The Memorial Stadium game clock reported just under 11 minutes left in the first quarter as I began hopping two cement stairs at a time.
I was on my way to the west side of the stadium, headed to pick up a will call ticket and take my seat, where I would spend the next three hours witnessing the Kansas Jayhawks earn their first football win since Nov. 8, 2014.
Favored by nearly four touchdowns over Rhode Island, KU didn’t disappoint as it racked up a 55-6 victory against a downtrodden Rams program allergic to size, speed, scheme, and inspiration. Such dominance later brought tears to KU’s second-year head coach David Beaty.
And, that’s not even the weirdest part.
Just after the game ended, before Beaty’s press conference, tens of hyped students, who had not yet left in search of ongoing neighborhood house parties, stormed a small section of the field. Once there, they barely had time to congratulate everyone in the group by name before the public address announcer had firmly tucked in his shirt, hiked his pants, and scolded, “This is a new era in Kansas football, an era in which you should EXPECT to win.”
We heard the message while walking out of the stadium – still able to see the field, but just far enough away that you could hear the disbelief and collective eye-roll from fans who didn’t see a problem with kids who were capable of little more than bending a few blades of turf.
This all served as the cap to an evening I spent witnessing other fans around me drowsily check the field before diving back into their smartphone browsing. That’s not to mention the general lack of interest in the concert-level music of today blasting throughout the stadium during timeouts — as if to say “See? Look! We’re fun! It’s FUN to be here! Are you not ENTERTAINED!?”
The answer to that was apparently not, as fans filtered away from a game that served less purpose than a KU intra-squad scrimmage would have. Even for a team that went 0-12 in 2015, it was too easy, this win, and fans felt it.
Still, while KU is on point at any given moment when it comes to basketball, Saturday’s events combined left me with a sense of nobody really knew how to handle a win, or even handle football for that matter. The music was a hedge bet toward needing to create some artificial fan experience outside of enjoying the football in front of them. Those who wanted to celebrate the first home win in nearly two years were told to stop. A coach said the right things regarding expecting to win but in the same breaths showed stress cracks caused by the immense weight of changing such a culture.
It was something to behold, and will be something to watch if and when a win happens again … whether in this season’s life or the next.