On Friday night, I pitched an idea to Sidney. It started like this:
“Hey, do you want to go to Charlotte tomorrow?”
She looked at me a bit puzzled. That was the easy part of it all. I now had to tell her why I wanted to make the four hour drive to the Queen City. You see, Sidney is not a fan of football. The reason why I wanted to go to Charlotte was to watch a football game. In a bar. To watch two teams she couldn’t care less about.
Yesterday, the football teams from the University of Montana and Montana State University played in the 116th Brawl of the Wild. Like other big time college football rivalries, efforts are made to bring alumni together who live out of state to watch the game. This is achieved through what is called a satellite party. The alumni associations from Montana and Montana State recruit grads to team up together and host these satellite parties at various locations around the nation.
As an alum and former athletic department employee of UM, I still have a strong allegiance to the Grizzlies. I have wanted to attend a satellite gathering the past two seasons but because of Coastal Carolina home games, I was unable to. This year, with the Chants playing on Thursday night prior to Griz-Cat weekend, it opened up my schedule to attend a watch party. Out of the roughly 88 Brawl of the Wild satellite locations in the United States, Charlotte was the closest one to me.
Despite being skeptical that Sidney would embrace the opportunity to give up a weekend to watch my old college team, it wasn’t a hard sell at all. She actually said she would love to go. What a wife!!
We arrived at the Charlotte Griz-Cat satellite location at around 1:30 p.m. (2 p.m kickoff). The particular venue was called Taco Mac, a beautiful bar/restaurant that has a similar concept to that of Buffalo Wild Wings. When we approached the place, it had a GO GRIZ sign on the front entrance. It gave me a warm feeling and it felt like I was coming home in a way. Taco Mac has an entire upstairs private area that was reserved exclusively for the Griz-Cat watch party. We walked in the room and admired the maroon and silver decorations while also picking up some Griz promo items.
It was at this time that I met Justin, a 1999 Montana grad who was the Griz organizer of the watch party. I would later meet Travis, the Montana State organizer of the watch party. Both guys worked together to provide a great experience for all who attended.
Sidney and I sat down and watched as Griz and Bobcat fans started to trickle in. For me, this was a great thrill. Living in South Carolina, you rarely come across someone who lived in Montana, let alone someone who went to the same university that you did. It was almost too much for me to handle. I felt compelled to go up to each person who was there and find out their story starting from where they grew up to what year they graduated to why they ended up in the Carolinas.
Sidney and I sat next to a couple who graduated about 30 years before me. Despite the age gap, we still had a lot in common. Both actually lived in the same residence hall I did my freshman year, both enjoyed some of the same bars I regularly went to during my years in Missoula, and both shared the same Griz Pride that I still store in my heart.
It was a complete joy to talk with the Montana State folks as well. While 200 miles separate Missoula from Bozeman, about 2,000 miles separate the state of Montana from the Carolinas. Thus, it was very apparent that although when we attended our institutions it seemed like the differences between us were great, when we met on common ground in Charlotte it was entirely different. While we still had our Griz and Cat ties, we were all proudly Montanans. It was just so nice to talk with people who could properly pronounce the word “Butte” and who still appreciate FCS football in an area dominated by the SEC and ACC.
Throughout the game at Taco Mac, the Griz fans would cheer when our team made a play and the Bobcat fans would cheer when their team made a play. It was a great back-and-forth. Of course I desperately wanted Montana to win. As a student and as a staff member, I grew to hate the Cats. I relished in the fact that our athletics program, especially over the past several years, always seemed to crush Montana State. But as I alluded to above, when you are separated from that atmosphere only to be reunited with people from both sides at a location thousands of miles away, it humanizes you.
Although it stung that my Montana Grizzlies were upset by Montana State on Saturday afternoon, I felt no animosity toward the Bobcat fans right by me who were basking in the glory of their 24-17 win. In fact, I actually felt happy for them.
I want to thank the alumni associations from both Montana and Montana State for organizing these satellite parties. I especially want to thank Justin and Travis for putting on the Charlotte gathering. I had a great time and hope to be back next year (just with perhaps a different result). Don’t Blink.