I had the opportunity this week to visit with JJ about what it means to be a fan of the Oklahoma Sooners and in the process I learned that family bonds and pride may not just be characteristics of the Sooner Nation but indicators of a blessed life as well.
CCM: You've been an OU fan your whole life and you have some interesting Sooner bloodlines to boast about, right?
JJ: My grandmother is related to Billy Vessels. It was something she was very proud of. Even more so than being born before statehood. During football games well into her 80s, she would turn to others & say "you know, I am a Vessels". :)
CCM: How much of an influence did that have on you becoming a Sooner fan?
JJ: I wouldn't say it "influenced" as much as made me proud. You know, she was in her 70s & while Holieway & co were tearing it up, she was still so connected. It's just timeless. Being a sooner fan knows no age, no boundaries. I was certainly "impressed" as a child, but I was surrounded by pride. My grandmother. A neighbor's grandson was a starting DB on those Boz led teams. My dad was longtime friends with Harold Keith. You know they all were just proud and loyal...we all have people who influence is in walks of life. I was just never not around a Sooner fan who wasn't a terrific role model :)
CCM: So what is your fondest memory of being an Oklahoma football fan?
JJ: My fondest memory is watching the 76 orange bowl. My parents & extended family & friends watched it from our local grocers house. It was the first bowl game in several years & it wouldn't get here soon enough! OU defeated Michigan. I sat on my dads lap most of the game & still have the coke bottle we drank from that commentated the game! I was 3 ( almost 4) & I have very vivid memories of the entire day.
Now if you asked for most fun memory? My freshman year at OU, bedlam. Period. OSU was 0-9-1. We were behind the osu bench. I think they were first & goal from the 6 or so in the north end zone. It turned to 2 & long & then 3rd & long. 4th down & they were out of FG range. "Oh 10 & one". The chants started & never stopped....oh yeah in red Justin ropers (sign of the 90s)
CCM: So the craziest thing you've ever done as an OU fan is what?
JJ: Oh lord... Crazy how ? I'll let you pick...
I started a savings for a bowl trip as a student. Yeah it got spent in Shreveport. Should have waited a year. it's always good to have goals.
I let a sideline reporter hold my baby in the schooner one year for a commercial. He was ten months old, and it was the Alabama game where Jason White tore the other knee.
I got my husband a new black lab for his birthday, for hunting, the first year we dated and named it Macks. I registered it as Mack's Last Win. Fact. Dec 1999. You know the rest :)
Every trip I take, I take an OU shirt and then take a picture for my mom and dad. Statue of Liberty, Fenway Park, Disney Castle, Hollywood sign, The Swamp, Death Valley, the Tennessee stadium. You name it, Kentucky basketball game.
If you want something traditional crazy like belly paint, I am sorry but not your girl...
Non-psycho crazy: last year when I went to FSU I stayed with a pledge sister/roommate from college. I've known her for twenty years. We were chatting and her mom calls so we "reintroduce". Its then that she (the mom) realizes she graduated from high school with my dad in a class of 18 students. Joy's (my friend) grandfather was the mail carrier at the post office while my grandfather was the postmaster. I was all in teeny tiny Webbers Falls, Oklahoma. How do you know someone and not know that? We were still laughing about it when two guys come up to us, at the Chesapeake tailgate, and ask if we are from Webbers Falls because they were.
Webbers Falls is where the barge hit the I40 bridge on the Arkansas River a few years ago if you don't know where it is.
CCM: So, you've talked about the Sooner influence your family had on you growing up, now that you have a family of your own what has your influence been on them?
JJ: Tough question, but it's not just about me. My kids love the Sooners and I would like to think its for the right reasons. Joe Castiglione has done a lot to reach out in my opinion. As a season ticket holder I can take them (her kids) to things like Fan Appreciation Day, where the kids played on the field and saw the locker room, the press box and The Switzer Center.
There was a day when Austin Box played Star Wars with my second grader. He's in 5th now and all he knows is that he played light sabers with a very fun sooner tackler. He will be forever connected with the Sooners because of the time Box spent with him. The little one things Dominique Franks and Quinton Carter hung the moon. On a Meet the Sooners Day, with thousands waiting on Sam, those two players played catch and let my three year old sit with them at their "slower" table signing autographs.
My kids have memories of going with their grandparents to see the schooner & the twirler during games. It's about reaching out and sharing and spending time with them at OU. It's about being together. My kids love it because they are included.
Others besides mom, a few players and the OU staff love the university enough to want to share it with a couple of little boys and make it meaningful. As my oldest said leaving Meet the Sooners Day this year, "man this was the best day ever. No wonder you loved going to college here".
They have been to all kinds of sooner events not just football for the record. We are fortunate enough to be a short drive up and have the means financially to include the kids on road trips.. They have been to Big 12 championships, road games, etc.
Next year we (my parents & the horn/husband) will take them to Notre Dame. As a catholic family (the horn anyway) it will be a great experience to share. My influence is to expose them, to let them see what its like when the ball isn't being snapped, what the bonds are & what they mean. There is Only One Oklahoma and I have watched as a child with my dad, pouted at being left at home, had fun as a teen with the 80s Sooners & Billy Ball (basketball),, sold parking spaces as a student & now I am starting all over with my kids.
Now aside from all that mushy stuff, my kids aren't allowed to have orange crayons & markers. They know that anything that is orange would just look better in RED! Mother of the Year!
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