Archives for posts with tag: football

Oklahoma State University bills its Homecoming as “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration” with a whole lotta pride and reason to celebrate. As the university celebrates its 125th year, the Homecoming theme for 2015 was “Stillwater…Still Loyal…Still True.” It makes you pause a day later because of the importance of that statement in the aftermath of a year of planning, a week of festivities, a weekend of wonder mixed with unbelievable tragedy.

I’m an alum, was a graduate assistant in the English department back in my day, my first married years were spent in Stillwater, my oldest daughter was born in this town, some of my children and their spouses graduated from OSU, I am now on staff part time, my oldest grandson is a Freshman and I have another grandson coming here next year. I have ties galore. I really hadn’t been back for Homecoming weekend until 2011 when one of my grandsons, who was 13 at the time, and I came up for the weekend. It was such a delight that I couldn’t wait to come back. I only live a little over an hour away, but you have to plan for it. Stillwater is a town of 47,000 population, but there were 85,000 people there on Friday night this year. Yeah!

OSU Homecoming takes a year of planning, thousands of hours of work by student groups, and lasts for a week. There is something for everyone. The festivities kick off on Sunday with a ceremony to dye the water in the fountain in front of the iconic library orange. America’s Brightest Orange is everywhere!DSC_0030Every day is a new activity, with opportunities for any student group to participate. There is the Sign Contest on the library lawn, which shows off the creativity and spirit of the students…DSC_0017DSC_0038There’s a chili contest, a carnival for children, and a Paint the Street night open to anyone. A late week rain washed away some of the work, but the remnants were under our feet walking to the stadium on Saturday.IMG_8787IMG_8789Friday night is the WalkAround, a night where the streets in front of the university are closed and people walk around to see the massive house decorations designed and created by Greek Students. These were here when I was in school, but it’s beyond my imagination to see how these are built. When I arrived in Stillwater for meetings early Friday, it had rained overnight and students were hustling, working with huge equipment and lifts to finish the decorations before the judges arrived at 1:00. These structures are beautiful, inspiring, have moving parts, and are great fun.DSC_0006 It was my grandson’s first time to work on one, so I was sharing his pride.

DSC_0002He’s in this photo in the white shirt. He’s 6’4″ to give you an idea of the size.DSC_0008Before one of my meetings on Friday, Pistol Pete arrived in the building. I’ve shared my love of our mascot, the only college mascot based on a real person. He was in our department to greet alums and I caught this shot of him walking with one of the little fans, who was just learning to say “Pistol Pete.” He had on cowboy boots with the image of Pete and his grandfather was showing him the picture on the boots and then pointing to the real Pete. I don’t know if this little one understood, but he walked off with Pete, to his mom and grandparents’ delight.IMG_8683While I waited for some of my family to arrive in Stillwater for the WalkAround, I took pictures, as I always do, of things that caught my eye. Here’s Old Central, the original building and the oldest on campus, all spiffed up to greet alums.DSC_0020Everything was in place to greet the OSU family.DSC_0010DSC_0013I walked across campus, catching the moon over the #1 Student Union in the country.DSC_0028As the crowd began to build, the strip was ready with its familiar shops, restaurants and bars.DSC_0027The crowds were building, the streets were closed.DSC_0042When I came in 2011, it was harder to find food if you didn’t want to stand in line for an hour at a restaurant. Now there are food trucks everywhere, tents with OSU clothes and gifts, activities for all ages. The lights came on at Theta Pond, way more beautiful than when I was in school.IMG_8686Five of my grandsons did the WalkAround. Four of them, including the Freshman, had never seen it before and it was fun to share it with them. With bands playing, people of all ages filling every street, sightings of campus celebrities, members of the OSU band doing impromptu songs, dancing on the Student Union terrace, alums running into old friends, the memories flooding, the pride swelling, it’s the greatest street party ever.

