I’m a Texas girl. That means several things: I say “y’all”, barbecue is a food group, pecan is pronounced “pe-cahn” not “pee-can” and I wait as anxiously for the beginning of college football season as I do for the temperature to drop below 100 degrees. I went to a Big 12 school and our Saturdays were faithfully dedicated to the careful preparation and jubilant execution of the perfect tailgate and/or cookout. Then, along with hundreds and hundreds of our closest friends, we would don whatever black or red attire we had, throw on some cowboy boots (unless you’re actually roping cattle, this is one of the few appropriate times to wear cowboy boots) and proceed to cheer for our beloved and much missed Pirate Coach (thanks James family), belittle the Ponies, antagonize the Bears, make fun of the Aggies and never let the Longhorns forget November 1, 2008.
We drove 300 miles to go to big games. We ordered special ESPN channels to get the games on TV. We packed bars, talked trash and fraternized with “enemy” friends at tailgates. We dressed up, threw impromptu victory parties, made up songs and did our utmost to live up to our reputation as trouble-making fans (which is less of an insult than you might imagine). We set up smokers, hauled coolers, propped up chairs and kicked-back. I’m guessing this is the drill at most football-loving schools.
The thread runs through all these time-honored traditions is the fans. And this is really all you need to know about college football.
It’s not about the greedy and corrupt BCS bigwigs (I’m beginning to think they may be related to the greedy and corrupt bigwigs currently operating in Washington). It’s not about ratings- although luring ESPN college Game Day to your campus garners you some serious bragging rights- it’s not about whose coach makes what and it’s not about 60-year-old men battling it out in a boardroom behind closed doors.
It’s the atmosphere, the spirit, the colors, the smells, the clothes, the weather, the food and the pride which culminates in the form of a college football fan. Fans fight, yell, argue, throw things, make signs and scream themselves hoarse. And they do it all for the guys wearing their colors. Except for a hot second in 2008, my alma mater hasn’t exactly been a football powerhouse. But that didn’t keep us from cheering like we were playing for the National Championship every Saturday.
Which is why I’m so flabbergasted by the absurdity of the Great A&M Exodus. Frankly, I’m embarrassed for them. They seem to have forgotten their lifeblood, the people who they play for: Fans. Do they play for money? Not unless they go to Miami. Do they play for scouts? Sure, but only a fraction of college players actually make it to the NFL. They play for the tradition of the game and for the fans who turn out in droves each weeks, dressed to the nines in school colors, fans who camp out for tickets, parents who drive cross-country and pay exorbitant prices for prime tailgate real estate. And I assume they play for each other.
So why all the hoopla? Because the schools are a bunch of overpaid, overblown, pantywaists who would sell their own mothers if they could make an extra buck. So dear, sweet, A&M, the baby brother forever left in Texas’ giant burnt-orange shadow: UT will always be UT. They will get the best recruits, the best endorsements and the most coverage of any other school in Texas. I resent it just as much as you do, Aggies, I went to Tech (wreck ’em!) It’s kind of like death and taxes…there’s only a few things that are certain, and that’s just one of them. So quit acting like the red-headed step child of the Big 12, pull your britches up and get over it.
The next time you find yourself in the bottom of the conference (a much stronger conference, I might add), remember the maroon-clad masses back at Kyle Filed and feel a little guilty that you bailed on your fans.