Ahead of the latest edition of the Texas Derby, we asked former MLS player Bobby Warshaw for his perspective on what makes the rivalry so special. With the teams meeting again Friday to open Heineken Rivalry Week at 9 p.m. ET (UniMás, facebook.com/univisiondeportes; MLS LIVE in Canada), Warshaw's commentary once again provides a unique lens into the battle for "El Capitan."
Warshaw, pictured below, played three MLS seasons with FC Dallas (2011-2013) and made his first MLS start in a Texas derby match against the Houston Dynamo on May 28, 2011. He’s a regular contributor for Howler magazine and its podcast network.
—Ben Couch, Senior Editor (June 20, 2017)
Original Text - May 25, 2017
I met a Texan for the first time as a freshman at Stanford University.
I was raised in the northeast and had only ever heard stories about Texas; we considered going to Virginia a trek to the "dirty" south. We’d make comments about Texas being a different country, joking they would secede if they could. It took two minutes into my first conversation with my new Texan friend, Alex, to learn that our perceptions were actually closer to reality.
After we’d exchanged generic greetings, I mentioned the gorgeous weather on the day. His eyes lit up: “Ahhh man, you should see the weather in Texas. Always changing. You know what they say.”
I had no idea. And I wasn’t sure how Texas made it into the conversation, so I just stared at the giant smile on his face – “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes,” and he started cracking up.
I laughed with him, nervous what he would do if I didn’t laugh, quietly wondering if I had anything in my life that could make my eye twinkle like his did at the thought of his home state. It presented a sad truth: I’ve never been as proud of anything in my life as a person from Texas is about being from Texas.
Texans love Texas
My three years in Dallas reaffirmed everything I’d suspected. I wasn’t just living in a new state, I was living in Texas. I might as well have been drafted by a club in Estonia.
Texans love Texas. In my time there, I could never quite discern what there was to love about the place, but that’s what made it all the more magical; you had to really get it to be one of them. It’s a place you either get or you don’t, and in being such a place, it’s clearly special.
I personally preferred the temperate climate I had left back at Stanford in Palo Alto, but you don’t mess with a Texan when they get that proud look in their eye.
There are dozens of reasons why a person takes pride in his or her team, but none as strong as the motives Texans have. Texas clubs aren’t just competing for city pride, they are fighting for national identity. As a player, you aren’t just playing for the team, you are proving a point that this state of Texas is something to take seriously.
A Texas native wouldn’t say it directly, but I always got the feeling our regular FC Dallas games — take FC Dallas vs. Philadelphia, for example — weren’t just about Dallas vs. Philly, they were Texas vs. The United States of America. Everyone outside of our state lines represented the others, much the same way Jon Snow views the Wildlings. Whenever we got back off the plane at Dallas airport, we were back in our homeland, safe from all external threats.
Keep the oranges in the fridge
That’s why Dallas vs. Houston takes on a unique meaning. If the average rivalry game in MLS is about respect and bragging rights, the Texas derby is about power. Texans live in the confines of the Texas bubble, and the Dallas-Houston matchup decides who stands as the leader of the empire. When the state does secede, it’s going to need a capital.
The week leading up to the game, the Dallas PR team would often come up with a crazy stunt to hype the game. And as players, we played along, but the game really doesn't need any gimmicks like crushing oranges (watch above). Ultimately, FC Dallas fans don’t care that you can smash a fruit into the ground and make it explode; they care that you are physically stronger and mentally tougher than the Houston guys and that you project the same superiority that the city does.
The game reflects a statement that the people of our city are better, smarter, and savvier than the people of their city, and when the day of reckoning comes, we are more fit to lead the great people of Texas out of the ashes. This great country needs a leader qualified for the supreme responsibility, and. that. is. us.
It's all ridiculous and hyperbolic, but so is Texas. And for that reason, they have a rivalry with a little extra somethin’. And to be fair to my friend from college, the weather in Dallas does change every five minutes.