Being in the middle of this crowd was an incredible experience in the heart of Texas.
Boy, that was fun, wasn't it? If you were one of the lucky ones to make it Austin, then you know what I'm talking about: a great football game, a fantastic pre-game party, awesome BBQ, and an awesome night in Austin.
For those confined to watching from their living room, you might have missed one of the most awesome experiences I think I have ever had as a Bruin fan (which ranks up there with the Ben Ball Warriors' win over Adam Morrison's Gonzaga in Oakland and 13-9).
Also, huge props to all the Bruins who showed up, stuck out the 100+ heat, the nasty sun, the sticky humidity, and cheered their hearts out for the Bruins. Knowing the players heard us, tucked away in our high, upper-deck corner of the stadium, really made it special.
More about my voyage into the heart of Texas after the jump.
Before I go any further, I need to give special recognition to the Texas Longhorns' fans and the fine people of Austin. I've been to a lot of college football games and I have never met a group of fans who were as gracious, polite, and classy as the burnt orange-clad folks in Austin. I don't know if it's the fact our schools are so similar (great academic institutions with elite athletics) or if it's our mutual hatred for U$C (thanks Vince Young!), but I have never had a better interaction with an opposing fan base than I did this weekend.
On a quick aside, the burnt-orange coeds were awesome. Let's just say I'm now a big fan of short skirts and cowboy boots.
Before the game, the Texas fans were very friendly, talking football, congratulating us on our demolition of Houston (which is definitely the red-headed step-child of Texas, at least according to Longhorn fans), and more than willing to drink beer with us. After wandering from bar-to-bar and tailgate-to-tailgate (with HT to uclaron1 for his great list), I was ready for the game.
Naturally, it's easy to be friendly to a non-conference underdog opponent who is widely expected to roll over and get slaughtered. When your team is losing, it's a whole different story for the great majority of the sporting world (esp. some of the jerks at other Pac-10 programs), but not in Austin. Even as their national title hopes and BCS dreams evaporated before their very eyes, Texas fans were still gracious, friendly, and congratulatory.
Two examples really brought that message home for me. During the game, some drunk frat guy jackass types were sitting not too far from me and some other Bruin fans. As the game went on, they become increasingly belligerent and used a wide variety of homophobic, racist, or just flat-out nasty insults toward the UCLA fans in their section. Every school has guys like that, but not every school treats them like Texas does. Sometime during the 3rd quarter, an older Texas fan approached the usher, pointed out the offenders, and just like that, their day at DKR was done. As the fans ushered out early, a couple passed by the group of UCLA folks I was sitting with and apologized for the classless garbage the drunk frat guys had been saying. That was pretty impressive.
Second was during the post-game celebration. I was kind of worried there'd be more drunk, enraged frat-guy types, pissed off about "little UCLA" pulling the big upset and spoiling for a fight. But once I was on Sixth, those fears were relieved as many a Texas fan shook my hand, congratulated UCLA, and drank a beer with me. That's just great sportsmanship and knowing how to lose with grace.
All-in-all, awesome fan base and great people. If you get the chance, Bruins who made the trip, stop by Burnt Orange Nation and thank the Texas fans for their generous hospitality and making it a great experience, even after their beloved 'Horns lost.
Now, as to the game itself, oh man, what an experience. Never mind that it felt like it was over 100 degrees, the sun was beating down on us with no clouds in sight (except for a brief "thunderstorm" that swung by Austin to the north), and that it was humid to boot. The Bruins came out and played the game of their lives and the Bruins in attendance in the stands really made UCLA proud. I had a lot of Texas fans comment both before and after the game that "UCLA really travels well." Way to go the extra mile for your team folks!
Speaking of going the extra mile, I really hope folks are going to turn up at the Rose Bowl in greater numbers. I know that traffic in L.A. sucks and getting to the Rose Bowl requires a lengthy drive, being stuck in traffic on the 101/134/210/etc. but we need to start filling the Rose Bowl with bodies in blue. I'll tell you this: DKR is an impressive stadium, from a facilities standpoint. I certainly think it's a better venue than many NFL stadiums (I'm looking at you Candlestick Park), but what really makes DKR are the 100,000+ bodies in burnt-orange.
When our offense first took the field, the crowd was deafening. Hell, I was intimidated and I was just some guy sitting in the upper deck. It's an impressive sight and something that Bruins need to make happen for our boys at home. When the fans started with the "Texas! Fight!" chant, you could feel the crowd boom. I'm shocked we didn't have more false start penalties with the crowd noise there.
And no more excuses folks: Austin is close to nothing. It's 3 and 1/2 hours from Dallas. 3 hours from Houston. Over an hour from San Antonio. Longhorn fans really drive to see their team play. They're a passionate, dedicated lot. We're traveling within one county (I guess two if you count OC, but whatever), so let's get with the program and start filling up the Rose Bowl. I know there's enough students and alumni in the greater L.A. area long to make that happen.
Naturally, the post-game aftermath was amazing. Euphoric. Austin knows how to have a good time both before and after a football game, I'll say that.
Oh, and the closing thought: the BBQ was amazing. Mouth-watering party-in-your-mouth amazing.
Let's all hope Dan Guerrero can pull some strings and get another game in Austin (although I wouldn't be surprised if Texas was not all too excited to see us again, what, with that 100-15 deficit the last two games), or at the least, somewhere cool like Knoxville, Tuscaloosa, or Baton Rouge.
Amazing trip folks. If you were also in Austin, throw up your post-trip thoughts and stories in the thread.