It’s Texas Week in Morgantown. pic.twitter.com/kIRkAOt4Wp— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) September 30, 2019
The game week hype by West Virginia media and fans to anoint Texas as their new rival is an interesting insight into a fanbase casting for identity in a conference where they are the geographical and cultural outlier and have seen their only authentic rivalry fade into memory: the Mountaineers last played the Backyard Brawl with Pitt in 2011. That was an underrated college football rivalry. Separated by only 75 miles of blacktop, the schools were from different planets, but shared the same “Oh, you think you’re better than me?” ethos that they could turn towards each other. This resulted in intense games and enthusiastic fan brawls.
According to the Mountaineers, the series ended when West Virginia won 7 of the last 10 (and the last three in a row) and Pitt realized there was little to gain in playing an opponent that could only offer them humiliating losses and no recruiting advantages. Fortunately for college football, the series will renew for four years in 2022.
For Texas fans, this hopeless casting for rivalry yields yet another weary sigh and eye roll. Another school deciding that Texas and their university have a relationship — irrespective of Texas’ feelings about it. A little like me deciding that Kate Beckinsale is my girlfriend. Kate gets a vote.
Get in line, West Virginia. Over the years, I’ve been informed by Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Houston (amusing because this is a third rate commuter school - oh, the one Holgo left you for, right?), Arkansas, and Kansas State fans that we are their heated rivals.
This is like being informed by a random guy at work that you’re his best man and can you please host his bachelor party next Saturday? I don’t even know you, bro.
Imagined rivalry is the weight of the lead target issued on the chest of every Texas jersey, but it’s really the burden of being Texas when the program has been down. When Texas went 101-16 between 2001-2009, schools weren’t so keen to join the rivalry mix. I didn’t hear much from the average Baylor fan about their delusions back in 2005.
But a down Texas? The line of hopeful rivals goes around the block. What’s better than beating a name brand opponent mired in stupid underachievement for instant credibility? It’s relevance on the cheap.
The necessary precondition of rivalry is reciprocity of feeling. Longhorns have none for WVU beyond “defeat random Big 12 opponent.” End of discussion. For the record, Texas has two rivals: Oklahoma and Texas A&M. In exactly that order.
Oklahoma is our primary sports rival because academics LOL. The way you know it is the bitter, unabashed animosity Longhorns have for Oklahoma, the way the Sooners run their criminal-addled program, their vile state, the terrible musical, their white collar criminal mascot, and the frequency with which we pray that the Sooner Schooner is struck by a meteor coated in napalm, scurvy and fire ants with Barry Switzer, Jim Ross and Toby Keith trapped inside. We do not assume an air of natural superiority and cultivated indifference about OU, attitudes we purposefully cultivate around Aggies to drive them into utter derangement for our amusement. Aggies can be counted on to dance pleasingly on our strings, except the smart ones, who selfishly deny us this pleasure.
Texas A&M is a distant second. Acknowledging them as a rival at all will anger some Longhorn fans (that’s not how we play the Screw-With-Aggies Game) and secretly please the red-assiest of maroon clad Hapsburg-chinned corps turds. SEE? THEY DO READ OUR LONG LETTERS AND NOTICE WHEN WE PEEL OUT IN FRONT OF THEIR HOUSE! This rivalry exists largely because of the fervor with which Aggies consider Texas their rival. This gives hope to other schools that they can - through pure hatred and willpower - force Texas to consider them.
It’s genius by Texas A&M (a descriptive rarely seen in concert), but it only works if your school is willing to behave so bizarrely for so long that it forces the object of hatred and misplaced lust into acknowledgement by simple virtue of relentless stalking. We can’t take out a protection order on an entire university. We’ve checked. So we grudgingly consent to their rivalry, primarily to humiliate them whenever they think they’re close to breaking from the tortuous existence that is to be an Aggie sports fan. Since we don’t play anymore and they didn’t beat us often when we did, they’re reduced to classic SEC cuckoldry, in which they limply beg other SEC schools to do to Texas what they can’t manage themselves. Horns down? The perfect symbolic gesture of a limp dick permanently pointed south. You sure you want in on that?
Admittedly, West Virginia’s creepy early 19th century registered sex offender in buckskin mascot and the fanbase’s energetic anti-Texas tweets (do run more spell check though) are a solid, halting first step in garnering our attention, but it will require decades of consistent turd-like behaviors to penetrate a thick Longhorn hide built to protect us from the nettles and burrs of rivalry pretenders.
You’re nowhere close, Mountaineers. Also, your state is quite pretty, has good hiking and whitewater rafting, and your fanbase is really friendly when not flinging their own feces at perceived manufactured slights: “Word from the hollers is that Bevo trampled a John Denver CD and defiled heself on a perfectly good mouth harp gewgaw! Let’s feud ‘em!”
Also awkward: you have never thanked us for your hefty Big 12 TV contract payouts, which your 1.8 million state population and lack of national interest plays no role in assisting. Thus, you are spongers and lack self-sufficiency. This is not the mountain way and a disgrace to your heritage. This shames you deeply and you understandably act out. To release this burden from you, I provide the comments section below for your fanbase to express your gratitude to Texas. The school. The state. The idea. In keeping with your noble tradition of crude mountain barter, we will also accept chores, canned preserves, gifts of kindling, or a poorly tanned coon hide as tribute.
No need for words from you.
There is no number of ottomans, divans, couches or love seats that you can set ablaze to rivet our gazes to your hazy horizon of hate. Texas is not your rival. Texas will never be your rival.
Rivals care. We don’t.
Before you respond,”You don’t care so much that you penned this here missive fella so joke is on you” please reflect that this essay’s dual purpose is to help you find better outlets for your feelings and to give you a forum for expressing your gratitude to Texas for offering you demographic viability and the morsels from our table. Our acts of charity never end.
You’re welcome, non-rival.