Special Feature Written By:
Tai Hovanky, UT Senior
Disclaimer: No underage kids were intoxicated by the making of this article.
Game day is more than just a sporting event – it’s practically a religious event for UT students. For us, Saturdays are our Sundays, the stadium seats are our pews, and the field is our pulpit. While many parts of the experience as a UT fan are universal – the ups and downs, the passion, and the belief that OU sucks at all hours of the day – some experiences are specific to the students. Our game days don’t just consist of an hour or two at a parking lot tailgate and a few hours at the stadium. Game day is an event that starts when we wake up and ends when the tower is lit and we are all passed out (from exhaustion, of course!).
On a typical game day, I wake up groggy but excited for the day ahead. Getting ready takes a little longer because while UT (and Austin in general) is a very casually dressed city, on game day, many of us dress like we’re about to go to worship at the church of college football. It’s not uncommon to see guys that spend their days in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops break out the burnt orange dress shirt and blazer on game day. This phenomenon is mostly within the Greek and spirit group communities where it’s a tradition to dress up for game days. Guys usually wear some form of collared shirt, jeans or khakis, and cowboy boots, and girls usually wear a game day dress and cowboy boots.
Photo by Chris Dao
I then head to my frat house for the tailgate at around 1 p.m. Tailgates are often daylong affairs that begin at noon and continue until the game starts, around which time people begin migrating to the stadium. At first things are pretty chill; the Acacia common room is sparse and people are still trickling in. Most of the brothers are either recovering from the previous night, still asleep, or getting ready for game day. Eventually, people start pouring in and everyone in the room comes alive. Brothers come in after pre-gaming (college students’ favorite pastime before just about every event) in their rooms, and girls from sororities and spirit groups such as the Texas Royals, shown below, eventually join the party. The hushed murmurs of the original dozen or so brothers in the room become a loud ruckus once the room reaches a critical mass.
In the background, a mix of country and rap music blares from the speakers. Games of beer pong and pool go on. Periodically, someone will gather a large group of people to one of the large tables for a big game of flip cup. Burgers get grilled outside and people periodically take breaks from their drinking to fuel up on some actual food.
Photo by Priya Patel
If my girlfriend and I have plans to meet up with another group of our friends for a pre-game at their apartments, we’ll leave the tailgate early and head over. There, we drink some more, maybe play a few drinking games, and relax as we wait for the game to start. If our group doesn’t have tickets, we’ll watch the game from the comfort of the apartment. While waiting for the game to start we play drinking games like beer pong or King’s Cup, get to know some of the other people in the apartment with us, and take shots with them. Game day is pretty much a drinking event and a religious event for UT students.
For those that don’t want to stay in their apartments, on any game day – for UT or otherwise – Pluckers is a favorite among students. Consequently, it is always packed on game days and waits can be hours long as most people spend the whole game sitting there long after they’ve finished their wings. The other main places that become packed on game day are Cuatro’s and Cain and Abels. Pretty much any other place around campus that has a TV with the game on will probably have at least a few students (understatement!) watching the game.
Once the game is about to start, we slowly make the pilgrimage to the stadium. Around us, streams of white-and-orange-wearing fans flow down the streets, all heading to the same place. As we pass the tower, I make the obligatory glances at the tower, marveling at the glory of UT’s most iconic landmark and hoping that it’ll be orange tonight after another victory. I then make the long march up to my girlfriend’s seating section where we meet up with her friends from the Royals.
Conversations get interrupted anytime something big happens. Malcolm Brown has a good carry or Case McCoy makes a good pass and everybody stops talking and starts cheering. In those moments, nothing else matters. The murmur of the student section crescendos into a chaotic uproar. Every time we hear the sweet sound of Smokey the Cannon, followed by the Texas Fight song, we stop what we’re doing and sing/yell along with it. Every good moment, however, is tempered by the fact that in a small amount of time, the tides could turn against us. It’s usually not until we have a big enough lead and victory is assured that we can relax. Our emotions fluctuate with the tides of the game, and it’s always clear what we’re feeling - we’re as profanely vocal about our team when we’re winning as when we’re losing.
In describing the UT football experience from the students’ perspective, one should make mention of OU weekend because it’s an experience unlike any other. For that weekend charter buses, hotels and bar tabs are booked at least a week in advance by various student organizations – mostly frats, sororities, and spirit organization.
It’s a tradition for frat boys to take a date with them to OU weekends. Their dates buy a cooler and paint their names on it along with various bits of UT imagery and sayings. The girls also stock the coolers with whatever liquors that the guy requests. Then on Friday afternoon, everybody piles into the charter buses with coolers in tow and for the next five hours, debauchery of epic proportions ensues.
Once we’re in Dallas, the party continues - in my frat’s case, this year we had a bar tab at a local nightclub. The next morning, by the time everyone wakes up, it’s pretty much time to head to the game or to the State Fair. During the game, things pretty much go the same as with any other game, only we get a bit louder because well, OU sucks, and we want them to know it. After the game, everyone wanders around the State Fair, going on rides and eating enough fried food to shave off a couple years from our lifespan. Some frats choose to stay another night and others leave a bit earlier to beat the traffic. Either way, by the time everyone gets back to Austin, they’re hungover and exhausted after experiencing one of the best weekends of the year.
My perspective is just that of a frat boy at UT, but it is just one of the many ways that UT football can be experienced. What ties our student body together is an unshakable love for our team and the belief that we have the best team. As students, we yell louder, get rowdier when we’re winning and angrier when we’re losing. We expect more from our team just as we expect more from ourselves. The battle that unfolds on the field is a metaphor for the struggle of fighting to succeed in one of the hardest schools in the nation. For us, being in the stands and cheering for our team is a cathartic expression of our pride in belonging to one of the best institutions in the world.
(Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to give the reader an accurate portrayal of what game day is like for an average college student. In trying to make this as accurate as possible, mention has to be made of alcohol because game day is a social event for many students. That being said, I’m a 22-year-old college student, and everyone mentioned or pictured is of age.)