For 118 years, the University of Texas vs. Texas A&M University football rivalry has been dividing households and conquering Thanksgiving meals across the Lone Star State. I have had a personal history with the tradition since before birth.
My grandfather served as a yell leader in the 1950s, and my grandparents have held Aggies season football tickets for decades. I adopted an adoration for all things A&M through them. I stood and swayed in the bleachers at Kyle Field, and obediently kissed my male cousin on the cheek when the Aggies scored a touchdown. I wore maroon proudly throughout my elementary years, making what I'm certain were compelling arguments about why Aggies were far better than those tea-sips wearing burnt orange.
During Thanksgiving of 1999, my entire family traveled to Hawaii to visit family members stationed at the Marine base on O'ahu. We flew out of Houston just days after the collapse of the Aggie bonfire that killed 12 students and injured 27 others.
It feels like we're holding a memorial service for the conclusion of a long, important tradition.
In a cabin on the beach, we were a world away from the stadium; but we watched the annual football game on TV, in awe of the halftime tribute by the Longhorn Band, the silence in the stands and the teams' ability to set aside more than a century of contention in remembrance of those students.
Throughout my adolescence and into early college years at UT (yes, I went to the land of the Aggies enemy), my parents elected to spend the long Thanksgiving holiday camping in the Hill Country. But each year, no matter how remote the location, we would find a bar or restaurant with cable and a way to tune in for the big game.
Recently, an informal Thanksgiving dinner tradition has taken hold, with family and friends from both universities sharing a table, a tailgate and a television set in a parking lot in College Station. Two years ago, I watched the game and sipped whiskey on the rocks with a new acquaintance, the Longhorn grandfather of my sister's close Aggie friend. He reminisced about his days in Austin, and I fell asleep in a lawn chair before the game ended in our favor.
This year's Thanksgiving night game is the last before Texas A&M leaves the Big 12 for the SEC. Texas' athletic director has already said the Longhorns don't have "room" on their schedule for the Aggies anymore. We are making the tailgate count as if this game is the conclusion of the rivalry — which all signs point to it being, until at least 2018, if not beyond.
My grandfather spent all day Sunday preparing his labor-intensive oyster dressing to share with Aggies and Longhorns alike. My dad will fry the turkey. I will bring the wine. It feels like we're holding a memorial service for the conclusion of this long, important tradition.
Not only will this end signal the death of pre-game rituals like the Hex Rally and the Aggie Bonfire. It also means the irrelevance of jabs in the fight songs of both schools, Texas Fight and the Aggie War Hymn, the "Saw 'Em Off" T-shirts and window decals, and even the very basis for the Longhorn's mascot, Bevo.
Though my grandfather mourns the end of the tradition, he also feels relief from the pressure that tends to build, all season long, about the impending game. I am saddened by its demise as well, but anxious to establish a new tradition.
One where divided houses, competition and football do not have a place.