How 'bout them Dallas Longhorns!
What a great story. Vince Young, raised on the tough streets of Oak Cliff, survives to star at Carter High School and eventually matures into the leader of the nation's No. 1 college football team. Wow! And it all happened here in our own backyard.
It must've. Why else would The Dallas Morning News produce a special section on the Longhorns' Rose Bowl victory and a full-page color poster of Young? Why else would the racks of Longhorns Rose Bowl T-shirts at the Kroger near The Village be empty the day after the game when the day before they were almost full? Why else would shameless family restaurants like Beef O' Brady's in McKinney institute a cover charge during the national championship game? Why else would a local Ford dealership run radio ads congratulating "our national champs"? And why else would Dallas' No. 1 sports radio station, 1310 AM The Ticket, carry Young's press conferences live?
Because the Longhorns are our team? Uh, nope. Because in Dallas, we lead the nation in bandwagoning.
As former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman said back in 1991, "This isn't a football town, it's a winners town."
Never has that been more apparent than in 2006, when Dallas' fake frenzy over the University of Texas' national championship almost made us forget that Austin is a good 200 miles south, that our city is home to a competitive Division I school called SMU and that our skyline's most unique building is bathed in argon green not burnt orange. Unless UT's Dallas-based enrollment/alumni has suddenly spiked to around, oh, say 1.2 million, I'm guessing a lot of you have enjoyed a happy new year hijacking a successful athletic team for the purpose of selfish emotional fulfillment.
"It's not right at all, but it's easy to explain," said Ticket co-host Greg Williams. "UT is the face of college football in this state. I don't care if you're from Texas A&M or Sul Ross or are just a marginal fan with no affiliation, it's easy to get your arms around Texas winning the championship."
At 24 Hour Fitness there are more Texas T-shirts than resolutions and beads of sweat combined. In the express aisle at Tom Thumb there are MILFs checkin' out more magazine covers featuring Mack Brown and his trophy than Angelina Jolie and her belly. And at Bob Thomas Ford, they're awfully proud of their latest commercial:
"The Longhorns' championship makes you proud to be a Texan, no matter where you went to school."
It does? I don't want to piss on our parade but, pssst, it's not our parade!
I'm not sure whether I need to be embarrassed or I want to be evicted. Talk about pride all you want, but know this: When the University of Southern California won the title last season, the folks up the coast in San Francisco were way too proud to go dancin' in the streets or go slappin' full-page posters of Matt Leinart in their major-market newspaper.
San Francisco: "Damn, I can't wait for the day when our team wins."
Dallas: "Yee-haw! At least they're from Texas!"
And your local paper served as choreographer to the whole coattail caravan, all but screaming "We Win!" On Monday, a full 13 days after Texas' 41-38 victory over USC, the DMN was still running photos of Young on page 1A. On its Web site, the paper continues to offer a special section dedicated to the Longhorns, including Texas-themed desktop wallpaper.
Indeed, all my excess lives in Texas.
This from a paper that lives down the street from SMU, 30 miles from a TCU team that finished 11-1 and in a city that is home to neither Texas nor any member of the Big 12 Conference. Makes you wonder who runs the rag these days, Belo or Bevo?
"There's a lot of UT alumni here, sure, but there are a lot from OU, too, and they didn't get the same treatment when they won the title," Williams said. "And I don't think I recall any Pony Express posters when SMU flirted with the championship back in the '80s. How they covered UT like it was Dallas' team was more than a little strange."
Here's betting that 35 years from now, when SMU wins its next championship, the Austin American-Statesman doesn't borrow the DMN's headline: "No. 1, Y'all!"
Truth is, ours is a pride of convenience. It's evident on St. Patrick's Day, when everybody turns Irish long enough to pinch butts and get drunk. But somehow "Don't Mess With Texas" vanishes when it's time to flick a lit cigarette out of your Lexus.
If we're truly bound by everything Texas, why isn't Glory Road "our" movie? Why doesn't the DMN print posters of Tim Duncan when the Spurs win another NBA championship? And why was popular President Bush a "true Texan," while unpopular President Bush is a "staunch Republican"?
It's because, God bless us, we're more fake than Milli Vanilli serenading a topless Pamela Anderson. The same Orangebloods that tried to bury Brown and founded www.firegregdavis.com ("site currently unavailable") now want to erect statues of the coach and offensive coordinator inside our state Capitol's rotunda.
"For two years, UT fans called our show complaining that Mack can't win the big game," Williams said. "Now they're comparing him to Darrell Royal."
While a lot fraudulent and a little creepy, Dallas' faux fanaticism toward Austin is harmless, maybe even healthy. All we want to do is bask in some glory, even if we have to rub imaginary shoulders with Young, Brown, Roger Clemens, Lance Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey on our own Sixth Street. Party planner: Compared to Austin's, ours, just south of the Trinity River, is 1/10th as fun and 10 times as dangerous.
There is one group in town with a legitimate right to rejoice over the 'Horns. At the University of Texas at Dallas, they share a direct affiliation and, surely, some giddiness. And the Richardson campus is in fact buzzing about recently released rankings. In Discover magazine's list of 2005's important science discoveries, UTD produced Nos. 8 (development of carbon nanotube sheets) and 70 (discovery of a mysterious new subatomic particle). And, somehow, they did it without even having a football team.
Hook 'em horn-rimmed glasses!
From freaks to Frogs to techies and Techies, Dallas is seeing 2006 through the Eyes of Texas.
"The Cowboys didn't make the playoffs," said Williams, "so all these front-runners had to find a winner somewhere."
Everything truly is bigger in Texas.
Especially the bandwagon.
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