I was in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area for business last week. It was my first visit to the state, and so my expectations were largely set by what I had seen in the media. I was planning to eat steak every day, and for everyone to wear boots and say “ya’ll” often. Country music would be the de facto soundtrack, and I’d be surrounded by pickup trucks. I even thought about buying a cowboy hat.
While I did manage one steak per day and drank my fair share of sweet tea, most of my other Texas tropes proved to be unfounded. People wore sneakers, listened to classic rock, and drove Maximas and Corollas. What I did notice was an abundance of college stickers on the backs of those Maximas and Corollas. I had landed in Texas A&M country, from the looks of things.
Where I’m from in southern Oregon, you can’t go 100 yards without seeing a bright yellow “O” sticker on the back of a Tacoma or an S-10. Oregon Ducks fans are proud to display their team’s logo everywhere. Oregon fans have a customary greeting when passing each other in the street: “Go Ducks”. Perhaps a strong fist symbol is gestured as well, particularly on a Monday after a big win. It was Oregon country, and you knew it the moment you entered town.
In Santa Barbara, I feel alone in my college football fandom. None of my colleagues follow any college teams. I don’t see USC or UCLA stickers on the bumpers of the BMWs and Jettas that line State St. If I want to talk about a great play or an amazing game, I have to call my family or friends in other states. After nearly 6 years here, I’ve just come to assume that nobody else cares about college football as much as I do.
Wearing my Oregon Ducks jacket in Texas, I expected to be ignored, just like I am in Santa Barbara. Everyone here just assumes I just like the color green. What I found was that everyone in Texas is not only a college football fan, but that they’re also up-to-date on their information and love to chat about their favorite teams. The coat was a sign to them that I was a fellow follower.
I had over a dozen people stop me in stores, restaurants, my hotel, everywhere, just to talk about Chip Kelly’s recent departure from the Ducks, to give me their thoughts on the OC Mark Helfrich’s promotion to HC, and to brag about how Johnny Football was right to spurn Oregon to lead Texas A&M to its rightful SEC glory.
Their questions were eager: Had I seen how badly TAMU had crushed Oklahoma? Had I seen the pictures of Manziel living it up after their bowl game? Had I prepared myself mentally to see the Ducks face off vs TAMU in the natty next year?
Yes, in fact, I have.
I was around my types of fans once again. My wife went to the restroom at the airport, and even just two short minutes later, someone had already approached me to discuss whether Helfrich would be able to keep Kelly’s furious pace and discipline at Oregon for seasons to come.
I enjoyed getting to talk football in Texas, as opposed to being limited to just talking tech at work or gaming with friends. I hope to visit Texas again someday. I’ll just have to make sure it’s during a season where TAMU and UO don’t face off, as I want to make sure there’s no hard feelings.