Yesterday we flew to Austin to watch #2 ranked Texas take on #1 ranked Ohio State at the Daryl K. Royal Texas Memorial Football Stadium. This is the biggest football event to take place in Austin – ever – as two storied programs with the top rankings meet during the second week of the season. Planes into Austin were packed. Thirty thousand buckeyes have made their way here even though The University gave them only 4,000 seats for the game.
My plane was filled with burnt orange shirts, caps, even luggage, and as I got only the last leg of my flight, it was even filled with a little red. I made my way down the aisle, trading Hook ‘em’s at every step and found my seat – right smack dab next to the enemy.
A big burly black man about 6’5” 250lbs, who looked like he could snap a man’s neck with no more effort than popping his knuckles, stood and let me take the middle seat beside him. I grunted my apprehension/appreciation stored my burnt orange back in the overhead and sat down beside him.
“You have tickets to the game?” I ventured. Texans are never rude.
“Of course,” he sounded surprised by the question.
“I heard a bunch of Buckeyes are coming just to show support. You guys have rented out the entire Erwin Center (basketball arena) for your pep rally.”
“No kidding,” now he was really surprised.
We were quiet for a bit, and then I leaned over to quietly confess, “I’m a little nervous.”
For the first time he really looked at me, then he said in a slow soothing voice, “Ah, it’ll be alright.”
“Yeah,” he let the word linger there to comfort me.
For a moment we were distracted by other passengers, and I got the strange impression that he was so kind to me because he thought I just admitted that I was afraid to fly.
“No, I’m not nervous about flying. I’m nervous -”
“About the game. I know. To tell you the truth,” he whispered, “I’m nervous too. I’m just trying not to show it. Putting up a brave front.”
At that moment a longhorn sat down in front of us. He turned and asked my Buckeye, “Excited about the game?”
He was speechless.
“We’re cool,” I said.
“Yeah. We’re cool,” he echoed. And so I befriended a Buckeye.
When I John about my adventure (he was on a different flight) he was flabbergasted. “Consorting with the enemy! I thought you were a better judge of character than that!”
I just smiled. Maybe I’ll see my Buckeye at the game.