I recently had the opportunity to attend my first Baylor Bears football game, where the colors of green and gold were everywhere! Even though I am a Baptist, and live in an adjoining state, this was my first visit to the campus of Baylor University, chartered in 1845 by the last Congress of the Republic of Texas. It is among the largest Baptist Universities in the world, with a 1,000-acre campus next to Interstate-35, between DFW and Austin.
For me, the REAL reason to go to the game was to see granddaughter, Kaitlyn, on the sidelines, in her new roll as one of the freshmen Baylor cheerleaders. She is shown here with her mom, who also was a cheerleader throughout high school.
As soon as we arrived on campus on the Saturday morning of the game, we hustled over to the part of campus where the "Bear Walk" is staged. That is when the football players and their entourage, make their walk from their arrival bus to the stadium. If you look closely, you can see that Kaitlyn is one of the (privileged) few, who stand on the side of the yellow rope that marks the path for the players and coaches. Us family members are on the other side of the yellow line, but that does not keep us from posing for a group photo together!
Since an actual bear might be hard to control for the traditional "Bear Walk", the costumed mascot (known as Bruiser) makes the stroll instead.
Bruiser is a common sight at the Baylor home games, and a crowd favorite! You can learn more about Bruiser, and all the Baylor traditions/teams/trivia at their website, www.baylor.edu .
Many folks are familiar with the practice of tailgating before a sporting event, but the stadium at Baylor University offers the unique opportunity of "sailgating"! Fans can pull their boats into the harbor beside the stadium, and enjoy some "boat-rockin' good times and good food" before the game starts!
After the Bear Walk festivities were over, we went back to tour the Bear Habitat across the street from my granddaughter's dormitory.
I had been aware of the live bear area for decades, because one of my classmates from elementary/ junior high/senior high school, died in a tragic accident, while a student at Baylor University. His parents had the first Bear Plaza built in his honor.
It saddens my heart to remember his life being cut short, yet I can smile, because I know I will see him again in heaven.
Behind the chain-link fence is where the two live bears live. They are named Judge Joy and Judge Lady. The title of "Judge" is a reference to the namesake of Baylor University, Judge R.E.B. Baylor.
This photo shows McClane Stadium, built at a cost of $260 million. It opened in 2014, and sits on 97 acres, adjacent to the Brazos River. This state-of-the-art athletic venue is an appropriate addition to the oldest continuously operating university in Texas. (Incidentally, it is interesting to note that famous revolutionary war leader and hero Sam Houston gave the first $5,000 donation to start Baylor University. Then, in 1854, Houston was baptized in the Brazos River, by a reverend, who would later become a President of Baylor University.)
McClane Stadium seats 45,000 spectators, and was designed by the same architects that produced the New York Yankees Stadium. The distinct band of yellow you see in the lower level represents the "Baylor Line". It is a made up of new Baylor students who wear special yellow football jerseys, which has a name on the front, and their intended graduation date on the back.
The "Baylor Line" is a tradition that started in 1970, with the yellow-jersey-clad freshmen rushing the field before the home football games. It was quite the sight to see, and seemed to produce an endless line of leaping/running/skipping enthusiastic freshmen!
Granddaughter Kaitlyn also ran onto the field (shown as the front cheerleader in this photo), but wearing her cheer uniform, rather than her freshman yellow jersey.
Since just weeks earlier, I had been at the Huntsville, Alabama Space and Rocket Center, where I learned a great deal about the International Space Station, I was absolutely amazed when a broadcast from the International Space Station appeared on the score board! It was the astronaut Robert Kimbrough, giving a greeting to all of the fans at the game (including his daughter, who is a Baylor student, as well!). He had a Baylor University official logo behind him inside the space station, and he was wearing his Baylor green shirt. At the end of his remarks, he did a 360 degree "flip" for Baylor! (Of course, it is considerably easier for him to do a flip in a no-gravity space capsule, than for Kaitlyn, and the other Baylor cheerleaders to perform their amazing flips here on earth!)
Kaitlyn is shown in this photo with the hand in the "open palm position", which is part of the traditional "Sic 'em Bears" rallying cheer.
When the game was over, and we exited the stadium, I was intrigued by the spectacular green lighting of the bridge, as it reflected over the Brazos River in Waco.
My next Baylor Bear Expedition took me to ATT Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. This photo shows grandson Jacob, in front of the goal posts, as we entered the famous athletic venue, minutes after the doors opened up. Several years ago, I toured the facility when it was still called "Cowboys Stadium", and wrote about it on this blog in a post called "Superbowl Expedition". Tours are still available, and you can go to their website ( www.attstadium.com ) to find out more information. I was there this time with my family to see granddaughter Kaitlyn cheer for the Baylor Bears, in their match with rival Texas Tech University.
When I took the tour over five years ago, I learned that the scoreboard, which goes from one twenty-yard line to the other twenty-yard line, was the largest high definition video screen ever erected. So I was SO EXCITED to see that the roaming cameraman put Jenny and I up on the big screen long enough for her husband to get a photo of us!
Bywatching that roaming cameraman, we were able to anticipate when he was going to put the Baylor cheerleaders on the big screen, as well! Seeing Kaitlyn there in this stadium that is famous for its cheerleaders, as well as its football players, made me extremely happy for her getting to have this opportunity!
When thegame was over, and we were leaving the ATT Stadium, I had a very thankful heart, for the wonderful experience of being part of this "Bear Expedition"! It occurred to me that I had a wonderful visual cue for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses. Colossians 3:13 tells us, "BEAR with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Perhaps there is no better place to see folks "Bear with each other" than a group of Baylor Bear fans! Being a part of that experience has given me "MILES OF SMILES"!
Author's Addendum: After I returned home from my visit to Baylor University in Waco, and the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza, I had a new appreciation for the ceramic angels Steve Hudson gave me when I was about ten years old, and we sat next to each other in our Fourth Grade class, in Central Elementary School, in Harrison, Arkansas. I distinctly remember when Steve walked into my parents' store (Home School Supply) carrying a gift-wrapped package for me, I ran and hid in the back, where he could not see me. (I was very timid back then!) After he left the premises, I came out of hiding, and opened the gift, which contained these angels. Now, he is WITH the angels in heaven, and these figurines are a reminder of a time long, long, long ago. Perhaps childhood "puppy love" never completely leaves your consciousness. I know this one will not.....