Burnt Orange Stains for Life

I fully believe that humans can remember their most intense moments for eternity. If you, as my loyal reader, look back at all you have experienced throughout your life, is not there SOMETHING that comes to mind in vivid detail? There most certainly is for me!

Last Saturday, September 5, 2009, I had the opportunity to watch, first-hand, the University of Texas Longhorns Football Team do battle on the newly turfed Joe Jamail Field.  Their opponents? University of Lousiana-Monroe Warhawks. A difficult battle? Definitely not, but it was still important to me. Why? Well it also marked the first time I have seen the Longhorns in real life.

Many people would call me a “bandwagon fan”, because I have only really watched the Longhorns play since the Vince Young days. They were very successful times, and Mack Brown has continued the tradition through today. There is still a connection to the Horns that lies deep within my head and heart though. After all, I did grow up in Texas and I still consider myself to be a Texan.

Call me what you like, but I assure you that once a team has my full attention, they will forever have a piece of my heart.

DKR Texas Memorial Stadium is unlike anything I had ever seen. Sure I have been to great sporting stadiums like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Stadium, Arlington Stadium, Safeco Field, Qwest Field, Husky Stadium, and Reser Stadium, but DKR felt special to me.

As I walked towards the huge structure that is DKR, I quickly noticed the shape. The newly-built North End now had an upper deck. This caused the already large East and West side decks to merge at the back with the fresh architecture. The South End only holds bleechers and supports the largest college television screen in the country, the “Godzillatron”. From a small distance, the stadium takes on the shape of a horseshoe (we’ll keep that quiet since Ohio State fans already have their “shoe”).

The outer appearance of the stadium follows the Longhorns themes. It is a very classy, brick and stone mass that rises high above the streets. If you were to drive a car near the stadium, it’s impossible to see the top unless you lean over the dashboard and peak through the upper portion of your car’s windshield. It’s really a stunning sight.

The inner halls of the stadium, separated by gateways, pay tribute to the football team’s rich history. Framed pictures, posters, helmets, and many other trinkets adorn the walls which lead to the field. Plaques and quotes can be found at every gate, all of which can send tingles up your spine. I felt as if I were the one going out on the field that warm, Austin evening.

I could hardly keep still as I made my way toward the Gate 5 field entrance. The stadium’s innards were filled with fans. Burnt orange flooded every nook and cranny of the Horns’ battle structure.

The entrances to the stands were small. I was pushing myself through, along with hundreds of other Longhorn fanatics. This was my first time, so I did far more shoving than normal. The darkness at the entrance BURST into bright, Texas lighting. My eyes tried to shut, but the adrenaline pulsating through my body kept them open. There was no damn way I was missing an inch of this place.

My eyes relaxed and there, before me, was the beautifully green field (Joe Jamail field to be precise). Hugging every inch of the new turf were matte-silver bleachers, shooting up at high rates of incline. The term “nose bleed section” now had a new meaning for me as I looked back over my shoulder and looked up. The upper deck around the entire stadium was filling with (what seemed to be) little, burnt orange ants; they were people of course. That would not be my direction though (thank God). The 45 yard-line, third row, tenth seat in was where I would witness my first Longhorns game.

Because they removed the track around the field during the nineties, the railing in front of me hugged the players seating area (six feet up, but still very close).

The Showband of the Southwest (the Texas band) came rumbling out with beautifully crisp tones, vibrant flags, and matching burnt orange clothes to boot!

The Godzillatron was so clear that, when such good seating permitted only level views, I could look up and see every detail of their “T” formation up close. They used the world’s largest Texas flag to add to the spectacle, and boy was it a wonderful touch.

I was waiting to see my football heroes though. The Longhorns always came out of this stadium in famous fashion…under cover of thick, white smoke, and down a path formed by burnt orange band members. The leading Horn always held the American flag, and they would sprint on to the field like the Gladiators they were.

It happened just as I had hoped. The entire time I could hardly keep my heart from ripping out of my chest. A beaming smile took up most of my face. It lasted so long my cheeks began to cramp. I didn’t care one bit though. This was a spectacle I had been waiting to see for a very long time…this was my football Mecca.

The game passed and all 100,100 of us watched as our great players waged war against the ULM Warhawks. Colt McCoy’s accuracy at QB was enough to make me say “wow”, Sergio Kindle’s hard-hitting DE ability caused some hiatus in the Warhawk’s offensive backfield, and the quickness of CB, Chykie (Shocky) Brown, made me downright jealous.

There they were…these god-like football players…Texas friggin Longhorns. Right in front of me…playing for me…playing for us! This season they started #2 in the country, behind Florida. Could this be the season they went back to the Rose Bowl to, once again, claim their National Championship glass football? Maybe.

Whether the Horns win or lose this year, I can still look back at the day I saw them for the first time. They are still the greatest group of college players I have ever seen, and in no way will I ever forget seeing that place. No way will I forget looking at the scoreboard, seeing 59-20 LONGHORNS WIN! No way will I forget holding up my hands, Hook’em sign intact, singing The Eyes of Texas with the players and fans. It was my special time…a very symbolic time for me. I was ending a great summer, one that came after a very difficult school year. It will always stay burned in my head.

Burnt Orange Forever Stains.



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