Friday, September 24, 2010

The Sooners

Why is the Texas-OU rivalry so special? First and foremost, the venom. It’s as lethal as a poison dart frog. Second, the site. The game is played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, equidistance between Austin and Norman, so half the stadium is drenched in burnt orange and white, and the other half is drenched in Brut and Tabu and Keystone Light.

Third, it’s held during the State Fair of Texas, which provides Sooners a honeymoon destination or part-time work as corndog dippers or both. Longhorns see the rivalry as one of a dozen or more explanations for Texas’ exalted status in the universe. Sooners use the rivalry to justify higher education. After all, it was Oklahoma president George Lynn Cross who, in or around 1951, told members of a state appropriations committee, “We want a university the football team can be proud of.”

Sooners are like second cousins once removed (four times evicted), the bastard offspring of a black sheep uncle who drank and smoked too much, who married young and often, who sired hair-lip kids he named after country-western singers (Crystal, Randy, Reba and Dwight), who joined AA and gave up the sauce and found Jesus, and who thinks network television and the Internet and The New York Times are a threat to traditional marriage, like his latest one with Tamela Gail, the high school sophomore he met at Dollar General last year.

All this would be fine if Sooners would remain north of the Red River, but they won’t. They flood south like gypsies and take advantage of our economy and public schools and other social and cultural advantages yet refuse to assimilate, which I believe they could if they really wanted to and were willing to devote the time and effort learning colors and numbers and their ABCs.

Worst still, they retain allegiance to the land of their birth and its double-wide culture, then help entice some of Texas’ better if not brighter high school football players into surrendering four years of their young lives toiling in the state they abandoned for a team that will likely as not end up on NCAA probation.

Well, no wonder they loathe us. They think we think we’re superior, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. We know we’re superior. We know most of the non-jocks from Texas attending OU would have attended UT if they’d had the grades or test scores to get in. Is that arrogance? Is that bluster? No. It’s fact, and if it feeds OU’s inferiority complex, well too bad. Call Dr. Phil, a native Oklahoman who made his fortune in Texas.

Bottom line: Texas has given the world the Alamo and LBJ and Galveston and George Bush twice. We’re allowed to fly our flag as high as Old Glory because we were a country once and may be again if things don’t shape up. Oklahoma has given the world the Dust Bowl, the land rush and the last stop on the Trail of Tears.

Our state song was written by a Texan, William J. Marsh of Fort Worth. Their state song was written by two New Yorkers who never once stepped foot in their state, even after “You’re doing fine, Oklahoma” made them millions. Granted, Oklahoma gave the world Mickey Mantle and James Garner and Will Rogers and J.J. Cale and, most importantly, Darrell Royal, and for that, we’re grateful, but we gave it Ben Hogan and Bob Wills and Horton Foote and Willie Nelson and ZZ Top — plus Earl and Tom Landry and Gene Autry about two dozen others as famous or more. Even our criminals are better. Us: Bonnie and Clyde. Them: Oral Roberts.

Us: Buck Owens and George Jones and Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Ernest Tubb. Them: Toby Keith and Garth Brooks.

Us: Joan Crawford and Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. Them: Chuck Norris.

Us: the Gulf of Mexico, the Davis Mountains, Palo Duro Canyon, the Hill Country, the Piney Woods, the Marfa Lights, South Padre Island. Them: the Arbuckle Reservoir.

Us: the Astrodome and NASA. Them: the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Us: Lonesome Dove and Tender Mercies and Old Yeller. Them: Bootlegger’s Boy.

Us: Mary Kay, the Hughes drill bit, Neiman Marcus, Dell and Texas Instruments, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Them: Sonic Drive-In.

Us: All Hail the Mighty State.

Them: Oklahoma, OK.

If that. Hook 'em.