By Stephen Tsai
Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer
Where do Grizzlies sit?
Just about anywhere, it seems.
Last year, 8,000 Montana football fans made the 169-mile trek from Missoula, Mont., to Spokane, Wash., accounting for more than half the crowd in a victory over Eastern Washington. In 1999, 5,000 Montana fans crammed into cars, buses, vans and RVs for the 423-mile trip to Portland.
Saturday, more than 2,000 fans — they’ll be the ones in maroon singing, “Up With Montana” — will attend the college football game between Montana and Hawai’i at War Memorial Stadium on Maui.
“Griz fans are nuts,” Montana coach Joe Glenn said. “They’ll follow this team anywhere.”
In Missoula, a town with a population of 56,000, more than 500 vans and motor homes will line up at dawn for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Last year, the Grizzlies averaged 19,157 fans per home game — in the 18,845-seat Washington Grizzly Stadium.
The fans create a sea of maroon and silver. One fan brings a trumpet. Everybody else sings the school’s fight song after each Grizzly touchdown or field goal.
Across town, fans gather at Red’s Bar or The Press Box restaurant, which has 31 television sets, all tuned to the Grizzlies.
Gordie Fix, owner of The Press Box, said he receives telephone calls from as far away as Japan asking for the satellite coordinates for Montana telecasts.
Fans also pack sports bars in Phoenix and Las Vegas to watch the Grizzlies.
“There are a lot of things to do in Missoula,” Fix said. “We have great outdoor sports, skiing, lots of golf courses. But somehow, when the Griz play, we go, uh, crazy.”
After each road victory, the Montana players will turn to their fans and sing the school’s alma mater.
After home victories, many fans will jump into the Clark Fork River. After the Grizzlies won the Division I-AA national championship in 1995, about 50 fans withstood the 20-degree temperatures to jump into the river.
Chris Lynn, a Montana sophomore, started a Web site for Griz fans. The site features chat rooms, message boards, game information and jokes (usually aimed at arch-rival Montana State). Samples:
• How do you get a Montana State player off your porch? Pay him for the pizza.
• How many Montana State freshmen does it take to change a lightbulb? None. That’s a sophomore course at MSU.
• What do you get when you drive slowly through Bozeman? A degree from Montana State University.
“The fans here are amazing,” said Lynn, noting the Web site (egriz.com) receives more than 1,000 hits per day.
Griz Mania started with the completion of Washington Grizzly Stadium in 1986. Since then, the Grizzlies have won 87 percent of their games, and possession of season tickets have sparked fierce battles in divorce court.
Montana football “is a big deal here,” Fix said. “Even at bars, people act like they’re at a game. They’ll yell at the TV, flip off the ref. It can get pretty wild.”