If you're a Texas A&M fan, chances are you're familiar with the "12th Man" tradition. And if you're a good Ag, I'm sure you'd love a license plate reading 12THMAN to embellish your game-day vehicle of choice. But what would you pay for such plate? Former U.S. Marine Corps. officer, Tony Buzbee, forked out a record $115,000, making this the most expensive license plate ever sold in the state of Texas.
12th Man is an Aggies' tradition, where fans show their desire to support the team by standing and declaring readiness to jump in if needed. Back in 1922, A&M played Centre College, and due to a large number of injuries for Aggie, Coach D. X. Bible feared he'd run out of players. So he called upon E. King Gill who was watching in the stands -- an A&M student that once played football before jumping to basketball -- and had him don an injured player's uniform and ready himself on the sidelines. Gill never hit the field that day, but his willingness to serve the Aggies led to the now famous 12th Man tradition.
Still, when you compare Texas' previous record sale of $25,000 for the HOUSTON plate, the $115,000 spent on 12THMAN remains remarkable. According to The Dallas Morning News, unsuccessful bidder Joe Adams said that he couldn't eloquently elucidate the meaning of this plate because "it's bigger than I can describe." He continued to call it a "life-altering event that you carry with you forever."
Bidding began on August 12., and little over 24-hours later, the price for the plate surpassed $30,000. Buzbee's eventual $115,000 winning bid goes to Texas A&M University and the General Revenue Fund of Texas. After ten years, however, the plate goes back up for sale, with Buzbee receiving first dibs.
But despite the huge price paid, Buzbee didn't purchase the plate for himself; rather he plans to donate it to a decorated war veteran who graduated from Texas A&M. "I'm not saying who it is yet, but I see him as a 12th Man to our country," said Buzbee. "He did a lot more than pay a hundred thousand dollars for a license plate."
While $115,000 remains a huge fee for a license plate, in worldwide terms, it's a mere pittance. In 2006, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich showed his vanity by purchasing the plate "VIP 1" for close to $500,000, a plate originally commissioned for placement on the Popemobile for Pope John Paul II's papal visit to Ireland. But the most expensive license plate ever belongs to Abu Dhabi's Saeed Abdul Ghaffar Khouri, bought back in 2008. He paid, at that year's exchange rate, $14 million for a plate that simply read, "1."
By contrast, Buzbee's purchase boasts no vanity. It's not about flashing wealth, nor appearing superior. It's all about giving back to someone who did so much for this country. It's about rewarding a hero. And perhaps Buzbee's good deed will serve as good luck when A&M face Alabama in this Saturday's super game, allowing Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to prove he's worthy of his own "Johnny Cam."