Bits and Pieces from Cougars spring game --

As I was leaving the playing field at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, who should I bump into but's brass Reg Schwenke (editor/publisher) and Talo Steves (managing editor). <P> Both were toting notebooks and pens, leading me to two immediate conclusions:

(1) They were intent on using their age and size advantage to elbow their way through the throng of young fans to seek out a Cougar football autograph or two for their own personal collections or sell on eBay for a quick buck.

(2) They had been taking copious notes during the 2003 Blue/White BYU Spring Football Scrimmage for pending articles on TBS.

I quickly dismissed the first possibility and settled on the latter.

We exchanged greetings and pleasantries. This was my first face-to-face meeting of R. Leuma (Reg), who I quickly discovered was even more warm and engaging in person than he is in cyberspace.

Somehow or other, the subject of my next submission to TBS came up and both suggested I write a piece about the scrimmage.

Well, fast forward about 22 hours and 250 miles, give or take. There I was, jotting down my football thoughts and notes during Sacrament Meeting. Suddenly, my wife looked down and saw what I was doing.

After 25 years together, I've become quite skilled at reading her non-verbal facial thoughts and expressions. The message was unmistakable: "....inappropriate and irreverent." My sheepish, guilty and unspoken reply was "Hey, I did hear what the speaker just said. Can't you see I'm MULTI-tasking here?"

But I digress. Rewind to last Saturday morning.

Call it a "sign of the times" that BYU Football has truly gone big-time, but I was mildly-surprised to discover the athletic department was actually charging admission to the annual Spring scrimmage.

Someone later told me they did this LAST year. But you have to remember during the 2002 version of the game, I was 45 miles north up I-15, peacefully asleep in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit of the University of Utah Medical Center, COMPLETELY unaware I was dozing in the very bosom of enemy territory, aka UTE Country.

Nevertheless, I eagerly forked over my $5 if, for no other reason, than to get my first peek at Bronco Mendenhall and the "new-look" Cougar defense. Later, the stadium P.A. announcer informed us the gate proceeds would go toward the BYU JV football program. That made me feel a little better about my small donation. Yeah, take THAT, Snow and Dixie!

As "MacCoug" and I walked under the West Stands and emerged from the tunnel, I received my SECOND surprise of the morning - a gaping hole in the East Stands, right where 10,000 or fans normally sit on Fall Saturdays.

MacCoug, who no longer works for a living and camps all-day on the Internet, quickly brought me up to speed. This chasm, stretching from the 50-yard-line in both directions to the 25-yard lines was, in truth, the pre-natal form of what has been dubbed "BYU Club Seating." I can only IMAGINE what returning soon-to-be displaced cheap seats fans will "dub" this change come September as they gaze down from the upper East concourse, or worse, from the end zones.

For any of you out there who also work for a living and hadn't heard about this latest development, here's the scoop: Pony-up $1,000 per seat -- AFTER paying to join Cougar Club at the Golden Cougar level or above -- for the option of buying a season-ticket for that seat. Then you get to open your Franklin-Covey day planner even wider, grab some more $$$ and actually BUY the season-ticket. Now, in truth, I was never a Math major, but by my quick calculations, you have now handed Val roughly enough money to buy a cruise-missile. Per seat.

Hey, don't get me wrong. All kidding aside, this plan would seem to beat raising tithing to 15% to keep Cougar football moving forward.

Besides, I haven't even gotten to the perks of the "BYU Club Seating" program. All those "Benjamin's" you fork over are going to buy you a chairback seat, with cupholders for your de-caf Coke (wink). And, as the brochure I'm looking at points out, "additional leg room and space." Memo to Southwest & Delta, are you listening?

Then come the extra-curricular bennies: reserved parking, a free game-program, and just for good measure, pregame, half-time and post-game access to a VIP hospitality tent boasting "...catered food and beverages."

But catered by whom? My personal gastro-intestinal preferences seed Tucano's and Outback way ahead of Hogi-Yogi or BYU Food Services -- not that I'm knocking a cup of Y-sparkle and a plate of tortilla chips dripping with microwaved Velveeta.

Oh yeah, you also get VIP parking and something called "express post-game departure from Edwards Stadium..." -- which, to me, sounds suspiciously like a shuttle bus which will whisk you away from LES to some parking-lot out beyond Krispy Kreme, so you can get a five-mile jump on the bumper-to-bumper north-bound traffic-jam on I-15.

But enough about "BYU Club Seating."

Soon, the friendly, familiar faces of the board members began to arrive and gather in the West Stands, directly across the field from the aforementioned gaping hole.

The first "boarder" I spied was BYU football's "Queen Mother," Christina, accompanied by the entire Whalen entourage. The newest Whalen, DeShawn, adorned in a brand-new, miniature BYU game jersey bearing his papa's number 32, seemed relatively unaffected by all the attention he was receiving from family and friends.

Then came the Root Gang -- John ( aka "Y'zWoody"), Val, Tyler ("TAI"), Bobby and the rest of their clan. I was so impressed with John and Bobby's new, matching #44 football jerseys that I later forced MacCoug to detour to T.J. Maxx on the way out of town to snag one for myself.

