Late Sunday night, Darrell K. Royal Stadium smelled like a bar after closing. Walking down through the emptying home of the Texas Longhorns the smell of empty beer cans cut the nostrils.
Nearly the entire stadium was empty but for a young, cute college couple who rather than do the selfie thing actually asked me if I could take their picture. I told them I would (for a price).
The guy/gal combo did not look to be older than 20, and they hugged each other for one of those adorable “young love couples” pics that will immediately go on SnapChat to make friends envious, and in 10 years will be a nice keepsake when both of the cuties are with someone else.
“I just wanted to have something to remember this,” the young frat bro’ said as I returned his phone to him. “This was great.”
Texas’ 50-47 double overtime win over No. 10 Notre Dame on Sunday night in Austin was great, will forever remain a keepsake, and is the reason why college football trumps the NFL every time.
Yes, the “pay structure” is flawed and the powers-that-be exploit teenagers and young 20-somethings, but the scale and the chaos of the college atmosphere remains the single best big game buy in sports. A wonderful college football game is the Hindenburg landing, with one side enthralled while the other is emotionally destroyed.
Because the game ended at roughly 10:45 p.m., deadline pressures prevented me from having any shot of properly capturing the spectacle and drama of the night. Horribly lame excuses aside, these are the types of games we celebrate, cherish and are the reason we play and watch.
The UT/ND game is why sports beats The Bachelor, Gray’s Anatomy or even Narcos.
Start with two of the biggest brand names in college football - Texas and Notre Dame. Throw in mild temperatures (at least for early September in Austin). Now add in a little more than 102,000 people. Combine those 102,000 with approved beer sales inside the stadium, and God only knows how much alcohol consumption before the game outside of the stadium.
The game was one quarter old and the stadium was full of anticipation, suspense, fear and alcohol. What it was not was completely full of people. There were some people still hanging out in the parking lots, waiting to determine if the game was worthy of actually walking into the stadium to watch.
Football may be football, but the attraction of college football is the chaotic stupidity of it all. America is built on diversity but its most popular sport wears a mandated uniform.
From the size of the bands to the cheerleaders to some of the inane traditions of a college game, there are contrasts that make the college game so wonderfully colorful and rich.
Only in the college game can someone like Tyrone Swoopes find a home and be a productive member of a game. Only in the college game can true freshman Shane Buechele do something like throw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in his first start.
Only in the college game can former quarterback Jerrod Heard make a switch to wide receiver during fall practice and immediately become his team’s best wideout.
The pros are slotted by height and weight whereas the college game there is room for the short and the oddly shaped.
The pros only “permit” one or two offenses whereas the college game can see multiple styles succeed. You don’t see pro teams play two quarterbacks in a game by design, and win.
Comebacks happen in the NFL, but when Texas led 31-14 in the third quarter the margin should have been wide enough that Notre Dame should not have been able to make it interesting.
But it’s college and these are the types of things that happen when a bunch of “young adults” play.
The element of the screwup and the high probability of error is so great that epic stupidity is routine. That’s why I watch - the unscripted disaster.
Watching Notre Dame block Texas’ point after attempt with 3:29 remaining in the game, which would have given the Horns a three-point lead, and then for Shaun Crawford to return it all the way for the rare, game-tying “2-pointer” was brilliant theater. That does not happen in the NFL.
And when Swoopes rammed his way into the endzone for the game winning double-overtime touchdown was the ideal end to the perfect college game.
It ended with UT head coach Charlie Strong being carried off by his players, and a relieved fan base celebrating in a way it has not for years.
Even if you are a passionate Notre Dame fan, and were disgusted with the end result, there was no way you could deny the entertainment value of Sunday’s game.
Sunday was a keepsake game that merited a picture with your girlfriend in the stands. He may forget the girl, but he will never forget that game.