During the 1950s Oklahoma did not invent fans. It perfected them. Oklahoma's football team never lost. Never in college football is about two years. It was like owning the key to a pinball machine. It was as sure a risk as death or taxes. You gotta have heart, but if you don't, ask around because they will transplant anything. A good lawyer can write off groceries. Oklahoma's winning was habit-forming, like mints.
During the second game of the 1953 season Pittsburgh tied Oklahoma 7-7, which was a mistake. Oklahoma reacted as any normal team would, winning 47 consecutive games, or five years worth. Bud Wilkinson, currently a holder of a Ph.D. in times of possession and high-risk offenses for ABC television, was coach. No team scored more than 21 points against Oklahoma in nearly six years.
In 1955 North Carolina played Oklahoma close, losing 13-6. To this day I have never smoked Raleighs. In 1956 Colorado came within eight. Like so many Oklahoma fans, I was smug, confident, overbearing and boring.
Therefore, when Notre Dame came to Norman in 1957, who cared? Last year it was 40-0 at South Bend. Nobody beat OU in Norman. When another team made a first down, fans hallucinated.
Later on that watercolor afternoon, ripe autumn, College Town, the earth paused. Leaves froze in fear. Wind wept. The scoreboard, always great in advanced arithmetic, was not busted. The score actually was 0-0. Notre Dame had the football near our end zone in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. I recall no particular feeling, except repulsion because somebody had started to cry on my neck. Everybody knew all we needed was seconds. So clam up, lady. We won't lose.
On fourth down Notre Dame's quarterback gave the ball to a person who ran into our line, which was fatal. A great call, that. Great for us. Ten of our playing squad put this man right down.
This is still called a fake. You see, Notre Dame's quarterback had not relinquished the football. Fakes are legal. The quarterback pitched the ball to Dick Lynch, a halfback who introduced himself to our end zone as our remaining defensive player did a shocking imitation of a candle melting.
I waited three hours for a penalty flag. I felt betrayed. I swore I would dispose of my South Bend fishing reel. As I limped down the aisle, a Notre Dame fan, drunk on air, stuck out his tongue at me. It was an enormous tongue, pink as one of those two-hour Irish sunsets. It wiggled, waggled and fizzed. It followed me down the stadium ramp, into the deserted parking lot and across a field.
I remember it, man. And I remember the face connected to it. I wrote down the name his wife called him, and I will get him. Time heals all wounds, of course, but those are superficial wounds. I called him after the Nebraska game in the 1973 Orange Bowl. No answer. Fifteen years is a long time, but not quite long enough. I am an incurable fan. Forever.
Defeat has been the undoing of some mighty nice characters, among them the Hare, who was accused of easy scheduling, dubious conduct and overconfidence. After being upset by the Tortoise, the Hare suffered psychological damage. He even lost a step and wound up in quite a stew. The Tortoise endorses soup. Goliath was melted down and became the Philadelphia 76ers.