The year is 2050. You are in your GooglePod heading to the upcoming drone race on Mars. It’s your alma mater, the University of Colorado, located on Mars, versus their terrible rival, The University of Nebraska, located on Uranus. This is a heated matchup that will decide the Big 112. It’s a big one.
You are riding in your GooglePod with your grandchild, who is visiting from the barren wasteland of Earth. He asks you why you care so much about a stupid game between two schools. You tell him that you’ve cheered for Colorado since before he was born, and there is a lot of history there. You start to tell him about the old sports, the sports where people could play with each other, and you see his eyes gloss over as he starts watching the videos from his iContacts. But you bring him back with a tale that he hasn’t hear before. A story about someone that is as unique as the mutant sculptures outside Saturn. The man with the heart of the Buffalo.
This whole year was spent appreciating Phillip Lindsay, and I still think it wasn't enough. In 30 years, 40 years, after a few more national championships, we will all look back at his career as legendary. He's a damn folk hero— Jack Barsch (@JackBarsch) November 26, 2017
Like many folk heroes, his start was an inauspicious one. Early on in his life he chose to be great. So he stole the heart of a Buffalo. He started running. He ran over everybody in his way. The story started spreading. There’s a man who never quits, who hits more than gets hit, who runs over rather than runs around. This garnered the attention of bigger powers. He moved from his hometown, the place where he grew up, to his own Mount Olympus, Boulder. After the gods sought to punish him for stealing the heart of a buffalo, he suffered an injury. He was paralyzed, rendered immobile through his legs, and his indomitable spirit was trapped in a cage. But through sheer force of will, he broke free. He eventually made it to Boulder, and openly laughed at his punishment. He forced his legs to work, and to work harder than anyone else’s. He toiled on his own, bending his body to his will, and the fire in his heart grew bigger.
He spent years repairing the hurt was inflicting. He became accustomed to the pain, using it to his advantage, knowing that others weren’t so close to it. He learned how to keep it at arm’s length, use it when needed and dole it out to others. His stolen heart still drove him, harder than ever. Always charging forward.
Finally, he was ready. The injury healed, he kept the lessons it taught him and the pain in his back pocket. He was confident, knowing that any challenge he faced was nothing compared to overcoming his own demons. Eventually, everyone would see the fire that he kept inside. There were other challengers to his rightful mantle. One by one, they fell to his drive, his determination, and his effort. No one could stop him from claiming what was his. After conquering the strife that was within his kingdom, he turned his sights to the external threats.
As with everything else in his life, he did not mince words or actions. There was no mistaking his intention. He immediately defeated the Ram, turning their horns inside out and taking their pelt. He escaped the battle with the Wolverine, who threatened him and injured his teammate in combat, but taught him a valuable lesson about brute strength. He immediately applied it to his foes, stampeding over the Duck and bringing the Beaver to his lair before slaying it. Much like Hercules before him, he effortlessly completed his 12 feats. He felled the mighty Cardinal tree, stonewalled the Bruin, tricked the Trojan warriors and finally faced the Utes in battle to claim his rightful trophy.
He did not do this alone. His teammates, while they did not have the same magical gift, were experienced and battle-tested. These veteran warriors had toiled in obscurity and were ready to bring back what was theirs. Without them, his feats would not have come so easy. He made sure to praise them at every opportunity, knowing that feeding their fire only made his heart stronger. Now that they moved on, it was his turn.
Unfortunately, his new team was not the same scarred group. They did not know the pain that was necessary to push through, the will to grind the opponents to dust. He had to shoulder the load. Luckily, his heart of the Buffalo still had the fire. The Rams were humiliated in defeat after a second challenge, and he made quick work of the pretenders that did not know his strength. Then he came to the challengers who did. And they were ready this time.
The Huskies did well enough to avoid the damage that he caused, and the Bruins escaped without incurring his full wrath. In fact, many challengers did. His new cast of characters did not know the struggle, and the opponents took advantage. But that did not stop his heart. He would struggle with the demon from Arizona, carrying everyone to the end, before ultimately falling. By the time he battled the elements and the Cougars away from home, the prophecy was written. He would finish short of his potential. Not due to his effort, or his heart.
I suppose most compelling heroes have a disappointing end. Their feats are legendary, but they can’t overcome everything. John Henry didn’t survive to enjoy his victory, Paul Bunyan ran out of trees, and Johnny Appleseed had a terrible last name. That’s what ultimately makes them human.
But the man with the heart of a Buffalo heart inspired many. He was not big, fast, or imposing. But his heart made him all three. He did not run away from fights, but made others run. He overcame everything in his path, and lifted others up to do the same. He is not special because of the records he piled up or the accolades he collected, though they are numerous. He is special because of how he did it. He never quit. He always fought harder than everyone else. He inspired loyalty and hope. He charged forward, damning the consequences and everything in his path.
He had the heart of the Buffalo.