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Wyo-Miss

Players from Wyoming and Missouri get ready for the next play following a timeout Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming.

Apparently, just watching a college football game isn't as easy as it looks.

As a fan and not a reporter, watching the Wyoming-Missouri game Saturday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming, was almost more than this old-timer bargained for.

It was a return to Laramie, the old stomping grounds of 24 years before returning home to the Black Hills seven years ago.

Or Laradise as the locals refer to the western town of 30,000 residents, including the only four-year college in the state.

Yours truly covered the Cowboys for most of those 24 years as either the assistant sports editor of the Laramie Boomerang (newspaper) or a freelancer for other various media outlets.

Saturday was a little different. No, a lot different.

Instead of sitting in the comfy press box — a Division I press box — a game ticket was purchased instead. It was only the second time the aforementioned old-timer had ever paid to see a Wyoming football game.

I could cheer, so I did. I could boo the referees, so I did. 

I could spill on my shirt the super burrito I inhaled at halftime, so I did.

The trip to Laramie — the first in almost three years — came about somewhat suddenly.

After realizing that both South Dakota School or Mines and Black Hills State was idle on the football field until the next week, it was likely now or never for the 2019 season.

And South Dakota School of Mines head football coach Zach Tinker made a strong case for going, although he really didn't have to twist any arms.

"You have to go. How many times do you get to see a Power Five team?" Tinker said Thursday after his team's scrimmage.

Not too often.

Sorry Jeff and Aaron back in the office, but I'm out of here.

Naturally, nothing is ever easy. A flat tire Saturday morning postponed the trip's start about an hour and a half.

Reaching Laradise, five hours later and two hours before kickoff, the first stop is always at Greenhill Cemetery to visit my late wife, Teresa, a former Cowgirl basketball player and No. 1 University of Wyoming fan.

Once a Cowgirl, always a Cowgirl.

Running a bit late for the full tailgate experience — new territory for this reporter — there were a lot of familiar faces roaming the indoor practice facility and in the parking lot. There was one familiar face especially, as in former South Dakota School of Mines head women's basketball coach Ryan Larsen, now with Wyoming. It was a great visit. The Cowgirls are lucky to have him as an assistant.

The unprepared part came next, walking into the stadium minutes before kickoff. As could be expected, the paying ticket seat was about as high up in the 28,000-seat at War Memorial Stadium as possible.

In reality, the seat was right in front of the press box, home for the previous 24 years of Cowboy football viewing.

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But this was different.

Instead, with the ticket tucked away and all but forgotten, the game viewing would be at the fence behind the north end zone, which was occupied by about 100 or so Cowboy crazies. Make that 101. It was go time.

But suddenly during the pregame festivities that included a flyover, emotion takes over in the form of a grapefruit lump in the throat and misty eyes.

Those previous 24 years of covering Wyoming football came crashing down hard. There was hardly an empty seat in a sea of brown and gold, Bon Jovi was playing "Dead or Alive" over the loud speakers, the cannon goes off and smoke fills the always blue Wyoming sky. The student section is warming up for multiple singings of The Beer Song, and fans competed on each side of the stadium with thunderous "W-Y-O" competitive chants that seemed to not want to end.

It was good ole' Wyoming, all right, just like old times. But instead of watching from a distance in the press box, it was live, and it was real.

This is what college football is all about, and suddenly after seven years away, it was viewed through different glasses. Brown and gold glasses.

The Cowboys fell behind 14-0, then scored 27 unanswered points before holding on for the 37-31 upset victory over a Power Five conference school. David slays Goliath. Sorry, old headline writing habits.

As could be expected, the crowd rushes the field — minus one, at least. That's a younger fan's duty.

Watching former friends and media colleagues walk into the Rochelle Center for the post-game press conference, surely there was room for one more old scribe. 

The security at the door, however, says otherwise. Remember, you are only just a paid customer.

Instead, this old sportswriter, who cut his teeth at this very same stadium — minus recent million dollar upgrades throughout the years —  drifted into darkness to a parked car that sat on a street that was driven thousands of times in a previous 24 years.

Downtown, the world famous Buckhorn Bar said, "Come on in." But it was a time for a younger fan's party, so it was time to call it a night. At 60 years old, a "Buckhorn Roll," could be not only deadly, but a bit embarrassing.

A trip home the long way through the Snowy Range Mountains was on tap for the next day, and despite a mini bit of altitude sickness (10,000-plus feet elevation), it was breathtaking.

Wyoming was home for about 28 of my 60 years of existence, which has now turned into dual citizenship for this sometimes Cowboy Joe wanna be and South Dakotan.

Driving east, though, the thoughts suddenly turn to the next week, the next Saturday in particular.

It's another college football game day, only in the beautiful Black Hills, as South Dakota School of Mines opens at home against Colorado Mesa, and Chadron State College is at Black Hills State University.

This is year eight of covering the Hardrockers, Yellow Jackets and Eagles. 

That feels good and it feels right, although there will be no cheering and no booing the referees on the ramp at O'Harra Stadium. From this reporter, at least.

It's college football game day and it's back to work. I'm all in.

Only 16 more years to go and we'll call it even.

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