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The Definition of Rivalry
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Red River Shootout Is Still The Best of The Best
For 101 years, the Red River has served as a barrier between good and evil.
Between delirium and depression.
Between soaring and sinking.
Which way is what? Depends on the perspective. And the early October outcome of the nationâ€™s richest rivalry: Oklahoma vs. Texas.
Or is it Texas vs. Oklahoma?
â€™Round these parts, most locals know the answer.
The Red River Shootout stirs and strains our emotions like no other series, stamping a tone on the season, if not for all 12 months of the calendar for the most serious of fans.
That alone doesnâ€™t distinguish OU-Texas from the nationâ€™s other elite rivalries.
While the game is central to setting off our senses, there are so many more factors that go into making any Red River standoff memorable.
Let us count the waysâ€¦
Letâ€™s settle the rivalry debate right here.
Atmosphere â€” beginning midday Friday with that electric hum flowing into Big D from opposite directions fed through I-35 â€” separates the Red River Shootout from all the colossal clashes.
There are other raucous rivalries â€” Army-Navy, Michigan-Ohio State, Florida-Georgia, Auburn-Alabama, Notre Dame-USC, Harvard-Yale among the best.
Some stadium scenes may even offer carnival appeal.
None compare to the Red River Shootout, delivering everything you want â€” and more; more in the way of the surreal feel of the State Fair of Texas sliding into a sideshow role to 60 minutes of football. The game has been a feature of the fair run every year since 1929.
The badgering carnies. The Tilt-A-Whirl. The funnel cakes, releasing powdered sugar clouds flying through the breeze.
And thatâ€™s outside the Cotton Bowl.
Within the aging coliseumâ€™s walls, the mood is maniacal â€” on every snap â€” through each timeoutâ€¦ for at least one half of crowd uniquely split 50-50 down the middle of the Cotton Bowl.
Half orange. Half crimson.
One-hundred percent pure hatred.
Once was, fans of both squads warmed for the festivities with a Friday night of drinking and debauchery downtown. Commerce Street would be closed off and crimson- and burnt orange-clad revelers would stroll the sidewalks, spewing insults and obscenities and worse.
That â€śtraditionâ€ť was ended, wisely.
Still, the spirit lives on, unrelenting until Sooner fans have once again returned north of the Red.
Has there ever been a more polarizing mark?
Texas fans proudly adorn the Longhorn logo, recognized from coast to coast, to anything, cars and trucks included.
So do Sooner fans, inverted, of course.
We know, everythingâ€™s bigger in Texas.
So itâ€™s fitting that Big Tex is the official ambassador at the State Fair of Texas (itâ€™s bigger, too, at a whopping 24 days).
Big Tex is a giant figure/statue that actually speaks, greeting visitors to the fair since 1952.
The big fella stands 52 feet high, wears a size 70 cowboy boot and his hat is a 75 gallon Stetson.
So popular is the massive cowpoke that www.bigtex.com is the fairâ€™s official website.
Thrills a plenty
Wanna get in the mood for whatâ€™s about to take place inside the Cotton Bowl? Jump on one of the 70 to 75 rides designed to tickle the tummy.
And if you canâ€™t afford a ticket to the big game, try and sneak a peek over the stadium crown on the Texas Star, at 212 feet the tallest Ferris wheel in North America (sticking with the everythingâ€™s bigger in Texas theme).
The big wheel sits adjacent to the Cotton Bowl.
Why bother with stadium concessions when a feast to please anyoneâ€™s senses is available around every turn on the fairgrounds.
They fry just about anything at the fair.
Tried and true fried: the corny dog, invented on these very grounds in 1942 by concessionaires Carl and Neil Fletcher.
Some of footballâ€™s greatest legends have exchanged helmet paint on the Cotton Bowl floor.
Lee Roy Selmon and Tommy Nobis.
Billy Sims and Earl Campbell.
Vince Young and Eddie Crowder.
Roy Williams and Roy Williams.
And on and on and onâ€¦
But you donâ€™t have to be a star to rock the Red River Shootout.
