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Written by Chris Lee   

Oh, Snap.

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Not talking about Christmas. Nope, school is back in session, fall sports have kicked off, including my favorite sport of all, football.

I spent four years following and covering the Northwest Missouri State University Bearcats. The Bearcats, NCAA Division II National Runner-up for four years in a row and 1998-99 Back-to-Back National Champions, were a fun team to follow. Yes, we made it to the big dance four years in a row and lost but the ride each year was amazing.

When our beloved coach, Mel Tjeerdsma took over head coaching responsibilities in 1994, he went 0-11. Now, 15 years later he is one of the most decorated coaches in Division II history and a “celebrity” in Maryville, Mo. where the school is located. He holds the record for the most post season victories in Division II.

The thought of standing on the sideline with my camera in hand and listening to half of the crowd yell B-E-A-R while the other answered with C-A-T-S still sends shivers down my spine.

The highlight came each year when my Bearcats would face off against rival Pittsburg State. We would meet in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium for the game. Tailgating with friends hours before the game was the best. The match up usually drew anywhere between 20,000 and 25,000 very excited fans.

I missed the game this year but my beloved ‘Cats came through with a 30-10 blow out.

I am also an avid fan of the Big Red. Yep, the Huskers, I said it. I know there is a split difference here in Holyoke between followers of the Big Red and the Buffs.

I have been to three Cornhusker games. One in Lincoln, Neb., one in Boulder and one in Columbia, Mo. I find it odd two of those three were in rival stadiums. I found out this week I will be attending this year’s Nebraska-Colorado game. Anyone know of a good body guard service? The last time I was there it was pretty rough, we won though!

Growing up in Nebraska the only thing we had was the Cornhuskers. No MLB, NBA, NHL or NFL teams. Of course we followed the Rockies and Broncos, who else would we follow?

Attending college just 90 minutes north of Kansas City, friends of mine tried to convert me from a Broncos fan to, that’s right, a Chiefs fan. Wasn’t gunna happen. I was the one cheering when Denver would win and K.C. would lose.

I carry over my love of college football to Friday night high school games. It is great to see and follow high school teams. The love and support from the crowd is true and meaningful. “Friday Night Lights” is one of the greatest high school football movies in my mind.

I didn’t play in high school but I was able to watch our team have four successful years. Making it to the state championship game was an awesome thing for our little town. Standing on Tom Osborne Field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln was a dream come true.

Now, I just watch games on television. Saturdays come as a weekly holiday now. At any one moment there are as many as four games on. Another dream come true.

In college, I would wake up on Saturdays and get my now famous cheese dip going. My roommates were devastated when I graduated. That stuff was like catnip for them. I had to leave the recipe when I moved.

No matter the team or level, football season is here and you can bet I will be watching and cheering.

Is it Saturday yet?