Rivalry Spans State Lines

By Beacon Staff

Just above the Mexican border in Yuma, Ariz., a crowd of sports fans decked out in Grizzly maroon and Bobcat blue and gold will pile into Famous Sam’s bar on Saturday morning to watch, as both comrades and rivals, what they know as the “big game.”

Nearly 4,000 miles north at the Peanut Farm in Anchorage, Alaska, and 2,000 miles east at the Seville Quarter in Pensacola, Fla., parties are being thrown for the same reason.

This year there will be nearly 70 satellite parties held nationwide to celebrate the 107th Cat-Griz meeting, one of the oldest rivalries in the country. The University of Montana Alumni Association and its Montana State University counterpart coordinate the parties every year. They contact alumni, or are contacted by alumni, in different areas across the country to make plans, find a location and then throw the bashes. Jodi Moreau, coordinator of the satellite parties for UM, said the gatherings range from small get-togethers to events that draw 400 or more like in Denver.

Bob Bonner throws perhaps the most famous Brawl of the Wild satellite party at his Torrey Pines Pub in Las Vegas. At every party, Bonner tries to recreate the atmosphere of Washington-Grizzly Stadium in all its noise and rhythm. When there’s a pause in the game, he plays the same songs a fan would hear at a Griz home game: “Eye of the Tiger,” John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” and the rest. He even has recordings of Washington-Grizzly PA announcer Peter Christian. If the Griz rumble 10 yards, Christian’s voice bellows through the bar’s speakers “First Down … Montana!”

This year will be Bonner’s wildest party yet, as he’s expecting at least 300 people. Some folks have contacted him to say they’ll be bringing parties of 25 or 30.

“It’s going to be big,” he said. “It’s my biggest party of the year.”

Bonner isn’t officially a UM alum, but the university gave him an honorary alumnus status for his continued support of Grizzly athletics. Bonner was introduced to the Grizzlies in 1992 by some Montana friends. He started watching Griz football then, even throwing his first satellite party that year, and has continued since because, he says, the Grizzlies keep winning. Montana recently won its 10th straight Big Sky championship.

“How could you not get sucked into that?” he said. “It’s kind of like you’re on a train that you don’t want to get off.”

“We’re riding it,” he added. “We’re not getting off this train.”

Over in Seattle there will be two parties, one at Sluggers Bar and Grill South and the other at Sluggers North in Kirkland. Eric Botterbusch, who graduated from UM in 1987, is organizing the northern party for the second straight year. While he says Sluggers doesn’t quite rival the size or hoopla of Bonner’s Las Vegas bash, Botterbusch says his crowd of 150 to 200 brings its share of vigorous partying. If for nothing else, he says, the group gathers to commemorate Montana. A lot of Montanans just want to connect with other Montanans, he said, and Cat-Griz is the perfect excuse to do so.

“As you’re walking around,” Botterbusch said, “you always hear conversations like, ‘You’re from Glasgow? My grandpa’s from Glasgow.’”

Botterbusch says one downfall of organizing the party is that he doesn’t get to watch the game as closely as he would like. But somebody’s got to be the host. He’ll watch the game closely enough, however, to know what’s going on and to see if his prediction comes true.

“I’m going with 31-17 Grizzlies,” he said.

University of Montana at Montana State University
107th Brawl of the Wild
Kickoff at 12:35 p.m. on Nov. 17, 2007