Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24
Growing up in a small, conservative West Texas Church of Christ, I was taught to focus on differences between religions. Although Christians from different denominations agree on a lot – you know, God, Abraham, Moses and all that Jesus stuff – we drew sharp distinctions about sprinkling versus dunking baptism, how often to take the Lord’s Supper, using pianos in church, which Bible translation is “correct” enough, etc. Since there is only one true faith, I was trained to be ready to give an answer (complete with Bible verse) about every point of contention between the Church of Christ and the Baptist, Methodists, Assembly of Godites and the poor, hapless Lutherans, who didn’t really have a clue regarding what all the fuss was about.
Years later, I read about Albert Einstein’s efforts toward the end of his life to discover something called the Grand Unification Theory. Einstein was trying to find one equation to simultaneously explain and merge electromagnetism, gravity, and strong and weak forces, giving science a grand, overarching principal that would answer multiple questions at once about how particles behave and interact. If achieved, the Grand Unification Theory would provide a single, elegant explanation about the organization and functioning of the entire universe.
Either that, or Einstein was trying to find the formula for McDonald’s secret sauce. The Wikipedia article wasn’t real clear.
At the same time, the Lubbock paper used to have a kid’s cartoon where the reader found all the minute differences between two cartoons that stood side by side. Wow. Seriously? How did newspapers ever go out of business?
It took me decades to figure it out, but the message the Universe was sending me was quite clear: finding connections between disparate and seemingly unconnected items is an act of genius, and finding all the little, insignificant, piddly differences between things is a child’s game.
These days, it’s much easier hanging around my Baptist buddies and not just because I now refer to myself as a Christian, and not a member of the Church of Christ. My Baptist friends and I agree on 10,000 things and disagree on two-dozen. When we talk religion, we spend our time focusing on our common faith and the common struggles we face.
I don’t want to get all tree-hugger on you, but what unites us is really much more profound and significant than what divides us.
The same with Charlie Strong. During the first quarter of the Oklahoma game, it became clear where this team was trending. We screwed up multiple offensive procedure penalties, gave up an embarrassing score on a kickoff return, and generally shot ourselves in the foot more than Don Knotts.
On the other hand, the Good Guys were playing with a ferocity and efficiency I hadn’t seen in years (decades?). A Sooner running game backed by an enormous offensive line (averaging 325.8 pounds) floundered worse than Melanie Griffith’s last plastic surgery. OU’s big, badass running back from Pflugerville, Samaje Perine (5-foot-11, 243), who trucked for 242 yards against West Virginia, went 62 yards on 18 carries. Trevor Knight looked confused most of the day, finishing the game with less total passing yards than the entire combined IQ of the aforementioned offensive line.
Even our offense looked new and improved. I think I actually saw Tyrone Swoopes check out of a call for the first time all year, and our running game was efficient if not spectacular, even without Swoope’s 73-yard 1st half run that was called back on a ticky-tack holding call. We pretty much ran roughshod over the vaunted Sooner defense, breaking past the offensive stagnation that has hamstrung my beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns much of the season.
I could go on, but the improvement of this team has been well documented on the interwebs. There are a thousand trending lines pointing upward. I’m on board with coach Strong and believe in how he’s remaking this program and what it appears he wants the program to become. It’s comforting to watch us go out and whip Oklahoma’s tail, to take the fight to them rather than ride the surge. Like my Baptist buddies, Strong and I agree on and celebrate 10,000 things.
But it’s those dozen items that aren’t trending up that I can’t seem to let go. Like a pebble in my shoe, the fact that the University of Texas has no reliable field goal kicker absolutely drives me nuts. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I can’t seem to get over it go long enough to truly enjoy how remarkable the improvement of the entire team has been.
We have more money, power, and influence than just about anybody in college athletics. We can’t find a kicker? Seriously? The Kardashians can’t find their own ass? Lindsey Lohan can’t find somebody to screw? Gloria Allred can’t find a TV camera? Justin Bieber can’t find a bag to administer a feminine hygiene fluid? Obama can’t find a foreign policy excuse?
What the hell? What’s going on here? Our kicking situation makes me sound like my Dad trying to explain why sagging pants are wrong: “Well they just … uhm … In my day we never … argh … Don’t want to see his stupid underwear … ugh … Just buy a belt and pull up yer dang britches!’
“And yer music sucks!”
And don’t get me started on fumbling the QB-center exchange close to our opponent’s goal line three weeks in a row. My blood pressure goes up 20 points just thinking about it without re-watching the DVR.
The 1st quarter penalties are excusable: an inexperienced offensive line in their first rivalry game. The Adrian Colbert penalty on the punt return can be fixed by cranial surgery – you know, giving him an actual, working brain.
No, what I really want this week is to be able to see Charlie Strong the way I see my Baptist brothers and sisters: to focus on the positive without blithely ignoring the negative. I need to be able to enjoy this team and where I think this season will end: with Texas being the most improved, feared, and underrated team in a lower-level bowl game. I want to get the pebble out of my shoe by focusing on the 1,000 positives instead of the dozen negatives.
Just get it fixed, Coach. That’s all I ask. Goodness knows, as a Longhorn and a fan, I ask for so little.
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.