STILLWATER — I figured I’d encounter frosted OSU fans while bopping around Stillwater for the first half of OU-Texas Saturday, Stillwater being ground zero for the Cowboys’ slant on the Sooners these days. Sure enough, the man in the Markelle Martin jersey watching OU-Texas at Louie’s Grill & Bar on South Main was plenty frosted.
Just not for the reason I expected.
“People went to war this morning,” Bobby Dee said between sips of his salt-rimmed Modelo, mindful of the morning news out of Israel. “I told somebody, ‘Shoot, we act like we’re at war here. We just ain’t shooting no bullets. (Bleep). I mean it’s right and left. OU and Sooners and OSU and Cowboys.
“I’m like, ‘C’mon man, get over that. Let’s be bigger than that.’ (Bleep). I mean, that’s real. This is a game.”
Don’t mistake the man. Dee was proud to tell me his black No. 10 Martin top was in honor of Markelle, not Tay as I had guessed. His fondness for the Pokes dates back a lot further than Tay, having run a Stillwater U-Haul business 23 years.
“I’m from Dallas but I live in Oklahoma now. This is home,” Dee said. “I’m a Cowboy through and through.”
He’s a Cowboy who’d rather rise above hate when it comes to OU is all.
When I asked about OU fleeing the Big 12 Conference, and OSU fans’ steely feelings as a result, Dee said: “That’s hater-ism, man.”
No hater-ism at Louie’s Saturday. Very interesting.
I caught a trace at my next stop.
“My two favorite teams are OSU and whoever’s playing OU. It’s how my daddy raised me,” Jennie McLeod said with OU-Texas on screens above her at The Garage just off campus. “I grew up in Hobart. Was in Altus for 26 years. I live here now.
“My mom was a Sooner and my dad was a Cowboy. I’m a daddy’s girl.”
Now that was what I figured I’d hear Saturday. We were finally on Bedlam’s jagged track.
“If you’re from Oklahoma you have to hate Texas. Horns down,” Don Ybarra said from the seat next to McLeod. “If Texas wins this game I’m not gonna throw a fit. If OU wins I’m not gonna cheer. But I would rather see OU win.”
Ybarra wore a white OSU sweatshirt. No, he wasn’t struck by lightning… unless you count the stares from McLeod and her friend Kerri Bentley.
“I’m a hater,” Bentley announced. “I know a lot of people like Don here, that will cheer for OU as long as they’re not playing OSU. But I was raised like Jennie. We rooted for anybody that was playing OU.”
An unflustered Ybarra said: “Oklahoma all day. You gotta represent your state. It’s not just about the team.”
Actually, a few tables over, it was about the two teams playing at the Cotton Bowl.
“I end up rooting more for Texas, but yeah it’s… I don’t know. It’s one of those games where you kind of hope both teams can lose,” Matthew Keith said from beneath his OSU ballcap.
Several Big 12 fan bases view OU and Texas as treasonous, OSU’s included. Which is why I figured I’d need armor for even bringing up the Red River Rivalry around Stillwater.
Interesting, then, to gauge Keith’s response to my question about the traitors.
“I just think it’s better for the Big 12 overall if they stick around. Both of them,” he said. “As an OSU fan Bedlam drives you crazy but at the same time it’s still a fun environment.”
Would it be as nuanced next door at George’s Stables? To find out, I introduced myself to the guy in the black OSU sweatshirt watching OU-Texas at the bar.
“I’m a season ticket holder to OSU. The better OU is, the bigger that game is when they come to town,” said Kevin Kourakos, who is from New Jersey but came to Stillwater as a PhD student. “But I don’t like OU. I generally don’t want them to win. So I’m kind of torn. Plus I have friends who are Texas fans and I think it would be kind of funny if Texas lost.”
Texas really can get under a fan’s skin. That goes for both sides of Bedlam.
You know who else can do that? Alabama. I know that because I stopped at Eskimo Joe’s before heading back to my OU-Texas hideaway for the second half.
“I root for anybody that’s playing OU. Same way I root for anybody that’s playing Alabama,” Jimmy Bray told me between OU-Texas plays above the Joe’s bar. “I hate Alabama. It’s a Nick Saban thing.
“The way he whined 12 years ago to jump us to get in the national championship, that solidified it. He cried to the public. We lost at the last second (at Iowa State), he whined and everybody bought it.”
You hate Bama to the point you’d pull for the Sooners against them?
“Yeah,” he said. “I’d probably have to bite my tongue and root for OU.”
Be clear that Bray wasn’t rooting for the Sooners Saturday. He couldn’t go there, even though he’s known former OU offensive coordinator Chuck Long since growing up next door to him in Wheaton, Illinois.
Bray respects Bud Wilkinson and Bob Stoops, too. He just wasn’t cheering for their old team Saturday. That was an orange OSU polo he had on, not a crimson OU one.
I caught another fan in orange and black on my way out of Joe’s. He didn’t give his name but said something worth noting: “I don’t care who wins between OU and Texas. They’re still an Oklahoma university. Just as long as OSU wins in Bedlam. That’s what I care about.”
A reasonable way to end my surprisingly reasonable excursion across Stillwater on Red River game day. I was still thinking of Bobby Dee at the end, how I told him at one point, “Sounds like you just want to see a good game today.”
“There you go,” he said. “That’s what it is.”