One of the most gratifying moments of my life as a sports fan came when I was 20 years old, and Oklahoma beat Nebraska to take over the #1 spot in the country. It was the first weekend in November, and I was in Greece.
I missed the game, naturally – American football is about as hard to come by in Mycenae as Tiki Barber at a Promise Keepers rally. But I called home to check the outcome. My mom picked up the phone and sang, “We’re Number Ooo-oonne.”
I was thrilled, not least because I knew that in a few days I’d be headed back to Venice, where I was spending a semester studying abroad, and I’d get to see my roommate, who was a native Nebraskan. We’d spent the semester trading friendly barbs, and before we’d parted for a week’s travel in opposite directions around Europe, we’d trash talked each other’s teams.
When he got back from his vacation, I was sitting on the end of my bed, facing the door, grinning wildly.
“Shut up,” he said. “Just shut up.”
Those Cornhuskers. So prickly.
That season, Oklahoma went on to defeat Florida State for the National Championship. There were a lot of disappointed Florida fans walking around my East Coast campus that January. I wore – and washed – my championship t-shirt every single day for a month. SUCK IT, NERDS.
So the past few weeks have been interesting, huh? Nebraska leaves the Big 12 for the Big 10 like the aforementioned Tiki Barber left his pregnant wife for a blow-up sex doll, or a pair of those panties that come in a Japanese vending machine. I’m not sure.
Things looked bleak for the Big 12 for awhile there. Then the Pac 10 came a-courtin’, like a giant Katamari looking to roll up some new teams.
My fellow Oklahoma alumni were apoplectic. “I’d rather die than be in a conference with USC,” one posted to Facebook. Promises of seppuku abounded. One might think people in this part of the country don’t like California or something.
All is well in God’s Country, however, as it seems the Big 12 will stay together. To my mind, this is how it should be. It’s almost easier to describe Oklahoma’s geographic location in terms of its athletic conferences than in actual geographic terms. Are we in the Midwest? The Southwest? The Southeast? My Texan friends – God bless their pea-pickin’ little hearts – like to say we’re just their big back yard.
Note to self: next trip to Texas, bring along a tire iron, a bag of cow manure compost and some hilarious fireworks.
We have elements of so many parts of the country here; to join up with the Pac-10 or the SEC would’ve seemed wrong, somehow, because part of Oklahoma’s uniqueness is the weird blend of Americas that converge here.
I’m going to miss that Nebraska game, though. When I was growing up that was the rivalry; possibly as intense as Texas is now. Since the inception of the Big 12, that rivalry has cooled. Knowing we’re not headed for the Pac-10 makes it easier to let go.
Maybe I’ll send my Venetian roommate a card congratulating him on his school’s move. Or would that be crass, like Sandra Bullock sending flowers to Bombshell McGee?