A football Saturday at Texas A&M is on my list of perfect things. Ours started early when we returned our rental car to the airport after Friday’s dinner and a trip to the Bonfire Memorial. The Memorial sits on the site where 12 people lost their lives when the giant log pyramid used for the bonfire before the annual Texas (or t.u. as it written at A&M) football game collapsed. Over 5,000 logs comprised the structure in 1999. The disaster ended a 90-year tradition. The circle of light was a stirring site we would have enjoyed longer if not for the shockingly cold wind that sent us running back to the car.
Waiting for a cab Saturday morning after returning our rental, a man approached us. Giving us our first Howdy of the day, he offered us a ride to the stadium as a big Chevy Suburban pulled up front to pick him up. Within minutes we unloaded at the front door of the stadium. Our friendly chauffeurs said they would use the line that they were dropping off the opponents’ photographers again in the future and then spent more time thanking us than they should.
There is kindness, and then there is pity kindness. The way KU has been playing football this season, there is way too much pity kindness. Too many pats on the back thanking us for visiting. Texas A&M needed a get-well game after losing their last three games, and KU seemed more than willing to be the lambs taken to slaughter.
Thank goodness there was the Review of the Corp of Cadets to help us forget football. Even though A&M is not a military school, its rich service heritage to the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines is wonderfully displayed as the troops march in order into the stadium. Even the pooper scoopers that follow behind the horses get recognized for their service.
Then there is Reveille VIII, the first lady of Texas A&M, and the highest ranking member of the Corp of Cadets. At halftime, while uploading photos, I missed the Aggie Band form a giant block T that stretched the length of the field with the Corp filling it fully for the first time since 1956. Laura went back out to watch the band but did not know the T was going to be formed or we surely would have had photos of that stunning sight. Add former President George Herbert Walker Bush and Lt. Dan himself, Gary Sinise, to complete the spectacle.
Finally, there are two traditions that I will truly miss as A&M departs the Big 12. The Yell Leaders are five young men selected by the student body. There are no cheerleaders or dancers at the football games, just these spirited five that wear themselves out with non-stop “pass backs.” These hand signals direct and intensify the fans like no flipping cheerleader or shimmying dancer can. Dressed in white shirts and pants, they race to the goal post and stand arm-in-arm after every touchdown. On Saturday they met at the goal post often.
Their whites look so crisp with starch that it would seem the pants could actually crack when they run. One of Yell Leaders revealed to me, “I actually have to almost jump into the pants to get them on. You cannot slip them on.” He continued on to say, “I don’t know how much starch is used, but our cleaning bill is over $3,000 a year just for our shirts and pants.” Imagine the snap, crackle and pop of those first few steps.
With Texas A&M scoring 61 points, the final great tradition of kissing your date meant there were many women (and from what I observed many lucky men) that were seriously kissed often Saturday. Made me want to go over other sideline and do the same with Laura. Ah, but then I do have to remember who signs my paycheck. Nuts.