Before I came to Texas, my only knowledge of the state amounted to what I had seen in westerns: cowboys and longhorns. Cowboys were the guys with the boots and ten-gallon hats, and longhorns just had long horns. But after coming to Fort Worth three years ago, I discovered I was very wrong.
The Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns are another story. These popular sports teams inspire devoted fans like Wilford “Crazy Ray” Jones to dress in western wear and perform magic tricks from the sidelines and the Bush family to raise the “Hook ’em Horns” sign wherever they go. Whatever the team and whatever the sport, whether it is professional, college or high school, sports in Texas are everything.
For all the other naive out-of-state students, like myself, if you haven’t noticed: Texans are more than fans. Look beyond the body paint, dyed hair and the hundreds of dollars spent on tickets and team merchandise. They take sports seriously. It’s not just a game to them; it’s an emotional attachment. When their team wins, everything is right with the world. When their team loses, there’s no meaning to life anymore.
Looking at Facebook after the Utah game, it was quite easy to see that fact. Many students were visually and verbally upset about TCU’s fall to Utah in the final quarter of the game. One person had a dozen of the same curse word as his Facebook status.
In my freshman year, I went to the Galleria Dallas, and everywhere I looked I saw burnt orange and red. Apparently, the biggest football game of the season was on the way, and practically everyone and everything had those colors. The overhead lights had colored filters that displayed the University of Texas and Oklahoma University logos on the floor. Even the front shoe display of Dillard’s had shoes in the same colors.
Texans are so focused on sports teams that they’ll even take offense to the color of one’s clothing. Confidently sporting your team’s colors shows your dedication and loyalty as a fan. It is a major faux pas to wear Oklahoma University red at the University of Texas at Austin, especially if you’re a Texas fan; you’re practically asking for an altercation to take place. Suddenly, one’s loyalties are questioned, and people treat what a person wears as a serious matter.
Texans live and breathe sports so much so that they impart that lifestyle on their children. Parents dress their children in tiny sports jerseys and cheerleading outfits. Before their kids learn the alphabet, they learn to “Hook ’em Horns” and sing their favorite team’s fight song. Then, the kids grow up just as obsessed as their parents and on goes the never-ending cycle.
I know a 9-year-old boy who is so committed to sports that if his team should lose, he puts the blame of their loss on himself. He holds his head and cries with his body tucked into the fetal position as he tries to comprehend how anyone could have possibly beaten his team. The poor kid has to hole himself up in another room to compose himself.
The danger of this sports fanaticism isn’t only the emotional stress derived from loss. The danger comes when fans turn take their emotions too far and engage in rude behavior. Cursing, name-calling, trash talking and making vicious threats are never acceptable even if people say they are only joking. Those people think they’re being funny, but a poor, disrespectful attitude like that should not be tolerated. This is how kids pick up bad words, aggressive behavior and a lack of respect for others.
Now before you channel all that anger toward me for tying this kind of extreme fanaticism with Texans, hear me out. I’m not pinpointing Texans as being the most or only unsportsmanlike group of people – there are certainly people throughout this country who act this way or worse. However, I say this because of what I have heard people shout from the stands and how I have seen people act during my years in Texas.
Still, I have to admit Texas’ sports obsession is contagious. Before coming to TCU, the only sports I would watch were University of Hawaii volleyball and basketball. I’d only turn to ESPN for the X Games and the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and I absolutely detested watching football and baseball games. But being in Texas has changed me.
Since then, I have attended two NBA games, four MLB games and multiple TCU baseball and basketball games. Now, I attend almost every TCU football game. I scream, clap and jump around when they score along with everyone else in the stands. I’ve even dyed my hair purple and dressed in crazy purple outfits.
Being in Texas and being a part of the sports fanaticism here is an experience unlike any other. People are free to be as wild about their team as they like as long as they are respectful to everyone else. With sports, there will be good days and bad days, but as long as there are sports, particularly football, Texans will be always happy.
Alyssa Dizon is a senior broadcast journalism major from Aiea, Hawaii.