I've often wondered how you feel as you walk down Hester Street on Saturdays. How it feels to have hundreds of people wave and cheer, offer high fives, and hold up signs with your name on them. I've wondered what you think when complete strangers ask for your autograph or hand you their orange-clad babies for a picture.
As a fan and alumnus, I've even wondered sometimes whether you feel used. If, perhaps, you're walking along thinking, "These people don't know me. They can't possibly care about me as a person...or know what I've gone through to get here. They're only cheering because I give them wins."
The truth is I'll never know how you feel when you make that walk on game days.
But I can tell you what it's like to watch and cheer and offer high-fives to the young men who've chosen to play football at Oklahoma State.
I'm delighted when one of our Cowboys makes good--whether that's getting signed to a pro squad or being hired to coach high school ball. Come to my house on Sundays and you'll see me cheer like crazy when Kendall hits the gap in San Franciso, when Dan drills it through the uprights in JerryWorld, or when Dez drags defenders ten yards after making the catch. Like the rest of the Cowboy Nation, my husband and I shed bitter tears when Darrent Williams was killed--then wiped our eyes for a different reason when Donovan Woods earned his Super Bowl ring. (I still have your jersey, Number Eight.)
I don't know how you feel about us--the fans and Alumni. But here's how we feel about you:
Good looking kids, huh?
You're family because we realize you had other options. Some of you committed to Oklahoma State when our stadium was a joke (Rust-Oleum, anyone?) and our record was worse. And even after we started winning, we understand that a kid growing up in Houston or Dallas could opt for the 'bright lights, big city' experience at a larger school.
Yet you chose Oklahoma State.
And that makes us family.
Are families perfect? Heck, no. We mess up sometimes. We struggle and make mistakes, especially when we're young. (I've always claimed partial credit for Eskimo Joe's phenomenal success. Thankfully, I've matured since.) We're not perfect. We don't expect you to be perfect, either.
And we don't stop loving you when you're not.
Ask anyone from the O-State family about Prentiss Elliot (former player who got into legal trouble) and you'll get: "I heard he's doing better now, and I'm glad." Even after the furor this week over the Sports Illustrated article, an alum tweeted about Artrell Woods (a major source): "Makes me sad. I cried when he caught that catch (after coming back from a terrible back injury)."
We want you to succeed. We're sad (for you) if you don't.
Because you're family.
So when you see me cheering for you on Saturday, know this: I'm cheering because you decided to work, sweat, and study at the university where I met my husband, earned my veterinary degree, and where I want my children to attend.
Because you chose Stillwater, we've heard the same chimes ringing from Edmon Low, walked on the same sidewalks (with their goofy chalk reminders), and sat in the same freezing classrooms. You know better than to swim in Theta Pond (and to visit Voodoo Village if you got suckered into it), and you've felt Gallagher-Iba rumble when the Sooners came to town. Like me, you've waited in line at Whitehurst, cussed the walk from Morrill to Ag Hall, and wondered what genius came up the name Classroom Building.
That makes us family.
After college, whether you wind up in Houston or Chicago or Los Angeles, try this experiment:
Put on your OSU gear and walk around. See how long it takes until someone flashes you the 'Pistols Firing' sign or says "Go Pokes." It's happened to me in places like New Orleans and San Diego and Seaside, Oregon. I guarantee it'll happen to you.
Because that's what family does.
How does it feel to be a Cowboy football player? I'll never know. But I can tell you how it feels to be an OSU alum...
...it feels like coming home.
Cheers...and Go Pokes!