The Real Reason I Love Longhorn Football

Mary Dell writes: Fall is my favorite season. Along with the just-turning foliage comes the return of my preferred spectator sport – Longhorn football. My passion stems from the Friday Night Lights elements of my upbringing and the four years I spent in Austin as a student at the University of Texas.  I am a genuine Texas fan and spent many happy game days at DKR – Texas Memorial Stadium.  But the real reason I love Longhorn football is that our son is a big fan, too.  Now a fun and shared pastime, following the sport during his teenage years was more like a lifeline that kept our relationship afloat.

UT Football, Longhorns, college football, UT stadium, Texas Longhorns

While he was in high school, he developed the evasive skills that all teenagers acquire fielding questions from well-meaning neighbors, family members, and perfect strangers. Where do you want to go to college/ have you taken your SATs/ what do you want to major in? Against that backdrop of inquisition, we had moments when our disagreements over studying, tests, and college applications would have made for excellent reality television.

But, fortunately, from the time he was very young, I taught him to sing The Eyes of Texas and we clapped together to Texas Fight. I told him stories about Bevo, the mascot:


Longhorn Football, Bevo


When we watch a Longhorn football game on TV, he knows to watch for the unfurling of the Texas flag before kickoff.  He gets that it is big and why that makes perfect sense for a Texas game.


Longhorn football, Texas state flag

He leaned about the Hook’em Horns sign:


Longhorn football, hook'em horns


And he understands why we hope the Tower will be lit in orange:


Longhorn Football, University of Texas Tower lit orange


We have seen the team play a few times in person. Although I remember little about the specific plays of the games, each trip was memorable:


Texas, Longhorn football, last Texas-AM game in Austin


During all of the times we’ve talked about Longhorn football, watched the games and shared in the traditions, we’ve created a lifelong bond.


Longhorn football, Vince Young, hook'em horns



Longhorn football, Rose Bowl, Colt McCoy

So when I read advice about how to stay close to your teenager at a time when their job is to push back from their parents, I want to suggest a short list for topics to discuss. Actually, it is a very short list:

1. Shared sports team

Whether it is college football, professional baseball, or a soccer team somewhere around the world, being a fan with your child may provide you with a go-to topic when others become too charged with pressure and emotion. While you might not need a safety subject to rally around when your child is six, you can count on needing it at sixteen.  Once your child hits his 20s, the team mascot will feel like one of your oldest friends.

Longhorn football, Cotton Bowl


college football

Longhorn football cotton bowl 2013



  1. Emily says

    It’s michigan football in our house!! Go blue!

  2. says

    Notre Dame football in our house. Since neither of our children went on to study at their parents’ alma mater, we also have the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs in our repertoire.

    • says

      Fabulous – so fun to cheer a team on with our kids. College, pro…whatever we can share with them as a family. Makes the games so much more than just a sporting event.

  3. Helene Cohen Bludman says

    And Penn State football over here. It will always bind several generations of our family together. Loved this, Mary Dell. Also: I was a HUGE Friday Night Lights fan and I miss it so much. When the weather is warm and we have our bedroom window open, we can hear football games taking place at our local high school. That really brings back memories.

    • says

      Helene, so glad you have a shared, multigenerational football team to root for (and I bet it has been a difficult couple of years for Penn State fans.) I agree that Friday Night Lights was fabulous TV…our high school football team was pretty awful when I was growing up but the Friday nights were always amazing. Happy memories.

  4. says

    I don’t get sports, and I’m fascinated by how so many others somehow get so much out of it. The fanaticism with which I see people following the Packers here actually makes me nervous. I would never deny my kids the chance to play on some team or other if they ever wanted to, and if they chose to watch or follow some sport or team I’d watch with them, but I’ve been relieved so far that sports are not a part of our lives since it’s something that does nothing for me. Interesting to hear how meaningful it’s proven for you and your children! I’m glad you’ve had that.

    • says

      Korinthia, sports has been a big part of our children’s lives in both of our families for our sons and my daughter. There are a host of wonderful reasons why we believe they have benefitted from being involved, especially in team sports. With our husbands who both grew up playing sports (since neither Lisa nor I did) it has been relatively easy for the kids to find good matches with their temperaments and athletic talents. It is something they are very happy to have done and now have life-long capabilities and confidence that they can carry with them into any adult athletic endeavor they may choose to become involved in. Highly recommend having kids try sports while they are young, even if they need a bit of extra encouragement to do so.

      • says

        I think in our family we get a lot of similar benefits from our involvement in music. We dance and swim and jump so I don’t worry about us being active. I did basketball as a kid, and I liked the game and hated the rest of the experience. Really and truly hated it. I always ask when the forms come home from school if anyone wants to join volleyball or soccer, and nobody ever does, which is fine by me. Every family finds their own way. I know we are different for not finding a sports way, but we’ll be fine!

        • says

          I wondered if music was a similar connection within your family. Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I have any skills or background in that area at all and neither do our kids. I envy people who have mastered playing an instrument but maybe, someday, I will pick up on the meager piano lessons I had as a kid!

  5. says

    Oregon Ducks here. My youngest son is so delighted we’re temporarily living in Oregon and I can get my hands on so many Ducks paraphernalia. Both my boys played football all through little tots to high school and they/we love college football. A fun way to bond indeed, Mary. This was such a fun group of pictures! Go Ducks! Go Longhorns! Go college football – and moms and sons!

    • says

      Barbara, love your cheer, especially the “go moms and sons” part. there is such a band of brothers quality to football that you witness when you have a son who plays in high school. Nothing quite like it among all the other sports our kids have played, although my daughter’s soccer team has a large number of seniors on it and the emotional closeness they feel this year comes close.

  6. Carpool Goddess says

    We’ve remained connected through a love of watching comedies, tennis, and the occasional Laker game. Oh, and baked goods. That works every time.

    • says

      Every family find their things that they get connected with. Yum, thinking of some cookies right now!

  7. LeslieB says

    Mary Dell, I obv share your love of Texas football – I took off my Sophomore fall to do my “foreign study” in Austin – the year when Earl Campbell blew out his knee! My HS team was lousy then but went on to win State a couple of years ago – quite a feat for a bunch of rich kids from Alamo Heights!

    Just went back for my HS reunion and went back to the stadium for a Friday game against Boerne Champion. All the thrills came rushing back. Thanks for reminding us of some of those formative and influential experiences.

    • says

      Leslie, I love sharing Texas roots with you….football is clearly part of that. Wish I would have known you when you spent your semester abroad in Austin!!

  8. David says

    I have just returned from Texas and whilst I wasn’t in Austin I have been told about LongHorn, I did go and see the Texans which I fully enjoyed. Being from Liverpool in England I found the game confusing at first but the whole atmosphere before during and after the game is amazing.

  9. says

    It’s funny, with 2 sons and a fanatic sports-loving husband, I’ve always turned the other way. But recently, with UConn in the basketball playoffs, I’ve become a fan and find myself watching the games on TV along with my family. I no longer feel so left out (and I think, secretly, my boys are impressed!)

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