The memory of that moment still sends chills down my spine; not for its emotional electricity so much as for my reflexive response to the arctic cold. On November 23rd, 2013, the temperature in Jonesboro never crept higher than 45º. By halftime, it felt like 0º sitting in the proletarian section of Centennial Bank Stadium – east side, second tier, steel bleachers that applied the frostbite right on your ass.
Red Wolves were down 17-7 at halftime to the Georgia State Panthers, a score that generated a cascade of frozen boos upon the snow-speckled turf. The Panthers, a recent call-up from literally nowhere, hadn’t won a game all season. Three of the Panthers’ defeats had been delivered by FCS teams. They fared no better against the FBS. The worst was a merciless murdering by #1 Alabama.
On the opposite sideline, the Red Wolves had won three conference games in a row, but the memory of a particularly aggravating 23-7 home loss to the Cajuns still gnawed on fans who hadn’t forgiven a blowout loss to Memphis earlier in the season. The team’s new head coach, the aloof Bryan Harsin, had already Twitter-blocked a majority of social media-active fans, and he wasn’t winning any friends on this bone-chilling day. Not with only seven points on the board.
“Boooo,” was the people’s judgement. “Booooo!”
It was so cold! My son and I shivered beneath an Arkansas State branded blanket, which we were fortunate enough to bring because we expected to be warmed by the volcanic glow of victory. This was not a game one should endure in person. Not at this torturous temperature. Not with this second-rate brand of football. I leaned over to my son, ready to ask him his thoughts on doing a halftime Judas shuffle back to car.
But that’s when A-State athletic director Terry Mohajir appeared onto the playing turf, clad in black winter clothes so that his white hair glowed with Mike Pence energy. Clutched in one gloved hand, a microphone. Who could guess the intentions of Mohajir? His mind was a fortune cookie. He spoke the language of pro wrestling. His mitochondria were actually microscopic monster trucks. For all we knew, he was about to lead the marching band in 20 minutes of jazzercise.
“Excuse me, everyone!” he announced over the PA, taking control of the crowd’s grumbling and grousing. “Your attention, please!”
Terry’s oratory style is a mix of poetry and madness.
My son and I leaned forward, not to hear better, but to catch a whiff of Mohajir’s supernatural heat. We were so cold. What follows is a paraphrase of Mohajir’s address to the people, as I doubt anyone took the trouble to chisel the actual content into a granite slab. In all honesty, the phrasing of his words fade within me with every passing year. But the sentiment remains.
“I know this score isn’t what you want,” declared Mohajir, pacing on the sideline like a jungle cat. “It’s not what I want either! But we need to get behind these guys! We need to win this game! AND WE CAN’T DO IT ALONE! When those boys return from the tunnel, show them that they have your support. We’re Red Wolves, damnit!“
We responded with magma-hot applause. Damn right we’re Red Wolves. We are Arkansas State! And (as I might have mentioned previously) we were very cold. I can barely feel my fingers typing this. That’s how cold it was.
Infused with Mohajir’s mystic steam, the Red Wolves rumbled back onto the field. The Panther’s opened the half with possession. Chris Stone knocked lose the pill and Sterling Young rolled 21 yards for the score. Red Wolves were back, baby!
I won’t go into how Georgia State refused to roll over, or how they nearly beat us, or any of that David Copperfield crap. I will assert that we would have ended the afternoon miserable losers had not Terry Mohajir taken to the field and pumped us full of his strange hyena energy.
On Thursday, a greatly improved version of the Panthers return to Centennial Bank Stadium. I hope that Terry Mohajir has a speech ready, just in case.