Monday, December 26, 2011

Shivering in the Stadium

The day after Christmas in Shreveport was grey and rainy, with occasional thunder. It was cold, too, with temperatures in the low 40’s. In other words, it was cold enough to be miserable but not cold enough for the rain to become snow…not even close. It was under those conditions that my sweet mother-in-law boldly strode into Independence Stadium to watch the Missouri Tigers play the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Independence Bowl.

Unfortunately, there were too few intrepid souls to make the stadium look presentable on TV. There were 30,000 or so people who had tickets to the game, but decided the weather was just too ridiculous to suffer it willingly.
The truth is, she knew she would have a roof over her head, so the rain wasn’t a factor. So, she bundled up and sat in the cold with her daughter for as long as she could take it.

That was, by the way, slightly more than three quarters of football. She said this was her first time to ever set foot in the stadium. As much time as I’ve spent there, that little piece of news shocks me just a little. I’ve seen rain, snow, ice, mud, slop and summer swelter there. The key is to dress appropriately.

It was a disappointing day for the Independence Bowl, there’s no getting around it. But I think it was a good day for my wife and her mother. Christmas is behind us. Ours was terrific. The kids came home and we all got together, along with my father, for a low-key but happy day. But everybody’s gone now, so the game was a welcome distraction. It got us out of the house. I just wish the weather had been a little better.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Taking Sides in a Frog-Dog Brawl

The TCU students in our lives have scattered to many compass points for the holidays. Our daughter and a few of her friends, for instance, seem to have successfully avoided a blizzard that has been hammering the eastern half of Colorado. From their perch at Winter Park, it’s all sunshine and powder as they shush down the slopes.

The fate of their school’s football team seems to be of no consequence. A little less than a year ago, they spent New Year’s Eve in Hollywood and January 1st at The Rose Bowl, so it’s understandable that a pre-Christmas trip to the Poinsettia Bowl for a game against Louisiana Tech would not supersede their trip to the mountains.

So, when the local media started poking around for TCU fans, somehow our name came up. Next thing you know, a TV reporter showed up at our door wanting to talk to Horned Frog fans who are anticipating the game. We were happy to oblige and dutifully donned our purple gear and surrounded ourselves with Frog Stuff.

We showed up on two stations about an hour apart, looking like a couple from When Harry Met Sally. We played off one another in the tandem interview and talked about our conflicts of allegiance.

After all, as lifelong residents of northwest Louisiana, we’ve developed a great affection for Louisiana Tech. (You can watch the story here)
My wife borrowed her wisdom from a bumper sticker and correctly pointed out to the reporter that “our daughter and our money go to TCU,” so we had to make a conscious choice about which team to root for in the game.
The wife has vowed to wear purple all day. I’ll probably stay neutral.

I think a bowl victory would mean more to Louisiana Tech’s program, but a loss might hurt the Frogs in the 2012 preseason rankings. So, I could go either way. We’ll watch on TV and when our daughter gets back from her ski trip, we’ll let her know how it went.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

She Forgot It Was Her Birthday?

Twenty years ago today, we brought our beautiful baby girl home for the first time. Two decades later, she controls her own movements and has a travel trajectory that is leading her in exactly the opposite direction of our house. We can’t blame her, really. Let’s see…first free week after final exams: Shreveport or Winter Park, Colorado? How long do you figure she weighed that decision? She’ll be home for Christmas; at least that’s the working plan. It just won’t be for as long as we had hoped.

The emotional issue we faced was being separated from her on the day she turned 20. It was all lost on her because she was covered up with everything that goes into preparing for finals. She’s also working part time at a fancy clothing store and this is the holiday shopping season, so the boss needed her. Let’s just say she was kind of overwhelmed with duties and obligations.

So, we surprised her and, with cooperation from her roommates, sneaked into her apartment at TCU shortly after noon on her birthday. She had taken her last test earlier in the morning, and when we found her she was lost to the world, immersed in slumber while relieved of stress and responsibility for the first time in weeks. It was almost a shame to wake her. Her mother said, “Happy Birthday!” in her sweet Mommy way. Our daughter said “Mom?” and became obviously disoriented. She started looking around, assessing her location. She had no idea we were coming, so in those in-between moments as she was awakening, she thought she was in her room at home but naturally that made no sense. He mother said “its okay, honey. You’re still at school.” Finally, she figured it out and smiled.

She woke up and eagerly agreed to let us take her to lunch for her birthday. We had brought along a carload of presents from us and her grandparents. So, we spent part of the afternoon unwrapping, trying on and doing other gift-related activities. Happily, one of her closest hometown friends was also in town and we got to spend time with her, too. The roommates had thrown her a surprise party at midnight. By all accounts, it was a brief but memorable affair. It was designed by necessity as a study break. There were balloons, party favors, gifts and even a piƱata.

I was just happy to get her out of the bed and spend a couple of hours with her.
We said so long and turned around for home because she had to pack her skiing gear and hit the westbound highway. It’s amazing how much life changes in twenty years. Two decades ago, she was crying. Today, despite being exhausted, I’m pretty sure she’s laughing all the way to the slopes. I’m confident she had a happy birthday and that’s really all you can ask for.

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Close Call With Carolina

There were some anxious moments for event organizers at the Independence Bowl’s team Announcement party. Sponsors and honored guests gathered to hear from the athletic directors and coaches from the participating schools, Missouri and North Carolina.

As well-wishers and bowl supporters merrily gathered in the Independence Stadium Club, the fine folks from Missouri mingled amongst them. It’s not clear how many people noticed the alarming absence of Carolina Blue. Tar Heel representatives were flying to Shreveport from Chapel Hill having spent the day hiring a new football coach. This caused them to be significantly behind schedule. So, as the designated master of ceremonies for the event urged people to continue enjoying themselves (hopefully, they did), the bowl’s chairman was nervously checking his iPhone as he tracked online the progress of the plane carrying the A.D. and an assistant coach. The formal program was scheduled to begin at 6:45; was indicating the Carolina plane would land about 6:51. Eek.

An executive decision was made to start at 7:00, no matter what. So, the chairman and other high ranking bowl brass began to regale the assembled football fans with stories and expressions of gratitude for the sponsors and volunteers.

Then, there was a 2:00 video of Missouri game highlights, followed by remarks from the Coach and Athletic Director. In the background, there was an emergency huddle about what to do if the Carolina people were stuck in traffic or something. Before we started, the chairman asked “Are you sure about this? Once we start, we can’t really go back.” The answer was, “Sometimes you just have to have faith”: Faith in the proximity of the airport to the stadium, faith in flight tracking technology and faith in the famously light Shreveport evening interstate traffic.

Somewhere in the midst of Missouri remarks, the Carolina people strolled in as if on cue. Attendees, presumably concentrating on their drinks and dinner during the prelude to all this presentation drama, didn’t seem to notice much of a disruption; especially since it turned out to be only a fifteen minute delay. The Tar Heel highlight video ran on the monitors; then the affable, if tardy, A.D. Bubba Cunningham made his way to the mic and charmed everyone.

The Independence bowl caught a break with this year’s matchup, which seems to be reasonably attractive. With everybody breathing a little easier now, maybe folks can exhale, smile and just get ready for the football game. Maybe the chairman can keep his phone in his pocket for a couple of days.

(Thanks to Douglas Collier of the Shreveport Times for the party photos.)

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