Watching Texas’ fine win over Kansas State is a lot like looking into the soft, brown, over-mascaraed eyes of a prostitute: you’ll see exactly what you want to see. Some will find a gentle, misunderstood waif with daddy issues who somehow lost her way and needs to be gently, heroically rescued from her poor decisions. Others will see a whore who screws for cash.
Instead of taking in the world objectively, we tend to view things selfishly and myopically, as validation of our previously-held opinions.
We see exactly what we want to see.
Those who hold for giving Mack Brown more time in his reconstruction project saw an improving defense that finally played basic, assignment football against the zone read sans Jordan Hicks, an offense that put up 31 points without the full services of it’s first round receiver (Mike Davis), speedy all-purpose back (Daje Johnson) or starting quarterback (David Ash) and an overall team effort that at long last acted like their give-a-damn wasn’t broken and (dare I say it?) had a ounce of passion.
Those who want Mack gone yesterday witnessed a coach who, with his job threatened in multiple national media sources, finally got off his ass and did some real coaching, a home win over a sub-.500 team that graduated nine starters on defense and a Heisman nominee QB, a game that was still in contention late in the fourth quarter, playcalling that got Ash concussed a second (and perhaps final) time this season, a defensive backfield that surrendered 237 yards on 13 catches to receiver Tyler Lockett and special teams that still can’t hit a field goal past 40 yards.
Oh, we love to divide into camps and stake out our territory.
Problem is, the truth is often a slippery thing. Take Detroit Lion and former Nebraska Cornhusker Ndamukong Suh: some call him a cheap shot bastard who recently tried to take out the knee of Minnesota Viking offensive lineman John Sullivan during a pointless, behind-the-play block, and, on successive Thanksgiving Day games, smashed the head and stomped the arm of Green Bay Packer Evan Diertich-Smith and intentionally kicked Houston Texans Matt Schaub in his frank ‘n beans.
Others call Suh a philanthropist who selflessly donated $2.6 million to his alma mater.
So what is Suh? Is he an antisocial pariah who should be banned from the game for life, or a misunderstood sweetheart who gave more to charity with one check than I’ll be able to donate in a lifetime?
Who can tell? We’re Americans. We watch lots of TV. We want our villains obvious and incompetent, heroes handsome and clean cut, leading ladies buxom yet perky, gays flaming and plot to resolve nicely in one hour. We no longer watch news; we see uninterrupted political party commercials disguised as MSNBC and Fox News. Our politicians, political views and allegiances are not gray; they are only black or white, thinking no deeper than however many words fit on a bumper sticker.
Subtlety is as lost on us as, well, the plot to “Lost.”
Which brings us back to Mack Brown, who has looked as lost as a sorority sister in downtown Fallujah and Will Farrell at a Shakespeare festival most of the season. But, dear Brutus, do you come here to bury Mack or to praise him?
A little of both, as it turns out. Saturday night was a very satisfying win, despite the grim circumstances surrounding the athletic department these days. I couldn’t help but smile at seeing Coach Brown embrace and encourage the thorn in his paw, K State mentor Bill Snyder, after the game. It was quintessential Mack: kind, classy, respectful, human.
As a fan, it felt great to watch the Horns win, despite the sparse attendance and Keystone Cops-bad officiating. You had to feel for the players, too, who have been both victims and coconspirators of the stagnant climate festering in Belmont. I was especially proud of the offensive line that, for the most part, dominated a conference opponent. It was nice to see some smiles in the after-game interviews, especially knowing how rapidly they will turn to furrowed brows with the hard part of the schedule approaching.
In the end, though, as satisfying as the win was, it feels like we’re putting ugly floral kitchen cabinet contact paper over dry rot. The problems that had reporters putting the phrase “record-breaking” next to our opponent’s running statistics have not been resolved with a few Greg Robinson tweaks. The grim prospect of Case McCoy squaring off against a Bob Stoops defense causes me to grimace.
From behind my burnt orange-colored glasses, there are no easy answers or clear-cut heroes or villains. We have a formerly-successful coach scrambling to salvage a season (and perhaps a career), players desperately trying to buy into the beta version of the 2013 season and fans praying to see Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan coming hard to our rescue at dawn on the fifth day.
I don’t see bold burnt orange or stark white. These days, everything kind of blends into an ugly mixture of the two, a sherbet color out of place everywhere.
Except maybe in a hooker’s eyeshadow.
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.