There are three things that consistently make me cringe in uncomfortable anticipation: riding shotgun with a driver who doesn’t check their blind spots when changing lanes; seeing that my girlfriend DVR’d Kourtney and Kim Take Miami; and having an email pop up in my inbox from my friend, Matt.
The first two are self-explanatory, but the third one is a little more complex. That’s because when Matt emails me, there’s an overwhelming probability that it’s going to be some sort of forward or link that contains something—anything—negative about Longhorn sports.
It’s not that Matt is the typical Debbie Downer fan who wants every coach fired and every player benched (in fact, he’s the complete opposite—extremely rational and level-headed); it’s that since the football team’s 2010 implosion, there’s been no shortage of forwards about how bad things are in Bellmont—from poor on-the-field results to seedy behavior and lawsuits off it. Much of it has been warranted; even more of it has been over-the-top hyperbole, saturated with the superiority that only comes from 20-20 hindsight.
As a sports fan-optimist, though, it’s been a difficult environment in which to function. And while I have no trouble acknowledging that the negative crowd has a number of valid points, I still can’t help being hopeful about what lies ahead—especially given our current place on the calendar. Spring is, after all, a time for hope, for renewal, for moving beyond the past and dreaming about the wondrous possibilities that the coming year may hold.
And that’s exactly what makes spring football so great.
Over the last month-plus, my days have been filled poring over practice reports and flipping through photo galleries and streaming video recaps to ensure I’m fully up to date on all things Texas. It’s been fun channeling my inner football geek and trying to decipher from the pictures who’s running first-team, or seeing guys in uniform who, to this point, have just been a name and hometown on a recruiting website.
And while taking nothing at face value and processing everything with the requisite “same song, different season” grain of salt, it’s also been fun hearing how the building blocks are being put in place to make next year the year: how the offense is going up-tempo, how the Apple-Wyatt scheme is going to feature the team’s best playmakers, how David Ash has been taking better care of the ball and is slowly maturing into a leadership role, how young secondary players like Duke Thomas and Sheroid Evans are showing signs of being contributors, how Sedrick Flowers and Kennedy Estelle seized the vacancies left by injured starters Trey Hopkins and Josh Cochran to build depth on the O-line, how Jordan Hicks is flashing as the potential defensive anchor who was so sorely missed last year, how Kendall Sanders is emerging as an explosive option at the third receiver spot, how Tyrone Swoopes’ climb up the depth chart could mean playing time as a true freshman, how M.J. McFarland might finally help take the tight end position off the milk carton, etc., etc., etc.
It’s all such an enticing tease, and thanks to my dad’s Slingbox, last night’s Orange-White scrimmage was an opportunity to finally get a true, unfettered glimpse of it. Sitting there watching, I wanted to indulge, to be hopeful and energized. I wanted to be excited that this is a veteran squad (with possibly the most returning experience in the Big 12)—the team that, since the collapse three years ago, has been the team that realistically had the potential to restore the program to national prominence.
But if history has taught me anything, it’s only a matter of time before another message from Matt pops up.
For many, the next chapter of Longhorn football has already been written, and no amount of talk or glowing message board reports or shifts in offensive tempo or recruiting strategies is going to change that. We could learn that Mack had acquired Doc Brown’s DeLorean, brought the 2005 version of Vince Young back to the future, and integrated him Patrick-Swayze-in-Ghost-style into David Ash’s body, and people would still crucify Mack for A)taking too long to devise the plan, or B)not giving Major Applewhite the freedom to execute it—all while managing some sort of reference to “63-21”.
That’s just how it is, and unless there are actual, expectation-exceeding results on the field, there’s nothing that can be said or done to knock the naysayers off message. We’re at the “Show me, don’t tell me” stage of the game, and while that may be fair in a lot of ways, it doesn’t make it any less depressing.
Such is life for Longhorn fans in 2013, though, but if Tiger Woods is right—that winning takes care of everything—this is how it’s going to be until at least the end of August, when the Horns finally take the field again against New Mexico State (or more accurately, mid-October, when they take the Cotton Bowl field against Oklahoma) with a chance to change the narrative. Until then, I suppose I’m left with two choices: Grin and bear it, or stop checking my email.
Either way, it’s gonna be a long offseason.
You can contact Brent Stoller at [email protected]