Thirty-eight games. I’ve been in live attendance for thirty-eight Kansas Football games in my time as a student, that’s five seasons, every home game sans one that I missed because I was out of the country for a vacation and I couldn’t avoid missing it and they’d already bought the tickets and I still feel kinda bad about missing the first senior day of my career, but whatever, it was four years ago at this point and oh my god it’s been four years since I started. I’ve been in attendance for every win over those five years, a total of nine, an average of fewer than two per year. There have been close calls, sure, but blowouts like last Saturday are far too common. Nine of thirty-eight, and that’s games I’ve been there for, not even total games, that’s less than a quarter. In my history as a student, I’ve had less than a one-in-four chance of seeing a game won by the Kansas Jayhawks football team.
I had a more emotional goodbye last year, back when I thought my career was coming to an end. All that still stands. Even with eight more games and seven more losses this year, I still wouldn’t take it back. Honestly, it’s possible that the humor and fun we’ve had over my five years might not have happened were we hanging on every play the team made, were it not for the numerous times we arrived back in the stands for the third quarter with the game already way out of reach, I might not have found so much fun. Five years of KU Football was five years of learning how to have fun in spite of KU Football, and, in a paradoxical way, I might have the failures of Charlie Weis and David Beaty to thank for that.
I think I had a lot of fun during those nine wins, too, but they’re so far gone now. It just sort of gets beaten out of you by the end of the career, your concept of football is replaced by an understanding that you’re there to watch your school’s team lose. Winning isn’t so much of a possibility as it is an abstract concept. Like, I know it’s supposed to happen, I know that’s the goal, but I’ve stopped wondering if it will.
If it happens, it’s nice, but it doesn’t happen and I don’t think of it. KU hasn’t defeated Oklahoma since 1997, there’s no reason to expect them to do it in 2017. Same with Oklahoma State next week, though it’s only been ten years since KU beat the Cowboys.
I probably didn’t pay attention to more than a quarter of the plays on Saturday. My eyes may have been looking towards the field, but my mind was averted.
I’ve been going to games since 1999, I think. I’ve been through 2-10, 6-7, 12-1, 1-11, two different bouts of 3-9, 0-12, and now 1-11 once again: Every type of football season, really – the unexpected success of 2003, the constant heartbreak we were all kind of okay with after beating two rivals in 2004, the glory of 2007, the downfall of 2009, the rebuilds of 2010, 2012, and 2015, and now the failure of 2017. I really thought this year would be different. I wrote back in 2015 –
With many, but not all, programs, you can find specific moments and games to point at and call the turnaround of the program. [2003 versus Missouri] was ours. I was there for that game, and I’m going to be there when it happens again.
I’m not so certain about that last sentence anymore. I’m not so sure I’ll be there next year. In a way, I hope I’m not, I hope my future plans take me away from the comfortable confines of Lawrence and in to a new place for my future study and career. I don’t want to leave this behind, and I know, on some level, I wouldn’t be able to even if I wanted to. Yet, this may have been my last game at Memorial Stadium for a while.
Next year’s home opener is against Nicholls State on September 1st, 2018. For the first time since I think 2003, I probably won’t be there for the home opener. If a turnaround happens, I’ll be sad to miss it. But my gut (and my brain) tells me that I won’t miss it.
Yet, despite every other 30+ point loss I’ve stood through, I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss the hill, the way the sun sets over the press box, the ringing of the Campanile bells an hour before kickoff, all of that. I won’t miss the 50+ yard passes from opposing quarterbacks, the emptying stands and the colors that fill them – purple, green, burnt orange, Oklahoma’s weird crimson that isn’t the same as our crimson or Nebraska’s crimson. I won’t miss the awkward silence after the opposing team scores for the fourth time. I won’t miss the feeling of watching an opposing receiver run out of bounds up by 25 in the fourth quarter with three minutes left to play.
Despite the losses, I’ll miss a lot. I’ll miss everyone around me. I’ll miss the touchdown song, waving the wheat, the way that the PA announcer says “TOUCH-DOWN, KAN-SAS!”, I’ll miss Word Up, Push It, the Alma Mater. I’ll miss hearing the chant start up around four minutes left in the fourth quarter. I’ll miss the roar of the fans once a goalpost finally gives way. Even if I had to wade through loss after loss after loss, I still got to experience those.
Despite Kansas Football, I’m going to miss Kansas Football.