DALLAS — I have seen state fairs. I have seen big football games. But I had never seen the two fused until Saturday.
Football and fried foods? What a delightful and fitting combination. That's knowing your audience.
I'll confess, though, that I did not sample the bevy of fried snacks, which included (that I saw) Pop-Tarts, butter, Snickers, Oreos, Twinkies, mashed potatoes, “Texas caviar” — and bubble gum. I did watch a friend of mine consume about a half-dozen of those items, declaring each of them delectable, much to my surprise as I fought back nausea.
The Snickers received the highest marks. The butter was least impressive, because, as I was told, it was effectively a doughnut.
Bear with me. All this artery-clogging talk has a point. I'm left thinking that this game wouldn't be the same if the State Fair of Texas weren't a part of it.
I just finished writing a book about the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry, which was played for six or seven decades as a part of that state's fair. It was called “Big Thursday.” But Big Thursday went away in 1960. The series is now split between the Carolina and Clemson campuses.
Some people like it that way, but there's a faction of the population – mostly older fans who saw the fair game for themselves – who hate that Big Thursday was ever halted.
Uniqueness is a spice in life. Rivalry games played amid a fall festival are about as unique as it gets. Oklahoma and Texas should hold on to this with all they've got, in the face of the current conference upheaval. The game in its current state survived this round of change. But what about the inevitability of a next time?
How close was OU to going to the Pac-12 without Texas? Only a handful of people really, really know. But close enough is the appropriate answer, because there was at least the potential the fair aspect of the OU-Texas game would have ceased – and the remote possibility the series would have ended altogether.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said preserving the rivalry was a factor in OU's interest in the Pac-12. After seeing the game and all that makes it what it is for the first time, I really can see why.
One thing I noticed: Folks were generally well behaved, enjoying the morning, one another and the surroundings. Maybe that's a product of the 11 a.m. kick. It's something that is annoying when you set the alarm clock Friday night – and punch the alarm clock Saturday morning - but it has to have more benefits than drawbacks, getting everyone in and out of Fair Park in one piece.
Then again, Texas fans got a head start this time.
Going in, I thought OU was the better team. I felt as if big-game experience could not be underscored enough as an advantage for the Sooners. Still, even saying that, I underestimated how big of a factor it would be.
I didn't think OU was 38 points better. But, you know, that's what happens when a team turns the ball over five times – and three of them are returned for touchdowns. That gets games out of hand hurriedly.
I'm sure Sooners fans were just fine with the result, but I was left hopeful of a more competitive game, just for the environment's sake. The residual of the blowout created the interesting visual I wrote about in my game story, with the orange half of the Cotton Bowl emptying and the other half, the crimson side, full.
That was impressive. So was the experience, overall. A bowl game in the middle of the season? A fair, to boot? What's not to like? All right, maybe the fried bubble gum.