Week 10: Texas Tech
It is Week 10 and I don't feel a need to justify putting in extra effort to watch KU Football
I do not take that much pride in declaring myself as a ‘dedicated’ or ‘die-hard’ or ‘hardcore’ supporter of this team. Spectatorship in sports is inherently something of a passive act. Any effort I put into support is minor in comparison to the amount the actual competitors put forth, and the effort I’ve put forth towards following this team has, especially since I’ve left college, mostly spawned disappointment for me. There is something paradoxical about what I’ve done to stay connected to this struggling program. I’ve taken extra, abnormal steps to watch their games well past the point in which it would have made rational sense to do so.
I’d check the ESPN app for score updates on my phone at Boy Scout campouts during the false starts of the Gill era. My roommate and I went to a Buffalo Wild Wings during the winless season of 2015 to watch our game on the road at Texas1, and we had to ask the server to put the game on the TVs (in Lawrence!). I’d watch from the ESPN app in transit on the San Diego trolley system. I’d put the game on a TV at the bar I worked at during the second winless season of 2020. I’d seek out extra-legal streams from my dorm room in Canada in 2021. I’d follow them on vacations, on trips for school, on trips for work, and I often had to put in extra effort just to do so.
I did all of this to watch a bad team play losing football. I did almost all of it on my own, and it typically left me unhappy in the moment. I don’t regret it, as it helped maintain the fibers of something important to my personal, regional, and cultural history, but I also don’t consider this a source of pride or take it as an indicator of the lengths of my virtue or my superiority to other fans and alumni.
So far, this season, I’ve avoided repeating that extra effort put towards following football futility in solitude. I’ve been in attendance for every home game and around friends or family in Lawrence for each of the away games up to this point. Even this last weekend, in which I watched much of the Jayhawks’ loss to Texas Tech on my little cell phone screen at various places in San Diego, I didn’t feel like it was quite a self-torturous exercise as I’m used to.
I watched this game because the team I care about was playing in it, and because it had genuine stakes on the outcome of the season. Winning this game in Lubbock would leave KU with 7 wins, putting them in position for a better bowl game and keeping them in outside contention for the Big XII Championship. This is a normal sort of fanaticism. I was, for a time, at a bar with fans of another team doing just that2.
Since 2009, the exercise of putting forth extra effort to see a Week 10 Kansas Jayhawks football game has been one done out of nothing more than love and dedication. Since 2009 (the last time that KU entered the tenth game with a winning record), the best record the Jayhawks have held after nine weeks was 3-6 (this was the case in 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2019). In every other year in that span, they’ve been bowl-ineligible coming into the tenth game. I could have and probably should have checked out by then in each season, nevertheless, I have memories of watching most of those Game 10s.3 This was the first year in my adult life in which it was an outwardly sensible thing to do, not one I would feel the need to self-justify by, say, writing a blog composed of 2000+ words-long essays every week. It was kind of a compounding problem which ultimately resulted in me watching it the way that I did. I will lay the situation out in the following sentence.
In a Little Italy neighborhood Starbucks in San Diego, California, I watched the Kansas Jayhawks of football on my phone’s little screen.
The phrases in bold will correlate to explicatory sections to follow.
I’ve gotten so far ahead of myself that I forgot to mention why I was in San Diego all day Saturday – There was a baby shower in Carlsbad, I went to the dinner on Friday and showed my cousin around San Diego State on Friday. On Saturday, as I wasn’t invited to the shower itself, I decided to hang around the city. My family having control of the rental car, I got around using public transit. I saw some friends in the evening. Between about 2:00 PM and 7:30 PM I had no specific goals I wanted to accomplish and no specific places to be, which lined up with the game.
