“Hopelessly Devoted”

Grease is an iconic film, based upon a popular Broadway play. The film version, which starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, came out in 1978, but had such staying power that it was re-released into theaters on its 20th anniversary in 1998.

One of the memorable songs from the film, “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, is sung by Newton-John. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was nominated for an Oscar for best original song, losing out to “Last Dance” from Thank God It’s Friday.

And the song’s relevance to Colorado football … other than “hopelessly devoted to you” being close to “pledge our whole devotion to you” in the CU alma mater?

With the University of Colorado football program not only enduring its worst run in school history, but doing so in a manner which does not give much hope of improvement any time soon, I have been, like most members of the Buff Nation, in search of solace elsewhere.

For better or worse, however, I cannot leave my team.

“Guess mine is not the first heart broken,
my eyes are not the first to cry

I’m not the first to know,
there’s just no gettin’ over you “

It’s not as if I haven’t tried alternatives, with old loyalties taking their best shots at pulling me away from dear ol’ CU this fall.

Bozeman Hawks

Two years ago, Bozeman won its first state championship in football since 1917 (Bozeman, for whatever reason, has been much more proficient at basketball, winning numerous state titles, including two when I was in school), so it’s been a pleasure to track the home town high school team of late. I routinely work the chain gang for the Hawk home games when I am in town (if you ever get the chance to work a chain gang, do so. It’s the best seat in the house), keeping me interested in the highs and lows of Hawk football.

The Hawks returned to the state championship this fall, playing on the road for the title this past Friday against rival Butte high. The game had all the drama of a Hollywood film, with twists and turns which will be told and retold until these young men are old and gray.

Bozeman trailed, 35-21, with three minutes to play, with dreams of a state title all but dashed. Then, after a 25-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds to play, Hawk fans had a sliver of hope.

A perfectly executed onside kick was then recovered by the Hawks. New life, but the clock was still against them. Still, magic can happen in a state championship game, and the Hawks were able to quickly march down the field and score with only 23 seconds remaining. The new score was Butte 35, Bozeman 34, with the extra point pending.

Rather than go for the tie and overtime, the Hawks decided to go for the win with a two-point conversion … and succeeded!

36-35, with only 23 seconds separating the Hawks from glory. But … Butte was not done. The Bulldogs were able to move the ball down to the Bozeman 29-yard line. Butte’s regular kicker was out injured, so a linebacker, Jake Dennehy, was called upon to do the impossible – make a 46-yard field goal.

And that’s exactly what Dennehy did, clearing the cross bar with eight inches to spare to give Butte the state title, 38-36.

Hard to beat that for drama, eh?

Yes, I was thrilled when the Hawks rallied with 15 points in the last minute to take the lead.

Yes, I was crest-fallen when Butte snatched away the title seconds later.

Still, the emotions were not much different than the following day, when CU took the field against Washington.

I was thrilled when the Buffs managed to keep the game close, trailing only 7-0 at halftime.

And I was crest-fallen when the Buffs muffed the punt early in the third quarter, signaling the beginning of the end.

The highest highs and the lowest lows of high school football still were not enough to match the emotions of another routine blowout loss by the Buffs.

“But baby can’t you see, there’s nothin’ else for me to do.

I’m hopelessly devoted to you”

Montana State Bobcats

Long before I was a Buff, I was a Bobcat. Growing up in Bozeman, I was first exposed to MSU football in grade school, when Bobcat kicker Jan Stenerud was a star, first for Montana State, then for the Kansas City Chiefs (we couldn’t believe it. Someone from Bozeman, in the NFL!). The Bobcats won the Division II national championship in 1976, when I was a freshman in high school. The Bobcats won another title, this time as a Division 1-AA school, in 1984 (while I was suffering with the Buffs in Boulder, who were going 1-10).

Fast forward to 2012.

The Bobcats are the No. 2 team in the nation in the Football Championship Series rankings. On Saturday, as the Buffs were falling to the Huskies, the Bobcats were on the road against the hated rival, the Grizzlies from the University of Montana (and when I say hate, I am not exaggerating. There is nothing civil about this civil war).

Montana State was favored, as the Grizzlies had been suffering through a down year. But, as is often true with rivalry games, records were irrelevant. The game was in doubt throughout, with neither team taking more than a one score lead. The Bobcats were up, 13-7, in the fourth quarter, but were still just one play away from an upset.

It wasn’t until the Bobcats put together a sustained drive late in the fourth quarter, culminating in a short field goal to give Montana State a two-score lead, that a victory was assured.

With the win, Montana State secured a share of the Big Sky championship, and a first round bye in the upcoming FCS playoffs. Montana, meanwhile, fell to 5-6, the Grizzlies first losing season since 1985.

Was I excited that the Bobcats were able to defeat the hated Grizzlies on their home turf, taking the 112th “Brawl of the Wild”? Of course.

Was I thrilled that the victory came at the expense of a 27-year streak of winning records for Montana, recalling what the Buffs did do Nebraska in 2004 (the Buffs’ 26-20 victory over Nebraska in Lincoln not only gave the Buffs a Big 12 North title, but condemned Nebraska to its first losing season in 42 years)? Damn straight.

