In enemy territory: A Sun Devil's experience at Texas A&M's Midnight Yell
Remember this summer's blockbuster, Mad Max: Fury Road? Near the beginning of the movie, citizens in a post-apocalyptic desert city congregate beneath their warlord leader hoping to receive water.
Amidst chaos, a yell breaks out: "Beat-The-Hell-Out-Of-Arizona-State!" The town pounds its shoulders and fists. Again: "Beat-The-Hell-Out-Of-Arizona-State!" For good measure, they repeat it three more times.
Did those get mixed up? Sorry if it's difficult to differentiate between Texas A&M's "Midnight Yell" tradition and a scene from Mad Max. While the people of Mad Max gathered in a barren wasteland, this sea of maroon took place outside a shopping center in southeast Texas.
Because of the Aggies' neutral site game against ASU, the "Midnight Yell" didn't take place in the customary Kyle Field venue, where crowds regularly exceed 30,000. Instead, it drew about a tenth of that at Houston City Centre. Still, an intimidating amount of Aggie maroon, Texas drawls and nonsensical chanting filled the local shopping mall.
This is, of course, coming from the perspective of a student at a Pac-12 school with little tradition and no memorable rituals—certainly nothing to this extent. If, say, I had attended Fish Camp like practically other maniacal audience member, I'm sure this would have been less Mad Max and more Friday Night Lights.
An optional but necessary camp for freshmen prior to the start of school, Fish Camp teaches A&M's newest members every storied Aggie chant and tradition.
Having never attended, I stuck out like, well, a Sun Devil in Aggieland. When the two-story booster bus, topped with Yell Leaders (there are no cheerleaders at A&M — only yell leaders, who are elected by the student body) arrived, it prompted a large "whoop!" from the crowd.
Not everybody can 'whoop.' Whooping is a highly exclusive privilege only afforded to juniors and above. An underclassman whoops, and God knows what happens.
Opposite of whooping—the 12th Man's positive reaction—is hissing. Similar to the reasoning behind "howdy!" being the official greeting of Texas A&M (it's the self-proclaimed friendliest university in the nation, something I can attest to), Aggies fans hiss like a snake, rather than boo, out of respect (though Saturday night's game delivered a mixture of boos and hisses).
Lo and behold, nobody hissed at me Friday, despite my best efforts to incite a reaction with a lone "Forks Up!" early on after I 'misinterpreted' a call from the yell leaders. I dressed in neutral clothing, partially as an act of journalistic objectivity but also as a safety precaution.
Such was probably for the best when the yell leaders—intermixed between folk tales, chants and songs—started disparaging the Arizona State University. The jokes weren't always accurate:
The only worse thing than the team's records are the players' arrest records. Probably not the ideal topic to spoof for a school that returns "The 2014 Texas A&M football arrests tracker" from a standard Google search. (For the record, the number was seven.) During Todd Graham's tenure as ASU head coach, only two players have been arrested, one of which never suited up for the team.
What do Sun Devils do when they reach the College Football Playoff? Turn off the Xbox! Two problems: 1) The last NCAA Football game released came prior to the College Football Playoff, and 2) If A&M can make this joke toward ASU, doesn't than mean ASU can make the same joke back?
What's the best part of Arizona State? Diploma Mill Avenue! OK, you got me here. Good pun, Aggies. Mill Ave is a popular nightlife strip in Tempe. And at this point, ASU acceptance rate jokes don't need any explanation.
Just had to clear those up, even if A&M's traditions off the field blow ASU's out of the water. Thanks for having me, Aggies: It was an experience unlike anything in the southwest.