This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Fan Advice From the Texanist.”
Texanness and football fandom go together like tailgates and tailgating, contraband whiskey and boot flasks, hoos and rahs. At every level, from Pop Warner (who once lived on a ranch outside Wichita Falls) to high school to college to the NFL, following a particular team season after season, through giddy ups and heartbreaking downs, is a Texas birthright often practiced more like a solemn duty. Being able to properly undertake this charge calls for the ability to find optimism no matter the circumstance. And so, the Texanist, in pursuit of happiness and a better football experience for all, offers a little unsolicited advice to the patrons of these particular programs.
The following information is not intended for all football fans and may, depending on your vantage point, be taken with a grain of salt or, if necessary, a few grains of salt, a lime wedge, and a shot of tequila.
Sure, the rookie years of dominant offensive dynamos Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were impressive and all, but the Texanist is as certain as a chiltepin (the official state native pepper of Texas) is piquant that Cowboys Nation has been presented with an equally rare and exciting opportunity this season. Dallas, it turns out, has now been blessed with a first-round defensive end with the greatest nickname since Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, and Randy “The Manster” White roamed Texas Stadium. Rise, Dallas Cowboys fans the world over, and embrace the extraordinary chance to root for Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton. The Texanist happily offers this chant (which, by the way, sounds a lot like the Texanist’s home on Tex-Mex night): “Taco! Taco! Taco!”
Last year, the Texans went 9-7 (for the third season in a row) and captured the AFC South (for the second season in a row). And, even without injured three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Justin James Watt, had the best defense in the league. But still, with fifteen seasons in the rearview mirror, many a Texans fan can’t stop lamenting the fact that they didn’t draft Vince Young way back in 2006. The nascent Texans would have been a different team, they say, and we’d surely still be talking about the actual glorious VY era instead of the one that could have been. Alas, that ship, the Texanist keeps reminding his Texans fan friends (and himself), set sail a long, long time ago. The past is the past. The future of this franchise is a franchise quarterback, one whose name is Vince Young. Wait, did the Texanist just say Vince Young? Oops. He meant to say Deshaun Watson. Deshaun Watson is the franchise quarterback the Texans have been looking for. And now they have him. And J. J. Watt is back! Onward, Houston Texans.
University of Texas at Austin
Fan expectations are always lofty when it comes to Longhorn football. But optimism should be running exceptionally high across the Forty Acres these days, thanks to some big news in the head-coaching world: Oklahoma University’s Bob Stoops, the winningest coach in Sooner history, the guy who went 11-7 in his eighteen Red River Shootouts, announced his retirement back in June, for crying out loud. Oh, and there’s also a new sideline sheriff in Austin. Burnt Orange Nation, it’s time to put that customary umpteenth pregame sorrow-drowning beer down and get your horns up.
Texas A&M University
Remember when Texas was a place gloriously divided by the greatest intrastate rivalry the collegiate football world has ever known? The Texanist sure does. Man, those were the days. Unfortunately, that all came to a screeching halt when the Aggies departed the Big 12 for the SEC five years ago. There, they started strong in 2012, did okay in 2013, and have been fair to lackluster since. In fact, the Ags haven’t BTHO rivalry replacement LSU once since they ruined the Texanist’s favorite postprandial Thanksgiving tradition. Now, with the excitement of the move cooling and Coach Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat, Aggieland faces a difficult time. As a tide turner, and to keep spirits high, the Texanist recommends humping it like it’s never been humped before, which means more whooping from the upperclassmen, more hullabaloos, and, when it’s appropriate, extra caneck canecks.
First-year fresh-start head coach Matt Rhule, like all the Bears in Waco and beyond, is looking up from the rock bottom of college football. But after enduring controversy upon controversy upon controversy, Baylor football and its fraught followers, it would seem, are poised, hopefully, to go, fingers crossed, up, and not, knock on wood, down—which would be nearly, knock on wood again, impossible. Redemption, though, as wins out on the gridiron, is a thing hard earned. The Texanist, a hopeful sort himself, recommends, with three spits over his left shoulder, a dose of patience and a little bit of that old-time faith.
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
The UMHB Crusaders earned the first DIII national championship in school history by beating all comers last year. A perfect fifteen and oh! All is bright in Belton Town, which is also, by the way, the seat of the Texanist’s home county, Bell County. The Texanist would not touch a thing. Except maybe those pork ribs over at Miller’s Smokehouse. Damn, those things are good. Go Cru!
Texas Tech University
Put simply, without more wins than losses this season, there will likely be no kliffhanger (rimshot) with regard to Coach Kliff Kingsbury’s future in Lubbock. So, looking on the bright side, no matter which way the Red Raider football bounces this year, it will be entertaining to follow along. As the high drama on the High Plains unfolds, the Texanist suggests getting your guns up and, additionally, maybe getting a large popcorn.
The Owls won a total of three games (one of which was a one-point squeaker against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte) this past season. Thankfully for Rice fans, the Marching Owl Band, a.k.a. the MOB, known for its occasional astute satirical social commentary via clever formations and song-choice combinations (see last year’s game against the besieged Baylor Bears, when the MOB spelled out “IX” in a lampooning reference to the multiple Title IX lawsuits in which the school was embroiled because of the aforementioned controversies), continues to dominate most every time they take the field. Were the Texanist an Owl, he’d be looking forward to hoots at halftime and the pleasant fall weather.
Dear Old Temple High
The Texanist’s hometown high school Wildcats were runner-up 5A Division I state champs last year, losing to the Highland Park Scotties 16–7. All the way back to State again this year, Cats! And then return home as champions. Remember, “March on, all glorious. And may your colors, blue and white, be e’er victorious.”