“You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.”
– Yogi Berra
Let’s start with the obvious: we didn’t lose to the Cal Golden Commie Pinkos because of a missed extra point. We lost because we lost both starting safeties, one to injury and one to dumbassery, the 10 points we gave up while my wife left to pee just before halftime, the first two offensive turnovers of the year, a few inopportune Daje drops and two rushing first downs by a quarterback who is slower than Donald Trump’s arm bimbo.
I’m not saying it’s OK to miss a clutch PAT, but blaming the loss on Nick Rose is like saying your last woman left you because of the way you floss.
Yeah, right. Your chronic halitosis, yellow big toe fungus, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cosplay outfit (Donatello? Really?), tendency to leave your skid mark tighty whities on the floor, flatulence during sex, sleeping with her sister and annoying habit of yelling, “Boom! Goes the dynamite!” at inappropriate times (sister’s subsequent wedding) had nothing to do with it.
Had to be the flossing.
Having been in education for a few years now, some things about standardized testing become clear, the most profound of which is this: kids don’t miss 8th grade math questions because they are dumb. They miss them because of tiny, correctable errors they make because … well … they’re 8th graders: multiplying two negative numbers and forgetting the product is positive, failure to distribute a multiplier to all monomials inside a parenthesis, typing a number into the calculator incorrectly, etc.
The biggest problem I face is teaching kids not to quit and guess when they reach a point of frustration. Many of my kids have faced years of failure. The passing grade for last year’s 7th grade STAAR was a 38.
A freakin’ 38.
If you as a Texas 7th grader made a 38 on the most important exam of the year, you were a rousing success. Jeez, I can’t make this stuff up.
In light of such massive failure and lack of success (you can tell them a 38 is good, but they know it really isn’t), many of my kids have an automatic shutdown mode: when things get a little sticky, they hunker down, cave faster than John Kerry to the Iranians, admit defeat, and guess at the answer.
My job is to not only teach my kids how to solve math problems, but also to give them the tools, techniques, and grit to work through their frustration, going against their natural inclinations and what has worked for them pretty well so far in their short academic careers. If I can teach a kid to refuse to quit even during a difficult problem, then they’ll pass the STAAR with no problem.
I remind them they’ll have lots of chances to quit in their lives: quit their jobs, quit on their spouses, quit on their kids, quit on God. Every time they quit, I’ll remind them, it gets that much easier to quit the next time.
If they listen, they might actually turn out to be a decent person with something to contribute to society. Or some crap like that.
The 2015 Texas Longhorns are young. Peach fuzz young. Voice changing young. Thinking college football uniform changes are actually cool young.
Young kids make mistakes. Colossal, huge WTF blunders. Small, correctible faux pas. Everything in between. About the best you can hope for is that they are coachable and won’t make the same mistakes twice.
But we saw more last Saturday. What rang my bell and allowed me to actually have fun at a Longhorn football game for the first time in recent memory was the nearly successful 4th quarter comeback.
In short, our kids refused to quit. They were too young or too ignorant or too clueless or too ballsy to know that a team down 21 points halfway through the second half is whipped. Beaten. Fin. Statistically, your odds of winning are in single digits. Put a fork in them; they’re done.
Only they weren’t beaten. The defense held. Three consecutive times. Offensive Coordinator Jay Norvell looked up and down the menu and ordered a double helping of Jerrod Heard tartar. Good thing, too, because Heard was also too dumb to know he was beaten. Heard animated the team, energized a stadium full of people who had secretly been thinking that if they left early they could beat the traffic and flustered the Golden Pinkos’ defense.
The offense got into it. Then the defense got into it. Then the less-than-capacity crowd got into it. People were screaming, jumping up and down and making fists so hard their nails burrowed into their palms. The kids on the sidelines were waving towels, chest-bumping and screaming like a punk with his nipple ring caught between his guitar strings.
They didn’t quit. Let that soak in for a minute. A bunch of young, inexperienced, wet behind the ears kids refused to take the easy way out, call it a day, reboot and try harder next time. They wanted badly to win. Heck, Heard expected to win.
I’m proud of these young guys for the character they showed, but I’m even more excited about what this tells me about the future of the program. Coach Royal reminded us that if a dog bites, it will bite as a pup. Same thing for quitting: if they refuse to lose now when they have every excuse in the world, how much mentally tougher will they be when these freshmen actually figure out what they’re doing?
A 1986 graduate of the University of Texas, Jeff Conner has held many jobs in his life: husband, brother, uncle, son, oil field roustabout, short-order cook, sandblaster, irrigation pipe mover, musician, retail assistant manager, attorney-at-law, public school teacher, preacher, cartoonist, and writer. While he does have a hot, young wife, Conner is neither as clever nor as good-looking as he believes himself to be. Jeff currently warps fragile and vulnerable young minds while teaching 8th grade math and Pre-Algebra in Taylor, Texas, home of the Fighting Ducks.Conner’s regularly submitted commentary appears in InsideTexas.com and Inside Texas Magazine. The opinions presented do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inside Texas editorial staff.