‘T was Saturday September 27th in the year of our Lord 1997…
It was hot. It was one of those days in late September Houston, Texas when the sun still shines with ferocity. The heat and humidity remind you that you’re in a paved swamp. This was accentuated by Rice Stadium’s field sunk into the ground, where the air is more stifling.
But you know what? That heat made you feel alive! It takes getting used to, but, once you are, the sweat soaking your body creates an endorphin buzz that pushes you to challenge its limits, in a strange way that only people from the South understand.
‘T was a perfect day for college football. Today the opponent was the University of Texas Longhorns. Of course you’re jacked to play them! Of course you despise their arrogance! They’re so easy to hate.
See, UT is one of the biggest universities in America. Rice, at least in 1997, was literally the smallest NCAA Division I-A school in America. You can see something of David vs. Goliath.
Furthermore, the academic standards at Rice were far higher. There’s an absolute correlation between high academic standards and lesser football talent. Add to this the hotties around Austin and 6th Street drunkeness and, well, there’s a reason why the Longhorns get some of the best recruiting classes every year.
Thus, the Horns should yield the biggest, fastest and strongest teams. They should be in the hunt for national championships every single year (but the program’s opulence does effeminize…). Rice should always get trounced. Thus, we had everything to gain, and nothing to lose.
This was the fourth game. Though we got murdered by Air Force 12-41 in the season opener, we came back to beat a very strong Tulane Green Wave 30-24 for the second game, and then beat the Northwestern Wildcats 40-34 in game three. The Wildcats had won the Big 10 the previous two seasons, and were still ranked before we beat them. The back-and-forth scoring up Chicago way that day is quite the memory!
But this day was more! To be 3-1, after beating the 1996 Big Ten and Big Twelve champs in back to back weeks, as some may remember Texas beating Nebraska 37-27 the December before, would have made one helluva’ statement. FIRE burned in us all.
Of course, as we ran on the field, we noticed that roughly 35, 000 of the 53,811 roaring fans wore burnt orange. I had to laugh. Attendance at our games kinda’ sucked. But oh well.
That intensely pleasurable buzz I’ve only felt before football games, when you look forward to each hit, to each opportunity to muscle your opponent into the ground, and listen to punk d-lineman bitch about holding as you whip his ass again and again and again… that buzz pulsed through me…
The game kicked off at 11:10 am. ABC covered the game, as a lot of people in Texas would have loved to see us win too. But we didn’t, and that doesn’t matter…