A savvy sportswriter uses the football rivalry between the University of Texas and Texas A&M to paint a lively, partial portrait of the Lone Star State.
The two schools conclude their Big 12 regular season with a passionate game over Thanksgiving weekend. Stratton builds to the 2001 climax gradually, beginning at an August Aggie football rally in College Station. Formerly a men's army college, the conservative and rural A&M maintains its military traditions. Female cheerleaders are banned in favor of the all-male Yell leaders who guide the crowd through the emotional and highly structured program of music and yells. A statue of school founder and Civil War hero Sul Ross rises over the campus. Reveille VII, the canine mascot, prowls the stadium field near where her six predecessors are buried. Ninety miles away in Austin, the urban, more liberal Texas Longhorn partisans wonder why anyone would have to practice yelling. But the condescending UT fans have Bevo, the steer mascot, take pride in their huge marching band, and love to beat the Aggies. The impartial Stratton amiably digresses as he covers the season. He wanders briefly into state politics and geography. Before the UT-Oklahoma game in Dallas, he makes an odd trip through the Texas state fair. He portrays former coaches D.X. Bible and Bear Bryant and writes a short history of the Chicken Ranch, a.k.a. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. In 1999, the Aggies' 80-foot bonfire collapsed during construction, killing 12 students; Stratton reviews the causes and profound effect on the community. Coaches Mack Brown of UT and R.C. Slocum at A&M talk football and life between games. In the end, with the shock of September 11, the painful memory of the bonfire disaster and both teams having good but not great seasons, Stratton appropriately presents the November game anticlimactically.
Good-natured, intelligent, funny, and less bombastic than the title suggests.