The Righteous Path by Drive-by Truckers. (N.B. OK, running out of steam a bit (music-wise) as the year winds down. I’m currently winnowing out the best (lets be serious, my favorite) songs and albums of the year. Let me know what I’ve missed. Tell me what you’re listening to (email or leave a comment)). This song is from the DBT album Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (oh, and mandatory “Everyone In America Should Be Listening to Drive-By Truckers”) which kind of shockingly is becoming my favorite DBT album. Shockingly because it’s the first album after they parted ways with Jason Isbell, one third of the singing/songwriting triumvirate that made their post 2000 albums so masterful. They replaced his uneqal third of singing/songwriting duties with his ex-girlfriend, Shonna Tucker. Well, and that’s just kind of funny. This song, The Righteous Path, written and sung by Patterson Hood, has the line “I don’t know God, but I fear his wrath.” This perfectly describes how I feel about karma.
There is a theological definition of Karma as it relates to or is present in a portion of the religions of India. While I understand that the concept of Karma (and I guess even the word) was born of that, this is not exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about good old fashion “you do bad shit or scandalous shit, it’s gonna come back on ya.” That, I do believe. I fear it’s wrath. But I don’t know it, because I’ve spent the better part of the last twenty years avoiding it. Dodging Karma. Last saturday was to be my comeuppance.
Every year, some variation of my dad, my brothers, assorted friends, sometimes wives, and I take a road trip to a Sooner football game. I’ve been north and south and to both coasts watching the Sooners. And I can say, without hesitation, Sooner fans are the absolute worst in the entire country (clearly excluding Texas fans). Snotty, obnoxious, drunk, self-important, classless. And all of those adjectives can be used to describe me, my entire eight years of college and several years after as they relate to my sooner fan-dom. I’ve tried in recent years to reform my act beginning with graciousness and buying other fans beers, etc. I’m coming along but don’t hold your breath.
So that’s how I found myself last Saturday, College Station, TX. While I’ve always (through the haze of being an asshole Sooner) found Texas A & M University fans (“TAMUs”) to be weird, with the dog and the pretend military shit, the whoops, these guys, and the swords, I’ve always kind of lumped them in with the “classier” fans (Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma State (love you, wife)). Prolly I still do. And their band is pretty cool.
Saturday afternoon prior to the game, you can assume my state. I was, as those who have been to football games with me can attest, fired up. Prior kick-off I separated myself from the rest of the group to find a men’s room. I emerged successful and begin to determine where I was to be sitting in the massive place. My assumption is that our seats are in one of the far corners of the stadium as that is normally where the seats my dad purchases through the university are located. Kyle field runs north west to south east (which I find a little weird). So I am at the east corner and am finally instructed by ushers to the point that I’m certain my seat is on the south corner. I begin a march across the south east end of the stadium and the regalia of the pre-game “stuff” begins to pulsate, the band, the cheering, the whoops. Focused on getting to my seat, I slowly realize that I’m really surrounded by all this TAMU. This is not overly weird, as I am at their stadium, but normally Sooner fans travel well enough that, unless I’ve stumbled into a some alumni tailgate (which I’ve done before and it was a wreck) I can always find a few fellow Sooners. But now I’m essentially alone yet determined to make it to my seat through this crowd of TAMU. Then a line of security impedes me followed by a line of portable barricades. I can’t process what’s happening. Finally I see some maroon Polo’d and kakhi’d and fanny pack’d kids (the training staff) running behind the barricade that is now fully formed and I realize I’m standing on the opposite side of where I need to be to get to my seat. Between my seat and I is the path by which the entire TAMU Team, band, the collie, the coaches, the cheerleaders, the whoop-guys, the sword guys and pretty much every other participant in the creepy TAMU game day scene will make their way to the field. My options are (1) to walk all the way around the stadium or (2) wait and see what trouble my mouth may cause. This decision is the first in a total of 8 mistakes I make. I denote the remainder of them in parenthesis below.
