When I met my future in-laws eight years ago, I have to confess: I didn’t know who the Kansas State Wildcats were.
I grew up in Massachusetts, where college football isn’t a big deal. Sure, I went to a few Boston College games when I was a kid. But honestly, I paid more attention to the marching band than the men on the field.
It was Christmas time when I first entered the home of my future in-laws, John and Kaylyn. I immediately noticed they had two Christmas trees. One looked like your average Christmas tree, decorated with multicolored lights, a gold garland, and several Precious Moments ornaments. The other Christmas tree was decorated entirely in purple and silver.
K-State Christmas Tree = Necessary.
What’s with all the purple? I wondered.
I was quickly indoctrinated into K-State culture before I learned who the KU Jayhawks were. The rivalry was explained to me in terms I could understand: the Jayhawks are like the New York Yankees and the Wildcats are like my Boston Red Sox.
In other words, hate the Jayhawks or be shunned.
One of the first gifts John and Kaylyn gave me was a K-State Wildcats t-shirt. One time, before Greg and I were married, I showed up to John and Kaylyn’s house wearing a red sweater on game day. Several family members gasped in horror (red is a KU color). Kaylyn darted to her closet and brought out one of her many purple sweatshirts for me to change into. I learned that anything but purple on game day was unacceptable, even when you weren’t physically at the game.
When I moved to Kansas in 2006, I was able to watch the Wildcats play at Bill Snyder Family Stadium for the first time. It was a dreary and damp Fall day, but the parking lots surrounding the stadium were filled with purple people who were grilling, drinking, and having a grand time.
K-State Tailgating: Serious business.
Game day is the only time Kansas has real traffic.
During the game, I learned the traditional gestures Wildcat fans do- like jingling their keys during each kickoff, responding to the announcer’s “Good for a Wildcat…” with an enthusiastic “FIRST DOWN!” while pointing in the direction the offense is heading, and standing and cheering “K… S… U… Wildcats!” three times, while Willie the Wildcat made the letters K, S, and U with his body.
Good for a Wildcat… FIRST DOWN!
Willie the Wildcat getting the crowd psyched. K… S… UUUU… Wildcats!!!
I’ve collected more purple since my initiation into K-State culture. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of attending almost every home game as the Wildcats made the climb to the #1 team in the nation and Quarterback Collin Klein was a contender for the Heisman Trophy.
There are not many things as exciting as being at a K-State game.
It’s been a privilege watching Coach Bill Snyder, Quarterback Collin Klein, and this team of true winners this season.
Big 12 Champions
Before the last game, where the Wildcats beat Texas and clinched the Big 12 title, I watched as Coach Snyder took the time to shake hands with every single K-State player warming up on the field. Whenever the players leave the field or come on to the field, they link arms and do so as a team. I thought, what an amazing role model these young men have. In a world where ego often supersedes talent, coaches like Bill Snyder are needed.
Coach Bill Snyder fosters true winners ; not egos.
My husband attends K-State Salina, a satellite campus to Manhattan’s main campus, and takes photos for the on-campus magazine On The Record. He covered all of the home games this season. After the last game, he had the opportunity to personally thank Coach Snyder for a wonderful year. Coach Snyder was very gracious talking with Greg. It seems that, more than anything, Coach loves talking to the students. Greg said when Coach would answer questions in post-game press conferences, he would often turn his eyes to the students in the room, and direct his responses to them, rather than big media.
It’s been an honor watching this team- not just because they know how to win games, but because they don’t let that go to their heads and keep playing with all their hearts. I can’t wait to watch them in the Fiesta Bowl tonight. Go Cats!
Photos in this post are Copyright 2012 Greg Charland and Lisa Charland.