Still, the thrill was fleeting. It was great to watch the Bobcats take the title, especially at the expense of the Grizzlies, but it was not the same thrill I felt when Jordan Webb scored on a fourth down in the last minute of play against Washington State in Pullman, giving the Buffs their only win of the season.

My head is saying “fool, forget him”,
my heart is saying “don’t let go”
Hold on to the end, that’s what I intend to do
I’m hopelessly devoted to you

CU Men’s basketball

Still, perhaps there is one last outlet for my allegiance.

While I cannot say that I have followed other CU sports with the single-minded devotion that I have the football team, I have never failed to cheer for other athletes wearing the black-and-gold of Colorado. I kept close tabs on Ceal Barry’s women’s basketball teams over the years as they made deep runs into the NCAA tournament. I have ventured out to Bridger Bowl and Bohart Ranch to cheer on the CU ski teams when they have made their annual visits to Bozeman (not to mention the NCAA championships, which have been held in Bozeman several times, including last spring). I even made it out to Prentup Field for Senior Day for the soccer team’s season finale this fall.

Now, however, the CU men’s basketball team is on an unprecedented run. Two seasons ago, the Buffs posted 24 wins for the first time in school history. That total was matched last season, as Colorado won the inaugural Pac-12 basketball title, and carried that momentum into the third round of the NCAA tournament. This fall, with a very young but still talented team, Tad Boyle has the Buffs off to another good start.

A week from now, the Colorado football season will be over. It will be followed by two months of hope (and likely disappointment) as the (old or new) CU coaching staff tries to fill out the 5-7 remaining spots in the Recruiting Class of 2013. That will be followed by the annual renewal of optimism which comes with spring practice – tempered by the reality that the practices will likely be closed to the public, making it very easy to be skeptical of any glowing reports of progresss.

A summer of preseason magazines will be next, all united in their belief that CU will finish last in the Pac-12 South. August practices will be followed by hopes that 2013 – with a schedule tougher than that of 2012 – will somehow bring about different results.

Sounds like a pretty gray nine months … followed by another three months of frustration.

So, I am proposing to deviate from my long-standing rule of focusing solely on CU football.

I would like to spend some time this winter following the basketball team more closely. With the advent of the Pac-12 Networks, every CU game will be available to me, and, let’s face it, it’s more fun to write about positive records being set by Tad Boyle and Andre Roberson than it is to write about the negative records of Jon Embree and Jordan Webb.

Now, I do not pretend to have the history and background with the basketball team as I do with the football team. I have been a regular at CU games for over 30 years, and have been researching and writing about the football team for over 15 years.

Still, I am a fan, and it will give me a positive outlet for my energies to spend some time with the basketball team … All the while remaining “hopelessly devoted” to the football team, with no drop off in coverage of recruiting and practices.

What do you think?

By reading this essay – by even checking  in with the website after yet another blowout loss – you have clearly demonstrated a love for CU football that is above and beyond the call.

So … Would you like to see CU at the Game give some coverage to the men’s basketball team? You can post a comment, below, or vote in a poll which I will be putting up on the front page. I would very much appreciate your thoughts, comments, and opinions …

16 Replies to ““Hopelessly Devoted””

  1. Years ago when the stock market was in the suffering its dot.com bust, I stopped checking prices–too depressing. Sadly I have not been reading much on the buffs–too depressing. Bball will help until this regime is gone. Embry is out of his league. But CU will give him another year on the condition he fires his coordinators for his own benefit.

  2. Stuart, I greatly appreciate your site and while I think you would do a great job covering any sports related subject, I’m a little concerned that basketball coverage will take away from your excellent coverage of the football team. I think it’s great that the basketball programs have made improvement in the last few years, but in my mind basketball is a far distant second to football and always will be. I realize CU football is mostly a negative subject at this point, but we need to talk about what is going to be done to get our beloved program back and we need to keep pressure on CU’s administration to let them know the current status of the football program is unacceptable.

    Right now I think the attention being given to basketball takes the focus away from what needs to be done to salvage the football program and it gives the CU administration a false sense that everything is okay in the athletic department. Sites like yours help fans stay informed about CU football and I’m concerned that if fans turn too much of their attention away from football they will become totally indifferent to the program and we will never get back to success on the gridiron. In the middle of the football season plenty of other CU sites shifted their focus to basketball and their football coverage suffered. Please keep CU at the Game the home for informed and loyal fans of the football program.

  3. I think you should do it!

    Its the perfect time to join in on reporting on basketball because its only going to get bigger from here – Boyle is the man! And epic failure is happening on the football side now too so it makes sense.

    Also, you write intelligent thoughtful informed stuff – it would be great to have that on the hoops program as well Stuart!!!

  4. It is safe to say that we will enjoy your basketball coverage just as much as the football coverage. Thank you for your honest devotion despite the current state of the football program.

    It looks like a good time to balance the bad with the good with a new subdomain like hoops.cuatthegame.com!

  5. I joked earlier this year about how CU could become one of those “basketball schools” where football season is just a place holder until the hoops season starts, but lets face it, our hearts will never quite be as committed to basketball: we will never be Duke or Kansas or Kentucky. That said, I would love to hear your take on the basketball season. It is not a substitute, but it certainly would help in the cold months to come.

