This is our story told in LaScalea.com numerical style. I have changed all names except for Chase’s and mine. I did this to protect their professional identities as well as their innocence.
1. It’s 11:00 a.m.
Twenty-five of us, ages ranging from 27 to 57, climb into a limo style “party bus.” My friend Chase, a Miami Ohio grad, who accompanied me on many of my SEC trips is also joining us today.
As we load up, an elderly woman who is impressed by our bus, but not impressed by our destination questions us.
“You’re going to a football game in that?” She asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“You couldn’t find a better place to go to than that?”
“No,” I say.
In the limo, there are ten Auburn Tiger fans, fourteen TAMU fans, and one undecided.
2. Chase and I hop on the bus and take a seat next to the one neutral fan.
He resembles the incredible hulk. His shoulders, arms, and back appear to be one ripping muscle. “I have no dog in the fight, I’m just here for the party,” he tells me. I inform him that I have an extra Auburn shirt in my bag. “That an XXL or just an XL?” he asks. “Large” I respond. He shakes his head, “no man should be able to fit into anything smaller than XL.” He also informs me that he is a double Ivy league grad and a former collegiate football players.
Interlude: The Auburn/TAMU series is not a blood feud rivalry. There are no bad memories or angry cursing to be found in the series history.
Shortly after our departure, Rick, a fifth generation Aggie, will give me a crash course on TAMU football today and the recent surge in Aggie season ticket prices. As we drive, Rick tells me that every time Auburn passes today they are doing A&M a favor. It’s common football knowledge that if your safety leads the team in tackles, you’ve got serious defensive problems.
He also gives me his take on BIG12 football. “The BIG12 is just a complete mess. Oklahoma is going to win the conference this year and still be shut out of the college football playoff.”
3. While en route, I realize that I’m sitting near the dad of a former Auburn football player, Jake Holland. Jake, a former linebacker at Auburn has the rare distinction to play on both Auburn’s 2010 and 2013 SEC Championship teams. He also has the distinction of going almost three years without a haircut while on the team.
Shortly after our departure, I notice a tupperware container full of recently baked cookies. “Who’s happily married in here?” One passenger yells.
An hour outside of College Station, we decide that we cannot wait any longer and open the cooler of the tailgate food. Rocky pumps his fist as we pass around the pork barbecue and eat with our hands, caveman style. We have no women in our bus. This probably accounts for the absence of our utensils.
4. Thirty minutes from College Station, the alcohol has turned the bus into a buzzing mass of growling humanity. ZZ Top, Fog Hat, and a collection of other 1980s hits have taken over the sound system. Cars are whizzing by on both sides of us completely unaware of what is currently taking place on this bus.
And then suddenly our trip takes a turn for the worse. Everything is going party bus smooth until one member in our group loses his balance while rocking out to “Slow Ride” and takes a tumble.
Three hours and only several miles away from the stadium and one man is down.
But you know who isn’t?
“These Aggies just can’t handle the party scene,” says Rocky, who has muscles in his cheekbones. He then points to my bag and says, “give me that Auburn shirt.” We will now roll 11 deep for the rest of the trip.
Finally, after driving the 185 miles to College Station, we arrive less than three hours before kickoff and park the bus near the Memorial Student Center in the center of campus. All around us, TAMU fans are streaming by on the sidewalks. I can feel the excitement of kickoff looming. Immediately, Chase and I set out in search for tickets for the game and to meet up with some Auburn friends that have made the trip from Alabama.
Chase surveys the scene as we walk through the Memorial Student Center.
We then make the rounds meeting Aggie fans as we make our way to Northgate to meet up with a group of Auburn friends. As we walk, I see countless amount of different shirts, koozies, cups, and other souvenirs that wed A&M to the SEC. Hell, the very gates to the stadium themselves are stamped with the SEC brand.
Aggie fans have welcomed us with open arms today. This is a tremendous cultural trait of the SEC and the Aggies have it in spades. At one tailgate, a lady hands us a couple of Coors Lights and then demands us to try her ‘famous’ homemade beverage that she has named “Aggie Punch.” It tastes like fermented gasoline.
5. Soon game time arrives and Chase and I head back to the stadium and start to price tickets. A man likely in his 80s offers us 2 lower level seats for $90 each. (Face Value is $100). He tells Chase and I that he graduated in 1955.
As we head for the entrance to Kyle Field, an TAMU fan tells us that the grass around the stadium honors the war dead who have attended TAMU. You’re not supposed to walk on the grass and you have to immediately remove your hat once entering the building.
Our seats are in section 103, row 20, around the 5 yard line in the lower level. I notice from our view that Kyle Field is one of the few stadiums in the SEC that does not have a single hedge. Maybe Aggies can’t have hedges, we wonder. We know with certainly that they cannot have female cheerleaders.
And on that note: Southern men ridicule male cheerleaders to no end. Worse, TAMU is the only school in college football where the male cheerleaders cannot look up the hot women cheerleader’s skirts because there are NO women cheerleaders at TAMU.
But these male cheerleaders are not traditional male cheerleaders. Instead, they are “Yell Leaders.” These men run along the sidelines at Kyle Field, wearing all white jumpsuits and lead the crowd in cheers. To an outsider, it makes zero sense.
6. Kevin Sumlin strides onto the field, wearing his trademark sunglasses. Sumlin, in his fourth year as head coach of TAMU’s football team, and is on the harshest criticism of his tenure. The past two years, his teams have bolted to 5-0 and 6-0 records to only limp to a lower tier bowl game.
Kyle Field is an intense place for a football game where you can feel the cheering.
It’s announced that Johnny Manziel is back in College Station and is serving as an honorary captain tonight. One of my seat companions, reminds me that this would have been Manziel’s senior this season, had he not declared for the NFL draft.
On the first drive, Auburn scores on a pass from Jeremy Johnson to Marcus Davis. Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson will go 9-for-9 for passing in the opening quarter.
Gus Malzahn runs a trick play and before the half ends, it’s 14-3 Auburn.
During halftime, I watch an Aggie women on the concourse, with a hot dog trying to work a broken mustard container. She turns to me and shrugs, “It’s working about as well as our offense,” she says.
In the opening of the second half, TAMU Freshman quarterback Kyler Murray throws an interception at his own three, and the Auburn section comes alive.
7. For most of the third quarter, the teams take turns moving the ball short distances without scoring and TAMU Head Coach Kevin Sumlin looks beyond frustrated with his offense. The man next to me throws his hat down – “It will take $20 million to fire him!”
After the game, we head back to the bus and soon make our way to the local emergency room in College Station to pick up our fallen Aggie. Soon we are parked outside the ER and the bus is playing Guns ‘N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle” followed by “The Final Countdown” as we wait.
A half hour passes and the walking dead makes it back to the bus with fresh stitches on his forehead. ”I got a tetanus shot” he exclaims. ” This may sound crazy, but I’m serious!”
Strange things happen on three hour bus rides with grown men.
On the way back, I am sitting in the rear of the bus and begin fiddling with all the buttons around me that I did not get to play with on the way down. Pretty soon, I’ve constructed an odd weather pattern whereby cool air is hitting the top of my head and cool air is slamming into my skins.
Two hours later, on the outskirts of Dallas, we are still blasting the “ballads of rock.” Chase turns to me and says, “I am not sure how much longer I can take this.” Tom overhears us and responds, “When you’re happily married with kids, you don’t get many Saturdays like this.”
Finally, when we arrive back in Dallas after three-thirty in the morning, I will step outside the bus and inhale the thirty-two-degree air. There will be no doubt in my mind: Winter is coming.
Just bummed that I never had a chocolate chip cookie.