Orange and Blue: Game Day

We saw the first one after we got on the highway, when still 2 hours away.  The car passed us going 70.  Their blue flag flapped crisply behind them.  It was a little sun faded, the orange letter “I” not as sharp as it had been when new.

The signs of the faithful increased the closer we got.  Here a bumper sticker, there another flag, occasionally a motor home festooned for major tailgate action.  A stop at a gas station an hour away, and I counted 7 other people bedecked in neon orange t-shirts.  Parents?  Alumni? 

It’s game day.

The town is awash.  The streets, the sidewalks, the parking lots filled with tailgaters; everywhere you look you see the color scheme du jour.  Those not in orange or blue are the exception.  Foreign exchange students, hustling to the library despite the fact that it is Saturday, and game day, are among the minority.  They are out of uniform.  

Little boys wearing the blue jerseys of their favorite players toss the football with their dad behind the family’s pop-up tent.  Girls wearing orange ribbons in their hair, babies in matching diapers come to the stadium in the arms of their mothers.  These are the young graduates, remembering their wilder days, and raising their kids up with a belief in these fine, old traditions.  They are secure in the knowledge that they, too, will someday have a home here.

Scores of parents stream in to the game.  Some are alumni and some, like us, use this day as an excuse to spend a few hours with our babies, now embarking on their college journeys.  The orange shirt is the dress code; the game ticket is the cost of admission.  It, and the bill for dinner for our kid and whatever new friends are parentless today, is a small price to pay for the chance to see her.  

An elderly couple leans heavily on one another as they hobble into the stadium.  Their orange and blue has the faded, well-pressed look of long use.  Perhaps they met at this very stadium – he, just back from the war; she, a shy coed away from home for the first time.  They have come back through the highs and lows of their lives.  Their steps are tentative, shaky in their orthopedic shoes.  This may be their last season.  But they are damn well here today, and by God will keep coming as long as they are able!

Students fill the end zone, a solid block of orange.  Freshmen play follow-the-leader at this, their first game.  They’ll learn to “whoo” when their team gets a first down, to gallop when the band plays The William Tell Overture, and a dozen other little quirks of “our” school.  They will remember these things for a lifetime.  Eventually they, too, will arrive for game day in their orthopedic shoes, but they will still remember, and rise to sing the school song.

the houses of the holy.

We come to Champaign as they are coming to countless campuses all over the country.    Because it is game day – the start of the college football season. 

It is the first game, and we are all coming home.

About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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20 Responses to Orange and Blue: Game Day

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    And the orthopedic shoes – are they orange too? If not, someone’s missing out on a great marketing opportunity.


  2. Jackie says:

    My parents live in Penn State territory, right across from the stadium and know all too well the story above. Well, that and how the addition of 40,000-something people every fall makes driving a headache, hitting pedestrians inevitable, and the lines everywhere yards longer than before. 😉


  3. Big Al says:

    Great post about game day. Feel like I was there. UVA is right here in town and yes, their colors are also Orange and Blue so you’d feel right at home here too.


  4. notquiteold says:

    What a vivid portrait you paint!


    • pegoleg says:

      Thank you! What I didn’t convey was my total misery since this grand old tradition took place in 96 degree heat this last weekend. Forget football, there should have been Slip ‘N Slide competitions!


  5. Organized sports. It’s a money-maker, alright. But where are all these people getting all the money? I suppose everyone needs a diversion from the bad news that populates the “everydayness” of our world. Personally, I’d rather watch a dog agility contest. But I know I’m odd…


    • pegoleg says:

      It is a money maker, but it’s so much more than that. To the true believer, it’s an escape. And for college fans, it’s about loyalty and the total experience. But watching dogs is fun too…


  6. Tar-Buns says:

    I know what you mean about “game” fever. Last Saturday Pat and I went to the Detroit Tigers vs Chicago White Sox game in Detroit – my birthday gift. The power went out around 10am, just as Pat got out of the shower. None for me. Arrived at Comerica Park in time to get the free hat giveaway to the first 10,000 fans, went into the beautiful ballpark and saw the temp on the screen – 95 degrees. And, our seats were in the sun. Sucked down lemonade and water all afternoon.

    We got home after 10pm and still no power. Thank God for my battery operated fan, candles and flashlights. Crazy day!

    BTW, Pat has tickets for the MSU football game Sat and we’re hosting Lions opening NFL game on Sunday. Busy weekend, what with John’s party Fri. See you Fri! Safe travels!


    • pegoleg says:

      I didn’t mention the hellacious heat – 96 in Champaign- because it didn’t advance the crisp fall day narrative that goes with football. Don’t you think there’s something wrong that your going to a baseball game in September? What happened to everything a season (turn, turn, turn)?

      Hope you had fun anyway – see you this weekend!


  7. Mary Mahar says:

    Hey aren’t those Florida Gator colors??? HaHa Don’t worry, I’ll never lose my Illinois rooots, OR my sense of humor.


  8. I love this. As a lifelong football fan, it pained me to go to a college excellent in academics and dismal in sports. (And Division III, to boot. Sigh. But at least we were spared the humiliation of sucking on national television.) But we were very close to Ohio State and I have always been a Penn State fan, so Saturdays in fall have borne the enthusiasm, if not the pride, for me. Great post!


  9. I love, love, love football season. I can’t think of fall or any of the fall/winter holidays without associating them with football memories. Here’s to a great football season!


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