Among so many other things, our game is this:
A delegate rising at a national political convention to say, "The state of Nebraska, as proud of its ticket as it is of its No. 1 football team, proudly casts all 24 of its ballots, for the next vice-president of...."
Trucks, campers, station wagons and sedans pulling onto the LSU campus as early as Friday afternoon, there to begin a marathon barbecue and outdoor cocktail party. Already, the eerie chant of "Go, Tigers" is ringing through Baton Rouge.
Another Texas-Arkansas sellout for mother, country, sliced beef and sooey pig. Darrell will pace and lick his fingers and Frank Broyles' shirttail will come out. "If Frank's shirttail don't come out, the game ain't started yet." Seats have been gone for months, and outside the stadium a lonely student carries a placard: IF NO ONE GIVES ME A TICKET, I'LL KILL MYSELF.
Who's the real Big Red? Is it Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas or Nebraska? If it rains in Lincoln, the merchants will sell ponchos—all red. In Arkansas, the baby pigs wear red sweaters. Oklahomans drive red jalopies, but so do Nebraskans. In terms of funny hats, vests, jackets and ladies' suits, Nebraska wins. A whole state becomes a spray of red.
Dawgs go forth. Georgia Bulldogs. Up to the train trestle above Sanford Stadium in Athens, 5,000 strong, some of them getting there by 8 a.m. on game day. Beneath the trestle, a full view of the playing field, inside the "hedges." And free. The tradition is as old as the stadium, and once, on a Saturday, a Dawg was asked how long he'd been entrenched, waiting for Auburn. "I been here about two pints," he said.
Indian summer on Strawberry Hill, above California's Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. A thousand bodies are strewn across the slope, sleeping, drinking, getting married, ignoring the action below. Some are even clothed. Some even glance, occasionally, at the game, using binoculars to distinguish the players. But most of them don't bother. Why? As one explained it, "I don't think we ever win that often anymore. Or do we?"
The stadium Knute Rockne built in South Bend. A ghost for every brick. Crammed and raucous, tense and frenzied to bury another visitor. The gold helmets pour from the tunnel and something explodes. Lightning flashes from the helmets to the larger dome itself, blazing over the sycamores. And then that old familiar song, "Cheer, cheer, for old..." They're actually singing it, that song. Again. What, indeed, would the sport be without it?
Big Ten innocence. Land of the greatcoat and parka. Towering old edifices for multitudes who still see a Grange or a Harmon down there as smokestacks rise in the distance through the gray chill of another Saturday. It didn't all begin out there in the Midwest, but there the sport was surely ordained.
And all those strange, hidden towns which do, on a given day in a given year, become the focus of a nation's attention: Fayetteville, Stillwater, College Station, Boulder, Oxford, Tuscaloosa, Norman, Lincoln, Lubbock, Ann Arbor, Palo Alto, Austin, Chapel Hill. And Baton Rouge. And Athens. And South Bend. And the rest. As the jaded writers say, take away Boulder and the Big Eight goes heads up with the Southeast on towns.