Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Sentimental Reasons for the OU vs. Texas Rivalry Continuing Are Outweighed by Reality: Life Changes

Bob Stoops, coach of the Oklahoma Sooner football team, was asked by a reporter today if the Oklahoma and Texas Red River Rivalry Game would continue if the two schools wound up in different conferences. Stoops responded, "I don't think it's necessary. Life changes, and you've got to change with it, to whatever degree. If it works, great. I love the game, but if it doesn't, sometimes that's the way it goes."   Stoops is right. Life does change. Were the Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorn football series come to an end next year because of Big 12 conference changes, over 110 years of intense football rivalry would be over.  Were the series to end, it would also bring to a close playing football at one of the most incredible venues in competitive sports--the Cotton Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl (initially called "Fair Park Stadium") was built in 1930. The first college football game played in the new stadium was between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns. My maternal grandfather, Fred Cherry, (pictured here) was a sophomore tight end for Oklahoma University in 1930. Back then players played on both offense and defense, and my grandfather started for Oklahoma and played the entire game. Both teams were held scoreless during the first half. The first touchdown of the game, and for that matter the first touchdown ever scored in the Cotton Bowl, occurred in the middle of the third quarter.  According to the Oklahoma Encyclopedia of Football, Oklahoma halfback Bus Mills threw a 55 yard 'bomb' to my grandfather who took the ball into the end zone and gave Oklahoma a 7 to 0 lead over Texas. Though Texas would eventually win the game 17 to 7, my grandfather holds the distinction of being the first player to ever score in the Cotton Bowl. He would go on to play against Texas in 1931 and 1932 before he graduated with a petroleum engineering degree.  My grandfather was a personal friend of Kappa Alpha fraternity brother and 1931 Oklahoma graduate Carl Albert, future United States Speaker of the House. However, Fred Cherry would himself leave his job in the oil fields and later quit his job at the state capital in order to fulfill his calling as a Christian evangelist. 

I was born thirty years after my grandfather played for Oklahoma University, but I can distinctly remember watching OU football games at his house while growing up, particularly at Thanksgiving. My grandfather died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970 at the age of 58, but my love for OU football continued. In the early 1970's my father and I crash landed upon returning by private plane from watching the annual OU/Texas Cotton Bowl game. We were caught in a powerful thunderstorm and landed in a convention center parking lot where U.S. Senator John Tower was holding a fund raiser. The kind Senator loaned us his personal vehicle to finish our trip home. Over the years I have many, many memories revolving around the Oklahoma vs. Texas rivalry. Yet, as Coach Stoops says, "Life changes." I look at the picture to the left (taken in 1929 at the OU practice field), and notice my grandfather, playing 'left end' that day (to the far right in his three point stance), and then I flash back to last Saturday night as I watched OU's defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis play on Owen Field in Norman. Just noticing the physical differences in the size and athleticism of the players makes it easy to realize that things have indeed changed at the University of Oklahoma since the 1930's.

Stoops is right. Life changes.

Bring on the Pac-12.

With, or without, the University of Texas.


Anonymous said...

Yes, life changes. There’s an old song that says: “Time changes everything.”
Today is Pearl Harbor day, but it’s replaced by 9/11.

What interested me most about your post was your grandfather dying at 58. When I was 20, I thought that was old but at 79, I think that as young…another change. :)

I used to make an idiot of myself (carrying signs on 50 bike rides) about the dangers of homogenized milk.
Milk has an enzyme if passed through the body, does no harm. But if it gets in the bloodstream, it’s like slow poison in ‘eating’ tissue that causes a raw spot.
The body’s reaction is to cover that spot with cholesterol. (Thus cholesterol gets the blame for what the raw spot caused.)
When milk is homogenized, the molecules (carrying the enzyme) are so small they can pass into the bloodstream.


Rex Ray

Steve said...

That great old stadium has seen college football go from its innocence into the years of great rivalries into its day as a major economic factor throughout the country. What tales it could tell.
The OSU/Nebraska and Red River rivalries will occasionally resume as these old warriors meet again in bowls in years to come.

Anonymous said...

In this case "Life Changes" = Greed.