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It's a big game for Texas against Alabama, but Austin is bigger – The Washington Post

AUSTIN — Has the comeuppance of 12 mediocre football seasons dulled the psyche around here? Has the cascade of defeats lent a sense of self-pity to this town as eternal No. 1 Alabama heads to town for this biggie-big-big game of Saturday late morning? Is there dread that Alabama’s visit will foreshadow upcoming life in the SEC?
Hell, no!
Are you kidding?
This is Austin.
Austin as a college football town has grown more like Los Angeles as a college football town, even if it’s not as indifferent during the down years and not just because about half of Los Angeles up and moved to Austin. It has gotten far too big, varied and authentic to have any football game engulf it. Losing can’t consume it, even if losing can start to gobble up hope.
Roam the burgeoning burg this week, and it’s plausible to come across zero mentions of Alabama coming to town, unless you want to count the little sign on the sidewalk outside the Co-Op bookstore on Guadalupe, which points out that Texas leads the all-time series 7-1 while not pointing out that, since Alabama got the “1” at the BCS national championship game of January 2010, Alabama has lost 17 times overall, Texas 67.
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Over in one corner of the city at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, the team drilled on the field Monday while university employees directed visiting media to refrain from gawking through the ninth-floor windows before the weekly news conference.
Texas remains a football experiment worthy of graduate-school dissertations: How can this many resources yield this few wins (83) over this many years (12)? But some of the talk this week concerned how, during the opening win over Louisiana Monroe on Saturday night, new quarterback Quinn Ewers’s car got towed. Second-year coach Steve Sarkisian (6-7 overall), formerly Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama, said Ewers should park where he’s supposed to park, thus bucking decades of American custom, which long has held that quarterbacks should park wherever the hell they wish.
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In a signal of the name, image and likeness era, Chip Brown of 247Sports asked Ewers which of his cars got towed, bringing Ewers to a momentary pause.
“My car,” he said, and everybody laughed.
The campus buzzes in the mornings right about now, but with its 52,000, doesn’t it always? Austin long has had the music, but by this point in history the Austin Chronicle listed 77 music events for Thursday, 118 for Friday and 130 for Saturday, everybody from Stereolab to the Killers to the Genders, the Electron Donors, Damn Tall Buildings and Johnny Nicholas & the Hidden Charms. The food-truck parks always do seem intent on multiplying across the land, not a bad idea all told. The world’s foremost urban bat colony keeps thriving under Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, and people still come to see hundreds of thousands of Mexican free-tailed bats fly east in their great droves in evenings, even if doing so can earn the odd $87 parking ticket.
Austin, a mass celebration of either eccentricity or what’s deemed eccentricity by intolerant others, remains the city where you’re most likely to go to the treasured Barton Springs swimming hole on a hot afternoon and come across a guy with grand tattoos and enviable muscles and bright-blue toenail polish.
Over at the football, Sarkisian answers questions, beginning with the topic of whether opponents can get too enamored of Alabama to function properly, and the flawed one-liners almost write themselves.
“I think the biggest thing for us is: be enamored with us.”
Hasn’t that been one of the problems?
“There’s definitely going to be some cat-and-mouse going on,” even with the game-planning finished three months ago.
Some would say it’s more lion-and-prey.
“Our vertical passing game’s got to come to life, which I believe it will.”
Given those linebackers on the other side, there’s also a reasonable chance of a lot of horizontal.
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Austin FC, of Major League Soccer, the first pro team in what used to be the biggest city in the country without one, won’t be home this weekend: It will play in Seattle. But there’s everything else: poetry readings, a block party with Houston hip-hop artist Fat Tony and many others, art everywhere, the preview of Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light” at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, with its 28,000 solar-powered fiber-optic light pods.
In this serendipity capital, you might walk around thinking about football and end up wandering into a day-making exhibit such as photographer Laura Wilson’s “The Writers,” depicting her visits to 38 famed writers of 10 nationalities (Gabriel García Márquez, Margaret Atwood, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sam Shepard among them). There’s too much around here to let glumness hush the football town the way it happens in other places: too much construction and construction and construction, too much tech, too much cycling, too many rentable kayaks, too many racks for parking bicycles and electric scooters to share.
Over at the football, the 5-7 season last year with its six-game losing streak and its thudding loss to Kansas at home helped plunge Texas into a three-touchdown underdog. That might help.
For one thing, it’s a three-touchdown underdog with a sellout after a season in which attendances stayed over 90,000 for the first five home games but dropped to 75,072 for the closer on the Friday after Thanksgiving against Kansas State. Capacity is 100,119.
For another thing, it’s a rare posture for Texas and its customary haughtiness occasionally earned. It has been a long time since Alabama beat Texas, 37-21, for Saban’s first Alabama national title, a game ruined when quarterback Colt McCoy got hurt on Texas’s fifth offensive play, and Texas has had four head coaches since then — and Alabama, well, one.
Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman asked Ewers whether he ever has played a game as such a substantial underdog, especially seeing as how Ewers stopped by for last year at titan Ohio State. Ewers, who has a steer tattoo on his thigh, a Bible-verse tattoo on his arm and a mullet on his head, mulled it for a bit and said, “Maybe not my first time.”
He suggested that at Carroll High near Dallas, itself a titan, he might have been an underdog against, say, Duncanville, but it’s hard to say Duncanville would be that much of a favorite over Carroll in Vegas.
An alleged big game will play here Saturday at 11 a.m. local time under the sunspot-hot sun, meaning it’s too bad none of Austin’s excellent trees will shade the field — and maybe also shield the locals from what goes on out there. The bars on Sixth Street and maybe even other streets will fill and rumble. People at Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis won’t be wearing any Texas gear, if only because they don’t wear anything at all.
Big brands-wise, though, any game between Alabama and Texas should be big enough for its own T-shirt, and there are Alabama-Texas T-shirts — “Everything Is Bigger In Texas,” one says at the bottom, just beneath the two competing helmets — but they don’t shout from the storefronts as they might in a smaller town, and they aren’t dominant, partly because the only thing dominant here is human energy.
This is Austin. It’s an old story by now, but: Traffic’s bad.


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