Yesterday we experienced our first ever American Thanksgiving. Given my belief in positive psychology and the power of gratitude, how wonderful it was to have a day specially set aside for being thankful! Sophie had arranged for some of her fellow international student friends to have lunch at her house so we packed up our car with lots of 'fixings' and headed off to create a Thanksgiving dinner for 14. Easier said than done in a student house with very few pots & pans and even less cutlery but with the addition of some awesome Italian and Dutch and Austrian dishes we ended up with a feast. Not only did we get to be grateful for the food but also for the opportunity to meet Sophie's friends and to experience something of the 'family' she has created here in Texas.
After dinner we donned our Longhorn's gear and headed off to the stadium to watch the Longhorns play the TCU Horned Frogs. It's hard to explain the atmosphere at a college football game. I've been to Geelong vs Collingwood games at the MCG, I've sat amongst the cowbells in the Waikato and I've watched Blackout rugby games at Eden Park on TV. I guess those experiences are the closest I can use as an analogy for folks at home. Except this isn't AFL or Tri Nations or Super Rugby. It's college football! The stadium hold 100,000 people. Yes, that many zeros! And apart from a handful of brave Horned Frogs dressed in purple, every last one of them were wearing orange!
Before the game the 420 members of the UT band play 'The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You' and everybody sings along. Then you curl your thumb, index finger and ring finger into your palm, extend the forefinger and pinky and chant 'Hook 'em Horns'. If a player goes down injured, everyone gives the hook 'em sign again until they recover. Every now and again, one side of the stadium yells 'Texas' and the other side responds 'Fight!'
At half time the band returns along with the cheerleaders. They create amazing formations of stars and cows and the map of Texas, all the while playing hits from 'Who'. The team even have their own live mascot, a fair dinkum longhorned cow called Devo (the 14th). There's even a fraternity of old boys who devote themselves for caring for Devo and raising money for charity. Amazing.
As for the football game itself, I think maybe you have to be raised in the US to appreciate it. I found it way too stop/start. I just wanted a Jonah Lomu type to pick up the ball and keep running to the touch line but there was very little of that sort of excitement. There were a couple of intercepts that I would have chastised my netballers for because the wide receiver stepped backwards instead of forwards to take the pass and once I jumped up from my seat to celebrate a sure touch down only to discover he'd let the ball go straight through his hands. I imagine it's actually quite hard to judge the incoming behind that helmet.
Anyway, it was a great experience and the legion of burnt orange didn't seem too upset by the loss. As Taine said in his Thanksgiving prayer at lunchtime, we were grateful to be with family, to meet new friends and eat turkey!