Wildcat First Down: Purple-Shaded Thanks Derek Larson November 24, 2014 Features, Wildcat First Down Mondays at The Salute I’m typing angrily. I’m mad. I’m perturbed. My laptop keyboard is suffering with every keystroke. As attempt to compile thoughts here on the morning of Saturday, November 22, 2014, my mind keeps drifting back to the events of last night. Brick after brick. Turnover after turnover. Defensive lapse after WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU EVEN THINKING RIGHT THERE? K-State’s 69-60 loss to Long Beach State was – in the kindest term I can conjure – ugly. It was aggravating. It was a lousy reason to stay up near midnight. It was also something to be thankful for. Wait. What? Yes, despite the sort of stomach-turning play that made me want to toss our television from our third-floor balcony, I’m thankful for Friday night’s game. True, it’s a game the Wildcats should have won, but that’s my point. The K-State men’s basketball program has reached a point where success is expected. We expect to finish in the upper half of the conference. We expect NCAA Tournament bids. We expect the five guys wearing purple on the court to step up when needed. At the turn of the century, we were far from that lucky. In the 1999-2000 season, K-State won two conference games. As a high schooler, I could drive to Manhattan after basketball practice, arrive at Bramlage Coliseum two minutes before tip-off, and easily find open seating on the second row of the student section with my brother. The free pizza at halftime was nice. The results were not. I’m thankful for Friday night, not because of anything that happened on the court, but because it’s a reminder of how far this basketball program has come since the days of a head coach with a tanning problem. It is probably cliché and hokey to write about being thankful during Thanksgiving week, but I’ve never claimed to be anything else. Like most everyone, I’m absurdly thankful for family and friends, and for the opportunities that come my way. That said, this is a K-State column, and I’m not sure you want to dig into my personal life. It’s easy to write about being thankful for Bill Snyder, as such thanks is universal in Wildcat nation, but my gratitude extends beyond that. I’m thankful for Snyder’s closet. You read that correctly. Snyder’s closet. The one that the Big 12 won’t allow him to dig into anymore. While images in my mind of a secret Batcave-like location underneath Snyder’s home, wherein he suits up for every game and every practice – are probably inaccurate, I imagine there’s a single closet that is home to windbreakers from bowl games past. There’s the Copper Bowl. There’s the Fiesta Bowl. (Notably absent: the Alamo Bowl windbreaker, which i assume was set ablaze in a ritualistic cleansing ceremony.) And there’s the Buffalo Wild Wings windbreaker, which apparently set off the whole kerfuffle that has led to Coach Snyder wearing sideline attire that was actually attained this calendar year. This closet, fact or fiction, shows the success the Wildcats have experienced under Snyder. And I’m thankful that another bowl game windbreaker will find a home there this season. I began to type, “It’s a great time to be a Kansan” to begin this paragraph, but I caught myself. Four months into being a Nebraskan, I sometimes forget where I sit geographically when I’m thinking K-State. That said, it’s a great time to be a Wildcat fan, with plenty of purple-shaded thoughts to be thankful for. I’m thankful for absurdly large high-definition video screens. Whether you call it “Catzillatron” or simply “that new video board in Bramlage,” the Octagon’s new centerpiece is a sight to behold. I’m thankful for the “good things come to those who work,” attitude of so many Wildcat football athletes. It’s probably accurate to call K-State “Walk-on U,” and that is by no means an insult. Walk-ons become team captains. Walk-ons become All-Americans. Walk-ons become NFL stars. Walk-ons start at K-State with nothing promised but a chance to get knocked around in practice. Many leave having made a remarkable impact on a powerful football team. I’m thankful for long lines at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Whether they’re for concessions, a restroom, or simply to set foot in the stadium, those lines are just another reminder that football games are sold out. Many of my fondest sports-related memories happened at The Bill, and they wouldn’t have been the same without thousands of other fans cheering along. I’m thankful for anger; the sort that comes from shooting -4% (estimated) from the field against an inferior opponent. It serves as a reminder of how important these games can seem and provides motivation to write. In turn, it has served as a reminder that no matter how bad things seem at the end of any fourth quarter, hope comes with the next tip-off or kickoff. I’m also thankful I did not toss my TV from our balcony on Friday night. Whew. That was close.