I have been to the Oklahoma-Texas football game in Dallas numerous times but not in the last 14 years.
When I was a college student at OU, I went every year. Student tickets were cheap and it was quite a spectacle. One year, former President Gerald Ford showed up as part of his election campaign. (The night before, he reportedly told a crowd in Lawton that he was happy to be in “Lawton, Texas” and a few weeks before that, he told a crowd at Iowa State University that he was glad to speak at “Ohio State University.” You think Ford, a Michigan grad, would have gotten that one right).
The Friday drive from Norman to Dallas along Interstate 35 was one long pep rally. Sometimes, when we were lucky, we would see some buses carrying the Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band.
The Red River Rivalry was famous for raucous celebrations in Downtown Dallas along Commerce Street on the Friday night before the game. You always picked up a copy of the local paper on Saturday morning to see how many Sooner fans had been thrown in jail and would miss the game.
I am not a drinker or a party animal. My friends and I would take one drive down Commerce and yell friendly but arrogant rants at the Texas fans and then we would drive out to our cheap hotel, usually one in Plano or Richardson.
Most of the time, the game kicked off at 11 a.m. (like it does this year). We got up at the crack of dawn because the traffic was horrible and the parking almost impossible.
The Cotton Bowl, site of the rivalry game, is in the middle of the Texas State Fairgrounds and the fair is always underway when the game is played in early October. So, you have maybe 80,000 football fans and perhaps another 100,000 fairgoers jamming the highways and searching for a parking spot.
The Cotton Bowl doesn’t have nearly enough parking. We always had to pay at least $10 (that was a lot of money back in the 1970s) to park in the front yard of a shady character in a low-rent neighborhood adjoining the fairgrounds. You always worried that you wouldn’t be able to get your car out after the game because they were parked so close together and you kind of wondered if the car would even be there. It always was.
Now, I saw online that a parking pass is $72.00. That’s ridiculous.
Ticket prices in the 1970s were less than $40 and much less for students. Now, if you can find a ticket, you will pay at least $200 for a seat in the endzone (that was the cheapest one I could find online in September). And you hope you buy a ticket on the right side (the stadium is split down the middle – orange on one side, red on the other).
Who would pay $875 for a family of four for tickets and parking for a college football game? Someone perhaps with too much money and not enough common sense. This is why I now watch it on TV.
The Texas State Fair is big and busy. The last time I went, I took my oldest son Brian (who I think was 15 or 16 at the time). You could hardly walk without running into someone. Two Texas cowboys ran into us and one spilled his large cup of beer down the front of my shirt. I smelled like a brewery throughout the whole game.
The fair was full of junk food that was really tasty, really pricey and very unhealthy. It still is. Who eats deep-fried butter? People who go to fairs.
One of the most fun parts for a fan is to go the stadium by the locker rooms when the Sooners get off the bus. You have to get there early but it is worth it.
Some of the players – those who have never been to the Red River Rivalry – look surprised when they see fans already cheering as they step off the bus. The veteran plays smile and hold up an index finger, indicating “We’re No. 1.”
The game is always exciting – even when one or both of the teams is bad. On those special years when OU and Texas enter the game undefeated and ranked in the Top 25, there is a big load of pressure that resides with the fans.
This year, OU is pretty good, Texas is suspect. But this game will be hard fought regardless of the records or ranking. This is for state pride.
After the game, I always wanted to linger if OU won. The band would hold a mini-concert directed toward remaining fans and that is special.
If OU lost, I always want to get out of Dallas and out of Texas as soon as possible. After a win, we stayed and ate a steak. After a loss, we headed back to Norman without buying even a stick of gum in Texas.
This is a unique game between teams from competitive states. This is like Disney World – you need to see it in person at least once but you have to wonder why you would keep going back.