I never knew how great I had it.
As kids, most of us have the thoughts of getting away from our home town. Where we grow up is never as “cool” or “exciting” as anywhere else in the entire world. Growing up in the neighborhoods around Five Mile/Overland in the 1980’s I was the same way. Boise was boring, and the far away lands of Los Angeles and New York were so much more exciting and provided unlimited possibilities. A lot of my daydreaming occurred on the short bike rides to Elms Park and Five Mile Plaza, two of the strip malls that were built in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s at the corner of Five Mile and Overland. I spent a lot, if not most of my free time and summer vacations there. And I never knew how great I had it.
I remember following my mom around Buttrey’s grocery store (later Albertson’s) pleading for a toy or some candy. I watched E.T. and Rocky III at the Mann Theatres, played Pac Man and Pole Position at Key Stone Pizza, and dreamed of that fancy new bike at Ken’s Bicycles. If I wanted a hamburger I went to Red Steer. When the new Star Wars toys came out you could find me at Ralph’s Toys & Hobbies deciding if I wanted the new Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, and dreaming of having a huge train set like the one they had set up in back. If I wanted candy or needed to find a cheap birthday present for my mom, Just for Fun was there for me. And most of my bike rides back home were steered with one hand while the other held a sugar cone topped with rocky road from Baskin Robbins. I remember shopping for school clothes at The Emporium department store, and spent many Christmas Eves eating Chinese food with my family at The Great Wall. As I grew older Pojo’s came in with a small arcade, and Five Mile Records is where my love for Hip Hop music grew. My first job was at Chicago Connection pizza at Elms Park and my second job was next door at Premiere video. The money I earned I used to open my first bank account at First Security. I had anything a kid could want within a half mile bike ride from my house.
Something else happened in the 1980’s that would have a huge effect on my life. I went to a Boise State football game. Although I may have been to one before then, the first one I remember was in 1986. I remember thinking it odd that we left for the game five hours before it started, drove our pickup with the camper on it, parked in Julia Davis Park, and grilled hamburgers while tossing the football around. I loved it. And when we went into the stadium I could not believe my eyes. The field was blue. I had played a couple of Optimist football games at Bronco Stadium, and attended Meridian High School games there as well when my older sister was in school, and the field looked like every other football field – it was green. But it was different now. The bright blue field and the buzz in the stadium was amazing. Even before the internet age made it possible to look up anything you wanted I could tell you who Boise State played that game – Humboldt State – and I could tell you it was a blow out (74-0, I had to look that up). The whole experience was amazing, from the pre-game at the park to the atmosphere at the game, and I wanted to go to every game from there on out.
Eight years later, in 1994 I was a student at Boise State and my love for the football team would experience another huge bump. I did not expect much back in return for my love –I enjoyed the game day experience and cheering for the Broncos. But Boise State would exceed my wildest expectations that year. It was a magical season coached by a magical coach, Pokey Allen. We lost only one regular season game that year, finally beat Idaho to end a streak of 12 losses, and made it to the division 1-AA playoffs, where the ride got even wilder. We beat North Texas in the first round, Appalachian State in the second round, and on a snowy but sunny day in December beat Marshall to advance to the National Championship game. The magic of that season ended with a loss to Youngstown State, but the magic of Boise State football had only just begun. I would have ever imagined the heights to which this program was about to grow.
Boise State is now considered by most to be a national power, after only 14 years as a Division 1-A (FBS) program. They are a top five team once again this season, and have a quarterback in Kellen Moore who is a serious contender to win the Heisman Trophy. I have only witnessed two losses in the last 10 years of watching games at Bronco Stadium. I have seen them win two BCS games, and get to hear about them being in the discussion for the National Championship. We have one of the best (if not the best) coaches in college football in Chris Petersen. Their rise to the top is incredible. We have it real good as fans.
Unfortunately, it is so easy to get caught up in the speculating and worrying about Boise State football. Wishing we were in a better conference, that we got more respect from the media and other teams fans, where we are in the polls and if we really have a chance to make it the National Championship game. Most of it equates to worrying about the future and things we as fans have no control over, and none of it is why I fell in love with the Broncos. I fell in love with the game day atmosphere, the tailgating and the excitement of being at a game – just being a fan. It is what makes college football fun.
The other day I was in my old neighborhood and drove through Five Mile Plaza. Pretty much everything is gone. No toy store, no arcade or pizza place, no ice cream parlor. No movie theater or department store, and the places I earned my first dollars have either moved out of the neighborhood or closed down. All that is left is the Albertson’s, Great Wall Chinese restaurant, the bank (now Wells Fargo) and Ken’s Bicycles. I had it real good, and ever knew it.
It took me nearly 30 years to appreciate what I had as a kid. I won’t let that happen with my football team.