My parents met in Austin while my father was in grad school at the University of Texas, and before I was ever born, they had a parakeet named Tricker that could sing “The Eyes of Texas” and say “Hook ‘Em Horns.”
I was similarly indoctrinated when I arrived a few years later. And although I followed other family traditions to Abilene Christian University, my bloodline has burnt orange coursing through it, especially in the fall.
Sundays are the Lord’s Day. But during football season, Saturdays belong to the Longhorns.
However even though the ‘Horns play less than a hundred miles north of here, and we’ve lived in San Antonio for a decade, I’ve always watched the games on TV.
Tonight, we went to Austin.
They say football is a religion in Texas, and I won’t argue.
We gathered with the faithful in a sea of burnt orange, sang the great hymn “The Eyes of Texas,” participated in the call and response of “Texas!” “Fight!” “Texas” Fight!” We watched the white smoke rise from the tunnel, and saw the hopes of a new season come running out.
Our hearts sank when a player went down on the field and a cart was summoned to take him off. We cheered and wiped eyes when he put one hand up in the air to flash the “Hook ‘Em.” Nearly a hundred thousand other hands went up to answer him back.
We had moments of disappointment and cheered flashes of brilliance. Saw, when the game was well in hand, a glimpse of the future when a backup quarterback named Garrett Gilbert took the field. I suspect in a few years, we will watch him lead this team to great things and say “remember when we saw it begin?”
It could not have been a better Saturday night in the church of football.