Back before I became Wyokiddo’s Mama, before I became Outdoor Guy’s wife, I was a die-hard University of Wyoming Cowboys fan. I come by it naturally. My dad played for the Cowboys for a time and graduated from UW, as did my uncle, cousins, brother and sisters. I attended UW sporting events from the ripe old age of five. While other girls had posters of the New Kids on the Block haning in their rooms, I had a posters of Randy Welniak, Dabby Dawson, Peter Gunn and Tom Corontzos playing football. It doesn’t matter that UW doesn’t get a lot of respect nationally and some years they are down right terrible – the Pokes always have been and always will be my team.
Right now, the University of Wyoming is holding a contest to win tickets to their home opener next weekend. The idea was to post a favorite memory of University of Wyoming football, and the one with the most likes would win the tickets.
I spent half an hour cataloging some seriously wonderful memories. Hands down, my favorite memory is the 1988 game at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie when the Cowboys played the Brigham Young University Cougars. It was the first night game ever held in Laramie, with ESPN hauling in special lights just for the big game. The game was a sellout and the atmosphere was positively electric (pun intended). I’ll never forget walking up the ramp and out to our seats to see that green, green turf gleaming under the lights. It took my breath away. My dad must have seen me gaping, because he squeezed my shoulder and said “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” It remains one of the most beautiful man made things I’ve ever seen – War Memorial lit up and full up of thousands of cheering Pokes fans. And I will never forget the look in my dad’s eyes at that moment…part pride, part excitement. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him look so young.
It was one of those perfect games where you just knew, KNEW, your team was going to win. There wasn’t any way they could lose, not with 28,000 screaming fans willing them to play their best. Wyoming would go on to win the game 24-14. I would go on to miss the first half of school the next morning because my parents were cool enough to not only take me to the game (we didn’t get home until after 11), but they also let me sleep in the next day.
But I’ve got so many other fun, crazy memories of Cowboy Football, moyst of which aren’t going to mean anything to anyone but me. Memories like:
-Singing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on the bus ride home after a victorious Vegas Bowl, where Wyoming (a heavily discounted underdog) beat UCLA in the closing minutes of the game to give them their first winning season in four years.
-Running Cowboy Joe, UW’s pony mascot, around the field after every score during the SMU game. UW put up 59 points. By the end, I just kept thinking “Oh for the love of God, just punt the ball, I’m so tired of running!”
-Getting text updates from my friends during the 2003 UW vs. CSU game when I was in Louisville, Ky. When I finally got word we won, a bunch of us stood and sang Ragtime Cowboy Joe outside the restaurant in triumph.
-Playing football behind the bleachers in the old Knothole at War Memorial and collecting all the cups that fell under the stands. We had hundreds of those things!
-Getting to go sit with my big sisters who were students at the time. I was probably only 5 or 6, but my parents would let me sit with them for a little while. The sillier and more obnoxious the student section got, the more fun it was! I can remember feeling positively exhilarated and giggling every time the students started the “BULLSHIT!” chant.
-Sitting in my office in Indianapolis in 1999, listening to the game on the computer and crying when I heard the band play Ragtime Cowboy Joe, UW’s fight song, because I was so homesick.
-Getting to take photos from the sidelines as part of my photography class. As my best friend said at the time “You can practically hear them sweat we are so close!”
-Razzing my sports-inept college bff for cheering for a replay of a kick return while watching the Cowboys play TCU in Applebees in Laramie. She kept saying “I can’t believe he’s done that three times now!”
I could go on and on. I’ve got a thousand memories, and that’s not even counting basketball. But the thing is, I remember very few of the actual scores and even fewer plays. The Ws and Ls aren’t what I hold in my heart anymore. It is the experience that makes it fun for me these days.
Sports get get a bad rap these days. We hear a lot about over-paid players acting like spoiled idiots, parents getting carried away and humiliating kids, student athletes cutting corners and cutting class and still getting a degree. And some people even take being a fan too far, investing their emotional health in a game that has absolutely no direct effect on their lives.
But there are also great things about sports that shouldn’t be overlooked. Sports give kids a place to learn discipline and teamwork. Sports create jobs at the local, state and national level and bring in tourism dollars to local economies. And sports create shared memories with family and friends that long out last the lights of the scoreboard. For me, sports created memories of times spent with my dad and mom, my sisters, my sports soul-sister, my college friends, my Indiana friends and my husband. And someday, I’ll share sports memories with my daughter and her friends. What could be better than that?
Long Live Sports.