Saturday, November 20, 2010

Grand Funk Railroad -- "Nothing Is The Same" (1970)

Opportunity only knocks once
If you shut it out it's a sin
And when something keeps right on poundin',
Then, my friend, you'd better let it in

So does opportunity only knock once? Or does it "keep on poundin'"? More importantly, why am I trying to analyze Grand Funk Railroad lyrics like I'm writing a college English paper? To quote King Lear,

O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.

I second that emotion.

Part Three -- Aggie Jokes
If you're going to properly understand the context of the Rice-Texas A&M football game I'm going to be writing about in my next several posts, you need to know about the differences in the cultures of those two universities. You also need to know about Aggie jokes.

As you probably know, "Aggies" is a nickname that is sometimes applied to the athletic teams (or the student body generally) at land-grant colleges west of the Mississippi -- the public universities that were founded primarily to teach agricultural science and other practical subjects. The names of some of those colleges included "A&M," which stood for "agricultural and mechanical." (Many of those schools have replaced "A&M" with "State" as the proportion of their agriculture majors has waned -- for example, the land-grant college founded as Oklahoma A&M is now known as Oklahoma State.)

Stamp commemorating first land-grant colleges

Utah State, New Mexico State, and the University of California at Davis are among the colleges whose athletic teams are still nicknamed the "Aggies." But when most people think of Aggies -- especially people in Texas -- they think of Texas A&M.

Texas A&M -- the first public institution of higher education in the state of Texas -- was established in 1871 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. It is located in a small city in central Texas.

In 1963, the Texas Legislature renamed the school Texas A&M University -- but like Harry S. Truman's middle initial, the A&M didn't stand for anything.

A&M is no longer primarily an agricultural college, although its 48,000-plus students (it is the 7th-largest university in the United States) include quite a few agriculture students and its veterinary school educates many large-animal practitioners. Today A&M has many more students studying engineering than the agricultural sciences, and also has thousands of education and business majors.

But back in 1973, things were a bit different. Most Aggies cames from farms or small Texas towns. They were viewed as unsophisticated and a bit gullible.

Also, A&M was founded not only as an agricultural school, but also as a military school. Originally all A&M students were male, and were required to join the Corps of Cadets and take military training. Given A&M's military traditions, it's not surprising that there was little antiwar sentiment among A&M students, who tended to be politically conservative and religious. 

In contrast to Texas A&M, Rice is a small private university -- fewer than 2500 undergraduates in 1973 – and is located in the biggest city in Texas.

It was (and remains) the most selective university in the state. About half the students came from out of state, and most were from urban or suburban areas. (Most of the Texas natives I knew at Rice were from big suburban high schools in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin -- very few farm kids ended up at Rice.)

Rice kids were smart, and they knew it.  Even our mascot -- the owl -- is smart.  (Note the three owls on the picture of the Rice academic seal to the left.  Owls are closely associated with the Greek goddess of wisdom and learning, Athena.)  

Even our football cheers were highly intellectual, like this one, which my college girlfriend (who was a math and computer science major) had to explain to me: "Secant, tangent, cosine, sine, three point one four one five nine -- Goooooooo Rice!"  For English majors like me, there was "Repel them, repel them, make them relinquish the ball!"

However, the funniest football cheer I ever heard was not one of ours, but one directed at us by University of Texas students: "What comes out of a Chinaman's ass? Rice, Rice, RICE!"

In the early 1970's, Rice had its fair share of long-haired, dope-smoking, left-wingers. We couldn't have held a candle to Cal-Berkeley or Columbia when it came to student radicalism, but we did pretty well considering we were located in Texas.

A&M band members
If I had to pick something that illustrated the differences between Rice and A&M, I would pick their marching bands. The bands that performed at the 1973 Rice-A&M football game -- the Rice Marching Owl Band (or the "MOB") and the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band – could hardly have been more different. (I'll have much more to say about the bands in the next two posts in this series.)

When I was a kid growing up in Missouri, "Polack" jokes -- ethnic jokes that made fun of Poles, who were always portrayed as unbelievably stupid in these jokes -- were very popular.

First Polish guy: Have you heard the latest knock knock joke?

Second Polish guy: No.

First Polish guy: Say "knock knock."

Second Polish guy: Knock knock.

First Polish guy: Who's there?

Aggie joke book
Substitute "Aggie" for "Polish guy" and you've got an Aggie joke. In Texas, people didn't tell Polack jokes -- they told Aggie jokes.

Most Aggie jokes play off of their supposed naivete and crudeness. For example:

First man: I bet you're an Aggie, aren't you?

Second man: Yes, I am an Aggie. How did you know?

First man: I saw your class ring when you were picking your nose.

I could tell some more Aggie jokes, but nearly all of them involve one or more Aggies having sex with one or more farm animals, so I think it's best to stop right here.

OK, OK, I guess it wouldn't do any harm to tell one Aggie-with-a-sheep joke . . . 

An Aggie walks into his and his wife's bedroom leading a sheep on a leash.

Aggie husband: Honey, this is the fat cow I make love to when you have a headache.

Aggie's wife: If you weren't such a moron, you'd know that's a sheep, not a cow.

Aggie husband:  I was talking to the sheep. 

I haven't lived in Texas for a very long time, and I don't know if people still tell Aggie jokes. Aggie jokes don't make a lot of sense these days -- Texas A&M is not populated by clumsy rubes any more, and Aggie jokes don't really work for female Aggies (of whom there are now many), or Aggies who are majoring in engineering or business.

Here's Grand Funk's "Nothing is The Same."  After you listen to it, click here to go to the next post in this series.

Here's a link you can use to buy the song from iTunes:

Nothing Is the Same - Grand Funk Remasters: Closer to Home

Here's a link to use if you prefer Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment