October 3-5, 1996. Often, one has no idea that something has just happened for the final time.

“Greg?” Brian said, poking his head into my bedroom.  “Your friend is here.”

I walked out of the bedroom and down the stairs, smiling as I saw her standing in the entryway at the bottom.  “Hey!” I said.  “Good to see you!”

“Hi, Greg!” Rachel Copeland replied, pulling me in for a hug.  She looked a little different from how she did the last time I had seen her, over a year ago.  Her light brown hair had grown even longer, most of the way down her back.  Last year, Rachel’s freshman year at St. Elizabeth’s College, she seemed to have put on the proverbial fifteen pounds that many say inevitably appears during everyone’s freshman year.

“Rachel, this is my roommate Brian,” I said, gesturing toward Brian sitting on the couch watching television.  “And Shawn,” I added, pointing toward the kitchen where Shawn was making something on the stove.  “This is Rachel, my friend from high school.”  Brian and Shawn both said hello to Rachel.  “So what’s the plan?  I’m going to show you around, then we’ll find something to eat?”

“Yeah!” she said.  “Can I get a drink of water and use your bathroom first?  I’ve been in the car for an hour.”

After Rachel finished, we walked to the car.  “I like these apartments,” she said.  “They’re nice and spread out, with landscaping.  Do you like living off campus better than on campus?  You lived in a dorm when you were a freshman, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you like it?  Did you want to move off campus?”

“It wasn’t my choice, really,” I explained.  “Everyone is guaranteed a spot on campus their first year, but UJ has so little dorm space right now, they only have a small number of rooms left for returning students.  This year, the freshman class was bigger than expected, so there’s absolutely no room on campus for returning students, and they even have people in rooms that are supposed to be study rooms.”

“What?” Rachel asked as we got into my car.  I started the car and headed out of the parking lot, south on Maple Drive.

“Yeah.  We were filling out a new phone list this year for the church choir, and this one girl, Margaret, she’s a freshman, and she put her address as Room 101 Building M.  Those letter buildings, remember I was in Building C my freshman year, they’re all the same, and there is no room 101, they start at 112.  She said they put two beds and two cots in the study room.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.  The housing market in Jeromeville is all kinds of messed up.  The university keeps growing, but they haven’t built any new dorms in over a decade, and they even tore some down a couple years before I started here, because they weren’t up to code.  And the city wants to stay small and not become a sprawling suburb.”

“That doesn’t seem right.  Are they going to replace the buildings they tore down?”

“I think so, eventually, but it’s still just an empty field right now.”  At that point, we were passing by the Forest Drive Housing Area; I said, “At some point in the past, the University bought some apartment buildings in this neighborhood over here and turned them into dorms.  We’re not far from campus now.  But even if they do more of that, that also takes away from the total housing in the city and campus combined.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s been frustrating for me, because I’ve always had a hard time finding roommates.  You have to make plans early in the spring for the next fall.  This year worked out perfectly, though.  At Bible study, we were doing prayer requests, and I mentioned needing a roommate, and one of the group leaders said that he needed a place to live.  That was Shawn, who you just met.”

“Oh, wow.  That did work out.”

I turned left on Fifth Street and right on Andrews Road, entering campus by the North Residential Area.  I pointed out the basketball arena and the pool, with its landscaped berm popular with sunbathers which my dad had once nicknamed Thong Bikini Hill.  I turned left on Davis Drive and right into the South Residential Area, where we drove past Building C.  “This is where I lived freshman year,” I said.  Pointing at my window, I said, “That was my room.”

“Cool!  These buildings are smaller than the other ones we just drove by.”

“Yeah.  It was nice.  And, remember, I was in that program where everyone else in the program lived in the same building, so we all knew each other.”

“That’s cool.  I’ve just been paired with a random roommate both years.  Last year my roommate and I got along, but this year we aren’t very close.  It’s not that we don’t like each other, we’re just different.  You know.”

“Yeah.  There are definitely some people from Building C that I didn’t stay friends with.”

“Were those cows back there?” Rachel asked.

“Yeah.  The dairy was right across the street.  People in the dorms always made fun of the smell, but you get used to it after a while.”

