Friday, October 7, 8:30 PM: The road to College Station is the same as it always has been.
I’ve been making this trip, from Dallas to campus and back again, for over six years, passing those same landmarks telling me how far I still have to go: that rundown drive-in movie theater, that gas station with the bad barbecue. The road is filled with speed traps and billboards, long stretches of small towns and nothing. I know it better than any other road. It is the way back home.
I haven’t been back for an Aggie Football game since I graduated, a mixture of both scheduling issues and that quiet fear in the back of my mind ... “What if its not the same?” I’ve preferred to just watch from TV screens and tailgates, letting games pass by.
But now I’m back.
Friday, October 7, 10:30 PM: Driving through College Station feels the same. No matter how many new apartments they build or how many restaurants get renamed and rebranded, nothing ever really changes. The roads are still bad, there are still not enough lanes on University and the bars still close way too early. The fifty chain restaurants and two pizza buffets rise up alongside the road to meet me, the lights alongside Northgate flicker past.
Sometimes you realize how much College Station has shaped you, for better or for worse. It’s a scary, almost comforting, thought.
Saturday, October 8, 2:00 PM: I have forgotten what it feels like to be inside Kyle Field. I haven’t been to a game as a fan since Johnny’s final season, haven’t been able to yell and jump and hide and pace. The flyover rattles my bones and then it all comes rushing back.
“…and you play hard for the name that’s on your chest…”
Saturday, October 8, 2:30 PM: Kyle Field has grown up, new red brick covers up that old bat-guano-encrusted cement. But strip away the Grub Burger and McCallister’s and she’s still the same. A little bigger, sure, but the people inside…the same.
And, for five and a half hours, I am the same. The same as when I was 10, yelling at a Thanksgiving game against Colt McCoy. The same as when I was barely 18, a nervous freshman who didn’t know how to pull tickets or who to go to the game with. I’m the same when we kickoff, when the towels start waving, when the cannon goes off, when the yell leaders run up and down the sidelines.
Saturday, October 8, 7:00 PM: The sweat soaks into my new maroon button down, the game gets closer and closer. That familiar fear of failure, of humiliation, is creeping back in. The last Texas game played at Kyle Field. The last Alabama game played at Tuscaloosa. The crowd around me is loud but I am slinking into my seat as we head into overtime.
I should have seen this coming, right? We all should have seen this coming.
But the ground shakes, the dust from new towels flies into my face and I am screaming with my hands halfway over my eyes. My heart pounds, my bones shake, and Kyle Field is the loudest I have ever heard it. Louder than Nebraska. Louder than Florida.
And then we win.
It’s like a firework. A loud pop springs from the crowd as we all register the interception at the same time.
We did it.
I am emotionally raw, the players are running down the field and I am running down to the end of the second deck to get a closer look. We’re 6-0. Undefeated in the toughest conference in football. For the first time this season, I let my guard down. Just for a second. I want to enjoy this.
Sunday, October 9, 10:00 AM: The road from College Station feels a little different. Armed with Fuego breakfast tacos and a quiet podcast, the small towns pass on either side as my dirty car makes its way back up to Dallas, to work on Monday and to rent checks. I am tired. I am happy. I am smiling.
I am home.