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Oklahoma Football, Traditions

It’s All About the Traditions.

Traditions are vital to any successful athletic program. Whether they are common events mixed with local flair, like homecoming, or unique and special just to that school, like Chief Osceola at Florida State hurling a spear at midfield while riding his horse Renegade, all traditions make the fans feel a part of the team and raises the spirits of fans and players alike before, during and after a game. Oklahoma’s traditions define the University of Oklahoma more than most people realize. The non-athletic traditions, like the feud between the engineering and law schools or the Spoonholder in the North Oval, adds to the entertainment of being an OU student. But this is about college football, and more specifically Sooner Football, and we need to acquaint the newly-christened Sooners (or Sooner sympathizers) with the traditions of the University of Oklahoma football program.

Because we are talking about football, we won’t be discussing how Top Dawg ever became a mascot at OU when the team name is Sooner and the logo is a Schooner, a mode of transportation pulled by horses and the only dog of worth in history was more than 50 years before the oddball mascot showed up.

Sooner

When someone asks for the definition of a Sooner, they get a history lesson whether they like it or not. How boring that lesson is depends on the person.

Shimko’s definition: Indian Territory was opened for white settlement after the expiration of the unspoken time when the United States would actually uphold a treaty with American Indians. In 1889, instead of traditional methods of taking over the tribal lands, the US Government decided to advertise the opening of the territory through a “land run.” Millions of acres of land was cordoned off for settlement beginning at noon on April 22nd. The gun shot would announce the opening of the land and people from all over the world rushed into the newly-opened territory to find their 160 acres and claim it as their own. These people were dubbed “boomers.”

The “sooners” were those who snuck into the land prior to the run, usually the night before, and claimed the best parcels of land without having to go through the same process as the boomers.

Boomer’s definition: Cheaters and thieves who stole land from the settlers who followed the rules.

Sooner Schooner

The Conestoga wagon was also known as a prairie schooner after the sailing version of schooner. This was how the Americans settled the lands west of the Mississippi River. Schooners were prominent in the land run, along with horse-back riders and unicycles, velocipedes, and just plain footwork.

The Sooner Schooner is a smaller version of these wagons pulled by two Shetland ponies. Introduced in 1964, it didn’t become the official mascot of the university until 1980. Managed by the RUF/NEKS, the wagon is white with crimson lettering on the canopy spelling out BOOMER SOONER. The Schooner Logo, however, spells out SOONERS (Enzee was kind enough to show us with the picture you see here).

Boomer and Sooner (live)

Boomer and Sooner are the names of the two Shetland ponies who pull the Sooner Schooner during football games. One of the most unusual penalties in college football occurred because of the Sooner Schooner the ponies.

In 1985 during the Orange Bowl against Washington, Oklahoma kicked a field goal to go up 17-14. However, a player failed to check in properly and OU was flagged for a five-yard penalty. This would’ve made the kick 27 yards instead of 22, which is still doable, but schooner was already on the field before anyone realized the kick was nullified. With the rain that had fallen earlier, the Miami field was muddy and the Schooner was stuck as Boomer and Sooner tried to pull the wagon off the field. This, too, would’ve been okay except they were stuck in front of the Washington bench. The refs called unsportsmanlike conduct on the mascot and the 27-yard kick turned into a 42-yard failed attempt. Oklahoma went on to lose, 28-17. Strange play, really.

Mex

Mex was an unofficial mascot for the school in the years of Bennie Owen. During the Mexican Revolution, an Army medic found the Boston terrier in Laredo, Texas, while tending to the wounded. After his service ended in 1914, Mott Keys moved to Hollis, Okla., attending Sooner football games with his dog in tow. Shortly afterwards, Keys accepted a job with the team as a medic. This meant Mex was no long just a fan, but a guard as he would roam the field, chasing stray dogs from the stadium on game day. His uniform included a red sweater with a white O on the side.

His popularity soared locally, but it was the road trip against Drake that brought national attention. When the team and boosters changed trains in Arkansas City, Kan., for the game, Mex was somehow left behind. Drake pummeled the Sooners, 28-0, and the Arkansas Daily Traveler wrote “Crushing Defeat of Bennie Owen’s Team is Charged to Loss of Their Mascot Here.” Some students found the terrier pacing the platform in Arkansas City and transported him to Stillwater for the matchup against Oklahoma A&M.

When Mex died in April 1928, the university closed for his funeral. Unlike Jimmy Hoffa, Mex is actually buried in a casket somewhere beneath Owen Field.

