As the seasons come and go, the college sports seasons draw ever closer. I know summer just started, but our fall sports are just weeks away now. But that hasn’t stopped me from reflecting on past seasons, and that’s Cowboy fooball and basketball seasons, in particular.
I’ve had the privilege and good fortune to have been in the radio broadcast booth for every Wyoming football game, home and away, for the last 38 seasons. I was courtside for every Cowboy basketball game, home and away, for 36 seasons, from 1984 to 2020. That’s a lot of games, a lot of broadcasts, and so many memories. As you may have noticed, those memories have supplied much of the subject matter for these early columns. Of course, there are many more quick, little visits back to the past to come.
Memories of those particular games we have shared are events that were one-of-a-kind, and most-memorable to the avid Cowboy fan. But I was wondering if I might re-visit a couple of events, yes, a couple of Cowboy games, that were very special to me. These were events, these were games that I will always remember fondly. Both games ended in Cowboy victories. But these particular games hold wonderful sentimental memories, quite possibly, for only me.
These were the first Cowboy games that I ever attended, and the first Cowboy games I ever broadcast. I’m sure a true Cowboy fan remembers their first game. Well, these were my first games, ones that would lead to my association with Cowboy football and Cowboy basketball.
The very first Cowboy broadcast I took part in was the Pokes season opener in 1984. It was my first broadcast in historic War Memorial Stadium. I stood in what is now the visiting radio booth that Saturday afternoon. We had a great, unobstructed view, close to the field.
That was my first Wyoming broadcast and I was actually the color analyst that day and the entire 1984 season. Mike Nolan, the very talented sports anchor at KUSA-TV Channel 9 in Denver, was the play-by-play man.
The Cowboys would play the South Dakota Coyotes that day, and it was South Dakota that would score the first 10 points in the game before the Pokes got going and scored the next 31 points on their way to 31-13 victory.
I remember the cozy, yet intense, feel of the home field there in War Memorial Stadium that day. The stadium was about half-full, with a few more than 15,000 in attendance. It was made very clear that this was Cowboy Country, and I felt a strong feeling of belonging right from that very first day, Sept. 1, 1984, my first Cowboy broadcast.
The second event, uh, game, that I will long remember was played just 10 weeks later. It was the first game of the ’84-’85 Cowboy basketball season. It was my first time, not just attending, but broadcasting a Cowboy Basketball game for Curt Gowdy Sports and the Cowboy Basketball Radio Network.
It was an exhibition game, Nov. 12, 1984, when the Cowboys hosted the national team from the People’s Republic of China. I vividly remember my quick study of a foreign language team of opponents. I found out just how non-fluent I am with Chinese. I felt OK with my new favorites, the Cowboys, especially a true freshman playing for the first time in the Arena Auditorium. Fennis Dembo would lead all scorers with 26 points. The Electric Man was 11 of 15 from the field, he was four of six from three-point land. And he grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double in his first appearance in the Double A.
Now, it was an exhibition game. The 85-68 victory over the Chinese National Team wouldn’t count. The games that did count began some 18 days later, when the Cowboys officially opened the season in the Arena Auditorium.
Coincidentally, like Cowboy football, Cowboy basketball started with South Dakota, and Wyoming beat the Coyotes, 91-74. But it was there in the Dome of Doom, when Wyoming beat the team from China, when I got my first Cowboy Basketball experience.
It was a first for Fennis too. And Eric Leckner, Turk Boyd, Dave Lodgins, and Jon Sommers. We all learned that day that Cowboy basketball could be something pretty special. And we learned that Cowboy home games would be played in a very special place. And that same positive support and intensity that I witnessed in War Memorial Stadium was quite noticeable in the Arena Auditorium as well.