As sports-crazed kid who always rolled with the best players whichever colors they wore, I was more concerned with the sport itself than the teams and their histories. That mostly holds true now, and though I claim to be a “fan” of this team and that, I mostly watch for the art of the game. The exception, of course, are the Colorado Buffaloes.
The Buffs are the only team I didn’t choose for myself. It was foisted upon me, a product of my locality and it being the school my mom dreamt of us attending. We lived between Longmont and Platteville (deep into Weld County) so visiting Boulder was always a treat, one that would accompany a hike and a cool down ice cream, as well as a trip to the public library, where I would tear out the posters from Sports Illustrated for Kids (my favorite: Dontrelle Willis).
On these trips to Boulder, I always got so excited when I could see Folsom Field and the rest of the campus. It was my dream school, of course, but I mostly wanted to see a football game there. I wanted to see my idols, I wanted to be Jordon Dizon, and I wanted to celebrate their victories as they were my own.
I had been to a game twice before, but one was the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Mile High, and the other was a blowout by Nebraska. The former was a close game but Mile High had a different mythology for me than Folsom. The latter was a disaster, and yes I sat in the student section of a CU-Nebraska game, but I was a second-grader and probably shouldn’t have been sitting in the student section. (My mom still sits in the student section at basketball games. She loves that chaos.)
Finally, in 2006, we scored tickets to a game the Buffs would win. I thought they would win the other games too, but I blamed the refs for the CSU loss (CU had 146 total yards) and I thought Nebraska was a dynasty (they were not). Now in this upcoming game against Kansas State, there was no way a defense with Jordon Dizon and Terrence Wheatley, not to mention Ryan Walters and Brad Jones, would lose to an offense with only Josh Freeman, Jordy Nelson and an allotment of bums.
That’s part of the charm of childhood fandom: you’re too naive to know your team sucks. I thought the Buffs were getting unlucky, that they just needed to get some momentum, because surely a team that produced Alfred Williams (hero of the Broncos Super Bowl VHS tapes) could not be held down for long.
On November 4th, 2006, I realized my team sucks. The Buffs were just 1-8 at that point in the season, but they had been unlucky, that they had the talent to beat anyone. That was not the case, it turned out, because good teams do not go into halftime down 17-0 with just three first downs in the half. Nor do good teams, upon cutting the lead to 20-14, immediately give up touchdowns of 74- and 30-yards.
Colorado was not, and is not, a good team. They were, and are, a team that will hang around just to give you false hope before crumbling at the end. Bernard Jackson’s 62-yard scamper gives you hope, then the defense collapses, the Buffs go 3-and-out, and the Wildcats score again; in four minutes the game has gone from 20-14 — we can pull this off! — to 34-14 — we should try to beat traffic. Like so many faux thrillers nowadays, Colorado didn’t have a chance to win, they just made the score look close.
That day I saw what the Buffaloes are, their identity post-Glory Days. I thank Bernard Jackson, to whom I owe a sense of fatalism within my fandom, for showing me that truth.