Still Buffaloed

"And cows grazing on the other side!" someone yelled.
"Whaddya mean? Cows getting in the way when you're running pass patterns!" another voice chimed in.

"Actually, I think this is a great thing for both schools," Amman went on. "This has gotten to be a big enough rivalry that it deserves this attention. Hopefully it can continue in the future. I love going to Boulder for games--it's a lot more beautiful up there at Folsom Field than Mile High Stadium. But this is great."

"Won't be so great when the Rams kick your sorry ass!" another voice shouted.

Amid the banter and the beer, a veteran of football wars past also had a view. Ex-Buff quarterback Rick Wheeler, who started against Nebraska in 1985 and Washington State in 1987, wore his old No. 7 jersey to Saturday's game and sported quiet enthusiasm for the proceedings.

"I think Sonny's done a great job up there, on and off the playing field," he said. "And I think it'll be interesting to see how things go forward. But until CSU beats us, I think it's hard for them to say they've taken over. Once they do, we'll be on the same level, and it will be interesting to see who goes upward and who goes downward."

For now, Wheeler said, he was happy to indulge the feeling of equal rights at bipartisan gatherings like the Andersen tailgater. "However," he laughed, "you notice which flag is higher." Indeed, the black-and-gold Buffalo flag of the University of Colorado rippled in the breeze a few inches above CSU's green and gold.

Four hours later, inside the stadium, beer-stained CSU fans wearing army helmets decorated with yellow plastic rams' horns were staring disconsolately into their empty beer cups. Embattled Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel, his job safe for another couple of weeks, was making a speech from the fifty-yard line about the greatness of the game, the generosity of the city of Denver and the sweet qualities of life in general. CSU wide receiver Frank Rice, who had caught a 36-yard touchdown pass just before halftime that cut CU's lead to 13-7, was talking, in vaguely shell-shocked tones, about how the Rams had overcome a 16-0 deficit the week before and 13-0 tonight but just couldn't get it done after that. His helmet was off and his eyes were moist.

"It was like a dream come true to play in Mile High Stadium," he said. "Home of the Super Bowl champions. Denver Broncos. I really enjoyed it. I only wish we'd put in a better performance."

Around midnight, as the last of the 76,000 drifted out of the stadium in the moonlight, one of the girls with "Fuck CU" painted on her forehead ran into an old girlfriend, who had a little black-and-gold CU Buffalo tatooed on her cheek.

"Oh, my God. Linda!" she cried, a little hoarse.
"Hey, you! Tracy!" the other girl cried. They embraced in the parking lot, then stared, smiling, into each other's faces as they caught up on old news. Their respective boyfriends stood by silently, wobbling. The crowd and the night and the excitement and the beer had finally caught up with them.

"Where you going now?" Tracy asked.
Linda named the post-game bar of choice, where the stories and bragging would begin again, and off they walked, the four of them, laughing. For now, the game was forgotten, a meaningless detail in the life of old friends at different schools located in the same state.

"You know what was cool?" Linda said. "Your cannon. The CSU cannon. The huge explosions. And the way it blew those big smoke rings.

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