“I guess that would make sense that Jeromeville would have a dairy, if it’s known for its agricultural programs.”

As I drove around the outer edge of campus, I pointed out other highlights: the Arboretum; Marks Hall, where the administrative offices were located; Krueger Hall, home of the offices for my part-time job as a math tutor; the odd-looking building nicknamed the Death Star, where I got lost playing Sardines; and the football stadium, which looked like a high school stadium, but a little bit bigger.  I pointed out that many of the academic buildings were to the west of us, in the part of campus closed to vehicular traffic.  I turned right on Fifth Street and pointed out the Newman Center.

“That’s a cute building,” she said.

“It was the original building for the main Catholic Church in Jeromeville.  But they moved into a bigger building eventually.”

“Are you ready to eat?” Rachel asked.

“Yes.  Do you know what you want?”

“Not really.”

“I’m terrible at picking food,” I said.  “I mostly just know fast food, and I haven’t found any local restaurants yet, except for another burger place.”

“What about if you just drive around and I’ll look for something that looks good?”

“That sounds perfect,” I said.  “We’re downtown, so there’s a ton of restaurants nearby.”

I began driving up and down the downtown grid on the streets named for low numbers and letters at the beginning of the alphabet.  As I passed the corner of G and Third Streets, Rachel pointed at the Jade Dragon Restaurant and asked, “Do you like Chinese food?”

“Sure,” I replied.  “I’ve never been there.  Let’s try it.”

A public parking lot ran the entire length of the block between F and G Streets.  I pulled into a parking place and walked with Rachel back to the restaurant.  After we sat down, I looked over the menu and said, “So it looks like if we get this dinner for two, we can each pick an entree to go with all of those sides?”

“That’s what I see.”

“Back home, the summer after I graduated, I went to that Chinese place on Valencia Road by McDonalds with Catherine and Melissa and Renee and Anthony and Kevin.  I was confused about how to order, and I got a little frustrated.”

“We can go somewhere else if you don’t like Chinese food.”

“No, I do,” I said.  “We just never went out to eat and sat down when I was a kid.  My brother and I always acted squirrelly whenever we went out to eat, you know, like little boys do, and as we grew up, Mom just assumed we were always going to misbehave in restaurants.  So we always got take-out.  As far as I knew, Chinese food came in little white boxes.”

“That’s kind of funny.”

After we ordered, I asked, “So who is it that you’re on your way to visit tonight? Is it someone I knew back home?”

“No,” Rachel explained.  “She was one of my friends at St. Elizabeth’s last year, but it wasn’t working out for her there, so she moved back home and transferred to Capital State.”

“It must be nice not having classes tomorrow.  That way you can do three-day weekend trips like this whenever you want.”

“It is nice.  This is the first time it’s worked out that way.”

“It seems like every math class at UJ is Monday-Wednesday-Friday.  So I’ll probably never have Fridays off.  And now that I’m doing University Chorus, their rehearsals are Monday-Wednesday-Friday too.”

“How is chorus going?  What kind of music are you doing?”

“I don’t know classical music well enough to describe it,” I said, chuckling.  “But we’re doing Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and some Christmas thing by Vaughan Williams.”

“I don’t know either of those.”

“I didn’t either until last week.”  Our food arrived, and we began eating.  “This is good,” I said.  “Good suggestion.”

“It is,” Rachel agreed after taking a bite.  “And thanks for the campus tour.  Jeromeville is so much bigger than St. Elizabeth’s.”

“I’ve never been to St. Elizabeth’s, but I would imagine it is.”

“Do you have a favorite part of the campus?”

“Hmm,” I replied, thinking.  “Maybe the Arboretum.  It’s peaceful, like you’re out in nature with all the trees nearby.  Or some of the roads on the rural side of campus, where they do agricultural research.  I ride my bike out there sometimes.”

“That sounds nice,” Rachel said.  “My favorite part of St. Elizabeth’s is this big cross.  Sometimes I just walk out there at night and watch the stars.  I’m not very religious, but it feels spiritual being out there.”

