The Bandwagon Ran Over My Frogs


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North America » United States » Oklahoma » Norman
November 23rd 2019
Published: November 27th 2019
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Oklahoma! Oklahoma is one of the most successful programs in all of college football history. It’s one of those places that every fan of the game should put on their list to visit. I bought the ticket for this game before the season even began. Last year was my first year not going to a TCU football game since I applied to that school back in 2014, and I felt a little bad about that. So when the decision was made to visit as many big-name places as I could this season, I looked for a date and location where going to a TCU game could satisfy that quest. At Oklahoma, the weekend before Thanksgiving, seemed like the best option. No need to hurry back on what would definitely be the longest road trip of the season. I bought the ticket before the season, hoping it would be a good matchup. As the season progressed, however, it looked more and more like it was going to be lopsided. Oklahoma entered the game as 18.5-point favorites, and that annoyed me. Not just because my alma mater was so heavily Unfavored, but because I’ve tried to find good games since the first two weeks of cupcakes turned me off to that. Nevertheless, the game turned into a much better match than I expected, and my Horned Frogs gave the home team much more of a challenge than anyone in Oklahoma thought possible.

Still, the home team came out victorious, as per usual with me this season. Despite my school spirit, cheering for my almae matres (the plural of alma mater) when they play on the road has not been a successful venture for me, or for them, this season. Ohio in Week 3, and now TCU in Week 13. At least I had a dog in the fight, though. Remember a couple weeks ago when I went to Virginia Tech and cheered for the visiting team, Wake Forest? I learned the lesson of how stupid that was, to cheer for a visiting team when I had no particular connection with them. And it made the following week at Clemson a much more pleasant experience. This week, I was wearing purple for a second consecutive week, supporting my Big 12 alma mater, the TCU Horned Frogs, as they travelled to Oklahoma.

For me, I had to travel from Georgia, and people in Oklahoma were quite surprised to hear that I had made that journey. Story of my life. I left on Thursday around noon, when I got out of school, and made it to West Memphis, Arkansas, for the first night, 7.5 hours later. Friday was another driving day, but only 6.5 hours, and I left earlier than I expected and with fewer meteorological problems. So I ended up in Oklahoma City just after 3:30. I had already visited this town about four years ago, so there wasn’t much I wanted to check out again. I had already reserved a seat in the special advanced screening of Knives Out at 7:00, but that was still three hours away. And it turned out that my hotel room was a smoking room, something I never do and that I certainly don’t remember doing this time. But I had done that, somehow, and I had no desire to hang out in a smoking room for any longer than necessary. So I saw that Frozen II, which I wanted to see, was playing at 5:00, which was perfect: I could still get to the theater with time to spare, and it would be over just before the other movie started. My plans were set.

On a side note, I hadn’t really factored the game time into my schedule for this week. I made all my plans before they announced the time, 7:00 PM. If I had really thought about it, I would’ve waited until Friday morning to leave, so as to have one fewer hotel room, and then I wouldn’t have to find stuff to occupy my time on Saturday. As it turned out, though, I spent a lot of time just meandering around Norman, OK, and the campus of the University of Oklahoma campus most of the day. Spoiler alert: there’s not really that much to do in Norman if you don’t like to shop for Oklahoma Sooners stuff.

I had found that free parking existed about a mile from the stadium, but after Clemson last week, I didn’t want to find out that it was bullcrap. So when I pulled up at the parking area around 9:20 AM, I found that, to my relief, there was PLENTY of free parking. Norman is less than thirty minutes from Oklahoma City, which is why I got there so early. I checked to see if there was anything closer, and to see if I could park at any of the shopping establishments near the stadium before needing to park further away. All the shopping was on the other side of the stadium. Several streets were already closed, and none of the shops were open. So I headed back to the parking lot, only to find a purple tent set up along the same street, about halfway between the stadium and the big lot. I pulled into this new lot, found no parking attendant, and pulled up to the purple tent. After some happy greetings, I asked if parking was free here, and they said yes. So I parked, told them I hoped to see them later, and made my way up to the stadium on foot.

