du hast mich
du hast mich gefragt
und ich hab nichts gesagt
If I close my eyes I can still feel the bass drum beating from the very first time I stepped into Kyle Field.
Boom boom boom.
From behind the stands in the concourse, you really can’t hear the rest of the band, but you can hear those two bass drum keeping perfect beat. Boom boom boom. I felt like running, even after the multiple turns up the ramps behind an entire army of maroon and white. Boom boom boom bah-boom-boom-boom boom boom bah-boom boom boom. Like the faint war march of a not-so-distant brigade, I remember clutching my brand new 12th Man towel and hoping I remembered all the yells I’d been practicing for what seemed like an entire decade. Over the last ramp, my heart began to race as I scanned the concourse for the overhead signs that pointed to the section where my seats for my very first game at Kyle Field waited for me.
My new Aggie girlfriend in tow was keeping up, but she’d done this literally her entire life since every single person in her family went to A&M except the one dumb cousin who had to go to Blinn. Boom boom boom. It was getting louder, and my feet began to get shaky. I was so close to seeing gameday in Kyle Field for the first time; for a lifetime of eagerness, my dream of watching Aggie football as one of the participants was about to come true.
Boom boom boom. Past the concession stand lines that seemed to block every path possible to my seats; pushing with my towel-clinched fist and dragging my girlfriend’s sweaty hand in the other, I couldn’t take it any longer. Boom boom boom boom…the sound grew louder with every step that I took, and by this point I could hear the low brass horns tah-tumpting along with a song I recognized from years of watching on tv and listening on the radio and playing over and over on my car stereo as the Noble Men of Kyle.
Around the last concession line and onto my ramp, my girlfriend finally caught up, out of breath and yelling in a panic tone, “Are you crazy?!?” Yeah, I am…can you please keep up? This is the most important moment of my life. Boom boom boom bah-boom boom boom boom boom bah-boom boom boom. Up the ramp to our section, past the people standing in line and to the ushers waiting on either side of the aisle. I could now hear the trumpets faintly belting out the build up to the best part of the song…bahm bahm bahm bahm-pah bahm-bahm, bahm bahm bahm bahm-pah bahm-pah bahm. The crowd was clapping along with the bass drum…boom boom boom…and suddenly the sounds of Kyle Field, alive with the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band and Fightin’ Texas Aggie 12th Man hit me, deep in my soul, like a ton of bricks. My eyes shot straight over the field and surveyed the scene, from the yellow and black pixilated scoreboard all the way to the opposite end where the horseshoe of Kyle is. Welcome to Aggieland. The Home of the 12th Man.
Suddenly I lose myself and everything stops.
Silence. All I can hear is the wind blowing over my ears. Everything is in slow motion and I can take in every single detail of what is before me. The faces, the maroon, the towels in the air, the press box, the band with more than just a single trumpet slightly off-tune but belting out as loud as it could play. Every single thing in front of me was in pure unadulterated focus, almost as if by some sort of divine intervention the entire scene paused in crystal clear clarity, and my mind immediately goes back to where I came from. I blink my eyes in slow motion and everything goes black.
I’m from north east Texas. Growing up in a small working-class farm town gives you tons of opportunity to learn how to live, but it doesn’t provide a lot of chance meetings to be around “college people”. In my east Texas country family, we didn’t have a single person who’d ever attended college much less a big college like Texas A&M. My grandparents were hard workers but they weren’t educated, working mainly in the oilfields and in pastures for very little money. We were taught how to work hard and how to save, but no one in the family had any idea what it was like to either go off to school or even send someone off for a chance for something bigger and better in life.
The small 3A school I attended employed teachers who were the very first people I’d ever been around who had actually gone to college after high school. They seemed so smart and powerful with knowledge of the world outside the meager borders of our farming community, contrasted to the brute strength of my family who worked with their hands every day. I took to books very quickly, and was fortunate enough to learn at a quick pace. That stuck with me all thru school, and I was lucky enough to be able to parlay that into higher education.
About the time when you start realizing what a university is, you start picking your allegiance. Well, in Texas you do, anyway. You stop wearing t-shirts with cartoons on them and you start wearing sports teams. The Dallas Cowboys were a popular choice in north Texas, but they weren’t very good at that time. In fourth grade, I remember someone wearing a longhorn shirt to school, and I was confused. I didn’t remember the Cowboys ever playing the longhorns, but it seemed that these longhorns had a football program. Soon, I started paying more attention, and the older kids on the bus wore longhorn stuff as well. However, there were more kids who wore a different shirt. Our school colors were maroon and white, and I just never noticed that some of the maroon shirts that the older kids wore had a big T with an A on one side and an M on the other. I thought they had something to do with our school, but they seemed to be something more that I just never realized.
