That was the theme for the recent road trip weekend. Boise State was facing one game for all the marbles at University of Nevada Reno. Outright WAC championship (fifth consecutive), undefeated regular season, and BCS bowl birth with the big exposure and big pay day. Here’s the story.
Friday, November 24th. My birthday was spent mainly driving from Boise to Reno. Roughly 7 hours of some of the most boring driving this side of the great plains. I will concede that driving across North Dakota (sorry to my relatives back there) may be, in fact, the most boring place on the planet to drive. Take a peek at a road map for the state, and you will see I-94 slicing a straight line directly across the state. Yawn… At least the road to Reno does change direction, however, you end up with about 350 miles of the exact same landscape. It does look nice enough, but when you stare at it for 14 hours in 3 days, it definitely gets a little old. You find yourself begging for some trees or something to at least break the monotony.
We arrived in Reno and check into the hotel. Since we were making this trip on the cheap, I booked us into a Super 8 motel that was about 300 yards from the stadium. Savvy planning on my part, I thought. Unfortunately, this place wasn’t exactly the Ritz. You will notice in the picture that the door is completely closed, yet there is about an 1/4 inch gap around the whole thing. Yes, we left the heat on the entire time.
After a little rest, we hit the downtown area of the “Biggest Little City in the World”. I’ve always liked casinos even though I’m not a huge gambler. Go figure. And the casinos this night were absolutely swarming with blue and orange clad fans. It was terrific. Everywhere you turned, you saw another group. I will admit though that the random “BOISE…. STATE…” chants were a little much. I’m as big a fan as you know, but even I have my limits. There was an interesting phenomenon at play here. Usually, when you’re traveling to an away game and you see someone in your colors, you usually make a comment to that person like “Go Broncos!” or something. Well, in Reno, there were SO many Bronco fans that you don’t feel the need to make those comments. It was like we were the ‘home’ team or something. The occasional Nevada fan might say something to you, but since they were outnumbered in the casinos about 200-1, there wasn’t many of them around.
After being incommunicado for the whole day on the road, I really enjoyed sitting in the sports book of the Silver Legacy to catch up on the day’s college football action… Who upset who, who was favored by what, etc. Plus, Fresno State and La. Tech were playing on TV and the announcers spent half the time talking about Saturday’s Boise State v. Reno matchup. Good times! The book had Boise State favored by only 3 points in the game. I thought about putting a bet down on the game, but I figured, I’ve already got way too much wrapped up in the outcome of this game, there is no need to add a financial aspect as well. Although, hindsight being 20/20 and all, I probably should have bet $1000 on the game, so if we won, my trip to Phoenix was paid for, and if we lose we’d stay home and play in the local MPC Computers bowl anyway and I wouldn’t have to travel with the team. Damn…
One observation of the casino scene in Reno. We were heading back to the car that was parked in the Circus Circus parking garage. First of all, I hate Circus Circus. I hate clowns and I hate the circus. But, as we were heading out at after 11pm, the sheer number of kids running around was astounding! That place was absolutely LOUSY with kids. First of all, for the life of me I can’t understand why you would ever bring your kids on a ‘vacation’ to a casino in the first place. Second, why in blue blazes are these kids still running around this ‘midway’ in Circus Circus at almost midnight? At least the actual casino floors are still kid-less sanctuaries. Just one more reason to loathe the Circus Circus.
After an exceptionally craptacular breakfast (how in the hell do you fuck up biscuits and gravy anyway?!) it was time to get into game mode. As I had told everyone, I was nervous about this game. Nevada came into this game on an absolute roll. Five wins in a row, including two 42-0 routs in a row. We were favored by a mere 3 points (or one point underdogs in the Sagarin ratings). Even Kirk Herbstriet on ESPN picked Nevada to win. Everything was piling on and I wasn’t feeling great.
It was quite a chilly morning, so we layered up and headed into the stadium. Two weeks ago when I went to purchase tickets, Boise State told me that their allotment of 5000 tickets was long gone. So, I went directly to the Wolfpack athletics website as was able to purchase tickets directly from them. As you can see, I got damn near 50 yard line seats. It is safe to say you wouldn’t be able to get tickets like that at Bronco Stadium.
Sitting in the upper deck in the sun, we QUICKLY warmed up and started stripping off layers. Eventually getting down to our shirtsleeves. Unbelievable. It was so warm, it felt like September. Just a gorgeous day.
If you want to read about what happened in the game, you can do that here. I want to talk about the experience of being there. First off, there were about 8,000-10,000 Bronco fans in that building, and we made a LOT of noise. I dare say we were at least as loud as the Reno fans. In fact, the Pack even had a delay of game penalty on offense because their quarterback could not hear anything. When you can go into someones house and do that, that is huge. We were also able to accomplish the same thing down in Utah.
