A business trip to Phoenix coupled with a required homebound connection via DFW stirred my logistical imagination.
One extra day in the Lone Star State could deliver me to Waco to see the Tigers. Oh, and look at that, Southlake Carroll is playing Haltom City, a great chance to preview Chase Daniel. Wait, the Red River Shootout is that same weekend, holy cow!
It was as though God himself were decreeing that I attend all three! Who was I to argue?
So, with a bit of planning and a wee portion of misdirection perpetrated on the family and the office, your humble servant embarked on a football lover's dream weekend.
GAME 1 – SOUTHLAKE CARROLL @ HALTOM CITY
The weekend's appetizer consisted of Carroll, the number one team in the country per USA Today, versus the Haltom Buffalos. Haltom, a respectable team at 2-0 in district, was averaging 27 points per contest compared to Carroll's 45. A shootout loomed!
Carroll is led by QB Chase Daniel. Young Mr. Daniel has been kind enough to provide the Tigers with an oral commitment.
Opening day for the movie Friday Night Lights seemed a perfect backdrop for my first Texas HS football game.
The Dragons employ a very sophisticated offense, by far the most intricate I've ever seen at the HS level. Routes and blocking schemes are determined once the defensive personnel and set up are identified. It's a good thing that Carroll is a ‘smart kid school' because this offense would be difficult to run without intelligence existing in abundance.
The Carroll players are not overly huge but fundamentally superlative. Their offense is overwhelming and dramatic.
The Birdville Independent School District stadium holds about 10,000, hosting about 7,000 this evening. Texas HS football is different, to say the least. Everything is bigger. An amazingly clear screen showed replays of every play, the OU band played at halftime, and the atmosphere was electric.
Carroll HS must be an idyllic place. The school wins academic awards, is in a great part of the Metroplex, is successful athletically and, according to this reporter's observations, is MILF central. During a football game, approximately 35% of the student body participates in some function as either a player, band member, cheerleader or in some other on field capacity.
To say that I'm impressed with Chase would be an understatement. Chase Daniel completes 7 or 8 attempts for 173 yards, completing three deep posts for touchdowns. He also rushes 3 times for 17 yards. Oh, forgot to mention these were merely his first quarter numbers!
The second quarter sees Chase go 7 of 14 for 93 yards and two more touchdowns. At half, Carroll leads 35-21. During halftime, the value of Field Turf becomes evident as Haltom's flag corps would most assuredly have commenced to grazing on a grass field.
Chase has great feet, good speed, and a very accurate arm. He commands his team's respect on and off the field. His throwing motion reminds me of Leak at Florida. His throwing motion is more ‘from the ear hole' than over the top. His throws look better live than on film.
In the third quarter, Chase completes 2 of 4. Of the two, one is for a 26 yard touchdown, the other a 45 yard gain. He also runs relentlessly for a 45 yard touchdown in the quarter.
In the fourth, Chase goes 2 of 5, as Carroll closes the deal. Chase is pulled at 56-35. Looking forward to seeing Mr. Daniel in Black & Gold!
On the way out, I greet The Daniel Family. They were easy to spot given their penchant for wearing #4 Daniel jerseys. Wearing Missouri gear from head to toe, I indicate my appreciation for their son's commitment and the pleasure of witnessing his play. His parents seem like great people. His mom immediately says, "Chase cannot wait to get to Columbia, he's really excited about being a Tiger". That's my boy!!
GAME 2 – THE RED RIVER SHOOTOUT
Without a genuine rooting interest, how does one choose between the Texas arrogance and the OU ‘bravado'. As I often say, you can't spell LOUD without OU.
The OU/UT disdain becomes evident even at the lavish buffet provided by my luxurious half star hotel. A dispute over who was in line first to toast their English muffin nearly comes to blows. I watch from afar rooting for mutual pain.
Truth is, I never made it inside the Cotton Bowl. I stood outside waiting for the scalper prices to descend back to rational levels. During that interim period, I witnessed acts of extreme human depravity and ‘Lord of the Flies' surrealism. However, the hateful banter between the respective fans was entertaining.
In the final analysis, I opted for a mild preference for the Longhorns. This selection was made purely based on my personal observation that the average UT female fan is more attractive than her OU counterpart. Based on my casual survey of female OU fans, the over/under for teeth and tattoos is 27 and 2, respectively.
After kickoff, and still outside, I lose interest in obtaining a ticket. What I have seen reconfirms my opinions of both fan sets. Thank goodness that the University of Texas saved the Big 8 from certain extinction and that Oklahoma University invented the modern game of football. Please note that the sarcasm meter is currently pegged in the red.
