Are your Georgia Bulldogs playing host to a top 25 opponent that appears to be figuring things out just in time to squelch the Dawgs’ playoff hopes? Then you could probably use a drink. I can help you with that.
Much has been made of the fact that this will be the Aggies’ first visit to Athens since joining the SEC. I for one welcome our testicle-grabbing visitors. The downside to the conference’s expansion to 14 teams was that some of the west denizens who Georgia previously played on a near annual basis (looking at you, Ole Miss) are now rare opponents. A part of me mourns not playing those powder blue pushovers every year. And I wouldn’t mind Arkansas coming back into the rotation sooner rather than later.
But for now we get the enthusiastic, weird tradition wielding Aggies. Plenty of other folks around here have already talked about the X & O’s of this game, so it falls to me to talk about the sociological dynamic.
If you’ve never read Jim Dent’s excellent treatment of Bear Bryant’s brief tenure in College Station, The Junction Boys, I highly recommend that you do so. The book is an entertaining look into Bryant’s coaching philosophy and some of the things that made the Beat what he was. But the book is also instructive as a primer on Aggie traditions and psychology.
For starters, and you probably already knew this, the state of Texas is huge. Georgia is big relatively speaking, and you could fit it several times over inside the Lone Star State. And while there are devotees of SMU in Dallas, Baylor fans around Waco, and Texas Tech partisans doing, well, whatever one does for fun in West Texas on Saturday night, the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies have the largest followings in the Republic (no really, Constitutional scholarship be danged some of them still refer to it as a “Republic”).
The University of Texas is of course one of the nation’s premier comprehensive research universities. If it is a serious course of study, you can probably pursue it in Austin at an extremely high level. Law, medicine, philosophy, art, finance, you name the pursuit and someone in Longhorn Nation is probably renowned for it.
Austin is also well known as a cultural center, home to one of the most vibrant musical scenes in America, and world class cuisine.
A&M on the other hand is the land grant institution, with a history of agricultural and engineering excellence. And a place that remained all-male and where membership in the “Corps of Cadets” was mandatory until the mid-60’s. College Station is, well, it ain’t Austin.
Basically, if you plopped Georgia Tech down in Hinesville or Cordele it would be A&M.
Yet, the place summons in its alumni and fans a fervent devotion which is admirable. I don’t think there’s any more passionate group of fans in college football than those of the Texas A&M Aggies. Oh, they may in fact be bat crap crazy. But they’re bat crap crazy about their football team and willing to spend $75 million on a guy who was no more than 24 months away from getting run out of Tallahassee. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.
And what’s the drink to toast to the uniquely Texan insanity of Aggie football? A Shiner Bock.
Produced by the Spoetzl Brewing Company of Shiner, Texas since 1913, Shiner Bock is not the state beer of Texas. But it’s been around longer than just about any local “craft” beer in America, and Spoetzl proudly bills itself as the oldest independent brewery in Texas. In that respect it’s a little like A&M, which has actually been around longer than the University of Texas (1876 to 1881).
Frankly it’s also not the best beer in Texas. On its own it’s kind of watery and a little too sweet. But a cold Shiner pairs about as well with Mexican food as any beverage around. In this way, Shiner Bock is the Aggiest of beers, not the best out there (TAMU’s last National title came in 1939, which makes 1980 seem like yesterday), but the best out there within its own peculiar niche. Enjoy till you fall on your Chigaroogarem. Until later,