John and I had speculated about trying to attend a football game while in Tulsa, and to our surprise and delight we received a message from our hosts to ask were we interested in just that! Absolutely!
Saturday 8.30 am we are in the car with Terry (bike free day. John was pleased) and on our way to Norman OK, the home of Oklahoma University just outside Oklahoma city. Due to road construction we missed the kick off but were only about ten minutes late.
College (university) football is big business. Games are televised nationally and sponsorship and advertising dollars run into billions. Supporters are every bit as passionate as Australian Rules football or soccer.
As we approached the stadium we hear a mighty roar, the equal of the largest MCG crowd. Touchdown!? We entered the stadium and surveyed a noisy, enthusiastic and very vocal crowd, mainly clothed in something red. This is the color of the 'Sooners', or Oklahoma University (OU). They are one of the most successful teams in the competition and winners attract fans. They are a university of some 35,000 students.The name Sooners come from the land rush that was authorized when the state of Oklahoma was opened to white settlement. The date and time was promulgated, but a whole lot of people left before then, sooner than the rest. The name has stuck.
Tulsa U is much smaller, and private, uni. Their supporters in the crowd were perhaps out numbered by their cheer squad, band and indeed football team! They are not very successful on the field, but are said to be the top petrochemical university in the USA.
This university stadium seats 86,000. And it was full. It is full for every game! That seems to be the case for every college football game. AFL, eat your heart out. The population of the state of Oklahoma is 3.8 million.
Soon after we took our very good seats a decision of the referees against an OU player excited the crowd in disagreement. The noise was deafening. The replay confirmed the decision was flawed and the crowd turned from the TV replay as one, roaring in the direction of the referees. But, there was no bad language, there was no aggression. I had no feeling of hey, Bay 13 MCG. No one threw anything. It was tribal, but good tribal, if I can put it that way.
The review officials amended the decision in someway I did not understand and the crowd, vindicated, proceeded to support the rest of the game.
At the breaks, certain people are recognized. The women's rowing teams (crew) won their conference. Cheers! The parents of an OU alumni whose son has gone to Afghanistan were presented with a teeshirt in OU red which had PATRIOT printed on it. The crowd applauded loudly and the mum smiled and wept. The cheer leaders danced and smiled in the heat of the day. And I do not believe I have seen a better behaved crowd, anywhere, ever.
The game has four quarters and understanding the rules and then tactics is essential of course to enjoying spectating. There are frequent stoppages and restarts. Passing is limited to the quarterback arrowing the ball to a team mate and if it is not collected, it is 'incomplete'. They all go back and try again. Passing as in rugby us permitted "laterals" but it is very rare. Reason? They might drop the pass! We saw one instance where Tulsa had a three on one approaching the line. They could so easily have passed and scored but did not and the ball carrier was tackled. Tulsa lost.
The game started at 11 and finished after three. An exciting spectacle in a great atmosphere. I didn't understand it but I did enjoy it.
After the game we went into Oklahoma City to run an errand with Terry and he arranged to meet the folk at the site of the Oklahoma bombing. We had (once again) not planned to visit Oklahoma City and this was an additional experience. The story is well known and I will not recount it, but the memorial is a profoundly sad and moving place. The deed of one man to take all those innocent lives must stink in the nostrils of heaven.
The trip back was tedious due to road construction and thus it was a long, but interesting and rewarding day. A quick swim was followed by a delicious meal and a rather decent South African wine. We talked until late. It has been wonderful to catch up with my okf friends, and also meet Ernest, their brother in law. Many blessings upon them.