A thoughtful perspective on what it will mean to lose the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. --GoBR--
Tomorrow marks the 118th and (for now) final meeting of the Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies. A series that began in 1894 is coming to a close in bitter fashion. This will end one of the greatest geographical rivalries in sports. There are many out there who feel that losing this is no big deal. Unfortunately, I don't consider myself one of them.
That changed for me in 1999.
I've lived in the northeast for sixteen years now and being immediately removed from the Great State of Texas, my thoughts on this rivalry have evolved. Maybe I am getting older. Perhaps I am less of a "hater" (if I ever was one). I miss the rivalry and what it represents.
For many years, our Thanksgiving began with a football game amongst five friends that quickly grew to over twenty guys. It went from tackle to touch. We got older and slower. It took longer to recover. On those crisp Thanksgiving mornings, we were decked out in gear from our favorite teams. There were Longhorns and Aggies well represented as well as other schools from around the state. Sometimes, the best guys out there weren't those of us jawing about the upcoming game but rather the guys from Houston Baptist. It became our tradition. We'd go off to our family celebrations with many of those same allegiances and, on the years where the game was played on Thanksgiving, we'd wind down or up with the televised game to cap it all off. You could always tell when the Horns and Aggies were kicking off because the majority of the people in the house were checking their watches, hoping that the host or hostess would clue in to the fact that everyone wanted to watch the game.
At some point, those traditions ended and the spirited school rivalry kept on. Living at a distance, I had a hard time explaining the rivalry to people in the northeast but perhaps the Red Sox-Yankees analogy gave them the general idea. It doesn't really explain the rivalry though, does it? I feel much more vitriol towards OU than I have ever felt for A&M. I think the analogy explains the myth which is one of the biggest myths that we cling to and will not readily admit without introspection. It's the myth that became ultimately clear to me after the collapse of the A&M bonfire:
Alumni and fans of both schools love to portray that we are different and our rivalry is intense because of those differences, but we are not. We are, in fact, very much the same.
When you see people grieving (and I see a lot of that in my daily work) you realize the humanity of the situation and the things that you have in common. The idea that one school is a bunch of slack-jawed yokels rooting around in pigslop and the other is populated by sophisticated socialites who host private tea parties is simply the myth at play. Alabama and Auburn perpetuate those same stereotypes between them. I've been to College Station. It's nothing like Austin. That doesn't mean that the people are necessarily different. We all know family and friends who've gone to both schools. The mixture of the two populations in the real living world of Texas is deep. There are certainly families whose diplomas and allegiances are split right within the same household. I can't look at any group of friends from my high school or higher education days and not see both Longhorns and Aggies that I am tremendously fond of. They're friends and they're family.
I don't know who perpetuated the myth that we are different. Perhaps it's the same guy who originated "Aggie Jokes" or the guy who decided that a proper noun, "Texas", didn't deserve a capital "T". Maybe it's the guy who makes fun of the Corps or the guy who came up with the idea to invert the Horns. The truth is we all love our alma mater, hence the name. Maybe it's the fact that I am in a land where no collegiate football tradition persists whatsoever ("Collegiate Football Hell")...but I miss it. I miss their passion for their team as much as I miss the passion for the Horns. One of my friends posts her status on FB on Saturdays as she and her husband head out to Kyle Field and I realize she loves her team as much as I love mine (and perhaps she's had even less to cheer about than I have over the years). She posts her photos and shows her spirit which is tremendous; and it's exactly what I would be doing for my school.
What we are losing here is the bond that generations have shared for over a century and for all of our collective lives. It's bad enough to lose a game that was a focal point of a holiday weekend but I find it remarkably more objectionable that the circumstances of the split are what they are. The truth of the matter is that the alumni and fanbases at large had very little input into the proceedings on either side that have led to the demise of a tradition. No one in the Texas Exes ever sent me a questionnaire asking if I wanted a TV network or if I wanted to up and leave the conference. Perhaps some alumnus whose name is on a library got asked but it certainly wasn't asked of me. Whether it's the four-letter network or the "Class of the Stone Age" alumni in the burnt orange or maroon blazers, someone took this from us for their own reasons. On the Texas side, we can believe what we want about A&M's motivation and they ours but the truth of it is that we are all bystanders and dare I suggest victims in all of this. We can rationalize all we want that the game "isn't what it used to be" or that a dirty player or an irresponsible journalist inflamed the other side in poor taste but these are excuses and diversions from the truth. We are losing our sibling and no matter who was older, smarter, popular or better looking it should hurt. I have a little brother and I talk to him almost every day. There isn't a joke or story we don't find time to discuss and he's very much a part of me even though he used to irritate me by following me around when we were kids. Perhaps if the shoe were on the other foot, we would all behave as our counterparts are behaving but lets not lose sight of what we have really lost.
Perhaps it's only fitting that both teams limp into this game with injuries because it's yet again symbolic of the time. We are all going to lose a little something tomorrow when the clock shows 0:00 and we'll go our separate ways. I hope that it was worth it to someone because it certainly won't be for me. I will secretly and quietly wish my Aggie friends a quiet, whispered "Whoop" knowing that they're forging ahead to make their way in the SEC. I won't miss the knuckleheads but I will miss family. Y'all certainly may disagree with me but home just won't feel the same.