After dinner I went to College Station to attend the UT/A&M game with Reed and his brother-in-law, Brian.
It was an ugly game, but a surprisingly good one in terms being an entertaining contest. Neither team played particularly well, but they both fought pretty hard. UT's offense, once again, had some significant problems, and A&M made some tough mistakes (especially in the second half) that UT was really able to capitalize on. It was a fun game. I know that it's easier to say that as a UT fan when the Horns walked away with a last second victory at Kyle Field, but it was a powerful experience, I think, no matter how you look at it. The fans at Kyle Field were extremely energetic and loud, and given the uncertainty about if and when this matchup will happen again (because of the A&M move to the SEC), there was a sense of something special happening before the game even started.
And I swear that even if Tucker had choked that last second field goal, I would have been very happy with that game because it just symbolized so many of the things that we've come to expect in a Texas-Texas A&M matchup:
Both teams have had sort of disappointing seasons, and both hoped to sort of relieve some of the pressure with their fan base by winning this crucial game.
The game was sort of ugly, and there were serious mistakes made by both sides, probably as a result of both nerves and the roar of the Aggie crowd during the game (A&M had turnover issues, but UT had a number of false starts, late hits, horse collars, and other damaging penalties).
The fans were way into the game. The jumbotron at Kyle Field reported that there were something like 88,000 people in attendance (I think it was their second highest attendance ever), and they were extremely enthusiastic. The student section cheers constantly- even through timeouts. Whenever UT had the ball, especially in the second half, the crowd was deafening.
The rivalry was fierce, but there was a certain undercurrent of affection and poignancy, I think, as well. The UT band spelled out a thank you message to A&M on the field during halftime, and the A&M band created the image of a longhorn- before promptly cutting the horns off of it. The A&M fans who sat around us were friendly with us, and after the game one of them even came up to Brian and I urge us to encourage all of our UT friends to try to help keep the rivalry alive.
|The Aggie band tries- really tries- to be nice to the Horns in return|
And it's just sort of impossible to imagine this rivalry coming to an end. UT has other rivalries, for sure, but the UT/A&M game is definitely family affair. Half of my high school went to A&M and half went to UT. Many, many families in Texas (including Reed's) have one kid who went to one school and another kid who went to the other. Lots of Longhorns are married to Aggies. UT teases A&M a lot, and it seems like almost every yell, chant, or song that A&M uses contains some sort of shot at UT in it, but when the bonfire tragedy happened in 1999, UT students were one of the first groups outside of College Station to set up prayer vigils and look for ways to help out. UT has other big rivalries, but I'm not sure I know three people who went to OU.
Anyway, I just think it would be a terrible shame if the fans got lost in the mix as big business college football (mostly meaning a bunch of politicians and bazillionaires) kill the rivalry with squabbles over television rights, conference memberships, ego, and money, money, money. Yeah, I know you can't get away from the money issue, and I know it's probably naive to think that these people can rise above their own pettiness, but the flip side of the equation is this: if the government were to outlaw college football and athletic scholarships tomorrow, if they made it so that college football couldn't be on TV, if they halted ticket sales, ended merchandising rights, and dismantled all of the athletic conferences... if all of these things happened tomorrow I still think that a couple of interested athletes from UT and a bunch of interested jocks from A&M would probably pick up a couple of footballs and go find themselves an empty field to play in so they could prove to one another who was best. And I think the first set of interested fans would show up about ten minutes after that.