cover image Backyard Brawl: Inside the Blood Feud Between Texas and Texas A & M

Backyard Brawl: Inside the Blood Feud Between Texas and Texas A & M

W. K. Stratton, Kip Stratton. Crown Publishers, $24.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-609-61053-4

This chronicle of the 2001 football season's battle between the University of Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies is a capsule history of America's biggest, baddest state and its obsession with America's biggest, baddest sport. Each year, the schools' football teams look forward to their annual showdown, which always takes place on Thanksgiving weekend. As Stratton makes clear, UT is on top of the Texas hierarchy: the Longhorns, benefiting from the largess of one of the most economically and politically powerful constituencies in the country, are symbolic of privileged, liberal entitlement, while 90 miles up the highway, the A&M Aggies are proud of their past as a former military school and look to tradition and hard work as their guides through life. With neither team boasting a spectacular 2001 record and the September 11 attacks overshadowing the season, Stratton's attention periodically wanders up into the stands, where he uncovers telling anecdotes that explain how each school got its reputation. He also has a lot of fun traveling across the state week to week, from tailgate parties in Austin to midnight ""yells"" at A&M, and from the Texas State Fair in Dallas to the excitement of all those ball games. Like B.H. Bissinger's seminal look at Texas high school football, Friday Night Lights, Stratton's volume is a must read for any serious fan of Texas football. For everyone else, it's entertaining and engaging look at the minutiae of football-mad America.