Monday, November 19, 2012

Tradition: UT-vs-A&M (and TCU)

         For decades, a highlight of the football season in Texas is the Thanksgiving week matchup of the University of Texas Longhorn and the Texas A&M Aggies. Almost everyone in Texas takes a side in the game. For 118 years, it was the game that captured the attention of a state.

         When A&M moved to the SEC, the annual rivalry went with them.

         Rivalries play such an integral part of the sports. From high school, to college, to professional sports, rivalries provide a focus of the season – even a bad season. No matter how lop-sided the odds going into the game, fans pin hopes for the entire season on the one game. The winning side, not only the team, gets a full year of bragging rights to utter domination (no matter how close the score). Any winning margin is utter domination.

         The Texas-vs-A&M rivalry was so great, legend had the winning team getting a trip to the Chicken Ranch. Only Marvin Zindler (and a few hundred former football players) know the truth.

         Beyond bragging rights and non-NCAA sanctioned rewards, rivalries build communities like few other events other than disasters. Unlike disasters, the rivalry comes on a regular basis and only brings woe to the losing foe. With the UT and A&M rivalry, someone else wearing burnt-orange became an instant ally while those in anything else maroon became an instant foe. While some rivalries turn nasty, in most cases the taunting of friend and co-workers (and strangers on the street) who root for the wrong team (any team other than yours) is more jovial than serious.

         You do not REALLY want that to happen to their mother.

         With the flight of A&M to another conference, UT has to replace the Thanksgiving game with relative upstart TCU. TCU has had several very strong seasons, coming close to a national championship game; however, their overall history has not qualified them for big-league football. Though they joined the Big Twelve as a replacement for A&M, they are still not quite there.

         I guess if Baylor can be in the Big Twelve, then TCU can too.

         It will be a few years before the burnt-orange-vs-purple rivalry is as fierce as the burnt-orange-vs-maroon rivalry grew to be. At least in the interim we continue to have the Red River Rivalry between UT and OU. It creates its share of enthusiasm as an interstate rivalry, but never the passion within Texas as the intrastate game held.

         And I have yet to come up with a good anti-frog chant. Beat the frogs sounds more like a down under pest-control technique than a football cheer.

         And any reference to horny-toads just hearkens back to Chicken Ranch days.

         Maybe with enough anything-but-beer during the game all will be fine.



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