We had many great entries, but one great Aggie stood above.
The first portion of the Fanthropology contest presented by Hyundai was a lot of fun. We got to share some great stories highlighting what makes us all so crazy about the Aggies and college sports. After much deliberation over several extremely worthy candidates, I have selected a great guy to represent Good Bull Hunting as our finalist for the grand prize.
A man posting under the handle redeyeoneaggie by the name of Bill Maxwell shared his story here:
There is an expression at A&M (we have a lot of them) that, ""from the outside looking in you can't understand it, and from the inside looking out you can't explain it." I will however take a humble stab at it. If you look at the words to our alma mater, The Spirit of Aggieland, there is an inkling of what this "spirit can ne'er be told" is all about. The Aggie flame burns inside you, or it does not. It is a life-choice that is presented to you when you attend A&M. Aggieland endows its students with the gifts of lifelong camaraderie, a sense of higher purpose, an appreciation of sacrifice, and an indomitable spirit. We are the red fern sprouting between Dan and Ann. We are the Whos holding hands with the Grinch and singing on Christmas Day. We are General "Nuts" McAuliffe in WWII. We are John 15:13. We are Dr. Who versus the Daleks (t.u.). We are Spencer Nealy. Team is spelled with a block T. Watch out SEC. On the football field we are a hydrogen atom waiting to be split. (We have our own cyclotron btw.) Our Moses (Bear Bryant) left us in the desert and wandered off to Bama. We have been too long in the wilderness (crowned by a year of heartbreakingly close games in 2011), but we are home now. Let the fun begin.
The Corps of Cadets and the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas were founded together in 1876. Our school is steeped in military tradition. The agricultural roots of the school also heavily influences our worldview and perspective on what's truly important in life. Salt of the earth sorts and all that. What seems like a strange yell to an outsider, "Farmers fight!" is a confluence of these worthy cultures. The students stand throughout every football game out of respect, and if need be, are ready to suit up and play as a 12th Man. Win or lose we do not leave the stadium until the game is over and not until after we sing the Aggie War Hymn. When our country calls. We are there. 20,229 former cadets served in World War II, 14,123 of them as commissioned officers. Most of the students who were not yet qualified to be officers enlisted. We remember the fallen, both civilian and military students/former students with monthly Silver Taps and annual Aggie Muster ceremonies. If you want to get a feel for what it means to be an Aggie, attend one of these candlelight services. In the still of the night something will happen inside you.
I serendipitously arrived at Texas A&M as a fish (freshman) in 1978. I was not born to be an Aggie (I was the first in my family to go to college), but I was forged into one. The Corps of Cadets knocked me down from being an arrogant high school senior to somewhere lower than whale poop. Like Steve Austin, they rebuilt me, better than I was before. The building blocks of my character included the construction of four Aggie bonfires, marching into football games, and learning to outsmart upperclassmen with the help of my fish buds. As a fish in the Corps you are required to memorize innumerable inscriptions around campus. To this day I can recite word for word what is chiseled on the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross and Governor Coke's advice to the students. I won't bore you with proof of it, but words from those quotes, "let honor be your guiding star" and "knightly gentleman" have stayed with me throughout my life and they have meaning for all Aggies. I am what is called an "Old Army Red Ass." Which means I love our traditions (there are a lot of us), find value in them, and don't want them to change. So no Texas! You are staying in our fight song and we will be sawing your horns off until the end of time!! When I was attending A&M a Houston Chronicle reporter, after attending an Aggie game at Kyle Field for the first time was in awe and wrote of the home field crowd fervor, "Naked I would grasp the tossed spear and follow them into the gates of Hell!" Kyle Field fits nicely as a venue in the SEC don't ya think?
