By Mark Nagi
In the 1990 classic “The Hunt for Red October,” Captain Vasili Borodin has a great conversation with Captain Ramius aboard the nuclear submarine, which is on its way to America for the purposes of their defection from the USSR to the United States.
I’m sure that IMDB has a much more precise description of the movie, but let’s go with mine. The movie is 31 years old so don’t go running for the hills screaming about spoiler alerts.
Borodin: “I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a ‘recreational vehicle.’ And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?”
Ramius: “I suppose.”
Borodin: “No papers?”
Ramius: “No papers, state to state.”
Borodin: “Well then, in winter I will live in… Arizona. Actually, I think I will need two wives.”
Ramius: “Oh, at least.”
Near the end of the movie, Borodin is fatally shot, but before death says: “I would like to have seen Montana…”
As I close in on the end of my fifth decade on this planet, I find myself siding more and more with Borodin. This is a beautiful planet, and the United States of America is one of its true gems.
We are blessed in the lower 48 to be bordered by two oceans and in the middle is such a unique landscape. Forests. Deserts. Mountains. Lakes and rivers. You could live here for 10 lifetimes and never see everything that you’d like to experience.
But I’m doing my best.
I was lucky in my previous life as a sportscaster at WATE-TV to follow the Vols and Lady Vols across the country. Dallas. Oklahoma City. Tallahassee. New Orleans. Providence. Tampa. Plus, just about every SEC city. This allowed me to knock off a bunch of the 50 states, but there were still more to go.
Back in 2002 the Vols were supposed to play a game at the University of Wyoming. I was stoked about possibly covering the game since I assumed that I’d never otherwise get the chance to visit that state.
Unfortunately, the Nashville Sports Council paid the University of Wyoming $2.35 million to move the opener from Laramie to Nashville. At the time, a spokesman for the Sports Council said the Cowboys would likely triple their net profits for a season and pay off 15 years of athletic debt. Can’t blame them for taking the cash.
Wyoming was technically the home team, but the stands were obviously filled with Orange and White.
I was bummed, and Wyoming stayed on my bucket list for a visit.
Fast forward 19 years. My friend Michael loves to travel and convinced me to tag along recently for a trip to Wyoming. The Cowboys were hosting rival Colorado State in what is known as The Border War. The winner earns the Bronze Boot trophy for a year.
It was a trip in which we’d travel by Jeep, which gave me the chance to knock off a bunch of states I’d never visited. Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, plus a few minutes in Idaho, Montana, and Minnesota, leaving me with only 5 states left unseen. Alaska, Washington, Oregon, North Dakota and somehow Wisconsin.
It’s taking me a while to get to the point of this article so thanks for sticking with me. This is a trip that I wasn’t sure I would take, but the chance to experience college football in Wyoming made it a no-brainer.
War Memorial Stadium might not look like the massive stadiums that dot the southeast, but it fits the bill just fine. The fans were tailgating for hours before the game. The college kids there play some weird game I still don’t understand involving throwing a single die high in the air and trying to catch it as it falls onto a table.
As for the game itself, the fans were loud and proud during a 31-17 Wyoming victory. After the game, they stormed the field… and milled around for about an hour. Some enterprising fans that will remain nameless got their picture taken with the Bronze Boot.
In the SEC the school would be fined for their fan’s actions. At Wyoming, that supporter invasion was pretty much encouraged.
During that week out west, we saw the sights. The Badlands. Grand Teton National Park. Devils Tower. This was a trip I’ll never forget, and I can’t wait to get back.
My simple advice to you the reader? Take that trip you’ve been putting off while you can because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Sports are the perfect excuse to get off the couch and into a car or onto a plane.
Ever wanted to visit Pittsburgh? The Vols are there in September 2022. Utah? The Vols play at BYU in September 2023.
Those are only two ideas. Come up with your own.
So, go. Make it happen.
You won’t regret it.