the Ag Club) cut out the huge, 20-foot plus wooden letters on the north side of the stadium.
"My dad would have been so proud," Liz said.
Yes, he would have. Last Saturday, it was hard not to be.
These are Herb Benham's opinions and not necessarily those of The Californian. Email him at email@example.com.