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Brats, bikes and brouhahas
No driver in his or her right mind would seek out Kansas University game-day traffic.
I do, however, proving I’m not much of a driver and not in my right mind.
But there’s something about tackling football and men’s basketball game-day traffic — on a bike, anyway — that I find especially rewarding. Most days, anyway. I especially enjoy pedaling though Old West Lawrence before kickoff on fine fall afternoons. Everybody seems to be in fine spirits, and the air is thick with smells of grilling meat and adult beverages.
I’ve had tailgaters offer me burgers and brats — the ones that hit the ground, I imagine, or rolled into the coals — as I ride past. Maybe they (the tailgaters, not the meats) feel sorry for the dork on the bike. I typically decline.
I’ve had Frisbees and footballs thrown at me, too. Or maybe I should say, I’ve had them thrown TO me; I’m not sure I’ve ever had either object hurled my way in anger, but I’m certain I’ve never caught one.
The atmosphere after victories is equally, um, intoxicating.
Happy fans offer plastic keg cups of something or lustily demand high-fives as they head to their postgame party spots. I’m not sure which is more dangerous: The liquid courage can knock a cyclist right on his backside, but so, too, can too much arm in a high-five. Again, I typically dodge both.
Come basketball season, I don’t ride by the fieldhouse, but I’m not totally unaffected by game-day traffic.
It’s especially noticeable in the later rounds of the NCAA Tournament. As fans flock downtown to celebrate big victories, traffic backs up for blocks. I’ve had my 10-minute drive take more than half an hour after Final Four victories. For that reason, unless it’s raining — as it was when KU won it all in 2008 — I prefer to take the bike.
I’ll hop on a sidewalk when necessary (and legal, of course, thankyouverymuch) to avoid the bulk of the backed-up autos and make better time by far than I would by car.
But when the home team tumbles, look out.
It’s one thing if the Jayhawks lose, say, to a heavily-favored and high-ranked Nebraska squad and its red-clad, automaton fans — “Must cheer Huskers. Must cheer Huskers.” The crimson-and-blue faithful take such losses in stride.
But if KU should lose badly to, oh, I don’t know, hypothetically, let’s say, oh, hmmmm, how ’bout … Kansas State … then it pays to be wary. Fists and glass and invective fly, and some of it’s bound to get flung toward any passerby, whether on two feet or two wheels, unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire. And I’ve heard the police-scanner traffic to prove it’s not just paranoia. Further proof is provided by a friend of my wife’s, a festive yet level-headed mother who had a dustup at Thursday’s Sunflower Showdown. Yes, it was a cat fight — a ’Cat fight? — and, yes, some hair got … displaced. Permanently. Meow.
On nights like that, I keep my head down yet on a swivel. And I’m glad I have a helmet on it.