Hot Turkey Sandwich

Other than flying in on Friday morning rather than Thursday night, my ritual for Nebraska gameday was pretty much the same as it has been since Colorado/Nebraska moved to Thanksgiving weekend. See if you can pick out the variation …

My flight from Bozeman to Denver was on time, and there was little traffic on my Friday morning drive to Boulder (apparently everyone else was still asleep or in a mall somewhere). The weather was perfect for football: hardly a cloud in the sky; a forecast calling for a mid-afternoon high in the 60’s. Quite simply, you couldn’t ask for more, weather-wise, from a Thanksgiving weekend. I drove up the turnpike, and, as I crested the hill overlooking Boulder, I felt that familiar twinge of excitement. Before me lay the landscape of Boulder, with snow-capped peaks in the background; the Flatirons shining in the mid-morning sun.

I stopped off at the home of Tony and Julie, who have served as gracious hosts for my CU pilgrimages for years. We sat around for awhile and caught up (okay, it had only been three weeks since the Texas A&M game, but between jobs and family, there are always topics of conversation). With a 1:30 kickoff, we had an early lunch, consuming a fare familiar to millions of Americans on the day after Thanksgiving: wamed turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, all covered in gravy. Tony and I set out for the game around noon, and, after catching a few tailgates, headed into Folsom Field with plenty of time to spare to be there for the running of Ralphie and the introduction of the seniors.

Okay, so what’s wrong with the above picture?

Being a clever CU at the Game reader, you probably already surmised what was out of place in my narrative … it was the hot turkey sandwich.

I didn’t make note of it at the time, but the fact is, for many, many years, I was not able to eat before a Colorado football game. I would try and nibble on snacks in order to maintain some equilibrium, but sit down for a meal? Never. I couldn’t do it – I was always too nervous. My hands would grow cold; my conversation skills would evaporate. I would go into a trance-like gaze (I preferred the word “focused”), and would remain so until the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt.

My inability to eat or communicate was not limited to home games. For road games on television, my pattern of behavior was the same. Over the years, my loving wife has made a habit of staying upstairs, or finding another activity outside the household, when Colorado is playing. Twelve to fifteen days each year, my wife disowns me.

I’m not like that anymore, and I suppose I have Dan Hawkins to thank for that.

Now, I can eat full meals before games, and not think twice about it. Breakfast burritos for a 11:30 a.m. kickoff? No problem. Thursday night ESPN game? Take-and-bake pizza at the ready. There is no longer any extra angst prior to kickoff – I can be a “normal” person. Colorado has so little to play for anymore, and is so unlikely to win a given game, that the rituals before and after the game are now more important than the game itself.  [Quick stat: including the 48:34 of game time in which Colorado trailed Nebraska in the final game of the season, the Buffs spent 444.13 minutes of game time playing from behind in 2009. That translates into over seven full games looking up at the scoreboard to see Colorado with fewer points. By contrast, the Buffs spent 165:18 (or about ten quarters over the course of the season) in the lead; 110:29 minutes tied. For any given game, then, Colorado spent three times as much game clock behind as ahead. It’s hard to get excited about watching a documentary about Custer – you know how it ends]

While there are those that have taken offense to the recent references to the “Colorado sky blue” days of the early 1980’s, for me, the parallels are clear. Colorado football, relevant for two decades on the national stage, has become a footnote, meriting little more than the cursory coverage. There is no longer any point in anticipating the preseason magazines – we know what they will say (I’ve done this with the preseason basketball magazines for decades. Step 1: Skip the top 25 coverage; Step 2: Find the Big 8/ Big 12 section; Step 3: Look to see if Colorado is picked to finish anywhere near the top half of the conference; and, Step 4) Replace magazine on the shelf after confirming what was already suspected). Just like in the days of Fairbanks and the early days of McCartney – the only other period in the history of Colorado football with a similar drought – there is not much to look forward to, before or during the season).

This is not to say that I do not enjoy the company of others before and after games. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate my wife remarks about how much I have “matured” in my game day attitudes.

And I did enjoy Julie’s turkey and Tony’s stuffing before the Nebraska game.

I just long to go back to the days when I would have to pass on the pregame meal.

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