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Backyard Brawl Inside The Blood Feud Between Texas and Texas A&Mby W. K. Stratton
Book Review by Steve Labinski
If you live in Texas, chances are you've seen, heard or shouted these words at one time or another. Football in Texas is serious, big business. W.K. Stratton explores in his new book the rivalry of the state's football epicenter, that between the University of Texas and Texas A&M.
How serious is this blood feud between the two schools? Simply put, Longhorns dislike Aggies and Aggies dislike Longhorns. Stratton shows how Texans, young and old, can switch instantly from easy-going friends and business partners into rivalry mode.
The schools maintain well-known mascots, often the subject of mischief by fans of the opposite team. UT's longhorn steer, Bevo, got his name after A&M students branded the first beast with their winning score, 13-0. A&M's mascot, a female collie named Reveille has a curious relationship with the A&M Corps, and is an intense sourse of pride for the school. In 1993 the UT "Rustlers" stole Reveille VI from a yard in Dallas. The Longhorns demanded that the Aggie administration immediately proclaim Texas A&M second to the University of Texas in all areas. A&M declined, and the collie was later found leashed to a post near Lake Travis. Just another day in sports rivalry history. Stratton traces interesting mascot history up to the current "Bevo 13" and "Reveille 7"
The school's marching bands are elaborate. Their football stadiums are state-of-the-art, immense facilities. He describes the complexity of A&M lore, for instance their football stadium Kyle Field, where the mascots are buried and why, the meaning behind campus statues and how they all relate to campus life. He describes how the songs of Texan Robert Earl Keen trade upon the rivalry and life of Texas and A&M students. There are several pages of the author's favorite Aggie jokes.
Beyond the culture and college life, the rivalry generates a lot of money. The football programs are self-funded. Stratton goes into this subject in depth, and discusses how the large amounts of money affect the games and the players.
The book relates lots of interesting history about school coaches like Darryl Royal, Mack Brown, R.C. Slocum and others. We learn about how major players were recruited, and how their performances helped their teams. He also goes into UT's annual match-up with Oklahoma every year in Dallas, complete with attending that year's game. Stratton's story of the Texas/Texas A&M rivalry is well-written, funny and insightful.
Backyard Brawl shines the light on this long-standing fued - a large component of Texas culture. It is more fun than watching family feuds in an episode of TV's Dallas.
Aggie fans will enjoy - The Pride of Aggieland: Spirit and Football at a Place Like No Other by Homer Jacobs, Texas A&M Press
A&M YellsPublisher: Crown, ISBN: 0609610538; (September 2002) Order book from Amazon.com
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