By 9:00, the major activities are winding down and the crowd can move towards famous Gallagher-Iba Arena for Homecoming & Hoops, the perfect ending to the evening. This is basically a free pep rally for students and anyone else who enjoys the noise. The arena is famous for the noisy atmosphere during basketball season and this pep rally is perfect in that space. As I entered, the students were seated in groups, waving lighted sticks and screaming. The noise level is intense and my friend had ear plugs. I loved it!IMG_8691

The evening begins with the football coach, Mike Gundy, thanking the students for their hard work and inviting them all to the game the next day. I watched the coach while the music was leading up to him talking. He moved with the music, shooting his hand in the air with the spirit of the evening. On the sidelines, he has to watch the game. Here, he’s a Cowboy all the way – former stat breaking quarterback to coach. Here, he gets to be a fan for a few minutes before he leaves to prepare for the game.DSC_0058Pistol Pete is walking the sidelines, the band is playing. The OSU Women’s Basketball team gives a 10 minute preview of their skills, followed by the pom squad, a skit by the OSU Wrestling Team, a lip sync competition, announcement of winners of various contests during the week, t-shirts are shot and dropped into the student sections, small footballs are thrown to the crowds, a big demonstration by the cheerleaders, ending with a preview of the OSU Men’s Basketball Team. It’s a wild and crazy finish to the day.DSC_0062IMG_8694As we left, by luck of who I know and was with, I got to stand on the field, imagining what a young player must think and imagining what would take place the next day. Those goal posts look very narrow and that goal line is far away from the 50 yard line. Wow! IMG_8706By Friday night, for those of you who are into these things, I had walked over 18,000 steps. And, I still felt good. My head was full of so many years of memories and pride in what was going on in this wonderful place.

Saturday morning, I was ready to go to the Sea of Orange Parade. I remember taking my oldest daughter to it when she was a baby and I loved it the last time I was here. This isn’t really something the student body attends unless they’re in it because many of them have been up all night all week getting ready for Homecoming. This parade is more about families, generations. Stillwater is still a small town and this is the best of what a small town brings to a university experience. I almost didn’t go and visited with my friend I was staying with, but decided I didn’t want to miss any of this great experience and headed downtown alone. I stood near the beginning of the parade so I missed probably the first 1/3 to 1/2 of it, including the OSU Marching Band, all the OSU dignitaries, state politicians, Pistol Pete, the cheerleaders, etc. That’s ok because I got the feeling I was looking for. I’m sharing more photos with you than I planned because it really means more now.

Right after the Stillwater High School band, where I came in, was the OSU Polo Team. I bet you didn’t know we had a team, did you? We also have a Rodeo Team. We do horses here.DSC_0068And there were other horse riding groups…DSC_0072and dogs…DSC_0095and trucks and tractors and motorcycles and cars. DSC_0076DSC_0078DSC_0082

DSC_0069DSC_0114Note the crowds along the street. There were decorated flatbeds and walking politicians and others throwing candy to the kids with nobody acting like they were in any danger of poison candy. I moved down the street and stood beside pick up trucks owned by people who came early to park along the street and use the truck for parade watching. There were generations of families, waving to the parade participants, neighbors knowing everybody who walked by. I overheard people telling each other things like, “she does my hair sometimes,” “that’s my former student,” “he lives in Perkins now.” It’s a small town atmosphere, a family setting at its best.

There were beauty queens…DSC_0075and dance schools, and karate students, and little baton twirlers…DSC_0102There was pride in America…DSC_0090pride in our school and pride in our lives.DSC_0118There were local celebrities…DSC_0109and the ever popular marching lawnmower team, doing its routines along the way.DSC_0083DSC_0087And, bands, small town bands. I’m so very impressed with the number of kids who play all these instruments in the very very small towns. That’s a tribute to some teachers, some tradition, some pride.DSC_0106DSC_0096I walked up to the beginning of the parade in time to see the last of it, the mounted sheriffs turning the corner onto Main, to be followed by the Stillwater Fire Trucks. DSC_0123I walked to my car a little after 10:00, drove to McDonald’s to use the restroom and grab something to eat before I drove to the other side of campus to find a parking place for the game, planning to find some students and meet my friends later. I turned onto Hall of Fame and headed towards the stadium, not realizing what was going on or about to happen a couple of blocks from me. By the time I parked my car on a side street north of campus, I was starting to get messages that someone had driven a car into the parade crowds and people were killed. I was totally ignorant of where the parade ended, so I couldn’t place anything. Dear friends and family were contacting me to see if I was ok. What in the world? I walked the few blocks to the stadium, taking my phone charger with me because it was going down fast. This was becoming a strange day quickly.

