Life’s Ups & Downs & Longhorn Football

I am, as I have stated many times before, a devoted Texas Longhorn fan.  I used to take their losses personally and fortunately for me, there weren’t that many losses to endure.  

And then came the 2010 season.  

So many are asking, “What the hell happened?  I don’t know.   Quarterback, Garrett Gilbert is inconsistent.  While he may have shown poise and skills when  stepped in for Colt McCoy who was injured in the opening drive of the National Championship game against Alabama last year, he was hardly ready to be the starting QB at Texas this year.  Expectations were too high for the lad.   Yes, yes, I know—he’s just a Sophomore.  I mean, McCoy graduated from UT as a  two-time Heisman finalist who cemented his legacy in his junior year; certainly as a senior.  But let’s not forget this celebrated collegiate career wasn’t always so rosy.  His sophomore year (2007) he lobbed 18 perfectly thrown passes—–into the arms of opposing players.   Colt improved.  Can’t I give Garrett Gilbert the same benefit of doubt?  Well, what Colt had..and even showed distinct glimmers of it, even as  a struggling under classman…is something I don’t see at all in Gilbert and that’s leadership.   I can’t shake the feeling that Gilbert will not finish his collegiate career in a burnt orange jersey.   Some of his greasy fingered receivers and backs might be joining him.

I even sense a strange disconnect from Mack Brown, who’s gotten quite gray in recent weeks.   Is it any wonder?  I know how hardcore Texas fans are.  They’re probably assembling in the village square with torches , pitchforks, scythes and battering rams,  ready to burst down the doors at Brown’s office in Bellmont Hall on the UT campus and in true Mary Shelley fashion, kidnap him then, tie him to a tree and then stone him to death for having the temerity to coach a team that’s bringing such shame to every burnt orange blooded Texas loyalist.

Why are some calling for Brown’s head?   Did he not coach the Horns well enough to play for all the collegiate football marbles in the National Championship just last year?  Yes, but that was last year.  Unlike Texas A&M,  the great season of ’27 isn’t enough to sustain us, we want…nay, we need present day greatness.   Simply put,  Texas just doesn’t lose consistently.  No, losing seasons are for  A&M or Wyoming…NOT Texas!!” 

Well, Texas….slip into a maroon jersey and shout, “Gig ’em” because THIS is your season;  your time on the edge.  Learn from it.  Other teams know this all too well.  Notre Dame is going through it; Michigan endured it for years and hell, the once storied program that is USC is just one step away from playing in the California penal system.   On opposite end of the spectrum, teams like TCU and Boise who are both up and coming football powerhouses weren’t even on the collegiate radar five years ago.   Okay fine, but once again this is Texas, perennially on “the radar”.  

Before the kick off of a very recent game,  I’d never witnessed a Texas loss.  I’d either leave the stadium or flip the TV off or to another station before the clock read 0:00.   But this year, all that changed.    Last weekend, I forced myself to watch Texas lose to Baylor.  What I learned was that  I didn’t die.  It was no big deal.   It was just a game.  Nothing shrivelled up and fell off;  I didn’t go mad. 

Instead, this whole season has become this strange parable for life.  Love the team, but Texas has been playing with hubris for years.  I;ve often wondered why, even in our glory years, we were always so disliked.   It’s because of arrogance, my friends–which I always justified as mere confidence, but I was wrong.  It was arrogance and to a degree, we earned the right to be so arrogant.  But be that as it may, it prevented us from earning anyone’s respect.   So, how and why should Texas, or any living, sentient human being for that matter, expect nothing but a winning season every season???    Simply put, life doesn’t work like that, on or off the field.  

Disappointments are unavoidable facts of life.  It is the bill we must pay for living, but really, isn’t it worth the price?

Bestselling author, Spencer Johnson penned a book on their subject.   Peaks and Valleys: Making Good and Bad Times Work For You  is about an unhappy man  who lives in a Valley, but wants to live on  “the Peak.”   He meets a wise old man who lives on a Peak and this chance encounter  changes everything.   The old man tells him what we all know–that life is rife with  peaks and valleys and then he compares it to the human heartbeat.  

 “Like a healthy heartbeat, your personal Peaks and Valleys are an essential part of a normal, healthy life. So are the Plateaus, if they are times of healthy rest when you take stock of what is happening and pause to think about what to do next. Peaks and Valleys are not just the good and bad times that happen to you. They are also how you feel inside and respond to outside events.”

So, he goes on to say that as bad as it is, there are valuable lessons to be learned while living in the Valley and essentially experiencing and learning from all that happens during your down time, allows you to reach the Peak.   In fact,  the old man lives on the Peak, but purposefully goes down into the Valley from time to time for “provisions” (not food per se, but emotional balance).  He says that both physical peaks and valleys, and personal Peaks and Valleys are connected. How you ask?  