GAME 3 – MISSOURI AT BAYLOR
Every state has a town that gets picked on. In Missouri, that town is Poplar Bluff. In Texas, the clear loser is Waco. The Waco public relations machine has yet to overcome David Koresh's encampment or the Baylor basketball team's penchant for killing one another.
Heading south on I-35W, I pass by the T&A Cabaret. What a great idea, the owner must have named the establishment after his kids' first initials. How sweet!
I'm going to go out on a limb here, based on bumper sticker percentage, and predict that Bush wins Texas in November.
I pass car after car of disgruntled UT fans heading south. Their collective disappointment is evident as they grumble something about Mack being Stoops' (slang for female dog...you know the one!).
I arrive in Waco at 6. The culinary hotspot appears to be Ryan's, bonafide ‘trough' cuisine. Unfortunately, I am so devoid of sustenance that I decide, begrudgingly, to partake. My waitress appears to have been born in the shallow end of the Texas gene pool. After this ‘meal' it is likely that my bodily organs will never be harvestable under any circumstance.
I arrive at Baylor stadium, which is not close to campus, at about 6:30, raring to take in the ambiance. Unfortunately, ambiance has yet to arrive in this Texas burg. The only tailgating taking place is by MU fans. The Baylor fans are so emotionally beaten down after years of residing at the bottom of the Big 12 that they are incapable or unwilling to engage in any good-natured back and forth.
It is at precisely 6:45 that I catch a major break. Mr. Vernon Simpson, Jason's grandfather and a real Texas gentleman, has extra tickets and will absolutely not take any money in exchange. I gladly take one in the Missouri section and enjoy the tales of Jason's High School gridiron exploits.
A deluge starts timed with the Tigers arrival at 7:20. The Missouri diehards, including Joe Gianino's parents, engage in an ad hoc Tiger Walk, cheering the Tigers into the locker room. I wish Damien Nash a great game and he politely replies, "thanks mister". Clearly, #2 and I are bonded for life.
I will spare the game detail as all readers here are likely to have witnessed the skirmish. The Tigers are physically superior to the Bears. The most concerning element of the game for yours truly was our inability to create running lanes for the Nash & Woods tandem. Nash, especially, was running hard but the holes just didn't exist. Perhaps he was especially inspired by my pre-game pep talk.
Based on my extensive scientific sample, the non-white student population at Baylor is approximately .027%.
Every time I've traveled to see the Tigers, I am consistently impressed by the camaraderie and diehard nature of the Tiger faithful. I met Missouri fans from Honolulu, St. Louis, West Platte, Columbia, Houston, Dallas and Brownsville. In my humble assessment, MU fans are intelligent football consumers. They are loyal, polite, well-spoken and successful people. Meeting fellow Tiger fans on the road is an absolute pleasure!
Road trips make one appreciate the Columbia game day experience even more. I cherish every element of MU Football!
FOOTBALL & NON-FOOTBALL RELATED NOTES
· Nothing in the world will set you right better than a pair of Double Meat WhatABurgers. Them bad boys is tasty!
· Baylor's Stadium is adorned with the same urine ‘troughs' found in our own Faurot.
· Dr. Pepper must have purchased the concept of Football in the entire state of Texas. Their name is on several venues. They so control Baylor's concessions that a Diet Coke fiend will not find nourishment.
· Sat close to some of Alex Woodley's family. They were a lot of fun and rooted vehemently for the Tigers.
· After hearing the OU and Baylor radio teams, I am less inclined to complain about our own ‘dream team'. Utterances like ‘we shoulda did' tend to undermine an announcer's credibility.
· TigerJB's frugal nature demanded that this excursion into football bliss be executed at a minimum of cost. The final total including tickets, rental car, hotel, food, parking, gasoline and approximately 13 diet cokes (plus one Diet Dr. Pepper) was $159. Extensive travel expertise and coupon deployment helped keep costs in check.
· A special shout out to Officer Cloud of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Kindest sir, the warning in lieu of ticket was much appreciated. Your class and demeanor are a credit to law enforcement authorities everywhere.
This trip started with football as the centerpiece. En route, it became a story of people and the greatness of our nation. I met tremendous people at every turn. People wanting to talk HS Football, College Football and/or Cardinals were in abundance. The kinship of sporting people is unique. When I reflect fondly on this trip in the future, my primary memories will be of the people met rather than the games played.
It was an outstanding trip. My appetite for football was satiated and my optimism in people rekindled!