My first college football game was one for the ages.

By Hannah Wallace


The running of the bulls.

Clairvoyance or dumb luck, CCB (aka Cheetah Club Boyfriend) has been craving college football since springtime and purchased tickets months ago to the USF home game he felt would host the biggest, most exciting opponent: West Virginia.
I’ve always been more of an NFL gal myself. As a Stetson alum, I always liked the Hatter t-shirts that touted our nonexistent football team as “still undefeated.” Until Friday, USF had been little more to me than a cross-state rival with my college soccer team.
But what CCB didn’t realize when he bought the tickets was that when the game rolled around, USF would be ranked in the top 25 going into their first conference game against a West Virginia team in the top 10.
And he certainly didn’t realize the game would be sold out—the first time in USF history—and that the ninth-row tickets he bought at $29 apiece would be earning scalpers triple-digit profits.
And who could have predicted that the game would involve 11 turnovers? And that USF would win? And that we’d get to see drunken college students getting hauled off the field in handcuffs?
Sure, we’ve got spring training and the occasional high school football championship, but Sarasotans still have to drive to Tampa for big-time sporting events. (Probably a fair trade, since Tampa folks have to drive down here for a decent strip-club experience.) We could’ve sold our tickets and gone to town at Horse Feathers or Selva Grill, but it turns out the football game was well worth the lost profit.
Early Friday evening, after creeping along 275 for an hour from Pinellas Park to Tampa, we parked in a Best Buy lot off the interstate and walked a mile to Raymond James stadium. On the way we encountered multiple West Virginia fans calmly spouting snotty trash-talk at every single person who walked by. “It’s gonna be a great game, guys, great loss for USF, hope you enjoy it.” I quietly fumed, mulling over arguments against pathetic passive observers clinging to incendiary attitudes to compensate for their own athletic uselessness. (I have off-the-field anger-management issues.) I chomped down on my tongue.
It got worse when we took our seats over the USF tunnel and realized that a third of the crowd was already screaming “Gooooooooooooooo Mountaineers!” The overcompensation of the visiting team fighting the overcompensation of the underdog. I crossed my arms and scowled.
CCB, looking incredibly concerned (either for my mood or the safety of those around me), offered to fetch me a beer.
A couple of West Virginia guys a few rows in front of us pumped themselves up by shouting expletives and shoving each other. They looked moments away from a fistfight. Then they half-hugged and damn near kissed. I just don’t get masculinity anymore.

After half an hour of my suffering in the contentious environment, relief: USF scored. And then they scored again. And the incessant West Virginia cheers became more of a curiosity than an annoyance.


BY THE NUMBERS: 21 to 13, no time left on the clock.

“You don’t get to do spirit fingers if you’re losing,” CCB opined. “You never get to do spirit fingers,” I responded.

As the game progressed, Mountaineers taunts lessened, taken over at last by chants of “U-S-F! U-S-F!” West Virginia yellow slowly faded from the stadium. And at the end of the game, despite multiple warnings of arrest, USF green poured from the stands onto the field.


SEA OF GREEN: I pause for a photo op as civilization unravels behind me.


Finding ourselves suddenly abandoned, we watched the chaos from our seats, amused as ever, until the announcer asked students to leave the field “through gate C. That’s C, as in ‘conference championship.’” Drunken revelers virtually sprinted for the gate. We turned and headed down the ramp and southward again, CCB already calculating how many tickets he could afford to buy for this January’s Outback Bowl in Tampa.


ALL ALONE: Less than a minute after the game ended, there was plenty of
seating available.