Little Red

You cannot acknowledge the good traditions without the bad. This one is definitely not a good tradition. Little Red, also known as Randy Palmer, was a fan who decided to show up to Sooner games wearing red tights, a breech cloth and a war bonnet. His first appearance in 1953 led to a continuous tradition as Palmer appeared in full regalia along the sidelines for every game. In 1970, J. Herbert Holloman banned Little Red from attending the games, stating it was an abomination to the American Indian (while Illinois got to keep Chief Illiniwek another 30 years). The student court issued a temporary restraining order against the mascot, an order Palmer ignored because a) he wasn’t a student anymore and b) the student court shouldn’t worry about athletic traditions and instead focus on other things. The fans continued to welcome Little Red’s appearances until Palmer was drafted in 1971, ending the only time where OU and OSU actually played Cowboys and Indians and the only time in history where the Indians won (save for the Custer’s little fiasco).

Boomer and Sooner (stupid)

Boomer and Sooner mascots are cool when they are real ponies. But when you fashion a horse costume getup like the ones on the Capitol One ads, you get into something just plain silly. The worst part, we were there and supported the concept when they were first proposed.

In early part of the 2000s, members of the Graduate Student Senate and Undergraduate Student Congress thought there were too many mascots for the different sports. Baseball had a baseball-shaped snowman who would roam the stands while basketball had Top Dawg. In an effort to unify the sports, and because the Schooner was typically prohibited from attending non-football sporting events, the student government leaders proposed to create one mascot that could attend all events. The description of the student government legislation included an example of two horse costumes that students could wear during these events. Boomer was there when the head of the GSS actually stated these were examples and not necessarily the actual mascots. He supported this venture because of the possibility the horse idea wouldn’t come to fruition. In 2005, much to our chagrin, two horse-costumed students trotted onto the field during the Big Red Rally to the mixed reaction of the students and fans.

Take a wild guess were we stand on this now.

Boomer Sooner

Boomer Sooner is the official fight song of OU. Arthur Alden “wrote” the tune in 1905. It is one of the most recognizable – and sometimes considered most annoying by non-OU fans – fight songs in college football. The lyrics are pretty easy to remember:

Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner
Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner
Boomer Sooner, Boomer Sooner
Boomer Sooner, OKU
Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Oklahoma, Oklahoma
Oklahoma, OKU

I’m a Sooner born and a Sooner bred
And when I die I’ll be a Sooner dead
Rah Oklahoma, Rah Oklahoma
Rah Oklahoma, OKU

There is some disagreement about whether the line should be I’ll be a Sooner dead” or “I’ll be Sooner dead.” The original lyrics had the article included, plus being “Sooner dead” sounds like you won’t live long because you are a Sooner.

The irony of this fight song is that it truly defines the original sooner spirit. Alden wrote the lyrics based on Yale’s Boola Boola for the first half of the song and I’m a Tar Heel Born from the University of North Carolina.

Here’s a little-known fact to impress your friends: In the movie Leatherheads, the last football game played precedes with a rousing rendition of Boomer Sooner. The only reason we know it is Boomer Sooner and not Boola Boola (which the director probably intended since Yale was a football powerhouse in movie’s time period) is because both halves are played in the song. You’re welcome.

O.K. Oklahoma

This little-known fight song was written by a guy who never attended the university. Fred Waring, host of various variety hours on radio in the 1930s (most famously the Chesterfield Hour), advertised on his program that his group, the Singing Pennsylvanians, would write a new fight song for any school that submitted enough signatures on a petition. Kid you not, this is how the song came to be. In December 1939, Waring’s show performed O.K. Oklahoma for the first time.

O.K. Oklahoma, K.O. the foe today.
We say O.K. Oklahoma, the Sooners know the way. ‘Ray!
S double-O-N-E-R-S! We’ll win today or miss our guess.
O.K. Oklahoma, K.O. the foe today.

We’ll march down the field with our heads held high,
Determined to win any battle we’re in,
We’ll fight with all our might for the Red and White.
March on, march on down the field for a victory is nigh.
You know we came to win the game for Oklahoma,
And so we will or know the reason why!

We’ll march down the field with our heads held high,
With ev’ry resource we’ll hold to the course,
And pledge our heart and soul to reach the goal.
March on, march on down the field as we sing the battle cry.
Dig in and fight for the Red and White of Oklahoma,
So we’ll take home a victory or die!

If you want to download and hear the original recording, Soonersports.com has a link, but because we want you to stay here, we’ve provided the link free of charge (it’s a steal!)

There are a lot of traditions that we need to cover. The original blog had more than 2,000 words and we hadn’t even touched the most-commonly asked question by non-OU folks; Why is the University of Oklahoma known as OU and not UO. We’ve been looking into this issue for a long time and have a couple of answers, but it’ll have to wait until next time. Until then,

Boomer Sooner!

(c) by zlékcie, llc and the Paparazzi. The Edmond kid can sing and he doesn’t make us hate music the way Justin Bieber does. We rue the day someone signed Bieber to a contract, just like we can’t stand that Ke$ha girl.

About Justin

Justin has many thoughts and opinions - and apparently one of them is not changing his name to something more interesting. From time to time, these opinions contradict each other, but that's okay. He's human, he's supposed to contradict himself. If we can elect leaders across the world who blatantly contradict themselves (praising them as they do it) then he can do the same on his blog.

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