Monday, September 26, 2011
Introducing the SEC to its new member
By David Ubben
Among the facts SEC fans will want to learn about Texas A&M is how they feel about Texas and their 12th Man tradition.
SEC, meet the Aggies. You're about to get to know them real well, and the folks in Texas and abroad have done so for a long, long time.
They're a little weird, but it's kind of endearing. You'll get used to it. They'll be the ones yelling, "Howdy!"
A trip to Kyle Field means being subjected to the numerous Aggie Yells that freshmen spend hours learning at orientation before they start classes. Of course, any real Aggie gives his kid a full education years before the move into the dorms becomes a reality.
You won't hear a boo. Aggies hiss. They will do this in public, so be ready if you say something deemed "bad bull." Say something deemed "good bull?" Be ready for the Aggies to unleash their signature cheer, the "Whoop!"
Conversations in College Station end with a "Gig 'em" and the catchphrase's hand sign: the thumbs up. You'll see it a lot and it's the go-to picture pose on game day.
You'll notice the cheerleaders are distinctly male and are referred to as Yell Leaders. This dates back to the school's status as an all-male school until 1964. Mocking this has gone out of style in the Big 12 by now, so expect eye rolls from the Aggies if you resort to asking why their cheerleaders look a little, uh, different. The only thing more complex than Aggie Yells are the hand signals, or "pass-backs," the white coverall-wearing Yell Leaders use to direct them.
When 85,000 Aggies lean forward, put their hands on their knees and "Hump it" to maximize the volume of their Yells, you'll know you've entered a different world.
Texas A&M's Yells are its most evident tradition, closely followed by an obsession with beating and comparing itself to Texas, which is closely followed by pretending said obsession doesn't exist.
Those opportunities will be rare in their new conference, but you know those rumors you've heard about the swaying upper deck in the stadium? It's 100 percent true, and it comes from a sold-out Kyle Field swaying in a motion to "saw 'em off."
The Aggie War Hymn, which scores these swaying sessions, is one of the best fight songs in college football, and it may soon become one of the most confusing.
"Goodbye to Texas University. So long to the orange and the white," the Aggies sing every Saturday (and at midnight before game night, when an astounding 20-30,000 fans will show up to practice the Yells they love so much).
"The eyes of Texas are upon you. That is the song they sing so well. Sounds like hell!" Aggies sing. "Saw varsity's horns off!"
Just like you SEC fans, the Aggies have their crazies, too. What they lack in tree poisoners, they possess in cattle branders. As the legend goes, Texas' mascot got his name when some mischievous Aggies branded the score of the 1915 game, "13-0" on the side of the Texas Longhorn mascot. Texas discovered this, changed the brand to "BEVO" and haven't looked back for a near century since.
You'll notice the sense of community in College Station right away. Aggies are united and Aggies support Aggies when they find a few spare moments not hating Texas.
Graduates proudly wear their Aggie rings. Aggies love to feel superior to the half-hearted "T-shirt fans" over in Austin, but in this respect, they're correct. Meet an Aggie fan, and the probability that they're wearing an Aggie ring (and maroon or a No. 12 jersey) is astronomically high.
Every year, at sites across the globe, Aggies honor friends and family who died over the past year. The ceremony is called Aggie Muster, and it's one of the most touching, somber and meaningful traditions in America.
Each lost loved one's name is read at a candlelight ceremony and those that came to honor them respond with "here."
The 12th Man is the well-deserved and embraced moniker of the Aggies fan base. The origin of that nickname is the stuff of legend. The 12th Man was the Big 12's best remaining fan base after Nebraska left, and they'll fit right in among you SEC folk.
The Corps of Cadets dates back to the school's military history, and still serves as a way for graduates to enter the military when they leave Texas A&M. They're the ones in uniform with the jarhead haircut. Seniors wear boots. They're easy to spot and they get all the best seats at the games on Saturday.
Stick around at halftime, too, for the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, the best in all the land.
The Aggies, like much of the South, take pride in their blue-collar tradition. You'll hear "Farmers fight!" in several of the Aggie Yells.
Without Texas to play, I don't know what the bonfire (now unofficial and not sponsored by the university after a tragic accident in 1999) will symbolize anymore. Up until now, it was a symbol of the Aggies "burning desire" to beat Texas.
They're a unique group, these Aggies. You'll learn this and more first hand the first time they invade your campuses and you theirs. Big 12 and Southwest Conference fans have enjoyed trading barbs with the Aggies for decades. Lord knows they provide plenty of ammo.
The Aggies are a tight-knit group. You'll be impressed by it. I'm not sure the Aggies can handle the SEC on the field, but off it? A first-class program that signifies what college and college sports are all about: tradition. They can hang with anybody in the country in that regard.
If you're caught dishing some "bad bull," it usually boils down to one thing.
You're not an Aggie, and you just don't get it.
But they're a friendly folk. If you ask, they'll be happy to explain.