One Special Griz Football Game

I fully intended to write a lead up post about one of the biggest regular season football games ever played inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium but regrettably never got the time to do it. Working long hours that stretched late into the night made it difficult to devote time to my blog. But maybe I shouldn’t regret the missed opportunity to write a lead up post because that means I can just pour more energy and pride into the wrap up post. The last evening in August of 2013 in Missoula will go down as nothing short of spectacular.

I was so happy that my brother and dad got to see this game and also catch my Griz Vision cameo.

I was so happy that my brother and dad got to see this game and also catch my Griz Vision cameo.

Last night the Montana Grizzly football team hosted Appalachian State in a game between two FCS powers. Our fan base had eagerly waited years for the kickoff of this game and once the summer hit, people started getting extremely excited for the marquee game that would bring a start to the football season and an exclamation point type end to the summer season. You experienced the anticipation from Griz Nation everywhere whether it was on the streets, through social media, on the message boards, or just in the sweet Missoula air…it was there, you could sense it…you could feel it.

This anticipation circulated through every crevice of Griz Nation, including right at ground zero within the walls of the athletic department. For about eight months a dedicated team of department employees started envisioning and planning for what occurred on Saturday night. The vision was nurtured along as more and more pieces started to fall into place as the date got closer. Come the start of August it was full steam ahead as round the clock hours were logged to make the 2013 edition of Montana vs. Appalachian State one of the best shows ever presented inside of Washington-Grizzly Stadium. I think we delivered.

Because one of my duties is to serve as the mascot coordinator, probably the image that will forever be etched in my mind was when Monte drove down the middle of the field on his Harley with fireworks streaming from the back of his bike and pyrotechnics booming up in the air from either side of him. But myself, along with everyone else, will still remember all of the other images and memories from Saturday night. Take for instance when Bo Reichenbach was honored at midfield. Or when the Navy Seals parachuted into Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Or when the football team ran out in their sharp looking new maroon uniforms. Or when tunnel walk captured the attention of everyone. Or when the crowd got to party to Cotton Eyed Joe TWICE. Or when the whole stadium sang “Sweet Caroline” in perfect unison. Or when the Montana Grizzlies crushed Appalachian State by the score of 30-6 in front of the largest crowd ever in Washington-Grizzly Stadium history.

Fireworks lit up the sky after the Griz victory.

Fireworks lit up the sky after the Griz victory.

Of course these were just some of the highlights that defined yesterday’s game. Everyone will probably take something a little different from the experience. Heck, some people even mentioned that they will forever remember the Monte Movie that aired in the third quarter that stared some awkward, mumbling dude with curly hair (my two minutes of fame). But that is what great game presentations do, they cater to all types of people and present many different elements that everyone can connect with.

Sometimes people don’t realize who is behind the scenes doing all the work at these games but that is okay, because they really shouldn’t have to. They pay the money to get in and should just worry about the experience they see on the field, not necessarily who is pulling the strings. But it is still nice to recognize the people who made it happen last night. First and foremost you got to tip your hat to our marketing director, Brynn Molloy, who pulled every ounce of her energy into making sure this game was special. Beyond setting the stage for success, she executed success as well with her leadership during the game. Then there is our video guy Nate Michael who not only pumps out great video piece after great video piece but he also directs the video board flawlessly. Next there is our IT guy, Aaron Heiner, who works probably longer hours than us all and has incredible talent and patience. He has saved us all on numerous occasions. Can’t forget the people at Grizzly Sports Properties who helped us as much as possible to both introduce and enable exciting game elements for corporate sponsors. Next, lots of credit must go to two of our associate athletic directors, Greg Sundberg and Chuck Maes who did all they possibly could to support us and guide us as we pulled this thing off. They were behind us 100% of the way and when you know you have that backing it makes you feel very comfortable.

Brynn and I share a sigh of relief after the game ended.

Brynn and I share a sigh of relief after the game ended.

Let me not be so blind that I totally forget about the student participants who are the reason why people come to the games in the first place. I am talking about the football team, the Spirit Squad, Monte, and the band. Also, a huge shout out to our marketing interns who helped us immensely last night. Everything from on-field direction, Monte entrance coordinating, Griz Vision element execution, and social media reach was done top notch.

I am excited for the next home game but I must say that I am in no way against the three week period we have until the kickoff of that game on September 21. I think we are all tired and need a little bit of rest. The Labor Day holiday tomorrow is exactly what the doctor ordered. Thank you Griz Nation for being so awesome, you rocked it last night. Don’t Blink.

Fireworks Ban?

