Die-hard Cowboy Fan tries to keep streak alive
Jim Gazzolo, Special to the American Press
Sept. 24, 1977, Jimmy Carter was president, gas prices were 62 cents a gallon and cable television was taking off nationwide.
It was also the last time Chris Buchanan sat at home while McNeese State played a football game.
“I was just out of college and I was broke,” Buchanan said. “I could not afford to pay for the trip.”
Since that loss at Eastern Michigan, he hasn’t missed a Cowboys game. He even traveled to Tarleton State in Stephenville, Texas, just outside Dallas for the first-ever McNeese spring game two weeks ago. That was the 500th consecutive Cowboys game he has attended.
“I didn’t start off trying to go to that many games,” said Buchanan, who graduated from McNeese in 1976. “I just liked going to the games.”
It started with his father, who moved to Lake Charles after World War II and became a fan of LaGrange High School’s team and McNeese. He passed that love along to his son, who hasn’t missed a beat in 45 seasons.
“It hasn’t always been easy getting to the games,” Buchanan said. “And I don’t know how it will be like the rest of this spring, with COVID restrictions, but I would like to try and get to them all.
“This is just something I enjoy doing. I’m not trying for any streak, I’m just a big fan of the school and its teams.”
Both his parents were as well. His dad, “Buck” even helped build the Cowboy Club while his mother was best known as the Cookie Lady for the goodies she would bake for fans and players alike.
“They were huge supporters of the Cowboys,” Buchanan said of his parents. “It made it great to spend time with them, and that was important. But you also got to know the team and you just become a fan.”
Buchanan has stayed close to the program even when he worked in New Orleans or now while living in Orange, Texas.
“It has just been a part of me,” he said. “I just enjoy it, being around other McNeese fans. It’s special.”
He has even passed it down a third generation, to his son, though he admits there is a big difference between the two.
“My son goes to the games, not all of them, but some,” Buchanan said. “He enjoys them, but he is not a fanatic like me.”
Buchanan said the game that sticks out most to him was a 1997 playoff victory at Delaware. It came during the Division I-AA national semifinals as McNeese won 23-21 on a last-second 31-yard field goal by Shonz Lafrenz.
“That was exciting, a great finish,” Buchanan said. “Nobody gave us a chance. Of course it was disappointing to lose the title game (to Youngstown State), but that game was thrilling.”
Buchanan remembers the emotional games, like the first one after losing his father or the first game back for the Cowboys after Hurricane Rita in 2005.
“Those games were tough, a lot going through your mind,” he said. “Very emotional.”
It will be no different Saturday when the Cowboys return home for the first time since Hurricanes Laura and Delta six months ago.
“I expect it will be very emotional,” Buchanan said. “But it will be great to see the campus coming back.
“I think it is really important for everyone to see that the school is bouncing back. We all want normalcy to return and I think sports is a big part of that.”
Cowboy Stadium will be far from perfect for the high noon kickoff against Incarnate Word. There will be no lights, not nearly the usual number of fans and some porta-potties may be replacing the actual rest rooms thanks to last week’s deep freeze. The school hopes all pipes will be repaired, but if not, the little blue personal bathrooms will add a fitting touch to all that has transpired.
One thing will be the same: Chris Buchanan will be on hand, just like he has been.
“I’m going to get there early,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
It’s good to know that through everything, some things we can always count on.
Special to the American Press