I looked out the window as I tried to decide what to wear to last Saturday’s football game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the home town team, the Oklahoma Sooners. The sky was filled with many colors of grey. Low lying rain clouds rushed quickly across a light grey backdrop. Brown leaves blew across the yard, and the wind caused the window panes to creek. I could tell it was cold without even opening the door.
I walked to my closet and picked out a long-sleeved University of Oklahoma shirt that was once my husband’s. Thankfully it was too small for him, since it fit me perfectly at seven months pregnant.
As the howling wind beat against our windows, I wondered why we had come home for this game. We cut our Thanksgiving celebration short to support our team, and I smiled proudly at the thought of being a Sooner.
“I want you to wear my rain jacket,” my husband said as he walked in the room. “Wow! You look cute!”
“I wanted to surprise you with the shirt, I thought it was cute and warm, but now no one will see it,” I replied sullenly.
Cameron could tell I wasn’t looking forward to the game, but then again I don’t think he was either. We were going to this game more out of duty and tradition than desire. We don’t miss OU home games, and we had even more reason to attend this one: it would be our last home game without a child.
Cameron went out to the car as I finished getting ready, and when he returned his face was red. “I think you’ll need to wear a warmer jacket. Please wear my fleece. It’s really cold outside.”
“Fine, but I don’t think I’ll need it.”
When I walked outside I realized he was right, I did need something heavier than a rain jacket. We got in the car and I was ecstatic that we were actually leaving on time. It was 9 a.m., which meant there were two hours until kickoff. I was optimistic that we would find a parking spot since it was a holiday weekend. I doubted many people would be there.
I was right about the dismal crowd. We pulled into a free parking spot adjacent to the stadium, a small lot reserved for those with current OU parking permits. There were only a few empty spots there, but in the paid lots there were many empty spots.
The rain began as a mist on our window as we sat in our car. “Can we just stay in here until closer to kickoff?” I didn’t feel like sitting in the stadium for over an hour just to be in there. I was enjoying the warm car, as well as the seat heaters that we lovingly refer to as butt warmers.
“I don’t care,” my husband replied with a smile. I could tell he was trying to be as positive about this game as he could be, since I had been willing to sell our tickets. At seven months pregnant, stadium seating isn’t the most comfortable place to spend five hours. And now that it was cold and drizzling, I could tell he felt even worse about us being there.
“I’m really glad we came to the game,” I told him, trying to ease any concerns he had. I was actually looking forward to the game. It was senior night and I knew it might be the last time in a long time that I got to see a game in person. It also would be the last time we see our “football family,” those who sit around us each week, until next fall.
The wind shook the car as we chatted and wasted time. Finally, it was 10 a.m. Only one hour until kickoff. We got out of the cold and the wind punched me in the gut. To say the wind was cold doesn’t quite do it justice. It was miserable. It was still drizzling, but thankfully it was hardly more than a light mist.
We walked quickly to the stadium, seeking temporary refuge from the wind beneath the stands. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so few people at a game,” I remarked as we hurried along. “I really hope Iowa State didn’t come thinking they could win this.”
Cameron laughed. “I don’t think we’re going to have a problem today. Actually I hope it’s secure in the third quarter so we can leave.”
“Whatever you want, honey,” I said, smiling. I didn’t know how I would feel by the third quarter, but part of me was relieved to know he was okay with leaving early.
As soon as we got into the stadium I ran to the restroom. By the third trimester my bladder had become permanently squished, and I was surprised I had made it over an hour without needing to pee.
There were only a few women in the restroom, but as I washed my hands we began talking. “It is so warm in here,” one woman remarked. “I might stay here instead of watching the game,” another woman chuckled.
I left the restroom and felt my breath being taken by the wind. Cameron and I headed to the concessions. It took a while to figure out what I wanted, but after a few moments we were headed up to our seats with my husband’s pizza and my nachos.
The wind seemed to be harder in the stadium. I had thought the high walls would somewhat shelter us, but I was wrong. It seemed to have the opposite effect.
“Slow down … It’s not so easy to climb these steps when you’re pregnant,” I said to my husband as we began walking the stairs. Our seats are situated on the 50 yard line, 54 rows up. Thankfully there were only about 30 steps I had to climb, but they are rather steep and with each step I felt as though the baby inside of me was being squished.
By the time we finally got in our seats, warm-ups were nearly over. Senior day presentations began, and we cheered in recognition of our team’s senior players. When the presenter announced Austin Box, a senior who died the summer before the season, we stood to honor his memory. I couldn’t imagine what his parents were going through as they stood at center field with his jersey and accepted his plaque.
