[The following is Assistant Editor Curtis Edmonds's account of his sojourn deep into upstate NY for the Baylor vs Buffalo game. The titles, subtitles, text, photos and captions are all the authors. This is perhaps the greatest guest post in BearMeat history. Check out Curtis's blog, Northbound, for more quality writing. Also, his previous work for us as part of the BearBacker Voices Summer Lecture Series is definitely worth your time. Enjoy! - Eds.]The B Screams For Buffalo Meat: An Ever-So-Slightly Gonzo Tale Of Fear, Loathing and Football In The Savage Heart of the University at Buffalo (Part One of Two)
My name is Curtis Edmonds
. I am a Baylor graduate, currently practicing law in Trenton, New Jersey. I am here today, guest-blogging on Bear Meat, because the total Bear Meat travel budget was – apparently – swallowed up in a midsummer incident involving Eskimo Joe’s bar in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a fifth of Rebel Yell whiskey, and naked pictures of Chuck Reedy. (I am pleased to report that all involved seemed to have avoided Norman, Oklahoma, and therefore escaped with their manly organs intact.) Anyway, I was the only one left who could afford to make the long, arduous trek up to Buffalo. (A trek made even more long and arduous by the fumble-fingered bumbling by Newark air traffic control and Continental Airlines, but that’s another story.)
I begin by getting two items out of the way. First, if you get all of your news from Bear Meat – and you certainly could – you might be under the misimpression that the entire Northeastern United States is covered by a glacial ice sheet and overrun by wooly mammoths. This is not in fact the case. Although the White Witch – who, as everyone knows, is responsible for afflicting Northeasterners with such curses as blizzards, lake-effect snow and Shop-Rite running out of eggs, bread and Swiss Miss cocoa – is still active in these parts, she is operating under a federal injunction that mandates warm weather until November, or until the New York Yankees are eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, whichever comes first.
Oh, come on, don’t tell me that you’re surprised about this.
In reality, it was a nice, warm day in Western New York, the last day of summer, in fact. The weather was in the eighties all day, and it never dropped much below, say, sixty degrees. You can see the leaves just starting to turn in this photo, taken during the first quarter – and note the random clueless Buffalo students – more about them in a minute – wandering around the periphery of the stadium. We have a football team? Really?
Let us cross over the goal line, and rest in the shade of the end zone.
This is the other thing. Like the great Dr. Gonzo, I am a lawyer – although, unlike him, I am reasonably competent at my job. I write a lot, too, and I can put the occasional sentence together if pressed. But I am a lousy photojournalist. I was in an excellent place to take photos – seats on the thirty-yard line, first row of the cheap seats, nobody in front of me – but the lighting is screwy on a lot of these pictures, and my digital camera gets a little fuzzy on close-up shots, and… well, you’ll get the idea:
Fear the handrail.
Baylor: The Party of the First Part
The Powers That Be in the Baylor officialdom had set up a tent under the south bleachers, and we stopped by to get cut-rate (compared to stadium prices) hot dogs and lemonade at the pre-game rally. (The use of “we” here includes my wife, who is not a Baylor grad – she went to Rutgers, which a) has a recent record of football futility comparable to Baylor and b) a completely shocking record of even more recent success, including a bowl game victory, and c) she knows it.) We got there a bit late, and ended up eating just as they were finishing up. Just about all the Baylor supporters who had made the trip up were there, a larger crowd than anyone would have expected.
Not only did I not expect the sheer number of attendees – neither did the caterers; they ran out of burgers – I didn’t expect that the average age of said attendees would be up there in Ed McMahon territory. At one point, one of the speakers asked if any current members of the Board of Regents were in the audience, and about half of the attendees raised their hands. And then, the speaker asked if any former Regents were in the audience, and the other half raised their hands. If you don’t count the Alumni-Association flacks, the cheerleaders, and the occasional grandchild, I was maybe the youngest Baylor person in the crowd, and I’m old enough to remember when Robin Williams was funny.
The Baylor crowd in the fourth quarter, wondering if it’s bedtime yet.
The next-youngest person was probably Walter Abercrombie, who (compared to everyone else there) was the picture of youthful enthusiasm. Walter was easily the most enthusiastic, charismatic, and (let’s be honest) blackest person under the tent. He is also almost ten years older than I am. I don’t know what this says about the last twenty years of Baylor fandom. Actually, that’s a big fat lie. I know exactly what it says; you do, too.
Caution: Walter Abercrombie may appear blacker in this photograph than he actually is in person.
