C-BOG delivers another rant worthy of a Pulitzer.
Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant died of a heart attack a month after coaching his last game at Alabama. Joe Paterno was fired by Penn State November, 2011; by January, 2012, he was dead. Longtime Miami (Ohio) Redhawks basketball coach Charlie Coles retired March, 2012 and suffered a fatal heart attack in June of this year.
In 2011, John McKissick was in his 60th year of coaching the same high school in Summerville, South Carolina when he gave an interview to the Baltimore Sun. At age 85, McKissick was asked why he kept working: “Most of my buddies my age that retired, they all passed away. I’m not ready yet. I’ve got four great-grandchildren, and I want to see what’s going to happen to them.”
Work as leverage for longevity? Wow. I never thought of it that way.
Obviously, I’m trying to root around in the brain of Texas Head Coach Mack Brown looking for answers. Where I originally intended this rant to go was to note the recent changes in Mack’s behavior and say things like, “This is not the Mack we know and love. There must be something else at work here, like the fear of irrelevance after retirement. Other writers have even suggested Coach Brown may be developing some mental problems. Perhaps there’s a reason for his strange behavior.”
I wanted to write something kind. Something empathetic. Something conciliatory. Something respectful.
But I can’t. It’s all bullshit.
The behavior we’re seeing from Mack isn’t new or different. He’s not going through a phase where he fears retirement and is acting out. Mack’s behavior hasn’t changed a bit; it’s the exact same thing he’s been doing for 15 years, but we’re seeing more and seeing it more clearly now that his tenure at Texas has reached its end.
In Scripture, Saint Peter wrote, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” For college football coaches, the same thing can be said of winning.
What looks like a quirky personality trait when we’re 11-2 becomes a petulant, thin-skinned neurotic who is more obsessed with controlling the message than he is winning football games when we’re 5-7. A loving, parental concern for kids in the program quickly morphs into interfering with Benny Wylie’s training program, producing inordinate soft-tissue injuries and inordinately soft football players. Being a bit of a control freak is fine when we’re winning BCS bowls, but looks like insecure, desperate interference with a solid game plan when Case McCoy throws the ball 45 times against Iowa State. The inability to evaluate both players and coordinators is fine when we went nine years in a row with double-digit wins, but it smacks of laziness, incompetence or a combination of the two when Baylor regularly hands us our ass. Wetting the bed over Oklahoma is fine when the talent difference is great enough for us to still win the game, but looks like we’ll need new sheets after 21-63.
None of Mack’s behavior is new. Nothing has changed. He’s not falling apart; he’s not terrified of the end. He’s exactly the same guy he always was, only now we’re not winning games, and it exposes the Athletic Department’s weaknesses like the kitchen light sends cockroaches scurrying for cover.
I’m still left with the question: Why not just ride off into the sunset? Why not be at the front of the biggest parade Austin has ever thrown? The whole death-after-retirement problem doesn’t seem to apply to people like Mack, anyway. Unlike the Sabans and Belichicks of the world, Mack has a life. Mack Brownvalues people, genuinely loves his wife, remembers folks’ names and has a personality that is described by words other than “driven,” “focused,” “unsatisfied”and “intense.”
Plus, Mack would make an amazing college football commentator. He’s charming, witty and great with the media. Heck, he’ll make more with a microphone in his hand than I’ll ever see teaching algebra. They’ll put up a statue of him. He’ll be in high demand on the celebrity speaker circuit during the offseason.
What am I missing? Why not take a quick victory lap, high-five everybody on the front row and leave DKR Memorial to the sound of thunderous applause?
Honest to gosh, I don’t know. Maybe Brown doesn’t want Saban to win with his kids. Maybe Mack feels that after all he’s done for the University, he should be allowed to go out a winner on his own terms. Maybe Brown genuinely, sincerely believes this team is just a tweak or two away from a conference championship.
Maybe Brown wants the swelling chorus of those calling for his firing to shush for just a minute, stop and say “Thank you” for a job well-done.
How’s this: Thank you, Coach Brown, for all you’ve done for my beloved University. Thank you for saving us from wandering in the football desert and bringing us our first national championship in 30 years. Thank you for “winning with integrity.” Thankyou for nine consecutive, glorious years of 10 or more win seasons. Thank you for being so congenial over the years and willing to have your picture taken with thousands and thousands people who could do absolutely nothing for your career. Thank you for being a hell of a recruiter. Thank you for treating the kids in your program decently. Thank you for your charity work. Thank you for being an amazing fundraiser. Thank you, Mack.
Sorry, Coach. That’s all I have. I’d keep going, but losing to the damn Sooners hurts too much. I wish you all the best on Saturday, I really do, but I’m not optimistic. Please do your best and remember these two little words:
“Hook ‘em.” 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.