Every fan in the world has a reason for following his favorite team. Sometimes it's proximity- being raised in D/FW, I became a Mavericks fan. Sometimes you like a player so much that his team becomes your team wherever he ends up- you're the man, L.T. Sometimes one of your buddies (or an enemy) cheers for one team, so just to be contrary you start cheering for the other- Anyone beating the Patriots is the start of a good day (How's it going, Anthony?). And sometimes, you're just born into it.
I suppose I was born into a lot of fandoms. Dad went to Maryland (go Terps) and UC Santa Cruz (go banana slugs!), my grandparents on his side both went to Michigan. Perhaps if I'd been raised in the midwest I'd be over at Maizenbrew, celebrating the hire of one of the only men whose facial expressions compare with our own beloved Gary Patterson's. However, my dad was never that interested in sports, and instead of being one of 110,000 parked inside a massive stadium every Saturday, I was born in north Texas, and my mom's side of the family brought me up in a way that was an absolute rarity at the time... I was born to be a TCU fan.
It may seem a bit odd nowadays, with Fort Worth finally seeming to adopt TCU as its own football team (a little bit of a step away from the behemoth sports empire that sits in Arlington, but is still called "Dallas") and a torrent of Bleacher Creatures running out on the field before every home game, but there was a time when being a TCU fan was a bit of an isolated experience. In the stadium every Saturday I would watch the games with a large family contingent and wander around in the bleachers (There never seemed to be a shortage of seats on the alumni side, so when the game got too much for my five year old attention span I'd run up and down the empty bleachers to the field), and in basketball season I'd head to DMC with my grandfather and we would celebrate that we were actually better than Texas A&M at something (most of the time). It didn't really sink in a lot of the time that we were losing a lot more than we were winning- I always had a blast at the games hanging out with my family, and frankly, most of the opponents we played tended to blend together, but with three notable exceptions- the team in all white, the team in rend and black and, most of all, those jerks in maroon. The team in all white was, of course, the Longhorns (Texas will always be the originator of the stormtrooper away uniform), and they'd come in and beat us- usually not badly, but by enough so that young Hawk knew that when they showed up it was trouble (when we beat them in '92 it was cathartic). The team with the red and black helmets was Texas Tech, who stuck out in my mind not for the simple fact that they were beating us pretty often, but rather, how they beat us- in some of the most inexplicable fashions. My earliest concrete sports memory is that we finally had the Raiders beaten, we had the lead, there were twenty something seconds left, they were done. And then they completed a hail mary on the last play to pull ahead, and I simply didn't know that was a thing that could happen. "We were winning for more of the game, though, so we won, right?" I asked as we walked back to the car- it turns out it didn't quite work that way. And then there were those folks in maroon, who would always stop my traipsing up the bleachers by actually being in those seats, with their weird always swaying, always standing, always kissing fans (I was 6 and it was really yucky) and their coach who was possibly the only man I ever remember my grandfather saying an unkind word about- Jackie Sherrill (My grandfather, the Disciples of Christ minister and twenty year employee of our great university's harshest words about anyone else were, "I wouldn't walk across the street to meet the man,"). Sherrill wasn't around at A&M long, but his teams were a lot better than ours, and he reveled in making sure everyone knew exactly how much better his teams were. What a jackass.
At any rate, despite being raised in North Texas, I didn't actually know any other kids who were fans of TCU until I moved to Fort Worth for high school- two of the neighbor kids had heard of TCU, but then they had the gall to say that BYU would beat TCU if they played anyway- which made the end of the TCU/BYU series so, so very satisfying (even though one of them ended up going to Utah State anyway.)- which was one of the most galling things I'd ever heard (despite not knowing what BYU was at the time). Then when I learned about the breakup of the SWC and the deal that would take away the team in all white and the spawn of Sherrill, but thanks to a bit of government intervention, a safe place was found for the team in red and black and... Baylor. It was amazing how quickly Baylor became a dirty word in the house, as the bears made their den in the cellar of the Big 12 south and didn't emerge until 2010, while TCU was forced to fend for itself in a weird new conference where we couldn't take a drive to see the road games anymore, and though I still went to most of the home games it just didn't feel the same- I was no longer even certain that we'd beat BYU if we played them- but then two things happened to rekindle my interest- we moved to Fort Worth, and I started to play football.
Even though I'd been in the stands for about a hundred TCU games at that point, I finally started to really understand and enjoy football in high school, because I was seeing TCU doing a lot of the same things that I was doing, and as a result I was fascinated watching the unique offense and defense that the Frogs put together when Fran came in- though the defense gave up far too many deep balls for my liking. I had suffered through a lot of miserable TCU games throughout the years, but now (even though I could still hop up and down through the bleachers) a lot more people were having fun in the stands, and our little TCU family was growing. When UTEP came to town in 2000, claiming that they'd bring enough fans to tear down our goalposts after they beat us for the conference championship, I was absolutely aghast- and when things started with an early interception and touchdown for the visitors, the "U-TEP" chants were louder than any that I'd heard for the Frogs in all of my years of attending games. Then we started to come back, we started to feed the ball to LT, and wouldn't you know it, the stadium started chanting right back at the visitors, first "L.T.", but then as the game rolled on and the Frogs kept putting up points it turned into "T-C-U". And when those goalposts came down to celebrate our WAC championship, I felt such an intense feeling of pride that it felt like I'd scored 47 points myself. It felt like we were home again, even though we'd never really left. It was a long road to get to the Big 12 from the WAC, but from that day on, I'm proud to say that I never stopped believing that we deserved it, and I never stopped believing that we'd beat the hell out of anyone if we'd only just play them. Especially BYU, Baylor and Texas A&M (and I was certainly right about the first two). Now if only we could get those standing, swaying, smooching aggies back in Fort Worth...