“Is it weird going to a Catholic school when you’re not Catholic?”

“Not really.  There are a lot of students who aren’t Catholic.”

“That’s true.  I’ve never been to Catholic school at any level, so I don’t know what it’s like.”

“What are you doing this weekend?” Rachel asked.

“Tomorrow is Jeromeville Christian Fellowship.  Then Saturday I’m going to the football game, against Capital State.  It’s our big rivalry game, the Drawbridge Classic.  The rest of the weekend I’ll just be doing homework.”

“That should be fun.  Do you go to a lot of games?”

“Some.  Not as many as I did freshman year when I lived right on campus.”

“I haven’t really followed sports at St. Elizabeth’s,” Rachel said.  “Apparently football and basketball are pretty big there.”

“I think they’re Division I,” I replied.  “That’s considered the top level of college sports.  Jeromeville is Division II.”

“Really.  It’s kind of funny that Jeromeville is so much bigger but St. Elizabeth’s is in a higher sports division.”

“I know.  I’m not really sure how all that works.  But there’s this local band that I’ve seen three times, called Lawsuit.  They’re playing at the pre-game show, so I definitely wanted to go to this one.”

“I think you’ve told me about Lawsuit before.  Were they the ones who were, like really different from anything you’d heard before?”

“Yeah.  Like rock with horns.”

“That should be fun!  I wonder if they ever play out my way?”

“I think so.  They play around Bay City a lot too.”

Rachel and I spent about another hour, long after we had finished our fortune cookies, talking about classes, college friends, campus activities, mutual friends, and what we had done over the summer.  Eventually, Rachel said, “I should go.  It’s getting dark, and I still have to drive to Capital City.”

“You don’t have too much farther to go,” I said.

“Yeah, but I don’t know where I’m going.  That makes it stressful.”

“True.”

We got back in my car and drove back to my apartment.  I parked and walked Rachel to her car.  “Thank you so much for visiting,” I said.  “It was so good to see you.”

“Yeah!” Rachel replied.  “You too!  It was good to see where you live, finally.”

“Drive safely, and have fun with your friend.”

“I will!”  Rachel put her arms around me, and we hugged, a long lingering hug that lasted about ten seconds.  “Good night, Greg.”

“Good night.”  I watched as Rachel exited the parking lot, then went back into the house.  Rachel may be on a three-day weekend, but it was still Thursday and I had numerical analysis homework due tomorrow.


The weather in early October in Jeromeville was basically Summer Junior, warm and sunny during the day, although not as hot as actual summer.  I rode my bike to the football stadium Saturday afternoon, arriving as Lawsuit was setting up their instruments and equipment on a temporary stage that had been erected for this pregame show.

This scene differed greatly from that of the last time I saw Lawsuit, at the benefit concert for the C.J. Davis Art Center.  For one thing, the show started at five o’clock, and it was not completely dark yet.  People were spread out over a much larger area on a practice sports field next to the stadium, with booths set up for snacks and drinks.  Not everyone was actively paying attention to the band.

Lawsuit played many of the same songs I had seen in the three other shows of theirs that I had been to.  They opened with the same song as the other times I had seen them, “Thank God You’re Doing Fine,” followed by “Useless Flowers.”  I had the two most recent of their five albums, so I recognized at least half the songs, but they played some that I did not know.  I was unsure if these were from older albums, or if they were new songs that were not released on albums yet.  Being that it was a shorter set and part of a football pregame show instead of just a Lawsuit concert, the show felt more like when they performed at Spring Picnics rather than the benefit concert at the Art Center.  They did not have as much banter or inside jokes between the band members as they did at the Art Center, which did not particularly bother me, since most of the inside jokes went over my head.

I made a mental note to go to more Lawsuit concerts this coming school year.  Their monthly flyers told their fans to bug radio stations to play them; maybe I should start doing that too.  I did not know how all of that worked, however.  I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of the pregame show tonight.

