This post sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
For this post, I definitely got to K-State too late. Missing out on the 1998 year meant missing out on what would rank as most K-State fans' favorite team, and not getting around until 2002 caused me to miss out on many of the all-time favorite players.
That said, my years as a K-State fan have provided plenty of memories. Most of them are the more run-of-the-mill times with your friends, the classic moments that you can't always remember because they're so routine, but they're the things that we vaguely refer to as the time of your life. There were so many funny and entertaining little moments with folks like mystman995, JSchwarz, and ksubailey that weren't particularly momentous at the time, but later in life are the kinds of things that randomly pop into your head and bring a smile to your face that the other people in the elevator find a little creepy.
Anyway, read on to find out what I consider the most memorable times I've had as a K-State football fan.
2003 Big 12 Championship Game: As I've mentioned earlier, I almost didn't go. My roommate, Dave, and I discussed the issue from the moment the Missouri game ended the Saturday before. We were both broke-ass college students, it was awfully late in the semester, OU was supposed to murder us, and the tickets cost $70. But Dave was from Kansas City, and told me we could go to his mom's house and have a meal before the game. We decided to do it.
So on a sunny but cold December afternoon, we piled into my Honda and headed east on I-70/Kansas Turnpike. Two hours later, we stopped at Dave's to watch the USC-UCLA game and have a good home-cooked meal. His family was tremendous, the most welcoming people you could ever hope to meet. His dog, a big German shepherd appropriately name Chief (Dave is KC to the core) ran around happily.
Dusk arrived, and we piled into my car again for the drive through KCMO to Arrowhead Stadium. It was obvious there was a big event in town, because the traffic snarled on I-70 not far from the stadium. Cars with tags from every county in Kansas were interspersed with those with Sooner State tags and upside down longhorn stickers on the back of them. We parked, then made our way through those massive Arrowhead parking lots, trading barbs with Sooner fans who felt assured of yet another conference championship.
Emerging into the lower bowl of Arrowhead about 30 minutes before kickoff revealed a scene I doubt I'll ever experience again. The place was juiced. It was that indescribable tension, the murmur of the crowd, the increased intensity of the players in warmups. It reached a crescendo when the OU players got into an altercation with the K-State band and spirit groups. I remember talking to a girl, who was on the dance team, in one of my classes the next Monday, and hearing the disdain in her voice for what a-holes the OU players were. Oh yes, my friend, it was on that night in Kansas City.
While waiting for the game, we took the time to get to know the people around us. One gentleman in particular caught my eye. He was approximately 60, and told me he was a school administrator in a tiny map-dot town just to the north of Manhattan. I knew the town well, as it was just off U.S. 77, the route I took home from Manhattan. He wasn't terribly confident about the prospects for the game, but he had been a K-State fan through the worst and the best of times, and damned if he was going to miss this game.
I won't rehash much of the game, because all of you know what happened pretty well. There was the deflating early touchdown by OU, when the feeling of "here we go" was palpable among the K-State fans. But then, the building feeling of "this may happen" as touchdown after touchdown piled up for the purple and white. By the time Ted Sims intercepted yet another Jason White pass and rumbled into the end zone for the final touchdown of the night, the old man next to me almost had tears in his eyes and Dave was holding high his sign with the large "ABC" letters and some saying about always believing in the Cats. I just stood there, making sure to take in the whole scene, knowing it would be a moment I would never forget and would bore my children with by telling the story over and over again someday. I say this without the slightest hint of hyperbole: until the night I got married, it was easily the greatest night of my life.
That's the best description of it I can give, but the opening scene of the following video will give you chills if you are a K-State fan. If you've never heard the slave spiritual "Wade In The Water," well, this isn't exactly a perfect rendition of it, but it was more than adequate for its purposes.
