By Daniel Wallace
As a member of the media, I often get the privilege of viewing athletic events from the press box. This allows me to see the game at a whole different level and from a whole different perspective. When I am in the press box, viewing the game becomes my job. Thus, I must act as a professional and that means the way I show my fandom for the team I am rooting for drastically alters. In other words, I am prohibited to cheer while in the press box. I found this out the hard way in the spring at a softball game. Watching the game from the press box has its many perks, but few experiences in athletics are quite like viewing an exhilarating, dramatic game from the stands.
During last Friday’s opening football game against TCU, I had the privilege of doing just that. I was not working the game and was free to sit (ok, stand) in the crowd amongst nearly 40,000 of my closest friends to cheer on the Bears. Coming off a bowl season last year, the anticipation and expectations going into the first game were high. That expectation led to high energy and an electric atmosphere before, throughout, and after the game.
Even before the game began, the Baylor Line provided the spark for the crowd and did a great job pumping up for the fans for what would prove to be an intense, heart-pulsating gridiron battle. Before the Bears even played a snap, the game had the feel of a bowl game. With the stadium packed to its core, it was hard to believe it was only Week 1.
Then the game began. After that, only one word can adequately describe what type of event would take place in the next four hours. Magical. From the first touchdown of the season, a 40-yard pass from Kendall Wright to Terrance Williams, the stage was set for an unforgettable evening. Last time I checked, receivers don’t normally throw touchdowns. When a season starts like that, it’s hard to contain your excitement. This was definitely the case on Friday night. It is often said that players feed off each other on the field. After Friday’s game, I think the same goes for the fans. It definitely helped that by the end of the third quarter, our Baylor Bears had a 24-point lead against the 14th ranked team in the nation. But as the game went along and the lead got bigger, the roars of the crowd grew and general excitement drastically increased as well.
It was the fourth quarter and I looked around and thought to myself, “I have never seen this stadium so full. This is awesome.” There were times in the game I could not hear myself think because it was so loud. Then the fourth quarter came. Shortly into it, I could hear myself think again. I did not like what I was thinking, because it was along the lines of “oh no, here we go again, Baylor…” TCU was in the middle of a furious 24-point comeback and eventually took a one-point lead with four minutes left in the game.
The emotional roller coaster I had witnessing the game from the stands was intense. The way the game unfolded made it all worth it. In no way am I happy about blowing a 24-point lead, but had the fourth quarter not gone the way it did, the game and the experience as a whole would not have been so….magical. When Aaron Jones hit the field goal to give Baylor the 50-48 lead, the sea of gold in the stands went nuts and it was amazing to see and experience. The whole atmosphere changed on one kick; it was so sudden, so emotional. Words can’t describe the feeling in the crowd or the ecstasy of the moment when safety Mike Hicks clinched the game with the interception late.
I love my job and the perks it involves. But Friday night was one night I was glad I got to experience the game from the stands and not the press box. It was an instant classic, and the atmosphere and unity of the green and gold faithful was unlike any other collegiate athletic event I’ve attended. Sic ‘em!