Last season was extraordinary in K-State history. The Wildcats won conference championships in football, men's basketball and baseball. It goes without saying that this was the first time in K-State history it pulled off such a trifecta.
Like most things, when you expand the scope, a season like K-State experienced in 2013 is more ordinary. Some 51 teams have accomplished a similar feat historically, and Louisville pulled it off last year, too.
So it's not uncommon, rare, or extraordinary in a national context. It's still worthy of celebration.
My first son was born last October. Having a child is both an extraordinary experience, and one that can make you feel supremely ordinary.
He was healthy throughout gestation. My wife had the typical sickness and indigestion through the first three months, then was fine other than being quite uncomfortable with a new life in her belly. Only the summer heat last year in Kansas City was extraordinary.
He made his appearance before dawn, on the Monday of the Iowa State game. Even in his arrival, an unprecedented event in my lifetime, I felt the undeniable presence of the ordinary. For most people, being awakened at 4:00 a.m. and asked to do anything would be met with the hottest blast. For our doctor, I could tell a 4:00 a.m. phone call for a Caesarean section was a run-of-the-mill experience.
The weather was unspectacular that day. It didn't rain, it wasn't unseasonably warm or cold. We walked into an ordinary suburban hospital in the pre-dawn darkness with bags over our shoulders like a couple kids off to see family. I was surprised, and a little disappointed, that I didn't have to do anything other than put on a full-body suit, hair net and mask before entering the operating room.
Before he was born, I wondered what type of effect a son would have on my sports enjoyment. Many people told me the things I used to enjoy -- sports, playing golf, other things -- would become less important once I had kids. In terms of being less important than him, that's true. In terms of being less important in general, they were wrong.
Unlike Spencer, I've always had an emotion chip implanted. Like Spencer, its calibration isn't as stable as it was. I smile at people struggling with an unruly child in public now. The small white body bags in Syria bother me in a way they wouldn't have previously. The losses in football hurt, but not like they did. My anger has lessened. Long-time BOTC readers already know this.
The events surrounding a K-State football game are not extraordinary by comparison. Every school has a band, and all of them play essentially the same songs every year. Manhattan is not much different from most college towns. There's a well-tended campus, a bar district, pretty girls (or guys, depending), and the palpable sensation, almost a high, you get from a university setting. They're extraordinary to us because they're ours.
Manhattan's not extraordinary because it's truly different from most places. It's extraordinary because of what I've lived there. Meeting people before my freshman year. These were the people whose personal losses I would share and whose weddings I would attend. Initial loneliness associated with being three hours from home. The rush of my first all-nighter studying. Fear before and vindication after my first college exam. The uncertainty of changing my major. Learning to make meals from A Man, A Can and a Plan. All the parties, at UC, on Delaware Street, and later in Aggieville. The girls. Working and playing golf at Colbert Hills and Manhattan Country Club. The professors, a couple in particular, who made me be more than I was.
And of course, football games up on Kimball Avenue. Always being the fool who got there early and tried to save 15 seats in row 20 of GA. Learning the words to every song, and every cheer. Hating a team I used to cheer for. Wins over USC and Nebraska. Heartbreak against Texas. Ell's injury. Sproles' mastery. Snyder's wizardry. Swearing we'd leave the bars by midnight Friday before an 11 a.m. kickoff. Learning to deal with a hangover because the game was just that damn important. Missing a single second was not an option.
It culminated on a cold night in Kansas City, standing next to a 65-year-old who never in his life thought he'd see his Wildcats punch Oklahoma in the mouth and win a Big 12 title. It crashed into 9-13. Utter shock at Snyder's retirement, the same year I left campus. Walking right by the Wizard himself, and receiving a smile and warm hello, on my way to take my last final. Seeing Snyder driving to Vanier at 7 a.m. on Monday after winning the Big 12 title.
The milestones, like 2003 and 2012, matter more now. Will my son ever see K-State have a season like it did those years? Probably not. It gives me the sense of urgency, realizing that you get one chance, so you better get it right.
K-State football and life's other enjoyable distractions are not now less important to me. Now it's something to share, something I hope he gets to enjoy as I have. Like football season's return, that's not extraordinary. Football season returns every year. Fathers and sons cheer for their team.
But K-State football's return is extraordinary for us, and that's worth celebrating.