Monday, November 22, 2010

The Aggies

Aggies may be misguided, but at least they’re Texans who stayed in Texas. For the better part, they come from small towns like Throckmorton and Eustace and Lytle and Snook where they served as class presidents and Boys State delegates and 4-H champions. They were all-district athletes and “Mr. Muenster High” and pink-cheeked grocery checkers at the local Pak ‘n Sak.

They have all-American names like Buck and Linda and Joe, and they major in hands-on subjects like petroleum engineering and large animal husbandry and international business, not feckless wastes of time like ethnomusicology or Women’s Studies or journalism.

They’re courteous and friendly to everyone in a surreal way. “Howdy. Welcome to Aggieland, Mr. Bin Laden,” they’ll snap, and then they’ll wait for Mr. Bin Laden to snap back, “Howdy.” They’re optimistic and patriotic because they believe America is the greatest country in the history of the world because can-do people with graphing calculators in their hip pockets like themselves built it from scratch.

They believe Texas is the greatest state in the entire United States, and about that, at least, they’re right. Actually, Aggies are right about a lot of things. By and large, they don’t have tattoos or nose-rings or blue hair, and you can live next door to or work three offices down from an Aggie and never suffer the worse for it because Aggies are doers and fixers. They make damn fine county agents.

Sure, they’re zealots. Aggies want you to know they’re Aggies, so they fly their Aggie flags and nail up “Aggie Parking Only” signs and drive maroon and white Suburbans with their Aggie car seat covers and their “12th Man” bumper stickers. They take loyalty and devotion and tradition to slavish, almost cultish extremes.

Want proof? Take a leisurely stroll across the A&M campus. Chances are, you’ll accidentally violate patches of grass that have been deemed sacrosanct. Cut a corner and you’ll get icy stares or worse, someone will yell at you, “Off the grass, teasip!” Calling someone a “teasip” is the ultimate insult. “Liberal” comes close. “Commie pedophile” is not even in the ballpark.

But at least, “teasip” is a real word. About half the Aggie vocabulary consists of noises you or I might make if we sat on a wet toilet seat, yelps and bellows such as “whoop” and “hoo-wah” that they cluck in response to simple statements such as “I’m a senior” or “Look! A jelly doughnut!” As best as I can determine, “whoop” means “righteous” in Aggie-speak.

Then, there are the Aggie yell leaders, guys who dress in white jumpsuits like psychiatric ward trustees, and who are constantly darting back and forth, here and there, whooping and hoo-wahing and whipping their fellow Aggies into a bug-eyed frenzy, extolling them to hunch over, lock arms and swing and sway like drunk snake dancers, not that they need prodding. Aggies squat and rock back and forth more often than women in labor.

And, of course, there’s the Corps of Cadets — a gaggle of mostly steely-eyed, burr-headed boys in khaki, prancing around as if they’re off to storm the Normandy beaches. The majority of them aren’t real soldiers, nor even reserves. They’re pretend soldiers, posers. They are to soldiering what the cast of Grey's Anatomy is to medicine. They’ll go straight from A&M to work for their daddy’s State Farm agency in Hearne, where their only chance to defend the nation against al Qaeda will come in the event terrorists attempt to collect on a claim.

By the way, the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets is a dog, and when the dog dies, it’ll be buried in a special plot just outside Kyle Field, where it’ll have a clear view of a mini-scoreboard placed just so for the dead dog’s viewing pleasure.

Botton line: Aggies hate Longhorns. Almost all of their customs and traditions include an affirmation of their hatred of UT. Once you remove the gibberish like “cigaroo garem” and “Hullabaloo Caneck, Caneck,” a sizable portion of the Aggie War Hymn refers to Texas University or the orange and the white. They’re more obsessed with us than conspiracy nuts are with JFK and UFOs combined.

Longhorns find these Aggie rituals goofy and quaint and slightly bizarre but generally harmless. They’d love for us to hate them as much as they claim to hate us, but we don’t and never will. We hate losing to them, but we don’t hate them. Like it or not, Aggies are family — pesky, insufferable younger brothers who refuse to accept their place in the pecking order, and it’s part of our burden to tolerate and even empathize with their silly, inexplicable insecurities. We just have to hope that one day, they’ll grow up.