I asked my dad about it. After high school, he joined the Navy so he wouldn’t be drafted into the Army, and after 10 months on an aircraft carrier he went thru UDT training to become a Navy SEAL in Vietnam. He told me that the longhorns and the A and the M guys were colleges, and one day if I worked hard I could go to college. They played football in college, and if I was a good enough football player I might even be able to play football in college and have it paid for. He reminded me that on Thanksgiving night when we put up the Xmas tree, that’s the game that is always on. Ohhhhh…I remember that. Those teams play each other. I liked the A and M one because it was maroon and white like my school. Dad said that growing up he liked the other one, but he pulled for the A and M guys because they were the hard workers and the farmers like us.
I got my first A and M shirt when I was in sixth grade. From that conversation with my dad, I was a fan of the A and M college. The fandom was split in our school, although the A and M fans were the coolest people by far. It helped that the A and M team won so many of the games. By the time I got to high school in 1991, the Aggies were the most popular of the college teams and all the rage in the Southwest Conference. From afar, I watched the games when I could and listened to them on the radio other times. I dreamed of what it would be like to actually attend an A&M game and be able to yell out those things they yell during the games. We didn’t have the money to go, and my parents worked on Saturdays, so I would have to actually go to the school there if I ever wanted to witness a game at Kyle Field. I was a pretty good athlete, but as it turned out I wasn’t good enough to play D-1 college football but I could get there as a student. An Aggie, true and true. Maroon and White, my lifelong dream.
Working as hard as I could and cutting no corners, I made it. My acceptance letter to A&M meant the world to me, and I ran thru the halls of my school waving it when I got it. My friends were happy for me because people from my school normally didn’t go to big colleges. Mom and dad said we’d have to pay for school on student loans, but they saved enough money to help me thru. This was a lifelong dream and it was coming true, both for me to attend and for my hard-working parents to be able to send a kid to Texas A&M University against all odds. My work, my dedication, the heartbreak, and my ability to rise above everything my family faced as lower middle-class workers was all down to me as the very first person in my entire family to get to go to college. It’s a huge burden, but also a huge honor to be able to represent your clan that way. The night I got my acceptance letter, I went to my room alone and closed my eyes and pictured what it would be like to see a live game at Kyle Field. The sounds. The smells. The feeling and Spirit of Aggieland as you and 85,000 other fans gather together in a single place and yell until your throat is hoarse and sing in unison like you are trying to please the gods and wave your towels as if waving it actually has some sort of outcome on the play on the field. My eyes were squeezed shut as I could picture it unfold before me. I didn’t want to open my eyes for fear that it might not actually be happening.
From the moment I first saw that shirt and every single life experience leading up to the walk up that ramp and out onto the field, it suddenly went into motion and happened just like a movie. All in fast forward and every detail as rich as the last, leading up to this one single moment and suddenly…black.
I opened my eyes again and suddenly Kyle Field springs to life, just in time to hear the band rip out that familiar stanza of the Noble Men of Kyle: Baaaaaaahm-baaaahm (and the 12th Man sends out a deafening WHOOOOOP!). My life up to that point had just flashed before my eyes in a single moment, captured detail by detail in my mind and my heart. I found my way to my seat with my mouth agape in full awe, stood the entire game like a good Aggie, humped it and yelled until I was hoarse, and swayed with my fellow Aggies back and forth. The date was September 2, 1995. The final score that day was my Texas Aggies 33 and the LSU Tigers 17. I’ll never forget that moment when I finally became an Aggie bearing witness to the greatest environment in college sports.
And it’s that moment that keeps me coming back. That feeling I have every single time when I walk out of that concourse into the open air of Kyle. It’s changed quite a bit since that day in 1995, but the Spirit is still there and despite the troubles and losses and seemingly endless jokes about our school and our team over the last ten years, I still get goosebumps when I hear the Fightin’ Texas Aggie band belt out the Noble Men of Kyle. Even after getting chastised from the people currently in the athletic department who go out of their way to publically tell us what a good Aggie should do and say while they continue to let us slide, we keep coming back.
You see…we are Aggies, and Aggies are we. We are true to each other just as Aggies can be. And after all the heartbreak and gnashing of teeth, we still know that we will fight with each other for the ol’ maroon and white. It’s not because someone tells us to or because we feel obligated to. We do it because it’s who we are. For some of us, it’s who we’ve always wanted to be and have done everything we could possibly do in our lives to get to that point. We don’t forget it because it’s who we are, and I’ll be damned before I give up the Spirit of what makes me an Aggie. You’ll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers because I’ll take it to my death.
So don’t forget that feeling, Ags. It starts all over again this Saturday, just like it did for me fifteen years ago. As the year unfolds, be true to each other, fight for the maroon and white, and Beat the Hell Outta SFA.