DALLAS — Time for a bedtime story. It's going to be a big weekend. Need to get your rest.
Once upon a long ago, Oklahoma and Texas played a football game with a couple of guys named John coaching.
I know, I know. Sounds shaky. Maybe when the teams traveled by train and the public address announcer used a megaphone.
But no. In the year of our Lord 1997, Johns Blake (OU) and Mackovic (UT) matched wits in the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners were en route to a 4-8 season, the Longhorns a hair better, at 4-7.
Now, Bob Stoops and Mack Brown are as much OU-Texas staples as corny dogs, Big Tex and the giant Ferris wheel.
Saturday marks the 13th Stoops-Brown showdown, with Stoops holding a 7-5 edge. They long ago passed Barry Switzer and Fred Akers (10 years) as the longest coaching rivalry in this series. Now Stoops and Brown take aim at the longest coaching rivalries in the sport's history.
The 16 Big Red years of Switzer/Tom Osborne. The 18 Iron Bowl years of Bear Bryant/Shug Jordan. And the peak rivalry, the 19 years of Darrell Royal/Frank Broyles in Texas-Arkansas shoot-outs.
But the last year has brought alarm to the Stoops/Brown future. Would Mack remain the Texas coach? Would OU and Texas stay in the same conference, and if not would they keep playing?
The 4-0 start of Brown's current Longhorns seems to have alleviated the former concern. Texas doesn't look like a gangbuster in this autumn of 2011, but neither do the ‘Horns look like the bumblers of 2010.
So it appears Stoops and Brown are good to go in their current jobs. But will those jobs put them in the Cotton Bowl the second Saturday of October for years to come?
“Hard to tell,” Stoops said this week. “Marriages are hard to keep together. You know that in today's world, with all the realignment and family fighting.”
There Stoops goes again. Laying some kind of political groundwork. I thought we had established this. Don't go leveraging Texas. You only get burned.
Stoops admitted the historical fact. OU and Texas are two great powers that go even greater together. The Sooners have had great eras of dominance. The Longhorns have had the same. But not until the 2000s, when they were in a league together, have both been nationally elite at the same time.
“It's fair to say that we both complement each other really well,” Stoops said. “Maybe one and one doesn't equal two with us together. It may equal four. But only if it's done appropriately and harmoniously.”
If not, Stoops said, “then you gotta do what you gotta do and … live the way you gotta live. Then people got to live with the consequences.”
See what I mean. Stoops is still threatening Texas. Still warning the ‘Horns about Bevo TV's shenanigans of showing high school content. Hey, Bob and the rest of the Big 12. Only legislation will work. Not threats.
But grant Stoops this much. For the first time maybe ever, OU-Texas is more important in Austin than in Norman.
It's important in Norman. This rivalry – where it's played, when it's played, if it's played – is a decision made above even Stoops. I know, hard to believe any decision is made above the $4 million man.
But this game is so much a fabric of the university mission, from fundraising to student recruitment to donor ticket status, that football doesn't get the final say.
You might argue that those things are less important in Austin. Maybe so. But look at the Longhorns' current dilemma.
Time was, UT had three huge games per year. The de facto Southwest Conference title game (and cultural showdown) against Arkansas. The in-state holy war against Texas A&M. And Oklahoma.
The Arkansas game is long gone. Now, too, apparently is the A&M series, after this Thanksgiving. How can Texas afford to lose the OU game also?
So this game must be played for both sides, regardless of conference affiliation.
Which means Stoops and Brown can keep going in a coaching rivalry that could rival any sport, any level.
They aren't old front-porch buddies like Royal and Broyles, or bickering war horses like Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.
Stoops and Brown are cordial but detached. Don't expect them to dine together, but also don't expect them to snipe at each other – though Stoops' jabs at the ‘Horns can get fun, like this week when he bristled at the suggestion that OU faced more pressure Saturday than underdog Texas.
“Whatever, if there's pressure on us, I welcome it,” Stoops said. “We look forward to playing in it. You're more than capable of analyzing their pressure. I'm sure, after all they've been through, there's some pressure on them, too. You can discard it all you want; the pressure's there.”
Brown is always highly complimentary of Stoops, this week being the first person, that I remember, to invoke Stoops' name with the College Football Hall of Fame.
“We get along fine,” Brown said. “We have a respectful relationship. They've done a tremendous job in their program and Bob's obviously one of the best coaches in the country and will be in the Hall of Fame."
Said Stoops: “We get along just fine. I think a little bit too much is made of that. Mack and I don't have much opportunity to be around each other to be honest. Our schools are quite far away. So where are we to get together? When we're at coaches meeting, we're always cordial to one another and I think respectful of one another, and we've got a lot in common in what we have to do.
“Outside of that, there isn't a lot of down time that we would spend together. It's just more business than anything.”
And so Saturday they meet again, for the 13th time. That matches the showdowns between Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier in Florida State-Florida. That's more times than Woody and Bo battled in Ohio State-Michigan (10). More times than John McKay and Ara Parseghian battled in USC-Notre Dame (11). More times than Vince Dooley and Bear Bryant met in Georgia-Alabama (six) even though their careers overlapped 19 years.
Stoops and Brown are the faces of an ancient series. May they stay that way until they're the greatest coaching rivalry in college football history.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. 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.