After graduation I served as an active duty Army Officer for a few years and then joined the U.S. government. I lived a Forrest Gump kind of life and I have seen a good portion of the globe in the process. I've had to watch many an Aggie game at 2 a.m. over a satellite feed. My world travels reaffirmed my belief that we are the greatest country on the planet and that A&M is the best school. No matter where I was, and believe me I was in some far flung places, there were always Aggies to summon for a Muster. I liked to keep the memorial part of my overseas musters short and sweet and finish with a celebration of the other aspect of this annual date, April 21st, the Battle of San Jacinto Day (the battle after the Alamo) with TexMex and adult beverages. You gotta love the flag that the Texans flew that day in 1836. A white flag with black cannon and the motto, "Come and Take It!" Of course if the conflict had been forty years later there would have been Aggies at the Alamo, so there wouldn't have been a need for a second battle. Even if you're from out of state, if you attend A&M you become an honorary Texan...a mighty honor. I had the opportunity to travel through Iraq and Afghanistan on several occasions in recent years and I would spot the Aggie rings on service members immediately. The tradition lives on and they continue to serve our country every day in no small number. Similarly, Aggie engineers are constructing marvels worldwide and Aggie humanitarians are helping less fortunate countries to improve their infrastructures and living conditions. With all the Ags I ran across, our conversations always gravitated to, what else, Aggie football. Like I said. We know what's important in life.
I don't know if my post will provide sufficient insight to the uninitiated as to what it means to be an Aggie, but I'd be happy to buy you a beer at the Dixie Chicken and provide additional instruction, prior to a Midnight Yell Practice. Field trips are requisite. I assure you Aggie 101 will be the best class you ever take as you work toward your degree in Fanthropology. Whoop!
Red Eye One Aggie
Never Say Die!
Ord Ord Ord
I was humbled by Bill's service to our country and to Texas A&M. I was inspired and pumped up to read his perspectives on A&M's quirky, unique traditions. How do we build on this all-encompassing effort from Bill?
I exchanged emails with Bill over several days to expand upon this Fanthropology concept. Here are some of the great takeaways:
ColoradoAg: What was your favorite A&M game of all time? What makes A&M fans different or superior to other fans?
Bill Maxwell: Well, I can answer two of your questions in one response since my favorite game of all time (even though I wasn't there/watched it on TV) was this win against Bama, by far, and I've watched/been to a ton of them.
Wow. What a game. I have been following Aggie football fanatically for over thirty years and this was bar none the best/most important game of my lifetime. What a catharsis for all Aggie fans, especially after; so many years (decades) of mixed results (in spite of having so much potential), a heartbreaking 2011 season, and the prattle of "you won't succeed in the SEC" naysayers. This year, culminating with this game, will prove to be transformational for Aggie football. Hey recruits! Wanna stay home in Texas AND play in the SEC, AND play for a team/fanbase with heart, AND play for coaches Sumlin/Snyder/Kingsbury et. al., AND say you were there when JFF got the Heisman (better hurry guys), AND contend for a National Title? BTW recruits, if you prove yourself in our training camp, you could find yourself starting as a freshman...and (unlike Mack Brown) we won't try to recruit you as a Safety (Manziel) or a Defensive Back (RG3) when you're one of if not the best frickin QB in the conference....and even then he might leave you on the bench for most of your career. Hmmmm. Maybe he was just trying to keep them away from his in-state competitors. Clever Mack.
Thank you 12th Man for staying faithful through thick and thin. But heh....you're Ags. Loyalty runs through your veins and it's maroon in color. Thank you guys on the team (and all the support staff) for all your hard work and buying into Coach Sumlin's philosophy. There were so many great plays made by so many of you. Like coach asked of you, you "played a complete game." Skys the limit from here on out men. While it is hard to choose (and these weren‘t even the game winning ones...yeah yeah I saw ya 2, 4, 5, 10, 13, 22, 29...geez the whole team, but), my William Wallace awards for this game go to Ryan Swope and Spencer Nealy, not just for the plays but the combined aspect of the plays with their reactions afterwards. Watch the TAMU highlights. That is the Aggie Spirit I‘m talking about!
ColoradoAg: Talk to me about Aggie loyalty and some of the tough times in recent years.
Bill Maxwell: True loyalty, a much more powerful form of loyalty, is won by setting an example. And sure, lots of students and alums, rightly and understandably, love their schools and their sports teams. But A&M is unique. It is a large school with great academics. There are approximately 350,000 former students/50,000 current students (plus all their friends and family who get swept up into Aggie fandom as well). Quite a fan base huh? The 12th man army. Its size allows it to equip state-of-the-art labs and regularly field national championship level teams. Just as importantly though, attending A&M is flat out fun. There is no other big school that has been so adept at maintaining its small school feel and attitude. Our traditions are inclusive and irresistible (because like I said, they are fun). Where else in the nation do you have a civilian student body (somewhere around 90% of the students) who love and respect their ROTC (the Corps of Cadets) students? In return, units (among many) such as the Ross Volunteers, the Fish Drill Team, and the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band contribute significantly to the performance and maintenance of many of A&M's traditions. I think we're more of a tribe than a student body. Band of brother/sisters.