I spent next to no time in Little Italy when I lived in San Diego (I lived in East Mission Valley, worked and studied in College Heights at San Diego State, most of my friends lived in Kearny Mesa, my favorite restaurant is in Claremont, and my favorite bar is in North Park), but it is a mostly walkable area immediately accessible by public transit via the trolley. I thought that my Adidas Sambas would be comfortable as walking around the city shoes, which was absolutely incorrect – my feet hurt badly having just walked for a few miles that day, and by kickoff at 4:00 PM, I was in pain, tired, dehydrated, and in need of an open public restroom, which led me to…
My mindset had me first thinking I wouldn’t be able to get a bar to put the KU game on, so there was no point in searching for one, putting me where I knew I could get internet, a free restroom, and somewhere to sit for a good while. This little Starbucks was perfect for that, had some semi-cushy chairs and a few tables with available power outlets. They didn’t seem to care that I was there for a long while, either (about an hour and a half when all was said and done). The guy sitting next to me was playing Red Dead Redemption 2 on his laptop. I ordered an orange juice, a venti water, and one of those marshmallow treats. I was steadfast in my belief that I couldn’t get anyone at any sports bar to put the game on because of prior experience in…
San Diego, California:
San Diego is a lovely city, probably my favorite I’ve lived in, but it broadly cares about as little about American college football as Waterloo, Ontario did. There just is not that much of a culture for watching college football on a national level. The one exception is the San Diego State Aztecs, whose game didn’t start until the evening. My original idea for this post was to go to their game against San Jose State and post about that stadium and that program (I graduated from there, I care about the success of the Aztecs), but the game kicked off at 7:30 PM and I didn’t want to get back to my hotel that late.
The prospect of watching any specific college football game outside of whatever’s on the main OTA channels is sort of an iffy one in San Diego, let alone a game featuring…
The Kansas Jayhawks of Football:
There is, from what I’ve been told, a dedicated bar that KU Alumni go to in San Diego. It is, from what I’ve gathered, on Mission Beach, which is very far away from where I was and is annoying to get to even with a car.4 My mom and aunts tried to go to another bar in North County, only to be told they couldn’t get the game because their bar didn’t carry ESPN+. It seems like most bars don’t carry ESPN+.5 I predicted this would be the case, so I did what I could to ensure the most consistent viewing experience, which involved watching the game on…
The actual experience watching the Jayhawks play was kind of odd. I don’t yet have expectations all that high for this team, and I’m still amazed when they do anything with relative competence. I’m so used to anything good being a total fluke that I’m blown away when any of our very good players make very good plays, like when Jared Casey speeds away from the defense for a 65-yard touchdown6, or when Taiwan Berryhill gets a key stop on a fourth down, or when Devin Neal has another fantastic all-purpose game. The play that made me realize how different this team was from prior iterations of the Jayhawks was the last touchdown, when Jason Bean avoids a sack with a collapsing pocket, escapes to his right, then throws to the endzone sideline, where Quentin Skinner makes a toe-tapping touchdown reception. It was third and goal from the 20 yard line! That should’ve been an absolute disaster, but Bean and Skinner both made fantastic plays to keep KU in the game.
They did not win, and while I was disappointed, I have not yet recalibrated my expectations to get all that upset at a competitive loss on the road in Lubbock. I don’t have much analysis of the game, any cogent points I could make about the game were limited by the relatively poor viewing experience I had for it, given that I watched without headphones on…
My Phone’s Little Screen:
It is imperfect, and I bought it because it was imperfect, but I can overcome anything for the sake of The Kansas Jayhawks of Football. The screen’s 1:1 aspect ratio led to the broadcast getting letterboxed into what amounted to maybe a 2.1” by 1.8” field of view, which was not ideal, and hopefully it explains why I have so few detailed recollections of the game. Well, that and the fact that I kept watching the old guy next to me get up to cowboy hijinks on his PC.
I did leave the Starbucks at halftime, and I ended up watching the final from a cushy couch seat at the Stone Brewery Taphouse right off of the Santa Fe Depot trolley stop.
This was a unique experience as well as an enlightening one. This is what it feels like to be, to some extent, normal, as a fan of a college football team. This was not some exercise in tortured futility. This was not some unique thing I put myself through, one which made sense to nobody but myself. I was like anybody on Saturday, watching their favorite college team from afar. That is a new, but welcome, phenomenon. Next week, I’ll be happy to be back for senior day, but this was, at least, an entertaining venture, and I had a great time in a city I like very much.
