Texas A&M’s Midnight Yell Practice
When I researched the traditions of Texas A&M, I had heard of the midnight yell practice that takes place the night before each Aggies football game at Kyle Field.
However, a couple of weeks before I came to Texas I noticed that there was a concert scheduled for the 13th September (the night before the Alabama game) that was being billed as the ‘First Yell’.
As a naive gentleman, I took this at face value and presumed that this was indeed going to be the first yell practice of the year.
No, no, no sonny jim.
I had been in College Station for little over 24 hours when I found myself in a sports bar watching the soccer European Super Cup. English superpower Chelsea were taking on the champions of Europe, Bayern Munich.
After a couple of minutes, I realized that the chances of them showing soccer was slimmer than Miley Cyrus. So I nervously approached the bar. Luckily, I didn’t find Miss Cyrus there.
‘Can you put the soccer on?’, I proclaimed. I was greeted with blank looks.
I got lucky though. After a few awkward minutes I was blessed with the soothing sights of what I’d grown up on. My opium. Soccer.
Anyway, a couple of hours passed and my English compatriots had lost on penalties. Something that I am more than used to.
As a result, I was in no mood to stick around. I quickly made the decision to move on.
The natural question to that statement would be ‘where to?’. I had nowhere to go and even more embarrassingly, nowhere in mind apart from a depressing stroll back to my accommodation.
So I made a decision. I’d head to the stadium, Kyle Field.
I had been there earlier in the day to see what was happening and had seen plenty of people setting up for the next day’s tailgating action. I figured that there was a good chance a few people would still be knocking about in the mood to tolerate an Englishman that was so far out his depth that it would perhaps seem ‘cool’.
After arriving at the stadium, I soon realized that I wasn’t in luck.
Apart from a group of extremely drunk dudes that were throwing a frisbee at each other from ten meters apart, I could tell the crowds from earlier had disappeared.
Not ideal, but I hadn’t walked all this way to slope back empty handed. I decided that I’d catch a glimpse of Kyle Field under the lights.
I walked around to the entrance point and was quickly greeted by two security guards that immediately asked what I was up to.
‘Just having a look around, mate’. I replied.
Their faces dropped. For a moment, I thought they had got the impression I was being rude to them. Very rude. Would I ever.
I repeated myself, followed with the backstory of why I was there. I have now realized that the word ‘mate’ means absolutely nothing in the USA. Yet I keep saying it all the time and get extremely blank looks.
Luckily for me, they were two of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Often when you hear about Texas, you hear about how nice the people are. These guys typified this and were genuinely warm-hearted towards me. I was humbled.
They let me hang out with them for the rest of their shift and even when I was shocked as I was told that a midnight yell practice was happening that night – they sorted me out with a VIP pitchside pass for it.
The experience of the midnight yell practice was one to behold. Even now as I sit here, I can’t quite believe that 30,000 people gather at midnight on a Friday night to practice their chanting for the next day’s game.
When I read up on it before I came here, I was impressed. However, it’s something you really don’t appreciate it until you’ve seen it in person. It’s got to be seen to be believed.
My jaw was literally on the floor. Coming from England, this was difficult to comprehend. If thousands of people got together on a Friday night back home, you could bet a fair wedge that hundreds of police would have to be present. Fights would be breaking out in every direction. It would be sheer mayhem. Here though, the ‘naughtiest’ thing I witnessed was two girls arguing over how many years their respected fathers had been in the army for.
Even when the crowds were pouring in, I didn’t believe that anywhere near the expected 30k would turn up. I certainly had egg on my face when the whole student side of the 83,000 capacity stadium filled up minutes before the yell took place.
During the practice, they rehearse the fight songs and abuse the following day’s opposition. In this instance, A&M were playing Rice Owls. Early on, the announcer exclaimed the joke ‘What’s the difference between Rice and Cheerios? You can find Cheerios in a bowl’. Boom.
Anyway, at first I found the whole experience crazy – almost insane. I was stood ten feet away from people in army stuff doing press ups and sit ups just because people in the crowd had waved some sort of gesture at them. I was beyond confused.
It was only until the next day at the game that things started to make sense. The unison of the crowd makes the A&M student section the best in college football.
Across the pond, we don’t get to appreciate any of the fan-involvement. However, I was lucky enough to see it first-hand.
The yell practice fine tunes everything perfectly. Everyone gets to know exactly how to make the Aggie atmosphere so special. And trust me, special is exactly what it is.
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