I’ll admit that I completely overlooked the actual campus of OU (what they call the University of Oklahoma, which should of U of O, but they didn’t ask me or try to make much sense) on my way to the stadium. There were a couple of old-looking buildings, which were obviously newer but made to look old. On the side of the stadium is the swag store, and it had just opened at 10:00, so right before I walked up. I was in TCU gear, but they were welcoming. That is one thing I have to say about the campus and the majority of its people--there wasn't much animosity towards me. A few, under their breath, maybe thinking I couldn't hear them, laughed or expressed some kind of sympathy/dismay at my choice of apparel. Only one or two people all day said anything that could be construed as even approaching rudeness: mainly they loudly yelled “Boomer Sooner!” in my direction. The mascot of OU is the Sooner, which was the name of the first (white) settlers in the area in the nineteenth century who came into the state illegally (how's that for some irony). I have no idea what “boomer” has to do with it, but I’m gonna say it doesn’t have anything to do with the Baby Boomer generation. I’ll go on and speculate that it’s most likely a reference to some kind of firearm and the explosion it makes, since they have quite the predilection for guns on this campus. They even have a group of cheerleaders (but don’t call them that!) called the Ruf Neks (sic) or RUF/NEKS that accompanies the Sooner Schooner, the Conestoga wagon that traverses the football field pregame (and which is the actual official mascot, weird), and these gentlemen all carry rifles that they shoot off at various times during the game (scoring plays for OU, end of quarter, etc). They were in the endzone nearest me throughout the game, and those guns were loud. Every time.

Anyway, I walked around the store and saw lots of Baker Mayfield stuff (he’s basically a god round here, even more than their most recent Heisman recipient), so that was weird. Then I walked back around the stadium and headed towards the main part of Norman because I was hungry.

It was a direct path, and my destination was Braum’s market and restaurant, which is an Oklahoma staple. They market themselves as a place for ice cream and hamburgers. I had both, and I do not regret that decision one bit. The hamburger was great, and I got a milkshake made from their own ice cream. Eggnog flavored. It was perfect. And if eggnog isn’t your thing, then don’t hate. Just move on and imagine that I had your favorite flavor instead. Whatever flavor you like, I’m sure it would be great at this place.

It was about 11:30 at this point, so I walked back over to the school. I had looked at the campus map on my phone while I enjoyed my milkshake. Since I was here, I may as well check out the reason there’s a football team. Oklahoma wasn’t even a state until 1907, but its university was founded in 1890. In the block just past the stadium, they have a nice archway and statue of an idealized Sooner; it leads to a fountain and pathway that takes you directly to the main library, which was my favorite building on campus. First, it’s really cool-looking from the outside, probably the best exterior in town. Inside, there’s a reading room that reminded me of the one I saw at Duke, which looks like something out of Oxford University. The interior of this building was just as fun as the exterior—lots of polished old wood, carved and smelling of books. And another reason it was my favorite building is because the restrooms were free and clean. In times of unexpected events, those are very much appreciated. So thank you, OU Library.

Beyond that, there were standard dorms and classroom buildings. It wasn’t as big of a campus as I had expected, and aside from the new-looking stadium exterior and the library building, nothing really impressed me about it. Sorry, OU fans.

I walked further away from the stadium and found the Campus Corners area of town, whose streets had been blocked off to me earlier. Lots of people were congregated here. Lots of shopping, and even more street vendors. And many of them were competing to sell the same merchandise: OU gear. Since I was wearing TCU apparel, most of them looked right past me as I walked by.

Ultimately, I got nothing with OU on it. I don’t have any problems with OU, even though they were the enemy for my Horned Frogs today. But their prices for gear reminded me of prices for UGA football tickets: too high. So I walked back to my car. I had sat in the shade outside the stadium for just a minute and realized that I would need to put on some more layers for the game in the evening. It was only 2:00 by now, but the shaded areas already felt quite chilly.

Back at the car, my TCU friends had attracted another pair; rather, one of their friends and his son, who looked to be about seven. They all welcomed me in and offered me some alcoholic concoctions, so I of course obliged. And they asked me to come on inside the tent, have a seat in one of the purple TCU pop-up chairs, and enjoy the two TVs set up with different games on. Since I had already seen everything I wanted to on campus and in the town, and I had still over 4 hours until the game, I was quite happy to take them up.

