TEXAS FIGHT?

OU's bad-boy quarterback uses Heisman win to disrespect University of Texas

OU's Baker Mayfield — an Austin native by the way — throws shade in front of Wall Street's "Charging Bull." University of Oklahoma/Twitter

Originally appeared on CultureMap/Austin.

University of Texas football fans now have even more of a reason to curse University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Visiting New York City over the weekend for the Heisman Trophy ceremony (he ran away with college football’s most prestigious honor), Mayfield just couldn’t resist flashing the derogatory “Horns Down” gesture — the upside-down version of the “Horns Up” gesture — next to the iconic bull statue on Wall Street. The Twitter account for OU football proudly blasted out a photo of Mayfield’s Longhorn diss.

Mayfield, an Austin native who graduated from Lake Travis High School, is no stranger to antagonizing UT football (or, for that matter, any other football rival). For instance, Mayfield trolled UT quarterback Sam Ehlinger in October, pointing out that Ehlinger’s Westlake High School Chaparrals failed to beat the Lake Travis Cavaliers during the UT QB’s tenure at Westlake.

As any burnt orange-blooded Longhorns fan knows, the “Horns Down” sign is an affront — especially when it’s flaunted by the QB at evil OU. “The ‘Horns Down’ is disrespectful,” Mack Brown, then UT’s head football coach, complained in 2012.

Let us not forget that Mayfield holds a Heisman-size grudge against Brown. The coach bypassed Mayfield when the QB sought to join the Longhorns as a walk-on.

Mayfield tossed a bit of a verbal “Horns Down” in his Heisman acceptance speech, too.

“Although I grew up in Austin, Texas, I was always Sooner born and Sooner bred. When I die, I’ll be Sooner dead,” Mayfield said. “I truly mean that. It’s been a dream for me. It’s an honor to get to represent my school.”

On the Baker Mayfield scale of trash talk, that was a pretty subtle dig from a guy who loves needling his enemies. As Sports Illustrated noted in November, Mayfield “delights in disrespect.”

“I think I was truly born to thrive in hostile environments,” the OU bad boy told the magazine. “I find it fun to have a little back-and-forth conversation with the opposing fan base.”

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Texans vs. Vikings could have fans in attendance. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Houston Texans say it's time that fans were allowed to cheer on the home team at NRG Stadium. On Thursday, the team announced extensive safety protocols that would put 15,000 fans in the stands for the Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 4.

While the Texans are awaiting permission from city and county officials to host a limited number of fans - socially distant and wearing masks – no plans have been announced how much tickets will cost, and who'll have the opportunity to buy them.

You have to love the free enterprise system: hundreds of tickets for the Oct. 4 game already are on sale on secondary market websites. Lower bowl tickets are going for $800 and up. If you don't mind sitting in the nose bleeds, tickets can be had for around $250.

So the question becomes, if you had the chance, would you attend the Texans game in early October? The tickets are big bucks, and there is a whammy – COVID-19. While the rate of COVID-19 infections is on the decline in Houston, the virus remains a major factor in our daily lives, and there's no guarantee that the pandemic won't spike here again.

Here's the rub, at least for me. Of all the sports we have in Houston, a Texans game might be lowest on my wish list of attending in person. Television does NFL games the best. There are dozens of cameras, so when a receiver catches a pass on the sidelines, we get several views, in slow motion even, to see if the receiver's feet were in bounds. We can almost feel the crunch of a quarterback sack. We get highlights of other games. You don't have to sit next to a face painter like David Puddy.

The NFL is a made-for-TV production. Which is, I suspect, part of the reason the Texans rarely open the roof at NRG Stadium. With the roof closed, the field becomes a controlled TV studio, with no worries of weather pranks.

Television doesn't do basketball or baseball nearly as well. Conversely, the experience of attending those games is terrific fun. What beats eating a couple of dogs at an Astros game? Is there even a traditional food at NFL or NBA games?

The Texans promise that strict safety rules will be enforced. And I believe them. Fans will be scattered over the 67,000-seat stadium. I'm not sure how much of a home field advantage that will be. Most of the crowd noise will come from pre-recorded tapes.

Here's one worry. Sure fans will sit apart and socially distanced. But what will happen when the game is over? Will fans file out in orderly, non-contagious single file? I flew Southwest a few weeks ago. The airline makes a big deal – we don't sell the middle seat. Passengers kept their distance during the flight. When the landed, you know how it is, everybody got up and piled into the aisle, shoulder to shoulder for several minutes.

What will happen if some goofball takes off his/her mask during the Texans game? Will there be enough security to handle each case?

Baseball is planning to have some fans attend post-season games at Minute Maid Park next month. UH Cougars, the Dynamo and Dash are playing in front of small crowds. It remains to be seen how safe – or how risky – allowing fans at sports events will be.

Will parents let their kids attend? Is waiting for a vaccine the smart play? If President Trump is right, that could be only a matter of weeks away. If scientists and doctors are right, nestle in for pandemic life another year. Even if scientists do come up with a vaccine, how many Americans will roll up their sleeve? Some believe, in the case of COVID-19, the cure may be worse than the disease. Not me, the moment Dr. Fauci says the vaccine is safe and effective, I'm sprinting to CVS.

The thinnest of silver linings, if ever there was a year worth sitting out, 2020 has been it for Houston sports fans. The Astros are scratching to stay above .500 (their present position), Jose Altuve hasn't had an extra base hit or RBI in almost a month, and Justin Verlander is throwing bullpens on his way to recovery. The Rockets are searching for a new coach, and possibly another team willing to take Russell Westbrook in a trade. The Texans season could go either way, we'll know if a few short weeks.

Why the rush to fill stadiums? The NBA is thriving in a bubble. Why not baseball and football? There's a fine line between safe and sorry.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo already has safety plans for next year, including masks and distancing. That will be interesting. Good luck controlling crowds pushing and shoving for corn dogs and funnel cakes.

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