Our furniture was delivered this week and it now officially feels like we have moved in. A scary thought to sit with, but one I am sure I will adjust to. Sunday was spent assembling said flat pack furniture. Success, with only one minor injury on Mike’s thumb. A blister from screwdriver over use.
In slightly more exciting news, though what can be more exciting than flat pack furniture assembling I hear you ask, last weekend was our first American football game! The first home game of the season for Texas University’s football team, the Texas Longhorns. I would like to first point out that this is in no way similar to a ‘soccer’ game at home, there are no ‘old firm’ games in Texas (sorry dad). As a faculty member, Mike was offered discount price seats and, much to my excitement, free Longhorns T-shirts. It really would have been rude to refuse. Now, I am not a soccer fan. I attended one game with my dad and missed the only goal of the game because I was so uninterested that I had wandered out under the pretence of ‘I need to pee’. This was a completely different ball game (quite literally).
The stadium itself is incredible. Named the Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, first opened in 1924, the stadium began with a capacity of 27,000 and has expanded to 100,119. Last weekend, Texas Longhorns vs. USC Trojans, was a record attendance of 103,507. Hard to comprehend? It’s massive. These numbers rank this stadium as the eighth largest stadium in the United States and the ninth largest in the world. Each ticket has a gate number to avoid bottle necks at entry, at gate 87 we had a little of a trek to find our entrance. The rumour mill has informed me that there has been further investment in the stadium for improvements/expansion, though nothing has been confirmed.
The atmosphere began as soon as we alighted the bus and began our (short) walk to the stadium, down Guadeloupe, amongst a vibrant sea of orange tshirts. A large group of painted university students were chanting on their walk down to the game, which we have now established is known as a “spirit team” and not just a drunken mob. This team is exactly what it says on the tin, for team spirit. They chant, dance and shout, aiming to have the fans riled before even entering the stadium. What I absolutely loved about this, was that there was no animosity. No Tulsa fans were shouting back, the chanting was not aggressive or demeaning. Though, Mike informs me that this has a lot to do with the vast space between states, Tulsa is an approx. 10 hour journey from the Texas stadium so the majority of fans were home fans. Nonetheless, there was nothing but pure excitement from these chants at the anticipation of watching their home team play.
Within the stadium there are countless vendors selling football paraphernalia, food and beer. As first timers, it was only right that we purchased foam fingers. The biggest shock, prior to the game, was the cost of our two beers. Nineteen dollars. I would like to say completely worth it, but I now understand the underground organisation of sneaking in booze.
American football is a game of four-quarters, each fifteen minutes in length, played as two thirty minute halves. Great! I could settle down for an hours worth of football. The math didn’t quite work out that way though as we arrived for the game beginning at 7pm and did not leave until after 10pm, leaving me with the impression that this wasn’t just a game but a show. The University band had an action packed introduction, using their bodies to shape words and shapes; mainly the shape of the state of Texas, of course. The cheerleaders did not stop from start to finish of the game, they had more of a workout than the players. Though my heart was in my mouth watching one guy almost drop his partner; ouch. Mike wasn’t aware as he didn’t notice there were any cheerleaders …
The game itself, I am told, was uninteresting. Though the first five minutes legitimately had me on the edge of my seat, which is quite an achievement as I do not follow sport. Within minutes we had caught a ball, which changed the teams, and scored a touch down (TOUCHDOWN) but after this there wasn’t a great amount of “edge of your seat” playing. The defence team was fantastic, but our offence was hesitant and points did not climb fast. I am sure there is another word for the act of “catching a ball” in the specific way that changes teams, but I feel I am achieving enough following the game and the technical jargon can be added later to flesh out my skeletal knowledge of American football.
What I also found striking was the sheer size, I have gathered America is all about size, of the team itself. Prior to attending, I was not aware that the game is played using two completely different teams, an Offence and a Defence. If you ever need to know which is playing at a point in the game, just listen to the chanting. Offence comes on we shout O F F E N C E, defence comes on we shout D E F E N C E. The simplicity is really quite beautiful. The defence is also the team of people that look like they could lift a truck without breaking a sweat, and offence are the slightly smaller ones who can run fast. And there you have Emma’s American football 101. Not sure I will be lecturing on it any time soon, and certainly won’t be taking any questions.
From start to finish the game was an experience I am glad I participated in; mainly shouting, attempting to follow the game and standing up a lot. The pride Texans have for their team, and their state, is incredible and quite humbling. I would thoroughly recommend adding an American football game to your bucket list, even if only for the atmosphere. An atmosphere of wonder, anticipation, excitement and polar emotions. It is something you really will not forget.