NORMAN — They came before the sun rose — the huddled masses of red hats and gloves. Their cheers rumbled through the South Oval as ESPN's College GameDay broadcasted hours before the kickoff of No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 8 Oklahoma.
Grown men lifted other grown men on their shoulders — just so their sign would stick a bit higher in the air than all the rest and be visible on the broadcast.
There was Ronald Reagan in an OU shirt. There was the word ‘Irish' in a grave yard. There was Sooner Magic.
Several thousand OU fans descended upon the lawn just south of the Bizzell Memorial Library on the OU campus.
THE FAMILY DIVIDED
Standing therein the middle of the crowd was Nathan Shields in a blue hat and a blue jersey, peering over the sea of red to find his son, the son that parted from the gold and blue when he was three to become a fan of the cream and crimson.
Eric Shields is 8-years old. He was raised in a Notre Dame-themed room. He was raised to love the Irish, but he went to so many OU games and was bought so much Sooners gear that, to his father's dismay, he began to shout Boomer.
Nathan took Eric to a majority of his Oklahoma games, so he's not surprised but standing behind the set of GameDay on Saturday, the father stood below a sign that said “A Family Divided” with a metal ND and OU split by a line.
Nathan's trying to repair the line with his second son, but Eric's trying to get his two-year-old little brother Cal to say “Boomer Sooner.”
‘Nuh uh,' Cal has said. ‘Go Irish.'
“Those were pretty much Cal's first words,” Nathan said.
When they recently built their new house in Stroud, Nathan wanted to put a line on the wall between his two sons' bedrooms and color their respective sides in their team colors.
“My wife said, ‘No,'” Nathan said. “So the metal logos on the sign are off their bedroom doors.”
KEEP CALM AND TOUCHDOWN LANDRY
Maggie McKee-Huey and Nick Laris started to pump their arms up and down as the sky cam zipped across a line.
McKee-Huey and Laris are both students at OU and they stood just an uneven row apart from one another with their OU-themed signs.
McKee-Huey's read “Keep Calm And Play Like A Champion Today” with a signature Bob Stoops visor to top it off.
“The ‘Keep Calm' theme is really big and since the Play Like A Champion Today is a motto that both programs use, I wanted to put the two together and use it as a double whammy against Notre Dame,” McKee-Huey said about the sign she made for about $8.
Laris self-designed his sign too. He actually took a photo of Jesus from the internet and replaced his head with Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones to create the Sooners' version of Notre Dame's iconic Touchdown Jesus.
“I call him, ‘Touchdown Landry,'” Laris said. “He was holding some politically incorrect signs, but they wouldn't stay on.'
“I made it because I wanted to see how many people knew who it was. At 6 a.m., people started sending photos out of Touchdown Landry and it spread like crazy.”
THE IRISH AND THE SOONERS
Garry Canaday and Brook Bullock stood with no sign. They didn't need one.
Canaday was in a kilt, prompting lots of pointing.
To be considered in true “gentleman apparel,” his outfit would actually include a dagger and a 15-inch blade.
He left those at home so he could get into the game and sit in Section 227 with his best friend from elementary school. It's apparently the booster section so he said he thinks he'll be the lone Irish guy surrounded by Sooners.
That didn't stop him from trying to start an Irish cheer among the predominately OU crowd when a fellow kilt-wearer walked past wearing an Oklahoma sweatshirt.
The Oklahoma guy smiled.
“Ok, you say ‘Go' and I'll say, ‘Irish,'” Canaday said.
The Oklahoma fan raised his sweatshirt just enough to reveal a tiny upside down Longhorn.
Because even when Sooners are playing the Irish, like one sign said, they still hate the Longhorns ... and now the Leprechauns.