In his political and pop-culture infused off-beat commentary, Jeff Conner reflects on the Horns’ loss and examines the psychology of the Texas Tech fan base, which is now in an unfamiliar position.
After two decades of practicing law, I have developed fairly good radar for screening potential clients. In a child custody case, people who spend an inordinate amount of time discussing themselves (“You have no idea what I’m going through”) or nitpicking the behavior of their ex (“He was an hour and a half late returning the kids last Sunday”) are potential problems. Folk who unsolicited talk about their children first usually have their priorities in better order and, as a result, make better parents and clients.
But the worst family law client is the one obsessed with the perceived mindset of a former lover. They are willing to spend their money, time, energy and resources fussing, speculating and conjecturing about the thoughts (real or perceived) of an ex. “He’s laughing at me!” “He thinks he’s getting one over on me!” Or (I love this one): “He thinks his lawyer is better than mine!” For these poor souls, there is no balm, salve or antidote. They have unknowingly but willingly placed themselves under the control of a person they once loved but now despise. The human mind is an amazing organ, but it is capable of great cruelty, especially when directed inward. Feverishly obsessing about the potential thoughts of another person is extremely unhealthy, and has no conceivable end. If one is troubled by the thoughts of another person, then one’s humiliation, shame, and suffering never end – at least until that other person no longer has any thoughts.
Worse, these people are terrible clients because no courtroom victory can ever give them peace of mind. The judge can give them everything they ask in their petition and totally rule in their favor, but he cannot “Make him stop laughing at me!” There are some things even a Texas district court judge cannot do.
So pity our South Plains brethren because Tech is the walking, talking definition of “He’s laughing at me!” Thin skin causes all kinds of problems: it stretches too tight, is extremely uncomfortable, bleeds easily and looks like financial ghoul Alan Greenspan. Sports radio Lubbock last week was rife with wide-eyed allegations that all Longhorn fans are unremittingly arrogant, that every player on UT’s squad contemptuously overlooks Tech and that UT coaches all but believe they are too good to share the same field with a non-conventional maverick like Mike Leach.
Like Paris Hilton’s singing career, it is all pure silliness, of course. The vast majority of the Longhorn nation took this game as seriously as they could, considering its location at the end of our October 2008 Murderer’s Row.
Trouble is, for Texas Tech, winning gives no relief. If they are laughing at me when I go 8-4, imagine how they will snicker if I fail to reach the ultimate prize. Imagine how they will mock me when I ascend to the college football heights, only lose a game and fall in the coming weeks like Icarus flying too close to the sun on wings of wax and feathers. They will say I was overrated; they will say I was in over my head; they will say I was never that good in the first place. “They’re all laughing at me!” When this mindset takes over, there is no relief – nothing but anger and more circling the wagons.
Speaking of Indians massacring cowboys, Saturday evening began horribly. In the first half my beloved, mighty, fighting, Texas Longhorns lost everything including the coin flip, let Tech QB Graham Harrell narrowly avoid sacks, cratered on our own two yard line in the power I formation, giving up a safety, two points and possession of the ball, watched the usually sure-handed Jordan Shipley drop a sure touchdown pass, let Tech’s offense roll like a fat man going downhill on a Slip N’ Slide, made less yardage on first down than David Schwimmer on a first date, gave up a 50-yard bomb on third and long from Tech’s end zone, dropped more passes than a blind and deaf hooker and saw what was easily the worst-called first half of football this season under OC Greg Davis.
Amazingly, we were still in the ball game.
The second half fared a little better, but fell to a confluence of tragic events: weakness after the horrifically hard schedule the Horns have endured these past four weeks, fatigue in the defensive backfield after spending almost the entire first half on the field, Colt McCoy’s untimely pick-six interception, Brian Orakpo’s knee injury, Chykie Brown’s limited action, Quan Cosby’s shoulder problems, multiple dropped interceptions, a hometown crowd insanely out of its mind with school spirit and the best defensive game Tech played since the Hoover Administration. Take away any one of these particular items, and, in all likelihood, the game is ours.
Even with all that, we still had the lead with 1:29 left to play.
In the end, it was too much to overcome. We are left with an extra “spring forward, fall back” hour to stew, ponder and grouse over what might have been. Where we go from here depends on this week’s injury report. If we get Orakpo and Cosby back on the field, then we are in good shape to win out and hope Tech loses more than one conference game. Even with this loss, a BCS bid is potentially in our sights.
The more perplexing question is where this win leaves Tech. As Georgia, USC, Oklahoma and the Horns can tell you, getting to No. 1 is tough, but staying there is harder than wrestling a greased Renee Zellweger. How will being the belle of the ball for all of college football affect the psychology of the Red Raiders?
In ancient Greek theater, the same actor portrayed the characters of “comedy” and “tragedy” by simply changing masks. The implicit message is that these two extreme aspects of the human condition rest uncomfortably and immediately next to each other. So congratulations, Tech, you played well. Don’t screw up, because that first step down is a doozey.
Hook ‘em. Jeff Conner’s political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.