Not that we don’t love Friday nights and Sundays (and Mondays) too, but there’s nothing like Saturdays, especially here in Texas. From El Paso to Houston, we have, count ’em, ten major programs (and two more on the way), with rivalries as old and bitter as anyone’s, traditions as rich and fascinating as anyone’s, and teams as good as anyone’s. College football is unique—it’s better and faster than the high school game and less (for now) overrun with money and celebrity than the pro game. And the passion it excites from its fans is unlike anything else. Every fall, those fans gear up for what each one believes will be the best season ever, regardless of whether recruiting has been soft or the great quarterback from last year went to the NFL or the offensive line is full of overmatched sophomores. This is the joy (and madness) of being a sports fan—the way faith is renewed every year, the way hope springs eternal in the human breast (especially when it’s painted with school colors)—but it’s particularly true in college football, where the wins seem to mean that much more. So as the first kickoff approached, we compiled the following list of reasons to love the Aggies, Bears, Cougars, Horned Frogs, Longhorns, Mean Green, Miners, Mustangs, Owls, and Red Raiders this year, which we are absolutely sure will be the best one ever.
It’s the fans
All umpteen million of them, screaming and shouting and stomping and yelling and singing. And clapping and jumping and rooting …
Photograph by Randal Ford
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? If the Aggies and Longhorns face off in November without a single person in the stands to cheer, hiss, boo, or make that horse laughing sound, does the game exist? What would college football be without the fans? Not much more than a bunch of guys throwing a ball around. The game takes its greatness from the fact that so many people care so much about it. It’s the fans who convey the meaning, the true partisans, the ones who grew up wearing the colors, who save their money for season tickets, who plan their Saturdays around kickoff, who inherited their tailgating spot, who travel to away games, who cheer themselves hoarse during every quarter, who can tell you where they were for the past five bowl games their team played, who can sing their alma mater, who try to indoctrinate their children with team-branded onesies and bibs, who have way too many different clothes to choose from on game day, who obsessively listen to talk radio following a loss hoping for an explanation or gloat through the sports page the morning after a win, who have classic games on video, who have missed or rescheduled important life events because they interfered with a critical game, who know that it’s all in good fun but can’t help but stiffen a little bit when introduced, even many years after graduation, to someone who went to a rival school.
Texas is blessed with a lot of fans who fit most of that description. So when TEXAS MONTHLY sent out the call over Facebook and Twitter that we were looking for students from the state’s major colleges to appear in a photograph for our football issue, the response was predictably enthusiastic. Emails, tweets, and photos poured in from people bragging about their work as Longhorn Hellraisers and alums showing off pictures of their personalized license plates. Many hearts were broken during the scheduling process. One particularly zealous TCU fan (immortalized in a photo of him waving a Texas flag next to Coach Gary Patterson after 2009’s Clemson game) was in a wedding party and could not make it. To the cover shoot.
On the day of the shoot, our fans descended on Austin from all corners of the state to show off their pride and engage in a little close-range trash talk (we admit to taking a special delight in placing the A&M cadets right next to the burnt orange crew). Joshua Brito, a 21-year-old media advertising major at the University of Texas at El Paso, had driven straight from El Paso the night before in his dad’s UTEP-orange Hummer. “I’ve been going to Miner games since I was a kid,” says Brito, who’s holding a UTEP flag and wearing a priceless expression. “It’s something my family has done every fall. I felt honored to represent our school in the photograph.”
For the next four hours, as photographer Randal Ford (Texas A&M, class of 2004) snapped away, they jostled against one another, shouted, sang, argued about the upcoming season, and generally demonstrated why it is we love college football in Texas so much. It’s the fans. — BRIAN D. SWEANY
[Click here to watch a video of the fans in the photograph above singing their schools’ fight songs.]
Gary Patterson is Still Yelling at His Players.
Who cares if TCU went to the Rose Bowl last season and shocked the world? If the extremely intense coach of the Horned Frogs is going to keep his thrilling roll going, he’s got to keep! these! kids! focused! [Click here to read the story.]
The strange, Spirited World of Aggieland
No place has as extensive a set of game-day rituals as A&M. Here, a quick guide to as many as we could fit on this page. And oh yeah, see if you can find the four that are completely made up.
➧ The Twelfth Man
During a game, A&M students, collectively known as the Twelfth Man, remain standing throughout all four quarters. This tradition began with E. King Gill (right), who was pulled from the stands during the January 2, 1922, Dixie Classic after so many players fell to injuries that Coach Dana X. Bible became worried he wouldn’t have enough left to finish the game. Gill never got into the game, but Aggies in the student section have been standing ever since to demonstrate