Friday, December 2, 2016

To California We Have Come

UW v. CU 

The Champions of the Pac-12 North Division, the University of Washington Huskies, the nation's fourth-ranked college football team, shall take the field tonight at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California for the 2016 Pac-12 Football Championship Game as a solid, seven-point favorite.  Chris Peterson's team is widely expected to do on this game day what it is they have done on eleven this season's previous twelve game days, which is win the game. 

It has been eleven seasons since Washington's opponent in tonight's game, the unlikely Champions of the Pac-12 South Division, the University of Colorado Buffaloes, have played for the championship of any conference.  The last time the Alma mater did so, CU was a member of the Big XII and on that occasion, in Houston, Texas, the Texas Longhorns crushed the Buffs by sixty-seven points, 70-3, in a game that - truth be told -was not even as close as the final score.  Trust me, I watched the entire game.  

An argument can be made - and with ample proof to support it - that the entire 2016 season has been nothing short of an exorcism for the University of Colorado football program.  More than a decade removed from its last winning season, this year's edition of the Buffaloes has embodied the spirit and the philosophy of Head Coach Mike MacIntyre, who told his players prior to the start of pre-season practice in August that this year he expected them to play for the Pac-12 Championship - in spite of the fact that they had been picked to finish dead last in the South Division.  One should not question the wisdom of the Walter Camp Foundation National Coach of the Year.  

When the Buffaloes began their summer workouts, which they did, coincidentally, on the 35th anniversary of the death of WPK, Sr. - the father of two CU alumni, they were greeted by this:

At no point in the six-plus months since that first team workout has this herd of Buffaloes taken a backwards step.  They have not won every game, losing at Michigan on September's third Saturday and, again, at USC on October's second Saturday, but they have never lost their commitment to the task at hand.  They have remained true to their coaches, their teammates, and to themselves.  They have placed faith in their preparation and in their process.  It has carried them this far.  I know not whether it shall carry them to victory tonight in Santa Clara but I know that I shall be rooting myself hoarse from a continent away.  

The smart money tonight is on Washington, the higher-ranked, better-regarded team.  My heart, of course, is filled with hope for my beloved Buffaloes, for whom I have had much love since I first set foot on the Boulder campus a lifetime (at least) ago.  I cannot properly describe just what this group of kids and the men who coach them have given to those of us who love CU with not simply their play on the field this season but the manner in which they have gone about their business.  I want them to win tonight - for themselves.  Long before anyone outside of the four walls of their locker room believed in them or in their mission - they looked around it at one another and accepted that success would come only if they moved together, in unison and in lockstep, and never wavered in their determination to attain it. 

Here's to hoping that tonight, probably for the first time ever within the geographical boundaries of Santa Clara, California, the fight song may be sung post-game.  If history is any guide, Coach Mac and his gang shall sing it off-key...

...and it shall still be sweet music to this old Buff's ears. 


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