LARAMIE – Two great things occurred for UW redshirt freshman offensive lineman Blayne Baker on the field at War Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
The first, of course, is that the Cowboys defeated archrival Colorado State 17-7 in the 111th edition of the Border War. While celebrating on the field with his teammates and the Bronze Boot, graduate assistant Ryan Finck came up to Baker and showed him his phone. That’s when Baker learned about the second item.
During the first half of the game, which was broadcast nationally on ESPN2, cameras zoomed in on the Wyoming sideline. Baker, a Sheridan native, was assigned the duty of taking notes for offensive line coach Bart Miller and was seen chewing on a pen. From a certain angle, though, the innocuous act looked a bit more sinister.
The Twitter account for “Pardon My Take,” the popular sports podcast that sits at No. 1 on the iTunes charts, posted a picture of Baker chewing the pen and wrote, “When you need a hit, you need a hit.” Baker’s pen chewing looked extremely similar to someone taking a hit from an electronic cigarette, more popularly known as vaping. The picture went viral and has 11,700 likes and nearly 1,000 retweets.
Baker, who has listened to “Pardon My Take” from its inception in 2016, was not worried that people thought he was vaping. He couldn’t have been more excited. Rather than try to put out a fire, Baker played along with the ridiculousness.
“Coach Finck showed me and he’s like, ‘You’re living my dream. You’ve made it. You’ve arrived. I’m so happy for you,’” Baker recalled with a laugh. “It was pretty funny.”
Baker responded to the initial tweet by writing, “As a 2+ year AWL (Award Winning Listener), I am announcing that I have officially peaked as an athlete, thank you.” That tweet itself got another 11,200 likes; Baker said he is still getting notifications; because of the volume, he has had to turn them off, as they were slowing his phone down.
“I texted him right away to clear things up. But yeah, it’s not what it looked like,” sophomore wide receiver Gunner Gentry said with a smile. “Blayne’s a jokester. He kind of made fun of it, made light of the situation. … He said that he’s going to remember us all when he’s famous.”
Never one to take things too seriously, Baker has chosen to enjoy his moment in the spotlight.
“I needed to capitalize on the moment, obviously,” Baker said, with his tongue firmly in his cheek. “I tweeted it late Friday night … throughout the day (Saturday), I checked my phone every 10 minutes to have 1,000 more likes. I felt famous for a moment, a fleeting moment. … It was exciting.”
Now, he has had to explain to family and friends that, no, he was not vaping on the sideline during a college football game. He also said he got a strange request from an acquaintance asking if he was interested in his “fidget spinner vape” business (Baker has not replied). But if any Cowboys player was going to go viral with a ridiculous tweet, it almost certainly had to be Baker, according to redshirt junior defensive end Garrett Crall.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better dude … I mean, I knew it was a pen, but reasonably, it looks like what they thought it was,” Crall said. “He’s literally one of the funniest guys on the team. … He’s just dry humor. … I love that dude.”
Baker said his tweet response has garnered about 3,000,000 impressions. Rather than being something to run from, Baker has seen it as a huge opportunity, and not just for himself. If nothing else, a lot more people know about Wyoming football.
“Three million people have seen the Brown and Gold now, maybe for something that’s not as desirable as you want it to be,” Baker said. “But they’ve seen the Pokes and seen that we beat CSU. So that’s about all you can ask for.”
If there is any downside to the situation, it’s that Baker didn’t reach the highest peak of the mountain. Every
Monday, “Pardon My Take” announces nominees for Football Guy of the Week. It is given to the person (somewhat humorously) who best exemplifies the grit a football player is supposed to have. Among this week’s nominees were Texas head coach Tom Herman, who was seen headbutting helmeted players before a game without himself wearing one, and quarterback Nathan Mays from Youngstown State who, per Sports Illustrated, dislocated and broke his ankle earlier in the season and was helped onto the field to take the final snap on Senior Night.
Baker was not among this week’s nominees for the award. He admitted there were other great candidates, but, bearing his signature grin, said he was disappointed. Baker listened to Monday’s episode all the way through only to find out he wasn’t a subject of discussion.
“It hurt. It stung a little bit,” Baker said. “It was just fun to get some recognition even for something that was as dumb as chewing on a pen on the sideline on ESPN2.”