Nevada fans hated Boise State long before it became fashionable – and for different reasons than the BCS elitists. As our annual Thanksgiving showdown approaches, South Park provides unwitting insight into what animates college football’s obscurest rivalry.
by Scott Daniel // November 19, 2010
I will never shake the memory of the first time I saw it in person: October 29, 1988, three months shy of my seventh birthday. It was just as breathtaking and bewildering then as it is now. Dad pulled me by the hand up the steps to our seats in the upper deck on the western sideline; Mom followed a few paces behind. Every so often, I swiveled my head to survey the ground in puzzlement.
“Dad?” I asked. “Why is the football field blue?”
Dad shook his head, avoiding eye contact with the orange-clad hometown fans. “I have no idea, Scott,” he breathed as he pulled me further. “I have no idea.”
We still don’t. If I could posit the question again today, I would ask, “Why the hell is the field blue?” But that’s just 22 years of spite talking. That fateful Saturday evening in the capital of the Gem State, with the field glistening in the lights as no field should, I learned to hate the Boise State Broncos as I watched them deal my beloved Nevada Wolf Pack a 40-28 loss.
That animosity has run deep in Reno and Boise since the 1970s. The Broncos’ recent national success has only intensified the hostility from our side. I have long grasped at straws to explain this pathology in my own words to college football elitists.
So I’ve decided to let Eric Cartman and his friends explain.
Reason #1: That God-Awful Smurf Turf
In Episode 1313, “Dances with Smurfs,” Cartman takes over as the reader of the South Park Elementary morning announcements. He quickly turns this otherwise mundane undertaking into a full-blown Fox-style “news” show, in the mode of Glenn Beck. In one segment, he accuses the student body president, Wendy Testaberger, of “killing Smurfs” in order to steal their Smurfberries. Cartman even produces a forged video tape of “Wendy” (Cartman in disguise) plowing through Smurf Village with a team of bulldozers. The whole exercise is designed to elicit sympathy for the Smurfs and anger toward Wendy.
I’m with Wendy. Kill the Smurfs, and their Turf.
Don’t feel bad if you thought this was an Olympic swimming pool.
Boise State first installed the blue turf in 1986, when then-athletic director Gene Blaymeier had the idea that they should paint a portrait of the ocean on a football field. It has been an eyesore ever since. Hell, even Boise fans themselves originally hated “Lake Blaymeier”. Like the French who originally despised the Eiffel Tower, however, the Broncs warmed to it and now fully embrace it.
And for good reason: it’s incredibly disorienting to opposing players and fans alike. Since 1999, Boise is 75-2 at home. Read that again: 75 wins, 2 losses, without a single loss in the last sixty regular season home games. Granted, you don’t field a .974 home winning percentage without tremendous talent. Boise State is a good football program. But don’t tell me that having all-blue uniforms on matching blue turf doesn’t give Boise an advantage that tacks on a few extra points every game to marginally squeeze wins out of losses. I don’t need stats or even anecdotes for that. That’s common sense.
Come down off your high Bronco and return to your green roots, Boise, and remove all doubts of your superiority. The grass really is greener on this side of the fence. Kill the Smurf Turf.
Reason #2: We’ve Got Business to Take Care Of
In Episode 810, “Pre-School,” Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman fall into panic mode when they learn that neighborhood badass Trent Boyett has been released from juvenile hall. In pre-school, the boys convinced Trent to help them start a fire on the carpet, then framed him for the whole job when their teacher burst into flames. Trent did five years of hard time for their sins. Upon his Raising Arizona-style exit from incarceration, a guard asks Trent about his next move. Armed with a switch blade in his pocket and daggers in his eyes, Trent replies in a deep raspy voice: “I got business to take care of.”
So do we. The Pack has business to take care of.
Like Trent and the boys, Nevada and Boise have a history. Once upon a time, we were equals, two state schools in medium-sized cities with similarly loyal fan bases. The rivalry was a ping-pong match. In 1990, we avenged our only regular season loss with a thrilling 59-52 triple-overtime win in the I-AA semifinals. In 1994, Boise used that infamous hook-and-lateral to drive a stake into our hearts.
In the 1990s, Nevada was more than a few steps ahead of Boise State. We were the first to jump to Division I-A, and we were the first invited to the WAC. In fact, we welcomed Boise State to the Big Leagues with three consecutive drubbings from 1996 to 1998 (66-28, 56-42 and 52-24, respectively).
Then, in 1999, the wheels fell off, and we haven’t beaten Boise State once in the post-Monica Lewinsky era. The rising program that Chris Ault spent two decades building from scratch forgot how to recruit real athletes, and the once most-potent offense in the nation forgot how to throw the ball downfield. Like Trent Boyett, we spent five seasons in sub-.500 prison (including a miserable 2-10 campaign in 2000) before Ault re-took the reins for his third stint as head coach.
By that time, it was too late. Boise had begun its meteoric rise, rattling off 10-win seasons, conference titles and bowl victories. All true Nevada fans watched the 2007 Fiesta Bowl with medicine balls in our guts. While part of us begrudgingly admired our evil twin brothers for their thrilling upset of Oklahoma, a greater part of us strained not to punch the wall in anguish. One cry echoed throughout the Truckee Meadows that New Year’s night: “That should have been us!”
It should have been us, damn it.
Reason #3: Anything to Wipe That Smug Look Off Your Face
In Episode 1002, “Smug Alert,” Kyle’s family moves from South Park to San Francisco out of a sense of galling superiority. It seems that the redneck denizens of South Park aren’t progressive enough to drive hybrid cars. Out of desperation, Stan attempts to get his best friend back by recording a song successfully convincing the whole town to start driving hybrids.