I think the analogy in my original post comparing us to the Israelites lost in the wilderness for forty years, while tongue-in-cheek, is not too far from the mark. Aggie Football has Bear Bryant DNA at its heart, but we struggled mightily after his departure. (You're welcome Bama.) In my lifetime, with the exception of bright spots here and there (i.e. I suggest you don‘t play us after someone on your team wins the Heisman.), a great string of successes in the 90's under R.C. Slocum, and the current team, being an Aggie fan has been a tribulation. Even under Slocum, in spite of a multitude of 10-win seasons, it seems he was jinxed and repeatedly lost most of his bowl games. We have had so much potential and some awesome teams (backed up by a diehard fan base), but we haven't been consistent and we have fallen just shy of the brass ring on so many occasions.
I arrived at A&M for coach Emory Bellard's last year. I then endured coach Wilson's mediocre efforts (but heh we did beat Texas two out of the four years I was there). I was at the games when SMU's (pre-NCAA death penalty) Eric Dickerson and the rest of the Pony Express ran up one end of the field and down the other on us. After Wilson, Jackie Sherrill made some progress. Bama sold us a lemon when we got Franchione. (See. We have lots of SEC connections.) Until the creation of the Wrecking Crew under Slocum....where we finally started punching people in the face and regained national recognition...we were an ICU patient fading in and out of consciousness, garnering fragments of joy from our morphine drip. Sherman had some success, until he didn't. 2011 was the destroyer of souls. We blew big leads and lost by a gnat's hair in game after game. Through it all however, like faithful family members at the patient's bedside (well maybe noisier than you‘d normally be in a hospital), Aggie fans built bonfires, had midnight yell practices, stood during every game, always rocked Kyle Field, and like a psychically connected twin endured every body blow to Aggie football. "What does not kill me makes me stronger." (Nietzsche) Well if that's the case then watch out world because we are one strong SOB.
ColoradoAg: What is your level of fandom?
Bill: Listening to/reading your podcasts/regular bloggers, it seems I would fall into the b-chugging maroon koolaid category. I sincerely thought we could get at least 8 wins even before I saw Johnny throw a pass in college. (OK OK I did watch him on youtube making a mockery of opponents as an Antler in HS) I can articulate my reasons I thought preseason they could do it. You may have also noticed I mentioned us winning the crystal football at least twice already. Nuff said.
ColoradoAg: Got a funny Aggie story for me?
Bill: Hmmmm. The only funny story I can think of was from when my wife and I were on our first overseas tour together in Egypt. Some friends of ours had invited us to a costume Halloween party, but more importantly, they had an Armed Forces broadcast connection so they would be getting the Aggie game that night! I resoundingly RSVPd. Since we were in the land of pharaohs, my wife and I dressed up as...you guessed it....mummies...for the party. We did the whole dark eyes and wrapped in dirty gauze bit. Note the Egyptians don't do/get Halloween and they are somewhat superstitious to begin with. Fortunately our garage was in the basement of our apartment building, and given we had darkened windows on the car, we managed to not cause any panic/car wrecks amongst the local populace...I didn't notice any....as we proceeded to drive down the Corniche El Nil on a moonlit night. I was happily ensconced on the couch with a beer in hand watching the game, when wouldn't you know it, I got a phone call that there was an "immediate night action" message at the embassy that I was required to go in and respond to. I was an hour from home and when they say immediate they mean immediate, so I went in dressed as I was. I gave the police around the embassy a start when I arrived and stepped out of the car in my mummy garb. I'm sure if I had detoured out to the pyramids for a stroll that night I would have been shot by night watchmen. Anyway, I think I have to be one of the few government employees (if not the only) who's ever been on the streets of Cairo and banged out a cable back to Washington dressed as a mummy. Fortunately, I made it back to the party before the end of the game.
ColoradoAg: Great stuff, Bill. Thank you for your time and for representing Good Bull Hunting and Texas A&M.
Hyundai and SB Nation - give this great Aggie and American the trip!
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