Cowboy football's all in the family


STILLWATER, Okla. -- David Sturgeon's three sons spent the better part of Saturday's first half against Oklahoma proving their undying obsession for Oklahoma State football by screaming, yelling and taunting the Sooners. But Dad wanted to take it a step further.

So, during a break in the game, he looked at Shane, Scott and Steven -- all Oklahoma State graduates -- and ordered, "Boys, get your tattoos out."

Almost in unison, the Sturgeons lifted their orange OSU football jerseys, exposed their right shoulder blades and revealed identical permanent tattoos of Pistol Pete, the Cowboys' mascot.

"They had a bit of a bonding session last year and did this to themselves," said Judy, their mother, as Dad looked on in approval. "I kinda like it."

If only that was it. If only that was as far as the Sturgeon family took its passion for Oklahoma State football. Instead, it's just the beginning. They might not be Oklahoma State's biggest fans, but the Sturgeons might be the most eccentric.

These are people who bring two jerseys to every game -- one for offense and one for defense. Depending on which unit is on the field, they switch back and forth. Underneath the jerseys they wear shirts, which they expose when the Cowboys pick up a first down. The fronts of the shirts read, "Good for an Oklahoma State" and on the backs it says "first down."

They are a family for which life is not black or white, but orange. Every day, Scott Sturgeon, the youngest of the three boys, wears an orange shirt. Orange underwear. Orange shoes. His sunglasses are orange. He showed up for Saturday's game at 5 p.m. Friday, tailgated all night and slept for 3 hours in the stadium parking lot in his orange truck.

"If you have an orange truck, it's pretty much a given that you have orange everything," Scott said. "I don't own anything else."

On the flip side, these are people who have such an overwhelming distaste for the rival Sooners that they avoid everything red.

Christmas stockings on the fireplace? Orange. Santa's suit? Orange. Apples? Oranges.

Red gift-wrapping? A red bow? "That's no gift," said Judy, wearing an orange boa while flashing an orange wallet. "That's coal."

Mom and Dad started this. David Sturgeon graduated from OSU in 1976. They put Pistol Pete on the boys' cribs, and dressed them up in little Thurman Thomas jerseys. Cheering for the Cowboys wasn't an option. It was an order.

"They never had a chance," Judy said. "Never had a chance."

For the past eight years, the Sturgeons have owned the front-row box on the 35-yard line behind the visitor's bench. They were there at the bottom, when a 6-0 Oklahoma State team drew just 38,000 for homecoming in 1997. And they were there Saturday, when 48,000 jam-packed fans sounded like 88,000.

"The biggest change in this place is the orange," said Scott, wearing an "Orange Power" Lance Armstrong-like bracelet. "Everybody wears orange. No gray, no black, no white. Orange."

The family has its hands all over OSU's game day. When middle son Steve was in college, he spent two years as Pistol Pete. Scott, who recently graduated from OSU's veterinary school, is known on Internet message boards as the "tailgating pimp."

Through the O-state.com bulletin boards, he organizes the largest on-campus pre- and post-game parking-lot party. Everyone's invited. On this particular day, some 250 fans mingle through, eating 280 Angus beef hot dogs, 150 biscuits, 50 pounds of gravy and 100 breakfast burritos.

Inside the stadium, the family quickly is gaining a reputation as the Robin Fickers of the Big 12. Ficker earned notoriety in the 1980s and 90s for his heckling of opposing benches at Washington Bullets games. The Sturgeons do the same from their front-row box.

On Saturday, they targeted Adrian Peterson, telling the Oklahoma freshman that he has fumbled seven times this year, but that the opposition won't be giving it back.

"Actually," Peterson said, turning around to face the family, "it's eight."

When Bob Stoops ripped off his headset and argued a call, they challenged Stoops to throw the headset. "Throw it, throw it, Bob. C'mon. Throw it," Dad yelled.

"I've got seven feet if he tosses it," Scott said. "You know he's gonna get good height."

Last week against Texas A&M, the Aggies tried to hold mini offensive-line gatherings below the Sturgeons. Didn't happen. And after the game, the A&M coach came up to the wall and thanked them. "He told us he was impressed -- that it's exactly what we're supposed to do as fans," Scott said. "That was cool to hear."

On this Saturday, Stoops never threw the headset, and the Cowboys missed a late field goal that could have sent the game to overtime. But deep down, it really didn't matter. The front-row box and prime tailgating spot might as well be the Sturgeons' dining room table, the way it brings them together.

"We wanna win, don't get me wrong," Scott said. "But win or lose, we're going to have a hell of a time anyway."

Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com.