This past Sunday, on the first weekend without a CU football game since August, I took a trip up to Fort Collins to watch the basketball team play CSU at Moby Arena. It was my first time ever at a CU road game, and it was a great experience.
I got to the arena at 11 am, just as the gates were opening, and there wasn't yet much of a crowd outside. They actually had the latest iteration of Cam the Ram right out front of the entrance for people to take pictures with and pet if they wanted to. I guess that's one benefit of having a less fearsome mascot. While I didn't take a selfie with Cam, I did stop for a bit to scratch behind his ears. Judge me all you want, but you have to admit he's kind of a cute little thing.
Once I got inside the first thing I noticed was how cramped the concourses in Moby are. They definitely aren't built to hold a capacity crowd, and luckily this is a problem that CSU rarely has to deal with. It took quite a while for me to move anywhere in the arena, and the density of the crowds on some of walkways was almost like being at a concert at times.
Many of my friends had tickets in different sections, and the first thing we did once we got inside was to meet and try to find a place where we could all sit together. The plan was to take over an area of CSU's overflow student section, which is a general admission area. About 50 of us had made it over there before security came and kicked us out, telling us that we weren't allowed to be there because the section was for CSU students and it would completely fill up during the game. It never did, but I can't blame them for not wanting to have a large group of us sitting together. We got kicked out right before tipoff, so I actually missed the first two CU three pointers and I was walking in the middle of the student section on the other side of the arena when George King's three pointer went in. My enthusiastic reaction got me some dirty looks, but no one said anything to me.
Eventually a group of about 20 fellow CU students and I found some empty seats at the top of section B behind the Buffs' bench, which was filled almost entirely with CU fans. It was great to be in the middle of other like-minded people, and it made the whole experience much more fun for me. There were so few CSU fans in our area that I didn't even hear any yelling or rude comments directed our way, and when good things happened for the Buffs it got very loud. There were lots of people in black and gold scattered throughout the arena, but the bulk of them were definitely in that corner.
There were enough of us (and the CSU fans were quiet enough) to actually get some decent chants going during the game. "Let's Go Buffaloes" and "De-fense" could frequently be heard throughout the arena. When the game was firmly in hand, you could hear such gems as "Just Like Football", "This Is Our State" and even the infamous "Sucks to be a CSU Ram" chant. When the game was over a very loud rendition of the fight song echoed throughout an emptying Moby arena, with not even a token attempt by the deflated CSU fans to drown it out.
Overall I thought Moby was a nice enough arena, and the remodel definitely makes certain aspects of it (like bathrooms) nicer than Coors. The stands don't wrap around the sides at all, so the sightlines in the edge sections like the one I was in aren't very good. The sides are also very steep, so I felt far more removed from the game than I ever did while sitting in the top row at Coors. Overall there was a slightly claustrophobic vibe up there, as you're really close to the roof and can't even see all the way across to the other side due to hanging practice baskets and other obstructions.
The (officially) sold out crowd was quite loud at times, especially during the first half when the Rams couldn't miss a shot. Where they faltered was in sustaining that noise during defensive possessions and encouraging their team once the Buffs started to come back. All it took were a few missed threes and a 10-1 CU run at the start of the second half to suck the air out of the building. The fans did get loud a few times later in the second half, mostly when voicing their disagreements with the officiating, but the energy in the arena never approached what it was in the first half again.
You can chalk this relative lack of basketball fan IQ up to the fact that most Ram fans don't go to many basketball games. This was the first time this season that more than 4,000 fans attended a game. Despite their recent success, it doesn't seem like their fanbase has completely bought in to the whole basketball concept the same way CU fans have under Tad Boyle. I was most disappointed in their students, who didn't seem to know any chants other than "F*** YOU CU" and "BULL-SH*T", and who barely generated any noise when the Buffs had the ball. Maybe getting tickets to every game for free has given them a sense of entitlement. Whatever the reason, I can say without exaggerating that the few dozen CU students in attendance made more noise than they did for most of the second half.
Sunday was a great day for the Buffs, and I'm glad that I was there to see it in person. It was really fun to see and exchange knowing glances with all the other CU fans after the game. I even felt comfortable saying "Go Buffs" to those I passed on the concourse. On the drive back to Boulder I was filled with a sense of accomplishment and relief. The team picked up a great win and the fans turned Moby Arena into Coors Events Center North for the last few minutes of the game.
CSU may have handed out shirts before the game with the words "OUR STATE" on the front, but the Buffs proved on the court and in the stands which team Colorado really belongs to.