This past Saturday I traveled north on I-25 in Colorado to go to Boulder. Boulder is the home of the University of Colorado Buffaloes or Buffs as they’re more popularly known. It was no coincidence that the Buffs women’s soccer team was playing the number two, nationally ranked, Stanford Cardinal. I had never seen Stanford play in person and was pretty excited for the opportunity.
These are my thoughts and observations of the game, atmosphere and overall experience.
The hour and forty minute drive was a piece of cake after a few 9 hour road trips to Kansas City this summer. Finding the campus was easy enough and Prentup Field showed up on my GPS so that was pretty easy, too. If I had to rely on signage to find the field or to even know there was a game I would have never found it. *Hype your event, don’t make people search for it.*
The field itself was beautiful. Well maintained grass, real grass. The kind of grass you can smell and that leaves a lovely shade of green as an addition to any sliding players uniform. There was bleacher seating on one side of the field and the team’s benches were on the other. The bleachers were big, beefy, and portable. More than ample to hold the 1500 or so people that were reported in attendance. I have to provide some insight here. Of the approximately 1500, an easy two-thirds of those were kids under 12, half-time entertainment and staff. The final third were parents of both teams, some alums, some other CU female athletes showing solidarity, an obnoxious, small, cheering section (more on them later) and me. (Personal note: Want to feel old and straight? Attend a college game where you are old enough to be the player’s parent’s parent and the gayest thing there in your age bracket is..nothing. I did meet a nice guy my age who was there to watch his granddaughter.)
I got to the field just as they were introducing the players, but had to park in “additional” parking so missed the kickoff. The entrance fee is a suggested donation of $5, I have no idea what they would do if you didn’t donate. All of the female staff, at the entrance, the Buff’s Bookstore tent (Buff’s merchandise), the sticker/sign/tattoo booth, and scattered around doing various tasks were very pleasant and friendly. I can not say the same about most of the male staff. The guys working the Bookstore and a prize wheel were friendly, but the guys scattered throughout the venue went about their tasks rather begrudgingly and it was apparent they’d rather be doing something else with their afternoon. It does take away from the atmosphere, but not enough to ruin the experience.
The game was good. The Buffs had the majority of possession in the first half and you would never know they were un-ranked or that Stanford was #2 in the nation. They went into halftime tied 0-0. Stanford made some adjustments and came out a different team in the second half. Stanford’s Courtney Verloo scored in the 56th minute and Taylor Uhl in the 66th to finish with the 2-0 win. The Buffs hung tough the whole game, they never stopped trying to score, but it was clear the second Stanford goal took some of the wind from their sails. I was the most impressed by Buff’s Sophomore forward Emily Paxton, what a ball of energy and tenacity. She has a nice first touch and with a few more years experience we’ll definitely be seeing her in NWSL, if she chooses. It was also nice to see Darcy Jerman, a local Colorado Springs player (and featured on the program), on the pitch. I had come to see Stanford play and wasn’t disappointed. The team in the second half was the team I expected to see the whole game. The usual suspects caught my eye through their play, Freshman Jane Campbell, Junior Chioma Ubogagu, and 5th year Senior Courtney Verloo. I’m positive we’ll see these names on a NWSL roster and a USWNT near you. I went to Boulder to see Stanford play and I left a definite fan of the Buffs. The Buffs will only lose 7 of 28 players to graduation next year, so look out PAC-12.
Now on to my friends in the cheering section. The furthest set of bleachers are designated the “Buffs Brigade”. Students and fans who like to cheer are encouraged to sit there and bring the noise. Unfortunately the section was sparsely populated and four of the more vocal fans were racist and obnoxious. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude or blind to the fact they are college students, but there is no place or time that’s right for racism. The player they singled out was Chioma Ubogagu. While not a household name, it’s not really that hard to pronounce “Ubogagu” (see Hooked on Phonics, it’s pronounced exactly like it’s spelled). And just for the record her name does not mean Vietnamese dumpling, and I’m pretty sure she’s not Yoko Ono. Having played in Texas, I’m sure she’s heard worse and seemed not affected, although it was obvious she noticed. Those were two of the nicer comments directed her way. The four white guys also didn’t see the pained expression on the faces of the two Asian fans standing in front of the cheering section and who didn’t stay for the whole game. That was just the first half, for the second half the 4 stooges moved out of the stands and onto the sideline. They managed to stand right in front of me, all 5’3″ of me. My earlier comments to them about making racist comments and my admonition of “down in front” kept them pretty respectful for the second half. Yay for old ladies!
I love that there were so many young kids at the game, but was rather displeased that their parents let them have free range of the sidelines. The bleachers are set very close to the sideline and the assistant ref barely had enough room to navigate past the ball girls let alone 50 “fans” in the 3 to 5 year-old demographic. Between that and the heckling of the 4 stooges I felt bad for the AR and can’t fault her for finding it hard to keep up with the action on the field. The Referee had no such excuse. He called fouls on both teams that no one but him could see. Many fans turned to each other with puzzled looks as to what was being called and why. The game was physical from the first whistle and the Ref let the teams play, a little too much to my liking, but when he did call fouls he was the only one who knew why.
The halftime entertainment was an all girl dance troupe with leggings and crop tops, sequins and sparkles, who did short routines designed to attract a mate, not entertain the crowd. *The grumpy old lady is going to make an appearance now.* I find it hard to believe that with centuries of dance to pull from that the only routine they could come up with is pelvic gyrations. They need a new choreographer. The other entertainment was what seemed like 4 teams of 20 girls apiece playing small-sided soccer. It did help to soak up some of that sideline energy, so I guess it was a good thing. I like that it gave the girls a taste of what it’s like to play on a college field. At the age of 8 to 12 I can imagine that’s pretty cool for them.
All in all, I’d say it was a pretty positive experience. The venue was nice, the soccer was good and it left me wanting to go to Boulder again soon to see the Buffs in action.