It’s so much more than just another football game. It’s a rite of passage. A tradition. An experience like no other.
It’s The Fair, Big Tex, Fletcher’s Corndogs, and the Golden Hat.
It’s coming down that tunnel and bursting into a horseshoe of the Sooner faithful, only to cross the 50 and hear the cheers turn to jeers as the crimson morphs into a horrid orangish-brown color.
The best moments in life overwhelm all the senses, leaving an indelible impression on the human brain that becomes an iconic memory to be replayed in the mind for years to come. The Red River Rivalry is one of those moments, indescribably rich not only in sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and textures, but also in heartfelt emotions, both in the participants and in the fans.
Once a year, on the second Saturday in October, two of the most iconic football programs in all the land clash, creating an experience that can never be duplicated. An experience that can only be described as the most unique rivalry In the United States of America.
Start ’em Young
I’ve made no qualms about it: I was brainwashed. As many know by know, my mom was a Sooner and her entire family is made up of Sooners, so I didn’t have much of a choice, even in Florida.
And like any good Sooner mother, my mom taught me to hate Texas.
As not much more than a toddler, I learned how to say three things: Jesus Loves Me, Boomer Sooner, and Texas Sucks.
I’m not sure that I learned them in that order.
So for me, I get it. This rivalry is special. Despite the distance, I grew up learning to hate Texas. As a kid, I woke up and donned my Rocky Calmus jersey and got ready to watch the game. As I grew (and as I realized I wasn’t going to be a linebacker), that Rocky Calmus jersey became a Tommie Harris jersey. I was glued to the TV when Roy went airborne. I threw a tantrum when Shipley took that kick to the house. The first and only OU game I ever attended (before my recruitment) was the 2007 OU/Texas game. We had a new quarterback that everyone was talking about named Sam Bradford. Demarco leapt over Joe Jon Finley and took one to the house. From birth, I wanted to be a Sooner. But from that 2007 game on, I wanted to play in THIS game. Five years later, I got my chance.
My Time with the Golden Hat
Beating Texas is a part of the responsibility that OU players have. It’s understood. It’s part of the job description, and it’s not negotiable. You have to beat Texas not just to cement your own legacy, but out of a sense of accountability to all those that came before you.
It’s not just for Rocky, Tommie, Roy, Sam, AD, Demarco, and the other stars of the Stoops era.
It’s the Boz, Keith Jackson, the Selmons, and Silver Shoes.
It’s Steve Owens, Clendon Thomas, and Billy Vessels.
But it’s not just for the names that you know, the names that line the walls of the museum and are emblazoned on pillars and plaques around the stadium. You have to beat Texas for all the guys names that you’ve never heard and never will hear. It’s a part of a bond that spans generations, transcending position, playing time, and accolades. Once a year, it’s all of us against all of them: Past, present, and future.
An acute sense of responsibility and legacy is what made last year’s debacle so incredibly painful. As a captain (particularly as the leader of the OL), I felt that I had failed personally. I did not have my team and my position group ready to play, and I myself did not set the example that I needed to. I had one job to do, and considering the quality of that particular Longhorn squad (compared to some of their impressive teams of past), my job wasn’t even that much to ask. Not entering the Cotton Bowl in THAT game with the utmost intensity and focus is unpardonable, but it happened under my watch. It was because of that miserable feeling, that unrelenting nausea over the next 48 hours, that the 2015 Sooners became Big 12 champions and CFP participants (the word participants disgusts me ugh). The Texas loss was burned so deep into our collective psyche that we called on it for motivation and aggression each game going forward. Understand that the same effect would not have happened if we had lost to Baylor, TCU, or Oklahoma St in the same embarrassing fashion. It was because it was Texas.
So it would seem that the Longhorn’s may have unintentionally aided our success, that maybe losing to Texas was actually a good thing. Let me shoot that down right here and there. No. Losing to Texas is never a good thing.
Now, I start a new journey alongside you: The fans. Today, I will grab myself a corndog and a beer, along with some other appalling deep fried abominations, and hopefully cheer the Sooners on to victory. I will cherish it all. The fair. The food. The atmosphere. But most of all, I will cherish the sad, sad looks on their faces when we plant the OU flag right in the middle of the Cotton Bowl logo. Don’t let the corndog adulation fool you, I’d much rather be in the fight.
I owe ’em one.