It happens once a year, creating a seismic divide throughout the country. It pits brother against brother. It breaks up business deals. It ruins relationships. And once it’s finished, all both sides want is for another year to pass by so they can do it again. It is the Texas/Texas A& M football game. And in the football-obsessed state that is Texas, no single game resonates more.
Every year during the Thanksgiving holidays, the two teams meet for something that has become much more than just a game. It’s a blood feud that represents a tremendous cultural divide in the state. It’s city against country, a rural agricultural school against an urban university. And yet both sides come from the same family, warring cousins who roll up their sleeves once a year in the backyard to settle the question of who’s number one—at least for the time being.
In Backyard Brawl, W. K. Stratton takes you through this rivalry and its history, covering the years when the game was postponed because the fans were just too violent, the branding of UT’s beloved steer, Bevo, by a renegade Aggie, the kidnapping of A&M’s beloved Reveille by boisterous UT students, the theft of UT’s cannon, Old Smokey, and its unceremonious dumping into the murky waters of Austin’s Town Lake, and the fistfights that broke out when celebrating UT fans rushed A&M’s nearly sacred Kyle Field after Texas won the last-ever Southwest Conference title on the Aggies’ home turf.
Stratton also relates the more serious side of the rivalry, particularly the way both schools came together after tradition turned to tragedy in 1999, when the A&M bonfire collapse killed twelve students. And in a touching epilogue, he captures the angst that hit the College Station campus when officials decided to cancel the return of the bonfire in 2002.
Stratton drew a bead on the 2001 season and followed both teams through their schedules leading up to the big clash in College Station. Taking you inside a renowned Aggie Yell practice and introducing you to fervid yet often zany orange-blooded Texas fans through their elaborate tailgating rituals, he creates revealing portraits of the two teams, including head coaches R. C. Slocum and Mack Brown, both of whom are legends in their own time, destined for the Hall of Fame.
Backyard Brawl is a fascinating examination of the greatest war in college football, destined to become a classic for students of the game.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About W.K. Stratton
W. K. STRATTON has contributed to Sports Illustrated, GQ, Outside, D Magazine, Southern Magazine, Americana, and Texas Observer and currently writes for the Dallas Morning News. Backyard Brawl is his first book.From the Trade Paperback edition.