Being raised an Aggie came with two certainties of sports fandom. College football season was going to be a tough time, and Texas University in Austin is the devil. The first certainty would be realized almost as soon as I could perceive loss and disappointment, because being born in 1990 afforded me the chance of seeing the twilight of the best of the R.C. Slocum era, and really growing up and hitting adolescence in the Dennis Franchione years, the dark ages. I also grew up in Midland, TX, 6 1/2hrs from College Station, two hours from Lubbock. There weren’t exactly a majority of fellow Aggies there to help me cope with the difficulties of supporting a team so inclined to self inflicted devastation.
The second certainty of Aggie fandom was exponentially easier than the first to not only accept but to cultivate and strengthen year after year. Aside from all the institutional tradition and encouragement to properly hate Texas University, things went so unbelievably easy for them during my childhood it was like watching the hands of God carry the Longhorns while the other hand slapped and crushed my Aggies. I had to watch Vince Young, Ricky Williams, and Cedric Benson all lead the Longhorns to winning season after winning season. Cedric Benson was particularly painful because he led my crosstown rival high school to a 3 peat state championship, and then kept his good times rolling by going to Texas and insuring more Longhorn wins. Watching each season and perceiving divine favor and forsake seeded hatred and bitterness for the Longhorns deep in my heart. It became necessary for them to lose because I craved what little satisfaction an Aggie upset might bring, though ultimately it was the hate that fueled me. I can still remember with total detail and vividness watching the 2010 National Championship, Texas vs Alabama. We were all over at a friend’s house who just so happened to go to Texas, there were about a dozen of us, with maybe four pulling for the Longhorns and the rest of us pulling for Satan himself to open the stadium and drag Texas football down to his depths. We got our wish. Texas was out of their league, and finally, looked totally unprepared for a football game, for the reality being smashed into them by the far superior Alabama team. As a Texas loss became more and more inevitable I remember the vindication I felt. I remember all of us gaining up on the Longhorn fans and pouring the entirety of our bitter hearts upon them with insult after insult, looking over with satisfaction every time Texas failed, feeding off their misery, reveling in witnessing a Longhorn fan go through what we all were so familiar with. That would be the start of it, for Texas never really recovered from that loss and the next five years were an egotistical stupor spent basking in the glory of others’ demise. My Aggies got better and better, and in an unprecedented move seen coming by perhaps no one other than its orchestrators, Texas A&M stepped out of the shadows and into the SEC, leaving behind schools it had played against for almost a century and joining at the time, the best conference in college football.
Fast forward past that move through four years of boasting and secondary conference pride coattail riding, jeering at what us Aggies believed to be a floundering conference in the Big 12, nothing more than geriatric teams too caught up in the successes of their formers to compete in today’s environment, to the 2016 season. Over the weekend both Texas A&M and Texas held off late game comebacks by their opponents to win their games in overtime. However, you’d never know that if you asked an Aggie.
Starting late Sunday night and continuing well past Monday morning, the commentaries and pages of Texas A&M fans were filled with nothing but a refreshing of their fundamental bitterness toward Texas football. Talk of the Aggies’ first game was short lived, as manic Longhorn hatred reared its ugly head. My fellow A&M fans just couldn’t enjoy their win because somewhere in the world Texas had also won, which means there is no Longhorn misery to nourish their bitter souls. Some commented on their perception of bias within the sports media, some predicted a revival of the bandwagon and a return of burnt orange t shirts to Walmart shelves, some even went so far as to comment on various calls and reviews, such as the no call on the alleged targeting penalty. Aggies everywhere were trading happiness for bitterness so they could remark with scorn, contempt, and arrogance on the result of the Texas game, their own victory lost from their minds.
Since A&M’s departure from the Big 12 I’ve found my hatred for Texas cooling each year. Yes I still find Texas fans who have no affiliation with the university other than choosing that school as the recepient of their support beyond annoying, and yes I think there are plenty of alumni who still walk around expecting the Earth to pause its rotation because a Texas Ex is gracing the planet with their presence. But the fundamental reason for my calmer attitude toward Texas is that not only does A&M have too much going on to bother with the past, but being out of conference means I view Texas the same way I would view UCLA West Virginia or Stanford or some other college team that’ll likely never cross my path. It’s only recently that other sports have revived the rivalry, like last year’s baseball game I attended that went to extra innings and was just as exciting and evenly matched as A&M/Texas baseball games always are. There was also the basketball series in the Bahamas, where I watched a favored A&M team meet the horns in the bracket and I will admit it felt good watching the Aggies play Texas and be the favored team for a change. Though both of these series were great for nostalgic purposes, highly entertaining, and hopefully the first olive branch of peace between two schools who exited on seemingly hard feelings, neither of them were necessary for A&M to be successful in those sports.
Ultimately I think that’s what so many of my fellow Aggies should understand in order to calm their hatred. No matter what Texas does it’s no reflection on A&M, it’s of no effect on us if Texas goes 12-0 or 0-12. Sure, the recruiting atmosphere will change if Texas football or Texas any sport starts going undefeated season after season, but that’s not something we can control, and therefore not something we should be devoting our time and effort to.
Just as I don’t believe a candidate for office wins their campaign by denigrating their opponent, I don’t believe it does Texas A&M any good to be four years removed from the Big 12, yet still harping and hating Texas as if they’d just cost us our conference championship. Texas is our past, it’s time to let our past go and focus on creating a strong appealing athletic program that doesn’t have to rely on intrastate hatred in order to intice recruits. If every ESPN writer wrote tomorrow that Texas should be ranked no. 1, it’d be no more a reflection on Texas A&M football than the Gettysburg Address. Any feelings, particularly angry bitter feelings towards how Texas’ win was perceived is more a reflection on insecurities, jealousies, fears, and unnecessary desires for national attention within our own program and fan base than any sort of legitimate or illegitimate element of Texas’ performance.
The old cliche of a lion, or a wolf, or whatever predator you choose to insert not concerning himself with the opinion of sheep is a poignant example I believe many of my fellow Aggies should emulate. It’s high time we stop baaahing at the Longhorns.