I love Texas A&M.
I really do. I’ll admit that when I made my first college visit to the sprawling campus my junior year of high school I wasn’t the biggest fan (I didn’t grow up in an Aggie family, so I didn’t have the prior bias), but each and every day I’ve been here, the place has grown on me. I flash my thumb, I sing my “Howdy,” I shout my “Whoop!” I now love the campus, I love the atmosphere, and I love the people.
I even like the football too.
The thing is, I’m not one of those Aggies. You know what I’m talking about, one of those towel-wavin’, yell-shoutin’, ring-dunkin’, maroon-wearin’, horse-laughin’, hardcore Aggie elites clad in nothing but maroon and white day and night, caring so much for all things Aggieland that if there was a course offered called Aggie Traditions, they would come out with a 12.0 GPA. Here at A&M we call those people “Red A**” (I censor this because sadly we are not talking in terms of donkeys), and I’m simply not one of those. I am what people at A&M would call a “2 Perecenter,” which the Wikipedia page for Aggie Terms (yes, that’s a thing) defines as “Aggies who choose not to participate in Texas A&M traditions.” This isn’t to say that I despise all the Aggie traditions or that I hate the school (which I’ve already clarified), but simply that I came to the school purely because it was a good school to go to, and for some reason have never been able to truly grasp the whole Aggie tradition thing.
I might be un-American in saying this, but I’ve never really cared for football that much. Like I said, I do like football – as in, I don’t mind watching it every now and then – but even that has been more of a development over just this past semester. The problem with this one peculiarity of mine is that ultimately, this is the defining feature that gives me that 2 Percenter status. You see, football is important at other colleges, but here at A&M, football is essentially, well, their god.
And that is precisely the topic of my blog.
You see, just last night (technically just an hour ago at the time I write this) I was at the A&M vs. South Carolina game and it was a pretty close game for the first half. I was pretty interested and didn’t even shy away from joining in on some of the yells and swaying with people during the War Hymn, but I still for the life of me couldn’t comprehend it when I would see people literally get goosebumps the moment our team did anything worthwhile. Still, I had a great time. We were falling a bit behind as we went into halftime, but the Aggie band kept spirits high as we went into the third quarter.
But that’s where things went downhill a bit for me.
At some point during the third quarter, our team made a touchdown only for the refs to question the calling and instead deny us the points and make us try again, and this was apparently a huge mistake on their part. The crowd surrounding me erupted into an anger-filled rampage, shouting insults and cuss words down at the refs three stories below, their spit catching me on the cheek as their red faces contorted and anger and their pointed fingers shook in violence. They called the referees plenty of names I’d rather not type out on here, and from my point of view the maroon shirts seemed to become almost scarlet as it seemed that each and every one of them was out for the referees' blood.
There’s two problems I saw here: (1) The referees had made a completely justified call (perhaps a bit sketchy, but justified nonetheless) and the people around me were simply mad because they were in denial that our team messed up or that we weren't getting our way; and (2) even if the referee did make a bad call, did it really matter that much? Even if that bad call cost us the game and even if that game cost us the season, does it really matter that much? Perhaps my only slightly-piqued interest and football made me the only rational one there, but the answer is obviously “No.” If we lost the game and that loss ruined our season, well, there’s always next season, and if next season never comes, then the world will have ended and some of us will be with Jesus. So what’s the big deal? Why is spit flying against the back of my neck all because a referee made a call directed against our team? There are toddlers and children innocently sitting all around, and the very adults who are supposed to be setting an example for them – their own parents included – are red-faced and calling the referees and members of the other team all these horrible names and shouting all these awful things! The thunderous response was so loud that I literally jumped in my seat as everybody flew to their feet and started screaming. This went on for well over a minute, until at last the angry crowd calmed down enough to sit back down.
And then, just a few minutes later, it happened again. At this point I had to excuse myself for a “bathroom break” as I walked into the concourse to gather myself.