Unfortunately, the only BYU jerseys left in the store on this particular Saturday were Cougar basketball jerseys which, for marketing reasons beyond my comprehension, were marked way down to clearance prices. Go figure.

"LV Coug" soon arrived, as did "Tim, Trublue, Optimistic, ByuBadger, EWTH8TR and El Jefe. "Y'zGuy" was a late arrival (by his normal standards), but had a good excuse; he had to drop-off his wheels at Circuit City to get a new sound system installed ("...dude, the freaking bass-boost is awesome"). Just kidding, Y'z.

One of the truly great things about these little get-togethers is our ever-growing band of Cougar/TBS "boarders" get to actually put faces with all those wacky monikers and icons we see everyday on the Internet.

For instance, "Ironmonkey" bears nothing even remotely resembling Iron nor Monkey. A very attractive woman, I'd say she should have chosen "Canadian Velvet" for her boardname. But that might have given some people in the "lower 48" the wrong idea about this warm & witty gal and Cougar fan from the "Great White North."

Speaking of familiar faces, once the game began, I noticed this big guy in a sweatshirt and Levis, prowling the white team's bench area right in front of us.

Soon, I picked-up on the fact he was offering pointers to the White team's #80 every time he came off the field. To the plethora of pigskin afficionados' of the ESPN kind, a peek through the binoculars unmasked Todd Christensen, a distinguished BYU and Oakland Raider alumnus fullback/tight end turned announcer. Displaying quintessential, "little-league daddy-son type" sideline counsel, he was providing son Toby some of the finer points of "catching the rock." Toby made some sweet grabs over the middle Saturday.

In some ways, the 2003 Blue/White Game was like a bridal shower featuring "something OLD, something NEW..." etc.

The latter part was delivered courtesy of new defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall and an exciting, UNfamiliar looking defense -- which was SWARMING to the ball on every play, tatooing the backs & receivers and giving the quarterbacks NO time to set-up, plant and step into their throws and spending the afternoon running for their lives.

Memo to Chance Harridge in Colorado Springs: See ya September 27. You've been the "featured opponent" on the defense's locker room bulletin board all winter, pal. Number 49 is going to spend that day turning you into the Brady-CRUNCH).

Sitting in the stadium on a spectacular afternoon under blue, sunny skies (indeed, I walked into church Sunday morning sporting a "tell-tale" sunburn on approximately one-half of my face and neck) brought back fond memories of past seasons, before ESPN dollars turned Cougar football into an evening event, served-up for prime-time consumption on Thursday, Friday and Saturday NIGHTS.

Yet at times, it seemed like an actual BYU game, featuring moments of spirited ref-booing and streams of "fans" scrambling for the exits long before the scoreboard clock wound-down to zero. All that was missing was Cosmo, CougarBand and that annoying Phillips 66 race-car thing on the replay board.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. There was even a brand NEW chapter to an old BYU home game saga; a close encounter of the WORST kind with a "cougar cadaver."

After the game's first touchdown, with the stadium sound system blaring the Cougar Fight Song, I "rose and shouted" at the appropriate moment, only to feel one of those legendary and infamous tugs on the back of my shirt.

I turned and found myself looking at someone who was probably older than Utah Lake, a scowl adorning his wrinkled puss, wearing not a spec of blue except for the trim on his extremely-faded "1974 WAC Champion" ball cap.

He growled, "SIT DOWN," then muttered something about his not being able to sit and watch the football game. Mind you, this was happening after the PAT while both teams were still huddling on their respective sidelines.

Without skipping a beat (my vitamin B-12 is working), I smiled back at this Cougar curmudgeon and replied good naturedly, "don't you know you're supposed to "rise and shout" when they play the fight song?"

His response?

Stone SILENCE, accompanied by an icy cold "death-wish" stare, which would have done Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson proud.

Several minutes later, when part of the Whalen entourage was trying to exit our row for parts unknown, I told them I was sorry, but I was no longer allowed to stand-up, and they would just have to crawl over me to get by.

I then turned around and summoned-up MY best Steven Seagal glare, which must have been less-than-convincing, because this octagenarian turned to his neighbor and growled "...he doesn't know how close he is to getting it..."

I must confess, however, that Gramps gave me a "moment of pause." I concluded a mere scrimmage, being won by BYU, on a beautiful spring day wasn't worth extending this "confrontation" any further. I mean, what POSSIBLE honor could there be sending this "brother" to High Priest Group meeting with a shiner?

Besides, "LV Coug" was nowhere to be found in this, my newest hour of need -- and there weren't any orange-vested student rent-a-cops in sight to mediate the dispute. So I caved-in to this "cavader-emeritus" and promptly joined the Roots, two rows down for the remainder of the game.

Sometimes, discretion IS the better part of valor. Besides, I would have had a hard time getting my fill of Rodezio's famed grilled pineapple from the Utah County Jail.

Copyright © 2003

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