Tag Archives: John Locke

College Sports and The Plight of the T-Shirt Fan


On November 24, 2011, Thanksgiving Day, the University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies met on the gridiron for the final time. Amid the flurry of conference reshuffling in college football, the Aggies were opting to leave for the SEC, while the Longhorns had reaffirmed their allegiance to the Big 12, thereby putting an end to this annual grudge match for the foreseeable future.

Finger-pointing and recriminations abounded. The University of Texas was a Big 12 bully, hogging conference revenue and arrogantly ignoring the concerns of its peer institutions. Texas A&M was a turncoat and a traitor, destabilizing the conference in a jealous cash grab. But wherever you fell in the debate, this series, which stretched back to 1894 and had spurred on countless bonfires, hexes, brandings, fight songs, as well as 117 games and more than a century’s worth of football rivalry, was coming to an end.

The game was a sloppy one, full of mistakes, miscues, and turnovers on both sides. But those early stumbles gave way to a hard-fought, back and forth finish. In the fourth quarter, Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a touchdown pass that put the Aggies ahead of Texas 25-24. With less than two minutes left in the game, that late score seemed to seal an Aggie victory as the sputtering UT offense took the field. Then, with the clock steadily winding down Texas quarterback Case McCoy  capped off a few solid plays by scrambling for twenty-five yards to put the Longhorns in field goal range. As the final seconds ticked away, senior Justin Tucker kicked a forty-yard field goal as time expired to give Texas the victory. It was a fittingly thrilling finish for the last battle between the two venerable rivals.

As a Longhorn-supporter, I was enthused by the outcome of the game, and still feeling aggrieved that the Aggies were fleeing the conference. I took to Facebook, as one does to boast about accomplishments they had nothing to do with, and said, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, A&M.” Ryan, a friend of mine from high school who had opted for the sunny plains of College Station after graduation, replied, “Plenty of sports to compete in yet! Pleasantly, you are one of few t-shirt fans I know to chime in about tonight’s game.”

T-Shirt fans? Ryan obliged me with an explanation. T-Shirt fans are “people without a legitimate rooting interest in the game — people who never attended the institution.” I had never set foot in the student section. I had never come in as a freshman and learned the school’s time-honored traditions from the upperclassmen. I had never been part of the campus rabble cheering on their classmates. I had no official affiliation with the University of Texas to speak of, and therefore, I was not to speak.

Ryan had made his point clear. I wasn’t a real fan of the Texas Longhorns. I was just some guy in a burnt orange t-shirt.

Pity the plight of the T-Shirt Fan.


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