Rivalry fans add to game's tradition

AUSTIN, Texas -- In his home, on the bar, sits this picture.

Steve Tomson is in the middle; to his left and right are his daughter, Bailey, and six of her friends from the University of Texas. They're standing near the South Gate of the Cotton Bowl.

He can see all the years that have gone by in that picture; all the changes that his life has had and will have.

But what he also sees is something that has been a constant in his life for nearly 30 years -- the Red River Rivalry.

"For me, that is probably my favorite Saturday of the year," said Tomson, a 1986 UT grad. "And it is not about what happens on the field. It's about being there with friends and seeing them and their children, and getting to meet and watch their children grow up. And it's about being there with my daughters and letting them know what this is about. Just being able to pass it on to the next generation and being able to share this with them."

That is Texas-OU.

So is John Donovan walking into the Cotton Bowl for the first time in more than two decades.

Kids, commitments and a big-screen TV have kept him away until now.

But he hatched a plan a couple of months ago. Maybe with enough polish and flattery, his wife Leasa would go for it. Their anniversary was coming up. On Oct. 19., it will have been 20 years since they married. The last time they went to the game, they were in their late 20s and engaged.

"She said yes," Donovan said.

It was the second biggest proposal of his life.

"Tailgating starts at 7 a.m.," he said.

Ah, newlyweds.

Chris Bacic has been married to this game for 29 years. Hasn't missed one.

He was a Jersey kid -- a transplant back in the 1980s who was transformed after one trip to Austin and the University of Texas campus.

That day, the high school kid who had just moved to Dallas was touring the LBJ Library.

"We came out of the library and you could see across the campus and I knew that was where I wanted to go and what I wanted to be a part of," Bacic said.

That was how Bacic's streak started. He enrolled at Texas in 1982, went to the game and never stopped. Back in those years, by his side were his two friends from college, Blake Jan and Brian Coleman.

The three had fallen out of touch through the years. It had been 20 years since Coleman and Bacic had even talked. This summer they all found each other.

"And we just thought, wouldn't it be neat if we all went to the game together," Bacic said. "The three of us are going like we used to in '82 through '86."

Mike Davis is going this year, too.

Last year, crutches kept him away from the Cotton Bowl. Instead of playing in the stadium as a Texas freshman, he found himself at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Dallas, watching his teammates.

"I was just wishing I was out there with the guys," Davis said.

This year Davis will be there. But he tried to empathize with former Skyline teammate and Oklahoma defensive back Joe Powell. Powell will not be playing this year because of a knee injury.

"I called him up and he just started talking all this trash and stuff," Davis said. "I was just like 'Ok, bye.' "

Powell being a Sooner, sometimes friendship takes a backseat to rivalries.

The rivalry is what Chance McCoy relishes.

"That's the best part of it," said the older brother to Case and younger brother to Colt. "You get to give it to their fans and they give it right back to you."

No doubt everyone in crimson gives it to the McCoys.

"My parents are walking through the fairgrounds with hats and buttons and jerseys on, plus they have been on TV so much, people know who they are," Chance said.

"And me and my dad, we will give it right back to them."

In the end, this game has given so much to the fans through the years. There have been national championship teams and Hall of Famers playing on both sides. Unknowns have become legends, there was a spying scandal before SpyGate. Seasons have been ruined and made in the Red River Rivalry.

But it is more than about what happens on the field. It's about passing down a tradition and never letting go of one. And it's about pride. The pride Chance McCoy will walk with as he heads to the stadium to watch his brother and his team for another year.

"Just everything about it is special," Bacic said. "The atmosphere is something you can't describe and something you wouldn't understand unless you have been a part of it."