Texas Tech is a school of many fairly unknown traditions. From the grass at Memorial Circle that remains untrod on, to good ol' Soapsuds whose butt points towards College Station, and even the absolutely gorgeous Carol of the Lights, we have many traditions that help unite our student body even after graduation. But all of our official traditions pale in comparison to our unofficial tradition: throwing varying amounts of flour tortillas on the field after the kickoff, no matter what stadium we're playing in.
The tradition of throwing tortillas has very humble origins. According to EverythingLubbock.com, the tradition hails from 1989, when students would take the lids off of their 44oz cokes and throw them on the field. Soon thereafter, the lids were gone, and since tortillas are a pretty popular tailgate food item, cheap, and fairly easy to hide on your person, they became the throwing item of choice. The more dramatic version of the story says that when top-ten ranked Texas A&M came to Lubbock in 1992, an ESPN announcer said that there was "nothing but Tech football and a tortilla factory in Lubbock". Therefore, in a little bit of cheeky fun, tortillas were thrown before the game. The Red Raiders went on to upset the Aggies, and we just kind of kept on doing it before games after that. Nowadays, it doesn't matter where you go, if there are Texas Tech fans, there is more than likely going to be a flour-based substance flying through the air like a UFO.
The tradition was easily at it's peak in the late '90s. Tortillas were flying everywhere, people were enjoying themselves, and a harmless tradition was well on it's way to going down in school history. However, in 2001, this budding unwritten practice was shut down by form of a "tortilla penalty" imposed on the Red Raiders if any tortillas made it to the field. This seems a little ridiculous, as I've never heard of anyone being hurt by a flying burrito wrap. The penalty was reduced from 15 yards to 5 yards in 2002, but if the Red Raider fans continued to throw tortillas on the field they would get another 15 yard penalty. Today, tortillas are still being thrown at Texas Tech football games, the rare basketball game, for graduation pictures, and for weddings. It's high time we accepted this tradition as the pinnacle of what it means to be a Red Raider.
1. It's a harmless activity
Let's be straight up honest with ourselves as Texas Tech fans. We are rowdy. Very rowdy. Sometimes, this rowdiness can turn from simply having fun, cutting loose, and supporting our team into complete anarchy. In 2011, Bleacher Report ranked us as the #8 Rudest Fanbase In The Nation, only beat out by the likes of LSU and West Virginia. Our shenanigans that spill over into rude behavior are infamous in the Big XII as well. You'd be hard-pressed to find a fanbase from our conference that overall has no problem with us, despite the fact that we've never won an outright Big XII title. Heck, in 2001 after beating the Aggies, we tore down our own goalposts and threw them into the visitor's section. This crosses the line in so many ways. We have such a rowdy fanbase that accusations of throwing batteries are automatically believed to be true, even when they're absolute bullcrap. Let's face some of this music and say we have at least earned a little bit of the reputation we have.
That being said, throwing tortillas on the field is absolutely harmless. Unless someone slips on a tortilla in what I can only imagine as a scene straight out of Tom and Jerry, I see no reason why being hit by a tortilla should ever hurt you. Honestly, even the slipping I don't see as a huge hazard. If soccer players can survive with streamers all over the field after a game and hockey players can take a slight break to clear up all the hats on the ice after a hat trick is completed, surely these men can handle a Tex-Mex delicacy being slightly on the field for two seconds before they're cleaned up.
2. It's Outlawed In The Stadium
Mike Leach left us with many great things. His personality became the image of our program for a long time, and many of the things he brought to the South Plains became traditions. Mike Leach's innovative "Air Raid" offense has been a part of Texas Tech football for decades. His unfiltered, verbose rants became rallying cries for Red Raiders everywhere, uniting us all through his outbursts, such as after a game against Baylor in 2010 when he said, "The mighty Red Raiders, oh yea, poo poo, f***ing Baylor. F*** you. And f*** me. And f*** everybody. That is f***ing bulls***." Despite your views on profanity or the lack thereof, it's hard to deny the fact that Mike Leach was an innovator and a rebel, and it's not a coincidence that the Red Raiders have been personified as such years after his departure.
Tortillas are currently outlawed in the Jones Stadium. At the student entrance, security guards check for contraband dried flour just as much as they do for flasks. There's only 5 things that can get you kicked out of a student section at Texas Tech: being too drunk, wearing the colors of another team (for your own safety at times), consuming alcohol, smoking, and throwing tortillas at kickoff. It may not be terrifyingly rebellious, it seems more like a child taking another cookie from the cookie jar than starting a revolution, but it is a rebellion nonetheless. Tortillas will always find their way into the sporting event as long as there are students willing to go against the grain even the slightest bit. It's outlawed by our administration, but ultimately, we do what the heck we want, just the way the Pirate would have.
3. It's Just Plain Fun
If you throw a tortilla at a Texas Tech sporting event, it will be fun. That is an iron-clad guarantee. While there are certainly things more fun than throwing something you could have eaten onto a turf field around 60,000 of your closest friends, I can definitely think of stuff that's less fun. What's more than that, it's a family-friendly unofficial tradition. Whether you're for or against the student section's more profane version of the fight song, both students and parents can agree that throwing tortillas is fun. In fact, most of the tortillas that were thrown last year came from the alumni section.
One of my favorite moments as a Red Raider was the first home game I attended. There were so many things that stuck out to me, Jace Amaro being really big and fast, Kerry Hyder violently making his grand entrance into the backfield on the first play of the game, and the loudest "Raider Power" chant i've heard to date are all unreal memories. But the one that sticks with me is before the game. As I was walking to the Jones, I saw a father and his young son, who couldn't have been more than 6 years old. The father was showing this future Raider how to tear a hole in the middle of a tortilla so it would fly further, and what I could only assume at the time was the proper tortilla-throwing technique from the section of Orientation that I slept through. It was a neat scene, but what stuck out in my mind was this little kid, who couldn't give a rip about football having a blast throwing a Tex-Mex food item at everyone in general and no one in particular. He would throw a tortilla, and then laugh and laugh and laugh, and get his dad to help him tear another hole in the middle so he could beat his high score.
And in the end, that's what it's all about, an event where we can get together, celebrate our school, and have some fun. The team will inevitably let us down. That's the nature of sports. We will eventually lose. We will eventually lose embarrassingly. We often forget that sports are merely a game played by young men and women with air and/or yarn wrapped in varying materials. Sports are fun. Sports should be fun. Tortilla throwing is fun. We should throw many, many more tortillas.