The swords come out first and line both sides of the path. The the National Anthem begins and I am extra careful to find the flag and stand at attention lest I also be accused of being a godless america hating liberal in addition to a dirty a Sooner by this throng of TAMU uber-patriots. The NA ends and I turn back toward the barricade and observe the sword guys still at attention (but not perfect attention, mind you. Kind of a giggly grabassy attention which, to me, at that moment belied the enitre military mystique TAMU tries to force feed you.) Aparently they were continuing their “salute” to the flag of Texas to the Texas National Anthem (or whatever). I’m uninterested in doing this. So (2) I purposely refuse to turn and even look at the Lone Star Flag. Then I’m approached my a woman in a Sooner shirt who apparently has noticed my disdain, and (3) I assume she’s “with me.” She is standing next to a couple dirt heads, whom my memory only attributes Kenny Powersish looks and features to, and another taller slightly older woman, all in their mid to late 30s. The Sooner girl leans over to me in the middle of the reverence for the anthem and asks if I know the words to which I respond (4) “I could really give a fuck about Texas” maybe louder than I should have. She giggles and responds “me too, I’m from Shawnee.” Good, an ally. More pre-game dorkiness ensues with she and I exchanging eye rolls at appropriate times. However, more and more, I get the suspicion that the two dirt heads (the “KPs”) and the other chick are “monitoring” our actions. But in my mind, compared to my past indiscretions, (5) I’m being positively respectful of their traditions, reverent even. As TAMU begins their walk toward the stadium, my ally looks back at me and (6) I give a thumbs down and stick out my tongue. Immediately the other girl is in my face, poking me in the chest and saying “you need to show more respect, buddy.” I’m unsure, given that her friend and I are now buddies, if she’s serious. (7) So I begin to laugh. One of the KPs comes from the other direction and says “why don’t you take your shit somewhere else, pal” with that Ron Artest / Randy Moss crazy detached look in eyes that results in immediate thoughts to transition from drunken Sooner fan to reasonable-negotiation-lawyer.
Me: “Buddy, my seat’s right over there. I didn’t come down here to talk shit.” KP: “I heard what you said about Texas, so just get the fuck out of here.” Girl: “He was being an asshole the entire time.” Me: “I’m just trying to get me seat, man.” Cautiously, I look over his shoulder for my ally. She’s a ghost. Him (now flanked by the other KP, equally enraged): “Just get the fuck out of here, show some respect.” Me (8): “Respect for what? It’s a fucking football game.” The KPs look at each other and I realize that if I’m going to get out there, now is the time. They are as mad as I’ve seen anyone at me in years, maybe ever. They are both dripping with the expectation of the pleasure they will receive by thumping me. Then, I realize (1) I’m not leaving (and, I must admit, was a little proud of myself for it); and (2) this was about to happen. Karma was girding up and about to exact her revenge for every ass-hole thing I’d every drunkenly screamed at kids wearing K-State clothes; for every chant of “poor aggies;” for every fat kid I’d ever laughed at; for every girl I’d ever made feel like shit; for every drunken drive home where I faded the heat; for every time I was sitting in the passenger seat when the driver hadn’t faded it; for every time I’d ever laughed at Duncan for being old; or Travis for being bald; or Ford for being broke. This was truly to be my comeuppance. And I felt strangely calm, like all was right in the universe because I was about to be a 32 year old married man who got pummeled by couple of weirdo Texas proto-fascists for his unchecked alcohol-fueled mouth. It just seemed right and I was taking weird comfort in that.
Then what else could happen? A cotton haired old-man in a TAMU pull over stepped between us and told the guys to chill out and to mind their own business. Then he looked back at me…….apologetically. And that was it. The pep-rally broke up. The KPs went on their way. The Sooners lost, deservedly. And I still owe a debt karma and I still fear her wrath. Enjoy