I'm surprised no one has posted about the recent Texas Monthly cover story. I might have missed it, but also it's paywalled. Regardless, it's a pretty fair and measured discussion of a situation that has been neither fair nor measured. For those of you who are subscribers, you can find it here:
Without giving it all away, below are some highlights...
Loftin may have paused for a moment, gazing at these landmarks, to consider the magnitude of what he was about to do. Then he whipped out his iPhone and called a number he had programmed in the previous summer. It belonged to Mike Slive...
"Well, well," said Slive. "I was just thinking about you. I was sitting here on my porch in Birmingham with a cigar in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other, wondering if you might call."
I love that. Of course the SEC commissioner was sitting on his porch with cigar and whiskey. It's one of those stories that, even if it isn't true, it should be.
This month the Aggies and Longhorns will meet at Kyle Field for what will be, barring a miracle, their final Thanksgiving Day game, ending a ritual that most Texans figured was encoded in the state's DNA. "We'll play UT anytime, anyplace, in any sport," Loftin has said, but that appears more and more unlikely. "We didn't make this happen," UT athletics director DeLoss Dodds told me. "It's their decision. The rivalry has been wonderful, one of a handful of great rivalries. A&M wants to change the world, but it's not a world we would want to be changed."
Yet it goes even deeper than all that. The rural-urban dichotomy in our history has fostered a dual allegiance in the hearts of many Texans, a large proportion of whom are still only a generation or two removed from the farm or ranch. Even those of us who have no rural roots at all nonetheless embrace a notion of Texanness that simultaneously celebrates an unpretentious, hardscrabble, frontier past and a worldly, materialistic, urbane future. We are all country folk; we are all city folk. And so there is a little bit of Aggie in all of us: an embedded desire to bring down the smarty-pants of the world, coupled with a nagging fear that we will be revealed as unsophisticated bumpkins. And there is a little UT in all of us too: a (sometimes smug) satisfaction that we live in a place that matters and is rich and powerful. When the maroon and burnt orange clash on the football field (or the basketball court or the baseball diamond), sport becomes a metaphor for the warring forces within ourselves.
The rest I'll let y'all read for yourselves but let me speak for a moment for those of us who bleed orange (or maroon) and who are not Texans by birth, geography, nor circumstance.
That last block quote speaks to why the end of this series is a sad thing, and why it matters to the rest of the country. I was raised in Indiana, on Notre Dame football, in the 80's and 90's (also known in South Bend as the tail end of the Glory Years). College football in the state of Texas was not even on my radar until the Aggies played ND in the 1987 Cotton Bowl. I started noticing this team from College Station, who I was already sure I did not like, also happened to play a game during Thanksgiving break, against a team from Austin that had really cool uniforms.
Aside from a season here and there, these were fallow years for Texas football. There were no other reasons for me to watch the Horns play, except that they were on TV during a time when I was bored from hanging out with relatives, sleepy from turkey leftovers, and looking for any excuse to lie on the couch and watch a game.
A few years later, I went to UT. (Those were some pretty fallow years, too.) Some of my fondest memories are from A&M-Texas tilts, of Hex Rallies, and -- yes, I'll say it -- of hanging out with Aggies. I visited College Station. I met some great folks. One of 'em was even a Twelfth Man. I learned the history of the rivalry. I met a bunch of kind and decent people who just happen to have a completely different way of looking at the world than I do.
And now I am married and I have a child and I live many, many miles away from Texas. Yet I dress my baby daughter in Longhorn gear, watch every game, spend more time on BON than just about any other site, and subscribe to Texas Monthly. I am not a Texan and will never call myself one. But you folks who ARE Texans, please understand that you have something that the rest of the country respects, maybe envies a little bit... but most of all, we want to understand what it is that makes Texas the wonderful, crazy, spirited, wild state that it is. You can't tell the story of the state of Texas without both the Aggies and the Longhorns. You just can't. And now that story will no longer be told.
No one, at least that I've seen, knows who Texas will play next Thanksgiving. Ditto for the Aggies. Probably both schools will try to claim the spot, and it will lead to another fight. Well, I hope it's neither. Because those eyeballs should be earned. And neither school deserves to be in the national spotlight right now. A pox on both our houses.