Somewhere between the 97th and 99th Meridians West. For the past four years on a Saturday sometime in the fall, I have made an annual pilgrimage to Norman, Oklahoma with my father, who lives in Alva, Oklahoma. He is a huge OU Sooners fan, and this has been my gift to him for his birthday. I call it the “wearing of the red,” as he and I join 80,000+ others at Owen Field for what can best be described as a modern-day pagan ritual.
Be it Tuscaloosa, Manhattan, Norman, or wherever, each “shrine” (aka college football stadium) has its own ritual practices as the masses (aka you and I) gather to witness a 21st Century gladiatorial match.
My wife, Kathie, joined us this year for her first ever OU football game, since we obtained an extra ticket just a few days before the match up with Texas Tech. Even with rain delaying the start time by an hour and fifteen minutes and intermittent mist throughout the entire game, she had a good time. “The food was terrible but the atmosphere was fun” is how she summed it all up.
Attending a major college football game these days is the secular equivalent of attending a Christian rock concert at a megachurch (i.e. Central Christian Church in Wichita). Pyrotechnics, huge scoreboards with replay capabilities, state of the art sound systems, action, drama … all financed by those who have purchased a ticket to attend. The ritual practices at a college football game are easily learned and repeated by newbies. As long as you wear red, crimson, purple, etc. you’re easily accepted into the culture.
I attended my first OU football game with my dad as a boy of 10 or 11, so the whole experience is engrained in my psyche. Hearing “Boomer Sooner” played by the university band is like hearing a familiar hymn. Of course, you may substitute your alma mater or favorite college football team’s fight song here. I imagine I’m not too far off the mark when I say that for most attending an OU Sooners (or Kansas State Wildcats) football match is an almost transcendental experience as participants engage in certain ritual behaviors, joining voices together and clapping their hands with 80,000+ others, while experiencing the ups and downs of their team it its quest to conquer on the field of battle.
Attending a college football game live and in person—especially one like last weekend’s OU-Texas Tech match up that had potential ramifications in the national rankings—always supersedes watching or listening to the same game on the television, radio, or Internet. In a world where we’re so often disconnected and separated from others, a home college football experience provides a temporary sense of being united and connected with others.