Bright lights, big city/Went to my baby’s head.”
— Jimmy Reed
“Don’t get high on you own supply.”
–Tony Montana, “Scarface”
“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t believe the hype.”
— Public Enemy
In ancient Greek tragedies, comedy and tragedy were personified – actual characters in dramatic plays. We know them as the smiley and frowney masks that symbolize theater arts.
What is not widely known is that the same actor customarily played both comedy and tragedy. Offstage, masks would be switched and a thespian transformed from side-splitting hilarity to soul-crushing disaster, not only within the same play, but occasionally in the same act.
Seems odd until you think about the implications. The times of greatest spiritual and personal growth in my life occurred against the backdrop of hard or challenging times. It didn’t feel pleasant at the time, but in retrospect, what didn’t kill me did, in fact, make me stronger.
Alternatively, when I felt the safest, most comfortable financially, and most satisfied in my relationships, I tended to stagnate, flounder, and generally act like a self-important, entitled ass.
In Deuteronomy 8, God warns the Israelites not to forget Him when they enter the Promised Land and things are going great: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
My heart will become proud? Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.
Comedy and tragedy as two sides of the same coin: tragedy can lead to profound, hard-earned wisdom and joy, and comfort and satisfaction can spoil and destroy us and lead to ruin.
Which leads us to the No. 11 Texas Longhorns. From unranked to number 11? Really? After the first game of the season? After beating an unproven Notre Dame at home in double-overtime?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled about our success this year. I’m proud of the way our youngsters answered the bell against Notre Dame and hammered out a workmanlike, lopsided win without many of our starters against UTEP. I just think we’re way overrated. A top 25 team? Maybe. Number 11? Before we played our first road game? Color me skeptical.
Perhaps I’m still carrying a bitter taste in my mouth from the last years of Mack Brown’s reign, but it strikes me that being able to win football games and being able to handle the success, hype, and fawning adoration that comes with winning football games are two completely different skill sets.
Example A: Urban Meyer. Florida won two national championships in a three-year span, produced a Heisman Trophy Winner (Tim Tebow), and dozens of NFL players (among them: Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, the Pouncy brothers, Joe Haden).
But the program was eaten by it’s own success. Meyer’s mental and physical health waned. Felony arrests abounded along with rumors of failed drug tests. Inter-team fighting and jealousies became common as Meyer played favorites (“ballers” could skip practice, have first dibs at team meals, get preferential seating on charter planes, etc.). The Swamp collapsed under the weight of it’s own hubris and was so damaged that even an excellent coach like Will Muschamp couldn’t subsequently save it.
Fortunately for my beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns, a young defensive coach was an eyewitness to the entire debacle: Charlie Strong. Presumably, Strong learned a thing or two from the imploding black hole of Gator football. The talent, speed, ferocity, and skill – the x’s and o’s – don’t matter if a team is not mentally read to play.
This is a dangerous time for the program. Having slogged through two underperforming seasons, being on the receiving end of so many contemptuous sneers – can we now win without the incessant need to endlessly self-congratulate and arrogantly scream “I told you so!” into the face of every doubter, hater, and bandwagon fan?
My sense of the man is that Strong has a pretty high content to bull**** ratio, something I could never say with complete confidence about Mack Brown. Refusing to lie to recruits, pander to prima donnas, or coddle temperamental personalities can go a long way toward keeping a team focused. If Charlie’s the real deal, it will be proven in the team’s reaction to success.
Remember, folks, it’s the exact same guy, just wearing a different mask.
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 is currently teaching 8th grade math and Pre-A.P. 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.