A part of me is sad to see that Texas A&M continues to take steps to leave the Big XII. Of course, there are still some hurdles to clear. The Aggies still will likely need to find a partner in their journey to the SEC. And they still need to work through the maze of legal, financial, and political hurdles. But the announcement today clearly signals that they intend to do what it takes to leave the conference.
So what does this mean to us? It strongly suggests that the Texas / Texas A&M rivalry is unlikely to survive. I know it would be possible to keep it going as an out of conference affair, but I fear that too many bridges have been burned at this point between the two athletic departments. So I am starting to prepare myself for the end of the rivalry. And this makes me a little bit sad.
Why do we care so much about college sports? In my case, why do I care so much about Longhorn athletics, to the point where I spend a good chunk of my time and emotional capital on the fate of UT sports? I am, under most circumstances, a pretty reasonable and rational person. I have an education, a good job, a happy marriage, a brick house, and two dogs. I am a pretty normal dude. So why is it, in this one area of my life, that I am completely insane? Partly it is because through Longhorn athletics, I still maintain an emotional tie to my youth. And I am connected to a larger community, which includes all of you.
My wife has a pretty hard time understanding this. College athletics don't resonate with her; she went to a small private college in Michigan. She doesn't have this one thing -- Texas sports -- that we all share. She certainly has other memories and bits of nostalgia that tie her to her youth, but she doesn't have this one powerful thing. When I meet a fellow Longhorn, we are always going to have something to talk about and some common ground, even if we have no other common interests. Longhorn sports (and really, football mostly) create a basis that helps to sustain a community.
So it is with this backdrop that I will mourn the loss of our rivalry with Texas A&M. It will be this little loss of nostalgia every year -- memories of doing vodka shots at 10 AM in the dorms before the game, laughing at the cadets as they marched into the stands, and the time with my friends -- that will make me sad. No matter how many harsh words are said and no matter how many bridges are burned, I will remember the good times.
Texas A&M is not our biggest rival. But there is a different characteristic to the Longhorn / Aggie rivalry. I didn't grow up in Texas and left the state soon after graduation, but I always got the sense that the fact that so many Aggies and Longhorns had grown up together and worked together after graduation made the rivalry a bit more special. And a bit more fun, too.
So I am sad that the Longhorn / Aggie rivalry will likely soon come to an end. Longhorn athletics are a big part of what ties me together with graduates from 1980, 1990, and 2010. They help create the bond between me and an 18 year old kid I have never met who is living on the thirteenth floor of the Jester dormitory.
And today, that bond got a little weaker.