Monday, November 12, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Prior to the season, the media largely dismissed Texas A&M’s SEC chances, writing them off as irrelevant for a couple years while they adjusted to the size and speed of their new home.  Maybe it was fair at the time, maybe not.  But guess who is getting the last laugh now?

I’ll admit it’s hilarious to look back at the tweets and columns written by respected “experts” who are paid to provide their opinion and analysis to those of us that didn’t want to spend their four years in college studying journalism only to graduate and be lucky to find a low-paying job with a dying local newspaper. (The guys at Good Bull Hunting put together a fine compilation of the media’s misses. Give it a look if you want to laugh.)

It’s also good fun to taunt friends and family that support a team in the Big 12, the conference that now looks so cute and cuddly, that we now shrug off as if it wasn’t our conference home for more than 15 years, whose teams we now gladly swipe at for being so inferior.

And now we can ride high on our horse because we took down the Tide, ushering ourselves into the upper echelon of college football, as if we expected it all to happen just like this, so early.

The media didn’t respect the Aggies, and neither did our friends. Our new conference rivals didn’t see it coming. Did we?

The 2012 season has gone better than any of us ever imagined, like never-in-our-wildest-dreams-are-you-freaking-kidding-me kind of imagined. In fact, this season has completely surprised us all. If you say otherwise, I’m calling you a liar or an idealist, because no one in their right mind saw THIS coming.

We knew this season was different, just not right away. It took some time.

Some Aggies may say they saw the light during the Florida game, when Johnny Manziel and friends came out and punched the Gators square in the mouth for the first 30 minutes. (Never mind the familiar second half letdown that had all of us moaning and groaning that the stink of the Sherman regime was still hanging over this team like a cloud.)

Some may say they realized this team was for real when they embarrassed SMU in Dallas in front of more Aggies than Mustangs. (Then again, it was a team that started Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, which has typically only been a good thing if you are a fan of Lake Travis High School, but hey, if you saw something at Ford Field that convinced you the Aggies were back, then more power to you.)

For me, I knew this season was different when Texas A&M destroyed Arkansas at home, a team with top-10 talent but was in total disarray, a team that hung with the Aggies for a quarter, before Johnny Football really, actually, definitely showed us why we call him Johnny Football, shredding that Arkansas defense that now doesn’t look so bad.

For others, it may have been the wild ride in Shreveport, or the comeback in Oxford, or for the doubters, the skeptics, dare I say the realists, it probably wasn’t until this tough stretch on the road began with utter eviscerations of Auburn and Mississippi State (#failstate) that everyone in the Aggie bubble was completely on board this train of good times.

For the nation, the coming out party was unquestionably Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, against the beast, created by the little man that rules by fear, the beast that claims 14 national titles (some using tactics recently borrowed by our own University), the beast that stole Bear Bryant from us all those years ago, that is bigger than anything in that big state, that has occupied the hearts of minds of men, women, and children for generations old and young for a hundred years now and inspires people to poison the rival’s famed trees.

If there was any doubt among us entering the showdown in T-town that Sumlin’s men could shock the world, I wasn’t hearing it last week. We were sure that the Aggies would at least scare the Crimson Tide.

But beyond our little corner of the universe, the doubts were loud – the Aggies had lost to the only two really good teams they had played, the Aggies can’t finish games, the Aggies don’t have the depth up front on defense to stop Bama’s bruising offense, the Aggies up-tempo offense couldn’t succeed against the Tide’s vaunted defense, the Aggies would wilt under pressure at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Johnny Football hadn’t played all that great against LSU so just wait till Bama gets him… I could go on forever.

And that’s just what the Aggies of Texas A&M couldn’t do, never mind what they were saying the Crimson Tide of Alabama could and would do.

I was fortunate enough to be in Tuscaloosa this weekend (for that experience, you’ll have to wait until later this week) and really get in with the Alabama students and alumni. My younger brother is a student at Bama.

I can’t tell you how many times I was laughed at, to my face, when I tried to tell them they should be scared of Johnny Manziel. I never said we’d win, and I never mocked their confidence and bravado. They had earned that swagger, and you have to respect that. But their lack of respect for what Manziel and the Aggies could do to their beloved Crimson Tide was shocking.

In the end, they got shocked. (It’s so nice to say I told you so, right?)

They mocked us and laughed at us in that way that older siblings do to younger siblings, noting how cute it is that we can puff out our chests and tell them we belong.

We tried to tell them, but they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t respect us.

That’s what this game was about for me – respect.

This team, for once in what seems like forever, has embraced the “nobody believes in us” mentality and has become a winner. They have grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and turned this program into something to be proud of once again. They have emboldened us as former students, energized us as fans, and given us a shot of confidence that was sorely lacking among the fan base over the past decade.

I had grown so tired of being disrespected as an Aggie because of my football team that it really didn’t even elicit a response from me anymore. I think I speak for all of us when I say I had grown accustomed to being made fun of because of the team I supported so ardently.

That’s what was shattered to pieces on Saturday night. The doubts were gone, the critics were silent, and the proud were humbled. I had something to be thrilled about, to be passionate about. I was fired up again. I was hugging strangers. I was drunk on pure adrenaline.

I was respected.

Thank you, Kevin Sumlin. Thank you, Johnny Manziel.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written and I completely agree. So glad we have JF and Coach Sumlin as well as everyone on the team that's bought into the idea that they're winners! Interesting that one my best friends, a staunch Bama fan, presciently said weeks before the game that he was worried about playing the Ags. Hope this new era of success snowballs for us like it did after they stole Bear 55 years and approximately 14 national titles ago. Thanks Aggies for a great season! Gig'em!

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