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Red River rivalry runs deep

Beano: Texas-OU always a classic

Chat wrap: Darrell Royal
Chat wrap: Billy Sims
"The Undefeated:" Tightwire

Where are they now? - Jimmy Harris

Where are they now? - Tommy McDonald

Classic conversation: Prentice Gautt

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Sooners, Horns paint Dallas red (or orange)
By Jim Dent
Special to

It is the game that once inspired tens of thousands to jam the downtown streets of Dallas on Friday night to drink, to dance, to hurl insults and to toss furniture from the open windows of the Baker and Adolphus Hotels.

Just go down to Commerce Street about sundown the night before the Texas-OU Red River Shootout and the odds were good that you would be scrambling to make bail before the morning light.

Classic Texas/Oklahoma chats
Chat wrap - Darrell Royal
Chat wrap - Billy Sims
Chat wrap - Earl Campbell
For years, I managed to remain above the fray by observing this madness from the 17th floor of a high-rise apartment complex smack dab in the middle of downtown Dallas. We would hang out on the balcony of the friend's apartment and swear to each other that we would never behave like those beasts below. We would never spend a single minute inside the makeshift jails situated in long rows of tents along Commerce Street.

The highlight of those nights came at 2 a.m. Saturday morning when the cops would try to rid the streets of revelers by spraying down the sidewalks with street cleaners. They would simply raise the nozzles of the mammoth machines until the water was flying fifteen feet up the sides of buildings. Everyone ran for cover, of course. But five minutes later, thousands were back on the streets, chugging whiskey and insulting each other once more.

Back in the early 1950s, a football game actually broke out on Commerce Street between fans from Texas and Oklahoma. The ball itself was a whiskey bottle.

Once in 1955, fans were slightly distracted from this manic partying by trekking down to the Cotton Bowl to see Elvis Presley perform. At one point that night, he jitterbugged from the 50-yard line to the 35, hips swiveling and guitar strings breaking.

For the last 72 years, the Texas-OU game in Dallas has been part Mardi Gras and part Super Bowl. It is one of the rare games still played at a neutral site, the others being Army-Navy and Georgia-Florida. During my years as a newspaperman and talk show host, I covered seventeen Super Bowls -- four of those in New Orleans. Texas-OU has the feel of a Super Bowl because the city is commandeered by the fans the night before the game, and the crowd on Saturday afternoon is split straight down the middle, one half burnt orange and the other half crimson.

By two o'clock Friday afternoon, cars flood into Dallas along the north-south artery known as I-35 -- Oklahoma fans crossing the Red River from the north, and Texas fans rolling in from the south.

Ten years ago, when the violence on Commerce Street became unbearable, city officials shut down the downtown streets to foot traffic. Now the parties have moved to the bars and restaurants and events organized by both universities. But the town is still electric with the game that has been played continuously in Dallas since 1929.

From Guymon in the Oklahoma Panhandle to Galveston, from Houston to Hollis, it is the centerpiece of many lives. Darrell Royal was born in Hollis, a dusty little town tucked into the southwest corner of Oklahoma, and he was an All-American quarterback for the Sooners in the late 1940s. He would shift allegiances in 1957, becoming the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.

In what would be remembered as one of the greatest victories of his reign at Texas, Royal managed to beat his former coach, Bud Wilkinson, in the 1958 game at the Cotton Bowl. After the game OU president Dr. George Cross decided to seek out Royal after the game for a congratulatory handshake. Cross entered the crowded and steamy locker room but could find Royal nowhere. He finally walked out back where he found the coach bent over and vomiting.

On seeing the man's shoes approaching, Royal looked up and said, "Dr. Cross, it sure is hard beating your hero."

The magnitude of defeating his former coach, Bud Wilkinson, and winning the biggest game of the year, was overwhelming.

When Wilkinson and Royal met in 1963, their teams were ranked number one and two respectively in both polls. Texas won 28-7 en route to completing Royal's first national championship.

Saturday, Oklahoma enters the game with the longest winning streak in the nation at 17 games. The Sooners are ranked No. 3 and the Longhorns No. 5. It is the biggest game of the year to date in college football and will go a long way in determining one of the representatives at the BCS title game in the Rose Bowl.

Now that Bob Stoops has resurrected a dynasty in Norman, and Mack Brown's unmatched recruiting has produced a national power once more in Austin, Texas-OU again is at front and center.

But without the spark provided by the rollicking weekend in Dallas, this rivalry would not be America's best. With apologies to Army-Navy, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, Florida-Georgia, Florida State-Miami, USC-UCLA and USC-Notre Dame, the season's most compelling game and the game's greatest rivalry, still belongs to Dallas.

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