NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Tramel: Sitting in the seats for OU football vs. Missouri State for the first time in 42 years

NORMAN — I settled into my seat, Section 44, Row 15, just up from Owen Field’s south end zone, and felt at home even though I wasn’t.

Only 22,700 fans came to see OU play Missouri State on Saturday night. The coronavirus and its effects kept 60,000 people away. But the pandemic brought me to the stadium.

I was scheduled to be in Stillwater for OSU-Tulsa, but that game was pushed back a week by COVID-19. Normally, I’d just call and get a seat in the Sooner pressbox. But press credentials are limited this season by social distancing.

So I was free Saturday night. And thanks to the kindness of OU fan Sam Hoffman, I secured Missouri State tickets. Trish the Dish and I went to the game just like thousands of other married couples usually do.

The last time I sat in the stands at a college football game — Nov. 18, 1978 — Jimmy Carter was president. David Boren had been elected governor 11 days earlier. That night, Earl Monroe scored 15 points for the Knickerbockers. America tuned in to watch Fantasy Island on ABC.

Everything was different then. The Sooners ran the wishbone. The Cowboys wore burnt orange. The game was not televised. I sat in the upper deck, literally against the north wall, and was not scared of heights.

Before I detail my experience, a salute is in order. Hail to all you fans who have gone to games in packed stadiums for these 40 years. I thoroughly enjoyed the night, in part because I had no one on the row in front of me, no one on the row behind me and no one sitting next to me for a bunch of seats.

In other words, I was completely comfortable. When you’re 6-foot-2 and your joints are about to turn 60, spreading out is a glorious thing. Sitting on the Thunder’s press row is like a three-hour flight in a middle seat, but football pressboxes generally have a decent amount of space. So you fans that deal with the compactness game after game, year after year, deserve a medal.

The downside was wearing a mask, which none of us like but is part of the deal in 2020. I’d say OU got about 50/50 compliance on masks in the stands, though some of the non-wearers had drinks and food, so they had an excuse.

The night was cool, low 70s, perfect weather. Ask fans to wear masks when it’s 90something, and attitudes will go south quickly.

I had a Coke and a corn dog — should have gotten a hot dog — but either way, the smell of mustard at a ballpark is one of life’s great aromas.

The Sooners warmed up right in front of us. I’ve been around football players for 40 years, but it’s still remarkable how big they look in pads, compared to the view from the sky. Everybody looks sort of the same from the pressbox; not so from virtual field level, when you’re watching 5-foot-5, 188-pound walkon Todd Hudson run behind 6-6, 342-pound Brey Walker.

Sitting low has its disadvantages. You can’t really tell the yard lines or first downs, though this wasn’t Texas. First downs were not particularly relevant.

But sitting low has its advantages when the Sooners are coming right at you and Spencer Rattler is throwing deep balls for speedy receivers. All those big plays in the first quarter? It was like watching in 3D.

And you could hear the pads popping on goal-line plays. It’s a different sensory experience.

The north-end video board is not gigantic but is excellent. I’m accustomed to checking televisions for penalty replays and such, but again, it was Missouri State. Intrigue took a holiday.

As you know, the game was strange. It reminded me of being in the stadium for the Red-White Game or a high school showdown.

No marching band was a total bummer. I love marching bands, and the OU pep band, 80 musicians strong, was not loud enough. I could have used more from the band and less of the piped-in music, but I’m old. It’s not 1978 anymore.

I don’t know if this is new, but on our seats were scan codes to pull up stats and rosters. Which is cool, though it took 30 minutes to load, and the roster that eventually came up was alphabetical. You need numerical rosters at the stadium.

The Dish had been given some passes into the OU Foundation suite in the upper southwest corner of the stadium, so we watched the second half from there.

I have spent little time around the new stadium expansion, above field level, and I must say, the builders and architects did a magnificent job. It’s really a gorgeous stadium. The suites are fantastic.

When Toby Rowland calls it the “Palace on the prairie,” I’ve rolled my eyes. Consider this an apology.

But the sound system from the suite section, even the outdoor seats, is not discernible. Sounded like Portugeuse.

We stayed to the end. No reason to leave early to beat traffic. It took me 11 minutes to drive from my house to a parking space two blocks from the stadium, which is longer than it takes on a Tuesday afternoon. And from the final gun to my driveway was maybe 20 minutes.

I know that doesn’t happen without COVID’s help.

But all in all, a glorious night. After six months of a pandemic, it was fun to be part of a collective community. Fun to feel the breeze and hear the cheers and experience something as normal as football.

Soon enough, like this Saturday in Stillwater, I’ll be back in the pressbox. To paraphrase an old gospel, the grandstands are not my home. I’m just-a-passing through.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

Related Photos
<strong>Fans socially distance in the stands before OU's 48-0 win against Missouri State on Saturday in Norman. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]</strong>

Fans socially distance in the stands before OU's 48-0 win against Missouri State on Saturday in Norman. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Fans socially distance in the stands before OU's 48-0 win against Missouri State on Saturday in Norman. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki] " title=" Fans socially distance in the stands before OU's 48-0 win against Missouri State on Saturday in Norman. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki] "><figcaption> Fans socially distance in the stands before OU's 48-0 win against Missouri State on Saturday in Norman. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki] </figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›