Aggie Fan

“Aggie for Life” is a badge of honor worn proudly by most alumni of Texas A&M University. “From the outside, you can’t understand it. From the inside, you can’t explain it”, is all the alums can say about the fanatical devotion Aggies have for their school.

After a weekend in College Station, I can’t say I really understand it. But if you put the Aggie history on a campus which looked just like Boulder, I would have likely been anxious to try.

Suffice it to say, we had a great time in College Station. Yes, losing the game makes it an “other than that, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” weekend, but as a fan of college football, I can’t say enough about Texas A&M football and their fans.

On Friday night, we made our trek up to campus. College Station, Texas, is not close to anything in the state, and it doesn’t have much to lend itself by way of description. It is not in the dusty plains of West Texas, nor it is in the dense bayou of the southeast portion of the state. The city is not large (around the size of Boulder),and it is not near a major city nor any geographic area of note. The campus itself is bland, with Kyle Field and a huge water tower (best described as a gigantic tan golf tee) the only major landmarks.

Yet it was still, somehow, fantastic.

Start with the Dixie Chicken. A bar/restaurant just across the street from the A&M campus, the Dixie Chicken is on a street comparable to the Hill area in Boulder (bars abutting bookstores, copy centers, and gift shops). We were told by several familiar with the area (including two alumnae we met on the plane to Houston), that the Dixie Chicken was a favorite local watering hole.

We – Randy from Bozeman, Brad from Denver, and I – were not disappointed.

The Dixie Chicken is a wooden structure with hunting trophies on the wall and Willie Nelson tunes wafting over the speakers. There are names carved into the wooden tables, and Shiner Bock and Lone Star beer on tap. The menu consists of carnivores delights – vegetarians are not the target audience.

The Sink meets the Dark Horse.

We walked in around dinner time, spotted a few fellow Buff travelers, and plopped ourselves down next to them (safety in numbers!). We ordered a pitcher of Shiner Bock and three half pound hamburgers (diets are for next week. We were on a road trip!). Not long thereafter, a middle aged Aggie, decked out from head to toe in maroon, came over to our table. “You boys pay for that beer?”, he asked. Thinking that we were perhaps being accused of not paying our tab, we stammered out an affirmative response.

“We’ll”, the Aggie smiled, “that won’t happen again. The rest of your beer will be on us. We’ll keep an eye on your pitcher, and when it gets low, we’ll get you a new one.” The Aggie was true to his word. Twice our pitcher of Shiner Bock neared empty. Twice it was re-filled.

We had made our first Aggie friends (for the record, we bought a round of Lone Star bottles for the Aggie table as well).

Around 10:00 p.m., the Aggie students began filling out the Dixie Chicken.

Did I mention it was Halloween?

A popular hang out prior to Midnight Yell Practice for any home game, the Dixie Chicken had a very festive feel on Friday night. Many of the Aggie students were decked out for the occasion. There were two different Sarah Palins who received raucous reviews (in case you were wondering about the politics of College Station – there was a “George W. Bush – ‘04? sign still on the wall). A Fred and Wilma Flintstone couple went to great lengths to create realistic costumes. There were not one but two coeds wrapped up in Twister playing mats (”right hand, red” anyone?), and more than a few super heroes. There were angels and devils, and more than a few stunningly beautiful young female Aggies. (Brad and I agreed that we were just about as likely to strike up a conversation with these women as we would have been 25 years ago – as in no chance).

Around 11:30, it was time to head off to Midnight Yell Practice. Kyle Field was only a short walk away, and we followed the masses as a moth to a flame, walking straight for the lights of the well lit monstrosity.

Kyle Field holds 82,000, but is not particularly attractive. Like Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, it is an ancient concrete structure which has had numerous additions. The underlying gray skeleton, though, is not particularly appealing.

