If there’s one thing I learned from attending a football game between Texas and Oklahoma, it’s that OU sucks! If you are from Oklahoma, I sincerely apologize! If you have no idea what I am talking about, I’ll explain in a bit.
I don’t have anything at all against Oklahoma, it just so happened that I live in Austin and promised to do all things that a true Texan would do. Attending a college football game was number one recommendation from my Texan friends and readers.
By sheer accident, my first local game – and my first ever American football game for that matter – was the Red River Showdown, an annual game between the Texas Longhorns team of University of Texas (UT) and the Oklahoma Sooners team of University of Oklahoma (OU) played at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas.
The rivalry goes back to 1900 when the first game between the two teams was played. In the previous years the game was called the Red River Shootout, then the Red River Rivalry, until in 2014 it was renamed to the Red River Showdown. All the names originate from the Red River that forms part of the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma.
The Red River Showdown is always played in Dallas since it is the neutral ground, approximately halfway between Austin, Texas, home of UT, and Norman, Oklahoma, where OU is situated. Traditionally, it takes place during the third weekend of the State Fair of Texas that I had the luck of visiting just before the game. The two go hand in hand. First, you roam around the crowded fair and eat all things deep fried (including cakes, pickles, sandwiches, and even tea), then you cheer for your favorite team like there’s no tomorrow. All of that under violent sun that has no mercy on poor fans of fat and football.
Since this was not only my first UT game, but my first American football game ever, I had quite a few questions. First of which: 92 000 people watching a college game? What the what! As my beloved Liz Lemon would say. And that is only the amount of seats at the stadium that fully sold out. I am not counting people watching the game on TV.
Once again for my non-American readers: this game is not a professional football game and not even a part of a championship. Just you regular game between two college teams. In some American cities and states, college games are more popular than NFL games. There are people who never watch NFL, but wouldn’t miss a college game for the world.
My second question was “What the hell is going on?” Which is not surprising since until that day I had watched only one football game in my life – 2015 Super Bowl between New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. At the time I lived in New Hampshire. The main reason for watching the game was Tom Brady and not because he is a good player, duh! Since my focus throughout the game was on Brady’s butt in tight pants, I didn’t have much time to learn the rules. While I am on the subject of butts, can I just say that it is unfair how everyone makes fun of male ballet dancers and their tight pants, but football players in the same exact pants are the symbol of masculinity to all. Not cool, guys!
While standing in the midst of thousands of Longhorn fans screaming “Texas fight! Texas fight! Texaaaaaaaaaas fight!” I had to ask my friend Sara – in the most discreet manner possible – all kind of stupid questions like: Which one is the quarterback? Where is our gate? What do you mean there’s no gate? Where are all of them running? And where is the ball? I can’t see the ball!
Here’s something to give you an idea of how completely lost I was: I didn’t know that in the beginning of each try the ball is always passed to the quarterback first. I was looking at all the players at once, trying to figure out which one got the ball. No wonder, by the time I spotted the ball, all the players were in a big pile on top of each other.
Lastly, I couldn’t believe that with the tickets to the game starting at $135, none of the players are getting paid. The people who endure so much physical and mental pressure and are the reason for 92 000 fans to come out are not getting one cent from the millions made at this game. The coach, on the other hand, gets five to six million dollars a year, I’ve been told. Insert gasping in shock emoji here.
Despite all the questions, being in the midst of thousands of people dressed in burnt orange clothes and chanting “Texas fight!” was one hell of an experience. The thing is, even if you can’t identify the quarterback on the field, you still feel the energy of the stadium: hearts beating as one; oh! and ah! screamed in unison; and thousands of hands thrown in the air with Hook ‘em Horns sign.
What brings people together even better than the love for their team? That’s right, the hate for the opponent. After every “Texas fight!” comes “OU sucks!” Naïve, I thought that depending on the game, the name of the opponent changes in this simple chant. Turns out, whether UT plays with Arizona or Kentucky, the fans still scream “OU sucks!” The saying even became a part of household conversations. As in: “What time is it?” “It’s 11 o’clock and OU sucks!” I find it mean, but also hilarious.
There are certain things that I consider more American than anything else. Like eating pancakes in a diner, catching a movie in a drive-in theater, making pumpkin pie in fall, and watching a football game live. UT lost, but what does it matter when I got to paint a Longhorn sign on my forehead, jump from my seat in excitement with thousands of other people, and eat a pretzel that tasted like paper during half-time!
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Attending a UT game was part of my Becoming Texan series in which I do everything a true Texan should do, no matter how terrifying, awkward or impossible it may seem to a Russian girl. If you have any suggestions what I should do next, comment below!
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AUTHOR: YULIA DYUKOVA
Yulia is a Russian food and travel blogger who found home first in Sri Lanka for 3 years, then in Brazil for a year and is currently based in Austin, Texas. She is the kind of person who starts a research of the new country by googling “what to eat in…” instead of “what to visit in…” Yulia is a self-proclaimed “food nerd” who will spend hours reading on the origins of pecan pie before trying it and who doesn’t consider waiting in line of 50 people to get a cronut a waste of time. She finds it hard to keep her delicious findings to herself and that is the reason why this blog exists.