And when the Georgia game came on, they changed to it. They all hated Texas A&M (they were mostly from Texas), so we got along just fine. The other game was Baylor-Texas, and nobody wanted to see either team do well. All in all, it was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. Out of the wind, seated (my feet were already feeling really tired, and I developed two nasty blisters by Sunday), and in good company. None of them, however, had a ticket for the game. This perplexed me since I only ever go to a game if I already have a ticket. Not only did they not have a ticket, but they were going to sit in their tent and watch the game on TV the whole time. Sometimes, I don’t know about people. Norman is a 3-hour drive from Fort Worth, where the guys with the tent were from. So why not stay home and enjoy it there? Why drag all that stuff out and set it up and then take it down, just to grill out, get chilly, and watch a game on TV that’s taking place a block away? They were hospitable, for sure, but maybe they just love to tailgate as much as I love going to the actual games.

But what of the game? Since I’ve already told you that Oklahoma was favored to win by a lot, and that they did win, I’ll say that nobody really expected the game to be as close as it was. Sure, Oklahoma jumped out to a 21-0 lead by early in the second quarter. I mean, most people expected them to put on a clinic for their offense, but their defense isn’t really known as something good. So it just looked like TCU was going to roll over. But then somehow, TCU scored ten points in the second quarter all while keeping Oklahoma off the scoreboard for the rest of that half. It did help that TCU got a fumble recovery near midfield, which killed Oklahoma’s momentum. And TCU got points off of it. So what could’ve been easily a score of 28-7 at the half was a much friendlier 21-10. Oklahoma people were generally displeased by the close score. The few of us in purple, scattered amongst the crowd, were elated. Frankly, when they went up 21-0, I had resolved to be happy if we could just score. So when we got our first points—a TD, even—I felt a lot of pressure come off.

In the second half, turnovers continued to swing momentum. Oklahoma got the ball to start the second half, but instead of getting their way, they stalled, and TCU immediately scored a TD to make the score a very uncomfortable 21-17 for the home crowd. But OU got back to their scoring ways and got a TD in three minutes to go back up by 11. It looked like they were cruising again, but then the miraculous 98-yard Pick Six happened for TCU, which again made the home crowd very uncomfortable. New score: 28-24, with just under 13 minutes to play. And wouldn’t you know it? OU fumbled yet again! They spent five minutes on a drive, taking it all the way down to the TCU 7-yard line before they gave it back to us. It truly looked like they were trying to give away the game. The noise from the OU faithful became very loud. But they were never out of the it, always getting loud when TCU had the ball. I’ll give them that. Unfortunately for TCU, the OU defense showed up (maybe with an assist from the home crowd), which forced a punt. OU got the ball back and did exactly nothing, but they didn’t really have to, as long as TCU didn’t score again. But TCU tried. They got the ball near midfield with less than five minutes to play, drove into Oklahoma territory, and then decided to try what Oklahoma had been doing all game: they turned it over. The interception that frankly sealed the deal was perfectly timed, and the OU stadium went wild. With less than two minutes remaining, TCU used its time-outs, but after a really long review as to whether or not Jalen Hurts (the OU QB) actually made the first down, the call stood, which gave the win to Oklahoma. Final score: OU 28, TCU 24.

I can’t say I’ve ever felt better about a loss. Not that a loss is ever good. I mean, it helped that they showed the UGA game on the big screens in the stadium before the game, and seeing them win definitely took a little bit of the edge off for me. I’m a TCU alum, but I was a UGA alum before that, so that’s where most of my sympathies lie. Regardless, only losing by four points to a supposedly top-10 team on the road, when you don’t have a winning record and are expected to be destroyed, that’s a pretty good outcome. Not the best, but I was concerned that I had wasted my money, that I wasn’t going to get a good game. I got more than my money’s worth, and in spite of the L, I wasn’t discouraged by the outcome.

So it was back to my car amid the crowd of crimson and cream (which is definitely just white; rarely did I see anything "cream" colored). My TCU friends were still at their tent, and after a few perfunctory grumbles, I set out on my way to Ardmore, Oklahoma, where my hotel would be. The traffic was honestly not bad at all, and I made it to the hotel just after midnight. It was a great night of sleep. And then I headed south to swing past TCU before heading back east, to visit the family in South Georgia for Thanksgiving.


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