Bedlam: Next Year Has Arrived!

I guess I should thank him, really, this faceless, nameless man at least three times my elder. Without him, perhaps, never would have I been branded with the thought. I loathe Sooner Fan.

Impressionable, I was. A child. Barely a teen. Easily scarred.

So it was on Nov. 28, 1970, as I shuffled out of Memorial Stadium in Norman. I did my best to wear a strong face despite the mutilation I had just witnessed.

The Christians of Rome had fared better than did we on that day. Final score, them 66, us 6.

Gulp.

And this grown man gets in my face. I guess it made him feel bigger.

****
My father was doing his part to instill within me a love for Oklahoma State University. He was a proud alumnus, as was my mother. He had scored tickets to the Bedlam game in Norman. My anticipation level all but boiled over.

After all, I remembered playing the Sooners the year before. Steve Owens' senior year. And only his Herculean effort — what was it? 65 carries? — saved the Sooners in a one-point game.

"Wait 'till next year," an orange-clad fan encouraged me that day in 1969. "Next year we will get them."

I bought in.

****
After all, it had been only a couple of years — 1966 — since we beat them for the second time in a row.

History had not yet become my teacher. I did not realize in 1965 or '66 the significance of beating the University of Oklahoma in football. I knew only that I supported OSU and had learned to love the bumper-to-bumper 16-mile grind along Highway 51 from Interstate-35 to Stillwater.

And what I thought at the time was the world's most grandiose football stadium.

Next year, I knew, we would get them.

****
So it was I sat there that day in 1970, numbed more from what I witnessed than from the cold.

66-6.

"Pooooor Aggggies."

The sickening sing-song chant rained down around us that day. It haunts me still.

And then Sooner Fan shouts me down.

"Next year, dammit!" I told myself.

Next year, of course, was 1976.

By that time I was I was firmly entrenched into student life — read: the Gray Fox — at OSU. As a fledgling sports writer on The O'Collegian staff, it should have been my finest hour.

Instead of walking into Memorial Stadium, I was walking out of a hospital in southwestern Oklahoma. The radio became my best friend from the living room of my parents' home. As the game grew on and victory became more and more possible, I lost the remaining traces of my sanity.

With a surgically repaired right shoulder in a sling, I shifted gears with my left hand and drove well-medicated to Norman. The game ended moments before I arrived and found friends who took me back to Stillwater.

****
And to waiting for the next "next" year.

I vowed after the 1984 game I never would return to Norman. It's a promise I have kept. But it also meant I waited a quarter of a century for next year to arrive.

Oklahoma State's victories over bad OU teams in the 1990s are a blur to me. My work at the time prevented me from attending games. But even watching on TV or listening on the radio lost its luster by the sorry state of the Sooner program at the time.

True to my vow, I passed up an offer for tickets in 2001 in Norman. Cruelly, 16-13 happened.

So it was magically sweet in 2002 when Rashaun Woods got open — he still is — and the Pokes cooked the visitors 38-28.

My son, about the same age I was in 1970, dragged me over the west end zone wall and into the crush of humanity celebrating on the Lewis Field turf.

For the first time in my life, I had been in the stadium when we beat them.

I could die a happy man.

****
Well, maybe not. Quite possibly the biggest Bedlam — for us, anyway — awaits. The one we've been waiting for since 2002. And it's again in our house.

In a supposed rebuilding year, the team that wears our colors and represents our school is knocking on the door of a Big 12 South Division championship and berth in the conference title game. Knocking on the door of a BCS berth. Seriously.

The hurdle, as always: them.

Beat the Sooners and paint the town orange. Such is the goal for Saturday. In most years, I would be pained. The question would be simple. "Why them?"

****
But not in 2010. Not now. Not after winning 10 of 11 and rising, phoenix-like, from ashes many tried to throw on this team before ever it played a game.

I've hoped — often, against hope — many times for victory over the Sooners. "If we can do this," or "if they do that," have been my justifying phrases.

No more.

Plain and simple. Oklahoma State is the better team. Better at running back. Vastly better in the kicking game. Better wide receivers as a group.

As good in the defensive front. As good at linebacker. Most importantly, better at quarterback.

The Bedlam history, in large part, has hinged on one thing: the better quarterback.

****
Josh Fields was better than Nate Hybl. OSU won twice with him leading the way. Zac Robinson, for all the great things he did, was not better than Sam Bradford. And never beat the Sooners.

Tony Lindsay was better than the revolving door of Sooner quarterbacks in the 1990s.

Brandon Weeden is better than Landry Jones. End of discussion.

Weeden at 27, is the leader of a confident, businesslike team that meets and defeats its weekly challenges. And is playing at home.

Next year, Cowboy fans, has arrived.



(Jim Perry, 53, is managing editor of the Cushing Citizen and has been in the newspaper business since age 14. He was longtime sports editor for the Claremore Daily Progress. He grew up in Hobart and is an OSU alumnus (1975-79) and former sports editor of the Daily O'Collegian. His children are recent OSU graduates — son Chris worked in the Cowboy sports information department — and he and wife Diana are season ticket holders for football and men's basketball. Perry's nephew, Will Hancok, was one of the 10 Remembered who died in the Jan. 27, 2001 OSU basketball plane crash outside Boulder, Colo.)


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