The first Oklahoma State game I ever attended was in 2002. I was seven years old. I watched the Les Miles-led Cowboys win a close-fought game against a bad Texas A&M team with my own eyes. I didn’t understand exactly what I was watching. I didn’t understand football. I hardly even remember that day.
I became infatuated with Cowboy football between 2003 and 2005. I was at the 51-49 classic with Texas Tech in ‘03. I was at the 2004 Bedlam game when Adrian Peterson went berserk, and Jason Ricks pushed a game-tying field goal wide-right. I was at the 2005 Texas game when OSU shut down the No. 2 Longhorns in the first half, only to get blown out in the second. I even heckled Vince Young from the stands! Those experiences, mostly painful, had me hooked on Oklahoma State football. I remember them vividly to this day.
That 2002 team went 8-5; the next year, 9-4 (hey, not bad!). But things got harder for Oklahoma State in the offseason after the 2004 campaign. Miles jetted for greener pastures, and Oklahoma State wound up hiring a then-37-year-old Mike Gundy. OSU went 4-7, 7-6, 7-6, before Gundy reeled off his first 9-win season.
I’ve seen bad Cowboy football. Odds are, though, you’ve seen worse. That’s why I don’t understand some of the pessimism I’ve seen leading up to, and spilling over into the season. People aren’t sold. People nitpick 4th-quarter defense by the second-stringers in a 42-point game!
Cowboy fans talk often about how bad the early 90’s were; how abysmal the start to Gundy’s tenure was. We remember those times in the program’s history for the wrong reasons. This season, though, could end up being remembered for all of the right reasons.
We are currently in the golden age of Cowboy football. You and I are living it out.
When you tell your grandkids about OSU football, you’ll look back at the 2011 Big 12 Championship. You’ll talk about how we should’ve won it again in 2013, and how Justin Gilbert definitely picked that ball off. You might even talk about this 2017 team, if things go according to plan.
We’ve lived out a near-decade-long era of success on the football field. Gundy has brought consistent expectations to the program. Every year, we have an idea of what to expect.
That won’t be around forever, though.
Think about it for a second. Even the greatest dynasties in football eventually crumble. Now, I’m not saying Oklahoma State is a dynasty by any stretch of the imagination. They are, however, a power in the Big 12, and have been for the last five years.
Iconic programs topple. It happens all of the time. Blue-bloods like USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Ohio State, Alabama, Texas, and so many more, have dominated the sport at one time or another. But they don’t do it forever. It comes to an end.
This era of Cowboy football will come to an end.
Whether it takes Mike Gundy retiring, a major injury, or a change in administration, it will end. That’s why it’s crucial for us to understand what we’re watching right now. Last weekend’s game against Pitt was something out of my childhood dreams. The offense was completely unstoppable and the defense was stifling. It’s what we thought the 2009-2013 teams could have been. What we’re watching unfold on the field is something unlike anything seen before in Stillwater. It just looks different.
10-win seasons are rare. Oklahoma State went 22 years without a 10-win season when it got its first since 1988 in 2010. 22 years! Since then, the Cowboys have won 10 games in five of the past seven seasons.
Oklahoma State isn’t a blue-blood, the expectations aren’t the same and the dynasty doesn’t always get rebuilt. Texas has seen a decade of futility. Notre Dame has been irrelevant for years. Nebraska’s coach is on the hottest seat in America in only his third season with the program. Even the bluest of blue bloods can struggle to rebuild what once was.
When Oklahoma State starts struggling and the program finds itself on shaky ground, what happens then? If it takes those programs so long to return to glory, how long could we have to wait?
My main point is this: have fun this season.
Go to every game. Wear orange. Tailgate. Drink beer. Enjoy these times with friends and family. And scream until your throat is raw for the Cowboys.
Enjoy this season now, because the future holds different fortunes for you, me and this program. It might not be next year, or the year after that, but at some point, things are going to change in Stillwater. When that happens, don’t you want to be able to look back on these times and remember just how great they really were?