Red River Shootout. Red River Rivalry. Red River Showdown. OU-Texas. Whatever you call it, it’s truly an unrivaled rivalry and brings out a two-sided disdain that is hard to explain. IYKYK. What time is it Sooners? Again, IYKYK. But why such animosity between two teams, two states, and two sets of fans? It’s a mystery. It’s historic. And it can be a dream of a game. Or a nightmare.
I went to OU after being born and raised in Santa Fe, NM. I really didn’t know what I was getting into and had never heard of OU-Texas weekend. I remember everyone making plans to go to Dallas for the game my first year there and thinking, “we’re going to Dallas for a football game? I’m in!” I was in and I was in awe.
I have now lived in Austin for 36 years. You’d think that after that long I’d have a tiny bit of allegiance to the hometown team. Never. Ever. I could live in ANY other city or town in America (well, maybe not Stillwater or Boston) and be capable of rooting for the home team against anyone but my Sooners, but the Longhorns? No way. Jose. I don’t even like the color orange. It hasn’t always been easy living in the enemy’s backyard, but I’ve never wavered. Our daughter was Austin born but Sooner bred, is also an OU grad, and is as passionate about our Sooners as I am. Mamma done good and raised her right! Don’t get me wrong, I love my Longhorn friends but I love when my team beats theirs. If we could win only one game each year, hands and horns down I’d choose this one.
OU has won the last four games and has pretty much dominated the past 22 years, but as they say, you just never know. The favorite doesn’t always win. Rankings don’t matter. (This, sadly, is the first year since 1936 that neither team is ranked.) Records can be thrown out the window. Anything can happen and everything has. Fingers crossed.
It really is a rivalry unlike any other. There is something magical about the game named after the river that runs along the border of the two states. A river, I might add, that runs red.
First off (kinda like Georgia-Florida), it is played every year on neutral ground at the old Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The venue is logistically half-way between the two schools and offers one of the most memorable experiences as a student. Being that the stadium sits right in the middle of the Texas State Fair just adds to the festivity. Mingle around the rides and fried food booths on the second Saturday of October and you’ll see nothing but Crimson and Cream and Burnt Orange. You’ll hear words and shouts you normally don’t (which is the main reason we never took our daughter to the game until she was in middle school!) and confidence will be at an all-time high.
Something else that makes the game so special is how the seating is configured. Normally opposing fans sit on either side of a stadium. Not so in Dallas. The Sooner and Longhorn faithful are configured in two “U” shaped areas and each gets an end zone. Those lucky enough to get 50-yard-line seats are also unlucky in that they sit right next to their opponents. This proves awesome for the winners, but for the losers, it is crushing. The seating also means that walking out of the stadium is a firsthand lesson in humility and embarrassment for the losers as you are walking down the ramps shoulder-to-shoulder with the winners and amid jeers that your team sucks. There is often talk of making the game a “home and away” series, but each time it’s voted down. As a dues paying OU alum, I steadfastly vote no and always will and I’m hoping this stays the case when both teams go to the SEC. I remember how much fun it was to go to the game as a student and I want that same thrill for every current and future student.
It all started back in 1900 and the rivalry has been renewed annually and uninterrupted since 1929, which is also the year the game moved permanently to Dallas. Texas leads the series 62-50-5 but OU has been better than .500 since the end of WWII. In a classic “be still my beating heart” year, OU and Texas met twice in 2018…once in the Red River Showdown and again for the Big 12 title, both of which the Sooners won and with the latter, the classic ten-gallon Golden Hat trophy to take home to Norman.
But why the hatred between two legions of fans that are really so similar? Being that I didn’t grow up in either Oklahoma or Texas but having lived in both, I can honestly say Okies and Texans are very, very alike. I know they both hate hearing this, but sorry friends, it’s the truth. Dallas and Oklahoma City have the style and swagger, OKC and Houston have the oil history, and Tulsa and Austin have the rolling hills and a river running through them. In between them all are small towns filled with good ole boys and gorgeous gals. Both states love their football, love their religions, and love their guns. They are both, for the most part, friendly types and are the subjects and writers of many a country music song. But, when it comes to this game, they are anything but similar or civil.
Full disclosure: I’m very nervous this year as the Sooner team and program as a whole was gutted just mere months ago thanks to a contemptible “man” whose name I won’t mention. We have a good guy on board in Brent Venables, but we are also injured and young. Last year’s amazing comeback was tough to sit through so this year I’ve made a tee time during the game. I can’t watch. I admit it. If we lose, I won’t have to witness it and if we win, I’ll still be thrilled. I’ll have my OU head covers on, am flying an OU flag outside my Austin home, and will be hoping and praying it’s those wearing crimson and cream who are happy walking down those ramps and those who played the game wearing that cowboy hat trophy. I’d take that over any hole-in-one.