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Leaving The Jones

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There is magic this side of Texas

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Will Rogers and his favorite horse Soapsuds will always look so calm and collected. Underneath the beating of the west Texas sun, The famous duo is always inviting as the red crepe paper hanging off of them waves hello to Red Raiders big and small as they head their way to The Jones. This is what drew me in to be a Red Raider. There is a low roar on the street of Broadway that comes from car tires rolling onto the red bricks that lead up to Texas Tech. That low roar that once sounded strange, is a now familiar voice telling me I am home. That same roar can be heard as you walk up to The Jones. It consists of the gravel crunching underneath your boots, the rhythmic beeps of student ID’s being swiped, and the chatter of Red Raiders in anticipation to see the air raid. Unlike Will Rogers and his favorite horse Soapsuds, the west Texas wind is sending me elsewhere. This Saturday will be my last home game at The Jones for the foreseeable future.

No one ever thinks about when they will say goodbye to Lubbock. Who would want that? If someone told me magic wasn’t real, I would say, “You’ve never seen the sun set in Lubbock.” One in a while, I’ll wear my boots to the games. Between the walking, tailgating, and standing, my feet become ruined. They’re tender. I have to adjust my walk just so I don’t put myself in more pain, but this dull pain is the reward of being a Red Raider. When will I feel that soreness in my feet again? I couldn’t tell you, but any Red Raider that has worn their best to the games understand how joyful it is to finally take those boots off then tell themselves it was all worth the while.

Just like the annoyance but joy of sore feet, there is an annoyance and joy to being a Red Raider. You have the Crabtree catch; the one that everyone always remembers around the time we play Texas in hopes that we will finally win one, which happens occasionally. Who remembers Oklahoma’s shock as the Red Raiders came to Norman in 2011 to end a winning streak? There’s Geno Smith and the seemingly unstoppable West Virginia team that fell flat as Seth Doege led a campaign that ended with a 49-14 victory and Red Raiders flooding the field in celebration. I remember the true emergence of Davis Webb as he came to put the Red Raiders on top of TCU after a long defensive struggle. Whether it’s watching undersized Jakeem Grant rewrite the record books or colossal Jace Amaro carrying multiple defenders before he is taken down, we, the Red Raider faithful have seen it all. That is the joy.

In November of 2011, I drove by The Jones for the first time ever and I looked on in astonishment, but I also winced as I saw thousands of fans leaving the game. 66-6 was the score, and somehow people were okay with that. As I saw Red Raiders leave, I was asked, “Are you sure you want to go here?” Immediately, I replied, “Of course I do.” I have seen The Jones roar. I have seen The Jones go quiet. I promised myself I would never leave a game early. It’s a difficult thing to do and I couldn’t keep that promise, but in the rarity of my early exit I would remember that I was one game closer to saying goodbye to The Jones, Texas Tech, and Lubbock.

I had so much joy, last year, on Thanksgiving night. Seeing Texas Tech finally win a game in Austin was a cause for celebration. As a Red Raider, the only thing I ever want is to defeat the Longhorns. This Saturday will be my last time to witness Texas Tech defeat Texas. You can gripe all you want about it being an early kickoff, but it’s Texas. If you’re anything like me come out early, stay late, cheer loud, sing the fight song with pride, and most importantly keep your guns up. For what may be one of the final times, I will enjoy the misery of sore feet, a hoarse voice, and shouting “Raider Power!” I will walk to The Jones like it’s business as usual, and I will sit in my usual spot, and I will hug my friends, give them a high-five, and I will cheer. This is The Jones. It’s where I’ve seen 120,000 hands raised in celebration and 60,000 heads hang in defeat, but the will of a Red Raider is the same as Will Rogers and his favorite horse Soapsuds; always calm and collected as they ride off into the magic of the South Plains in search of their next journey.