Consequently, smog levels go down but, unbeknownst to Stan, “smug” levels jump through the roof. The town’s self-righteousness combines with similar clouds of hubris, including George Clooney’s Oscar acceptance speech, to form a perfect storm of “smug” that wipes out entire cities and literally sends San Francisco into another dimension.
This must be the dimension where Boise, Idaho is now located.
Evidently, one can travel to this alternate dimension through the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The day after Boise State’s first Fiesta Bowl win, I was scheduled to fly back home to Washington, D.C. At a bar in the terminal, I spotted two Boise State fans doing what Boise State fans do – drinking at 8 o’clock in the morning.
Now, I have to say I was a little wary. My previous run-in with live Broncos had been at the 2005 WAC Basketball Tournament, with mixed results. One of my friends had somehow convinced a Boise cheerleader to give him her number. Next thing you know, this (actually) happens:
- I get pulled out of bed at 1 a.m. to go bowling with the Boise State cheerleaders.
- The Boise State female cheerleaders, with one male cheerleader chaperone, wind up at my house near campus.
- Somebody makes out with somebody else and the male cheerleader doesn’t like it.
- The male cheerleader, whose female cheerleader partner turns out to be one of the make-out participants, makes a reasonable decision to drink half of my booze.
- The male cheerleader screams, “I love her! She can’t kiss a Nevada student!”
- We kick him out of the house; he lays down on the lawn…in his Boise State cheerleader outfit.
- Another friend opens the door for fresh air, and the male cheerleader greets him with a flying fist to the eye socket.
- We manage to restrain said male cheerleader while the female cheerleaders ice our friend’s eye.
- We load said male cheerleader into the back of a pick-up truck to transport him, under heavy guard, back to the cheap motel from whence he came.
- Boise State beats us on a last-second tip-in the following night, and the damn cheerleaders won’t let us hear the end of it. I’m pretty sure the cheerleader below is one of them.
These are all historical facts. The recipient of the punch reads this blog.
I unfairly allowed that event to creep into the back of my mind as I saddled up to the bar in my Nevada long-sleeve. I congratulated the two fans on their victory. They thanked me and informed me that they had attended and were flying home from Phoenix. Resisting the urge to ask why Boise did not have a direct flight to regionally important Phoenix, I continued to break down the game with them.
Finally, one of these fans turned to me and said, “Hey, yeah, Nevada, you all played in the bowl game in Boise, didn’t ya?”
We had indeed. We lost to the Miami Hurricanes in the MPC Computers Bowl, 21-20. Yet another defeat on the blue turf.
“A friend of mine went to that game,” he said with a borderline dismissive wave of the hand. “You guys have a decent team.”
The way he said it was so smug. So arrogant. So condescending. And in Reno, for God’s sake! Within minutes, I found a way to exit the conversation. As I hauled my carry-on toward the United gate, I thought briefly about switching flights. Between the male cheerleader and the obnoxious fan, I whispered to God that I thought I had enough cause to make a visit to the BSU campus and set it ablaze.
Reason #4: We Grow Tired of Losing to You, Boise State
In Episode 1008, “Make Love Not Warcraft,” the boys encounter an online entity so skilled that it can wipe out any character in the World of Warcraft. It turns out that it’s just some loser who’s been playing the game every day for a year-and-a-half. All the same, this character repeatedly kills the boys in spite of their most valiant attempts to slay him. At one point, they finally decide to quit and play basketball instead.
Quit and play basketball instead. Awfully tempting for a school with a Sweet 16 appearance and six NBA Draft selections since 2004.
But Cartman tells them to press on. To not give up on the World of Warcraft. To be vigilant. Convinced, the boys return to their computers and train, accumulating more points, more fat and more acne with every keystroke as Paul Stanley’s “Live to Win” electrifies the montage.
Live to win, ’til ya die. ‘Til the light dies in your eyes.
Hell, yes. That’s exactly what we’ll do. BCS elitists have complained that Virginia Tech was the only tough game on Boise State’s schedule. They have overlooked the 9-1, 18th-ranked Wolf Pack. Featuring the first collegiate quarterback ever to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in three different seasons. Featuring the speedy outside linebacker who runs the 40 in 4.08 flat. Featuring the Hall of Fame head coach who invented the jailbreak middle screen and the Pistol formation.
Dear Broncos, it’s all going down at Mackay Stadium, the same house of horrors where, once upon a time, legions of warriors clad in Silver & Blue once regularly kicked your asses up and down the field. By the way, that field, like 118 others in the Football Bowl Subdivision, is green.
One more game for both of us, Broncos. You take care of Fresno State tonight while we dismantle New Mexico State tomorrow. Then it’s showtime, and we’re not going to let you grab that bag of Tostitos without a fight.
Kill the Smurfs. Cue fight song.
Hail to our sturdy men, loyal and true
March, march on down the field O silver and blue!
We’ll give a long cheer for Nevada’s men
See them break through again for our own U of N
N! E! V! A! D! A! You say! NEVADA!
UPDATE, 2:13 a.m. EST, Nov. 27, 2010: In overtime, Nevada 34, Boise State 31. Smurfs killed. There is a God. Amen.
Photo credits: Life Magazine, South Park Studios, Scott Wykoff at WBAL Radio, University of Nevada Athletic Department, AllGraphics Online, Rock M Nation, SportsBlink
Copyright 2010, Scott Daniel. All rights reserved.
Further Reading for Nevada Fans and Boise Haters alike…
- Pistol Whipping the WAC (Nevada fan blog)
- Dear God: 10 Reasons Why You, the Almighty, Should Help Nevada Buck the Broncos (bleacherreport.com)
- Bronco B.S.: Why Boise State Fans Need a Mega Dose of Reality (bleacherreport.com)