PRYOR, OK —
Being a sportswriter has plenty of perks, but one thing I don't get to do nearly as much as I used to is attend games as a fan.
Don't get me wrong, I love to sit in the box and watch the action unfold, and then come back to the office and spill the story onto the page. It's exciting — it's just a different experience. When I'm covering a game as a writer, I have to stay focused in. I have to know who scored when and how many yards and blocks and assists and strikeouts they've got.
This Saturday, I got to watch a game as a fan.
I graduated from Oklahoma Baptist University in 2012, and the Bison played their first football game in 73 years on their home field Saturday.
I couldn't tell you the names of the guys who scored. I couldn't even really tell you how they scored, for the most part. I know the name of the opposing team (Moundbuilders) but not the school (Southwestern something, but there are three different schools on the OBU schedule named "Southwestern" something or other). I know the final score — or the final margin, at least — was four points in the 'Builders favor.
One reason for all that was the heat. It was 104 degrees at kickoff, and I could swear that number was in Celsius, not Fahrenheit. How anyone could stay outside for that long in the heat, much less play a football game, is beyond me.
But we were all suffering together. Everyone staffing the game in that disorganized manner when you do something you haven't done in 73 years; everyone wearing a dozen pounds of pads and a four-pound helmet; everyone in the student stands who I hadn't seen in a year.
(That poor student section. You could tell OBU has been a basketball school for seven decades. When the defense took the field, all the undergrads started chanting, "D-Up! D-Up! D-Up!")
Catching up with old friends and fellow alums was the main reason for my attendance. About 20 of us went out to eat at a famous local Mexican restaurant afterwards, and we stayed so long reminiscing they had to kick us out. After we all went our separate ways, I got to catch up with an old colleague from my time at the Shawnee News-Star and kick his butt at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit.
So the Bison undefeated streak is over. Everyone I watched the game with kind of thought it would end. Or we all thought they would win the national title this year. Honestly, we didn't know. We still don't know. It was the first game they'd played since the term "atomic bomb" was coined. There's no telling what that team might do.
But we had fun.
Those are the kinds of experiences you get when you go to a game as a fan. I treasure those experiences — they make the sunburn on the back of my neck worth it.