The errors you make in today’s good times create tomorrow’s bad times. And the wise things you do in today’s bad times create tomorrow’s good times. People who use a Peaks and Valleys approach during bad times make things better when they return to basics, and concentrate on what matters most.” If you look back over the course of your life I’m sure you can see the Peaks and Valleys.  The path out of the valley appears when you choose to see things differently.”

Ah, bang the gong and let it resonate with enlightenment. 

Some might think this no big deal; simple common sense should allow one to understand the concept of good and bad.  Not easy to do, especially when you’re down in the Valley and it’s a fight just to stay on an even keel in your living hell.  Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees.  If that’s the case, then  I, like so many others,  have lived my life staring at oaks and pines.

But all that’s changing.  See, I have a new man in my life.  I’ve not told you anything about him, nor will I,  OTHER than to say that he’s renewing my faith in my own life.  He’s teaching me so many things:  an appreciation of my own experiences and the rich tapestry and/or velvet Elvis painting it’s creating and I’m learning about good single malt Scotch (which for the time being I MUST adulterate with soda)  and the most important thing this man is helping to instil in me?   Patience.   I never had an ounce of it before.  I wanted what I wanted, when I wanted it.   I’ve lived a life feeling that I was entitled.  I don’t know –I rarely ever liked myself.  Even so, like the Longhorns, I went through a wonderful up period.  I won a lot of my “games”, too.  Oh sure there were a few stumbles and missteps along the way, but it was an up time.  I was riding high. 

Then came the late fall of 2000 and everything as I knew it changed.  I moved from the peak to the valley’s valley–I was that low.   Since then, I’ve made some progress which included reaching many peaks and falling down to the depths of the valleys,  but because my time as a bottom dweller was so new to me, I didn’t know how to act.   I would punish myself for my time spent in the doldrums.  But why?  What right did I have to think I ONLY deserved to live on the Peak?  I didn’t take the time to wrap my head around the cyclical nature of “valleydom”.  Nor did I take a minute to understand all that being that far down could teach me;  how much it would allow me to appreciate my time spent in the glorious Peaks.

I guess you can compare it to going on vacation, those wonderful deserved and earned breaks from the norm.   We work and work and work and then after a year of nose to the grindstone, we take a week off and pack the kids and six suitcases into the Family Truckster and head to some park Walt Disney and Capitalism created.  Along the way, we stop top marvel at roadside attractions like the motel made of teepees and the world’s largest ball of yarn.   Then after a week, we return to work and the cycle of life, like a big dish washer with its wash, rinse and repeat nature, starts all over again.  And once back at work, we experience the same ups and downs, the disappointments, the successes and frustrations, the joys and sorrows we experienced that made planning for, then actually taking that vacation; that OH SO needed break so very much worth it.

I often say, “This too shall pass.”  I love that axiom because it’s true.  But I’m learning that this is something that shouldn’t just be said when times are tough.  True, the bad times won’t last forever, but neither will the good times.   Sometimes, shit hits the fan, even when it’s in the off position.  That’s just the way of the world.  Life has a wonderful ebb and flow about it.   Mercifully, it’s never static.

 You have summer and winter, day and night, work and play.  

On the playground, you have seesaws or teeter-totters as some call them.   Take a good long look at the photo to your left and remember how these contraptions work.     

If you let it, this piece of equipment can serve a dual purpose from an educational standpoint.  Aside from being fun,  the seesaw is a primer about  gravity and life.  Yes, it’s s simple machine, but difficult to operate. Without the proper balance on each side, the damn thing is useless.  Life without proper weight distribution won’t work.    And that’s why it’s a jarring, jolting pain when it’s all askew for whatever reason (or because mean, Peter “Fatty” Monahans who’s three Baby Ruth bars at lunch helped keep him at the bottom of the seesaw, suddenly stood up)  and you slam down to the ground below. 

Remember that?  Remember how stark the pain was when the balance was shifted and it was your turn to hit the hard surface below? You did it with a thud.

Oh yes, it hurt; it was painful and made worse by the fact that it was unexpected.

Unequal weight distribution, plus the basic laws of gravity.

That’s textbook.

That’s life.

Someone far wiser than me once wrote, “Human life is beset with ups and downs, joys and sorrows.  These experiences are intended to serve as guideposts for men.”

Or hopefully, as goalposts for the Texas Longhorns 2011 team.


One comment

  1. Of all the things I left in Texas aside from maybe my cat I miss you the most. I never thought I’d say that you grumpy windbag.


    I miss you too. You left without so much as a kiss my ass, you brilliantly irreverent, iconoclastic asshole.

    Let’s keep in touch. I’ve always thought the world of you.


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