This time last year, I was leaving the Cotton Bowl along with thousands of football fans who’d made the annual pilgrimage to watch the 106th Red River Rivalry, one of the highlights of the State Fair of Texas. While throngs of UT fans were making a beeline for the parking lot, dejected after their loss (a scene that was played out again today), I noticed many of the OU faithful heading straight for the fried food stands, eager to celebrate their victory by eating something—anything, everything—dipped in batter and dunked in hot oil. Naturally, I joined them. (Full disclosure: Although I am a native Texan and, thus, feel obligated to root for the home team even though I did not attend UT, my brother is a faithful OU alumnus, and I feel obligated to extend my unconditional sibling support even though he decided to go to school in Oklahoma. Plus, I went to school in Illinois, so I have no room to talk.) In between yells of “Boomer!,” the celebratory Sooners popped doughy balls of fried beer into their mouths and hoisted paper boats filled with golden Oreos into the air like they were brandishing the Golden Hat itself.

<p><img alt="" class="media-image attr__typeof__foaf:Image img__fid__35374 img__view_mode__media_original attr__format__media_original attr__field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]__ attr__field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]__" height="384" title="" typeof="foaf:Image" width="680" /></p> <p>It’s been an unlikely past few weeks for things that, until very recently, were on the margins of society. Since late June, we’ve seen the entire country rally around the U.S. Women’s National soccer team—World Cup champs 2015, <em>what!</em>—and many Americans celebrate the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling. And, crazy as it may seem, <em>those two things came together last week</em>. </p> <p>Houston Dash players Ella Masar and Erin McLeod announced on Twitter last week that they had tied the knot: </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">To my best friend, my love, my rock ... All my reasons ... Cheers to our next chapter <a href="">#lovelovelove</a> <a href=""></a></p> — Ella Masar (@emasar3) <a href="">July 8, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The love of my life said "I do"... <a href="">@emasar3</a> you are all my reasons- plus your initials don't change;) win win? <a href=""></a></p> — erin mcleod (@erinmcleod18) <a href="">July 8, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> <p>McLeod and Masar’s relationship serves as a bit of a mirror to the country’s own relationship with gay marriage in recent years. Only four years ago, <a href="" target="_blank">Masar penned a column for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ website</a> decrying the “ungodly lifestyles” of some of the women she encountered through the sport, specifically citing homosexuality. But like many Americans, Masar’s attitudes shifted as she began to better know the gay people she denounced—a process that included falling in love with McLeod. As she wrote in an essay for Pitchside Report, living as she is stopped seeming at odds with her faith once she met her now-wife: </p> <blockquote> <p>You see, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that I am deeply in love with Erin Katrina McLeod. Yes, I know, she is a woman. Yes, I hear you, it is wrong. Yes, I know, I am sinning. Yet, please tell me who can throw the first stone? [...]</p> <p>Trust me when I say, living in the “light” is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. It was the moment where I let go of my pain, of all of my anger. When I started to understand the power of true forgiveness. When I accepted all my mistakes, and finally took a hard look at the selfish human being that I had become.</p> <p>Every day I have to continually remind myself of who I am and who I want to be—who Jesus has called me to be and by loving Erin, who only reinforces that, you think she hinders it.</p> </blockquote> <p>It’s a sweet story, and one that demonstrates the capacity for people to grow and change. That’s an ability that’s led even the great state of Texas to recognize the union between Erin McLeod and Ella Masar. (It’s unclear where the wedding was held and whether their teammate Carli Lloyd attended the ceremony, or if she was still busy scoring on Japan.) We’re living in a country where women can make a living playing soccer <em>and</em> get married to their teammates. That’s not a sentence that would have made much sense even just a few years ago. </p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em>(Photograph via Erin Masar, Instagram)</em></a></p>

Two of my friends, one of whom had never been to Texas before, had flown in from Boston for the weekend, and I could see the cautious excitement on their faces as we ordered fried grilled-cheese sandwiches, fried mashed potatoes, and fried Coke. But it wasn’t long till I sensed the mood begin to shift. The thrill of victory seemed to be dwindling as the grease began to settle in the Sooners’ stomachs. Cheers no longer drowned out the din of midway games. Smiles began to droop, and instead of back-slapping total strangers just because they were wearing crimson T-shirts, the Sooners were now clutching their own extended bellies. Perhaps because we had paced ourselves better (or perhaps because our adrenaline levels weren’t surging with the smugness that comes with thrashing a hated rival), my friends and I pressed on, ordering fried Snickers, fried boudin balls, and a Fletcher’s Corny Dog, which has been described, rightfully, as “the magnum opus of fair food.”As the Sooners trudged to the exits, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sorry for them. They may have won the ballgame, but they had lost sight of an important truism: “Blessed are they who maintain intestinal fortitude, for true victory will be theirs.” The three of us pooled our remaining tickets to buy one last item: fried bubble gum, one of the year’s new delicacies. We each took one of the small pink balls drizzled with blue icing and Chiclets, and, on the count of three, bit into the goopy, squishy treat. Suddenly, I knew what defeat tasted like.

<a href=""><img src="" alt="" border="0"></a><br><span><span>HOUSTON: Barbecue Inn</span> <span><br>116 West Crosstimbers Street</span> <span><br>Houston, TX 77018</span> <span><br>713-695-8112</span> <span><br>Open Tues-Sat 10:30-9:30</span></span><br><br>We timed it just right to arrive in Houston just as the Barbecue Inn was opening. Despite its name, this joint is much more well known for their home cooking like chicken fried steak, fried shrimp, and fried chicken. But I was here for the BBQ.<br><br>This isn't the most beautiful part of town, but certainly doesn't feel dangerous in any way. As I left my car I was approached by a pan handler. I brushed him off and got a look of disdain reserved for folks like me who are exiting their Audis holding their fancy camera. I continued to the entrance and was quickly greeted by a hostess. This is a full service joint. While perusing the menu, the <a href="">Houston Foodie</a> (Chris Reid) arrived. He would be my intrepid guide for the day. His charge? To show me the best BBQ that Houston had to offer without wincing a bit from the overindulgence that was about to commence.<br><br>Chris is a pro in gluttony, so he understood that we needed to share plates even though we were both starving. Ribs are available as an appetizer, and a plate of brisket was very reasonable.<br><br><a href=""><img src="" alt="" border="0"></a><br><br>Brisket arrived covered in a thin tomatoey sauce with little depth of flavor. The fat was fully trimmed, and the slices were a bit dry, but the flavor of the unadulterated portions of beef was decent. Outside of a thick black crust, there was little smokiness.<br><br><a href=""><img src="" alt="" border="0"></a><br><br>A plate of St. Louis style ribs were much better. Seasoning heavy in black pepper helped create a nice crust on the meat. These bones were moist and tender, and the fat within the rib was nicely rendered. While the ribs also had little smoke, their flavor was very good. A plate of fried chicken ordered by my wife showed why they were so well known for their home cooking. The meat was moist, and the breading perfectly crisp. I'd have a hard time not ordering on my next trip.<br><br>Rating ***<br><a href=""><img alt="Barbecue Inn on Urbanspoon" src=""></a>

To this day, I still get a little queasy when thinking about the State Fair’s vast array of fried foods, which only get more outlandish every year, but they’re part of a Texas tradition that I won’t soon give up. So, who wants to bring me a fried bacon cinnamon roll?