Today is bittersweet for me. As this posts, the Red River Rivalry is currently unfolding it all its glory. I am undoubtedly screaming at the tv and all the dogs are conflicted between attempting to beg and/or steal the game snacks or hiding. If you are not familiar with college football, the Red River Rivalry is the University of Texas—University of Oklahoma game held every October at the Texas State Fair in Dallas.
Yes, Dallas and no, neither university is based there. This is a bitter rivalry game that goes back to 1900—Texas won the first game; Oklahoma has won the last 3 [insert eyeroll here]. But apart from twice—once because of the pandemic and the other because of traveling—for the last 13 years I have
watched screamed cried cheered celebrated this game at a pub in NYC called Stout with my friend Jonas. It is the home spot of the Texas Exes and it just so happened to be down the street from Borders Bookstore (you know, the big one above Penn Station that has now been replaced with a bougie food court I’ve never actually seen anyone eating at–even before the pandemic), which is where Jonas and I worked 13 years ago.
Since I’m not an alumni, I had no idea this was their choice for game day until one brisk Saturday morning on the way to work, four large burnt orange and white flags flying out front caught my eye and I knew I just stumbled across my new favorite place in NYC.
[side note: once I tasted their famous Stout sauce for their fries, this title was forever cemented. You know, just as long as they have Stout sauce and show the Longhorn games.]
Shockingly at Borders, I also came across someone I never expected to find: Jason, an Oklahoma fan. Like a diehard-bleeds-crimson-randomly-shouts-boomer-sooner-for-no-reason Oklahoma fan. Needless to say—but I’m saying it anyway—Jason and I took the smack talk to a whole other level–one that continues on (via FB) to this day!
Bearing witness to 94% of this smack talk was Jonas, who was also a huge football fan. Like most people I talk football with from up here, Jonas’s love of football was mostly at a pro-level for his (gag) beloved (gag) Giants (double gag). However, Jonas was also a fan of the drama of the smack talk and wisely decided to side with me because “you’re terrifying and I would never willingly argue football with you EXCEPT about my Giants and then only if I’m drinking.”
So I invited Jonas to watch the RRR game that year with me at Stout. It was 2008 and Oklahoma was ranked #1 and picked to win. Jonas had his doubts but I told him anything can happen when these two play each other: show up at Stout not wearing anything red and be prepared for a proper introduction to college football without actually being at a game. To which he indignantly responded with “I played college football…I know all about college game day.” I laughed and said “yeah, that’s cute. You played [airquotes] college football [airquotes] up here. I’m going to introduce to you to proper southern college football.”
Although highly offended, he agreed and on game day met me at Stout where we walked in off the street in New York City and smack dab into a sea of burnt orange packed into all 3 floors of the restaurant. Jonas looked a little shell-shocked and finally conceded perhaps perhaps this was a little more over the top than his college games. After his second beer and about the 4th time a complete stranger high-fived him for a great play, Jonas finally let go and just enjoyed the comradery of a packed bar all cheering for a game held halfway across the country. Adding to the experience was that by some Christmas-Miracle-on-33rd-Street*, Texas–against all odds and predictions–pulled off the win.
*that’s where Stout is located
From that moment on, every year Jonas and I had a standing date at Stout for the Red River Rivalry. Sometimes it was just the two of us; sometimes there would be a group of us; and once when a slew of NY Ranger fans invaded Stout while waiting for their game to start at the Garden, I converted them all to temporary Longhorn fans and had them all cheering loudly until they had to leave (or maybe it was Jonas telling them: just agree with her, we’ll all be happier. Oh and don’t stand in her line of sight of the tv—that’ll get you killed).
Jonas was an amazing person. He loved life and lived it to the fullest. My favorite thing about him was his laugh, which was so infectious that hearing him laugh would make you laugh along—even if you didn’t hear the joke.
Sadly, Jonas also had a lot of demons and earlier this year, he decided to end things on his terms—which in hindsight is how Jonas did everything. The devastation that I felt when I heard was indescribable and very surreal. I kept expecting him to text me about my “Cowgirls” or FaceTime me so he could see Luna. Even though I went to his funeral and read the outpouring of condolence posts on his social media pages, it never felt real. That is, until September 4, 2021 when the college football season started and I didn’t get a barrage of text messages from Jonas about making plans for today’s game.
For me The Red River Rivalry will never be the same because it will always remind me of Jonas. On September 4th when that text never came I made Jonas a promise that I would find a way to honor him each and every RRR—and cheer extra loudly on his behalf.
Just not on Sundays for his dumbass Giants….