Apparently, Reno has had severe attendance problems this season. Despite winning a share of the WAC championship last season and winning 5 in a row, they still can’t draw fans. When Utah State came to town 2 weeks ago, Reno only had 8,584 in the stands. That is absolutely pathetic. That place seats 30,000, same as Bronco Stadium. For this game, even with the 10k Bronco fans, they were STILL 4,000 short of a sell out. I read in the Reno paper a fan’s comment that they shouldn’t have bronco fans mixed in the rest of the stands. Well, let me explain this to you, as it is very simple. If your fans had purchased those tickets in the first place, then those seats would not have been available for fans like me to purchase. You can’t blame us for buying tickets to watch our team when you won’t buy them yourself.
I have some ‘chicken or the egg’ observations as to why attendance might be so horrible. I don’t know if attendance is so bad because of the following, or if because attendance is so bad, they don’t bother to fix these things.
First, the benches are almost surreally close to each other. There is exactly zero leg room. I was able to bend my knees at a 90 degree angle, and my toes were pressing against the bench in front of me. That’s it. After the stands filled up, the schmuck with the stadium seat in front of me kept pushing that thing into my knees, hard. That was fun. Forget about when people tried to get in and out of the rows… that wasn’t happening. There was simply nowhere to move yourself to let someone by. It was horrible. I know you want to maximize the amount of seating you have, but shouldn’t you at least take the comfort of an average sized guy into consideration?
They finally have a video replay screen which is now practically standard at big time football stadiums (University of Texas has the ‘Godzillatron‘) . They didn’t have one 2 years ago when I was there, so that was a welcome addition. Well, it should have been. It’s implementation leaves a lot to be desired. You can see from the picture that its format is an extreme wide screen (not a standard tv ratio). This could be terrific as many pro teams have non standard ratio screens. Unfortunately, Reno didn’t spring for the rest of the equipment and software to make it work right. Instead, they just take regular old TV (4:3) signals and stretch the living hell out of them until they are damn near unrecognizable. Well played, Reno. When people on the screen look like they are 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide, this is a problem.
Theoretically, this is a ‘replay’ board, correct? Well, in actuality it is more of a ‘missed replay’ board. Epileptic monkeys could follow the action more closely than the camera operators they had working the game. I also always love the director/producer’s decision to NOT replay certain opposition plays or poor Nevada plays. It is pretty obvious what you’re doing when you show all the other replays. At one point, there was a Nevada turnover, and Boise State was lined up to run their first play. Nevada finally calls timeout just as the ball is snapped but it was so loud that the players couldn’t all hear the whistle and the play keeps going in that half-the-players-playing-half-standing-around way. The refs announce the time out and that they are looking at the replay of the turnover. What does the replay operator spend that time out showing us? Yup, that non-play after the whistle. Even going so far as to give us slow-mo! Way to go… have you ever seen a football game before?
Also, as you can see in the picture, they really push their ‘idiot line’. Since the stadium sells alcohol ($7 beers), they allow you to call, text, or smoke signal the ushers if someone is being a drunken ass. I could not believe how often they had to ‘remind’ people to be polite, good sports, etc etc. It was non stop for the whole game. Apparently, they must have some REAL problems with the fans.
They also had some real gems of promotions on that thing. A ‘three card monte’ style thing where they tell you to keep your eye on the helmet with the football under it. All well and good until for some reason the screen switches to a crowd shot in the middle, which obviously makes following the right helmet impossible. Lovely. Or this other one where they had ‘fan videos’ which were supposedly submitted for a contest. All 5 they showed consisted of 2 or 3 fans (mostly kids) standing in front of the camera shouting “woo! go nevada!” and flashing the ‘number one’ sign. You really had to see this to appreciate just how lame this really was.
I guess in order to get more fans in the stands, they were continually giving crap away. Dinners, meals, tires, Ipods, even a damn Hummer. I guess you can’t say they aren’t trying to get people in the stands, but it got a little ridiculous.
Nevada had a real problem with game presentation to those in the stands even beyond the video board. First, the stadium announcer was so quiet and subdued we were wondering if someone had slipped him a Valium. You simply could not hear his game announcements. You could always hear his advertisements, however. So that was nice.
They never once gave us any scores from other games around the country. Not even other WAC games. They gave us exactly ZERO game stats at any point during the game. At half time I thought they were going to give us some on the video board… it read “halftime statistics” but all they offered in way of those ‘statistics’ was “Boise State 17 Nevada 0″ which was the score. Gee thanks, but we knew that one. I had to rely on my cell phone’s internet connection to get the game stats!
You all know the outcome. Boise State dominated and ended the season undefeated. I had actually made the comment earlier in the game that I would like to have a game where we could rush the field, much like the Rutgers v. Louisville game earlier this year. What do you know, even though we’re on the road, what happens with the win? Rush the field! Of course, I was in the upper deck, so I was able to appreciate from afar. It was very very nice to see a orange and blue swarm in the middle of the field, especially when we were the road team.
We did make our way to the end of the stadium and were with a thousand other Boise State fans congratulating the players and coaches on the way to the locker room. It was quite amusing to see Ian Johnson wearing the sombrero and dancing with maracas. He, and all the other players were really enjoying themselves. See a little of the Celebration here.
Ok… this post is getting way way too long. I’m going to wrap this up. Look for the follow up coming soon to a blog near you. I will detail more about what else happened as well as what it all means to me.
I just love this picture…