. And a Red River Rivalry runs through it : Budget Travel Adventures

And a Red River Rivalry runs through it

Texas state flag Cotton Bowl Red River RivalryNorman and Austin shared a similar culture and upbringing growing up.  However, these two boys were very different.  As they got older, they went their separate ways.  However, like all sibling rivalries, fate would bring them together again.  Two worlds collide as a love for their culture and passion bind them together while tension and differences divide them.  The Red River Rivalry is born.

A River Runs Through It is a Hollywood movie which shares a similar plot.  While that rivalry was born in Missoula, Montana this one begins in two cities – Norman, Oklahoma and Austin, Texas.  The Red River divides the border between Oklahoma and Texas but every year, one of the greatest rivalries in college football takes place in Dallas, Texas.

The battle on the field has as much anticipation, drama, and excitement as a Hollywood movie.  Fly fishing isn’t the common bond.  Football is.  Longhorns and Sooners meet in the middle forsaking their homes and fighting it out in one of the most unique atmospheres in college football.

The Red River Rivalry – culture, passion, and history

Oklahoma fans yell Red River RivalryFounded in 1900, the battle lines between these two schools were drawn while Oklahoma was still a territory.  This annual battle takes place at the Cotton Bowl Stadium as culture and colors determine which side you are on.

Fans know their positions on the line as seats are split 50/50 between Texas and Oklahoma at the 50 yard line.

Ironically, the annual game at the Cotton Bowl is held during the Texas State Fair.  Unlike most football games, there’s no tailgating here.

Big Tex greets people dressed in his blue and red.  Burgers, brats, and beer are replaced by corn dogs, carnival rides, and coupons.  Sooner and Longhorn fans pass by each other shoulder to shoulder with friends and family by their side.

This should be happiest place on earth – or at least Texas (my apologies to Disneyland).  However, it’s a border war showdown in middle of Texas.

Over the years, there has been no love lost between the two rivals.   Quite frankly, they just don’t like each other.  Sure, culture and hospitality may lead to a faux southern hospitality.  While they respect each other, it’s that indirect aggression that makes this rivalry so polite yet hateful.

Occasionally, confrontation and fights happen between fans.  However, they prefer a more passive aggressive approach with “Boomer Sooner” or “Texas Fight” cheers yelled loudly with opposing fans within earshot.  Once they bond with their brethren in the stands, then things can really get ugly.

Oklahoma team celebrate Red River Rivalry

Oklahoma turns the hook’em horns upside down

“Texas Fight” by UT fans is replaced by “Sucks!” by OU fans.  OU fans respond to the Texas Longhorn “Hook’em Horns” sign by making the same sign with the fingers pointing down.  Texas calls Oklahoma the University of Texas at Norman and fans come up with playful and interesting insults for one another.

On Saturday, I experienced the Red River Rivalry for the first time as the fans were dressed in their crimson and burnt orange.  Many shirts I saw were funny but a bit crude.  There were some songs and chants that were downright nasty.  Most of these I can’t share.

On this day, the animosity after the game was a bit tame.  Oklahoma destroyed Texas 63-21 so OU fans were happy while UT fans were embarrassed.  The gap was so big on the field, there wasn’t much room for trash talking after the game.

In years past, knife fights and altercations have taken place in restaurants, bars, and at the fair.  A heavy Dallas police presence is required during the weekend.  However, this weekend saw crowds that would make claustrophobics freak out.  Fortunately, there were no issues.

The perfect Hollywood movie

Texas Gameday Texas Oklahoma Red River RivalryI’ve experienced my share of rivalries.  Growing up, I experienced the hate between South Carolina and Clemson football fans.  While these are programs on the rise, there may be nothing like Army and Navy.

There is such a desire for each academy to beat the other.  The banter is humorous and entertaining.  You are constantly reminded that each side wants to beat the other with “Go Army! Beat Navy!” and “Go Navy! Beat Army!” chants.  Midshipman and cadets dress in uniform and the President of the United States cheers from the stands.

No rivals may have more respect for each other than Army and Navy.  While the battle lines are drawn on the field, they fight together on the battle fields around the world.  This rivalry gives you goose bumps.  You feel honored just be a part of it.

With the Red River Rivalry, the disdain for each other may be as strong as any interstate rivalry in college football (up there with Michigan and Ohio State).  However, the venue for this one is what makes this so unique.  A neutral site game, fans divided along the 50 yard line, mingling with one another at the Texas state fair.

The Red River Rivalry is a scene out of a Hollywood movie.  It’s a movie that has it all – passion, tension, cultural differences, good and evil (which depends on your perspective), occasional violence, and a dramatic conclusion.

I was disappointed that the game wasn’t closer.  However, rivalries like this aren’t as much about the results as they are the people involved.  That’s what makes college football so great.  The people and action off the field can be more interesting than what happens on the field.

If you enjoy Hollywood movies, the Red River Rivalry gets two thumbs up.  It’s a movie I would watch again.

If you enjoy this feature on the Red River Rivalry, check out more stories from the College Football Travel Tour.  If you are interested in learning more about these college towns and cities from a travel and sports perspective, read the travel guides on the Expedia College Football page.


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Filed Under: College Football Travel TourFeaturedOklahoma UniversityUniversity of Texas


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  1. A great rivalry, and a great story…

  2. Robert Reid says:

    Big Tex by the way caught on fire a few days after. The photos of him — completely on fire — are a pretty nice symbol of Austin’s feelings towards Mack Brown these days. We OU fans are happy that he squeaked out a win, at home, at night, versus Baylor, to avoid three straight loses… to Baylor. That should keep him around another year.

    I also agree that Army/Navy is an all-time rivalry, but there may be one that’s bigger — Harvard/Yale, ‘The Game.’ Here are teams that don’t have rankings, post-season bowls, or even play big BCS teams. But the rivalrly between these two schools actually forged the rules of football as we know it. I went a couple years ago, and had a superb time. The only way I could ever get into an Ivy League school is with a football ticket, I guess.

    • I saw that Big Tex burned down a few days after I left. Glad we got to hung out before he went up in flames. And while OU destroyed Texas, it seems that the Longhorns season hasn’t gone up in flames yet. As a matter of fact, they could finish the regular season with 9 or 10 wins which will definitely keep Mack Brown around. As a Gamecocks fan, I feel the same way about Dabo Swinney at Clemson :)

      I think Harvard/Yale is very similar to Army/Navy. Neither get football scholarships and really play for the love of the game. I would love to check out the Harvard/Yale game. Maybe next year. Not only is it a great game but the campuses are beautiful!

      What other rivalries would you recommend?

  3. Sophie says:

    I’ve been to many OU-Texas football games. Even so, I’ve never really understood American football. But, as you say, loads of fun off the field. Dallas is never so lively as during that autumn weekend.

    • American football is more than just the game. I know lots of people that go just for the tailgating and don’t even go to the game. This is one reason I love this series – it’s a cultural experience as much as it is a sporting event. Even though you don’t care for college football, I am sure you understand this :)

      I never would have guessed you would have gone to so many games! What’s been your favorite college football experience?

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