As the annual meeting between the Colorado Buffaloes and Colorado State Rams creeps closer, there is a common rhetoric that permeates throughout the local media every year. While no one will claim the Rocky Mountain Showdown rivals the Iron Bowl, or The Game, there is a lot of excitement that surrounds the in-state match up. It's a fun experience, and includes a lively crowd of Buff/Ram fans, students and alumni.
Listening to the local commentary when college football season comes around, you would think only a thousand people turn out to see the teams duke it out at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The state of Colorado doesn't view college football as a religion like the south, that's just the reality, but over 57,000 fans have turned out to see the showdown in each of the past three seasons even though both programs have been lacking many overall wins.
In fact, due to the lack of success outside of the yearly game for CU and CSU, the importance of the pride felt by the victor and their fan base is elevated because quite frankly, each set of fans realize there might not be many other games on the schedule where a win is possible.
The in-state bout dates back to 1893; CU has dominated with 62 wins to the Rams' 21. Yes, the students drive the intensity of the game in the stadium, and yes, this game hasn't held much national significance in many, many years, however, Buff fans want bragging rights every year, anything less than a victory over the Rams is a disappointment. This game is important to black and gold faithful.
It wasn't too long ago when the rivalry went through a 25 year hiatus, but was resurrected during the Bill McCartney era, in 1983. Coach McCartney finished his tenure with the Buffs winning six of seven games against CSU. Now, the yearly match up is standard on CU's schedule, and while fans still reminisce on the McCartney era, heck even the Barnett era, a win against the Rams can start the season off on the right track.
There is a weariness that has built up through the recent years which suggests fans and students are tired of seeing the game played in Denver. Why can't the game be played on Campus? Why do Buff fans have to pay more for a ticket? And why in the world do the Buffs waste their time with a team that doesn't have the same fan support? Maybe the hope of both teams turning into a contender in their conferences keeps some enthusiasm alive. Wouldn't it be nice to see CU-CSU play a few weeks into the season with both teams flirting with, or in the top 25? No one would dispute that, but is that even possible?
Maybe this entire piece can be summarized as a delusional attempt from a college football nerd to draw up enthusiasm for a game that fewer people care about every year, but even through the declining attendance, once the conversation about the Showdown begins, we get the warm feeling in our hearts that football season has arrived. The unique experience of playing in Denver might be gone, and there are plenty of fans on both sides who want the game played on Campus. So, it would seem fans would be more interested in the contest with that one simple change. That doesn't scream of disinterest, just a need of improvement.
Maybe all that's needed is for both teams to compile a few winning seasons. For the Buffs, that might still be a couple years away, but the program is on the right track. All CU has to do is build a consistent expectation of winning, and the fan support will pour into whatever the team is involved with, a habit that can be started by smacking their rival around the field.
Honestly, what's a better way to start the season?