I have been taking my kids to college football games for almost 20 years.
Which is longer than I should have been taking them to football games, because the oldest is 21.
But they all love football. They all want to go to games. They watch football on TV. And two of the three are girls, which should help shatter that silly stereotype. (Hey, my oldest, Amanda, had to explain what was going on on the field to members of both her high-school pep band and her college marching band.)
We've sat through everything from broiling heat to snowstorms. We've seen a lot of great wins and terrible losses. We've traveled from Logan to Provo sometimes in the same day with regularity, and we've traveled out of state from time to time.
It's a bonding experience. And it's also created some memories that have already become the stuff of family legend. Stories that we drag out, repeat and laugh about all over again. Stories like:
The following story is true. Only the daughter's age is in dispute. (She insists she was 4 or 5; her siblings and I maintain she was more like 9 or 10.)
In the middle of a game, sitting in the middle of lots of fans, Hillary turned to me and loudly said, "Daddy, didn't you go to college with Brigham Young?"
"No, Hillary. I did not."
"Are you sure? I think you told me you went to college with Brigham Young."
"No, Hillary. I did not. Watch the game."
Short pause ...
"I remember you told me you went to college with Brigham Young."
"No, I didn't. Be quiet."
Short pause ...
"I know we talked about it. Are you sure you didn't go to college with Brigham Young?"
"I'm sure. Be quiet. Watch the game."
But the child would NOT let go of it. And fans around us were laughing out loud at her inability to do so.
"Are you sure? I think you went to college with Brigham Young."
"HILLARY!" I said, patience gone. "Brigham Young has been dead since the 1870s. I did NOT go to college with Brigham Young!"
Short pause ...
"STEVE Young! Didn't you know STEVE Young in college?"
"Yes, Hillary. I interviewed him a couple of times." (For the college paper.)
Sheesh. The child thinks I'm 200 years old.
Amanda and I were sitting at a Utah State football game a year ago. (And Logan is a great place to see a game you ought to try it sometime.)
But something was bothering me a bit.
"What IS that smell?" I asked just as the answer hit me.
The wind had shifted and we were smelling the local livestock.
If I'd been making fun of the Aggies which I was not Amanda probably would have hit me. Instead, we just laughed. For about five minutes.
Near the end of the 1996 WAC championship game in Las Vegas, I was not a happy man. As I watched the Cougars careen toward what appeared to be certain defeat, all I could think about was all the money I'd spent to take the family to Nevada ... and BYU was about to spoil its best season in a dozen years by losing to Wyoming.
Then I looked over at 5-year-old Jonathon, who was crying his eyes out. Crying so hard that I thought he'd hurt himself by falling off the bleachers or something.
"What the matter?" I asked, picking him up and putting him on my lap.
"BYU is going to lose!" he sobbed, acting for all the world like his heart was about to break.
I knew he liked football, but I didn't know how much.
At that point, I became a fountain of sports cliches. "It's not over until it's over." "It's only a game." "There's always next year."
As he continued to cry his little heart out, Jonathon didn't realize that he brought smiles to faces of a whole bunch of unhappy BYU fans sitting around us. Fans who were charmed by the devotion of this little boy who hardly looked old enough to understand what was happening on the field.
We all felt better when the Cougars came back to tie the game in regulation and win it in overtime. But every time I see a replay of that game, all I can think of is a broken-hearted little boy.
A couple of years ago, the kids and I got on an elevator at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, joining a group of people similarly decked out in blue and headed for the Las Vegas Bowl a nice couple, their grown children and a couple of the children's spouses.
"Well, it's nice to see other Cougar fans!" the mom said.
Never missing a chance to embarrass one of my children, I said, "Yes, but one of us is actually in the Utah State marching band."
Amanda was saved from total embarrassment when the mom pointed out that they, too, had several Aggies in disguise in their party.Well, I guess blue is blue.