The View from the Cheap (Free) Seats

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

I was grossly unprepared for Saturday’s big football game against North Dakota State University.

I arrived at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium just twenty minutes before kick-off in my light winter coat, gloveless, earmuffless and in my pointy-toed, kitten-heeled boots. I knew it was going to be a big game, but big game was the understatement of the year. This, as one drunken fan behind me put it, was ginormous. It has to be if John Thune makes an appearance.

I began my journey through the line on the pavement of Coughlin’s parking lot and I slowly made my way toward the turnstiles at the gate; this was one instance where my press pass offered me no perks.

I crammed myself into a spot against the side fence that my friends managed to save for me because they knew I hadn’t anticipated how crowded the stands would be, and I began to take in the atmosphere. I have had to report on some aspect of nearly every single football game I went to this year-usually tailgating-so, I jumped at the chance to write a story about watching a game. I’ll be honest; I wasn’t prepared to lose control of my journalistic objectivity when SDSU took the field.

Standing (something I would do for the entire three hours and 18 minutes I was there and wasn’t prepared for), I could feel the electricity flowing through the crowd. I almost felt like I was at last spring’s WNIT games again, except much colder.

The stadium was filled with low, intense noise between plays anytime SDSU had possession of the ball. Throughout most of the game, the students’ section seemed to have one mind. They “oh”-ed whenever a Jackrabbit took a hard hit, “yeah”-ed each time Cory Koenig broke away from the other players for a first down and laughed when Parker Douglass’ field goal hit the big Daktronics screen in the first quarter and took out a chunk of modules in the center of the display. After five members of the SDSU defense played Kill the Carrier with a lone Bison, my friend Lacey turned to me and said, “I feel so bad. That’s somebody’s son and he just got rocked.”

The crowd was most subdued in the third quarter, when the combination of bitter prairie wind and struggling Jacks began to take its toll on the multitude. Then Koenig broke away from the pack again to score what I can only describe as a “miracle touchdown,” the fire was reignited and no one seemed to care about windburn or frostbite. After my friends gave up hope mere minutes before Koenig saved the day, I found myself surrounded by a group of guys hugging and chest bumping with every play as the clock ticked down to zero. I didn’t display as much emotion as my neighbors because I was too cold to move, so I merely hopped from my left foot to my right while cuddling a stolen blue blanket around my body.

If I had only planned ahead and worn winter gear or if the great outdoors would have been ten degrees warmer with no wind, I would have been on the field celebrating the Great West Conference win with the rest of my peers. I would have been all smiles, dancing around and hugging football players I had never met. I hadn’t prepared myself for a celebration. I hadn’t been ready for a win against a team that had been previously undefeated for the season and had tasted victory against the University of Minnesota. Because I didn’t believe in the impossible, all I could do was get to my car to test the heater while my fellow students reveled in their triumph.