 *Originally published on June 27, 2012

The Fourth of July is right around the corner and within the next couple of days I am sure to start hearing the bangs, crackles, and screams of fireworks exploding outside of my house. I welcome these echoing sounds because it signifies a great American holiday and the onset of summer. Although the loud booms seem to always linger around a little longer than I would like as people on my street tend to light off fireworks well into late July, it is still an overall positive sound for me that brings me back to my youth.

Growing up as a kid, I LOVED fireworks. For most of my life fireworks have been banned in my hometown of Spokane so I would always cherish the annual trip my family would take to Walla Walla, Washington, for the Fourth. As fireworks were legal in Walla Walla at the time, I would always salivate a little bit as we entered town and I started to see the various fireworks stands stationed in parking lots and on the sides of the streets.

Besides the pretty tame stand fireworks available in town, my uncles would always blow a whole bunch of money and stock up on the “good stuff” from the reservations. By the time July 3 and July 4 came around, we had a mini war zone taking over the yard of whatever aunt or uncle was hosting the family get together that year.
We lit fireworks off non-stop during the day and then transitioned into our own little fireworks show by night. While I loved the shows that we (and the neighbors around us) put on during the night, I really found love with the day arsenal more. You see, I was much more of a loud, blow-stuff-up kind of boy as opposed to the sparkling pretty colors “oooohhhh and ahhhhhhh” type. I preferred bottle rockets, firecrackers, and M80’s over fountains, strobes, and mortars. I liked blowing up beanie babies, detonating soda cans, and firing off bottle rockets at my cousins and brother. Through the age range of about 11-16, I remember these Fourth of July memories fondly. What I also remember is the horror and anger my mom had as she watched me light even the most harmless smoke bomb off.
I remember hating the stipulations, restrictions, and nagging my mom would force upon me each year. I hated getting scolded in front of my older cousins and worse yet, sometimes having to sit out entirely. “Mom, I am fine, I will be careful, trust me,” I would plead. My dad, the most low key guy in his family, would also take my mom’s side. My cousins would be detonating fireworks off with a cigarette lighter while I would be lighting extra long fuses with a candle lighter. I would get so frustrated and tell my mom she was embarrassing me. At that time, I didn’t understand it.
When you grow up, you start to see things differently. You experience more, read more, and observe more. Ten years removed from my “pyrotechnic”days, I no longer trust/glorify fireworks as much as I used to. Report after report of people who lose their limbs, lose their property, and even lose their lives from fireworks has changed my thinking a little bit. Back in the day, I would debate with you endlessly on how stupid it was for cities and towns to ban fireworks. I would throw out words like “unpatriotic,’ “controlling,” and “absurd”. I would reason that only uncareful and clueless people could be harmed while using fireworks. Speaking out of ignorance then, I now know that many professional pyrotechnicians get hurt and killed each year practicing their trade.
While I won’t go out and say that I fully support a fireworks ban, I do understand it.
A couple things people need to know about fireworks: While operator error is just one reason to feel nervous about fireworks, disaster can strike in other ways too. Fireworks can malfunction and not do what they were supposed to. Mother Nature can blow a firework off course or she could produce a very hot and dry day, making everything more susceptible to catching fire. A lone spark could ignite a house up in flames. Someone walking around could accidently stroll into the path of a firework or knock a firework down. There are just so many chances for something going wrong.
So while I probably don’t even completely trust a professional with fireworks, I certainly don’t trust a twelve year old with them. Mom, you were definitely right on this one. But between a professional and a twelve year old, there are many more groups that fall into the spectrum. One of these groups are good-old, trust worthy adults, just like me. Do I trust them? Do I trust myself? The answer is no. Not only do I not entirely trust people my age with fireworks, I definitely don’t trust people my age who have been drinking with fireworks. The Fourth of July is a drinking holiday, making it so many people who do light off fireworks are hammered. Does this put anyone else on edge? I would say it kind of makes those crazy people who are looking to ban fireworks a little more sane.
Fireworks are dangerous. But life is dangerous too, right? Just because life is dangerous doesn’t mean we should stop living it. The same can be said for fireworks too….just because they are dangerous does not mean people should stop celebrating with them. If they are legal in your area, by all means partake in the fun, just keep in mind the possible consequences. For the people who live in areas where they are already banned I know you will probably still celebrate with fireworks anyway so I offer the same advice…keep in mind the possible consequences. Don’t trust fireworks. Take every safeguard possible and have a plan for if and when things go wrong. And lastly, give your eleven year old sparklers and poppers, not M80’s. Don’t Blink.