COLUMBIA — My head pounded, sweat poured off my forehead and I could feel the Supreme Sicilian sandwich from Schnucks that I had wolfed down before the game.
The plan was to spend the first half with Joan Beard, who operates one of the stadium’s elevators. I ended up giving up with just less than seven minutes remaining in the first quarter.
We made 22 trips up and down the five floors.
I saw Chancellor Brady Deaton, a family of five Colorado fans and every imaginable attempt to make the tiger stripe fashionable.
At first, the elevator wasn’t so bad. Friendly faces crammed into the poorly ventilated cab on our first ride up. It felt like the 12 of us were in a human game of Tetris, but everyone was happy to play.
We stalled on the lobby level until a stubby man in front shifted his shoulders the opposite direction.
“It’s a very sensitive door,” Beard said as it finally closed.
I’ve never considered myself to be claustrophobic. As a little kid, I remember squeezing into empty cabinets during games of hide-and-go-seek and feeling very comfortable.
My mind has changed.
I think it was the overwhelmingly thick stench of perfume that got me on Saturday. It smelled fruity, flowery and like an old lady all at once.
“Have they kicked off yet?” Beard asked as I stared down at the black-and-gold tiled floor.
I had heard a minute or so before that they had, but that was all I caught from the muffled radio broadcast on the elevator’s speakers. We were about 20 steps away from watching live with 62,965 others, but it was impossible to actually follow the game with all the chatter.
When the doors opened to the fifth floor on our 12th trip, the echo of an “M-I-Z, Z-O-U” chant reminded us that we were at a college football game, not the inside cabin of a rocky sailboat.
“I wish I had a stool,” Beard said on our way down, after the elevator emptied.
By the 18th trip, Colorado was on its second drive, and the elevator crowds were getting lighter. With only seven people riding, there was enough room for everyone to breathe their own air.
The PA announcer’s deep voice bellowed by the closing doors on the fourth floor.
“Ball on their own one-yard line,” he said.
I shifted my focus to the radio call because we were trapped again.
“If it’s intentional grounding in the end zone, it’ll be a safety.”
The three passengers looked at each other with the same What-the-heck-just-happened face.
The cab came to a smooth stop on the fifth floor, and the doors opened.
“Intentional grounding,” announced the ref with a southern twang.
The passengers stepped out, the elevator headed down and the silenced roar of the crowd made its way inside the shaft.
We might not have been able to see the game, but we were still at it.