Longhorns Prove Valiant, Fans Gracious

Dispatch from Pasadena: Texas has got grace under fire. It isn’t easy to return to the workaday routine after the excitement of playing for a national championship — or the disappointment of losing out on one. But those Texas Exes who trekked to California last week can testify that the University was proudly represented by both the team and its classy, understanding, ever-loyal supporters.

Nearly 1,000 Exes traveled with the Flying Longhorns (or “Texas Exes Fan Travel,” as their official souvenir koozies called it). More than 8,000 others joined them for the alumni tailgate on the golf course near the Rose Bowl.

Many of the Flying Longhorn crew had taken in works like the Impressionist paintings, Irving Penn photographs, and Rembrandt drawings at the world-class Getty Museum the day before the game. They also had taken a few spins around Pacific Park, the amusement park on the Santa Monica pier, which the group rented for part of that evening. Their southern California jaunt was off to a promising start.

The next afternoon there was the tailgate. And understand that Texas Exes are no strangers to big tailgates — those at the Alumni Center before every home game are some of the biggest in the country. Even so, the one outside the Rose Bowl could surely qualify as among the biggest ever. It rolled across 10 acres, with folks enjoying their fajitas and beer picnic-style underneath huge orange and white balloon arches on a sunny, 76-degree Pasadena afternoon.


By 5 p.m. on game day, tailgating Texas Exes and the thousands of fellow Longhorn fans were pouring toward the stadium (the ubiquitous Matthew McConaughey, shielded by shades but turning for the cameras, among them).

Now, getting into the Rose Bowl, with its limited entrances, isn’t easy. It’s “jumbotron” isn’t so jumbo. Its Bud Lights set you back $8 a can. Colt, the winningest quarterback in college football history, was injured there and out in the very first minute or two of the game. There was a loooong stretch without a touchdown to cheer for.

And still.

You could surely hear on TV more professional sports analysis, and more detail about what was going on behind the scenes with quarterback and coaches, than those of us in the stadium could. (Only through text messages and calls from family and friends watching at home did we learn, bit by bit, that Colt was out for the duration.)

But what you couldn’t hear were the absolutely understanding, supportive, thoughtful reactions from people who’d invested great time and money in hopes of seeing their Longhorns win. This fan, at least, never heard anyone wearing burnt orange utter anything less than sympathetic about Garrett Gilbert, the true freshman backup quarterback who filled in for Colt under pressure. Or — despite interceptions, dropped passes, and the like — about any other Longhorn player. The positivity of the UT fans, we’re here to say, was impressive to the final moments. It became clear with an ample three minutes to go that this wouldn’t be our game. But the great majority of fans in the stadium respectfully waited for the game to play out.

And when Alabama was about to receive its crystal trophy, the Longhorn players headed for the tunnel. Then they stopped. Took off their helmets. Put their horns up. And sang “The Eyes of Texas” to the fans. The fans sang it back. The display of mutual appreciation between fans and athletes was something not seen often enough in sports. There are lots of reasons to keep those horns high — Texas has plenty to be proud of.



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