ENID — They showed up in record numbers Saturday.
They came not so much to see the football game, which they knew would be a stinker. And they didn’t come primarily because their team hadn’t played at home since the middle of last November.
No, they came instead to show solidarity, to at least figuratively link arms with their fellow supporters, to make a statement, to stand in the face of all the negativity surrounding their beloved school.
But most of all, Cowboy Nation was angry, and they came to vent.
At least in the early stages of Oklahoma State’s 59-3 trouncing of Lamar, they cheered a little louder and longer.
They turned up the volume during the pre-game singing of the alma mater, particularly on the line “Ever you’ll find us, loyal and true,” with a particular emphasis on the last three words.
After last Tuesday, when the first installment of Sports Illustrated’s series on the alleged improprieties within the OSU football program, ticket sales soared, the volume of phone traffic in the school’s athletic ticket office steadily increasing.
Not unexpectedly, Sports Illustrated was the target of fans’ ire. A man and a boy wore black T-shirts bearing the sentiment “SI Sucks.” Some portable toilets scattered near the stadium were decorated with signs reading “Thayer Evans’ office,” referring to one of the co-authors of the exhaustive SI report, the final installment of which appeared on the magazine’s website Monday, a day earlier than expected.
Video statements from OSU super-booster T. Boone Pickens and university President Burns Hargis, played on the stadium’s big screens, drew cheers and applause, particularly when Hargis reiterated that the school would conduct its own investigation, and welcomed NCAA scrutiny, as well.
The game proved cathartic for Cowboy Nation, if rather sloppily played. The Cowboys didn’t play their best and still won handily. Longtime OSU supporters can remember years when even games against lesser lights like Lamar would prove nail-biters.