Saturday, June 03, 2006

Why Texas Is Different

I just finished watching “Friday Night Lights”. OK, so the first thing that says about me, is that I don’t watch that many movies, and the ones I do watch tend to be out for a while before I see them, though there are a few exceptions. But I mention that movie here, because it’s about Texas and it’s about Football. Now, on the surface making a big deal about either of those comes off as a bit, well, arrogant and presumptuous, and to be sure Texans have their share of those qualities too, just look at LBJ, but about these parts and some places like them, where you come from and how you even play games is part of your upbringing.

The first time I left the United States, I learned the difference between being an American, and being a Texan. For whatever reason, being from Texas gets you treated much better, pretty much no matter where you go. And it wasn’t a one-time thing; it was pretty much a constant. You get treated as if you matter, and no one is surprised or particularly offended when you speak your mind; Texans are expected to say what they think, and to have strong opinions. About everything, which maybe explains why so many Texans are bloggers.

Now about Football; it’s one of those things that you just either get or you don’t get. My wife is not a big football fan, so I listen to her when I want a take on what the non-Football world thinks. In my case, I didn’t get to play much, because my father did not want me playing football. He had played at several levels, and believed that the only people who ought to play Football were the people who had no better options in Life. And I understood that a person of average size and speed and strength would probably never be able to make a college team, to say nothing of the Pros, and so his football years would be spent on collecting bruises and breaks and tears which would wear him down long after he hung up his uniform. But I loved Football from the first moment I saw it, and tens of millions of American males know what I mean.

Football is more than a game. Beneath all the weight training and running and workouts in sun, rain, mud, and cold, in addition to the cheap shots taken by the low life you always seem to draw on the other side of the line, after the losing seasons and bad calls and endless stretches sitting on the bench, you are changed by the game. Molded, if you will, for good or ill by the coaches and teammates you have. With the right coach and the right set of teammates, a young man just might grow up straight of back and true of heart. The best employees and colleagues I ever knew, all played Football. Football players tend to grow up into men who keep their word, respect their duties, and consider teamwork the cornerstone to success.

I was never big enough or fast enough to play much. And because of my dad’s rule, I couldn’t even try out for High School ball, so I played some Church League ball, which meant missing some of the pads and playing fields that were not in the best condition. I messed up my knees and ankles playing Guard. But that only fed my love for Football. Enough so, that later one when I had a work schedule which allowed me the time, I became an official for Texas UIL Football, working from the Houston Chapter of what’s now called the Texas Association of Sports Officials (TASO). Working my way up to a varsity crew, I saw a lot of rural towns and small schools. The first thing you notice on a Friday night, is that every one of these towns is based on three types of buildings besides the homes; the school of course, the churches nearby, and of course the football stadium. Football is a big part of Texas towns, whether it’s a 5A program or the smallest six-man school in the state.

But it occurs to me, that I either don’t have to tell you that, or nothing I can say here could make you understand. It’s a Texas thing.


Anonymous said...

something about that GRIDIRON...

great game...

having lived in Europe and France for work, i can safely say, healthy (even physical) competition in the USA, makes a very big-positive difference in human nature.

American Football is outstanding.

cannot imagine what it would be like to play in Texas...

i imagine officiating would be extremely difficult.
perhaps that is another reason for your fine objective nature.

thanks for the fine read.

USMC Pilot said...

It is entirely posible that Texans get better treatment around the world because of the notion that they don't put up with any crap. Most people are mindfull of their noses, no matter where they live. said...

DJ...I moved to Texas 25 years ago from NC. Married a born and bread Texan...and his friends have become my friends. He went to school in Midland...the site of the movie you described...and his classmates were Laura Welch Bush and Tommy Franks.

George and Laura Bush were our neighbors in Dallas when he was part owner of the Rangers and lived on Northwood in a very modest house...I know what I'm talking about...we lived right around the corner from him and believe me...the neighborhood was modest.

It makes me laugh every time folks talk about him being one who is seeking only money (their lifestyle spoke much differently) I saw Laura at the grocery store often where she spoke to everyone and you would have never known who her in-laws were. I watched her sit out on the stoop with her twins watching them play when they were in elementary school. They were...well, the rest of us Texans are.

I love Texas...but more than that I love Texans.

Outrageous...OK...tacky...sometimes...good neighbors....always.

NC is fabulous...Texas is even better. I found my love and my life here. What more can I say?

Thanks as always for your wisdom.


JEdholm said...

DJ --

Re your dad's take on football players being those without options, I am friends with Mike Ruth, a Texas kid, who was the Nose Tackle at Boston College in 85-86 and rated as the strongest NT in College Football (his number was retired when he graduated -- an honor only bestowed on one other BC player, Doug Flutie.) He later was ranked as one of the five strongest NT's in Pro Football when he played there.

At any rate, he has EXACTLY the same opinion about football that your dad does. He was a hardscrabble kid who got in 35 fights during his high school career, and he put up with the pain because it was his only way out of poverty. His take is that the work is so hard and the pain is so great that only those without options stick it out -- at least the linemen.

As to your postulate that you might grow up to have "a straight back," Mike is also living testimony to that position... I genuinely believe that he's congenitally unable to tell a lie.

Yup, football breeds character -- not sure that being a Texan does, although I only lived in Houston for three years, so who knows, I might be wrong.

Jeanette said...

I can attest to Texas being special. My son and daughter-in-law moved to the Dallas area about six years ago and I've had the privilege of going to Texas and meeting some mighty fine people. I doubt my son and family will ever move back east, and my grandson already plays football at age 9. Both grandchildren are active in field and track and my granddaughter is also a figure skater at age 7. A great state to raise kids!

Steve Falcon said...

GOD BLESS TEXAS!! Now you know why I moved here, DJ. In the words of commenter Dallas, "I love Texas...but more than that I love Texans."

Texans aren't just proud of being American, they're proud of being TEXAN. That's why I wanted to move here for years. When the opportunity to do so finally presented itself, I took it and haven't looked back.

Anonymous said...

You said it DJ! Although I am not a fan of "Friday night lights".

Plano Wildcat grad! '86-'87, '87-'88 State champs!

They didn't like playing us and we didn't like playing them.


tryptich said...

Great movie. The heartbreak of the ending. And the bloodless liner note at the end that Odessa wins it all next year. Several things stuck with me about the film ... the radio call-in show where the host asks if the Board of Education should have better spent the money for the new stadium on the school, and the caller says 'they did spend it on the school' ... the star TB accusing the orthopod in Midlands of exaggerating his injury, and then weeping in his grandfather's car after he knee re-blows ... the son finding his father's championship ring thrown from the window ... the negotiation over where to play the championship game ... the coach being told he better win the championship or else he'll be looking for a new job ... What an amazing movie. What an amazing story.