Saturday will be strange for Joe and Neville Hancock. OU will play a football game at Owen Field, and the Hancocks won’t be there.
It’s happened before. But it’s been awhile. 1956, to be exact.
The Hancocks are publishers of the Hobart Democrat-Chief. Neville writes me from time to time, and for years I saw them at the Big Eight basketball tournament in Kansas City. Joe Hancock is the older brother of Bill Hancock, of Final Four and College Football Playoff fame.
I met the Hancocks’ son, Todd, 30something years ago, when he was an OU student working in the sports information office. Now Todd is the long-time editor of the Democrat-Chief, and Todd sent me an interesting email Thursday.
“Sending this just as personal stuff because Mom and Dad think a lot of you. Dad hasn’t missed an OU home game since 1956 but won’t be able to go any more because of his health. He never missed a game, even in the Blake years. He was in the Army Reserves but never missed because he was the CO and got to set the weekends! Anyway, here’s what he wrote about it.”
And following was a link to the Democrat-Chief page that contained Joe Hancock’s column.
Under “Our Opinion,” Hancock’s “Chiefly Speaking” sported a headline that read “It’s a Big Weekend for Us!”, followed by this column.
“This is an important weekend in our lives!
“First off, Monday, Sept. 1, is our wedding anniversary. That marks 64 years of marriage to the same wonderful woman.
“In some ways it seems such a short time. In other ways that’s a long time ago.
“We had our first date on March 28, ’48, 21/2 years later we married in the First United Methodist Church, Hobart. Guess it must have taken case we’ve been together for a long time.
“We’ve done a lot of things and we’ve done them together and I believe that’s the secret. We enjoy the same things, like to go to the same places, like the same music and relish the same food.
“We’ve done a lot of things together. We were stationed in Germany for 20 months. We took lots of day trips but Second Lieutenants are on a tight budget so leave time was scarce.
“We toured France, Holland and Belgium and Bastogne where the famous word ‘Nuts’ was the answer to a surrender demand.
“We spent a couple of days in Paris and visited the Moulin Rouge and enjoyed an evening at the Follies Bergere. We walked around the Eiffel Tower and drove around the French Riviera.
“We visited Rome and Switzerland. We lived for a short time with a German family in Mannheim, Germany.
“We’ve seen 11 or 12 Final Fours. We’ve attended conferences in Washington, D.C and toured the White House several times, including beautiful cocktail parties.
“We’ve been to football bowl games, too.
“We both love football, the Hobart Bearcats and the Oklahoma Sooners.
“This Saturday will be different for me! I’m gonna miss a Sooner home game for the first time since the 1956 season. That’s 58 years of watching the Sooners play at home.
“Neville missed some of those earlier games since we didn’t have an extra ticket and my mother didn’t want to give up hers.
“Many times during those early years I drove Louie Thompson, Leonard Portwood and M.B. Fanning to the games. The trip over there was almost as much fun as the game itself.
“SH 9 wasn’t the best road in the state either. Getting through Mountain View was a real obstacle. The Main Street was packed with cars parked down the middle of the street.
“We tried to find a way around town but it was impossible. We just had to fight that traffic.
“We made several away games. Our first away game, except the annual bash in Dallas for OU-Texas, was to watch the Sooners beat Ohio State in 1977. We took a charter flight to Columbus.
“We had terrible seats, in folding chairs on the field directly under the goal post. Except that was the end Uwe von Schamann kicked that winning field goal near the end of the game. We saw it first. We called it good even before the referee.
“We decided we’d like to visit every conference stadium and did. Now, however, they’ve added West Virginia and we won’t go to Morgantown.
“Our favorite away stadium was Iowa State with Nebraska a close second.
“We’ve seen lots of great games in Memorial Stadium. We’ve celebrated some great wins and some disappointing losses.
“We watched the loss to Nebraska in the Game of the Century in 1971 and the last-second 16-13 loss to Oklahoma State in 2001. We were on hand when the Sooners beat a highly-ranked Texas Tech team 65-21 in 2008.
“That Tech was as excited as I’ve ever seen the Sooner fans. They danced to that tune ‘Jump Around’ for much of the second half.
“For the last several years we’ve had wonderful seats. We parked in the Asp Avenue garage and on the Santee Lounge level.
“It was only a short walk into the lounge and we sat in the window overlooking the stadium. We ate in the lounge before games.
“Most times we sat in the stadium with only one step down to our seats. We were under the deck and out of the weather.
“It was a great experience, but the years and bad lungs prevent me from going anymore. We’ll watch it from the living room. Quicker trip home.
“Plan on our kids using the tickets for this season and they’ll have to decide what they want to do in the future. But I hope we’ve taught them right and they’ll continue to be Sooner fans.”
What a great story from some of my favorite people from one of my favorite places.