Football in Texas…or Wherever You Are

My late father was a Methodist minister. When he was in seminary, he did a student preaching stint. He served two small churches in North Texas, Palmer and Bristol. To give you an idea of where these itty bitty towns are (Palmer is small; Bristol is smaller), they are about thirty miles from Dallas. And to say Dallas means…THE COWBOYS, or what I refer to as “The Evil Empire of Football” (there is an Evil Empire of Baseball, the Yankees, but that’s a story for another time). Dad’s part in this story will come in a little while. Be patient.

The Cowboys stopped being the Cowboys for me when you know who bought the team and fired Tom Landry. Then they became more like the Jailbirds (and still are, given some of their players’ propensity for getting into trouble). They won those Super Bowls with the Triplets (really?! They couldn’t find a better nickname than that?), and they also became obnoxious. Of course, now there’s Jerry’s World, which I have vowed to never set foot in (even if my beloved Redskins are playing there). But let’s start at the beginning.

We all look forward to August. Football season: high school, college, pro. If you want to know where I am on Saturdays and Sundays, look no further than my living room. The big screen is on, flipping back and forth between channels to catch a game. Sundays, same deal. Friday nights, I’m still in the living room, but on the computer, checking the scores of the local teams.

Now, I know this is played out all over the country. But there’s something different about football in Texas. It’s a religion all its own. Friday Night Lights, the TV series and movie, gave you a general idea of what it’s like. You have to experience for yourself. Lines are drawn, even in the same household. The rivalries are fierce. Where I used to live in Texas, it was the Battle of 287…Waxahachie vs. Ennis. Just saying “Ennis” in town during football season can cause hissing and growling, fists pounding on whatever surface is handy. DeSoto vs Lancaster – same response. Odessa Permian vs anyone…that’s a whole ‘nother level of hatred right there.

 

I lived in Waxahachie, about a mile from the stadium. The lights you see above lit up my neighborhood, and if you were in just the right spot, you could hear the P.A. announcer. Every once in a while, you could hear cheers. Friday afternoon routine: check the football schedule. If they’re playing out of town, you can obviously travel anywhere near the stadium and the main drag. Home game, run your errands in the morning, and don’t leave home again until Saturday morning if you aren’t going to the game. If the game was going well, the lights were on a little longer. If the game wasn’t going our way, the lights went out early. Is there tailgating? Sometimes. Not so much for high school games…

Which brings us to Saturday. Most people root for the Longhorns, God knows why. Being an alumni of the Texas A&M system (Go Buffs! West Texas A&M; my ex graduated from Texas A&M-Commerce, but alas, he roots for the Longhorns, poor delusional man), I root for the Aggies. However, we are close enough to Oklahoma that there are plenty of Sooner fans in the area as well. Frankly, I root for ANYONE who is playing against the Longhorns. Baylor is about an hour and a half from Waxa; SMU and TCU are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Major tailgating is involved on Saturdays. Follow your nose to the wonderful smells that permeate the parking lots of these college stadiums.

 

I have had the pleasure of spending a few Saturdays in Death Valley in Clemson, watching the Tigers play. To this day, I hate Florida State. Rotten bleep bleeps. Curse you, Bowden! Sorry, flashback there. The crowds were intense; the yelling and screaming deafening. It was exciting, thrilling and something I would love to do again some day.

But there is not a rivalry more intense than Oklahoma/Texas. Red River Saturday. If you aren’t going to the game, you stay away from I-35, because all the Longhorn/Sooner fans are on that interstate. Stay out of Dallas if you aren’t going to the game. Stay home and watch it. Tailgate in the backyard. Yell and curse at the TV to your heart’s delight. Then text your loser Longhorn friends to give them grief when they get their butts kicked.

Ah, Sunday. Time for the big boys to play. This is where things get really intense. I do not know how I have managed it, but every guy I have ever been involved with has been a *shudders* Cowboys fan. I have two teams, one in the NFC (Redskins), one in the AFC (Steelers). Both seriously hated by Cowboy fans everywhere. My dad even rooted for the Cowboys for a while. On the Sundays when they played the Redskins, I was allowed to either sit on the floor or the fireplace ledge. “The furniture is only for Cowboys fans,” he told me. He was serious.

The year Denver met Washington in the Super Bowl, I was living on my own. End of the first quarter, he called me. “How ’bout them Broncos?!”  he laughed (Score was 10-0). I hung up on him. End of the second quarter, I called him. “How ’bout them Redskins!!!” (Score was 35-10; final score was 42-10). He hung up on me.

Cowboy fans are a special breed. They take their football very seriously. If the game starts at noon, they will be sitting in their recliners, ready to yell at the refs. This brings me back to the beginning and Dad’s part in this post.

He was doing his student preaching in Palmer. There was a gentleman in the church who sat on the big committees, but he was the sweetest man I ever met. When Dad started his job there, James had a chat with him. “Jim,” he said, “I think it’s great that you’re here, but you need to make sure that the service is over before noon on Sunday. If your sermon is running long, I will get up and leave.”

Dad was a bit baffled by this and asked him why. “Because the Cowboys play at noon, and I am always home in time to see the kickoff. As long as you keep this in mind, we won’t have a problem.”

Now, Dad watched football, but he wasn’t a die hard fan like James was. Frankly, Dad usually turned a game on and took a nap. He didn’t think that James was serious. Until one Sunday. Dad’s sermon ran long. James started fidgeting in his pew and checking his watch. Dad got nervous and started talking a little faster. By the time the closing hymn was over, James was sliding toward the end of the pew. By the time Dad was giving the benediction, he was chasing James down the aisle, but he wasn’t fast enough. James was in his car by the time Dad hit the parking lot. “See you next Sunday!” he yelled at James just before the gentleman threw it into reverse, backed out of his spot, threw it in drive, and hauled out of the parking lot.

So my advice is simple: stay off the roads during the fall weekends, lest ye get caught up in the stampede.

Texans are serious about their football.

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