Sports Illustrated NOVEMBER 11, 1963
ON FRIDAY MORNING, OCT. 11, A BRIGHT, warm Texas day, Elbert Joseph Coffman woke up with a squirrel in his stomach. In his good life as a football fan there had never been a weekend quite like this one. In the next 55 hours he was going to see three college games and one pro game, and the excitement of it, the bigness of the games, made him nervous. Nervous but delighted. Football to Joe Coffman, and thousands of other Texans, is as essential as air conditioning. It is what a Texan grows up with, feeds on, worships, follows, plays and, very often, dies with. Coffman, 32, married, father of two boys, businessman, University of Texas graduate, football enthusiast, was either going to live a lot this weekend or die a little.
The first game—SMU against Navy—would be played that evening in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, just 35 miles away from Coffman's home in Fort Worth. The next day he would go back to the same stadium to see the biggest one of them all, Oklahoma, ranked first in the country, against Texas, ranked second. He would drive to Waco (90 miles south) on Saturday night to watch Baylor against Arkansas. And on Sunday he would return to the Cotton Bowl to see the NFL's Dallas Cowboys play the Detroit Lions.
Coffman had been waiting months for this weekend, and as he prepared to leave home for his office at the business he owns, Terrell (medical and surgical) Supply Co. Inc., near downtown Fort Worth, the only thing that concerned him was whether everybody was as ready as he was. Everybody included Joe's wife, Mary Sue; another couple, Pat and Cecil A. Morgan Jr.; and the Coffmans' babysitter. "I'll tell you one thing, Mary Sue," said Joe. "We got to be suited up and ready to go by 5 o'clock. We're gonna be in Dallas by 6 or I'm gonna raise more hell than the alligators did when the pond went dry."
Joe Coffman is a modern Texan. This means that Mary Sue is a pretty, loving and understanding wife, that his sons Bobby, 6, and Larry, 4, are healthy and happy, that his business is successful, that his ranch-style home is comfortable, with all of the built-ins manufacturers sell these days, that he has a 1963 Oldsmobile Starfire and a ' 62 Impala (both convertibles), that his close friends are mostly the ones he grew up with or knew in high school and college. Being a modern Texan also means that Coffman might not recognize a cow pony if it were tied on a leash in his backyard, that he despises Stetson hats, that he likes cashmere sport coats, pin-collar shirts, Las Vegas, playing golf at Colonial Country Club, Barbra Streisand ("Think she can't sing?"), good food, good booze, Barry Goldwater and, more than anything else, the Texas Longhorns. And does he like those Longhorns!
THERE IS NO EASY WAY to reach the Cotton Bowl except to be dropped into it by helicopter. The stadium sits squarely in the middle of the Texas State Fairgrounds, and all roads lead in confusion from downtown Dallas. This week the fair was in full swing. Indeed, that was the reason for three games in three days. Complaining about the traffic and the parking at the Cotton Bowl is one of Dallas's favorite pastimes. It is not so amusing when one wants to make a kickoff.
Behind the wheel of his Starfire, Joe sighed, "Man, man. Only stadium in the whole world where you have to get here on Wednesday to make a Friday-night game."
By the time they had reached a parking place inside the fairgrounds and trudged through the dust of the carnival midway, with only one beer stop, and then reached their seats, the SMU-Navy game was five minutes old.
It soon became clear that SMU was in no mood to lose as easily as the spread (13 points) had suggested. In fact, by the start of the fourth quarter Joe and Cecil had become enraptured with SMU's blazing-fast sophomore, tailback John Roderick, whose running was exciting them more than the passing of Navy's Roger Staubach. Although there merely as impartial observers, saving their enthusiasm for the Longhorns, Joe and Cecil could not resist blending themselves into the madness of the occasion as SMU won rather miraculously, 32-28.
The Friday night before the annual Texas-OU game is a night that Dallas must brace for all year long. Even without another football game to further overcrowd the city, which considers itself a cultural oasis in a vast wilderness of oil workers' helmets and Levi's, the downtown area is declared off-limits by every sane person, cultured or not. Throngs of students and fans gather in the streets, whiskey bottles sail out of hotel windows, automobiles jam and collide, and the sound of sirens furnishes eerie background music to the unstill night. Joe Coffman skillfully managed to commit his group to a post-SMU-game party in the suburbs, where the status symbols are a lawn of Saint Augustine grass and a full-growing mimosa tree.