Editor's note: This column appears in "125 Years of OU Football," a special Norman Transcript magazine available on newsstands now.
The Norman Transcript basement is filled with the stale smell of yellowing pages within the newspaper’s bound copies from years ago. Norman’s oldest business has also been one of its most consistent historians.
The first edition published Saturday, July 13, 1889, telling readers in Oklahoma Territory — for reasons unknown to me — that the Fourth of July had been celebrated by the American people 113 times. Six years later, the University of Oklahoma football team played its first game in 1895.
And the Sooners have provided far more entertaining content ever since.
Football is deeply embedded within the state of Oklahoma’s city and rural high schools. From southwest to northeast, Fridays in the fall here are marked by leather, plastic, grass and electricity. It’s not a stretch to say OU started the fervor on Saturdays, long ago, when Bennie Owen began a tradition that in the years to follow would be lugged by some of the sport’s heavyweights.
They made their names in Norman: Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer, Billy Sims, Bob Stoops — a lot of “B” names for a program on college football’s A-list. Many others have been part of the nearly 125-year tradition and offered magnificent stories. We hope you read about them in our pages every day.
How did the Sooners shape a state? They rushed for the free land, then they rushed for thousands of yards. These days they throw for them.
Oklahoma’s best football players have traditionally chosen Norman as home. That four of OU’s eight Heisman Trophy winners grew up within state borders is a remarkable fact and source of pride for many, from Leedey to Hugo.
Before the NBA set itself up in Oklahoma City, the Sooners were the state’s Chicago Bears, its New York Yankees and Boston Celtics rolled into one. There was no question who ruled the roost, and if you didn’t understand it you had a better idea after scoring a pair of tickets.
The Transcript has always been there: From the end of Wilkinson’s 47-game win streak, to Switzer’s resignation, to Stoops’ hiring, then his retirement, which ushered in a generation that’s still writing its story today.
The tales have not always been fun. College football takes no prisoners, and sadness spares nobody in sport. Father time always wins, players grow old, they make mistakes, and sometimes, they die too soon.
But the game is always there on Saturdays. Here, it spins like an emerald globe. It can heal as quickly as it can hurt.
So before another season, here’s to the 124 before it.
And many more.