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When I Fell In Love with Oklahoma State



(Welcome to my launch party. Enjoy the post, it should answer all the questions you have right now. And if it doesn’t, then feel free to email me or hit me up on Twitter.)

There was a specific point in time in the last fifteen years when I pushed all my chips to the middle of the table and went all in on OSU. As I was thinking back to when that moment might have occurred, several instances crossed my mind…

Could it have been when I was four years old and Robin Ventura tossed me his sweatbands between innings at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium? I used to go to those games with my parents; we would picnic next to Duck Street, over the right field wall before it became part of the Bennett parking lot. I spent a lot of time memorizing media guides and spouting stats to the older folks around us.

They thought I was some sort of boy genius but I wasn’t, I just loved watching Mike Gardella trot out of the bullpen in the 8th to shut down Wichita State and set up Gordie Tipton for the 9th. I guess you could say I’ve been covering OSU for the last 21 years but I don’t think that was when I first fell in love.

Maybe it was in 1995 during the Regional Final when my dad and I ran around our house in Houston yelping about how Country had just taken down Antonio McDyess, Tim Duncan, and Marcus Camby in succession to take OSU to the Final Four. I loved that team.

College athletics were still innocently pure to me and I thought if a bunch of dorks and one good shooter (Rutherford) could dance their way through the tournament to play for the title then I could certainly do anything I set my mind to. I might have first been hooked on OSU that year after Rutherford dropped 45 in Lawrence on Big Monday and Dick Vitale’s head almost exploded on the air, but I wasn’t in love yet.

Over Thanksgiving break 2001 my family and I went to a playoff game my high school was playing at the Astrodome. The caveat? It started about an hour and a half before Bedlam. Before you start judging, remember OSU was a 28-point dog and Stoops has only lost twice in Norman in his career. My high school came up short that day, but we raced home from the Dome and when we got there I turned on the TV expecting to see Nate Hybl tossing his 7th score of the day.

Instead my eyes glazed over as I saw Josh Fields hit TD Bryant over the middle to keep the 1980 Olympic hockey-level miracle alive. You guys know the rest. My favorite moment from that game wasn’t Rashaun’s two-step for the win or Mad Hatter getting doused with orange Gatorade, no, it was Bryant dancing on the sideline with a snapped rose hanging out of his mouth celebrating history. It wasn’t love, but it was close.

Eli Manning ruined my next opportunity. I was home for college in January of 2004 and watching the Cotton Bowl with my dad (remember when the Cotton Bowl was actually played on New Year’s instead of three games into the conference basketball season?) Ole Miss was stroking us too. Eli did whatever he wanted in the first half before Rashaun lost his mind in the second to the tune of a record-setting 11-223-1 day. In the end OSU gave up three third-down conversions on the final drive (imagine that!) and lost 31-28. I was devastated, it was the first time I remember being physically angry about the outcome of a sporting event.

There were two basketball games that stand out for different reasons. The first was the 2004 de facto Big 12 title game against Texas in Gallagher-Iba. That team was special. The indelible moment seared into the hard drive of my mind was in the waning seconds when Lucas tossed an oop to Joey for the title-sealing hammer. Or as you might remember it, “the OSU highlight ESPN Full Court used as their sales and marketing campaign for like three straight years.”

The second was the Durant game. Gallagher-Iba was borderline catatonic that night. I remember right before the second overtime started one of my buddies sitting next to me looked over with a Tebow-esque smile and said “is there anywhere else in the world you’d rather be right now than sitting in this gym with 13,611 of your closest friends?” My answer: “is that a serious question?”

Then Dez came along.

We were driving to the Recruiting Roundup out at the Expo the Spring before his Freshman year discussing recruits, returning starters, and uniforms — you know, the usual things college kids talk about on a Thursday night in February. I looked over to one of the guys in the car and said “what number do you want De…” and before I could finish, another guy in the back screamed “ONE! He’ll look incredible in it!!” We all died laughing.

The punt returns were what got me about Dez though. The way he conjured up the appropriate amount of swagger necessary for the physical debilitation of eleven other guys torpedoing down the field trying to take his head off mesmerized me. The UH one might never be topped either. The combination of the weather (misty and overcast), the score (down 24-7 at half), the ranking (#5), and that I was sitting with my parents and one of my best friends was like the perfect storm of an “I can’t believe this is happening I wish somebody was videotaping my reaction right now” moment.

I’m not even real sure what I did but I know my friend next to me started dropping 5 and 4 letter words (in front of my parents) right after Dez’s first juke towards the sideline and we both just freaked out. It was like that though, Dez standing on his own 30 staring at Gallagher-Iba ready to return a punt made me feel like I could do anything. I don’t think it’s the thing that made me love OSU though.

As I was meandering through all these thoughts and grasping for something that stuck out above everything else I’d ever experienced, it finally dawned on me. It wasn’t a game or a play at all, but rather what happened after one of the most devastating losses in school history.

There was one singular moment that made me fall in love with OSU

It was in the year 2000. Desmond’s senior year. Nine months before the plane crash. OSU had just lost to Florida in the regional final and I was heartbroken because they were my favorite basketball team of all time.

I wrote this shortly thereafter:

The saddest but most wonderful picture I have ever seen is the one of Desmond walking off the court as the game ended, head down, eyes welling. Eddie pulled him after a horrid performance and he fell into the old man’s grizzled arms sobbing like the little boy who had been burned badly so many years earlier. He had been burned again, this time by Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and Teddy Dupee. It was more painful this time though, because this time it wasn’t just skin deep, it cut straight to the heart, and we all knew it.

