College sports have a way of taking over our lives. Each year, I vow to remain calm, but each year I get more emotionally vested than the year before. Day-long tailgates, red-hot rivalries, logic-defying superstitions, post-game dances, post-loss depressions, pre-game butterflies, nail-biting anxieties–I have lived it all. I thought I was a real serious fan until I met Murray and Sharon Stinson.
Since the day they settled in Houston 35 years ago, Murray and Sharon have attended every single University of Houston Cougar football and basketball game–at home or away–except 8. Eight misses in 35 years! Yes, it makes for nearly 1,600 games! Whether the football team was 0-12 or 12-0, whether the basketball team was the famous Phi Slama Jama or filled with yet-to-be-proven new recruits, whether the game was in California on a Tuesday night or in Orlando on a Wednesday afternoon, or whether the weather was subzero or above 100°, they were at the game. They were simply there.
I sat next to them at my first Cougar basketball game in 2008. Murray was intense, but mostly quiet. Sharon, on the other hand, was animated, calling out players by name, yelling at referees, and signaling the crowd to make some noise. They knew every coach and cared for every player. They even knew all about the referees.
Since then, I saw them at every game and every Cougar sporting event. No bragging, no egos, no grandstanding, and no sideline coaching…they were at the games for the simple joy of the moment. In all of my years as president, which included major athletics decision points like recruiting an athletic director, a football coach, and a basketball coach, I never recall Murray or Sharon telling me what I should do or who I should hire.
Just like a rainbow, their support comes in different colors. They have endowed scholarships for student-athletes. Murray introduced the Helmet Buggy which runs on the field after every touchdown. On senior nights, Sharon bakes cupcakes for the entire team. They do so much and all of it for the simple joy of supporting their team.
During this time of March Madness, Murray and Sharon remind us that there is more to athletics than the few weeks of madness, that there is more to the games than winning or losing, that there is more to college sports than being a fair-weather fan.
Real madness is loving your school 1,600 times over!