I am a lifelong Horns fan, but until yesterday, I had only been a fan from afar. In fact, despite my love for all things college football, the closest I had ever gotten to the field was covering West Texas A&M football for the student paper when I was in college.
Thursday morning, I sat at my desk at work, just desperately trying to will the clock to run faster. The biggest thing on my weekend agenda was my 4 year old's soccer games. That was until my wife called. "Wanna go to the game Saturday?" Well of course we were going to Austin's game, where else would we go?
No, she said, THE game. Texas-OU. The Red River Rivalry. I wondered how this could be. We live modestly in Amarillo, 5 1/2 hours drive from the Metroplex and a lot further form Austin. We have four kids, so fall isn't usually a time for us to have adventures. However, on this day, a former schoolfriend of my wife's was looking for someone to buy two tickets from her dad, who suddenly couldn't go.
I tried to do the fatherly thing and reject the offer in favor of the soccrer game, but this was a lifelong dream. Add this to my growing fear that the game won't be played at the Cotton Bowl much longer, and I felt that it was now or never.
In hours, we had borrowed money form mother and sister in law, arranged childcare, secured a rental car and a hotel room and bought the tickets. It was real, it was happening, we were going to the game. We found out that the man we bought the tickets from was a former OU player, so we had to deal with the fact that we were going to be a burnt orange island in a crimson sea, but it didn't matter, because we were going.
Friday was the longest day of work in history. How could I possibly be expected to provide quality customer service. All I really wanted to do was comtemplate all the goodies Brian Harsin had in store for the Land Thieves. (Little did I know that he would chose Saturday to channel his inner Greg Davis.) Finally, 5:30 rolled around. I darted out the door, got homee in time to meet the rental car guy. I thought that they'd never get the car ready for me. Back home for some last minute packing, gave the kids a kiss and set off for Dallas. It was 7:00.
Along the way, we stopped in Clarendon for Country Baskets. If you are a Dairy Queen fan, make it a point to stop at the one in Clarendon, TX, sometime. Best DQ ever. Stopped in Wichita Falls to top off and fill a prescription. Wichita Falls is an odd town to get around in in the middle of the night. By 1:00 Saturday morning, we pulled in to our hotel, right across the street from Six Flags. Sleep came tough, I couldn't stop imagining Jackson Jeffcoat descending on Landry Jones like a burnt orange tornado.
The 7:45 wake up call came about 20 minutes after I finally fell asleep (or so it seemed). A quick shower and then it was time to get ready for battle. I broke out a brand new pair of Reebok hightops for the game, along with my favorite denim cargo shorts and my burnt orange Major Applewhite jersey, which is starting to show it's age and may be out of luck. My favorite UT baseball hat topped it all off.
The drive to the stadium wasn't as bad as I feared. Most of the traffic veered off I-35 towards I-44, but I saw an exit for Commerce and took it. I knew Commerce would take us to the promised land. Drving along Commerce I saw the people flooding out of the hotels, a sea of humanity. Hot college girls in short dresses and boots, cute kids in little jerseys and face paint, old couples, families, young and old, black and white, all with the same destination we had. We finally fell in behind a black Escalade with two middle aged dudes in burnt orange polo shirts inside (we wife swears she knows the driver from someplace) and they led us in.
We paid $40 to park in a gas station parking lot (probably got screwed) and began our march towards destiny. As the throng moved slowly towards the Cotton Bowl gates, we both snapped pictures like crazy. Every so often, someone would shot out "Boomer" to which there would be a mixed reaction of "Sooner" and "OU Sucks". I shelled out $7 for a program and we finally worked our way into the storied venue. It took another fifteen minutes to work our way to our seats, but man what seats, section 36 row 36, just to the left of the tunnel. We were definitely in enemy territory, but no one hasseled us. We had barely sat down when someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was a guy in a crimson T shirt. He had two tickets on the Texas side and wanted to know if we would trade. Once we verified that the seats were also lower bowl and therefore a fairly even trade, we pulled the trigger. Minutes later, we were sitting 12 rows behind the UT band, so close to Bevo we could almost spit on him (not that we would.)
We settled in next to a woman from Denver named Stacy who comes every year and a teenage kid with a sticker that proclaimed the "Landy Jones has a dirty sanchez". Classic. In front of us, a guy seemed convinced that Bob Stoops has a Monica Lewinsky impersonation and he wanted to be Big Game Bob's audience.
As the game commenced, I learned many things. I learned that Fozzy Whittaker is really, really fast and very shifty. Probably our best back. I found that if you combine David Ash and Case McCoy, you've still got half a quarterback and that our Oline is really very bad. I learned that Landry Jones, dirty sanchez or not, is scary good and that Ryan Broyles is never going to graduate (I think he's a Highlander and he just keeps enrolling under different names)
Right after Case McCoy's second fumble got returned for a touchdown, Stacy beat a quick retreat. Not long after that, the guy who wanted to get to know Bob Stoops better gathered his granddaughter, who couldn't have been a day over 9, from underneath the bench where she had apparently been sleeping all day, and they hit the bricks too. We talked about leaving, but we paid $220 for the tickets with no idea of when or if we would ever get to come back. We stayed. As the game rolled on, we struck up a conversation with an older couple who had come all the way from Albany, NY to see the game. They were cool. We proudly saluted the team with the Hook'em Horns as they gathered right in front of us for The Eyes Of Texas. The game may have been a Red River Beatdown, but we had a blast. I was hoarse from yelling and we were both had Sooner Red sunburns, but it was so worth it.
The trip home wasn't without it's moments either. First we had to wade through Ranger fans and Taylor Swift fans to enjoy dinner at the Arlington Papasito's (we don't have on in Amarillo). Throw in two missed exits and a bitch of a rainstorm and you have a night to remember. We rolled back into Amarillo just before midnight, exhausted from the day's events It had been less than 24 hours since we had first pulled into Arlington. Our trip was done, but I now fear that I will never be able to enjoy football on TV again. The real thing is so much better.
We have made up our minds that we want to go back, but it will be a couple of years before we can make it back for OU. Maybe next year we can take the shorter drive to Lubbock to see them play Tech and I would love to catch a game at DKR. One thing is for sure, you have to keep your mind open to the possibilities. We did, and we had the greatest weekend ever.
I have to give special thanks to my wonderful wife, who put it all together in a matter of hours and made my dream come true. She is the best. Win or lose, Hook 'em forever.