Part Two: Explaining Aggieland To…
I finished Part One with a cheeky cliffhanger. And like every cliffhanger, you want to find out what happens next as quickly as possible. Who am I to deny you of that?
So, what is the hardest Aggie tradition that I’ve had to explain?
Easy. It’s Reveille.
Before I first flew out to Texas, I knew that college football had a strong affinity with mascots. I had heard that Baylol (see, I’m learning) had a black bear program that saw them represented by a couple of real bears. Real bears! At a sporting event? Speechless.
When I first researched Texas A&M I saw that their mascot was a Rough Collie called Reveille. My first reaction was ‘Snap, the mascot of my soccer team is also a dog’.
That is where the comparisons end. They have literally nothing else in common.
Portsmouth FC’s Nelson is a six-foot man dressed in a poorly made dogs costume. Why is he called Nelson? Because he’s named after a famous British Naval admiral called Admiral Horatio Nelson. The team is based in the most prestigious naval city in the country.
A few years after being introduced, he was even given a wife. Mary Rose. She was named after a navy boat that was active in the 16th century. Again, she is just a bloke that drew a short straw in life and ended up dressing as a dog for a living.
So, the fact A&M were using a real dog was an initial surprise. But that was nothing until I found out that ‘Rev’ isn’t just a dog. She is the highest-ranking member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.
Imagine explaining that to someone back home that is used to a mascot being a guy that you have a couple of beers with after a game, whilst he’s still wearing half a dogs costume? I could barely manage it. Here at A&M, this was real. And Reveille is more than just a mascot. She is a symbol of Aggie football.
When I think of my soccer team, do I ever think of the dude dressed as a dog? Of course I don’t. Yet when it comes to A&M, the reception Reveille gets when she’s on show says it all.
Whilst explaining this, people were in disbelief. It’s just not comprehensible in England. Especially when I said that there was a ‘mascot corporal’ that has the sole responsibility of looking after her. This person has to take Reveille literally everywhere, including class and on dates.
After I was first told this, I had to get confirmation at least seven times. On dates? You what?
To this day, just thinking of it is surreal. I bet the guy that looks after her isn’t short of offers. I bet he gives it the big one. ‘Do you know who I am? I am the person who looks after Reveille!’. Bet it works for him every time. Guaranteed success. In fact, if anything, I think that is a romantic-comedy waiting to be written. I call shotgun on the rights.
On the subject of the Corps of Cadets, I’ll be honest, for the first couple of weeks I kept calling them the ‘corpse’ by mistake. Whoops. My first contact with them was at the first midnight yell that I attended. As soon as the gates opened, there were about 100 skinhead chaps rushing to the front of the stand. I asked some people why they were all bald and was told because they are part of the Corps. Back at home, if I saw 100 skinheads run at me, I’d be running as fast as I could in the other direction.
In other words, I’d be ‘agged’. This is another thing Brits picked up on. They had noticed me saying the word ‘Aggie’ and asked what this was in reference to. That word in the UK means aggravation. For example, if someone is pissed off, you might ask, ‘hey, why are you getting aggie?’. If they didn’t get the initial stuff, I almost felt bad about giving them a brief history of A&M’s agricultural background knowing it would go in one ear, and out the other.
Apart from that, it was the usual ‘we can’t understand how college football is so big over there’. I’d then hit them with one of my favorite facts. The official population of College Station is 97,534. When Kyle Field is redeveloped, it will hold 102,000. The whole community could fit into the stadium with room to spare! What’s not to love about that?
As I said in Part One though, there is still some stuff I don’t fully understand myself. For example, for my first couple of trips to Kyle Field, I couldn’t get my head around why people kept making ‘pretend guns’ with their hands. After every yell, there would be 87,000 people put their hands together into a ‘gun shape’ and fire into the sky accompanied with a ‘Whoop!’. I still don’t know why this happens. Do I join in with it though? Of course I bloody do. After all, it reminds me of playing make believe shooting games with my friends when I was younger. And that’s never a bad thing.
Finally, the last thing that took me by surprise was the phenomenon known as the ‘high 5’. I bet you’re thinking ‘what? you’re joking right?’. Nope. At soccer, when your team scores, everyone goes absolutely mental. And when I mean mental, you will hug and embrace the person next to you that you’ve never even met before. If you even attempted to ‘high 5’ someone, they would look at you like you’re from another planet.
Over here though, the ‘high 5’ is the accepted way to celebrate your team doing something good. The first game against Rice after a TD, someone threw up their hand and I genuinely had no idea what to do with it. Do I shake it? Eventually I worked out that a flat palm surely means ‘high 5’ territory. From then onwards, I knew what to do.
And that’s that. I could have explained stuff in more detail, like letting them know what a ‘kuzie’ is. Likewise, I could have told them how the staff at Kyle Field when you give them the exact change for something they then do a twirl and shout ’EXACT CHANGE!’ at you. But for their safety, and for mine, I didn’t think they were quite ready for it yet.
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