Thanksgiving weekend boils down to the pursuit of three things in gross abundance: eating, shopping and watching football. You can try to skip out on one of the three, but avoiding pigskin prognostications in Missoula this year will be about as easy as an Alberton football player skipping sensitivity training.
The Garden City is so overwrought with football fever, and so snowballed with fanatical momentum, that the pandemonium of years past looks like a Portland State homecoming by comparison. Last week, just days after the state’s Board of Regents approved another expansion to Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and a day before former UM great Dave Dickenson won MVP of the Grey Cup (that’s the Canadian championship, eh), the hometown Griz walloped the rival Cats in a snot-knocking 13-7 defensive showdown. The win secured more than bragging rights—it was UM’s 10th straight victory and locked the team’s ninth consecutive Big Sky championship. It also ensured the Griz the second seed in the upcoming playoffs, destined to play out in front of late-arriving second-half fans (oh, we love you—and your maroon and silver beer bongs, too) as long as the team keeps winning, beginning with Saturday’s showdown against McNeese State.
And that’s when things get really fun. The atmosphere for Griz-Cats was as safely spirited as ever. The televisions set up in the parking lots and the before-and-after crowds of MSU and UM faithful partying in harmony like a coozie and a 12-ounce, had a real community feel. That’ll change when McNeese rolls in and all familiarity ends.
In fact, we don’t know jack about the Cowboys, and that’s okay because apparently nobody does. Griz coach Bobby Hauck said after the match-up was announced that he hoped to get tape of the opponent sometime this week and that “historically” they were “fast.” Uh-huh. We were ready to break out NCAA 07 and start scouting YouTube for McNeese’s weaknesses on our own, but after talking with the stool pigeons at Red’s, the regulars at the Press Box and the ball-cap crowd at Hammer Jack’s—hell, even the counter person at Noon’s wanted to talk Griz football—we’ve been assured our boys are all but guaranteed a spot in the I-AA championship game.
So in the meantime, we’ll just bask in the glory of the local gridiron, between forkfuls of turkey and waiting to see the damage from Black Friday’s shopping receipts.