I have often said that the great thing about sports is it allows people an escape from reality. Otherwise normal people, who work 8-5 Monday through Friday and always act professionally can relax and come into an environment where going crazy is the norm. Whether they’re screaming for a defensive stop or giving some ‘helpful’ suggestions to officials, it’s acceptable for fans to be emotional. It can be a tremendous break from the harsh realities of life.
I think that’s what has made the past year and this past week so hard. In June we lost our head coach. Because of that, the season has been a release but it is also a reminder. A reminder of how much we miss Coach Bostwick. A stark reminder that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Last week, tragedy struck one of my alma maters for the second time in the past 10 years. The seemingly unthinkable. A second plane crash took the lives of two Oklahoma State University coaches, a pilot and his wife. I knew Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna well. Both were hard working, dedicated coaches. Beyond that, they were amazing people. My last year on the men’s staff at OSU was their first. They came in and took over a team that won zero Big 12 games the year before. That kind of culture is hard to change. But they changed it and OSU was in the Sweet 16 a few seasons later. I would occasionally run into the women’s staff after I left OSU. They were always friendly and always humble despite the monstrous turnaround the program made. I will miss Kurt and Miranda. We lost two good coaches last week. I hope you will join me in praying for their families, for their team and the OSU family.
Back to my initial point about sports being an escape from life. Friday was a tough day. I learned at 7:00 AM about the OSU plane crash. I worked that day before going to our men’s basketball game in St. Joseph and returning to watch the second half of the women’s basketball game at Bearcat Arena. After the game ended, I went home hoping to watch an OSU blowout of Iowa State and the start (in some small way) to a healing process for the Cowboy faithful. Instead OSU dropped a heartbreaker to a very tough and gritty Iowa State team (that guy can coach!). I went to bed thinking, “I sure hope the Bearcat football team can win one tomorrow.” The Bearcats got off to the worst start possible. It was almost unimaginable. But our fans didn’t turn on the team. They kept cheering them on. The players didn’t start turning on each other. The coaches didn’t get negative. They stayed the course, believed in each other and knew we could turn things around. I went to the locker room at halftime, which is unusual for me. I wanted to show the team and coaches that I was there with them and supported them. The coaches didn’t yell and cuss, they didn’t downgrade anybody. They simply told the players to believe in themselves, do things right and we will get back in this game. You know the results. The Bearcats won and advance to the second round of the playoffs on Saturday.
Later that day, the men’s basketball team won again to start 4-0 in what promises to be a fun season. The women’s basketball team broke free from an early season slump to win its first contest. I was on top of the world Saturday night and so happy the Bearcats had a clean sweep.
You see, sports aren’t life or death even though sometimes it seems like it. It’s just a game. But what is special about sports is that it allows us the opportunity to escape life and death and everything else for a few hours. To get lost in the excitement. To cheer for our team. To ride the emotional roller coaster that is sports. That’s what makes sports special for the fans. I hope you enjoyed Saturday as much as I did.
This is another big week for the Bearcats. You can follow the women’s basketball team via northwestbearcats.com as it plays in the Oahu Classic in Hawaii. The men’s basketball team takes on Bethel College at Bearcat Arena on Saturday. And I hope a bunch of you will join me in Wichita Falls, Texas, Saturday as our football team takes on No. 1 seed Midwestern State.
Until next time, once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat!