Dee Stoops came clean. The Stoops matriarch, mother of all those rambunctious boys who now are all rambunctious college football coaches, wasn't entirely neutral at the Oklahoma-Florida State game last September.
Mom Stoops was slightly partial to the Sooners.
Bobby Stoops trumped Mark Stoops. Little more on the line for a head coach than a defensive coordinator.
“Gosh, Bobby,” Dee Stoops told her son, “I'd like to see you win by 3-0.”
Bobby's Sooners won all right, but the final score was 47-17, and it was 44-7 midway through the third quarter.
The lopsidedness made Bobby Stoops sick. Made Mark Stoops sick. Heck, made Dee Stoops sick.
Which is why she won't be in Tallahassee, Fla., on Saturday night. Once through the emotional family ringer was enough for her. No way will she put herself through that again.
“It's just hard to watch,” Mom Stoops said. “It isn't fun. It isn't fun for the family.
“I have a heavy heart because I know somebody's going to lose. There's no ties anymore.”
Bob Stoops walked into his postgame news conference last season looking like someone ran over his dog. He was noticeably upset, despite a huge victory for his program.
“I thought I said it the best way after the game,” Stoops said. “I felt the entire week it would a miserable experience. After the game, I was sure of it. I've never been so conflicted and miserable about winning.”
We watched the Ryan brothers go head-to-head on Sunday Night Football. Head coach Rex's Jets beat defensive coordinator Rob's Cowboys in a rousing game in the Meadowlands.
America thought it was great theater. Stoops did, too.
“Fun to watch,” Stoops said. “I think they're great. I could see why people get enamored with it.”
Just as long as his family isn't the featured attraction. Stoops is so tight with his brothers, he says he can't even watch their games when he's not involved.
Someone asked Stoops last week if he was headed to Stillwater to watch brother Mike's Arizona team play at Oklahoma State. Go to Stillwater? Stoops says he didn't even watch the game; it's too emotionally taxing.
We all clamor for such drama. Talk about an OU-Arizona bowl game. Or an OU-Arizona rivalry in the Pac-16. Get excited at the idea of Bob shouting on one sideline, Mike screaming on the other.
Suck it up, guys, we tell them. You're paid a lot of money to play whoever lines up across the field.
But I've got two brothers. The idea of my success at their expense doesn't sound cool. Doesn't sound cool at all. Why should the Stoopses of Detroit Avenue be any different?
“If you're playing your brother for a championship, that's OK,” Bob Stoops said. “One of you is going to win a championship.
“You spend your life fighting for your brother. Go play another neighborhood, bring your brothers with you. Always helping each other out. Then gotta beat each other? It's not what you want. It's not natural.”
Don't think the Stoopses aren't competitive. Heck, we all know better than that. We even know they're competitive with each other, judging by Bob's stories from the old house in Youngstown, where wrestling matches and crazy shenanigans would break out almost nightly.
“We still play hard,” Dee Stoops said. “Card game. Golf game. You name it.” She told her daughter awhile back, “Kathy, how can you get so excited over a card game?”
Kathy's response: “Who likes to lose? We like to win.”
But this is different. This is high stakes. Too many defensive performances like Florida State pulled at Owen Field last September, and Mark Stoops won't be the Seminole coordinator for long. Too many big-game losses like OU could receive Saturday night, and, well, Bobby Stoops is a made man. No conceivable series of events could put his job in jeopardy.
Still, Bobby doesn't want victories this way. Not at the expense of beating his brother. Florida State assistant coaches are off limits to the media, so Mark is unavailable for comment. But it's clear he doesn't like brotherly matchups, either.
Dee Stoops said any Stoops defeat tempers the celebration of any Stoops victory, even if they're time zones away.
“Unless we all win,” she said. “Bobby isn't quite as happy as he'd like to be unless Ronnie wins (as linebacker coach at Youngstown State) and Mike and Mark win also. They're all like that.”
Stoops has 12-year-old twin sons “that fight each other constantly every day,” he said. “But if you tried to fight 'em, you're going to get both of 'em. That's a different deal.
“Yeah, we go at it. But if someone else tries to go at it, you're going to have the other on top of you.”
Some Stoops uncles are headed to Tucson, Ariz., for the Stanford-Arizona game. They don't want any part of OU-FSU, either. Some cousins are planning to go to Tallahassee, along with some old friends from Detroit Avenue. But they're conflicted, too.
“They don't even know how to dress,” Dee Stoops said.
The wardrobe, Mom Stoops has that down. OU's colors are crimson and cream. Florida State's are garnet and gold. Arizona's colors are cardinal and navy. Youngstown State's colors are red and white. The colors of Cardinal Mooney High School, where all the Stoops boys played and where Dee Stoops' grandson now does the same, are red and gold.
So Dee Stoops just wears red to every game and on every Saturday. That way, everyone is covered.
She still loves football, the game that has been awfully good to her boys and was awfully good to her husband, Ron Stoops Sr., who died of a heart attack in 1989, ironically, while coaching a Cardinal Mooney game against Boardman High School, which included Ron Jr. on the staff.
“I love football,” she said. “I love good offense. We live and die by good defense.” Last September at Owen Field, “I was cheering, hoping that Mark's defense would do well.”
There will be no repeat of that. She's staying in Youngstown, planned even to watch the game alone, until her sister-in-law talked her into coming over.
“I'm going to brave it and go out,” Dee Stoops said. “I'll be up and down. I'll be a little nervous. We have a hard time watching.”
Ron Stoops Sr. was just as competitive as his boys. He played fast-pitch softball the summer he died, at the age of 54. But Bobby Stoops says his father wasn't quite as emotional, not quite as animated, as his boys.
Dee Stoops tells a story. On the way home from Cardinal Mooney defeats back when the boys were at home, and Dee was distraught over losing, Ron Sr. would console her with these words.
“My husband used to say, ‘Just think, some kids, some parents, are going home happy.'”
But those words can't console Bobby and Mark on Saturday night. No way they can go home happy.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.