When I was a kid, probably eight or nine years old, I had a boil on my back. I don’t remember much about it, and haven’t thought about it for years until I was ruminating on the West Virginia game this morning.
With Dad as the surgeon and Mom as his nurse, they home-remedied the heck out of my infection. They gave the wound a chance to open up and release it’s puss-filled core; together, they lanced the boil.
I remember our old house in West Texas, the one we could afford on an assistant coach’s salary, before we moved to the bigger, nicer, principal’s salary house. We had a yellow couch; or, as they would have called it in the 70’s, “harvest gold.”
I remember lying face down on old yeller while Dad took a needle Mom had doused in alcohol. I remember their home remedy was mildly uncomfortable with short, sharp bursts of piercing, stinging pain. “Lie still, son. Don’t move.”
Eventually, all the infection drained out of the wound and my young body’s immune system did the rest. As far as I know, I’ve never had another boil since, and I had basically forgotten the entire incident.
What I want out of life is predictability, consistency, and order. I want to be able to plan. I want to be able to accurately estimate how many hours and dollars that home repair project is going to be. Exactly how many tutorial sessions will it take before a particular student understands a math concept?
I don’t mind hard work; I just want to know in advance exactly how difficult a particular endeavor will be.
The math teacher in me would say I’m looking for a linear equation. I want to know the exact slope: How much does it go up? How much does it go over?
Problem is, real life is rarely linear.
Unexpected situations arise. The wall stud is not where it’s supposed to be. The one-size-fits-all bracket doesn’t fit. Some moron from corporate adds an unrealistic expectation to your carefully structured work project and blows the whole thing to heck. Students are human beings who progress then unexpectedly, inexplicably regress. There’s a kink in the garden hose. The best laid plans of mice and men.
You know, Aggie happens.
When lancing my boil, there wasn’t just one couch session. It took multiple “surgeries” to finally get all the infection out. Infections can have a mind of their own, with strange unpredictability.
My folks kept coming back with the needle until the disease was exorcised. We keep going until the home repair honey-do is finished. We recalibrate our work project until it’s as good as it can be.
The long, strange trip the Texas Longhorns are taking out of the desert of college football irrelevance is most certainly not linear. Metaphorically speaking, we’re lancing a boil – getting rod of the rot, infection, and putrefaction that infested our football program for a decade.
The Maryland game made it appear Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag; now, we’re worried about another school poaching him for a head-coaching gig.
The 406 yards rushing against San Jose State made it seem as if our indomitable running game could crush opponents like a toddler stomping Hot Wheels; TCU reminded us that without Connor Williams, Elijah Rodriguez, and Patrick Hudson, our running game barely toddles.
The superlative overtime road game effort our offense gave against USC morphed into a disturbing lack of motor and give-a-damn in the Oklahoma State and TCU games.
I want linear, predictable, measurable progress by my beloved Longhorns. What I want is a win against Texas Tech combined with a bowl win to end the season on a four-game win streak, winning five of our last six games, and a national ranking.
What I get may be something different, something interestingly nonlinear.
The real trick for me – the real reason I give thanks this Thanksgiving – is realizing how boring a linear equation is. A line never changes it’s slope; it is mind-numbingly consistent, predictable, and monotonous. After a few months of linear equations, my algebra kids are ready to move on the something more complicated and challenging – quadratics.
The whole reason I got into education was the variety and novelty of each new day. Trust me, no two days in a middle school are ever the same. Nonlinear.
I hate sounding like a Lifetime Channel bumper sticker, but Longhorn athletics, like the rest of life, really is more about the journey than the destination. The next national championship – and there will be one in the not too distant future – will be sweeter, more fulfilling, and more vindicating because it has come at such a high price, because we paid so much for it for so long.
Those of us who would rather die than be a bandwagon, t-shirt fan – those who kept buying season tickets year in and year out, who stand and scream for all opponent third downs, who love the Horns like they were an extension of our own bodies, whose passion never failed, even during the worst Charlie-era beatdowns – we will be rewarded.
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”
And the fact that the payoff will never come to us in a nice, neat, straight line makes it all the more beautiful and amazing.
Give thanks, Longhorns. The boil is lanced. Good days are ahead.
Hook ‘em, and beat the hell outta Tech.
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 7th grade Pre-A.P. math, 8th grade math, and Pre-A.P. algebra in Elgin, Texas, #OTOTOF. 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.