Yell Practice

This was my second Yell Practice, having been to a watered down road version on the steps of the Colorado state capitol in 1997. To describe what we saw at Kyle Field, I will defer to Bob Waldestein and Phil Silverman, in their classic college football road trip book, Saturday Afternoon Madness:

“The entire procession seemed to be led by three guys (there were five in Denver and at Kyle Field last weekend) clad in overalls and carrying axe handles. For a lack of a more descriptive name, we’ll call them the ‘Hee Haw Boys’.

“As we looked on in complete amazement, one of the Hee Haw Boys stepped up to the microphone and let out a thunderous ‘Howdy!’ We nearly jumped out of our shorts when the entire student section responded in unison with an even more deafening ‘Howdy!!’ Then the Hee Haw Boys told some jokes about the University of Texas, during which, the students continually intervened with assorted yelps, whoops, and hisses …… If this wasn’t bizarre enough, every now and then, the Hee Haw Boys would start waving their hands in crazy spastic motions, except that they couldn’t have been totally crazy, because within moments, the entire student section would be making the same inexplicable motions. After finishing their seizures, everyone again assumed the please-sir-may-I-have-another position (leaning forward, hands on knees) and let forth another mighty yell. Despite being clueless, we were incredibly impressed.”

Brad, Randy and I were also suitably impressed. The corps band, without any doubt the best college band I have ever seen (and the only one I have ever seen receive a standing ovation at Folsom Field), led the students and fans in playing the school song and other great tunes (including the theme from Patton), and the Yell Leaders led their well rehearsed audience through their “humping” rituals. It was quite the show.

In addition to practicing cheers, the Yell Leaders told their corny jokes. Here is one from last weekend:

Three coeds, one from Texas (teasip), one from Baylor, and one from Colorado, were in a burning building. Firemen from A&M came to the rescue. The only way to save the women was for them to jump into a blanket held out by the Aggie firemen.

Aggie Firemen to the t.u. (always t.u. and not u.t. when you are in Aggieland, and always lower case) coed: “Jump, and we’ll catch you”. t.u. coed (in a husky voice): “No. I’m scared”. After persuading the t.u. coed to jump, the Aggie firemen pull out the blanket. Whoops and cheers from the crowd.

Aggie Firemen to the Baylor coed: “Jump, and we’ll catch you”. Baylor coed (in a prissy voice): “No. I saw what you did to the t.u. coed”. “That was because it was t.u. We wouldn’t do that to you”. Baylor coed jumps, and the blanket is pulled away. More whoops and cheers.

Aggie Firemen to the CU coed: “Jump, and we’ll catch you”. CU coed: “No way”. “It’s okay. We only pulled away the blanket because they were Big 12 South women. We would never do that to you.” “Okay”, says the CU coed, “but I’m taking no chances. Put the blanket down and step away.” Rim shot.

Okay, so no one said the jokes were particularly funny, but can you imagine getting 20,000 to 30,000 CU fans to anything similar? Me, neither.

On Saturday before the game, we walked over early to see the parade of cadets. The corps of cadets follows the band into the stadium, and it is a well attended ritual. Though only 2,000 of the 40,000 enrolled at Texas A&M, the corps is the heart and soul of the Aggies. Their march into the stadium was impressive, and was taken very seriously.

Though decked out in CU wear, we were never accosted. Everyone we met was friendly, and most everyone said “Howdy” as we passed (traditionally, if you don’t say “Howdy” back, the next words you’ll hear will be “Howdy, dammit!”).

To say that Texas A&M is tradition-laden is like saying Bobby Knight had a tendency to be intense. Being a long-time fan of college football, and a long-time admirer of football tradition, I have to say I loved being a part of it. Other than Ralphie, Colorado has nothing to compare. We have the mountains and the beautiful campus, but traditions? Not so much.

You can say that the Aggies are over the top in their devotion.

I would reply that CU could use a little more of that.

I’ll leave you with this: How many Aggies does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Three. One to screw in the lightbulb. The second to write a Yell about it, and the third to make it a tradition.


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