I work with a student organization that is on 31 different campuses across the Southeast, so I have lots of friends who are current students or alums from many different places. They all know I'm serious about my Texas Tech football, so I've gotten a lot of questions (and condolences) lately from my friends about our losing season. They want my insight into our downward spiral. They want to know how this happened. They check on me after games to see if I'm OK.
Honestly, after the first couple of games, I was alternately angry and sports sad and didn't have many answers. However, I've had a shift in my perspective over the last month. I know we're not very good. I think we might be in a few years, but I also know there are no guarantees. I think we are building a team who could win championships, but I'm beginning to realize that even if we're not, I will support this team, no matter what. When people ask me how I'm doing with this season, my answer for the last few weeks has been the same: "I'm earning my fan card." They all seem confused by this answer, as my loyalty has never been in question for them, but for me this season is different.
Part of their confusion comes because it seems I have always been a Red Raider. I was born in Lubbock, and both my parents have two degrees each from Tech. My dad even worked at the university for the first 15 years of my life, so I was on campus pretty regularly. As a family, we also did Tech traditions like the Carol of Lights every year, and my dad used to buy two football season tickets and would alternate taking my brother and me to the games. I remember absolutely loving the games, and at each one, I would tell my dad that I wanted to be a Saddle Tramp because I thought there was nothing cooler than getting to suit up in red and black and ring your bell on the field to support the Red Raiders. I was young enough to not understand that they didn't have female Saddle Tramps, and my dad was kind enough to not crush my dream.
As I got older, my friends and I would go to games and sit in the grass section of the North end zone. I'm not sure we watched much football, as it was mostly a social event for us. Fast forward to my college career, and the section changed, but I still think the football was a bit secondary to the social aspect. However, I did actually watch the games by then. My boyfriend and I went to every single home game with a rowdy group of friends and cheered like crazy for the Red Raiders. We even had a friend that smuggled a bag of tortillas into a game in his pants once and we got to throw them in the air at kickoff. It seemed like a crazy idea at the time, but it was fun and hilarious and the number of tortillas seemed to increase exponentially that season. (For the record, I find it hard to believe that my friend started/revived the tradition, but I literally have no memory of tortillas prior to his smuggling shenanigans that game, but this may be revisionist history.)
Post-college I attended some games and kept up with the Red Raiders in general each season, but in the last few years (partially due to my discovery of VTM), I have become a pretty die-hard Texas Tech football fan. I went to a game or two a season under Leach and Tuberville, and I've been a season ticket holder since Kliff took over. So after all this detailed history of my fandom over my lifetime, you can understand why my friends are confused that I speak of earning my fan card now, but again, this is different.
During my time as a student at Texas Tech and all my adult life, we have had a winning program. We have broken .500 and gone to bowl games more than almost any school in the nation. Our worst record of a 5-win season has only happened twice in this time. Living in Lubbock and being a Tech fan has been easy; it's been the default. And when it gets hard, I leave. My boyfriend and I went to the Cotton Bowl game in 1995, and we were down 34-0 at halftime. We were freezing and didn't want to watch us lose, so we left. I attended the OSU game in 2010 that we were losing, and I left at halftime of that one too. I stopped watching the 2011 season altogether after we got throttled by Iowa State.
For comparison, I have a friend who's been a Baylor fan for 35 years. She's been traveling to Waco to watch football every year since she graduated. Although it's good now, I cannot imagine making the trip most of those years. I have another Baylor friend who was there about a decade ago and she attended every home game in its entirety, until the clock went to all zeroes and she and the band were the only ones left to see that the Bears had lost another game. I don't have a category for that kind of loyalty and thought I could never do that--until now. In 2014, I'm on a mission; I'm doing my dead level best to have that kind of commitment this year.
I've stayed through every home game this season and watched the others on TV. I even drove to Forth Worth to watch that dumpster fire in person and didn't leave until the 4th when it became apparent that TCU was going to make it to 80+ points, and my friends didn't want to see that. I wore a Texas Tech shirt the next day. I wear more Texas Tech gear this season than I ever have, especially when I'm outside of Lubbock. At the point in the season when I'd usually check out, I've decided to go all in on our losing football team. Not to lay too much meaning on football, but our true character is often exposed through adversity. In what looks to be our worst season in almost 25 years, I'm becoming the biggest Tech fan I've ever been.
I've received some wisdom here from some of you about this season and being this kind of fan:
"I saw a 10-2 team QB'd by Rodney Allison. I saw a 1-win Tech team coached by Jerry Moore, and I watched a team ranked as high as #2 a few short years ago. Times like this make the good times even sweeter."
So here's to Oldgreywolf, my dad, and the rest of you Red Raiders who earned your fan cards years ago; I want to be more like you. I'm all in for the ride, even when the good times you speak of could be years away.