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Posted October 11th, 2013 under Personal View

Rivalry Excitement Turns to Adversity

Tags: A Charitable Life, Texas Longhorns, Oklaboma Sooners, University of Texas, Oklahoma University, Longhorns, Sooners, Kidney, TX, OU, TX-OU, Red River Rivalry Failure, Kidney Transplant, A Charitable Life

Rivalry Excitement Turns to Adversity

The second weekend of October has created a buildup of excitement for as long as I can remember.  Growing up in North Texas less than 15 miles from the Red River, which carves the border between Texas and Oklahoma as it flows, early October is always an exciting time where locals argue over their belief of the greatest college football team in the landAt times, the points of contention between these loyal fans can appear to be as muddy as the waters of the Red River as they discuss the finer points of the rivalry, over breakfast, at their local coffee shops to begin the days routine.  The rivalry has shown to have just as many twist and turns as the mighty Red River since the first game played between the two universities in 1900.  You can always find a “traitor” Texan that is loyal to the crimson and cream of OU.  It may be difficult to find an “Okie” that supports the burnt orange but they are out there too.

This game intertwined into my childhood that the first “friendly wager” I remember winning came from choosing the winning team of the 1985 TX-OU game.  The coach of my “age 6” soccer team, who had opposed my choice for victor, rewarded me with a coke.  The stakes of that wager were not high but I still remember the payout and my victory today.  Since those early days I have been fortunate to attend The University of Texas and experience most every Red River Shootout/Rivalry, in person, at the cotton bowl since 1997.  Even this week, at age 34, as I try to work and be productive, I can feel the excitement of Saturday’s game building.  Oklahoma is favored and this year Texas has shown few moments that would lead anyone without a burnt orange tinted view to believe that this game will be exciting for anyone but the “land thieves” from north of the Red River.  Even with lowered expectations my excitement builds and over the years, when I have had an opportunity, I have shared the experience of the TX-OU game with friends.

The second week of October two years ago, excitement build because a close friend (Steve) and his brother-in-law (BJ) decided to experience the state fair of Texas and all of the thrills that surround this single Saturday every fall with me.  These guys are diehard football fans just like me.  These Midwesterners grew up with a heavy dose of the traditions of Notre Dame Football.  They know and understand almost as much about college football as I do but they have been blinded by the Midwest and have little knowledge of rivalries outside of the winter snow covered states.

BJ landed in Austin on Thursday evening and we were slated to begin the 200 mile excursion north to Dallas no later than noon Friday.  Steve tried to convince me to go to the airport with him for BJ’s arrival so we could show him downtown Austin and start our weekend on Thursday night.  My many years of experience with TX-OU had taught me that I had better stay in and rest up so that I could make sure we were on the road on time Friday.  Unlike the small town farmers that I remember from my childhood, Steve, BJ, and I choose to discuss the finer points of rivalries and all things college football over cold beer instead of morning coffee and there would be plenty of beers once we arrived in Dallas.

As with most Friday mornings before the game, I awoke early and had things prepared to leave long before our noon departure time.  Around 9:30 I decided I would call the guys in the hope that I could get them moving a little early because each minute you wait to get on the road equates to another 10 minutes moving at a snail’s pace on I-35.  Not to my surprise, my first call resulted in me leaving a voicemail reminding Steve that we needed to be on the road ASAP.  An hour or so passed before I felt I needed to make my second attempt to get Steve and BJ moving, voicemail once again.  Now, as 11am approached, I decided the time had come to get Steve’s girlfriend on the case of motivating them to get moving.  No answer from Ashley either.  In the 5 minutes that it took Ashley to return my call, I had decided that Steve and BJ drank too much, one of them spent the night in jail, or something more outlandish had occurred and we would miss my proposed departure time for my favorite weekend of the year.

“Greg, this is Ashley.  I am at the emergency room with Steve” greeted me as upon sliding to answer my iPhone when I finally received a call from “Steve’s Cell.”  Instantly, stricken by the high level of anxiety and uneasiness in Ashley’s voice, I felt the punch of reality in my stomach as I realized that something much more serious than being late for a football game had entered all of our lives.  Steve’s diagnosis of kidney failure came on the morning of Friday, October 7th 2011.  Instead of leaving for Dallas, he began his fight that has led us to where we are today, one year beyond Steve receiving the gift of a healthy kidney and a renewed healthy lifestyle from his cousin.  In these two short years, I have seen a giant of a man crippled by kidney disease and dialysis but maintain the resolve to stay the course and emerge from his greatest moment of adversity a stronger man, both physically and spiritually.  I have witnessed a selfless act by Steve’s cousin allowing him to get back to a healthy and happy lifestyle.  I have seen Steve and Ashley fulfill one of their life’s dreams by being married this May and I have seen the two of them be guided to the realization that we are not guaranteed a certain number of football seasons on this earth and we had better take advantage of every opportunity that arises to both experience life and to help those around us that may need a helping hand.  

This year I am thankful to be able to take in another TX-OU game and all of the excitement that accompanies it.  While I still feel the excitement and I will have goose bumps as I sing “The Eyes of Texas” with my horns up before kickoff my true excitement grows from my opportunity to work with Steve and Ashley to drive kidney awareness and assist those in need as we enjoy one football season at a time and use our lives to help better those around us in the hopes that every day we can BE THE GOOD and live A Charitable Life.

Hook ‘Em,

Greg Talley

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