Adventures in Dallas
OU-Texas is different from any other college football game, but it’s more than that. The entire week is different from anything else we experience all year. Part family reunion, part pilgrimage, part wild weekend, all wrapped in a crusade of a football game.And as far as I’m concerned, the Texas State Fair makes it what it is. Move this atmosphere to Jerry Jones’ parking lot in Arlington, and zip goes the feeling. Great game, still. Great in-stadium environment. But the rest of this goes bye-bye.
10 THOUGHTS ABOUT THE FAIR
1. Turkey legs over corn dogs. I did the pregame radio show on KREF there on the main drag, just southeast of the Cotton Bowl, and someone brought me a turkey leg. Great taste, more filling. Those monsters fill you up. I don’t know how they get them to taste so good; I’m not that big on turkey. But one turkey leg is a full meal. They are messy, no doubt, but so are the corn dogs (why are they called corny dogs?). You have to put on the mustard at the stand, which means uneven distribution, which is not good.
2. Strange sights abound. Like the women walking the miniature donkeys through the fair. They really weren’t any bigger than huge dogs. The Schooner ponies could swallow those donkeys whole.
3. The car show is the best thing going. For one, it gets you out of the elements. Usually that means the heat. Saturday, that meant the rain. But either way, looking at new cars is great entertainment.
4. I don’t know how families afford the fair. The rides cost all kinds of money; the log flume ride was $4 a head. The corn dogs $3.50. Take two kids and your wife to the fair, try to have reasonable time, and no way do you get out of there for less than $200. No wonder the fair needs OU-Texas; football brings a crowd.
5. I’ve always wanted to go through the train museum but never have taken the time. The fair also sported a traveling exhibit from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Both cost extra; not much, I assume. A dollar or two. But the way the fair already gouges you, you’re loathe to start shelling out more for non-commodities.
6. The free concert series is a great deal. OU-Texas Saturday night featured Jason Aldean, a country singer I’ve never heard of, but that doesn’t mean anything. I would rather listen to windshield wipers than country music.
7. I’ve only walked through the livestock barns once; my nephew went with us to the game and was big into FFA. My theory: You’ve smelled one pig, you’ve smelled them all.
8. The best thing about Fair Park is the art deco architecture. The buildings themselves are an exhibit.
9. The best thing about the Midway is the lights and the sound. That’s what I would miss most about OU-Texas leaving the Cotton Bowl, the serenity beyond the stadium gates.
10. Big Tex gives me the creeps.
CONFERENCE ROLL CALLS
In this crazy year of college football, let’s check in on the conference races, in order of clarity.
1. Big East: South Florida, Cincinnati and UConn all unbeaten in league and overall play. Nutty. Who knew South Florida at Connecticut would be a big game? But South Florida clearly is Big East’s best.
2. Sun Belt: Troy and Florida Atlantic likely to play for the title on Dec. 1.
3. Mountain West: BYU could be the class of the league, but a Nov. 17 game at Wyoming could be for the title. BYU already has beaten 3-1 Air Force.
4. WAC: Boise State-Hawaii on Nov. 23 the likely title game, but Fresno State could be a spoiler, and San Jose State has the league’s best coach, Dick Tomey.
5. Big Ten: Michigan-Ohio State could determine the Rose Bowl bid, but Illinois is 3-0 and still gets to play Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern. So the Illini could crash Pasadena with an upset of either Michigan or Ohio State.
6. Conference USA: UTEP’s victory over Tulsa gives the Miners the upper hand in the West. In the East, who knows? East Carolina, Central Florida, Memphis and even staggered Southern Miss could win it.
7. Big 12: Oklahoma’s only threat in the South is Texas Tech, which gets OU in Lubbock. In the North, Missouri seems to be the best team but it could get jumbled with Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Kansas State.
8. SEC: If Florida had held on against LSU, every team would have had a conference loss. As is, LSU seems certain to win the West. The East is wide open; Florida and Georgia both are 2-2.
9. Mid-American: Crazy stat of the week. We’re virtually halfway through the season, and only one MAC team (3-2 Bowling Green) has a winning record overall. Central Michigan (3-0) seems the class of the West; Miami-Ohio, Akron and Bowling Green still unbeaten in the East.
10. Pac-10: With USC much more flawed than we ever thought, this league becomes a weekly slate of showdowns. Oregon, Cal, USC and Arizona State all are ranked in the top 13, and the only common matchup so far was that Oregon-Cal classic.
11. ACC: I’m not sold on Boston College. The Eagles (Atlantic) and Virginia (Coastal) each are 3-0 in their divisions, but five other schools (Wake Forest 2-1, Florida State 1-1 & Maryland 1-1 in the Atlantic; Virginia Tech 2-0 & Miami 1-1 in the Coastal) remain contenders. Heck, I wouldn’t rule out 2-2 Clemson.