Why on earth is football that big of a deal? I mean, I enjoy the game and the atmosphere and the people on a personal level, but how could this game be so important that you are quaking in your cowboy boots and hurling curse words down at the field, ignorant to the fact that your child sitting next to you is seeing your response and learning that apparently this is how mature people act? Do you understand why our world is so messed up? It’s not like these people were yelling angry comments for the fun of it; I believe that a good majority of them would have literally punched the referees in the face if there weren’t any legal repercussions for doing so. For being a relatively conservative, “Christian” campus, I think that if you offered someone a free season pass as long as they promised to not read their Bible for a year, the good majority of these people would accept the offer in a heartbeat. Do you see how twisted our priorities are? Football has become god and Kyle Field its temple, and we weekly make our way to worship at the altar. We raise our children in this way, teaching them that it’s alright to shout hate and act immaturely and, well, like a child, as long as the referees don’t give us what we want. Just like a child pouts because his parent, doing their job, told him he couldn’t have a cookie from a cookie jar, adults grow red-faced and shout obscenities because the referees, doing their job, told them they couldn’t have their way.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…the sad part is that we are proud of it. We Aggies brag about our “Aggie Spirit,” associating it with valiance and excellence and the epitome of chivalry, yet this is what it plays out as. My friends, my friends, why do we applaud ourselves acting like this? If anything, let the post I write right now serve as a call to action for all Aggies: Is this really what we stand for? I typically write my posts as an encouragement towards Christians, but Aggies are supposed to have similar values, so heck, why not? Aggies, we need to get out act together! We need to start exercising at least a little bit of self control, don’t you think?
I’ve always found the whole Aggie Spirit thing a bit interesting, to say the least, but I think the reason why finally clicked for me when I got home and started researching Aggie stuff for this blog post. If you go to the Texas A&M Traditions Wikipedia page (yes, this is also a thing), it quotes the Houston Chronicle in defining the Aggie Spirit as this: “an almost religious devotion to the traditions.” Did you see that? Almost religious. These people are reacting to this referees’ call as if they were Jesus walking into a temple filled with moneychangers and collectors! (For those a little less versed in the Bible, it wasn't a pretty sight; Jesus made a whip out of cords and started flipping tables, shooing the animals in all directions.) And we are proud of it! According to the Aggie Spirit, there is nothing wrong with getting so involved in the game that you, maroon-faced, begin shouting angrily down at the refs. It is "righteous anger," in a way.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind other Aggie traditions. I might not understand or fully get behind them or get gung-ho about them, but I can tolerate them at least. The yells, the Gig ‘Ems, the hump-its, the pennies at Sully, the Century Tree thing, etc … I can handle all those, I really can, and I'll participate every now and then. I actually find them adorable in a way, even if I myself can’t fathom them. But this…this truly bugged me. It doesn’t make me love A&M or its people any less, but simply makes me question our priorities and where our intentions lie. True, not everybody in the stadium shares my surrender-all Christian motivations, but our campus weekly hosts the second largest college ministry in the nation; shouldn’t there be more people bothered by this? Am I the only one thinking that perhaps we are taking things a bit too seriously? If you can’t help but shake with excitement the moment the Aggies get a first down – or help jumping to your feet and shouting your praises to the team – don’t you think that’s a bit, well, odd? The game is a fun thing to watch in passing and enjoy, but should you really allow its outcomes to control your emotions, to make you so angry that your blood is boiling in your desire to strangle the humanoid zebra-man standing out on the field? And the same is true for happiness; if you can only find true joy when the Aggies are winning or at least doing well, isn’t that a sign that maybe you are giving the game a little too much of your heart? I can't help but think that God wouldn't like us putting this much of a priority on a game that ultimately has no world effect on anything whatsoever.
Perhaps I am being too cautious, perhaps Pharisaical, I don’t know. I just know that when I walked out into the concourse to gather myself, I couldn’t help but pray and pray and pray. Something inside of me was not at peace, and I felt the need to address it.
My whole purpose for this blog is not to rant about A&M, because once again I will say this: I love the place. In my own opinion, it is the best possible school I could have ever chosen to go to. Instead, my purpose in writing this blog is to point you to the truth, and that truth lies in the fact that Kyle Field, along with all of A&M’s campus and even the game of football as a whole, will one day pass away with the rest of this world. Should you enjoy it? Sure, go for it, have some fun! But don’t let football define you. Don’t let a single call, whether good or bad, cause you to break out in anger because you, like the cookie-less child, didn’t get what you wanted. Remember that there is a God, but He doesn’t take the form of a 100-yard grass field packed with hulking, sweaty giants throwing around a weirdly-shaped brown ball. Football is cool – as are so many other things in life – but God is so much cooler, so much greater, so much better. Rather than letting zeal for A&M consume you, let zeal for the things of God consume you, just as they did Christ in John 2.
I will end this blog by sharing some lyrics from a song by Jimmy Needham, lyrics that I often use to help align myself with what I should really be valuing in life:
Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol
Figure out your idols and get rid of them. There is so much more to be experienced in life and much more joy to be found if you can simply align yourself daily, hourly, minutely,, secondly with this truth right here. Enjoy the little things and #FindTheStrawberries, but don't let anything but God fuel your emotions.
Have a blessed day.