Thanksgiving weekend means many things…great food, precious moments spent with family and friends, a time to reflect on the many reasons we have to be grateful.
And, for sports fans like me, it also signifies one of the most anticipated dates on the college football schedule…rivalry weekend.
Michigan vs. Ohio State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Oregon vs. Oregon State, Florida vs. Florida State, Auburn vs. Alabama, Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State, Washington vs. Washington State, Arizona vs. Arizona State, South Carolina vs. Clemson…all across the country, teams will take to the gridiron to earn bragging rights against their rival schools.
But a twist of irony has me anticipating a new rivalry of sorts on Saturday…. my alma mater Missouri taking on my other alma mater, Texas A&M.
Yes, that’s right…Missouri vs. Texas A&M is a new rivalry…and I have the rare distinction of being a Tiger and an Aggie.
As a native Texan who is the daughter of two Aggies, Texas A&M has always been a special place for our family and a big part of my life. My parents (who met on campus) have always been active alumni and have both spent part of their careers employed at the university. I have countless childhood memories of hanging out at the MSC (being careful to not walk on the grass), exchanging a friendly “Howdy!” greeting with Aggies as I walked across campus, and swaying back in forth in the stands of Kyle Field with thousands of other maroon and white clad Aggies as we belted out the Aggie War hymn punctuated by a loud “Whoop!”. And, Thanksgiving Day always included watching the Aggies battle their archrival, the University of Texas Longhorns.
Being an Aggie was in my blood and where I always thought I’d go to school, but as an aspiring sports broadcaster my path changed when I earned a scholarship to the University of Missouri and had the chance to attend the university’s prestigious journalism school.
From its rich traditions to the beautiful campus (including the quad and iconic columns), I soon discovered that Mizzou is a special place in its own right and I quickly fell in love. My four years in Columbia were full of priceless experiences – forming friendships of a lifetime, great conversations over Shakespeare’s pizza or potato skins at the Heidelburg, anchoring the sports segment as a broadcaster in training at KOMU-TV, becoming a member of my sorority, serving as an Alumni Association Student Board (AASB) member. And, of course donning black and gold at countless sporting events, joining my fellow Tigers in chants of “MIZ! ZOU!” as we passionately cheered the Tigers on to victory – especially if it was a border war game with University of Kansas Jayhawks.
But things came full circle shortly before my graduation from Mizzou. A chance conversation with one of my mother’s colleagues about sports management helped lead me in a new career direction and to a decision that felt right…go home to Texas, and go to Texas A&M.
A year and a half later I walked across the stage to receive my master’s degree…a Missouri Tiger, and now officially a Texas A&M Aggie too.
As former members of the Big 12, Missouri and Texas A&M are certainly familiar foes, but the circumstances of this year’s meeting is ripe with new meaning and historic significance. Not only will it be the first time in decades that the schools will not engage in their traditional rival week games with the Jayhawks and Longhorns, but it marks their first meeting as the newest members of the SEC.
When the schools announced their move to the conference, like all Tiger and Aggie fans in the Southeast, I was elated that my two schools would now be part of SEC country. I gleefully partied with Tigers and Aggies when the two schools joined forces to host a “Welcome to the SEC” party in Atlanta this summer.
So, it’s somewhat fitting that my beloved schools once again come together for the final game of their inaugural SEC season, now as SEC East and SEC West rivals.
A lot is at stake for both teams. For Mizzou, the game is a must-win for the Tigers to become bowl-eligible, and the Aggies hope to cap their sensational SEC debut (including a win against #1 Alabama that will go down as one of the biggest victories in Aggie football history) with a final win that will help strengthen the Heisman hopes of freshman quarterback phenom Johnny “Johnny Football” Manziel.
So, here I sit on the eve of this matchup, anxiously anticipating the contest yet torn by my divided loyalties.
After all, my heart is black and gold but I bleed maroon.