THE FESTIVITIES for the Kansas State--Oklahoma game in Norman start early on Saturday. The radio hosts set up near Memorial Stadium at 8 a.m. A homecoming parade cuts through campus, up Elm Avenue, right on Boyd Street, with not one but two floats decorated with fake palm trees, and another designed like an oil rig. A mascot zooms by on a skateboard, then tumbles. "It's O.K., Boomer," someone shouts.
There are coolers filled with beer and pumpkins gutted and stocked with liquor. There is a fan fest where Sooners supporters can snag photos with former running back Billy Sims, the horse that pulls the Sooner Schooner or Tre Wilcox of Top Chef.
As the 11 a.m. kickoff approaches, the masses—80,000 of them clad in crimson, the interlocked OU on everything from their bedazzled tops to cowboy hats and boots—head for the stadium. Boyd Street clears out, and the scalpers grow more desperate, as does the guy hawking the B----, I'M A SOONER T-shirts.
On their way to the game many pass Bizzell Memorial Library, a national historic landmark, and a series of conflicting signs. One reads: THE SPIRIT OF LEARNING IS A LASTING FRONTIER. THEN: TAILGATE LIKE A CHAMPION. THEN: NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES ALLOWED INSIDE THE LIBRARY.
The library itself, all five floors, is empty. Well, not entirely. There appeared to be four employees and four students inside, one of whom naps on a couch. A security guard plays video games on a computer.
Possibly the quietest inhabited public place in the state sits down the path from what might be the loudest. From one end of the Great Reading Room, near the oversized leather chairs and the coffee table stacked with books, the stadium is visible, every seat filled. Inside the library, the roars of the crowd easily drown out the hum of the air-conditioning and the occasional whisper of a librarian. There are no copiers running, no students shuffling among the stacks, no chairs squeaking on the linoleum floors. It's so exuberant outside and so still within that it almost seems like a joke, a setup, and that at any moment a group of students will jump from behind a bookshelf and shout, "Surprise!"
Just before kickoff, fireworks go off inside the stadium, but no one in the library seems to notice. Aldon Whitehead, a senior, is the only person in a large section on the ground floor. His table is covered: scone, half-eaten; coffee, half-empty; water bottle; laptop; class notes; thick genetics textbook. Page 445 deals with translocation events in chromosome pairing. Whitehead is majoring in premed and Russian and hopes to become a surgeon. He is from Madison, Ala., and his parents are pigskin fans. "I'm not against football, per se," he says. "I'm usually just too busy to go to games."
That makes Whitehead an anomaly, not just at Oklahoma, a school that claims seven national championships, but at almost any Power Five institution in the country. He's not surprised the library is empty. Most students have just finished midterms, and the Sooners are at home. Whitehead estimates that 10% of his fellow students ignore football. Maybe less.
At the start of the fourth quarter sophomores Rebecca Coker and Nancy Nguyen are diagramming layers around the heart. They're studying anatomy, and Monday is their game day: An 8:30 a.m. test awaits. They're not football fans. "I don't even know who we're playing," Coker says. "I just don't care."
That said, they can't escape the most popular sport on campus. Both have been to games. They know that Trevor Knight is the team's quarterback, Bob Stoops its coach. They also know tuition increased in recent years. They suspect that the plan to add seats to the stadium had something to do with that, no matter what school officials say.
The crowd roars again. Coker and Nguyen don't look up. They don't check the score on Twitter. They won't know when the Sooners have an extra point blocked or when Oklahoma's kicker misses a chip-shot field goal late in the game or when Kansas State claims a 31--30 upset that demolishes their school's national title hopes.
The library is both a short walk and another world away. The game ends. The stands empty. The streets and the bars and the restaurants fill. A handful of alumni stop by the library, husbands and wives and children in tow. They head downstairs, to the bathroom, then up to the exit.
Faces in the Crowd
Time between goals for the Rangers' Martin St. Louis and Rick Nash (left) in a 4--0 win over the Sharks on Sunday. It was the shortest 1--2 (without an empty-netter) in New York's 87-year history.
Number of regular-season series featuring the eventual World Series participants. The Yanks lost to the Braves (1999) and Phillies ('09), the Cards lost to the Tigers ('06) and the Red Sox fell to the Rockies ('07) in interleague play but won the World Series. The Yanks beat the Mets in the regular season and the Series in 2000. The Royals swept three from the Giants in August.
Career wins for Wisconsin-Whitewater coach Lance Leipold, who reached the milestone in 106 games with the Division III Warhawks, fastest in NCAA history.
Price of a Tom Ford blazer worn by Heat star Dwyane Wade—the most expensive item in a 240-piece collection from his personal wardrobe that he is selling at TheRealReal.com. All proceeds go to the Wade's World Foundation, a charity for at-risk kids.
Consecutive games to open the season with at least 100 yards rushing by the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray, the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat. He is on pace to become the eighth back to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.
ILLUSTRATION BY DARROW FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
SCOTT KANE/ICON SPORTSWIRE (NASH)
JARED SILBER/NHLI/GETTY IMAGES (ST. LOUIS)
BRUCE GIDLOW/UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER ATHLETICS (LEIPOLD)
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MURRAY)