The stadium seemed empty, especially compared to normal. There were two empty seats on each side of us and four in front of us. The student section was even deserted. I was disappointed at the lack of loyalty from other fans, but at the same time I understood their desire to spend a holiday weekend with their families.
The band played and their sound was carried in all directions by the wind. The entire feeling of the day was odd. Our football family behind us finally showed up and we spoke briefly. “How are you?” “Can you believe this weather?”
“This is when we need the stadium to be full, to block us from the wind.”
Then the real purpose of the day began. OU’s players lined up to kick off to the Cyclones, and the ball blew over. “Oh, this is going to be a long day,” I remarked. A holder stepped forward and the game began.
A quick three-and-out lifted the mood. For as empty as the stadium was, it felt more electric than I ever could have imagined. Our team’s defense looked alive as it ran off the field and the offense ran on. Unfortunately OU’s first offensive series came up with only three points. “At least he [OU's field goal kicker] can make a field goal this week,” my husband laughed.
We kicked off and the Oklahoma defense took the field again. Wind was definitely a factor in the game. Passing was inefficient, leaving our guys to defend a run game. Then the yellow flag flew for unsportsmanlike conduct against the (OU) defense, giving Iowa State 15 yards and a first down. We all booed the call, and the boos exploded after we saw the replay. The call came at a horrible time, and it was a bad call. Third-and-long became first down for the Cyclones.
The next play signaled a pass interference call and placed the Cyclones in the red zone. “These refs better have security escort them to their car, because this is not going to be a pretty crowd.” I laughed to those around me. I was angry about the call, but there wasn’t anything we could do except make more noise.
This time the Cyclones’ possession lead to a touchdown, but we all roared with glee as their kicker missed the extra point. The goal post rattled with the force of being hit by the ball. After a few minute of play, the score was 3-6 Iowa State.
The drizzle turned to rain and the ponchos came out. I was glad we had ponchos, but quickly realized they weren’t much better than trash bags would be. It was cold, and now raining too hard not to get wet.
“I can’t feel my legs,” Cameron remarked.
I couldn’t feel mine either, but I didn’t want to complain. I was going to make this game the best I could.
After several more series, turnovers for each team, some horrible calls against the Sooners, and 20 points added to the Sooners’ side of the scoreboard, it was finally halftime. We watched the band play, but just wanted it to hurry up.
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” Cameron knew I hadn’t been able to make it through an entire game this season without finding a restroom, but I really didn’t want to go down today.
“No, if I go down I won’t want to climb back up. I can’t really feel my legs, and I think my muscles are too stiff to make it back up the stairs.”
“Okay, well when you decide you need to go we’ll just go for the day, if that’s okay with you.” Cameron was so thoughtful of how I felt. I hadn’t complained about being uncomfortable, but had needed help standing after each time out. Cameron was sweet to pick up on the little things, but I was determined to make it through every minute of this game.
The third quarter was more miserable than the first two. Many of those who went down at halftime didn’t come back, which left the stadium half empty. The wind had picked up even more, if possible, and it seemed to be getting even colder. I felt the child within me rolling around as we stood and cheered.
After a scoreless third quarter, even more people filed out of the stadium, including those sitting around us. “Make sure you let us know when the baby is here,” one of them said as we hugged goodbye. During football season we joked that we saw these people more than our real family. Even though we said that as a joke, it was surprisingly true.
The line to exit the stadium was continuous during the fourth quarter. We enjoyed seeing our quarterback pick up a block for a rusher during a reverse play. It was one of the best plays of the day. Not long after that, one of our receivers had the hit of day. He was blocking for our running back and popped the Cyclones defender. It was a beautiful, clean, hard hit, and the few of us that were left cheered with a fury.
Our offense put three more points on the board, and Cameron turned to me. “Are you ready to go?”
“No … actually I think I want to stay until it’s over.” I hadn’t told him this was my intention, but I was glad that he agreed. We watched happily as the time on the clock ran down and my eyes filled with tears. I was proud to be at that game. It wasn’t an impressive win, and the weather was miserable, but it was still a win (with the final score being 26-6).
I watched the players run off the field and my eyes grew hot. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep a tear from falling as I enjoyed the last moments at that stadium. I left with the knowledge that things would never again be the same.
Though I will be at OU games next season, having a child at home will make the experiences completely different. I was extremely thankful for the memories I had at that stadium the past four years, and am excited to know that we will get to introduce our daughter to the same experiences next year.