Maybe the reason Black Friday has shifted towards Gray Thursday is because retailers have had enough.
If there’s no Texas-Texas A&M football game to watch on television on Thanksgiving night, then there’s no reason for football fans to stay home. They might as well start their holiday shopping early.
It’s a shame, too.
As had become the case for a lot of things in college football, nothing is sacred. Not even a rivalry that dated back to 1894 and included 118 meetings, 64 of those on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving won’t be the same for without Aggies singing “Goodbye to Texas University, so long to the orange and the white.” Our House Divided, that’s what it used to be called at least when a mixed marriage features Aggies and Longhorns, will be a little less tense without the Longhorns wife talking about how Ricky Williams set the rushing record against Texas A&M or asking me when was the last time the Aggies won a national championship.
The answer, of course, is 1939.
We all knew the end of the rivalry was coming, which is why there was so much buildup to last year’s finale between the two schools. The ill feelings created by the Longhorn Network helped signal the end. Texas A&M’s jump to the SEC sealed the deal, leaving what was the third-longest running rivalry in college football in danger of never happening again.
There’s been posturing on both sides about how the schools won’t meet again in the regular season for the forseeable future, although the Cotton Bowl this year could bring the two teams back together sooner than expected.
But there’s no guarantee there. And the guarantee of the Aggies and Longhorns playing on Thanksgiving weekend was something you could count on as much as long lines at Target on Black Friday.
But now that Thanksgiving is here and the Aggies and Longhorns aren’t meeting in Austin or College Station, the cold, hard reality of it all has sunk it. And reality sucks.
The teams are trying to make do. Texas coach Mack Brown is pumping up TCU, the Horns’ Thanksgiving night opponent this year. The two teams are old Southwest Conference rivals, but the schools have only met twice since 1995 so how can you really get excited about this game?
And really there’s no point to getting pumped about it either. Texas won’t even play TCU on Thanksgiving next year — the ‘Horns will host Texas Tech on Thanksgiving next year and will likely play Baylor the following season.
Those schools are all rivals of the Longhorns but where’s the fun of having to travel to Austin every year to play Texas. That’s not a fair fight. There’s a reason NFL teams complain about the Cowboys and Lions getting to host games on Thanksgiving every year.
Brown said during the Big 12 conference call on Monday that the week didn’t feel any different for him, but the actions of the program say otherwise.
The annual Aggie dinner the Longhorns had the Sunday before the game is no more, replaced by a senior meal. The school did its annual Hex Rally Monday night, but how do you put a hex on a team you’ve played twice in the last 17 years. It’s a waste of a perfectly good hex.
It can’t be a lot better in College Station, either. The same College Station where retailers have tried to pull the old bait and switch, replacing the House Divided shirts featuring the Aggies and Longhorns with one featuring the Aggies and LSU Tigers.
A&M isn’t even playing on Thanksgiving this year, instead hosting Missouri on Saturday.
But it’s apparently a big enough game for the Aggies that there’s no mention of Texas. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin did his best posturing Wednesday, saying the topic of Texas hasn’t even come up this week.
“We talk about playing Missouri,” Sumlin said. “We talk about it being Senior Night and playing Missouri. That’s pretty significant.”
The lack of A&M-Texas is further proof of the changing landscape of college football. The SEC is trying to build a rivalry between Texas A&M and South Carolina. The schools don’t even play this year but somehow, in the future, that’s supposed to be a big SEC rivalry. Rivalries can’t be manufactured overnight, they take years, or a century.
Or at least they used to.
What’s going to happen in the new wacky world of the Big Ten?
Will Michigan-Ohio State have to take a backseat to Michigan vs. Rutgers? Is everyone already circling their calendar for the mighty Wisconsin vs. Maryland game in a few years? Those teams really don’t like each other. And if they do, they won’t in the future because the schedule and conference says so.
Maybe it’s just the good-old day syndrome creeping in. Maybe change is for the best. No one at A&M is complaining about the school’s move to the SEC now that the Aggies are 9-2 and have made a big impact, thanks in part to freshman QB sensation Johnny Manziel, in their new conference . No one cashing Longhorn Network checks in Austin seem to be sweating the loss of playing the Aggies every year.
But it’s still got to sting for some people. Traditions die hard.
That’s why on Thanksgiving night, we’ll be looking for a new big-screen TV. It’s a long honored family tradition, dating all the way back to 2012.