We knew there would never be another Desmond. So as he stood there with Eddie sobbing and apologetic, I couldn’t help but be touched. His tears were tears of pain but mine were of joy. Joy for all the great things he brought, all the wonder he filled my head with, an example of how to be a good Cowboy, of how to be a great human being. As Eddie consoled him on that misty Sunday, his #34 already hanging high from the rafters of my mind, I was swept away in an emotional tidal wave, already missing his high-flying circus act, missing his athletic feats, missing his great spirit, the spirit of a Cowboy. He was the best there’s ever been.

That wasn’t the moment that got me though. That came next.

I was standing in our kitchen talking to my family about something when my dad walked in. He had been in his study listening to the postgame show and he came in to tell me about it. We’d been following that team together all year. We’d teared up on Senior night when Desmond walked to midcourt with his dad during the last game at old Gallagher-Iba. We’d rooted them on as they fell to Iowa St. in the Big 12 semifinals. And we’d gone beserk as they downed Hofstra, Pepperdine, and Seton Hall in succession.

So he came in to talk and I asked him a question. He started telling me about Joe Adkins’ press conference but the words wouldn’t come. He was choked up. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never seen my dad cry.

And that was the moment I fell in love with OSU. It was the first time I’d understood that Oklahoma State wasn’t about winning games and raising banners (though we’ve done our fair share of that). I finally got that OSU was (and is) about the human beings who have poured sweat and leaked blood for its well-being and for each other. I knew that Oklahoma State, as it is with so many other schools across the nation, is about family. One I wanted to be a part of.

See sports are just these silly little games played on the weekends by athletic people so un-athletic folks like us can have something to talk about during the week. I suppose I shouldn’t be complaining though, since those “silly little games” are the only reason you’re reading this blog right now. I also think that sports have a place in our society. An earmark of sorts for all the hopes and dreams of individuals everywhere. Sports are a metaphor for life. And it goes both ways.

Athletes feel things and react to both the valor and cruelness of sports with the same emotion you and I do in the ways our lives unfurl. We love sports because they’re the ultimate reality television.

Whether it’s DWade standing on top of the scorer’s table in Miami screaming “this is my house”, TJ Sorrentine driving the 35-foot dagger straight into Jim Boeheim’s heart, Jordan Crawford and Jacob Pullen sending Gus Johnson into DEFCON 1, or Ian Johnson making grown men (mostly OSU men) cry with his trickeration, I want to feel something when I watch sports.

And when OSU plays, I feel something. Sometimes (like around Bedlam every year) that’s not a particularly good thing but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

I felt the same things you felt when Boggan hit the prayer against Texas in ’07. The same things you felt when we missed the extra point against A&M in ’06. The same things you felt when Bradford went helicoptor-ing into the West endzone in ’08. The same things you felt when Lucas sent us to the Final Four in ‘04.

That’s why I started this site — to cover Oklahoma State sports from your perspective, rather, from our perspective. I respect the work Brandon Chatmon, Bill Haisten, and David Ubben do and have told each one of them, but I wanted to create a site that provided you with journalism as the Oklahoma State aficionado would provide it.

So that’s what I’ve done. For the last two months I’ve been working on my craft, building it to be everything I thought an Oklahoma State fan would want in an Oklahoma State sports blog. This is your site as much as it is mine, I’m just the mediator — the purveyor of information to all of you. This is our community.

Here’s what you can expect from me. I’m going to write game previews laced with the occasional snarky remark directed at the appropriate parties (I’m looking at you, Scott Drew). I’m going to write (admittedly lengthy) reviews for football and basketball games that break down the action and provide commentary on what I see from the fan’s point of view. It’ll be kind of like a barroom conversation except you’ll have to bring your own beer and we’ll be doing it online.

On Sundays I’ll pen letters to various athletes, coaches, and general sports figures. Every morning I’ll hit you with The Morning Fade which is a roundup of all things Oklahoma State floating around the nets. And the rest of it? Well, the rest of it will be intermittent columns and posts throughout the week that hopefully stir legitimate, intelligent conversation amongst Cowboy nation. You keep coming and I’ll keep bringing it.

I told myself I’d launch this blog once I got to 50,000 words or 100 posts, whichever came first. Well I blew by 50,000 words last week but, as fate would have it, this is post #100. What have you missed? Glad you asked. My staff and I posted our Big 12 conference preview last week. I wrote about Gundy’s coaches convention speech a few days ago. Then there’s the 2,000-word Alamo Bowl recap or, if you’re over football and focused on hoops, a 1,600-word Iowa State review.

Feel free to explore, poke around, read, comment, email me, and spread the word about this site.

I completely understand that you might not really get the blogging/social media world we live in. Heck, even I still think it’s pretty weird sometimes and I’m completely immersed in it. I’m working on an “Oklahoma State fan’s social media user’s guide” which will help. But for now, if you want to jump on this train, you can follow me on Twitter here and get our RSS feed here.

I usually blog about twice a day and try to drop about 10 or so tweets. Obviously that number goes up exponentially on game days. I love conversing with people on Twitter and answering questions. If there’s one medium through which I would suggest you follow this site, that would be it. And I promise I won’t tell you what I had for lunch every day. If you’re not on Twitter we also have a developing Facebook fan site.

It’s hard to put into words what this site means to me and how important it is to me that you’re reading this right now. I’m beyond excited about the journey we’re about to go on and hope you decide to lace ‘em up and come with us.

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