Q: Howdy from the sunny, hot, and humid desert of Qatar, where we are deployed with the U.S. Air Force. We are, respectively, proud graduates of Texas A&M and UT-Austin. (One of us, Brad Poronsky, was a member of UT’s 2005 National Championship football team.) With the Longhorns’ recent decision to follow the Aggies over to the SEC, we are anticipating the renewal of that great rivalry. But we’re also wondering what will become of all the Aggie-Longhorn friendships, such as ours, that were formed during the hiatus?
Patrick Buzzard and Major Bradley Poronsky, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar
A: From the slightly less sunny, hot, and humid surrounds of the Lone Star State, let the Texanist extend a howdy of his own. Thanks for the letter. And thanks, too, for your service. The Texanist has seen in the papers that your base has been awfully busy lately receiving an influx of evacuees from Afghanistan, so he appreciates y’all taking a moment away from your duties to write.
It’s a good question you’ve raised. In late July, when rumors that the Longhorns (along with Oklahoma’s Sooners) were entertaining plans to vacate the Big 12 Conference and join the Southeastern Conference began to swirl, the Texanist’s mind, like the mind of most every Texas-allegiant collegiate sports fan the world over, turned immediately to the historic rivalry between the state’s two flagship universities, which was torn asunder back in 2012 when the Aggies hightailed it from the Big 12 to the SEC. In the years since A&M fled, neither school has found a suitable replacement to fill the void left by the other’s absence. Nothing has even come close. Yes, the Red River Rivalry remains, but that game’s a whole different kettle of fish. It was apparent to anyone paying a lick of attention that the two schools—and their legions—needed each other. The eagerness among the fans of both teams to resume the battle has long been palpable. Members of the Texas Legislature have even jumped on the bandwagon a few times, proposing legislation that would have required the schools to play each other annually.
Then, in just a few days’ time, the rumors of the Longhorns’ move were confirmed, the SEC made formal invitations, and the invitations were formally accepted. Just like that, the deal was done. At long last, a decade of seemingly futile hopes were, in the blink of an eye, fulfilled. Of course, there are the necessary i’s and t’s that still have to be dotted and crossed and subjected to legal review, and the exact date and time for the big rekindling of sporting animosities is a ways off. But it’s official: “The greatest intrastate rivalry in the history of collegiate enmity,” as the Texanist so eloquently described it in a 2014 column, is back! Or will be back! At some point in the not-too-distant future! Definitely!
As y’all surely know, the Texas–Texas A&M rivalry, which kicked off in 1894, was an essential part of life for generations of Texans. Most everyone identified as either an Aggie or a Longhorn—and that even went for many people who didn’t attend either school. So at odds were the two institutions that their official fight songs, “Texas Fight” and the “Aggie War Hymn,” made direct prodding references to each other (“Texas fight, Texas fight / And it’s goodbye to A&M,” and “Goodbye to Texas University / So long to the orange and the white”). And so absolute was the loathing that neither institution saw fit to alter a single word after they stopped playing against each other nearly a decade ago.
Of course, intra-rivalry friendships, while somewhat rare, are not unheard of. The Texanist, an unabashed Longhorn booster, counts at least one Aggie among his closest friends, an association that well predates the cessation of the UT-A&M rivalry. Heck, one can even find siblings and spouses who have managed to bridge this particular gridiron gap. Those funny “House Divided” flags are unfurled for a reason, you know.
But the situation in which the two of you find yourselves, the situation that brought y’all to the Texanist from halfway around the world, is a twist on such relationships. Y’all’s bond, though forged during actual wartime, took place during the cease-fire between the two schools. The Texanist and his Aggie friend knew what they were getting into when they pledged their platonic troth to each other. Y’all, though, were just two guys who happened to have different alma maters when you became friends. You could just as easily have been alums of UT and Rice or A&M and the University of the Incarnate Word. But now that things are set to heat back up between your former academic homes, the world is suddenly a different place. What does the future hold for Patrick Buzzard and Major Poronsky? Are you destined to slowly grow estranged from each other, and to seethe with mutual detestation every fall?
The Texanist feels confident that your friendship is not, in fact, doomed to such a fate. It is his professional opinion that while collegiate rivalries tightly bond those who share in the strong mutual loathing of a hated opponent, there’s a similarly strong bond that can be formed between those who find themselves on different sides of a divide. Think of the Texanist and his own Aggie buddy, or Willie and Snoop Dogg, or the Texanist’s editor and the Texanist’s editor’s younger brother, who, if the Texanist understood the story correctly, spent their peculiar childhood sharing boxes of Oreos: one would eat only the cookie and one would eat only the cream, a difference in culinary preference that worked out just fine for them (if less so for the bean counters at Nabisco). The only requirement for making this sort of harmonious acrimony work is for the parties involved to want to make it work. In a word, it will take a little teamwork. And the fact that the two of you have banded together to email the Texanist and express your mutual concern leads him to think that there will be many years of acrimonious harmony in y’all’s future, hopefully culminating annually over a tasty, home-cooked Thanksgiving spread in the proximity of a large high-def television set.
After all, how could two Texans stranded in a sunny, hot, and humid desert eight thousand miles away from their former stomping grounds be anything but good buddies?
In short, let the Texanist just say, “Hook ’em, Horns!” And—this one’s for you, Mr. Buzzard—“Gig ’em, Ags!”
Have a question for the Texanist? He’s always available here. Be sure to tell him where you’re from.