Game Review: Mercyhurst Lakers vs University of Buffalo Bulls, 10/28/1989
Final Score: UB 45 Hurst 6
Weather: Cold and Clear, Ticket Price: A little blood, sweat and tears.
“For the love of the Game” by Tree
My attendance at this game was actually from the sidelines way back in 1989. I played four years at the ‘Hurst and we played the University of Buffalo a couple of times. This game was the last D3 game for the Buffs before they started working their way up to D1. What I remember is that the field was paper thin Astroturf. Not that that soft, spongy turf of today, but rough, hard turf just the like the green carpet your grandma has over her concrete sun room floor down in Florida.
I came to the game via the “fun” bus. It was a smaller bus that the defensive backs rode to away games while the rest of the team rode on a coach. It was a less comfortable ride, but it made for a lot more fun. Getting to Buffalo is not very difficult and it is close to Niagara Falls. Of course, I would plan on an early visit. Buffalo is no stranger to snow, especially in late October and November. Whatever charm Buffalo has as a travel destination, it certainly cannot overcome bad weather.
I have no recollection of this game other than it was a blowout. That much I can remember because I actually got to play some in the fourth quarter. When I say I played for the ‘Hurst, it really meant I was on the team. Yes, four years and I could never get past second string. And that was a generous second string. I was a corner and had no illusions that if the guy I was backing up got hurt, I was going in. More than likely, the other second string corner would have gone in first. That being said, I am not ashamed of my inability to get on the field. At 5’5″, I was the smallest guy on the team and had the disadvantage of playing corner for the first time in college. My teammates may more likely attribute my failure to start due to inferior speed, jumping ability and a general lack of coordination. Some of those guys were not exactly Mensa candidates, so I would take their assessment with a grain of salt. Still, in high school, heart and hustle can often tip the balance over bigger and more athletic players. I did do that on a regular basis in my pre-college playing days. But even at D3, the competition just gets that much better.
Regardless, my love of the game, and in particular the occasional opportunity to hit other people, was more than enough to overcome the sting of being a bench warmer. On the rare occasion a teammate would tease me about riding the pine, I would take comfort knowing that they wouldn’t be playing on Sundays either. The University of Buffalo fans spent the majority of the game reminding us of that disparity. It was their homecoming game and the theme at halftime centered on how the ‘Buffs were going to be on ESPN and the Hurst was not. The floats were funny but not exactly prophetic. While the ‘Buffs are D1, I don’t ever recall or even seeing UB on GameDay.
At the time of the game, my big brother was living in Buffalo so a bunch of my family came up for the game. Afterwards, we all went out to dinner at Italian restaurant for a bittersweet celebration. I knew my college career was about to end but I did not realize how emotional that last game would be. The following game was the last of the season and it was Senior day. Part of me was just happy to be done with it as it is not easy to spend four years on the bench after always being a starter. I had acquired a new respect for the second string. We went through pregame as usual on the field and then back into the locker room for the last time. The rest of the team went back on to the field while the seniors stayed back in the locker room. I don’t know who cracked first, a player or a coach, but before I knew it, we were all crying. Not bawling mind you, but definitely real tears of sadness. It is the cruel reality of college football – when it is over, it is over. Sure, I still play team sports but it will never replace the experience I had in college. The teamwork, the hours in the weight room, those little concussions when you hit someone just right, the ribbings, the summer camps, and the instant family that being on the team created is something I have not experienced since.
The other thing is that the real football experience can’t be duplicated once it is over. I have played on flag football teams and it was not the same. Some skinny dude would catch one over the middle in front of me and act all bad about it. I would just shake my head because I knew if it was tackle football he’d be on ass, or worse. I am not blowing smoke on that. I knocked a dude out cold in high school and I sure as hell could do it to Mr. six foot and a buck fifty.
It is the collective of all those experiences and perhaps the fact that I know I will never be able to recreate it again that keeps me going on my stadium tour. At most games, something happens that brings back one of those memories and I smile to myself, stealing back a little of the past.