In a cab on the way to Schulz's with my friend The Shogun (that is not his name or imperial rank, just what I decided to call him to protect the guilty), we see several large groups of Burnt Orange clad Texas fans cossing streets named after rivers and numbers on their way to the Super Drum. We jointly consult our time pieces. It is 6:30 pm central standard time.
"Is the game at 8:00 pm eastern?"
We camped the night before on the banks of a beautiful Central Texas limestone tailwater. We were too lazy to pitch a tent, so we slept under a high pressure clear sky. Before we slept, we drank half a bottle of bourbon named Basil Hayden. Baz is a smooth fellow. We are not as tough as we once thought we were. Because of this, I am loopy the next evening.
"Shrug" chimes the obviously loquacious Shogun.
The internet on my phone confirms the 8:00 pm central standard time tip-off. We pile out of the cab and into a pair of pre-game Dos Equis. The conversation harkens the doom and gloom football tete-á-tete (eff you caret) of years when we don't win the national championship. Early arrivals and dour predictions make me think we have hope as a basketball fan base.
The evening before, we discover a Christmas gift to The Shogun from his sister of two years before. It is the Nalgene bottle top lantern. We compare it to that hack Edison and his paltry light bulb. We marvel in the intelligence of mankind. We drink bourbon.
We make it to the drum sufficiently early to see warmups. Oklahoma does not miss shots in warmups. Also, Blake Griffin is trying out for the 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend dunk contest. The long term odds are 4-1 in Vegas and dropping. Texas does miss shots. We despair.
The Erwin Center Staff goes to the outstanding Craig Way called montage of Texas basketball highlights over the years. It gets a little misty in The Drum. After watching AJ Abrams speed up the court against West Virginia as the crunch time point guard in Daniel Gibson's sophomore year, then dishing to Kenton Paulino for the winning triple, I wonder for the 1000th time about AJ's career track if DJ Augustin goes to LSU.
They switch to the live tunnel cam with the players. Clint Chapman ignores the camera again. The guys are joking around. They look loose. Dexter Pittman does a quick shadow box routine that looks amazingly nimble. We undespair and I quip,
"You think Big Dex has a career as a super heavyweight?"
We woke up that morning on the wrong side of 6:30 am central standard time stiff and soar from sleeping on the ground. I remember a few of the reasons why I swore off camping in 2002 after a summer living as a trout fishing bedouin in a tent in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. It is gloriously overcast and threatening rain (glorious for trout fisherman, duck hunters, and World War II infantrymen only). We slowly gather the appropriate gear and make a quick run into town for coffee (dern burn ban has deprived us of the wonder that is camp coffee). We spy a gentleman selling breakfast tacos. He takes us for three quarters of a sawbuck for four tacos and twelve ounces of coffee. Damn the river inflation! We arrive at the southernmost trout stream in the contiguous forty eight and bolt down our tacos and into our waders as we watch large Emerson strain rainbow trout swirl in a deep pool. Nearly all is forgiven with the taco vendor.
The Drum's public address announcer, uhh . . . announces a starting lineup of Doge, AJ, Mason, Damion James, and Dexter Pittman. I like the lineup even though it leaves our third best player on the bench. There is ample booing of OU's player when they are announced. Go Texas Basketball!
The crowd starts out the game as raucous supporters of basketball. We cheer defensive stops, key rebounds, and a foul call on Blake Griffin. I am uplifted by our newfound fandom. It is loud. Then The Doge makes a knifing drive into the line complete with a great finish in traffic, and the crowd goes wild. We are cheering and nobody is sitting down! I yell at The Shogun,
"Nobody is sitting down! This is awesome! Noooo000!!!,"
Someone low down in Mack's section sits, and it follows around the court. I applaud sections 20 and 21 as they seemed to hold out the longest (mezzanine notwhitstanding as I can't see those folks). The crowd devolves in the the standard Super Drum hokey pokey of sitting and standing that kills my back and tortures my basketball loving soul. We are raucous in a relative way, and the house is full, but it is standard issue complete with funereal silences when OU makes their second half run, cheering and standing incongruously in timeouts, and too much interest in whether the dude makes the half courter to win free Chik-Fil-A for a year. This does not spoil my high because the Longhorns are playing excellent defensive basketball and relentlessly attacking the rim on the offensive end.
Our time on the water started pretty well. The Shogun hooked a large rainbow on his fourth cast. The valiant trout jumped an honest three feet out of the water four or five times before spitting the midge at the obviously dissheveled Shogun and gawking General. I turned a nice fish on my next cast but did not connect. After a few minutes with no action we committed Angling Sin #1. We left fish we knew were there to inspect that promising looking riffle and pocket water upstream. A wasted hour and one dink aside, we called ourselves morons and went back to the run above the deep pool. While we patiently nymphed it and the riffle below the pool, I kept seeing rising fish in the deep still water. They were not rising consistently in any location, and there were no visible hatches. I said to The Shogun,
"You know how to skate a fly?"
"Kinda, you?" as he stared at his double nymph rigged rod not wanting to cut off and retie.
"Never tried before. Why don't you grab my four weight out of the truck. It is already rigged."
About twenty minutes later, I hear a whooping up the stream that meant he was hooked up. I ran up to try and snap a couple of photos of what would be a brawny sixteen incher.
I watched for a bit afterwards, and then The Shogun handed me the four weight because he couldn't believed there were no fish in the downstream riffle. I skated the fly for a while with several refusals and a couple of strikes that I armatuered like a guy that had not caught a trout since last June. It was fun fishing that ended as soon as the sun came out.
As I watched the final moments of The Horns 73-68 win, I noticed that nobody was leaving their seats. I bet not a dozen people bolted at the buzzer. We, thankfully, didn't rush the court. While I watched Gary Johnson putting a little weight on his ankle for the first time since he rolled it as he limped to center court to sing The Eyes of Texas with a packed Drum, I thought maybe, if Rick Barnes keeps putting together contenders, we will get there.