The Texas State Fair has been capital to many a splendored thing.
Creative culinary concoctions like deep fried jambalaya, your reigning Best Taste winner.
Concerts you want to see; Kansas is playing Sunday on the Main Stage. Stick around Dallas an extra day for “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.”
And he-man football. Definitely he-man football. Bobby Layne and Jerry Tubbs. Steve Zabel and Tommy Nobis. Lucious Selmon and Earl Campbell.
OU-Texas was football played not just with shoulder pads, but brass knuckles. Cornermen were part of the travel party. Blood, sweat and forget your fears.
Often as not, OU-Texas turned the Cotton Bowl into a mosh pit. The Cotton Bowl's real estate became as precious as Malibu's. Victors were knighted. Liggins the Lion-hearted.
But some say that has changed. That the Sooners and Longhorns have gone soft. That they might as well play in tutus. That they spread out and wimp out and try to win playing flag football.
Mack Brown has admitted as much, declaring he wants the Longhorns to transition to SEC-style football. Hard-nosed defense, downfield running.
What say ye, Bob Stoops? “Ridiculous,” Stoops said. Did you expect any different?
“Sure, everybody wants to be stronger against the run, stronger running the football.” Stoops said. “I feel we have always done that. Some years, we've done it better than others.”
Mack says the 'Horns, even with great teams, have been out-toughed. He points to the Big Bowl against Alabama, though if you ask me, Texas would have had a heck of a chance had a pinched shoulder nerve not benched quarterback Colt McCoy.
But funny thing. UT clearly is better this season despite a leaky defense and a quarterback, David Ash, who can hit a downfield pass. Texas has decided, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em in the video-football age.
Meanwhile, Stoops gets riled at the suggestion that OU lost to Kansas State 2½ weeks ago because it went all Charmin.
“I don't believe we lost anything the other night against Kansas State, who's known as a tough and physical team, because of being tough and physical,” Stoops said. “We lost because we turned the ball over. And I don't think that makes us soft.
“At the line of scrimmage, we're right there with them or better … that's just ignorance. In the end, sometimes you're not as physical as some other year. Sometimes both lines are more physical or stronger or bigger than other lines. You think you're going to be the same all the time?”
Truth is, OU doesn't have a star lineman on either side. No G.K. McCoy. No Phil Loadholt. Bunch of blue collars on those crimson jerseys.
“And next year, we won't have David King,” Stoops said of his best d-lineman. “But that's always going to be the case. Are we the same every year? No. But our defensive line the last two games against two good offensive lines has played really well.”
Everybody's a little bit right. The Sooners — and most everyone else — are softer. This kind of football, with spread formations and men in motion and quarterbacks throwing 50, 60 passes a game, does change the nature of a team.
But can even the SEC stand against the swell? Mike Gundy this week said no, the SEC will move toward the kind of football being played elsewhere.
“In five years, you're going to see the SEC playing offensive football like this league,” Gundy said. “At some point, you line up and say, ‘How in the world are we going to move the ball on these guys?' … get them all spread out and try to hit some lanes.”
Mike Stoops says it goes beyond the SEC. “I actually see it going into the NFL as well,” said OU's defensive coordinator. “Video football is here to stay. The no-huddles, the shotgun stuff, you see it more continuously. They frowned upon it five years ago, but now they see why it's so difficult, because it does stress your defense.”
Mike Stoops elaborated on the technical effects of a spread offense, which is something his brother is not prone to do.
“The game is so much more lateral than it is vertical, especially in the run game,” Mike Stoops said. “It's not going to be as physical.
“Some guys you don't even have to block. Just let 'em run, quarterback keeps the ball, then you've got the quarterback out in space with some guy, and he makes the guy miss. Lot of those guys don't block anybody.”
That's at the core of softness. Run around a defender rather than block him. But that's where we are in 21st century football.
Not that Bob Stoops is giving in.
“Soft teams are teams that don't get off blocks or don't take on blocks or don't block anybody and get pushed around,” Stoops said. “But again, that hasn't happened to us.”
Not much, it hasn't. But if someone's not even trying to block you, how do you get off a block? We'll see some of that Saturday in the Cotton Bowl, where OU-Texas has indeed gone a little soft, a fate that awaits every level of the gridiron.
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 FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.