  6. Basketball season fills the void during the winter months. Tad understands the importance of how the two sport programs help each other with recruiting, so it is a great idea to combine them and follow both sports. As long as CU has Tad, the basketball program will be competitive in every game they play. He is a good coach and understands how to teach and motivated positively. The dedication and work Tad and his players have done the last two years, they deserve more from the fan base in terms of blogging and news updates. It is hard to come across relevant articles related to CU basketball. Hopefully, this site can change that.

  7. Great idea!
    I’ll always be a football first guy, but the basketball team the past couple of years has actually been a salve to the wounds inflicted by the pathetic nature of the football games.
    So, I agree with most here – add the BB coverage – and we’ll still hope that one of those 5-7 football recruits will actually make a difference next year!
    And, thanks for keeping the faith and keeping this site up and running – I check in every day!

  8. Thanks for the essay. I can never quit the Buffs. Survived the Chuck Fairbanks era, so I know I can handle this.

    It would be great to have your Buff Basketball commentary!

  9. I never thought I would see the day that the “Football Only” Stu Whitehair would consider adding basketball to this great site! Well, Hell has frozen over!……The fat lady is singing!……If Stu can’t take anymore of this farse(CU football) then NO ONE can. It is a sad day for CU when football died in Boulder.
    With that being said…..I think it would be a great idea to add basketball to this site. We are rising fast in the basketball world and to not “catch the wave” of this feel good experience would be a shame.
    Kudos to you Stu and your efforts……Bring on the Hoops…….Call it: “CU at the Hoop” and have it within the current web page.
    Shoulder to shoulder for any CU sport……especially the one that are winning!

  10. Luv your football coverage and has the previous post said nothing replaces our BUFFS football but this BUFFS basketball program is something VERY SPECIAL BUT WE WILL ALWAYS STAND BY OUR FOOTBALL PROGRAM AS WELL. Thanks for your great coverage

  11. Not much to add as I agree with the sentiments already expressed. I encourage your efforts to broaden your CU coverage, Stuart. I know it’ll be informative and fun to follow. Count me in.

  12. I am also “hopelessly devoted” as I would not even know how to be a fan for any other school than CU. I would enjoy some BB coverage, it has been enjoyable to watch Tad Boyle build a team and I think it will just get better with time and more experience. Still keeping the faith for a better football team next year… GO BUFFS.

  13. Having followed CU football since the early ’70’s, and after contributing close to $400,000 in out of state tuition and costs for my sons to attend CU, I’ve continued to follow those 18 to 23 year old students who wear the gold helmets with buffaloes on each side on the gridiron. I don’t know how to explain it but as rational as I am in my life elsewhere, I have an irrational allegiance to this team in black and gold.

    That being said, I’m finding a disconnect between the teams I remember in those uniforms and the teams that have shown up these past two years – especially this year. Even under Hawkins, there almost always was a chance CU could win nearly every game – witness Alabama, Georgia (2x), West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Very few times were we out of the game before halftime. In that way, the team on the field was still connected to the teams of the ’80’s, ’90’s, and first several years of the 21st century. That connection does not exist anymore. Instead of being part of the tough, underdog, fighting legacy of the Buff’s glory (and semi-glory) years, the team wearing the Colorado colors these days are imposters. They’re like the little kid who stole into the athletic department and put on the real team’s uniforms when no one was looking.

    It’s time for the imposters to leave and the real team and it’s leadership to retake their uniforms and impose their will on the field. For that reason, competent, even exceptional leadership and coaching must replace what currently is a failed experiment. I’m sure that the university makes a multiple back of more than a dollar for every dollar it spends on the football program. Time to let the economic reality of this failed program come to the forefront of decision makers, and time to clean house in the athletic department’s football operations in order to create a profitable – both in wins and in dollars – to the university and those who love it and want it to flourish once again.

  14. If your basketball coverage is half as good as your football coverage, I think it would be very valuable. One of the things I like about this site is it’s not just about the facts and figures from games, but the first-hand experiences involved in the games. I think if nothing else, you could make a basketball section where fans could share their stories from following the basketball team.

    Keep up the good work!

  15. Stuart – I would love reading your coverage of the mens basketball team. I get worn down by the negativity from the other coverage out there and read your stuff daily just to keep from slipping into a dark depression. Ringo and the others have to be highly critical and the comments on their articles are just plain ugly. You’re a HOMER just like me and that’s okay.

    At the same time, I like that CU at the Game is pure football. It’s a lot to ask but I’d prefer keeping this site focused on football with a separate page or micro site dedicated to basketball.

    Shoulder to shoulder!

  16. I was never a basketball fan, NBA or college. HOwever, we got season tickets a couple years ago when Hawkins was destroying CU football and Alec Burks was bringing CU basketball to life.

    Bball is entertaining. The Coors Events Center can be a fun environment. It’s awesome to leave campus feeling good. Give it shot, you’ll like it. Especially now given how craptastic our football team is. It definitely doesn’t replace football for me, but it’s a good temporary fix.

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