SMU, Heights And The Big Screen

After battling the temptation to continue tailgating, there was a game to be watched.

SMU. I’ll put my cards on the table here. It’s nearly a week after the game and I still have absolutely no idea what ‘SMU’ stands for. All I have is a confident hunch that the ‘U’ stands for University.

I could look it up on a search engine, but to be honest, it’s not like I have a burning desire to find out. It’s like a burger I bought from a strange van outside of a soccer stadium once. The bread tasted like bread. Inside it though? Certainly not beef. Or even meat. Hunger encapsulated me. In that moment, nothing else mattered. It was food. Had it broken advertisement laws? Probably. It certainly wasn’t a burger in the conventional sense. But it did the job, it filled me up. The mystery of not knowing appealed to me more than finding out the unfortunate truth of what it actually was.

Am I saying that SMU is like a dodgy burger? Not exactly. But after the huge highs and lows of the previous week against Alabama, I couldn’t help but think this game needed all the mystery, excitement and references to illegitimate meat products that it could get.

The day before the game, the rain came. I’d experienced the soaring Texas heat, now it was time to enjoy the other end of the spectrum.  As I walked back to my swanky travel inn,  the rain started to come down hard. As I’m from England, this is something that happens at least four times a day. I’ll tell you what though, Texas Rain 1-0 England Rain. Texas rain is warmer. So even when you’re getting drenched, at least you aren’t freezing your gonads off at the same time. In England, you will eventually die from man flu.

With the rain, came the thought that the midnight yell practice scheduled for later that night  could be abandoned. I gave someone who works on the campus a call and asked if it was still on. He laughed at me down the phone for about three minutes and then hung up. He later told me that he’s been working at A&M for over 20 years and has never seen a yell practice cancelled.

So that was it. I’d be lucky enough to see my first midnight yell practice in the rain. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pan out that way. About half an hour before midnight, the rain stopped. Oh well. At least it saved me ruining another set of clothes.

Compared to the week before, I’d say there was barely a fifth of the people that were there for the Bama midnight yell. Only about three quarters of the bottom tier was filled. Fair play to everyone that was there. Impressive dedication for a game that everyone was pretty ‘meh’ about.

Gameday. As I walked up to the stadium, I hadn’t really given much thought to where I was sitting. All I knew was that I’d be up with the Gods at the top of the north endzone.

As I entered the ramp, it was as if I’d just joined a swirling vortex. You seem to walk in a circle for eternity until you finally get to the very top of the stand. I then took a moment to compose myself as I dealt with my dizzyness, fear of heights and general lack of fitness.

After getting myself together, it was time to locate my seat. I was praying that I’d be low down. I looked at my ticket hoping to see any number between 1-10. Nope. 33.

Kyle Field was quickly becoming my Mount Everest. I continued to climb until I reached the summit. Row 33. I sat there for a moment and simply took in the incredible view of College Station and the surrounding area that you can see far and wide. For a moment, I thought I could perhaps see my homeland in the distance.

The game was strangely harder to get into the others. Was it because I’d usually sat much closer to the field so felt more connected to the game? Was it because the game didn’t have any real spark? Or perhaps it was just because after the experience of Bama, nothing will ever quite reach that tipping point again. Whatever it was, it did have an eerie feel of a hangover from last week.

Regardless, in the first half, A&M were still in the mood to pile some points on the board. Even though you feel a little uneasy standing so high up, I’d braved getting to my feet for every touchdown. I won’t lie, I had terrible visions of misjudging just how much I’d enjoyed the tailgate, drunkenly falling over and then tumbling down down to the bottom of the steep tier and vanishing into a puff of smoke. I think you’d agree that wouldn’t have been a good look.

The game was deep in the fourth quarter. All game I had been subjected to a lad sat behind me that was probably only 9-10 years old. He would ask his dad a question every 3.7 seconds. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important that kids should come to football matches and the bond sport can create between father and son is unbreakable. Likewise, I can’t really talk because I’m still a relative newbie when it comes to football so I was probably asking pretty silly questions not so long ago too.

However, when you’ve sat through nearly three hours of it. The penny starts to drop. And with one more question, it did. And it will stay with me forever. ‘Dad, if a field goal kick is like really really good, and I mean twice the distance than it usually is, can the referee think woah that’s impressive and give a touchdown?’.

I got up and left.

Previous games that I’d been to, I’d sat right in the corner of the big screen endzone. From that viewpoint, you can see dozens of people that come to the games and decide to sit on the artificial lawn and watch it on the big screen. This always made me really curious. What’s the point of coming to a sporting event, just to watch it on an essentially, really big television? The thought crossed my mind that perhaps these people don’t own televisions and are just really really impressed with the technology.

Anyway, when I left sitting in a cloud, I thought well if you can’t beat them (or understand them), you may as well join them. So I did exactly that.

After making the long walk to the other side of the stadium, and taking a knee just in front of the scarily large screen, I was even more baffled.

My eyes. Oh my eyes. As it was dark, the screen seemed 10x more bright than it usually does. I could feel the colors and images burning into my retinas. I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for it much but it did help me understand why people go there. It’s usually families with small kids that probably find it an easy way to keep tabs on everything whilst taking in the gameday experience.

I had noticed that by halfway through the fourth quarter, Kyle Field was looking pretty empty. I’ll admit that last quarter wasn’t particularly pleasant viewing but it surprised me.

Until I remembered how good tailgating is, suddenly, everything made sense again.

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