The campus was crowded with tailgate parties. I can’t begin to tell you how crowded it gets and how many parties are going on. Here was an elaborate set up near the stadium. IMG_8747Families and friends were gathered to eat and hug and share the day. The smells of grills and barbecue were filling the air. IMG_8772I realized most of these people, thousands of them didn’t know anything or much more than I did about what was happening. But there was a subdued feeling beginning to hover over us. I found one of my student friends and plugged my phone into their trailer (Gad – there is so much to tailgating now!) and heard the first rumors, all of which proved to be false. I had heard a few sirens and saw some helicopters that I assumed were news media. As I left to walk around, I lost cell coverage, maybe due to the stadium, maybe due to the mass of people using all these devices. I saw televisions in tailgate tents turned to the news, but most people probably didn’t know unless they were being contacted. I was getting messages on Facebook, texts, etc. I was using power fast trying to reassure everyone.  For some reason, this orange colored dog made me smile in the middle of this strange time.IMG_8790

 

Mostly the campus was Homecoming as usual, maybe quieter when I think back. It was a day of celebration and of shock. It was time for The Walk, the parade of the band, cheerleaders, pom squad, coaches and players walking across campus to the stadium through a line of fans and well wishers. Usually this is noisy and boisterous. Today was quiet. The band wasn’t playing, other than a few drummers with a somber march. They were followed by quiet, respectful cheerleaders and pom squad. IMG_8763Pete arrived, cheering the crowd as always, somehow reassuring that our world is still there, living and breathing.IMG_8760The team walked by, huge kids. One stopped to give hugs to the people next to me. I’m sure they wanted reassurance, too. They may be big, but they’re somebody’s kid. IMG_8766Coach walked by, slapping the hand of the woman next to me who reached out to him.IMG_8769There was no noise at the end, the parade filtered into the stadium in silence. Game Day was here.

I decided to go into the stadium early because it’s fun to watch it get set up and I knew my friends were somewhere on their way. Besides, I was still having trouble with texts and messages getting through. Walking into the stadium early, the first thing that smacked me in my heart was the great flag at half mast. It’s really true and happening to these families so close by. You couldn’t shake that image all day long.IMG_8797So I filled the next hour watching the crowd build, the team practicing with different units, the school fight songs filling the air. The team came out and warmed up in formation, which I think is so coolIMG_8803They went back to the locker room, preparing to make their entrance. The KU and OSU bands played and everyone got in place to welcome the team to the field. IMG_8808I felt curiosity, waiting to see how this was going to be handled. As seen on television, there was a moment of silence, appropriate for all. The game was played, OSU won in a lopsided victory that made it easy for fans to slip out after the half-time. I stayed to the end, holding my friend as we sang and swayed to the alma mater along with the tradition of the team singing it with the students after the game. IMG_8816I stopped at a friend’s house after the game, welcoming the chance to get dinner and talk a little before I drove home. It was nice to be with good people, Stillwater residents, though there is no sense to be made of the tragedy of the day. Someone said this was not just an OSU tragedy, this was a Stillwater tragedy. I’ve been through senseless things before, I’ve lost loved ones. I watched video of the crash, horrified to see how close the children on a parade truck and walking came to being hit. I’m horrified they had to see this, horrified that it will haunt them forever. My love goes out to those who were there because the rest of us can only hold them in our hearts and hope for their physical and mental recovery.

The one thing I do know is that the irony of having something like this happen in the middle of such a great traditional weekend of Homecoming is offset just a little knowing how strong the ties are in the community of Stillwater and OSU. This is a strong family with shared memories and a lot of pride and love. It will help. It will.  IMG_8752

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, there weren’t a lot of organized sports for kids.  We played the usual at school and learned softball/baseball, soccer, tetherball, etc.  At home, we played workup and kicked the ball around and were always doing something outside, just not very organized except to us.  I took golf lessons and swimming lessons, but there weren’t any teams for a girl to be on.  We had intramural basketball and some other sports in high school.  My brother played baseball when he was a kid, but I only remember going to a couple of games and we sat on the sides in the dirt.  The coach took the team in his car for ice cream sometimes.  My husband played baseball through junior high and there were, of course, teams in all the sports for the boys.  I had a couple of trophies, mainly for jr. golf tournaments or an occasional  swim medal on the 4th of July.