It’s an OU-Texas tradition that we eat dinner on Friday night at Maggiano’s in Plano with my wife’s cousin and her husband, who are great friends as well as family. A lot of people have OU-Texas traditions that go back decades. I ran into David Donchin, an Oklahoma City lawyer who I’ve known for years. He saw us last year at Maggiano’s and was back again with his family.
I owe my career to David. In autumn 1978, I was a senior at Norman High School and walked into the Norman Transcript and asked sports editor Jim Weeks how I could get into the business. He gave me some good advice: go to college. But two weeks later, Weeks called me and offered me a part-time job, answering phones and covering a few events. I worked my way up from there.
This was during the oil boom, when guys could make pretty good money in the oil field, and it was hard to find someone to work for minimum wage. The Transcript job came open because a guy had quit. David Donchin.
Maggiano’s is a national Italian chain, but we don’t have them in Oklahoma. My wife and I discovered Maggiano’s in Chicago; we were walking the downtown streets, looking for a place to eat, and stumbled upon it. Great, great place. We had the full-course dinner. Two kinds of salad, fried zucchini, stuffed mushrooms, lasagna, ravioli and two kinds of chicken. It’s a wonder I’m ever in shape to cover the game the next day.
Wednesday night, we ate at one of my favorites, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. I had the mixed grill, two skewers of grilled fish and vegetables, over dirty rice. The dirty rice could be cleaned up as far as I’m concerned, but the skewers were outstanding. Shrimp, scallops, salmon. I don’t understand the fascination with fried fish. I mean, I like fried fish and could eat it by the boatload, but grilled is far better. Good and good for you.
TRAVEL TIP OF THE WEEK
Always check your credit cards when they’re returned. For the second time in my career, I went home with someone else’s Visa. In Boulder, Colo., I had dinner with our photographers at some Italian joint, and we usually just all toss in our credit cards, since the office likes to keep expense accounts separate.
I was sitting next to photog Bryan Terry, and I was given his card and he was given mine. And we didn’t check. I discovered it the next Wednesday, the day I left for Dallas. I stopped by a bakery to pick up a birthday cake for Barry Switzer, for a photo shoot at noon. Part of my duties include courier service. I pulled out the card to pay for the cake, and I noticed the number was different. That’s because the name was different.
The gal already had run the card so I signed — my name, I’m no forger — and went on about my business. I switched out cards with Bryan in Dallas on Friday. But what a mess. This happened with me and John Helsley one time in Dallas for the Big 12 basketball tournament — at Pappedeaux’s — but we were together a day or two later when we discovered the switch.
10 BIG WINNERS FROM WEEK 6
10. Adarius Bowman & Malcolm Kelly: Our state’s two big passcatchers had big games, plus
Texas’ Limas Sweed was lost for the season to injury. Sweed kept Kelly off the all-Big 12 team in 2006. Now if Bowman and Kelly can stave off Texas Tech phenom Michael Crabtree.
9. South Carolina: The Gamecocks waxed Kentucky and find themselves a full game atop the SEC East. And they get Florida at home, on Nov. 10.
8. Central Michigan: Routed Ball State 58-38 in Muncie, Ind. What would the Chippewas do with
7. Turner Gill: Buffalo came into this season with 18 wins total the previous 10 years and just eight Mid-American Conference wins since joining the league in 1999. But after a 31-10 rout of Ohio, the former Nebraska quarterback great has Buffalo 2-1 in the MAC.
6. Phil Fulmer: Tennessee seemed staggered after blowout losses to California and Florida. But the Vols routed Georgia and are back in the hunt for the SEC East; 1-1 Tennessee gets 3-0 South Carolina at home on Oct. 27.
5. Chuck Long: The OU-ex coordinator needed a victory with San Diego State, and got one with a touchdown in the final minute that beat Colorado State 24-20.
4. Tavita Pritchard: The Stanford backup quarterback had thrown three passes in his career. But starter T.C. Ostrander suffered a seizure last week, so Pritchard got the call against Southern Cal, a 40-point favorite. Pritchard struggled — 11 of 30, 149 yards — but threw a fourth-and-goal, 10-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left to give Stanford a 24-23 upset.
3. Mike Price: The old guy still can coach. His UTEP Miners beat Tulsa 48-47 to take command of Conference USA.
2. Butch Davis: The only Miami coach of the last 29 seasons not to win a national title but the man who helped restore the program after the scandal of the ‘90s, Davis popped his old school. North Carolina stunned Miami 33-27 to signal hope for a beleaguered program.
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