So you guys have fans too?

In the land of the Texas Longhorns, where men are men and football is a sacrament, there are lessons to be learned about the intersection of politics and sport.

On Thursday, during a pre-debate tour of the sacred Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Sen. Barack Obama taught some and learned some, compliments of Mack Brown, University of Texas head coach.

Obama stood in the locker-room gloom, nursing a cold but patiently posing for pictures with anyone who breathed. The team physician. Secretaries. The wife of the sports information director. Every member of the football team -- separately and together.

Said Brown to his team: "When you don't want to have pictures taken and sign autographs, remember this." Seconded Obama, a little more gently: "You've always got to be appreciative of folks taking an interest."

And what did Obama learn? In Texas, good manners do not necessarily equal support. Unlike Emmitt Smith, the former Dallas Cowboys running back who introduced the Illinois senator at a Dallas rally a day earlier, Brown went out of his way to be politically neutral. He doesn't even vote in primaries because, he said, you have to choose sides.

"We can't be political," Brown said after Obama drove off, "because we lose 50% of our support if we do either way."

-- Maria L. La Ganga

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