After Lawsuit finished, I walked into the football stadium, sitting with the Colt Crew, the free general admission section reserved for undergraduates.  A group of students led the Colt Crew in silly cheers all night, with plenty of giveaways during the night.  I got excited during a timeout in the third quarter, when the Colt Crew brought out one of their most random traditions, Tube Sock Madness.  All of the Colt Crew leaders dressed in silly costumes, tossing rolled-up tube socks into the crowd.  I caught tube socks once freshman year from a guy in a cow suit, but I came up empty at this game.  I did not know if the guy in the cow suit tonight was the same guy as two years ago, but I noticed that this cow suit had a nipple ring on the udder.

By now, I had been to enough University of Jeromeville Colts football games that I recognized the tunes of all of the marching band fight songs, and I even knew the words to a few of them.  I hummed along and sang quietly under my breath a few times, taking in the college football atmosphere and forgetting the stresses of studying for one night.  I was already on a high from the Lawsuit show, and the excitement of a good, close game made the night even better.  Unfortunately, the night ended on a disappointing note; with the score tied in the fourth quarter, Capital State marched down the field and kicked a field goal, which Jeromeville was unable to answer in their final remaining drive.  The Colts lost, 27 to 24.

All things come to an end, somehow, someday.  Often, one has no idea that something has just happened for the final time.  That early October Thursday evening was, as of now, the last time I saw Rachel in person.  Rachel’s emails would become less frequent as the year went on, and we gradually lost touch as life continued to get in the way.  However, early in the social media era, when Rachel and I were in our early thirties, she found me on Facebook, and we have been sporadically in contact ever since, occasionally liking and commenting on pictures and such.  She now lives in Mt. Lorenzo, a hippie beach town near where I grew up, working as a sex therapist.  As an unmarried man with conservative Christian values, I have little to no need for a sex therapist and no idea what her career is like.

That football game was also the last Drawbridge Classic I would attend for a decade.  The game was played in Capital City in odd-numbered years, and I did not want to watch it in front of a hostile crowd.  My remaining even-numbered years in Jeromeville, I was busy with other things and not following football as closely.  It was not until 2005 that I would begin attending Colt football games again, this time no longer as a resident of Jeromeville, and not until 2006 that I would see the Colts play Capital State at home

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, that night was also the last time I would ever see Lawsuit perform live.  But that is another story for another time.


Note to readers: What about you guys? When was a noteworthy time in your lives when you did something or saw someone for the last time, and didn’t realize it?

November 5, 1994.  The Drawbridge Classic and Tube Sock Madness.

In many parts of the US, college football is a huge deal.  Thousands of fans pack parking lots for elaborate tailgate parties.  At these parties, someone will set up a grill and barbecue meat as people sit around in lawn chairs and consume large amounts of meat and beer.  Then, eventually, they will head inside and watch the football game. Some college football games will draw crowds of close to 100,000 people.

Jeromeville is not in that part of the US.

Football is not as much a part of the culture here as it is in other parts of the country.  A few universities in this state have storied football programs, but UJ is a few notches down the football ladder.  They are a Division II team, two steps below the schools that most professional football players come from. They do not offer football scholarships, or at least they didn’t in the 90s.  And the media does not pay much attention to UJ football, beyond the school newspaper, the local Jeromeville newspaper, and occasionally a little blurb six pages deep in the sports section of the big newspaper from Capital City.

Despite this lack of attention, UJ had its annual rivalry game against Capital State University, another Division II school.  The UJ and CSU campi were less than 20 miles apart. Before the freeway bypass of Highway 100 was built, the old route of Highway 100 was a street called Capital Avenue, which crossed the Capital River on a beautiful lift drawbridge, built in the 1930s, with two tall towers and a clear view of the State Capitol Building as you crossed it.  The bridge (known simply as “the Drawbridge” to locals) is still there, still used as a main city street, and also as a symbol of Capital City. Since this bridge separated Capital City from Jeromeville to the west, the rivalry game between UJ and CSU was called the Drawbridge Classic, and the annual rivalry trophy was fashioned from an actual piece of steel removed from the Drawbridge during routine maintenance in the 1970s.

