It’s football season, and this season, more than any other I can remember, has been the one that was preceded with the most anticipation. You might know why—it’s kind of a big deal in Colorado. If you know me, you’ve heard this story already. It’s about Prime Time.
Long, long ago, when I was not a football fan, just a spectator at parties, there was this arrogant and cocky player: Prime Time. In my world, he was just a player that was on magazine covers or on the weekend game. Not much of a topic of conversation for a high school girl in Colorado, but still, he had made a name for himself. His professional career started at the same time the Colorado Buffaloes were in their prime with Coach McCartney. I was oblivious to all this grandness at the time, and what it meant to football, to CU fans or every American across the country who cheered on Deion Sanders.
As an athlete myself, I loved the competition of sports or any game for that matter. The aggression of the players in physical sports, the guttural effort of tennis players on the court, the fist pump of a long golf putt dropping in the hole, and especially the roar of the crowd. It’s exhilarating when the underdog wins just as much as when there is a close, neck-and-neck competition. There is something about being a part of a team or a group of fans that builds this community of emotion that is almost unexplainable. It’s a rush of adrenaline, and it can also be a crushing heartbreak. I bet you are thinking of a time in your life—that Al Bundy kind of memory, your glory days on the field or on the court—when you felt like a god.
Fast-forward to marrying into the University of Colorado fan base at the end of the ’90s. My husband’s grandmother had season tickets for decades and had gifted them to us. Going to games at a university stadium was thrilling. The fans consist mostly of alumni, players’ parents and drunk college kids (regardless of the time of the game). This was a new experience for me as I played soccer for a small college whose fan base was our parents. I can still hear my dad yelling at me to “cross the ball, Jodi!” and remember his supportive hugs at the end of games. University games have food trucks, marching bands, team merch, cheerleaders and a cute mascot. It’s a lot!
As many of you know, after the honorable McCartney retired, CU football was never the same. We held onto our season tickets despite losing seasons and increased ticket prices. It wasn’t until our own kids started playing Saturday games and we couldn’t even give away our CU tickets that we decided to give them up. It was a difficult decision—it felt like we were quitting our team. That’s the kind of bond you develop with a sport or a school or a team; one that makes you feel like you belong there. Even with all the losses, we had some great wins that kept bringing us back, that kept giving us hope of a powerhouse team. We still loved the Buffs—they were still our home team. Occasionally we had a free Saturday tailgating before the game, watching the rambunctious college fans and spending time with our own kids. We were thrilled when our son decided to attend CU in 2021, a new link to solidify our love for the Buffs.
So, when the chatter came on ESPN that CU was talking to Deion Sanders, I knew something miraculous was about to happen. I didn’t know much, but I knew this: Prime Time was a legend and that is exactly what CU needed to start recruiting a new standard of athlete to its football team. He was going to be the catalyst for change in a program that had tried and tried again to rebuild the team. That very same day, I remember so clearly telling my husband to go buy us season tickets. Well, he didn’t, and after winning the first two 2023 season games, tickets doubled in cost and eventually SOLD OUT. Thankfully, I had purchased tickets to the CU versus CSU game for his birthday. If you follow the Buffs, you know that game was a nailbiter. I had been strutting around all day, thinking that we were going to steamroll over CSU. By the end of that shocking and surprising game, my voice was hoarse from cheering. We were exhausted from staying out so late and having to drive home at 1:30 am, but that was probably one of the best games I’ve been to in person.
Of course, this isn’t the fairy tale story I hoped it would be, as my daughter and I traveled to watch CU play Oregon. But it is a story of Hope. And it’s that “Hope” that makes competition so exhilarating. The hope that there’s a chance to win, there’s a chance to succeed, a chance for these athletes to do something they didn’t even think they could do. How many people get to experience the charge of energy from trying, from dreaming, of pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. Who is born successful, who didn’t have to push themselves to be a great athlete, successful business owner or good parent? We all have had to face challenges and failures to grow, and it’s the hope of what we could be that leads us forward. Coach Prime himself may not be the public figure that we all thought could lead CU to a new start, with his troubled past and failed marriages. He is a man, like all others, hoping to be a better person and instilling hope in the young men on his team. It’s the audacity to dream of something big, and I’m all in with Coach Prime. Go Buffs!