They also brought President Lilley up to speak, and he did what university presidents do; sound impressive while saying nothing in particular. I have to hand it to Lilley for two things, though. First, he sat with the Baylor crowd in the top row of the good seats (not that far away from where we sat, really) instead of decamping to the press box or a skybox. (He walked right by me on the concourse at one point, and I almost could have asked him about the rumors about the interlocking BU, except that I would have to have explained to him who I was, and what BearMeat was, and what a “blog” was, and I decided it would be best to not enlighten him to that degree.) The other thing was that he wore a stylish (completely absurd, but stylish) yellow Stetson the whole game, and anybody willing to do that demands our respect.
“Young man, see that green flat thing over there?
When I was your age, we used to call that a football field.”
Or, shall I say, demands our respect for just long enough to do a Google Image search:
Yeah, make all the “separated at birth” jokes you want,
it still beats having Sloan around.
Buffalo: The Party of the Second Part
And then there were the Buffalo fans, many of whom came disguised as empty seats:
Switch to Geico now and get 15% off your end-zone
season tickets to all Buffalo Bulls football games!
And then there were the Buffalo cheerleaders:
“Waiter? I’ll have the muffin tops, please.”
And then there were the Buffalo fans:
And then there were the Buffalo… well, a picture says a thousand words:
The Buffalo Chapter of “Friends of Brock”
What you want to know, I guess – and what pictures can’t convey adequately – is the whole blessed atmosphere of the thing. That’s the thing about college football, the atmosphere. Walking into Floyd Casey, watching the Baylor Line circle the field, and hoping nobody drops his Rebel Yell flask on the field accidentally, that’s atmosphere. Going into the Cotton Bowl, watching OU play Texas, corny dog whiff in the air, with the Big XII on the line, that’s atmosphere. Going into Kyle Field, watching crew-cut Agriculturalist gits in paramilitary uniforms goose-stepping their way through halftime, that’s atmosphere. Let’s just say you don’t go to the University at Buffalo (the actual name of the school) for the atmosphere. The big pre-game attraction that had the crowd excited was some random dufus trying to get on an oversized unicycle. I am not even making this up. (He had to have two sturdy Buffalo fans hoist him up on their shoulders so he could mount his butt on a long, shiny metal pole, and there wasn’t one thing homoerotic about it, so get it out of your filthy minds.)
Not to say that there wasn’t some interesting stuff going on:
“I am not a number. I am a human being. I am… down, Rover! Down! AAAAARGH!”
Not to mention the Buffalo band’s salute to Dreamgirls, which again I am not making up:
“I'm somebody, and nobody's gonna hold me down... I'm somebody!”
What photography can’t capture here, though, is the essential truth about Buffalo; everyone was just so God-blessed nice. Everyone we talked to the whole entire trip was nice. The burnt-out clerk at the rent-a-car counter was nice. The Border Patrol people at the Rainbow Bridge were nice (although one wouldn’t want to smuggle firearms past them, not that I tried). The immigrant hotel chambermaid was nice. The waiter who brought out the cart for the table service of Chateaubriand at the historic old restaurant in Niagara Falls (sadly, not on the Bear Meat expense account) was nice. And – this was a shock – even the Russian cabbie taking us back to the Sheraton was nice. (You get a Russian cabbie in New York, you start thinking about how it all will look when it’s recreated as the cold open to a Law & Order episode.)
Most of these people were in Canada, mind you (the hotels on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls have the better view), and Canadians are famously nice. Crossing the border back into the U.S., you sort of expect the Northeastern attitude to take over, but it never did. The sullen-faced tailgaters in the student parking lot were nice – asking us, in slightly-impressed tones, if we’d made the drive up from Texas. (I didn’t have the heart to tell them the truth.) Although I was decked out in green-and-gold, sitting in a Buffalo section, nobody said Thing One to me – and I kinda deserved it.
The author, flinging his green and gold too far.
Even the people in my section who were vocal – the vast minority – were vocal in the sort of baleful, sarcastic way familiar to any Baylor fan. (“Don’t run trick plays!” one of them complained. “What do you think you are, the Bills?”) After the game – a game that the B dominated from start to finish – I actually heard a random Buffalo fan thanking a random Baylor fan for coming up to Buffalo to support their program. Nobody’s that nice, even pseudo-Canadians. There has to be a reason.
Of course, the nicest person in the stadium that day would turn out to be Buffalo quarterback Drew “Free” Willy, but that’s a story for our next installment, in which we discuss, you know, the actual game and stuff. Sic ‘em.
Labels: BearBacker Voices (Guest Column), BullMeat (University at Buffalo)