On the afternoon of the 1994 Drawbridge Classic, I came back in from the dining hall to see two people in the common room, Jared and Jonathan, playing Scrabble.  Jared lived on the third floor. He was a little on the short side with bushy blond hair, and his mannerisms always struck me as being a little odd.  Jonathan was taller, with curly brown hair.  He lived on the first floor; his roommate was Pete, who taught me Risk a few weeks earlier. I didn’t know Jared or Jonathan very well.

“Hey, guys,” I said, looking at the board.

“Hi, Greg,” Jared replied.

“Who’s winning?” I asked.

“Jared is,” Jonathan said.  “He usually does.”

“I won a big Scrabble competition back home,” Jared said.  “Last year I was ranked third in the state among youth Scrabble players.”

“That’s pretty impressive,” I said.  I never did know if that was actually true, but a quick glance at the board suggested that some of the words played in this game were played by an extremely skilled player who knew the game well and knew lots of obscure words with unusual letters in them.  “Are you guys going to the football game? I asked.

“Nah,” Jonathan said.  “I have reading to catch up on.”

“UJ has a football team?” Jared asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  “This week is the big rivalry game against Cap State.”  I just had no concept that someone could be a student at this school and not know this, especially considering how the game had been hyped for the entire last week.

“Okay,” Jared replied.  “I’m not going.”

I walked back up to my room.  I spent the next four or five hours doing some combination of math homework, reading, taking a nap, and replying to two emails from girls I had met on IRC chat rooms, not necessarily in that order.  As I was trying to lie down for my nap, I kept thinking about the football game. I wanted to go; that was a given. But I was debating in my mind whether I should just go by myself and sit with random strangers, or go ask people in the building if they were going.  Sitting with people I knew would be fun, but finding out who was going would involve getting out of my introvert comfort zone, and possible rejection, such as the complete lack of interest I got from Jared and Jonathan when I asked them if they were going.

Fortunately, the decision was made for me.  That night, at the dining hall, I saw Mike, Keith, and David sitting at a table with empty chairs.  More specifically, I heard them before I saw them, because Mike can be kind of loud, but in a good way.  I asked if I could sit with them, and they said yes.

“Is Kim meeting us there or is she coming here first?” Keith asked.

“She’s meeting us there,” Mike said.  “Right outside the entrance. She doesn’t have her Colt Crew shirt yet, so she’ll get there early to get in line for that.”

By this point, I had figured out what they were talking about.  “The football game tonight?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Mike said.  “Are you going? Wanna come with us?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Meet in my room after you’re done eating.  We’ll all walk over together.”

“Sounds good!”

 

By the time I met everyone in Mike’s room, a few more people had joined the group.  Taylor was there, along with Charlie and Pat, who were roommates at the opposite end of the second floor from me, and a girl from upstairs named Karen.  In order to reach the football field from the South Residential Area, we had to walk diagonally across the campus. We started out going much the same way that I went to math class, although they walked around and not through the creepy cluster of portable buildings. They walked next to the tall buildings that seemed to hold labs where research on biology and agriculture and genetics happened.  They walked past Wellington Hall, where I had both math class and Rise and Fall of Empires.

“Karen is surrounded by a bunch of guys,” Mike said, laughing.  “That sounds about right.”

“And I’m the youngest one in IHP,” Karen replied.  “I’m underage, so does that mean you guys are all pedophiles?”

I was curious about that last comment.  “You’re the youngest one?” I asked Karen.  “When is your birthday?”

“May 27.”

“But my birthday is August–”

“1978,” Karen interrupted.  “I told you I was the youngest.”

“What?  But… how?  How are you in college if you’re only 16?”

“I skipped a grade in elementary school.  And I took a bunch of junior college classes during high school so I could graduate in three years.”

“Wow,” I said.  “That’s pretty impressive.”

“I guess.  I don’t really think of it that way.  I knew what I wanted to do, so I went for it.”

“Makes sense.”

By this time, we were at the edge of the Quad, walking around the Memorial Union toward the entrance to the football stadium at the northeast corner of campus, on the corner of 5th and A Streets.  The stadium was next to a large athletic field used for intramural sports and team practices, with fraternity houses facing the stadium on the off-campus sides of both 5th and A Streets..  When we got there, Mike waved to a thin girl with brown hair, who stood next to a tall blond guy who looked just like Pat. The girl walked over and kissed Mike; he introduced her as Kim, his girlfriend, and Pat introduced the other guy as his twin brother, Nate.  Kim and Nate lived in the same building in the North Residential Area.

