Here’s the thing about Boise: if you’ve read about how it’s been the fastest growing city in the US for three years running, and tons of big companies are moving there, bringing an influx of money and youth, and it’s a low-key progressive city in a historically hyper-conservative region and they have a great downtown bar scene with a ton of great breweries, well, to be honest, there’s good chance you could be a bit underwhelmed.
BUT… if you were unaware of all the above narratives and your only knowledge of the city is that it’s the capital of Idaho and there’s a big, blue football field… well then holy shit what a fun surprise this city is pretty cool!
Last Friday, a few of my friends and I met in beautiful, luxurious San Diego Airport Terminal 1 for a trip up to The City Of Trees. Fun geography fact: Boise is essentially straight north of San Diego! Just a 0.9587 Longitude difference! I find that interesting and I demand you do too. A two hour flight but a one hour timezone difference just to make things exotic.
Originally we were flying in Saturday mid-day for what would almost certainly be a standard 7:30 p.m. kickoff on The Blue. We were incorrect! Boise State got its first October daytime game in nearly a decade. That meant flying in a day earlier. All the more time to be reminded one thousand times that it’s pronounced “boy-see” and not “boy-zee”
It’s a relatively compact city, with Downtown (adjacent to BSU’s campus) just six miles from the airport. Myself and longtime
fellow sadness experiencer SDSU football travel partner @BartsNewGlasses checked ourselves in to the world-renown Boise Airport Motel 6. I’m happy to say our room key card worked at least one time out of every seven swipes!
We spent Friday evening Downtown. It was cold! I was in a t-shirt! Matt was in sandals! We looked like idiot tourists! It was fine. As the night went on we met up with our friends as well as a certain statistically-oriented local beer enjoyer. He asked Matt which podcast brother he is, then said he liked Taylor better, multiple times. (Matt’s brother is named Trevor.)
The night went as these nights generally go, so here is my final cognizant memory from Friday.
We woke up Saturday morning with aches in our heads and apprehension in our hearts. Personally, I don’t know any Aztec fans who picked us to win going into that game. Even the most optimistic among us figured Brett Rypien would tear our secondary apart and our offense would need to impose its will for us to have a chance. (Wrong and wrong.)
But before we get to the game, a little about our experience walking around town in Aztec gear beforehand:
The first thing you need to know about the city of Boise is the people.
They are genuinely nice in the stereotypical Midwestern way. Idaho is decidedly not in the Midwest but as someone who has lived in Southern California my whole life, I don’t know how to describe it other than they regularly make eye contact with strangers, and not in a challenging-them-to-a-fight sort of way.
That niceness applies to everyone, but ESPECIALLY to those they identify as a visitor. When they find out you’re an out-of-towner, they’ll drop everything to ask you when you came in, swear the weather was nicer last week and sincerely thank you for visiting.
I’m not going to lie, at first, this was tremendously disappointing. My favorite part of travelling to away games is being obnoxious and shouting back-and-forth with angry, delusional home fans. These damn Idahoans took that from me! Curse you and your passive aggressiveness that turned out to be just be authentic kindness.
There was one Lyft driver who, when we asked about the city’s rapid growth, casually bemoaned the transplants bringing their own culture here. (Yes, he said that like it was a bad thing.) Then mentioned a few other thinly-veiled xenophobic complaints before mentioning people in Boise USED to leave their doors unlocked. Barry from Garden City, essentially.
Anyway, other than that guy, the locals could not have been more friendly.
That being said, Albertsons Stadium suuuccckkksss. Opinions on the color of the turf aside, it’s a stadium that’s been Frankenstein’d together in a way that looks like four different people designed parts of it without taking to the other three.
I mean, look at this thing:
The main stands are weirdly far from the field because there used to be a track surrounding the field that they just painted gray. The south endzone (left) where we were sitting got permanent bleachers installed a few years ago, without any consideration for matching the rest of the stadium. Then the north end zone is full of what appears to be leftover high school bleachers. The concourses are insanely cramped and come with the same luxury amenities Balboa Stadium currently offers.
The private suites/press boxes seem very nice, but also just randomly hang 10 yards past the seats to the north. I assume there are grand plans to fill everything in in a way that makes sense, but right now, from an architectural aesthetic perspective, it’s just a damn mess.
I know SDCCU Stadium sucks ass, but AT LEAST WE SELL BEER AT THE CONCRETE TOMBSTONE, DAMMIT.
Then the game started. Did you see this? Did you hear about this? The team we like won! Read about it here.
We sat on the opposite side of the field from the main Aztec section, so seven of us screaming the fight song and other obnoxiousness as a black and red island in a sea of blue & orange stood out terribly. You wouldn’t fault their fans if they threw garbage at us or at least booed us until we sat down. Instead they chuckled along with us while I assume muttering polite yet vulgar obscenities toward Brett Rypien as he got an unintentional intentional grounding penalty.
One dude shouted something innocuous at our players like “Get off the field and go back to San Diego!” and another Boise fan immediately came up to us to apologize and say “Please let your friends and family know not everyone from Idaho is an asshole.” We were so taken aback all I could say in response was “If you ever come to a game in San Diego, please allow me to preemptively apologize for the way you are treated, because I assure you our fans are awful human trash compared to you folks. And I’m including myself.”
As the game ended and people were streaming out, at least half a dozen Boise fans asked to take pictures with us. They also let us know the stadium allowed fans on the field after the game. It was completely surreal and really squashed my desire to act like a gloating asshole.
Ok maybe not entirely.
Please enjoy the 1:27 mark of that video, where we freak out over having the kicker run by us and completely missed the coach and star pass-rusher.
The rest of the day was spent
enjoying what Boise has to offer sitting in sports bars, staring at our phones, hungry for more #CONTENT from the win, occasionally looking up to see Stanford get wrecked and have our Marquee Loss™ diminish before our eyes.
Matt and I stuck around on Sunday, enjoying a terrific brunch downtown and a lovely hike to Table Rock. Also Boise has a lot of breweries, but from my inside source, apparently most of them are bad, except for this one, which I can confirm was excellent.
That was all before 1 p.m., and we suddenly realized we probably should have just gone home that morning. Boise is a lovely city, but we pretty much ran out of things to do. Other than smugly walk around town wearing Aztec shirts, of course.
I will say this, their french fries are terrific. Their potato-centric pride is well deserved.
So thank you, Boise, for one of the most pleasant road game experiences I’ve ever had as an Aztec fan. We’ll probably see you again in December, hopefully in San Diego. I can’t promise I’ll try to return your graciousness, but I’ll try to try.