I had some magic underwear once. When I was a kid, I had a pair of Batman tighty-whities that I always wore as soon as they were out of the dryer. I couldn’t get away with wearing a mask and cape at school, but in my Caped Crusader drawers, I could pretend I was Batman without anybody knowing.
Which is not to take anything away from the magic underwear of our Latter Day Saint friends, the Brigham Young Cougars. Evidently, one of the benefits of temple garments not listed in “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder” is they let white guys with average speed run through Texas Longhorn defenses like crap through a goose.
Maybe we all need to convert. You know, since the Horns couldn’t convert on third down.
Unfortunately, last Saturday was a colossal colostomy, every bit as disgusting and uncomfortable as that metaphor sounds. We have a genuinely bad football team, with few options on offense except to grow up in a hurry, and few options on defense except to quit quitting.
Even worse, I have no way to evaluate the alleged progress we’re making under Charlie Strong. I played football in high school and have studied the game extensively, but I never had the talent or build to play college ball or the wisdom to coach professionally. I could do no more than hazard a wild, speculative guess whether or not coach Strong has us on the right track.
What’s the yardstick? Wins? Please. We’ll be wildly successful if we make it to the Crap Bowl this year.
Recruiting? With A&M drubbing a top 10 SEC school on the first Thursday of the season in front of a national audience and Baylor scoring points quicker than Ray Rice’s left hook? The Horns look as attractive to recruits as Ann Coulter during her monthly visit from Aunt Flow.
Changing the culture of the program? Sure, fine. Exactly how does one measure culture change? A cult-o-meter? Once again, I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt by calling what I’m doing wild-ass, baseless speculation.
Outside of Texas football, here’s what I know: every 7-10 years, I get completely and totally messed up in the head, spiritually speaking. A little background: I grew up hardcore Church of Christ in a little congregation in West Texas. That faith was enough to sustain me until I got old enough to think for myself, then I really started to question some of the things I’d assumed had been right my entire life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to preach at anybody and I’m not trying to proselytize you. I remember this is a sports forum. I’m just doing the only thing a writer can – connecting something from my life with the subject at hand.
The most recent episode happened earlier this year after a dog of ours died. A shelter dog poodle mix named Esperanza, whom we had owned only five months, suddenly developed a debilitating heart murmur and began winding down like a sad, hairy watch. My sweet wife was at the vet when Espy went into cardiac arrest and was forced to make some quick, hard and painful decisions.
I still miss that little dog and the way she danced every time my wife got home from work.
And God could have saved her with a flick of His finger. But He didn’t.
I’m still pissed.
After the dog died, I went into full meltdown mode. I re-read all my Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens books. I watched the Science Channel a lot. I skipped church, brooded, pouted, and sulked. I blasphemed. I re-thought everything I once thought I knew for sure; I seriously doubted the existence of a Deity. It was one of the most frustrating and exasperating times of my life. I was a cynical, miserable bastard, nearly impossible to live with, pointing a critical, hateful finger at everything and everybody.
I took a torch to everything I had once loved and held dear.
I burned that mother down.
All of which ties into Longhorn football and Strong’s culture change. When Charlie was hired, almost everyone on the Inside Texas boards was excited about the possibility of undoing Mack Brown’s soft, country club program. What we all grossly underestimated was the almost impossibly high cost of and collateral damage from burning the program to the ground. There will be pain, loss, and misery. There will be confusion, disorientation, and doubt. We will often second-guess ourselves and our coaches, players and program, wondering if we have made some terrible, regrettable decision in our new hire.
And this is after just one loss under Charlie Strong. There will be more. Many more.
I’ll keep writing C-BOG, and I’ll keep making jokes, but there is no good news in the foreseeable future. Even the games against Kansas and Iowa State look like tossups at this point.
Like my spiritual journey, with coach Strong I have no choice except to trust the process. I clutch desperately to the principle that if I am ruthlessly honest and fearlessly brave, whatever beliefs I emerge with after this dark night of the soul will be deeper, stronger, more profound and more personal than what I had before. In the same way, we need a coach who is wise, honest and brave, as we trust the process and believe the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term pain.
I trust the process. I trust Charlie (at least for now). But I’m still wearing my lucky Longhorn underwear for the UCLA game.
Sweetie, is the dryer done yet?
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.