October 1st, 2011. I roll into Manhattan with two $50 tickets; one for me and one for my younger brother in his Freshman year at K-State. I am eager to show him the joys of tailgating, so we move around, looking for people I know or anyone interested in having a good time. I find a good tailgate thrown by some friends and have a delightful mystery drink thrust into my hands. Before I know it that drink is gone and I am working on the next one. You know where this is going. Before halftime I have to leave the stadium and listen to the game on the radio while I try to purge my body of the poisons I willfully ingested. After the game when I get back to room I'm staying in I sleep until 10am the next morning (only about 14 hours sleep). I am suffering the worst hangover of my live. I solemnly swear to myself that I will never drink that much again.
But at least we won that day. It became such a joke with my wife's family that getting plastered is now referred to as "Baylor Drunk". So when we first got this thing figured out the Thursday before the game all the jokes came in that I better get Baylor Drunk again so that the team can win. Superstitious streaks are tricky things; sometimes they can originate from a single occurrence, even though that defies the definition of a streak.
And really, when does a streak begin? In 2003 I traveled to Lincoln with the K-State pep-band and watched K-State record their first road victory of the Nubs in forever. That's a good thing, right? Well, as a fan, I traveled to Iowa State in 2007 and Missouri in 2008. Both losses. But hey, that was during the Prince Era. We sucked those years and it was only to be expected that we would lose games like those. Certainly couldn't have anything to do with my attendance, especially since I went to that 2003 Nebraska game. Oh yeah, and I've been to KU games that we've won, so I felt comfortable in disregarding my silly superstitions.
Another streak, this time one that I was attempting to carry on, was the hat-and-shirt combination I donned for every Caturday since Miami. I bought the super-sweet hat and a shirt at the Cat's Closet after the halftime show that day and I've worn that combination every game-day since then. Which really doesn't make sense, when you think about it, because I certainly didn't wear them at the start of our first three games, yet those were all victories. At least, that was the rationale I gave myself for leaving for Manhattan on Friday after work even though I couldn't find the shirt. Superstitions are silly, anyway.
Volunteering. I have a nasty habit of doing it. There were seven people sharing a seven seat Mountaineer. That sounds perfect. The front seats are called by the two biggest guys for the entire trip because they have almost a foot on everybody else in attendance. It is only fair. I go ahead and volunteer for the far back, since I am generally considered to be short, and I don't really mind tight spaces. Now quick, look at the following diagram and tell me which colored region you would volunteer to sit in:
If you picked red, then congratulations, your knees will not work for a week.
At 4:00 AM we pull into our friend's driveway in Waco . We thought it would be a good idea to drive all night because EFFICIENCY. We unload everything and set up our air mattresses and sleep until 11. Not too bad, but somehow I am still tired and have trouble staying awake when we start tailgating at the stadium around 3:00. Of course, that could have something to do with non-existent Baylor tailgate scene surrounding Floyd Casey Stadium. There a literally no Baylor groups near us to mingle with. Once I get up and start playing Washers and Cornhole though my blood gets flowing and I finally feel awake. I am NOT, however, getting drunk.
Condescension. I do meet some Baylor fans, though, while waiting in line for the bathroom. They are very friendly, and every single one of them wishes us well and says how much they hope K-State wins it all. I mention how happy I was that RG3 won the Heisman last year, even though we beat them in Manhattan. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with me? Why even bring that game up? Here they are, trying to be nice and encouraging, and all I can do is bring up what had to be a heart-wrenching defeat for them. I realize all this seconds after I say it, but of course, at that point it is too late to really take it back. They don't look offended, but I feel like a jerk.
There isn't much of a line when we finally head into the stadium. It is only 15 minutes before kickoff. Our seats are at the top of the bowl and on the 50 yard-line. It is pretty empty there, and it is mostly K-State fans, with the exception of a few Baylor fans in front of us. The game starts, and we quickly exchange scores. Baylor is employing the hell out of the bubble screen, but we seem unwilling or unable to adjust for it. Still, we don't seem to have too much trouble with their defense, given how fast we scored. And then the wheels fall off. By the time that Baylor goes up 28-7 I've used ever profanity in the book and thrown my hat on the ground no less than three times. I've already stripped off my hoodie, which has some green on it, and thrown that on the ground. It will remain there until the game-clock strikes 0:00. All the while the Baylor fans directly in front of us have remained virtually motionless. They have not turned around to taunt us, or express frustration with my swearing, or even to break into celebratory cheering when Baylor scores a TD or snags another INT. They are eerily quiet.
Baylor fans don't clap for injuries. At first, I took offense to this. We had two Wildcats walk-off the field after injuries and the only people who clapped where K-State fans as far as I could tell. But, then a Baylor player did the same thing and they didn't clap either. If they don't clap for their own players then I guess it is OK for them to not clap for the opposing team.
They do like to jump around, though. This was perhaps the most grievous offense of the night for me. As a 90's kid, House of Pain's "Jump Around" was a strong influence on my young mind. I love that song, and always dance when it comes on.
Except, now it has been associated with the massacre of the greatest K-State season I've had the pleasure of participating in. I'm not even sure when they play the song, if it is after a touchdown, or just whenever they feel like it, but they played it incessantly. I will never be able to dance to this song again.
To our credit, we stayed till the bitter end. K-State fans, for the most part, did not leave until the Baylor students were rushing the field. They didn't even leave after and 8 minute 4th quarter down by 4 touchdowns drive ended in a "failed" 4th down conversion from the half-yard line. At that point the game was effectively over. But we stayed. And that is something to be grateful for. I guess.
The drive out of the stadium was quiet and, mercifully, quick. Without much discussion or disagreement, we collectively decided it was best to just not talk about what had happened and try our best to enjoy one another's company. We lit a fire and burned our tickets. We talked about work, life and memories. And we had fun. Around 2:00 in the AM we strike out for a Whataburger. This is my first experience with the chain, and I have to say that they impressed. I've always been an ardent In-N-Out Burger advocate, but I have to concede that Whataburger is at least it's equal. And the fries are delicious too.
We wake up at 6:30 to begin our long trek home. This time I volunteer for the middle seat. It takes about two hours longer on the drive back, and most of the trip is conducted in dead silence. The fun we had last night did not erase the sting of our loss. It was sadly not a nightmare I would wake up from on Sunday morning to find that we had actually, in fact, won.
As long as I live, I will never again travel to another K-State away game (excepting KU). I will never again break from a superstitious habit until it is proven to fail. I will never again act like a man-child simply because my favorite sports team is not performing well. I will never again throw away references to an opposing fan's worst sports memories with such dismissive carelessness. I will never again bad-mouth fast-food restaurants I have not tried. I will not drink to excess. Most of all I will NEVER AGAIN dance to "Jump Around".