2002: K-State defeats USC
After three boring blowout games to open the season, a bigtime USC program came to town. The Trojans touted a Heisman candidate in Carson Palmer, a dirty headhunter in Troy Polamalu, and an up-and-coming coach in Pete Carroll. Alas, they left Manhattan a loser, for the second year in a row to the Wildcats. This was the first big-game atmosphere I experienced as a K-State fan, but it wouldn't be the last. The roar of the crowd when K-State blocked a USC extra-point attempt in the second quarter, and the building crescendo of the crowd as Terence Newman took the ball the length of the field for two points, was the IV that started pumping purple in my veins.
2005: Bill Snyder's "last" home game
Bill Snyder retired unexpectedly at the end of the 2005 season, which was my senior year at K-State. I remember putting my arm around ksubailey's shoulders in class as she cried while listening to the grand old man's press conference. The game was somewhat of a swan song for me as well, my last in the student section. My future wife was there, along with mystman995 and our friend Bryan, among others. For most of the game, it didn't look like we would give Snyder a proper sendoff, and I had almost resigned myself to watching K-State lose in my last game as a student. Real life isn't like Hollywood. But then, Hollywood intervened, as Brandon Archer sealed the game with an interception of Brad Smith, and Snyder was carried off the field as the triumphant hero that he was.
2003: The streak-breaker in Lincoln
Yet another memory with mystman995. We traveled up to Lincoln, meeting a friend of his from Chicago who had gone to UNL. Outside of the game itself, I remember driving around campus with the K-State fight song blaring out the open windows of my car, and the guy outside the stadium telling us the purple kitties would be headed back down U.S. 77 with tears in their eyes. Inside the stadium, mystman995 got into an altercation (not his fault) with old man river, and in the end we outlasted all but the most masochistic Husker fans and celebrated the blowout in style with the fans, the band, and the team. After the bitter disappointments we had suffered earlier in the season, it was a sweet, sweet feeling.
2007: The shocker in Austin
Jesus, mystman, get out of my memories. After college, I ended up in law school in Houston, while mystman took a job in Dallas. Thanks to the mother of the friend who would be the best man at my wedding, mystman and I had sweet seats in the lower level, 15th row, about the 20 yard line at Darrel K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. We visited various haunts on Sixth Street the night before and the day of the game, and saw Vince Young drive by us on a golf cart outside the stadium as a female cop screamed "Get out of the way! GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" at me as I fumbled for my camera. After Young passed, a typical UT fan joked "must be a real thrill for you K-State fans to see a player like Vince Young." Yeah, old man, because I never saw a top-5 NFL draft pick on campus at K-State (I'm looking at you, Dallas Cowboys star cornerback Terence Newman). Anyway, the game was tremendous as Jordy Nelson sliced and diced the Longhorns and the K-State defense left Colt McCoy puking in a trash can on the sideline before the skies opened up AND IT FREAKING POURED RAIN. God we got soaked that day. Afterward, we hit up a BBQ joint where the owner gave us our meals on the house because we had our K-State gear on. True Texas hospitality.
2003: A little moment that shows what Snyder is all about
Dave and I got back to Manhattan in the wee hours of Sunday morning after the Big 12 championship game. We drove by Aggieville to see all the people out in the streets, but were too young to gain admission to the bars. So we headed home, with studies to attend to. It was especially important to me, as I had a final staring me in the face at 8:00 a.m. or some ungodly hour on Monday morning. I rose that morning and left my University Commons apartment, just across the street from KSU Stadium's west parking lot. As I waited at the stop light to turn left on Kimball and drive by the stadium, a silver Cadillac drove through the intersection, headed east. My light turned green shortly thereafter, and I turned left, gaining ground on the Cadillac. As I neared Vanier, I realized the Cadillac had slowed and was turning, and as I drove by in the left lane, who should I see but Bill Snyder himself, headed in for another day's work.
He had just won a conference championship less than two days before. But there was another opponent to prepare for. It was time to get back to work.
Those are the big moments, the ones I can talk about with no prompting. I could tell a thousand other stories over beers with my friends, and we would all laugh at the little references and inside jokes, but the rest of you would be bored to tears. What are your big moments, the ones you'll never forget?