Sooner and Longhorn legends have been born on the strength of this series.
Randy McEachern, a UT third-teamer, filled in when the two quarterbacks ahead of him were injured in 1977 and led the Longhorns to victory.
Horace Ivory, a steady running back of the wishbone era, made his Shootout mark in 1975 on a 33-yard touchdown romp that broke a 17-17 tie, gave OU its 25th straight victory and kept what would become a national championship season on track.
But nobody spun a Red River fairy tale quite like Peter Gardere. An otherwise ordinary Texas quarterback, Gardere turned superhero against the Sooners, directing wins over OU four straight years â€” 1989-92.
Gardereâ€™s Red River dominance even earned him a superhero nickname: Peter the Great.
As Gardere closed out win No. 4 in the series, he heard a chant build from the OU student section.
When itâ€™s go time in the Cotton Bowl, when every fan rises from every seat and all the follies of the fair outside are forgotten to focus fully on the battle thatâ€™s about to take place, the Sooners and Longhorns prepare for the most memorable walk of their career.
Exiting their locker rooms, each situated in the stadiumâ€™s South end tunnel, players and coaches ready to bounce some 25 yards down the ramp and make their Cotton Bowl entrance.
Few football memories are recalled so fondly by those lucky enough to experience â€śthe ramp.â€ť
Once fans have made the trip to the Cotton Bowl, halfway between campuses, and filled the stadium, half and half, crimson and burnt orange, the stage is set.
The Pride of Oklahoma belts out Boomer Sooner at every opportunity.
The Longhorn Band, the â€śShow Band of the Southwest,â€ť delivers The Eyes of Texas and Texas Fight and bangs on Big Bertha, the largest bass drum in the world.
Bevo stalks one end zone, while the Sooner Schooner waits to celebrate a score with a galloping lap onto the field.
And to the winner: the Golden Hat Trophy, hoisted in triumph and soon a prop for posed pictures with the scoreboard declaring the victor in full view.
The color of the OU-Texas rivalry isnâ€™t all peripheral, corny dogs and fun houses and hook â€™em horns â€” upright and inverted â€” flashed every time the camera turns on the crowd.
The names that tumble off our tongues sure are fun, too.
Colt and Major and Priest for Texas.
Elvis and Rufus and Buster for OU.
Longhorns Bill Boy and Cotton and Mossy.
Sooners Granville and Caesar and The Boz.
The Red River rivalry isnâ€™t just about two teams â€” and their legions of fans â€” who hate each other.
These games mean something. Regionally. Nationally. To recruiting. To television executives.
Since the inception of the Big 12, OU-Texas has served as an elimination game both in the conference and in the national title chase.
Likewise, it has served as a launching game, with both the Sooners and Longhorns taking home a national championship this decade.
Sixty straight games have been televised.
OU or Texas has captured the league title in six of the Big 12â€™s 11 seasons. Theyâ€™ve combined for eight BCS bowl appearances as conference members. Together theyâ€™ve played in 86 bowl games.
Texas and OU rank third and fourth, respectively, all-time in winning percentage, prevailing in more than 71 percent of their games. And one team â€” or both â€” has entered the Cotton Bowl undefeated in 28 of the last 38 meetings.
Another point of impact: Good coaches, winning coaches, have been fired for failing to beat the other school with regularity.
For some, OU-Texas might as well be known as proposition 365 â€” a verdict to be celebrated or scorned from the conclusion of one game to kickoff of the next.
So bragging rights are coveted.
And never are they more satisfying than immediately after the game, when fans from the losing side must navigate their way from the Cotton Bowl and through the masses clogging the 52-acre fairgrounds, absorbing barbs and insults all the way.
It can be a lonely, disturbing walk.
Over the that century, itâ€™s a walk that has been hardest on Sooner fans, since Texas owns a 57-39-5 record all-time in the series. But folks around here tend to look at the rivalry from a more recent viewpoint, as the Sooners own a 28-28-3 mark vs. â€™Horns since 1948.
Editor's Note: This story appears in the Fall Two Issue of Sooner Spectator.