An Evening With The New York Aggies
This time last week, I was re-entering the United States of America.
As I got off the plane, someone who worked at the airport said to me: ‘Bienvenidos a La Gran Manzana’.
At first, I thought he said ‘Manziel’. I was wearing a Texas A&M wristband and thought he may have been referring to it.
He then said the same thing to all the passengers that were leaving the plane. Suddenly, I thought the likelihood of him preaching the ways of Johnny Football to everyone seemed unlikely.
I assumed he was speaking Spanish. But I was unsure why. Had I just got on a plane to Mexico or South America by accident?
It’s not like I knew what he was saying either. My knowledge of Spanish is limited to a few choice phrases such as ‘una cerveza por favor’ (one beer please) and ‘dos cervezas por favor’ (two beers please).
In the midst of my confusion, a large gutsy American finally responded to the guy. ‘It’s the big apple. We’re in America. We speak English. You dumbass’.
And that was that. I was back.
I woke up the next day wondering what to do with my Saturday. Go up the Empire State Building? Say hi to the Statue of Liberty? Get lost in Central Park?
None of the above.
If I learned anything in College Station, it is that Saturday’s should be spent doing one thing, and one thing only. Watching college football.
As a result, my first order of the day was to see what match ups there were. WIth A&M playing in the late game, I had some time to fill.
Immediately, I noticed that the Longhorns were playing Oklahoma in one of the early games.
That will do, I thought. Back in England, I support two soccer teams. Portsmouth and whoever our deadly rivals Southampton are playing. This has spread to college football and I now find myself naturally rooting for whoever plays UT.
The next thing to do was to find a place to watch it. NYC is abnormally large. I barely knew where to start, so I googled ‘college football bars in New York’. I soon realized that there were dedicated bars to each college team across Manhattan.
Where better to go and support the Sooners against the Longhorns than in the Oklahoma bar? I had visions of us locking arms, singing songs and celebrating the dramatic demise of UT’s football program.
Unfortunately, things didn’t really go to plan. I ended up sitting amongst hundreds of very unhappy University of Oklahoma alumni. The initial cries of ‘boomer sooner’ went quiet rather quickly. UT rolled them over. I could have reminded the Sooners about the Cotton Bowl in January, but I thought it best not to rub salt in the wound. Or get a beer thrown over me.
I left as people began to drown their sorrows. The next place I visited was the dedicated LSU bar for their afternoon game against Florida. The atmosphere was much better there, it certainly helped that they were in front for pretty much the whole game.
But it lacked any real meaning to me. I couldn’t get into it. I ended up leaving during the third quarter and headed back to my hotel. The large amounts of beer I’d drank had caught up with me and a quick snooze before the A&M game seemed like a great idea.
In hindsight, it wasn’t. I felt pretty drained and had to rush to ‘Characters’ – the home of the New York Aggies. With just five minutes till kick off, I was still about 11/12 blocks away. I ended up jogging and got to the bar just in time.
As I walked in, a sense of pride engulfed me. The maroon shirts, the Texas accents and the bottles of Shiner Bock. Even though I’m no Texan or an Aggie in the literal sense, I felt like I was surrounded by my people.
The experiences at the Sooners and LSU bars were fun, but it always felt like something was missing. Here though, and as corny as it sounds, it just felt right.
As the game got underway, I found a decent position to stand and watch the game at the back.
Then horror struck. Johnny went down injured holding his knee. The whole place fell silent. You could have heard a pin drop. As Johnny winced, we collectively winced. All sorts of things went rushing through my head. ‘Lord, take my knee instead!’, ‘Anyone but Johnny!’ and ‘Why do Ole Miss fans wave around silly pom poms on a stick?’.
When Mr Manziel returned to the field, a euphoric cheer filled the room. He was back. And nothing was going to stop him.
Shortly after, an Aggie sat in front of me asked if I knew who was wearing the number 17 shirt as the player had no name on the back. I said I had no idea. We later found out it was Trey Williams who had changed jerseys for some reason. Anyway, he noticed my English accent and offered me a seat. I introduced myself and to my surprise, he asked if I was ‘that English guy writing the blog/book on A&M’. Guilty. I embarrassingly felt like a Z-list celebrity.
He was there with his wife and they typified why I feel so comfortable around Aggies. Like I said, the LSU and Sooners bars were OK, but there just wasn’t that spirit or atmosphere that you get when you’re surrounded by people from Texas A&M. This couple lived near the A&M campus and like me, were in New York for a few days. Just speaking to them for a few moments made me nostalgic for College Station. They were genuine lovely people. As the game went on, we discussed everything from my time in Aggieland to the eleventh century castle that is located less than a mile away from where I live back home.
We were soon joined by a couple of other people. One was an Aggie who was 78 years old and was in the class of ‘55. He was accompanied by his girlfriend who at a guess, was in her mid twenties. Well played sir.
By this point, the game was in the balance. For a brief moment, I really thought we were going to struggle to pull a rabbit out of the hat and win it.
Supporting the soccer team I do, you are naturally programmed to assume the worst (we’ve been relegated three times in four years). Anything more than mediocrity is a bonus. Halfway through the fourth quarter, I was beginning to go into autopilot and come to the conclusion that maybe I’m just a jinx on all the sporting teams that I follow.
However, I had not fully considered one component. And the most important one of all.
Johnny effing Football.
That 4th and 7 play that he made with his legs deep in the fourth quarter.. WOW. Everyone went bonkers. From then on, there was only one man in the world that you wanted in the drivers seat.
With the help of Joshy Lambo, A&M had done it.
Phew. I mopped my brow. Perhaps I’m not a jinx after all.
Edit: After the Auburn defeat, maybe the jinx debate can be put back on the table. Gulp.
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