Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Kansas's Last (and Next?) Bowl Game

 Hello friends, this was originally published on my substack. So since you're here, you should probably sign up for that as well.

I had to wait a few days to make sure it was real. Maybe the Kansas Jayhawks becoming bowl-eligible was a mirage, something that would be taken away once everybody realized what they’d done. There’s an Election Day counting-the-votes-after-the-actual-day joke there if you’d like to make one up.

But nope, the 6th win is still a thing, and with it goes a promise I made in September, which is I am going to this bowl game no matter where it is. Right now it looks most likely to be in Memphis or Phoenix. Which would be ironic in the true senses of the word.

Because I remember very well the last time Kansas went to a bowl game. I had recently moved to Coos Bay, Oregon, and the best sports bar in town was called Walt’s Pourhouse (it still is, I would think, though I haven’t been there in more than a decade). The KU bowl game was for some reason on NFL Network, which meant I couldn’t watch it at home even if I’d wanted to. So I went to Walt’s.

I still have my Walt's hoodie!

The main teevee in the place was already on NFL Network when I got there, because there was a mega-fan from the other team already there and waiting for his team to play their bowl game. Since the game was in the middle of the day and there weren’t too many people in the place, I specifically took a seat at a table and not the bar where the mega-fan was. I had on some KU gear but I certainly wasn’t going to be as stupidly loud as this guy.

This has happened to me several times, and I would not be surprised it has happened to you. You go to an establishment where you would like to watch your team, even if it is not a particularly favored team in the area, and the loudest person in the ENTIRE BAR is the person rooting for the other team in the matchup. And every time THEIR TEAM does something good they scream at the top of their lungs. It is like they knew you were coming, even though they did not know you from Adam.

What is important, for this story, is that I was meeting people at this bar (not Walt’s) and KU was the first game of the day. Which meant they were showing up later, because the second game was more interesting for them. Which meant I had to listen to this guy who was a fan of the other team go absolutely bonkers because the 16-seed led most of the first half, and by 6 or 8 or even 10 at the break. Which meant I had to listen to him all of halftime. By this point everybody in the bar had apologized to me for having to deal with this. I was very zen about the whole thing, in a “let him have his moment, the truth is coming” kind of way.

Kansas turned it on in the second half, of course, and Mr. Bonkers got quieter and quieter as the tide turned, as I knew it would. By the time my friends started showing up midway through the second half, Mr. Bonkers was practically in a turtle shell, back to reading his newspaper (which was now an odd thing to have at a bar even then, proving he was super old-school) and asking for his tab. My friends did not believe me that that guy had been talking crap for two straight hours and had only recently shut the hell up. The bar staff confirmed he had been a mega-tool and asked if I wanted another beer on them. My friends believed me at that point. (KU won by 15 or 18, by the way.)

Anyway, back to Walt’s. KU was playing Minnesota in this particular bowl game, and the Minnesota fan was wearing a Gophers hoodie and a hat, as you would expect. Minnesota took an early lead, and somehow Mr. Gopher thought it would be a great idea to show how important he was by turning to the other random patrons of the bar when Minnesota did something good and pointing to his hat and yelling “THAT’S RIGHT!” Because how else are they going to know you’re a key part of the team…. that’s playing thousands of miles away while you’re sitting in a bar on the Oregon coast. I mean, how else would they know?

At some point, probably halftime when Minnesota led, he went up to nearly everybody else in the bar letting them know that Minnesota was winning and that was very important and he was a Minnesota fan and they were dominating and they were going to win this game- that nearly nobody else in the bar was paying attention to at all- it was lunchtime and they were here to have lunch and maybe a Bloody Mary or two.

Note that I said he went up to “nearly everybody.” There was one table he took pains to avoid. As in didn’t even look at me, though I was watching every move he made as he went up to the few occupied tables in the place.

Kansas came back to win in the second half, of course, and Mr. Gopher looked a lot similar to Mr. Bonkers. Though in the true timeline, Mr. Bonkers looked like Mr. Gopher and not the other way around. The point is, they quieted down and left with their tails between their legs.

And now, many words later, my point: That Bowl game where KU beat Minnesota in 2008, their last bowl game until this season, was the Bowl game in Phoenix, then called the Insight Bowl and now called the Guaranteed Rate Bowl (it was originally the Copper Bowl and played in Tucson, but that’s a history lesson for another day).

Which means there’s a non-zero chance that KU’s next bowl game will be that same bowl game, and there’s also a non-zero chance that they will play Minnesota. So my question is, do I go to the bowl game, or do I go back to Walt’s? Because that would be funnier. It would be even funnier if Mr. Gopher was still there.  

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