No, this won't be the "last" OSU football game for me. Hopefully I will ENJOY many more seasons of ecstasy and pain.
But it will likely be one of the the last I watch with my mother.
While on vacation last week, I learned that my Mom, 94, featured in this article by NewsOK's Gina Mizell back in 2011, would be moving home from assisted living and receiving hospice care. I immediately made plans to return home, flying in the morning of 8/31, in time to watch the game with her.
My religion and my relationship with my father was golf.
My religion and my relationship with my mother was football.
Both of my parents attended and graduated from OSU back when it was A&M. My dad used to tell stories about Bob Fenimore.
I'm sure at least some of you already know this, but I grew up attending home games in the 70's and early 80's, even traveling for 1 or 2 road games a year. In 1974, I was at Nebraska on the goal line where Charlie Weatherbie fumbled, allowing the Cornhuskers to preserve a 7-3 win. In 1973, I was in Little Rock at War Memorial when OSU claimed a rare blowout win over the Razorbacks, and they turned the lights out before we could get out of the stadium.
In the fall of 1980, my freshman year in Stillwater, my parents came to my dorm room to retrieve me for the game against Washington. I had partied a little hard the night before. They knocked on the door.
They knocked again.
"LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE."
"Robert, it's your father."
I don't think I need to describe the scene thereafter. The only other clear memory I have of that day was Jim Traber dropping back to pass and stumbling over his own feet for a loss (He actually rallied the Cowboys, only to fall short).
My father would sometimes get up and roam around under the stadium during the 3rd quarter because he was so frustrated, but more often than not he was sitting between Mom and me. That's because, when things were really tight, Mom and I would start "jockeying" for position with our elbows, attempting to will OSU to a great play. She would occasionally show up the next day with bruises on the back of her arms.
For you to truly understand my mother's "obsession" with football, you need to hear the following story, which is an excerpt from the email that prompted Gina to feature my Mom in her article.
"My father told it best."
"In 1965, my parents went to Bedlam in Norman, along with one of my sisters. I'm not sure exactly how the game ended...whether they missed or we made...but, as the "story" goes, my mother, who had taken a couple of tranquilizers that day to deal with her "Bedlam" anxiety (I think Dad may have added this for affect), refused to watch the "play," bending over in her seat and pulling her coat over her head. The resulting cheer from the OSU crowd in attendance was so loud that she thought it was the home crowd responding. By the time Dad pulled her out from under her coat, she was a crying mess, absolutely in mourning. She recalled Dad yelling at her "FOR HEAVENS SAKE MARILYNN, GET UP...WE WON! It took most of the car ride home with the radio blaring to convince her that OSU had actually won the game."
"She swore that she would never again attend a Bedlam contest. She held true to her promise."
"She has watched many Bedlam games on TV over the years (you can always turn that off if necessary). I was with my parents in a hotel room in LA for the "drop" in 1988. Thought she was going to cry then too."
She was with me last Thanksgiving, and we gave each other a hug after the heartbreaking OT loss in Norman.
OSU was not her only football "obsession." We also followed the "other" Cowboys...Dallas.
Landry, Staubach, Garrison. Lilly. Newhouse. Dorsett. Too Tall Jones. Pearson. Hated the Giants. Hated the Redskins. Hated the Cardinals.
My first truly clear football memory is rookie kicker Jim O'Brien drilling the game winning field goal to lift the Colts over Dallas in the '71 Super Bowl. Like is was yesterday.
I don't know where she got it, but Mom always ended up with this little "program" type pamphlet that had all the NFL teams, their schedules, and little spaces for the scores and the records. She would meticulously scan the Monday paper to update her information.
In 1976, she was THE source in our family for NFL playoff scenarios.
In 1985, while still rabid Dallas fans, I was dating my first wife. I brought her home one weekend in December to meet my parents. We went to church, then returned home after lunch to watch some football. That wasn't her cup of tea, but she was a good sport about it.
Dallas and the NY Giants were locked in a tight race for the division, and they happened to be playing that particular Sunday. Mom settled into her recliner with her crocheting paraphernalia, her reading glasses firmly in place.
At one point in the game, the Giants' RB Joe Morris broke into the secondary.
Mom came out of her chair, as if shot by a catapult, screaming "GET HIM, DAMN IT!!" Everything in her lap went flying.
To this day I will swear that my first wife to be peed her pants.
That's my mother in a nutshell. Football fanatic. My football buddy.
She hasn't been able to enjoy much football for several years now. Her eyesight has betrayed her, and her hearing is not good enough to really follow the radio or TV.
When I told her that I was coming home in time for OSU's first game of the season, she said "Good. You'll have to tell me what's going on."
It likely will not be the last game she "hears about," since family will be with her constantly for approximately the next month, and I will be at home for the UTSA game on 9/7.
But it will be the last meaningful one I will watch in her presence, and a victory over the dreaded SEC would be appropriate. Anything after that will be a little less sweat.
I salute you, Mom. A life well lived for a fan that has endured everything her teams have dished out.
Football and family.