Last Saturday the University of Central Florida Knights captured the American Athletic Conference title when they defeated the Southern Methodist University Mustangs before a handful of fans.
The lack of attendance was due to an ice storm that hit the Dallas area making travel to places like SMU’s Gerald R. Ford Stadium nearly impossible.
Of course as everyone knows the show must go on so the Knights and Mustangs played in temperatures that neither team normally experiences in front of fans who managed to find their way to the stadium while the rest of the word watched from the warm comfort of home.
I was originally supposed to attend the “Ice Bowl” game but did not end up getting tickets due to a scheduling conflict that arose after a change in the start time of the game.
As I sat on a futon watching the game in relative warmth eating a sandwich and some Golden Flake dill pickle chips I found myself conflicted.
Part of me was glad that I had not made the four hour drive the night before through the ice storm.
Don’t get me wrong I love playing in the snow and am even okay driving in it for the most part but I really do not trust the drivers around me to be equally careful in those conditions.
Also in my experience municipalities that do not experience snow on a regular basis do not always have the best resources available to respond to a far reaching winter weather event.
So as I was looking at reports of drivers who had been stuck in their cars on Interstate 35 for over seven hours due to hazardous conditions on the road I felt happy that I was not among them.
But as the game progressed and I saw the empty stadium, I felt like I was missing a once in a lifetime chance to be at a major college football game that had less attendance than an elementary school spring scrimmage gets in Texas.
Okay, to be honest I am not sure that Texas elementary schools hold football scrimmage games but if they did I am sure that they would be well attended by “scouts” trying to figure out what the high school team would look like in a few years.
I will never forget covering a high school football game in a small town in Texas about a decade ago and overhearing some fans bemoaning how porous the offensive line was after the quarterback was sacked for the five or sixth time in the first half.
Someone else overheard the conversation and said, “Just you wait a couple years and we will get those holes patched right up. They’ve got some real good fellers down there at the intermediate school that will protect the quarterback.”
Yes, people were scouting the middle school team and looking forward to their arrival in high school to shore up the offensive line in a few years. They definitely see priorities different in Texas.
Going back to Saturday’s game while I was happy to be watching the game on ESPN, part of me really wished I was having a “Lambeau moment” and watching the game in frigid temperatures.
Throughout my football watching life I have always loved watching the games where there was snow on the ground or wind-chill in the single digits. The fans and players for the most part always seem so cheerful in those situations. Either that or their faces were frozen in a smile as soon as they got to the stadium.
While I never played organized football I did play backyard touch football, which inevitably turned into backyard tackle football. Some of the best games were on the rare cold Florida days where one could see their breath and their noses were running from the wind-chill.
We would stay out in the cold for hours trying to imitate the moves of the professional players. Sometimes we came close to achieving that and other times we just fell on the ground and got a mouthful of grass.
Fast forward a few years to my time as a reporter and I loved roaming the sidelines on a cool night during football season. Soccer season was also fun to cover as the games were even colder on average and the stands were full of huddled masses trying to stay warm.
As crazy as it might sound I like being cold and feeling the chill on my skin. It actually makes me feel that much more alive when the mercury in the thermometer drops.
Of course having spent most of my life living in warm states the opportunity to experience cold like that comes in small doses and one needs to capture every opportunity they can when it arises.
So that is why as I was watching the couple of hundred fans at the game in Dallas I wished I was there with them feeling the cold and trying to find some warmth during bathroom breaks.
My rational mind knows that even if I had tickets to the game and had not had the schedule conflict that prevented me from going staying home and avoiding the ice covered roads was the right thing to do.
And realistically I likely would have caught the sniffles from the prolonged time out in the cold so it is best that I stayed warm and watched the game indoors.
I also know that there will be other chances to watch sporting events in cold weather so all is not lost.
As for those Knights from the University Central Florida who battled in those cold temperatures, they are off to Arizona for a date in the Fiesta Bowl with the Baylor University Bears.
And while there might be cold weather outside at game time weather will not be a factor during the game as the Knights and the Bears will battle indoors in a climate controlled setting on a field of fake grass.
Somehow I don’t think Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi would approve.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning the menu for my Fiesta Bowl viewing party. Go Knights.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson