Smith: Tradition in Texas football is second to none

Texas A&M's 12th man shakes the stadium


There’s a friendly notice for first-time visitors to the Kyle Field press box: “Please do not be alarmed as the press box will move during the Aggie War Hymn”

I didn’t get that notice when I went to the Aggies’ home opener against Nicholls State last Saturday.

When I was growing up, I didn’t like roller coasters and being on power boats and I’m still slightly afraid of heights. So to say I kind of freaked out when my seat started moving and I looked down to see a sea of people swing back and forth.

Football games are great because the sport is truly an American invention, but the passion and intensity on the field are many times matched by the routines of the surrounding events, from tailgating to bands to cheering sections.

As our coverage here at the Hill Country News and expands, the plethora of talented high school teams in the area, colleges, and pro football has started to enter into our reporting plan.

Since the beginning of the high school football season three weeks ago, I’ve been to 11 football games and traveled nearly 900 miles to college and pro football games in College Station, Waco, Houston, and San Marcos.

I’m not complaining. In my young career, this is the best job I’ve ever had and it’s made even better by the ease and professionalism of the players and coaches in the area. You make me like going to work.

I was in the marching band at Michigan State, so tradition and pageantry have always fascinated me when it comes to football. We did a whole bunch of things both during the game, before, and after that would take way too long to explain here.

But one example of what we used to do was guard the Spartan statue on campus the entire week of the Michigan game. There was at least one band member at the statue 24 hours a day. MSU head coach Mark Dantonio always came by and we would always sing the alma mater at midnight. It was awesome.

While sports are a passion, looking into why traditions surrounding sporting events are the what they are is addicting.

Ever since I got home from the game after the press box started swaying, I’ve been obsessed with the tradition of the Aggie War Hymn.

Texas A&M is one of if not the only schools in the country not to have an official fight song. When the fan sway in opposite directions at Kyle Field, it’s meant to represent a hand saw as they all yell “Saw Varsity’s Horns Off” in reference to the University of Texas mascot. The yell leaders wear white because all they had when they were created in 1907 were janitors uniforms.

Even in Waco, the Baylor students rush across the field before the game starts to welcome the players out and then pack into the lower part of the stadium right behind the opposing team’s benches.

In the NFL, traditions feel more forced and commercial. But after what happened to the area with Hurricane Harvey and the amount of money and support J.J. Watt has given to them, it felt like a thunderous thank you from the city when he took the field before the Jacksonville game.

At local games, Vandegrift has the ‘Viper Walk’ and the Leander team is led out of the locker room by Lions Band’s drumline. After every game, no matter the final score, the every local team lines up and sings the school song.

The final score gets all the love a lot of times. But for good reason since that’s what decides who go to playoffs and who stays home.

As someone not from Texas and still unfamiliar with the history of the sport in this state, every time I go to a game, whether it be high school, college, or professional, I understand a little more why it’s more than just a game to some.

One important lesson I learned early on is football wouldn’t be football without its tradition.