Part One: Explaining Aggieland To…
Since I’ve been back in the UK, I’ve had plenty of people ask me what Texas and Texas A&M is like.
My first response is always the same: It is nothing like I imagined it to be.
In England, there is a defined stereotype of the ‘Deep South’ of America. For example, there was a Top Gear episode (our version of Breaking Bad in terms of popularity) that was filmed a few years ago. The crew drove around the country in the name of comedy with slogans such as ‘Man-love rules OK’, ‘Country and Western is Rubbish’, ‘Hillary for President’ and ‘NASCAR sucks’ painted on their cars.
Yes, that is British humour.
They were pelted with rocks and chased down the highway.
Someone reminded me of that episode a couple of days ago and it stuck with me. I remember watching it (aired in 2007) and naively thought everyone there must be bonkers.
Now though? I have people that I consider lifelong friends in Texas and actually got defensive about the episode and dismissed it as ‘dodgy editing’.
Yes, I’ve come across people that are different to anyone I’ve ever met. I once offended someone in Northgate by accidentally dropping a ‘F word’ in conversation. In my defence, I’d had five or six beers. Oh, and the fact I’m a bit of a potty mouth.
Regardless, does it fit the stereotype that was portrayed? Not at all. The people of Texas are the definition of nice. It’s actually made me slightly depressed coming back to the UK and getting back to the normal routine. No one says hello (howdy) or asks how you are. Quite simply, no one gives a f***. Whoops. I did warn you.
I’ll admit that sometimes I felt like an alien in College Station. Every day I would learn something new. The place has a fascinating history. Hopefully when I head back, I’ll be able to act more ‘clued up’ and not appear such a fish out of water.
If you’ve read any of my initial blogs, you would know how shocked I was when I first heard the cannon at Kyle Field go off. I thought that we could be under attack. As a sidenote, I’ve noticed how much padding Johhny Manziel wears around his midriff during games. I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s not actually wearing it as protection from a crazy linebacker, but just incase Darren Rovell overpowers the people that are in control of the cannon and he aims it at our beloved quarterback.
Before you ask, yes, I would throw myself in front of the cannonball if it was shot at Johnny. Although I’m not sure my travel medical insurance would cover it.
Explaining to my peers that a cannon is set off at games and at midnight yell was hard enough. Midnight yell you say? I almost didn’t bother. That would absolutely blow their minds. After all, It blew mine the first time I saw it. I gave them the brief details. When I saw their faces when I let them know that 50,000 turned up for the Alabama game, I knew I had to stop. That alone made them think I was having them on. As a result, I didn’t go into much detail about the chaps with horses that are dressed up like they’ve just come straight off the TV set of ‘Deep South’.
‘Bet you love the cheerleaders though!’ was a response I also got. Haha. Their face when I told them that A&M is one of the only college football teams that don’t actually have cheerleaders was priceless. ‘You travelled all that way for no cheerleaders? Are you mad?’. As if giving up your job, travelling 5,000 miles to an unfamiliar place, leaving everything at home behind for a few months just for college football, wasn’t already an indication of madness. But apparently a lack of cheerleaders was the tipping point.
With that in mind, I’d try my best to convey other traditions.
A big one is not exclusive to A&M. But to college football as a whole. The marching band. I’ll lay my cards on the table here, and honestly, if you’re a current/ex member of the band, please don’t be offended. This is just an unfortunate fact across the pond. Marching bands such as the one we see at Kyle Field simply don’t exist in England. Why don’t they? Well, I’ll tell you from personal experience. When I was growing up at my school, the band/choir was perhaps the un-coolest thing you could be a part of.
And yet, different cultures, different societies, different activities prosper. Things like that were exactly why I wanted to portray the story of Aggieland and college football from an ‘outsiders point of view’. The Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band is one of the most spine-tingling, memorable and special things that I experienced whilst in College Station. From hearing them approach Kyle Field for midnight yell, hearing THAT tune, to playing at half time, they make you feel at home. At home? Home for me was across a very large ocean but they managed it. I’d even find myself humming the tune of ‘Spirit of Aggieland’ for three or four days after a game. It simply makes you feel good and every time that I’ve played it since being back in the UK, it’s made me pretty emotional.
You’d laugh if you saw me singing along to it though. I know about 80% of the words and there’s a couple of lines that I always seem to forget and end up mumbling my way through. But at least I try. And everyone lover a trier!
When it comes to the hardest thing I’ve had to try and explain. It’s not fish camp, the UT rivalry or the cannon.
What is it? Unfortunately, you’re going to have to find out when I get around to writing it. I wrote this piece on the plane to New York and there were a couple of movies I wanted to watch before we landed. 21 Jump Street and This Is The End, if you must know.
Check back soon. I know you love a cliffhanger.
Did you enjoy this blog? If yes, you will love the book! Marooned in Aggieland is out now! Book Availability:
Follow the author on Twitter: @GigEmNation