All UJ students get into all UJ Colts sporting events for free, and the student cheering section is known as the Colt Crew.  The Colt Crew called itself the largest student cheering section west of the Mississippi River. I suspected that that claim was based on the fact that, once per year, all students could get a free Colt Crew T-shirt, making them members of the Colt Crew, but many students just showed up once to get their free shirt and then left without actually watching any part of a UJ athletic event.  College students are always looking for free stuff, after all.

I had been to two football games already this year, and I had changed into my Colt Crew T-shirt before we left.  The ten of us were able to find seats together, five in one row and five just behind, but we were sitting near the front in a section of bleachers along the end zone that had a much better view from higher up, so the seats were not all that great in terms of being able to see the game.  With this game being the major regional rivalry game, a large crowd was expected.

The Cap State Hawks took the field first, among a chorus of boos, sprinkled with cheers from the Cap State fans who had made the journey across the Drawbridge for this game.  Then the Colt marching band played as the Colts took the field.

Taylor was sitting next to me.  “Hey, Greg,” he said. “Did you get one of these?”

“I don’t think so,” I replied, as I looked at the paper he was holding.  It appeared to be lyrics to the songs that the band played during football games, as well as a list of specific situations in the game when they play specific songs.  Whenever we score, the band plays the Colt Fight Song. Whenever we recover a fumble or make an interception, the band plays Sons of Jeromeville. Stuff like that. Reading through the lyrics, some of them seemed a bit strange to me, as if they probably referred to events in the school’s history or traditions that had been lost to time.  Others just seemed like nonsensical cheers. Moo moo cow cow, buzz buzz bee bee… what did that even mean?  I had heard the band and the Colt Crew student leaders doing that cheer before the game; there were hand motions and a little dance that went with it.  I had no idea what was going on.

“STAAAAATE SCHOOL! STAAAAATE SCHOOL!” the Colt Crew students began cheering.  I joined them. This cheer clearly referred to the fact that UJ was considered a more prestigious school than Cap State.  This state had two separate and independent systems of public universities. The University of the Bay was the first research-oriented university in the state, and most of its sister schools, including UJ, had their beginnings as research facilities and branch campi of U of the Bay.  These schools grew into the State Higher Education System, some of the most prestigious public schools in the USA. Cap State, on the other hand, was part of the State Colleges and Universities, a group of schools that began as teacher training colleges that still to this day do not offer doctoral degrees.

Cap State scored the first touchdown, prompting the “STAAATE SCHOOL!” chant to begin once again.  As it died down, Mike said to no one in particular, “So what do Cap State fans chant to taunt us? UNIVERRRRRRRSITY?”  Keith and David laughed. I wanted to point out that, technically, Cap State was a university also, but I didn’t bother saying anything.  It was too loud to explain anything like that right now.

During the second quarter, when the clock was stopped, one of the MCs who was leading chants for the Colt Crew got on the microphone and started speaking.  “Hey, Colt Crew!” he said. “It’s time for HAMBURGER MADNESS! Get loud for free hamburgers from Wendy’s!” I looked up and saw someone dressed in a costume as Wendy from the Wendy’s Hamburgers logo tossing rubber balls into the crowd with coupons attached to them.  Seeing the unexpected costumed Wendy approaching, I laughed, while the crowd became more loud and raucous. I didn’t catch a hamburger coupon, and neither did any of my friends who were sitting near me.

At halftime, the score was tied 10-10.  The marching band took the field to perform; someone was narrating their show, but I couldn’t hear very well with the loud crowd around me.  I noticed that Mike and Kim had gotten very cuddly, with Mike’s arms around Kim, and I also noticed that Karen had gotten cuddly with Pat. Or maybe it was Nate.  I looked a little more closely; I was pretty sure it was Pat. Although they looked very much alike, they weren’t identical, and I was pretty sure I could already tell them apart even though I had only met Nate a couple hours earlier.