I’ll have to take partial blame for what my generation did to sports.  As parents of three girls and a boy, we made sure they were exposed to just about everything from music to scouting to church to sports.  Between my four, there were lessons or teams in these sports through the years:  soccer (all four played and one went through college on a partial scholarship, one of the first group of girls to get one), swimming (all four swam competitively), golf, tennis, softball/baseball, football, ice skating, track, basketball.  What’s left?  It was a time to encourage girls that they too could be a champion in whatever they wanted to do.

Clayton the football playerMostly, our fields were pretty primitive, barely mowed for play.  Uniforms were basic t-shirts or homemade when my girls started soccer.  There were no cleats.  That market grew quickly and they soon looked like mini-pros.  Still pretty basic though.

Scan 5I’ve been a scorekeeper and a timekeeper and mostly a carpooler.  On Saturdays, my husband worked and I drove all over the place.  I also drove to all the practices and lessons, often on all sides of town the same day.  (How many years was that?  Let’s say 20 years.  I shouldn’t have figured that out.) We didn’t encourage the new competitive leagues because it was too much of a burden on the family, travel, time and money wise to devote that much to just one of the kids.  The one who went that direction excelled on her high school team and got the scholarship anyway.

Scan 15I worked for many years at the local ice rink, doing marketing and working with the families.  I talked to aspiring Olympic moms and dads, telling them the benefits of the sport without giving them false hope their talented child would be one of the extremely few who made the Olympic team.  But, you can’t discourage parents when they have a talent.  I know that.

Scan 4My eight grandkids, 6 boys and 2 girls, are all in sports in a big way.  Well, the 4-year old isn’t there yet.  The others, ages 12-17, are now down to playing football (1), soccer (3), baseball (3) and basketball (5).  Several are on both school and competitive league games (or whatever they are called).  They play games all over the country all the time, sometimes with up to three games a day.  I will have to say my kids never played more than two a day and I can’t even remember that.  And they have practices, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a lifestyle choice for parents because it takes a lot of money and a lot of time for the whole family.  There are a lot of trophies, big trophies, and scouts who come to even the games of the youngest to recruit for high school, college and the pros.  There are specialized coaches, and uniforms and equipment bags and iPad apps for keeping stats and scores and paid coaches and parents who follow the games religiously.  It’s very sophisticated.

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One change is the playing fields.  Communities realized there was money to be made by building mega-sports complexes and they built them and the teams came.  I know from my days at the ice rink that you have to keep the facilities filled to keep them going.  You need money to pay them off and maintain them.  There are volunteers to work in the snack bars, someone to clean the bathrooms, someone to manage the scheduling.  Tournaments are a boon to the American economy.  You haven’t traveled until you’re in a hotel/motel with a team of kids sharing the facility.  Family vacations are planned around tournaments or are part of the tournament weekend.  If you’re lucky, you can see a bit of the city where you are playing.  Throw some history or culture into the mix if you have time between trips to the fields.

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Don’t think I’m being critical.  I wouldn’t dare, because I was a part of this for my kids and they want even better for their kids and so it goes.  I love watching the families at all the games.  I love the parents dressed in their fan gear.  I love the younger siblings playing in the dirt.  I like watching the young teammates, who always adopt a look of their own, just as they did when my kids played.  They know all the catch phrases and mimic the pros as they high five and yell popular chants.  There is a camaraderie between the parents and they encourage the kids.  There is some murmuring when a kid isn’t playing up to the high standards, but there is mostly a warm feeling.

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As it’s always been, coaches are critical.  Since my own childhood, I’ve seen kids drop out of a sport they love because of a coach who made the experience miserable.  That still goes on.  A good coach can be so important.  Well, that holds true for everyone who works with kids.  If we can’t inspire them to want to learn or play better or be a better person, what’s going on?  We’ve all had the bad experience and it teaches us in a certain way, but there’s nothing better than a good experience.

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So, what’s my point?  I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and bash the parents who have devoted so very much to their children.  They could certainly hover less or give fewer trophies or find time to just be together without anything organized, but they’re doing good things, too.  We all make our way as parents.  Even with the millions of parenting tips you get, you still have to find your own way for you and your children.

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A friend once told me that the only thing we really give our children is memories.  That’s all the lifestyle choice we need to make when you get down to it.  It can be organized or not, just make memories, good ones!   As for me, I’m part of the mamarazzi, the proud grandmother taking a million pictures to remember, just as I always have.

