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Ridings loves the Horned Frogs with a purple passion. In the bedroom of his Fort Worth home he keeps more than 50 purple shirts, 15 pairs of purple socks, four purple jackets and one purple suit. And those are just his lounging clothes. On road trips he takes along his purple pj's and purple smoking jacket and purple-and-white bedroom slippers. Guess what color his underwear is.
Ridings has attended 381 straight Horned Frog home-and-away games. He hasn't missed one since a 13-9 loss to Ole Miss in the 1948 Delta Bowl. He has traveled as far as Seattle and Miami, paying his own way, to keep the string intact. He figures he has seen 521 TCU games all told. That's 63% of the games the school has played since its first one, in 1896, against Toby's Business College. "We won 8-6," he says, consulting his voluminous library of statistics. Ridings was TCU's statistician for 35 years.
"I'm infamous now," he says. "My wife, Freddie, wishes I'd quit, but it's some idiot thing I can't stop." Ridings likes action. He's 67 and he doesn't want to sit around waiting for an opening in a_ retirement village. He runs a public relations agency, and he's there every workday from 9 to 5:30. He has been an action guy since 1929 when, at age 12, he was the Horned Frogs' mascot during their first Southwest Conference championship season. Young Paul sat on the bench and wore a little Frog uniform. Naturally, he went to TCU. He had a 100-game spectator streak going that ended in 1937 when he left Fort Worth to attend Missouri's school of journalism.
His current skein started when he returned to become chairman of the journalism department at TCU. The string was nearly broken 13 years ago against Penn State. Ridings and several cronies chartered a private jet to fly them to the game in University Park. Fog grounded the plane in Wheeling, W. Va. They had to take a commercial airliner to Pittsburgh, rent a car and race the 124 miles to Penn State.
"We didn't get to the stadium until halfway through the first quarter," says Ridings. "By that time Raymond Rhodes had scored TCU's first touchdown. Then Penn State ran it up in a barnburner." Rhodes's TD is the only Horned Frog score in 36 years that Ridings hasn't seen.
Ridings has preserved his streak despite a cataract operation and a heart attack. "Paul always manages to arrange all his problems in the spring," says Freddie. The Ridingses were married one autumn night in 1939 after a TCU-Texas A & M game. They flew home from their 25th wedding anniversary in Acapulco in time to see the Horned Frogs beat Clemson 14-10. They cut short their 30th anniversary in Honolulu to catch the night owl to Dallas and make a connection for Florida only to see TCU lose 14-9 to Miami.
Ridings admits the decline of the Froggies in the last decade has taxed his loyalty. His record for the past 10 seasons is 15-90-5. Very few people know this, but TCU has never lost to Texas when Ridings delivered the pep-rally speech. He always ends his call to arms by saying, "Frogs, go give 'em hell—but do it in the Christian spirit!"
BOBBI HOVIS AND TWEEDIE SEARCY
Claiming to be Navy's greatest fan is more slippery than dredging oysters from an icy Chesapeake Bay skipjack in midwinter. But one Middie follower is more dogged than any other. She's Teako Taco, a 6-year-old miniature dachshund the color of a football and the shape of a bratwurst. She lives in Annapolis and goes to Navy home games with a couple of other ladies named Bobbi Hovis and Tweedie Searcy, who are retired U.S. Navy nurses.
They take Teako to the games in a personalized duffel bag. She wears a tiny Navy bridge coat to pep rallies, a dinky sailor cap to tailgate parties and a woollen GO NAVY sweater to the games. She eats subs and drinks navy-bean soup poured from her own thermos. She even has her own gate pass. The only other animal that regularly attends Mid-die home games is the Navy goat.