It was late afternoon the day I accidentally killed my boss’s dog, so chances we’d ever work together again seemed remote.
My boss then, and my boss now, is Gene Lehmann, editor of this publication.
My victim’s name was Sweetie Pie, and she was a practically pure blue heeler/labrador blend who had been weathering increasing arthritis pain in this, her 105th dawg year.
I’m not proud of killing Gene’s dog. It wasn’t intentional. I loved Sweetie Pie almost as much as he did, and Gene loved that dog fiercely.
I tell this unpleasant story in the interest of full disclosure in an effort to come clean with my new neighbors here in Ada.
There’s more, unfortunately.
The night I killed Sweetie Pie was a night all of you will remember, too. There was a bowl game on television that night. The Oklahoma Sooners were involved.
Know this. I was born to love the Oklahoma Sooners. I grew from child to puberty watching Bud Wilkinson’s teams massacre all opponents. My reality was that I would die an old man before my team would ever lose a football game.
I remember hopping on my bicycle the day Notre Dame, the Darth Vader of college football, ruined my adolescence. After that 7-0 loss, I hurried downtown in Okemah to be with my friends.
It was kind of a practice death for the real thing. I stopped off at a Rexall Drug Store, tears streaming down my cheeks, rolling up to shocked old people standing outside, shaking their heads, sniffing, tears spreading on their faces. All were trying to get a peek at the black-and-white television inside, where the crowd had originated.
Anyway, I was hoping against hope that somehow the Irish would be caught with switchblades in their uniforms and be disqualified from victory. OU could then go after No. 48 and so on into adulthood.
I remained an OU fan into my adult years and beyond. In fact, even though living in Texas, I had never in all those years pulled for any team that dared to challenge my Sooners.
Until the night I killed Sweetie Pie.
If you’re wondering what all the black magic in the air was that night, the spell that made three low-percentage Boise State trick plays in the Fiesta Bowl work flawlessly in the last 1:07 of regulation and through the overtime period, I can tell you, it was the devil trying to get back at me.
He was furious for my having killed Sweetie Pie, so he thought to himself, what could be better than making this guy’s team lose to a mid-major in front of the entire nation, on, get this, three improbable trick plays?
What the devil didn’t know was that for the first time since being birthed by my mom, I switched loyalties that night.
For a six-year period in the '90s, I was in Boise serving time as sports editor for the Idaho Statesman.
Somewhere along the way, I was infected with Smurf Turf disease. It causes Boise fans to react in a berserk manner, and for opponents to sneer. “Football’s supposed to be played on green grass.”
Right, and also on blue turf.
So I strayed, what can I say? I knew players, coaches and athletic directors and what they had been through, and the chance to beat a great program like Oklahoma’s was too much to resist.
I am deeply sorry.
Before I could watch the magic (black, of course), I was seated on Gene’s couch, waiting to eat Gene’s steaks, when Sweetie Pie looked up at me with big, beautiful dawg eyes. I knew what she expected. I would massage behind her ears for hours at a time during football games, and then stroke her back until she went to sleep. Then she jumped into my lap.
The jump set off a terrible howl that put tears in everyone’s eyes, including Sweetie Pie’s. Gene had known he was going to have to put Sweetie Pie down soon, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it.
Now, there was no choice. Sweetie Pie had to make a visit to the vet to end the pain. It was horrible, as anyone who has ever had to put down a pet will testify.
It was also 30 minutes before kickoff.
Bad as I felt, I wondered silently if we were going to miss the game. As it turns out, we saw it all. Mourning didn’t end, but it did get postponed.
Before the night was over, you fans were mourning right along with three strangers down in Athens, Texas, for totally different reasons. But you had cheered mightily that night too, after a great Sooner comeback. (In the interest of full Lehmann disclosure, he did remain a Sooner loyalist throughout the evening).
It was a bittersweet night for us all, but I tell you there was something very strange in the air that night.
You know, and I know, if these two teams had played 10 more times, OU would probably have won nine of them.
I was happy to see the Broncos win for my friends back in Idaho, sad to see the Sooners lose, and heartbroken that Sweetie Pie had somehow been sacrificed to the heavens in all this mix.
So, several years later, when Gene asked me to come back to my home state of Oklahoma, I rushed right up. Soon as I got here, we settled down, without a dog, to see the Sooners get justice for ruining our childhoods against the hated Irish of Notre Dame.
Surely, this time after more than a half century of suffering, it would be our time, our luck, not the luck of the Irish.
Surely ...Yeah, surely.
Can we be friends now? I’ve tried to be honest with you.
If not, feel free to lie to me.
Art Lawler is a writer for The Ada News.