Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mallard's Infinite Playlist: Song of September...

I am - for the most part - a proud ignoramus when it comes to sports. I never played sports (my youth was given over wholly to fishing, hunting, drinking beer and skipping school to repeat items 1,2 and 3), and I never grew up around anyone who did, so it's not that I've lost interest in sports, it's that I never cared to begin with. I couldn't tell you who won the Super Bowl last year (the Dodgers, right?) or the World Series, or that Stanley Bowl thing. I have no clue what an ERA is and I don't know my AL West from my NL East.

I've heard that my home state now has a professional basketball team, the Thunderclap something or other, but since watching basketball interests me about as much as watching platypuses screw, I know nothing of the team, other than most of us here in Oklahoma pay much more attention to our millionaire ballplayers than we do our low thousandaire public-school teachers (current ranking: 49th! Break out the Andre! OK, OK, I'll stop being a political bore...)

But there is one glaring exception to my disinterest. See, I grew up in Norman, Oklahoma. And when you grow up in Norman, Oklahoma, you are beaten daily as a child until you develop an interest in Sooner football (honest, it's in the city charter). So gradually, even if you're not naturally inclined to do so, your interest in college football grows, along with the scar tissue on your backside, until one day you wake up and realize that you are one of them, a...fan.

Sounds brutal, I know, but at least in Oklahoma it's confined to Norman. I hear that in Nebraska - a state much like Oklahoma in its lack of excitement but with only one state university football program to distract its people from ingesting meth and/or watching crops grow - the required beating is a statewide mandate. That would certainly explain a lot... (I kid, I kid my Nebraska homies).

I mean, let's face it: it's Oklahoma we're talking about. It's not like we have a helluva lot we can point to in this state and say "see, look how good we are at this!" So for the past half-century or so we have placed our collective pride and our sense of shared self-worth in the on-field accomplishments of the University of Oklahoma football team (sorry Aggie fans, but it's true...).

And as much as I hate to admit it, as much as the snobbish too-good-for-sports, shun-the-herd iconoclast in me fervently wants it to be otherwise, when I hear this song I completely understand how emotionally invested someone can get in a hometown sports team.


When I was a student at OU I used to live in a crummy little apartment on the south edge of campus, an area that during WWII had been part of a military base. It's mostly developed now, but back in the mid-90s it was an overgrown, largely forgotten jumble of crumbling old buildings and encroaching wildness.

On Saturday mornings during dove season (and later deer bow)I would throw my shotgun in a dufflebag, hop on the bike, cross the highway south of campus and go hunt the south Canadian riverbottom. But even then, miles away from the stadium, I could still hear the roar of the crowd and the band playing the fight song, and I'd hum along to it, heart swelling with Sooner Pride.

"OK," you ask, "if you're such a fan, what the hell were you doing dove hunting when you should have been there watching the game, supporting your school, your team and watching stalking admiring your future wife?" (who as a member of the Pride of Oklahoma's flag corps spent every fall Saturday marching on Owen Field to that very song)

To which I can only reply, it was dove season, man, and during hunting season being a fan has its limits...

And just to give you an example of that, the Sooners are a consensus pre-season #1 and we're the odds-on favorite to win the national championship, but one of the toughest and most important games of the year is September 17th at sixth-ranked Florida State. Every Sooner fan has had that date circled all year.

Where will I be? Hunting prairie chickens in Kansas. Like I said, being a fan has its limits. But you can bet your ass I'll have a radio...


  1. Now that my Huskers are no longer a part of the dysfunctional Big 12, I'm wholeheartedly backing the Sooners.

    And on September 17th, let's hope your boys aren't playing at the same time as mine... or we might wear out that radio dial.

  2. We're golden. The Huskers kick off at 2:30, the Sooners at either 7:30 or 8 pm. Both are on ABC or maybe the Sooners will be on ESPN.

    We gotta find a bar somewhere...

  3. Right. You can trust just about anyone to replace you at the stadium - yelling and beer consumption are simple enough for that - but who can you trust to do the gentle and responsible act of taking the animals? :)

    Reminds me: The former Governor of the region I live in was both a hunter and an avid fan of the local soccer team. The opening days and the team's home games were back then scheduled to avoid the conflict of interest :)