After a long wait, ESPN finally aired its 30 for 30 on Bill McCartney’s Colorado Buffaloes last night. “The Gospel According to Mac,” must have felt like a Hollywood story to those unfamiliar as it went through the endless storylines that populated the Buffs rise to dominance. But for one Buff, the stories were quite familiar, for one Buff it was “The Gospel According to Grandpa.”
“It was actually really fun watching it, just seeing my grandpa back in the day when he was coaching and stuff,” said Derek McCartney, the grandson of Bill and the son of Kristy McCartney. “I had heard a bunch of stories so a lot of the stories were familiar to me, but kind of hearing it again in that kind of way was really cool.”
With all of the controversy that surrounded that era of Colorado football—from player arrests to religious controversy to the story of Derek’s Mom and the late Sal Aunese and so on—you wouldn’t have blamed the McCartney family if they were a little nervous about the tone the documentary would take. But the film told a fair and balanced story, as they always do, and eventually left the family with a good taste in their mouth.
“Yeah, definitely,” Derek said of the family appreciating the film. “I think they did a good job of just showing the character of my mom and the character of my grandpa through all the trials and everything, my grandma, too. I thought they really portrayed my family in a positive way.”
While “DMac” watched the 30 for 30 at home with his childhood best friend, Coach Mac and Kristy took it in at Mac’s house with a few close friends of their own. As you would expect, though, they talked immediately after.
“I face-timed (my mom) and talked with her and my grandpa,” Derek said with a smile that he maintained throughout our interview. “It was really cool to get to talk to them about it.”
It came as a surprise to some that Derek was not included in the film, after all, like his half-brother TC who was profiled, he is also the son of Kristy and a former Buff (Shannon Clavelle, ’95), certainly a storyline that the film-makers could have pursued, but Derek himself wasn’t surprised.
“It was more of a story for my grandpa for his legacy here and stuff,” he explained. “I wasn’t expecting to be in it or anything.”
As for his favorite part, just grandpa being grandpa.
“It’s hard to say a favorite, there was a bunch of things I really liked, I guess just watching it with my best friend—my grandpa used to say a bunch of little things to us growing up and a bunch of those things were in there,” explained the latest part of the McCartney legacy. “We’d look at each other when he said things like somebody being a ‘shooting star,’ he always used to say that to us, so it was really fun to just hear that stuff. We’d look right at each other like, ‘Yep, that’s another one.’ It was just fun hearing all the things that grandpa says and being like, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that all the time.'”
High (and sometimes hilarious) activity on social media showed that Derek wasn’t the only Buff tuning into the latest piece of ESPN mastery, many of the current players gathered in the Colorado “team room” in the Champions Center to follow along.
“It’s cool for me, but it’s also cool for my teammates,” said the Buffs defensive end. “They’ve been coming up to me like, ‘I didn’t know all this about this and that!’ It’s a fun thing to talk about and fun to share my grandpa’s legacy with people.”
He feels the team was truly inspired by the portrayal of the once dominant Buffaloes.
“Honestly, I think so,” told McCartney. “I think just seeing how my grandpa was here and he brought the program back from when they were losing to winning, it just gives people more of a perspective that we can do it, you know?”
“They were really inspired by it, a lot of guys have talked to me about it,” added head coach Mike MacIntyre.
The inspiration has led the Buffs to call off one of their fancy new uniforms this week and instead wear their traditional look with gold helmets, black jerseys, and gold pants, an effort to “honor the legacy” in the words of Mike MacIntyre.
That legacy included a couple of wins over Stanford in the years outlined by the ESPN film, a 31-17 victory in 1987 and a thrilling 21-17 victory during their march to the national title in 1990. Both, of course, while donning the classic black and gold uniforms.
There couldn’t be a better ending to a great week for the McCartney family and the CU community than another win over the Cardinal in Folsom Field this weekend. Who knows, maybe the first chapter of the next great Colorado Football story.