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There is nothing like live football to energize you in the fall. Televised is fine, a good thing, but you can’t beat seeing it live.

I’ve been to high school games since my grandson started playing. Friday night lights and all. He plays for my old high school, but it wouldn’t matter. The youthful enthusiasm, the fans, the band, the cheerleaders and pom squads all make it a fun event. Some schools are more like little colleges with their recruiting and digital screens and commitment to winning at any cost, but most are just like you remember. You watch the kids milling around the stands, the parents cheering for their kids, and sing the fight songs in the cool air. Victory is sweet and defeat stings. Just like life.

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Yesterday, I went to a game at my college alma mater, Oklahoma State University. There’s nothing like college football in America. . .anywhere! Television hasn’t spoiled it, but it doesn’t show the energy that surrounds a game. There’s the tailgating, a new multi-million dollar industry from what I can see. The sophistication is amazing. There was a set up with an attached bar with barstools made of saddles under a rusted corrugated steel roof that was the tops for me. Too cool. There are big screen TVs in tents set up for the day with huge grills toted in behind pickups, custom made for game day. The logistics of it all are amazing, but the total devotion to tailgating is a thing of wonder.

There is energy all over a college campus on game day. I think it’s because you can’t help but catch some of the scent of youth in the air, whether it’s from remembering your own college days or from watching the kids who walk where you walk. It’s unique and invigorating. What a college recruitment tool. Taking kids to the game where you are having so much fun at your alma mater has to rub off a little of your love of the school on them. Or not. We all know kids will do what they want to do, we just hope they love what we love a little bit.

Inside a stadium during a college game, you are treated to all the university’s traditions throughout the day. The colors, the band, the fight songs and cheers, the music, the cheerleaders, pom squad, mascot, alums and students all add up to an atmosphere of love and loyalty. Sure, there are more breaks while the networks air their commercials, but the fans are treated to performances on the field. The cheers and moans are not felt through the TV screen, the half-time activities are cut for commercials and long analysis from wordy commentators who have to fill air time. It’s a whole different experience being there.

In this modern football setting, you get replays at the game and updates from other games and people check their phones to see what else is going on in the world, the real world and the football world. You aren’t in your easy chair at home with the ready snacks and ability to switch from game to game. Even if you’re watching with friends, there is still something missing that you can only get live.

We fortunate ones live in a world of ease of getting our entertainment when and where we want it. It’s great and all that. But there’s nothing like going to a live football game. There’s nothing like approaching the stadium and the campus and having memories sweep over you or just feeling the excitement. There’s nothing like it. So American in all the best ways. We do know how to have fun, don’t we?

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Is there anything more American than college Game Day?  There’s something so unique and fun about the games…the band, the fans, the cheerleaders, the colors, the sounds…

Today, I did something different.  A friend and I drove to Stillwater in the morning.  The first amazing thing was that we found a free parking space – on campus about a block from the stadium.  Wow!  That was $20-$30 saved.  Then we walked all around the OSU campus, weaving through the tailgaters.  Tailgating has skyrocketed from a few people with coolers in the trunk of their cars in the parking lot to full fledged portable kitchens hauled to the tents staked out throughout the buildings and parking lots.  It’s the ultimate cookout, potluck dinner, picnic…an industry in itself to buy the team tents, chairs, coolers, games, flags.  How do they get cable in those tents to watch the game?

We walked to Eskimo Joe’s in time to walk in while part of the OSU Marching band was playing the Alma Mater, walked back to the Student Union, walked around, grabbed a hamburger in the Union and back in time to watch the OSU Walk as Pistol Pete, the band, cheerleaders and pom squad led the team through a fan-lined street to the stadium.  Awesome!  I got teary hearing the fight song in the flood of orange and black, sprinkled with fans costumed for Halloween and the game…perfect school colors for the holiday.  Once we got the team into the stadium, we made our way through the crowd going into the stadium, walked back to the car and drove home with no crowds, arriving in time to light a fire and watch the entire game on television with the feel of fall and the stadium sounds still fresh in our ears.  I love going to the actual games, but this was kind of fun.  We got all the vibes with no traffic.

And they won!  Good job, Cowboys!  Go Pokes!!!

OSU Band at Eskimo Joe's

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