The day before Bedlam in 2021, I went in to have CT scans for what I presumed would be a smooth-sailing, six-month follow-up appointment for previously-diagnosed-but-at-the-time-in-remission testicular cancer. I showed no definite signs of a recurrence to that point and had only small concerns (cancer patients never really have no concerns); recurrence rates in my specific case was less than 5% after I underwent chemo in April to treat stage 1B (which included removing, ahem, one of my magic eight-balls). Beyond just general fatigue and some brain fog, which I wishfully chalked up to a long recovery from the chemo, I hoped it’d be an uneventful check-in even knowing that given some of my symptoms, I could be in some trouble. And my fears were confirmed shortly thereafter. When I woke up the day after Bedlam — a 37-33 OSU win — the message below was sitting in my patient chart.
There had been a small nodule in one of my lungs months prior — which was so small it didn’t seem like a real worry, my oncologist said, though I suspected he was trying to lower my blood pressure — which had enlarged in my latest scan while another nodule emerged in my other lung. The cancer had indeed come back, and this time it metastasized in both of my lungs.
The euphoria I had felt from the Bedlam win the night before watching OSU take down OU in person from the press box and then from the east end zone — (and look, I’m a homer, I don’t hide it, but I’m not cheering during this, I have some standards!) — left my body in a rush. An intense heat washed over me and I was flooded with anxiety.
When Collin Oliver sacked Caleb Williams and iced the OSU win, I was standing in the east end zone phone in hand taking in the moment. I saw Dez Bryant on the sideline soaking it in and was doing the same. I felt a connection to the tense crowd that had been tortured, over and over again, by painful Bedlam losses. As a lifelong OSU fan I could sense the collective sigh of relief as Williams fell to the turf to seal it. I figured, in the long shot event that OSU somehow reversed its Bedlam curse, I’d have to prevent myself from grabbing pom-poms on the sideline and just completely losing it. Instead, I stood there under OSU’s 110-foot video board and sobbed thinking about family, life and death. (You know, the normal stuff you think about when your favorite team beats a rival!)
I spent most of the evening before that moment reconnecting with friends, colleagues and associates in the press box, which was my first real interaction around a group in a long time — I’d stayed away from people during chemo and after because my immune system was not quite functioning normally. I got a lot of Man, you look great! and So happy you’re in remission! comments. It was good for the soul to be around people and to get encouragement. I hoped when the scan results rolled in that their well wishes wouldn’t be wasted on someone going back into treatment for a recurrence. Secretly, and in hindsight maybe not so secretly, I cherished the game a little more as I pessimistically prepared for the worst.
Bedlam in the Boone household has always been a sacred event. My dad is an alum from the early 1980s. Our entire family was born and raised Cowboys fans. I remember riding in the back of my dad’s truck around the neighborhood screaming into the abyss when 16-13 happened. I remember Rashaun Woods is still open being a regular part of our family vernacular. I definitely remember the pain of 2012 and the pure elation of 2011. A lot of my childhood sports memories are centered around OSU sports and Bedlam football, for better or (but much more often) for worse.
It makes me sad to think this series will soon end as OU leaves for the SEC in 2025 (or maybe sooner). Maybe that’s not a popular thing to say, but it’s true. A rivalry will die but so too will a part of my link to childhood.
We get bogged down in minutiae so much around the politics of the series, which has happened uninterrupted since 1910 — like good on OSU for not trying to keep Bedlam alive, OU left! or the other side of the argument from OU’s perspective (which I care not to litigate) — that we forget about the bedrock of why we love sports.
“It’s bigger than football” is such a big cliche that the phrase is literally plastered into the Webster’s dictionary next to the word — don’t look it up, just trust me — but it really is bigger than football. Bedlam — and sports in general — is a gateway drug to friendship, to family and to love. It’s how I stumbled butt backwards into a profession and created lifelong friendships along the way. It’s how my dad and I connect, often through pain, sometimes through elation but always shared together. It’s what our family celebrates — but mostly commiserates about — each Thanksgiving. A tradition unlike any other not even the Masters can top.
So on Saturday I’ll be enjoying what may be one of the last Bedlams of my lifetime next to my pops in what is likely to be a frigid, sold-out Gaylord Memorial Stadium. I think OSU will win because I’m an eternal optimist and homer, but also because I’ve convinced myself that I cannot subject my body to freezing temps while sitting in the midst of OU fans while Boomer Sooner is played 5,329 times consecutively unless I have some faith in the Cowboys. I might be wrong. Vegas odds seem to think I’m not only wrong, but probably idiotic for thinking as much.
And that’s fine. On Saturday night, OSU will win the game, or OU will win the game, and we will move on about our life as we do no matter the result. But I hope this year you cherish it a little bit more like I will. Watch the game with your pops and soak it in. Gather with friends and relish the time together. Think about all the memories this series over the years has generated both good and bad. The Bedlam football series may not go on much longer, but I hope the connections and memories you have with friends and family and colleagues through this series, like the ones I’ve created, last a lifetime.