We didn’t get that channel, it was either the Longhorn Network or one of the deep-cable Fox College Sports Networks
They were watching the Georgia-Mississippi State game and vocally cheering for each big play for the Bulldogs, and they were wearing matching Chelsea FC jerseys. I thought about asking them if they were KU Basketball fans but I decided against that.
2010, on the road at Nebraska, I believe I was on a boy scout campout for. My friend Scott was an NU fan and he’d give me score updates.
2011, at home against Baylor, I know I missed, and it’s the one game that I wished I’d attended the most, because I had been assigned a narrative creative essay in AP English Language and Composition class and I intended to write a narrative essay on this specific KU game if I’d been there, and I wish I had it to look back on during this project, as KU nearly looked like they’d beat a ranked Baylor team with a future Heisman winner in Robert Griffin III, but blew a late two-touchdown lead and lost in overtime. I do not know what kept me home. I know that I did write the narrative essay on watching a candle at church, and it’s apparently still in my Google Drive, so I guess I’ll link you to that.
2012, on the road at Texas Tech, a double-overtime thriller in which Michael Cummings looked like the future of Kansas Football, I watched from my parents’ basement at home during my senior year of high school.
2013, home against West Virginia, I attended with the band, it was the first Big XII win I saw as a student. Only two more followed
2014, home against TCU, was nearly the best day of my time at KU, when probably the best KU team of the 2010s had TCU, to that point 8-1 and a contender for the first College Football Playoff on the ropes.
2015, away at TCU, I watched on the phone of someone next to me in the trombone section at a KU Volleyball game. It was one of only two games in 2015 in which the Jayhawks lost by less than a touchdown, and I listened to Bob Davis call the game-sealing fourth-down sack on Ryan Willis from the Horesji Center parking lot.
2016, home against Iowa State, I attended with the band. It was a competitive game that came down to a final drive, one which ended with an interception thrown by Carter Stanley into one-on-one coverage in the endzone.
2017, a road game against Texas, was on the Longhorn Network, so I had to watch on a YouTube stream from my computer. We were beaten very badly.
2018, a road game against K-State, I watched from my apartment in San Diego from start to the point when Peyton Bender just had the ball slip from his hand on what should’ve been the game-winning drive.
2019, a road game against Oklahoma State, I do not remember this one but I checked my Tweet archive and I apparently was watching KU Soccer play Iowa in the NCAA Soccer tournament.
2021, a road game against Texas, which I watched pairing ESPN+ with a VPN from my dorm room in Waterloo, Ontario by myself, one I wrote on last year.
Mission Beach is a quarter-mile wide peninsula between Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It is annoying to get to by car for people who live in and are aware of how to drive in San Diego. It is accessible by bus, but I didn’t think to do that in the moment and was frankly unsure if it was actually a KU bar or not.
DON! DON! MR. GARBER! WE HAVE A PROBLEM! YOU WILL NEED TO REMEDY THIS OR AT LEAST SPEED ALONG THE TRANSITION TO BARS HAVING ACCESS TO AT LEAST A ROKU BOX WITH AN APPLE TV+ SUBSCRIPTION IF YOU WANT ANYBODY TO WATCH YOUR LEAGUE AT A RESTAURANT. ALSO I HAVE SEEN THE PRICE, IT’S TOO MUCH TO EXPECT FOR MOST PEOPLE TO PAY FOR JUST YOUR LEAGUE. I’LL PAY IT, BUT I’M AN OUTLIER, DON.
I am just amazed at how good he is. Let alone being a former walk-on who’s getting a lot of time as a starter this year, I am amazed that a person of that size can be such a threat in the passing game. At season’s end, I’ll try to make NOTT predictions about which players will have NFL careers, and I may at that point have fully talked myself into Jared Casey as the next Kyle Jusczyk.