Saturday, September 5th was a big day. Not only was it the start of the 2015 College Football season, but it was Bonnie’s first football game and first trip to Bill Snyder Family Stadium. I was very stressed about the crowd and the heat and the noise and the nursing and the diaper changes, but she did great, of course. Nursing in public is still not my favorite thing, but it was much easier with the nursing cover, and thankfully we timed it right so that we only had to do it once and no one in our (very family friendly) section complained. I don’t know why I always assume that someone will complain. I think it’s because of that episode of Gilmore Girls when Luke freaks out about the Mom nursing in the diner. If someone as reasonable as Luke Danes doesn’t like nursing in public, then surely the rest of humanity is offended by it too. Me = crazy lady. Also, I much prefer being anonymous in public and blending into the crowd, which is extremely hard to do with a baby. So it’s all a new adventure, but I’m working on growing my thicker Mom skin. Slowly but surely.
Steven wore her in the carrier and Bonnie agreed to wear her ear gear for the loudest part of the game, even though it was ghastly hot. She sat with me for awhile and enjoyed looking around at all the people and being outside. She was a little fussy off and on, but made it through the whole game, and thankfully wasn’t the only crying baby in our section. Mom tip: It’s much easier to take a fussy baby to a loud event, because so much of the crying is drowned out by cheering and music and noise. (Good to think about when choosing a restaurant.) In that respect, it’s more stressful for me to take her to church than to a football game. Again, the whole anonymity factor. When a baby cries in church, you’re going to get some attention.
Taking Bonnie to her first football game was a big milestone for me. K-State football has been a huge part of my family since I was in the third grade, and I couldn’t wait to share it with her. I’ve loved sharing it with Steven, and watching him grow more connected and emotionally involved in the team. For the past 5 years, Steven’s Mom has had season tickets too, and it’s been so much fun to share football season with her. When Snyder came out of retirement in 2008, he said that he was doing it to “calm the waters of the K-State family.” But to me, it felt like he was speaking to our family. Mom got her cancer diagnosis in 2006, a few months after Snyder retired. The three long Prince years coincided with our last years with her, and after we lost her in June of 2008, Prince football seemed even bleaker than before. So when Coach announced at the end of that season that he was coming back, it felt like a special gift for our struggling family. We couldn’t get Mom back, but at least we could have Snyder.
Mom was so supportive of my early football obsession. When I first started watching games in the 90’s, she’d go to Dillons every Sunday morning and buy me the Wichita Eagle so that I could read all the coverage of the game and cut out the pictures to tape on my wall. I started with one picture in 1994, and by the time I moved out in 2004, I had covered three walls with clippings. She never complained about me gunking up the walls with newsprint and tape and sticky tack. I think she liked it as much as I did. Mom and Dad were at K-State during the late 60’s and early 70’s, so K-State football wasn’t really on their radar before I suggested we start watching. In those years you couldn’t give tickets away. We would all watch the games together as a family, and when it would get close, she would get so stressed out that she’d have to do dishes and listen from the other room. Like a horror movie, she couldn’t bear to watch it unfold, but would come out looking relieved after another close victory. Though 2011 was my favorite K-State football season, I always thought it was a small blessing that Mom didn’t have to sit through all those games decided by 7 points or less. She would’ve spent every Saturday that Fall hiding in the kitchen.
The first game I remember attending was in Stillwater, the KSU/OSU game in 1995. It’s been a family tradition for as long as I can remember to get together for the KSU/OSU game, so when it came time to plan our wedding, it only seemed natural to plan it around the K-State/OSU football game. When I was still trying to decide where to go to college, I settled on K-State because of football, more than anything else. It’s an odd way to choose a school, but I’m so thankful for that lifeline. It was exactly where I was supposed to be, even though those four years where the worst four years for the program since before Snyder arrived.
I’ve had a lot of favorite players in the last 21 years, but there is no player I loved more than Michael Bishop. He was pure magic, and the most exciting football player I’ve ever watched. He was there for the highest highs in Snyder 1.0 and brought us within one quarter of a national championship game. Even if we had made it to that national championship game in 1998, it would have been hard to watch K-State football with the same passion after he left. He was the pinnacle, and the tragedy of that Big 12 Championship game just made me love him even more. When I was working in the Dean’s office, I got to approve his diploma, and it was one of those moments where I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt it again when I heard that he would be inducted into the Ring of Honor at Bonnie’s first football game.
That 1998 season taught me so many things that I still think about today. It taught me that life isn’t fair. It taught me to never take things for granted. It taught me that no lead is safe. It taught me the highs and lows of caring deeply about something out of your control. It taught me loyalty. It taught me to hate OU and Texas A&M. But it also taught me that it doesn’t matter where you start. If you keep your head down and work hard, eventually God will connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. Michael Bishop started his career at Blinn Community College and came one quarter away from winning the Heisman trophy.
So as I teach Bonnie about Snyder ball and pass protection and the zone read, hopefully I can also teach her those things I learned in 1998 and 2012 and all the years in between. Because it’s important to care, and care deeply. That’s what the K-State Family is all about.