Originally posted at PlaymakerOnline.com:
After following the Texas A&M women’s team down the stretch in regular season and throughout the NCAA Tournament, it was satisfying to see them win a national championship, not just as an employee of Playmaker Magazine (The Source for Sports in Texas!), but as a Texas sports fan that had many Aggie fans invested in the team.
Surprisingly, me and many of my friends got a lot of backlash for rooting for A&M during the championship game and feeling happy about their victory. Among the things I heard:
“No one can call themselves a Longhorn if they root for Texas A&M in any game.”
“No. No. Very mad at you right now.”
I was surprised to hear this because the teams weren’t playing each other, but it brings up an important aspect of the rivalry rarely discussed.
I grew up as a Texas Longhorns fan. I was on one side of a significant line that exists among college football fans in the state of Texas: Are you an Aggie or a Longhorn?
The University of Texas and Texas A&M play each other in many other sports throughout the year, but this is Texas. Really, the only game that matters and the only one that people will talk about for years is the college football game. It’s a big deal. So big that you’d think that the two teams and fans would truly hate each other but, surprisingly, that’s not the case.
We all grew up surrounded by Aggies and Longhorns. If one couldn’t be friends with the other, then the number of people that you could socialize with, do business with, spend any kind of time with, would be severely limited. You live with each other and develop a certain aspect of respect for the other. You mock each other before and after the game, but it never gets ugly. Often the first people I talk to after a game are my Aggie friends.
In 1998, I got to see history at the annual game. Ricky Williams was 63 yards away from breaking the record… and he did it in the 1st quarter. I still remember the atmosphere. It’s all anyone was talking about and several people sitting near us in the stands were listening to their radios just so we could know exactly how many more yards he needed. Luckily, Ricky pulled off one of the best record-breaking plays in history to leave no doubt.
Texas went on to win that game on a final-minute drive led by Major Applewhite. But what most people don’t remember is that the game was inconsequential in the Big 12 standings. The Aggies had already clinched the Big 12 South title and a trip to the Big 12 Championship to face Kansas State. I don’t know why I remember this, but I remember a message posted on the jumbotron and an announcement wishing Texas A&M luck in the Big 12 Championship game. Nobody booed the message. In fact, there was a lot of applause and I imagine that a lot of Longhorn fans were wishing the Aggies good luck as they left the stadium that day.
A week later, I was so sick wit the flu that I could barely move. My family had to take me to an all-night clinic I was feeling so bad. But, since we’re all college football fans, we were keeping track of the Big 12 Championship. Kansas State dominated most of the game, but then A&M started to come back. I remember pulling up to the house and finding the will to rush to a television inside, despite my aches and pains, to watch the Aggies try to pull off the upset. And I know there were a lot of Longhorn and Aggie fans that were cheering when they won on an unlikely touchdown in overtime.
The bonfire tragedy in 1999 made the game secondary and brought everyone together. Texas A&M won the game in College Station that year, but even Texas fans probably wouldn’t have had it any other way. No game Texas ever wins will mean as much as that win meant for Texas A&M. The outpouring of emotion and tears flowing from fans and players alike after that game will certainly never be forgotten when the history of this rivalry is told.
In 2005, I was surprised to see A&M show some support when Texas beat the Aggies on the way to playing in the national championship game. It might have been something else, though. Everybody seemed to be really sick of USC despite the Trojans splitting the national championship two years before.
My family spent a few days in Vegas before traveling to LA for the game. We were, of course, decked out in our Texas gear sporting our burnt orange and received universal support from everybody, especially UCLA fans.
The coolest sign of support was from an Aggie in the stands at the Rose Bowl. If you ever see anything burnt orange on a Texas A&M shirt, it’s usually Bevo with his horns sawed off. But this time, what I saw was a maroon shirt in support of the University of Texas that said, “Gig ‘em Horns, Today Only.”
Of course, Texas A&M felt plenty of satisfaction the next two years as the Aggies beat the Longhorns in back-to-back games.
I’d been to a few games at Kyle Field before the 2009 season, but never to one where Texas played. My opinion of Texas A&M fans hit an all-time high that Thanksgiving night. During the game, Deon Beasley was involved in a collision in which he and another Texas A&M player were down with injuries. But Beasley was down for a really long time. It turned out to be far less serious than what we could tell from the stands, but I was amazed at how the crowd reacted. As players on both teams went to their knees in prayer, the 12th Man fell silent, to the point where the only thing I could hear from my seat was the flags waving at the top of the stadium.
Texas won an exciting game that had plenty of scoring. With emotions running high on both sides, it was incredibly entertaining. I guess since it was the last home game of the season, they let fans down onto the field to take pictures and play around. My family seized the opportunity because it felt so old school, like the way they used to let fans leave through the outfield at the old Yankee Stadium back in the 1950′s. We had fun taking pictures and talking about the game. Even the Aggie fans felt good. A few Ags insisted on taking a picture with me. Afterwards, they wished us luck in the Big 12 Championship and expressed hope that we’d win another national championship.
So if Aggies can root for Longhorns in football, I personally don’t see anything wrong with Longhorn fans being happy for the Aggies and their latest national championship.
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