Then we headed in to San Antonio for the main event. Whenever Texas A&M plays in the Alamo City, there's a Corps trip, with all 2,000 or so CTs marching through downtown on Dolorosa Street. Since they were playing Army, the cadets from West Point had their own, smaller version of a Corps trip as well. First up: The West Point band.
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by the Army band. It was small--tiny, in fact, when compared to the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band, or any of the Big 12 "show bands." And more than a few of the band members were obviously not students, which struck me as odd, being the dyed-in-the-wool fan of the college game that I am. But at halftime, they had a female staff sergeant who went into serious Aretha Franklin mode for killer renditions of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "America the Beautiful." That rocked.
After the band came the Army cadets. There was a color guard, and a handful of platoons, or ranks, or whatever the official nomenclature is. I was impressed with how many West Pointers made the trip. The crowds lining the street were overwhelmingly Aggies--you can tell by the sea of maroon--but I was surprised by the number of black-and-gold Army supporters as well. All of the cadets got big cheers from the crowd, though. Then a troup of active-duty soldiers from Fort Hood came marching through, which got a big reaction from the crowd.
After the Fort Hood soldiers came the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band. And really, what can I say that hasn't already been said? I love these guys. Their marching drills were particularly intricate at halftime, and they did some things I don't think I've ever seen before. They also botched one move and their straight lines fell into a jumble about halfway through, but the recovery was quick and impressive. A bunch of Army fans sitting beside be applauded enthusiastically when the Army band performed, but they all pulled out their camera phones to take pictures when the Aggie Band was on the field. Of course, my family was enjoying the show as well.
Parson's Mounted Cavalry came next--can't have a parade without horses, can you?--followed by the A&M howitzer (which I did not get a good shot of) and the mule-drawn ammo wagon. And for those of you wondering, neither A&M nor Army fired their cannons inside the Alamodome after scoring. Thank goodness!
And with horses, there comes the inevitable clean-up detail at the end. Right after this pic, a horse left its calling card on the pavement, and the CTs sprang into action. Unfortunately, I had a bad angle and was unable to get a clear shot of the infamous, orange-painted "t.u." wheelbarrow the horse droppings are shoveled into.
With the parade over, we headed down the street to El Mercado, and had dinner at the famous Mi Tierra restaurant. The wait was 45 minutes, and we were starving, but managed to survive. I ordered the Michoacan and boy, was I pleasantly surprised! Very, very good flavor. Highly recommended. We then headed back the other direction to the Alamodome, and passed a bagpiper busking on a plaza above the Riverwalk. This guy's been around for years--I always find his piping somewhat incongruous amidst all the mariachis and Latino flavor--so I finally siezed the opportunity and took his picture. After that, we walked under I-35 with 65,000 other people, waited in line forever to enter the stadium, then took our seats. I've said it before and I'll say it again--the Alamodome is a gorgeous place to watch a football game. There's not a bad sight line in the place. My kids tend to agree with me.
As for the game itself? Well, Army came to play. The A&M sidelines were thoroughly out-coached. It got pretty hairy there for a while. By the third quarter, drunks were stumbling up and down the aisles, making me thankful that beer isn't served at Kyle Field. The Army fans struck me as polite and respectful, and the Aggie fans generally seemed approving of all things Army except the possibility of an upset. I saw a number of A&M shirts with the famous Patton quote on it, but not nearly as many as I was expecting. All our kids were asleep by the end of the third quarter, so Lisa and I had the parental privilege of carrying Orion and Keela back to the car. Calista, being the eldest, was SOL and had to walk on her own. But it was the first time the entire family went to a game together, and day-after reports from the girls give it high marks all around. We'll have to do it again some time.
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