BOULDER — This is a beautiful place for it all to come to an end.
In a habitat that’s grown natural to me. An environment I’ve invested more time and effort in than any classroom during my time in college.
As I sit on press row at the Coors Events Center, I can’t help but think about how much I’ll miss this moment. Silently staring at the bare sections of empty gold seats; row after row after row. Not more than an hour ago, nearly every single one — 10,966, in fact — was filled by a fan sporting a black T-shirt.
However, it wasn’t the where part of covering my final event for the Collegian that couldn’t have been any better, but the what.
Many of the lights around the concourses have been shut off now, but the scoreboard on the west end of the arena still displays evidence of what transpired here tonight.
“CSU 62, CU 60.”
I learn more about the Centennial state rivalry with every installment I consume.
Being born and raised in Colorado, it’s something I’ve been around my entire life. Throw it back to Episode I (the first one I can remember, at least), when friends and family gathered at our house to watch a late-90’s Rocky Mountain Showdown.
I was confused why we were watching football on Saturday. And even more puzzled why John Elway wasn’t the quarterback taking snaps. My father tried his best to explain what a college rivalry was to his 6-year-old son, but I remember him eventually saying “you’ll understand someday.”
Fast forward 16 years, three months and five days to tonight: I think I finally get it, Dad.
I think I understand that it’s more important than just a non-conference matchup when CU and CSU play each other. There’s much more than a win or loss at stake in these situations.
There’s pride on the line.
It’s nearly impossible for the Rams and Buffs to meet more than once per season in any sport, which means a year’s worth of bragging rights are up for grabs from anything like a football or basketball game down to a club chess match.
I could see, hear and feel that passion tonight from CU fans when Xavier Johnson slammed home a monster dunk midway through the second half.
I could also see, hear and feel that heartbreak when Askia Booker tried his best Spencer Dinwiddie impression on a game-tying 3-point attempt that struck the rim and bounced out.
That was complemented with the “I’m proud to be a CSU Ram” chant from the select few who made the trip to watch CSU win its first game at this venue in eight years.
A former Collegian columnist wrote “For a state that’s not necessarily enamored with college sports, this rivalry is surprisingly fierce. Where teams may occasionally lack in talent, fans will certainly fill that deficit with pride. It extends the rivalry far beyond the field, and that’s pretty unique.” To which I couldn’t agree more.
My father’s words in 1997 never stop coming full circle to me with every CU-CSU game I watch.
It began as youngster who didn’t even know where Fort Collins or Boulder exactly were in location to our Aurora home. Now, it’s grown into me as a media member questioning players and coaches from each team following their win or loss.
That’s precisely why I couldn’t have asked for a better setting to lay my career as a student-journalist to rest.
Here, in this beautiful empty basketball arena, in the wake of a rivalry that will never grow old to people like me.
Collegian Sports Columnist Quentin Sickafoose is signing off for the final time since arriving to the paper in 2012. He’d like to thank you for loving, hating, but more so just reading the words he writes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed in his next chapter on Twitter @QSickafoose.