Saturday, October 5, 2013

Promise Kept

In December Bill McCartney (a/k/a "Coach Mac I") will be enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame.  'Tis an event that may not have yet registered on your radar - and may not in fact ever register - but since Coach Mac was the Head Coach at CU when Jill, Joe and I were matriculating along Colorado's Front Range more than quarter-century ago, it has indeed popped up on mine.  Bill McCartney is - as we all are - an imperfect human being.  He did a hell of a lot for CU during the time he spent in Boulder.  And then he did something far too few in his profession - or perhaps in any profession - do:  he left on his own terms.

Following the 1994 season he retired.  Simply walked away.  At the time he left he said that he he was doing so in part because he owed it to his wife and to his four children to be a better husband and a better father than he had been.  When Coach Mac is honored at halftime of today's game against Oregon, among those members of the CU Football family there with him shall be his grandsons T.C. McCartney and Derek McCartney.  T.C. is a graduate assistant on the Colorado coaching staff.  Derek is a member of the team - a true freshman.  Their mother is Coach Mac's daughter, Kristy.  Each has a different father.  T.C.'s dad, Sal Aunese, played at CU while I went to school there.  Aunese was diagnosed with stomach cancer in the Spring of 1989 and died less than nine months later.  Derek's father, Shannon Clavelle, played at CU in the early '90s.  Both grandsons were raised in Boulder, Colorado in the house next door to their grandparents.  And each says that Coach Mac is his hero - acting as both father and grandfather for boys who lacked the former and who needed the latter.  

I am very happy that Coach Mac shall be in Boulder today being feted for his accomplishments in advance of his HOF Induction two months from now.  It does sadden me more than a little that Mrs. Mac shall not be there with him.  Lyndi McCartney died earlier this year.  The McCartneys had been married for fifty years.  Together they raised four children and welcomed ten grandchildren - including T.C. and Derek.  A stat line even an old football coach can love.  

This afternoon the 2013 edition of the Buffs will likely get shredded by the juggernaut that is the 2013 Oregon Ducks.  Oregon is ranked #2 in the country for a reason - they are really, really good.  Thus far this season they have won their games by an average score of 59-10.  If you are inclined to wager on this afternoon's affair, the safe bet is to take Oregon and give the 38 points by which they are favored.  It pains me to say that but it is what it is.  And today is likely to be a blowout. 

In September 1985 the second football game I attended as a freshman at CU-Boulder was against the Oregon Ducks.  It was a game highlighted - as today's game shall be - by a halftime ceremony.  In 1984, the Buffs played Oregon in Eugene and CU tight end Ed Reinhardt was seriously injured during the game.  A hard, clean hit resulted in Reihardt sustaining a subdural hematoma that developed a blood clot on the brain.  For a considerable period of time following the '84 game, Ed Reinhardt's condition was touch and go.  Among the things that helped save his life was the treatment he received at the University of Oregon's Medical Center in Eugene.  Although his injury had occurred when I was a high school senior some 1600 miles east of Boulder, in the week leading up to the Oregon game that fall I learned quite a bit about it.  Including the high regard that Coach Mac and everyone associated with CU Football held their colleagues at Oregon for all they had done to help Ed Reinhardt and his family.   And if anyone thinks for a moment that time has tempered the affection that the people of Eugene, Oregon has for Ed Reinhardt, then spend twenty-two minutes watching this simply beautiful video that the University of Oregon's Athletic Department has recently posted on its website.

The '85 game against Oregon's halftime ceremony was the Reinhardt family - with Ed front and center and smiling like a madman - riding around the field in a convertible.   He waved to the crowd and thanked everyone for supporting him and for thinking of him.  I am confident in saying that everyone at Folsom that afternoon cried.  Well, I presume they did.  I know I did.  It was an amazing moment. 

That afternoon ended with an amazing moment as well.  Oregon needed a touchdown to win the game and under the leadership of their quarterback, Chris Miller, the Ducks had driven the length of the field to inside of the Buffs' ten-yard line as time ran down.  On what would be the the game's final play, with everything on the line, the Buffs needed something big to happen.   And it did....


Mickey Pruitt blitzed off of the corner and even though Miller rolled to his right - away from Pruitt - he had no chance of escaping him.  Pruitt sacked him.  Game over.  An unbelievable ending to an amazing day.

Even though history is not likely to repeat itself this afternoon in the shadow of the Flatirons, it shall nevertheless be one hell of a day.  And sometimes that, in and of itself, is more than enough.

-AK

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