Just before the third quarter started, the Colt Crew MC told us to get loud for “CANDY MADNESS!”  A group of Colt Crew leaders started throwing candy into the crowd. I got loud, but I didn’t catch any.  A few plays later, the same Colt Crew leaders started a cheer where everyone in the Colt Crew section yelled “GO!” and everyone in the sections that were not for students yelled “COLTS!”  This repeated about ten times. That was a fun one.

The game continued with each team scoring a few more times, but neither team building up a big lead.  With about five minutes left, Cap State scored to go ahead 24-20. After that score, the Colt Crew MC said, “Okay, Colt Crew, let’s get loud for TUBE SOCK MADNESS!!!”  I watched, confused, as the Colt Crew leaders, one of whom was now wearing a cow suit and another a banana suit, threw tube socks into the crowd.

I turned to Taylor.  “What is going on?” I asked.  “Why tube socks?”

“I don’t know!” Taylor said.

“It’s like they just found something random to turn into a free gift.”

“I know!”

Just as Taylor said that, I looked up to see a rolled-up pair of tube socks heading straight for me.  I reached out and caught them. “WOOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed, holding up my tube socks for everyone around me to see.

“Good job!” Taylor said, patting me on the back.

“Greg caught tube socks!” Mike shouted, and everyone from IHP sitting near me, as well as a few strangers, started cheering for me.

With about two minutes left, the Colts had the ball near Cap State’s 20-yard line.  UJ’s quarterback threw a short pass to a wide-open tight end, who ran all the way into the end zone.  The crowd loudly exploded into cheers and shouts as the Colts took the lead, successfully kicking the extra point to make the score 27-24.

“All right, Colt Crew!” the MC said.  “The Colts need to make one last defensive stand!  So everyone needs to GET UP ON YOUR FEET AND MAKE! SOME!  NOOOOOOIIIIIISE!!!!!” I stood up and started screaming, as did most of the students around me.  I screamed as loud as I could. It didn’t matter what I was screaming, as long as I was making noise and making life difficult for the Cap State team.  I screamed for several minutes straight, only taking quick breaks to breathe. I kept screaming even when I felt myself get light-headed and my voice begin to strain.

And it worked.

Cap State threw an incomplete pass, ran the ball for a six-yard gain, and threw two more incomplete passes to turn over the ball on downs.  Cap State was out of timeouts by then, so Jeromeville just ran out the clock and won, 27-24. The Colt Crew section erupted in cheers and shouts and high-fives.  I high-fived everyone I came with, plus some people sitting next to me whom I didn’t know. Only at a sporting event is it appropriate in that way to high-five total strangers and feel a bond in doing so.

I don’t remember the outcome of every game I’ve ever been to.  But, by going to Colt football games during my first few months at UJ, I learned one of the most memorable aspects of university life: traditions.  Time passes. Life changes. People get older. UJ grew and reclassified its athletic programs to a higher division in 2004, attracting better talent but also playing more challenging opponents.  A new football stadium opened in 2007. But, despite these changes, the traditions remain. I stopped going to Colts games after I graduated and didn’t get in free anymore, but I started going again in 2005, and the first thing I noticed was how many of the traditions were still around.  Even today, the band plays all the same songs. The same clichéd sporting event music plays over the PA system, although of course a few new songs have entered that rotation. Colt fans still do the GO! COLTS! cheer back and forth between the two sides of the stadium. And at the beginning of the game they do the Moo Moo Cow Cow cheer, which is still just as strange as ever.  The Colt Crew still throws free gifts into the student section. Even Tube Sock Madness is still a thing.

I still have my first pair of Colt Crew tube socks, along with a few others I’ve caught over the years.  I mostly just save them as trophies and rarely wear them, since they don’t fit me all that well. I never did get my own copy of that lyric sheet, and I really wish I had one, although these days the lyrics to the traditional campus songs can be found online.  I will forever be a University of Jeromeville Colt alumnus, and no matter how far my life moves on beyond my university years, these traditions will remain with me.