Kevin's Commentary: The Border War

Oct. 17, 2013


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It was the talk of the Hughes Stadium press box.

Where were the Rams? The Cowboys were performing their regular pregame drills and warm-ups. It was status quo for the Cowboys.

But there wasn't a Ram to be seen.

As the pregame clock wound down, everyone in the press box could see the Colorado State buses off in the distance coming down the long dirt road that turns off of Overland Trail to the stadium. The rest of the story is pretty well known. The CSU team off-loaded on the east-side concourse level of the stadium, and ran down through the student section to the field. To say the Rams were lathered up would be an understatement. By the time they got to the field (it was a miracle none slipped and injured themselves coming through the stands) they surrounded the captains and officials gathered for the toss of the coin at the 50-yard-line. One shove led to another and in a flash there was a brawl at midfield among the two sides before the game could get underway.

Inexplicable behavior for a college football game one might say. Of course it is. . . normally. But a rivalry game is not normal. Strange things happen in a rivalry. I would imagine if you visited all of the great rivalries in collegiate football, each would have more than a few instances similar to the 1978 Wyoming-Colorado State example.

There's always something brewing in a rivalry. If the respective coaching staffs aren't coming up with something special for the game, the students are. There have been any number of pranks and antics that have come out of this and all rivalries.

Usually one side of the rivalry or the other has more for which to play (1978 was the exception to the rule since both teams finished the season below .500), and it gives the underdog great satisfaction to knock off the favorite. It can save a season. More often than not the games are close too.

Rivalries can come in many forms: the in-state, same-conference variety like say Oregon-Oregon State; the in-state, different conferences like Florida-Florida State for example; bordering states, Wyoming-Colorado State or Texas-Oklahoma; and made-for-television rivalries, like Oklahoma-Nebraska back in the day.

Bronze Boot

But for all of the ingredients that go into making a great rivalry, few can compare with the one that will happen in War Memorial Stadium at noon on Saturday. There's the border thing. My Dad used to say if you live in Colorado, fish in Colorado! There's the series longevity. Wyoming and CSU have played football against one another in three different centuries.

But for my money, what makes this rivalry so extra special is the prize to the victor. Axes, buckets, and cups are fine as rivalry trophies. But none compare to the Bronze Boot. Its history is well-documented. Created by the ROTC detachments of the respective schools back in 1968, the boot itself was originally worn by a CSU graduate and veteran of the Vietnam War. Its purpose, and where it was worn make it so much more meaningful that most rivalry prizes. It is unique in the history of rivalry trophies. Having the ROTC detachments actively involved adds another very special touch.

Wyoming won the first installment of the traveling trophy in '68, when the Pokes beat CSU, 46-14, at Fort Collins. The original presentation procedure called for the ROTC detachment of the school possessing the prize to carry it into the winning team's locker room following the game. The presentation was made to the head coach and the team captains. That procedure changed recently. So that the fans can enjoy the fun, and be more engaged, the Boot rests on a table at the possessor's sideline. When the game is concluded the winner grabs it from the table and raises it to their crowd. Fans and players alike love that impromptu ceremony.

Saturday will mark the 46th time these two old rivalries will wage battle for the right to house the prize for the year. If the Cowboys win the latest edition of "the game" Saturday, it would mean the prize has remained in Laramie for five consecutive seasons. That would be the second-longest stay in one place the Boot has ever made. Wyoming housed the prize for the first six years of its existence (1968-1973). CSU's longest possession was four seasons (1999-2002). Wyoming's latest run began in 2009 with a one-point victory.

There is always a different feel to this game. There's more electricity, more tension, more excitement than any other game. That is the stuff of rivalries. It's a happening. Come happen with it on Saturday at noon. Pre-sales indicate there will be a big crowd in War Memorial on Saturday. Get there early and enjoy what college football is all about. It should be great fun. You won't want to miss it.

Kevin's Commentary Archive:
Aug. 28, 2013
July 12, 2011
August 12, 2011
August 31, 2011
November 9, 2011
December 15, 2011
February 15, 2012
July 16, 2012
September 6, 2012
December 13, 2012
April 22, 2013