Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Go Team, Go: My Love/Hate/Fickle Relationship With College Sports Teams

I am a CyHawkCat. Or a WildHawkClone. Or a JayCloneCat. Yes, that's right. I have Multiple College Mascot Disorder. Basically this means I have intense love and visceral hate for three different colleges in the Big 12: Kansas State, University of Kansas and Iowa State University

I get crap for this all the time. On Facebook, on Twitter, in front of my face, behind my back. I've had people call me a traitor, a turncoat and a fair weather fan. It cuts me deep, yo.

So - football season is about to start, and even though there are only 2 people that still read this blog (and I'm including myself in that total), I feel the need to address this issue ONCE AND FOR ALL so you all move on with your lives and focus on important things. Like world hunger. And which Real Housewife of New Jersey is going to write a book next.

(It's Caroline, by the way.)

Here's the story.

I grew up a K-State Wildcat fan. 
Everyone in my family takes classes or graduates from Kansas State University. Everyone goes to K-State. There is no question. There is no option. You grow up, you graduate college, you drink the purple kool-aid (and sometimes add vodka to it). KU is allowed in conversation only if you're telling a joke whose punchline ends with a KU graduate needing assistance to tie his/her shoes. The Kansas Jayhawk is a descendant of the devil and wants to take you down to the depths of hell from whence you can never return. 

This was my world for 17 years and I loved it. I loved walking into Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Saturdays to watch the Wildcats take on those slimy Jayhawks or Hucking Nebraska Fuskers. I loved watching Willie Wildcat do 239394830948 push ups after a touchdown pass. It was electric, it was fun, it was my life.

My senior year of high school, something happened - I had to make a life decision. It was time to pick a college. At the time, I wanted to become a cello performance major (the cello is this thing) and graduate with a degree that would let me teach other little cello hopefuls to be as good as I was.

I looked at schools in the area and compared their music programs. I looked at K-State and...K-State. My private cello teacher had gone to KU (*gasp*) and raved about the music program there. I looked into it and turns out she was right; KU was where I needed to be. Also, KU was geographically desirable - close enough to the 'rents house that I could occasionally venture home to to say hi, but far enough away that Mom and Dad couldn't show up at my dorm and be all LET'S GO TO DINNER TONIGHT whenever they wanted.

But what about K-State? My entire family went there. All my cousins had gone there. It was my destiny to wear purple and worship a gray cat that's all "RARR RARR RAAAAAR!" after every first down during a football game. How was I going to make the decision to attend a college that my family hated?

It actually turned out to be pretty easy. I auditioned for a scholarship to KU as a cello major and I got one. KU gave me money.

In the end, I got the song and dance from my parents about, "It doesn't matter where you go to school as long as you get a degree and we're always proud of you no matter what." But trust me, I caught hell for it. I even had to drive my car to the University of Kansas with a K-state sticker on my license tag. (The license tag was subsequently stolen on my third day at the university.)

Eventually I became numb to the jokes and jabs and wise-cracks about my college of choice, because I knew it was all in good fun. Plus I loved everything about KU. I became a true Jayhawk fan. I chanted "Rock Chalk", I waved the wheat, I tapped kegs before the football games and even cheered against K-State during basketball season. KU was my new home and the Jayhawks were my family. 

On graduation day, my parents both wore KU shirts and beamed with pride. I was touched. (Of course, my Dad reminded me that the only other time I'd EVER see him in this shirt again would be if he was changing the oil in our van. He held true to that promise.)

In 2005 I moved out of college town and into my own apartment in Kansas City to begin my introduction into the career world. As it turned out my, parents really hadn't lied after all. They truly were happy that I got a degree (which was in interior design, not cello. That's another story), no matter where it came from.  They were happy that I was happy. Life was good.

And then things changed again.
 One year and five months after graduating from KU, I fell in love with an Iowa State Cyclone fan. And this wasn't just any "I root for Iowa State if they're playing against Iowa" type of fan. This was a Cyclone-loving, red and yellow bleeding, down and dirty, I will TOTALLY name my firstborn son "Jack Trice" kind of fan. Hubs was born and raised in Ames, IA - otherwise known as the Vatican City of Cyclone Nation. Hubs also received his degree from ISU. Oh, and so did his dad, mom, brother etc. This was going to be an uphill battle.

Hubs and I were married seven months later. And people, I tried. I tried to remain a Jayhawk. I screamed "ROCK CHALK" over Hubs' ridiculous "EVER YARD FOR I-S-U!" I tried to explain the electricity of Allen Fieldhouse, only to be countered with, "Um, have you ever seen the Hilton Magic?" 

In the end, I gave up. Hubs goes to every home football game he can. He buys ISU t-shirts like there's a national shortage. He adores Iowa State Football and basketball and so does his family. It is a part of his childhood in the way that K-State was once a part of mine. Standing in a sea of cardinal and gold wearing a blue KU Jayhawk shirt sucked. I had already switched from K-State to KU, why not switch again? I put on the ISU Cyclone shirt for the first time.

I kind of liked it.

Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't standing alone anymore. Maybe it was the truly awesome ISU Cyclone fans that welcomed me with open arms and no judgement. Maybe it was that for once, I was in the right color, with the right logo, with the person I loved. Whatever it was, I felt happy again.

Over the last few years, I've been through hell and high water for my flip flopping. I admit it, I am the Mitt Romney of college sports fans. So why is it that I've been okay with switching so many times? Is it because I can't commit? Um, no. I'm married. That's commitment. To me, being a fan of a sports team isn't necessarily about which team you're rooting for. I mean, really, it's a bunch of meathead dudes chasing after a ball. College game day is about the people you're with, not the colors you're wearing.

I can still clearly remember my Dad lifting me up with excitement when K-State FINALLY BEAT Nebraska. I remember screaming my face off (and maybe behaving badly) in 2003 when KU beat Marquette in the Final Four. And I remember squeezing my super hot boyfriend's hand as he walked me into my first Iowa State game, knowing my life would never be the same. 

So make fun of me, call me a traitor and a Benedict Arnold. I call myself a well-rounded fan. I've cursed three different teams in their losses
and cheered three different teams to victory. I've laughed, cried, screamed and sung. And I'll keep doing it until the day I die. For which team, you ask? Who knows? Tomorrow I might become a Mizzou fan.