I am from Texas… and you know what that means? It means that I love football. Yes, I realize that this is just a social stereotype and not everyone from Texas loves football. But I would imagine that those that don’t, are in the minority. I sit here tonight watching the University of Texas play the University of Southern California for the first time since 2006, when Vince Young and the Longhorns beat Reggie Bush and the Trojans 41-38 in the Rose Bowl to win the National Championship. Today’s game is much more defense-heavy, with a score of 14-10 USC and 10 minutes to go in the fourth. Ahh, football.
My first experience with football was in the mid 90’s when the Dallas Cowboys won a bunch of Super Bowls right in a row. I was just a tween, but I knew who Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith were. I knew that Jimmy Johnson was a coach sent from Heaven and that when he and Jerry Jones had their falling out, the whole state mourned.
I went to a very large high school in South Texas with a very large football budget. We even had a very large marching band, which of course, I proudly marched in every Friday night. And although I didn’t actually play football, and I didn’t really even know how the game was played, I was part of the football machine. The stands were packed every weekend with thousands of football fans. The boys wanted to be football players. The girls wanted to be cheerleaders. Those who were good enough to make the football team wore their game day jerseys in class on Fridays, as did the cheerleaders. At a school with a strict dress code, I always thought it was ironic that they would allow cheerleaders to wear mini-skirts and bloomers to school all day. The quarterback was revered and he and the head cheerleader were always voted Homecoming King and Queen.
I was part of the band, which was decidedly “less cool” than anything involving the football team or the cheerleaders. But we had our own part. Our marching band was GRAND. Between the band and the color guard, there were at least 300 people on the field. We learned elaborate steps, maneuvers, and formations. We memorized music and marched for a solid 10 minutes during the halftime show, all while keeping our horns up, heads back, and toes high. The color guard danced around twirling colorful flags as the band members snaked in and out of elaborate formations. We practiced every day before school, after school, and for a solid two weeks every August. By the time we actually marched the entire show on the field, we knew the steps, counts, and notes in our sleep.
After high school, I went to college at Texas Tech University, home of the Masked Rider, the Matador, and Raider Red. College was a whole new football experience. Instead of several thousand, there were 50,000 people in the stands every Saturday. The campus was teeming with people all day leading up to game time and the student section was packed to the gills, no matter how bad the team was. Actually, Tech never had a bad team, but their teams were never great either. We had a few good wins though, occasionally defeating the likes of notorious rivals, the University of Texas and Texas A&M.
My first year at Tech, the quarterback was Kliff Kingsbury, and the team went 7-6. Of course, the Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma went 13-0 that season… but like I said, Tech was generally middle of the road. For those that follow college football, you might recognize that name – Kliff Kingsbury. He is now the head coach at Texas Tech… and one of the most stylish football coaches in the NCAA. Another notable player during that time was a receiver named Wes Welker. Again, if you follow football, you’ll recognize that name. I actually have a football with his signature on it (that’s a football nerd note, I get it).
The marching band at Tech was like the Weslaco Panther Corp on steroids. It was bigger, louder, and even more grand, which was hard to believe considering the amount of discipline we had as a high school marching band. The college experience gave me a whole new appreciation for the sport of football. It is not just a game or a sport… it is a following, a pasttime, and a way of life for those who play and for those who watch. And frankly, I am pumped to be here for yet another football season. I am now a Minnesota Vikings fan, being I live in Minnesota. So I leave you with one word… SKOL!