Football is big in Texas. They make movies and shows about it. Football is really big at Baylor. They have been a top-ten competitor for the last half-decade and just built a new $266 million dollar stadium. But I knew all of that coming into graduate school and was ready to become part of the end-of-the-week pandemonium… or so I thought.
I have already been exposed to the world of collegiate football. My undergraduate school had a football, but they were historically awful. They were so awful that the team actually disbanded for a couple of decades and have been trying to build since its resurrection. Still, to say the least, the football culture was not ideal, and neither were the games. For starters, just getting to the stadium was a struggle. Students had to either take a bus that took the highway during Saturday afternoon traffic, of, if they felt brave, the subway down Broad Street. And with the campus being located in the middle of a city, there is little hope for a new, closer stadium in the future. Once we made it to the three-quarters-empty Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, the talent on the field just didn’t match the effort it took to watch, much like it does there on Sundays.
A Baylor football game, on the other hand, is a spectacle. The whole town descends onto the university with their cornhole games and slow cookers. The walk to the new home of Baylor Football, McLane Stadium, is an easy and beautiful one that weaves through the tailgaters and crosses over the Brazos River. The atmosphere is made even more electric by the number of students who are passionate about their Bears. Walking into McLane Stadium with them for the first time was a shock. The building is HUGE! I understand why the tours for prospective undergrads make this place their last stop. It’s a selling point for student, athletes, and Wacoans, alike.
So, there I was: second row back with my discounted BU football shirt from last season (so people would think that I’ve done this before) and my bear claw raised into the air. I thought that I was ready, but hearing the noise and seeing the passion explode around me, I realized that I still have a long way to go. Most of these students grew up in this state surrounded by the culture of watching football Thursday-Sunday and talking about it the rest of the week. They may have even come to Baylor because of the recent emergence of the football team; I wouldn’t blame them one bit.
They yell before, during, and after each play. They talk about the TCU game last year. And then talk about it some more. They wave their rally towels with “61-58” printed on them. And then talk about the TCU game some more after that. In fact, that game is so beloved ‘round these parts that it is played around the clock at H-E-B (not kidding). It was last year, but as my friend told me as I frequently reminded her of that fact, “You just don’t understand.” And she’s right, I don’t. Like many of my fellow graduate cohort, I’m new to this school and to this strong tradition. We don’t get special treatment like the freshmen and are just thrown into the fire with fans who have been loving this team for years.
The fans make it much easier, though. They are so nice and understanding and are willing to help out us newcomers. They teach you chants and keep you motivated when your arm tires and your body slowly withers in the afternoon sun. They celebrate with you and help you learn the player’s names, both past and present. They remind you of the team’s rivals (essentially every school in Texas) and its recent success. They help you become part of the culture. And I couldn’t ask for anything more.
Oh, and did I mention that the tickets are free for all students? Sic’em Bears!
Baylor: ranked #2 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history (next game: 11/5 at Kansas State)
Temple (my undergrad school who decided to get it together after I left): ranked #21, the first time the program has been ranked since 1979 (next game: 10/31 at home vs #9 Notre Dame)
By Matthew Doyen