Prescient Apophatism, or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Losses"

Wesley Hitt - Getty Images

Bill Little manages to find a silver lining on Saturday, even if it turns out to be one of those theft-prevention chaff strips in a sweater he bought back in 2003.

I had assumed that it would be impossible. I guess I thought I inhabited the same universe as everyone else. There was no way anyone could put a brave face on the shellacking Texas took on Saturday. Something had broken, we were changed. There was even a .gif about it.

And then, Bill Little fired up his 56K modem, pantomimed along with the "handshake" noises, and uploaded this.

Try. Try, gentle reader. Try to imagine what it takes to open with the following sentence:

It's not like we didn't tell you this was coming.

63-21? You knew this was coming? And you told us? But, when? I think I would remember something like that. Bill Little, like Marlon Brando's floating head, warns me not to interfere in the affairs of Oklahoma. No, too memorable.

Was it when I introduced myself to that girl at the party three times in a row, and she gave me her number each time because she was just as "been among the Philippians" as I?

College football, particularly in the Big 12 Conference[,] has changed, and nobody, not the coaches, the players, the fans or the media have an immediate answer to what is happening. Week to week, fans are outraged, the media is stunned, and the teams and coaches are mad and frustrated.

Yes, something is happening in college football, something that no one understands or controls, not even the coaches who coach it or the teams who play it. Something appears to be wrong with the underlying fabric of the space-football continuum. Except for Bill Little. He can perceive it, for he can behave as both a wave and a particle at the same time, and is capable of interfering with himself.

Saturday's America in the Big 12 was the most cryptic example to date.

That's right. Cryptic. We still have no idea what the hell happened in Saturday's games. They're all like Schrödinger's games, frozen in the instant of kickoff. Never have so many balls hung in the air without Sasha Grey's poignant narration. Technically, then, Texas still hasn't lost. I like where this is going.

Three weeks ago, some writers were forecasting Oklahoma's doom.

Earthquakes, drought, carnivorous police cars, the Irish, what should we be waiting for, Bill, the seventh seal?

In Lubbock, folks were ready to cry for the head of Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville.

What, you mean these people? Don't worry, they won't remember anything.

Baylor was the next hottest thing on the turf, second only to West Virginia, which it was said might be the best team in the country. TCU was written off after losing their starting quarterback on disciplinary issues. Kansas couldn't beat anybody and Oklahoma State was a couple of seconds away from being unbeaten. Kansas State was set to roll through the league after whipping Oklahoma in Norman, and Iowa State was merely an afterthought following a loss to lightly regarded Texas Tech, and Texas was coming on strong after splitting scoreboard shootouts with Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

Ah, so nobody could have forseen that Texas would fall like a turd from a tall Moose? Is that supposed to be comforting?

Then comes Saturday, and the first full weekend of league play. Texas Tech knocks West Virginia out of the top five, 49-14. Oklahoma beats Texas, 63-21. Oklahoma State survives Kansas, 20-14. Kansas State has to come from behind to beat Iowa State, 27-21. And TCU goes into Waco and hammers Baylor, 49-21.

Wait, you see how he snuck that in there? Let's rewind:

Oklahoma beats Texas, 63-21.

Bill is playing an old game, here. It's called "hide the rancid sausage." You know something smells wrong, as wrong and stinky as Australian vowels, but damned if you can find it, or do anything about it. You're just going to have to eat it and hope that hydrochloric acid wins this one.

So get used to it. Welcome to the new Big 12.

Yes. Yes, he actually said that. It's a crazy, mixed-up world, and things like this are just bound to happen. In fact, this is all part of a grand plan:

What the league fathers have done with this collection of teams from the middle part of America plus West Virginia, is to put together the most unpredictable league in the country. Just when you think you have it figured it out, you don't.

League Fathers? Who are these League Fathers? Oh, I think we can get to the bottom of this right now. And just what are they in League with ... in our Conference? Or perhaps, by "league," they mean guys who run 4.8 km, in which case we can rule out our humble narrator.

The only constant in the weekend is that the Texas-Oklahoma game, AKA the AT&T Red River Rivalry, is (unfortunately for Texas right now) following an historic pattern that reflects a series which goes in streaks.

Hold the mother-scratching phone! You write to tell us that everything was forseen because football has changed, and the proof of this is a constant in one game where things stay the same until they change?

Well played, sir.

Starting more than 70 years ago, D. X. Bible and his Texas Longhorns started it by winning eight straight games over the Sooners from 1940 through 1947. Bud Wilkinson and his Oklahoma team followed that by going 9-1 against Texas from 1948 through 1957. Then, Darrell Royal secured the edge for Texas as his Longhorns put together the series' most dominant string, going 12-1 from 1958 through 1970. The pendulum swung in the early part of the seventies, when Oklahoma won five before the 6-6 tie in 1976 ended that run. Fred Akers achieved early success, putting together a 4-1-1 streak from 1977-84. Oklahoma countered with a 4-0 string from 1985 through 1988. Then David McWilliams and John Mackovic combined to lead their teams to a 5-1-1 mark from 1989 through 1995. Texas stretched the overall run to 8-2-1 by going 3-1 to close out the last decade of the 20th century and open the Mack Brown era with back to back wins in 1998 and 1999. The 2000s have found OU with a five game streak to start the decade, before Texas won three of the next four.

Nothing to worry about, see? Mack Brown has had three streaks. Of two games. Each. It's how these things work.

Now OU has won three straight. Mack Brown was the first to acknowledge that the Longhorns' performance in the game Saturday was unacceptable by any standard. What makes it even more puzzling is that there was no way to anticipate its coming.

Yes. You are not imagining things. Bill Little just went from "It's not like we didn't tell you this was coming" to "there was no way to anticipate its coming" in just 552 words.

You cannot corner Bill Little. He's like a Heinz Edelmann character, sticking his head in one doorway only to have it poke out another down the hall. He falls through a hole in the foreground only to pop through the ceiling in the background. Imagine Benny Hill as a ninja. Bill probably has a hole in his pocket, one he can take out, put on a storage locker door, reach in and play with next season's Bevo swag. Grammar, usage, punctuation, reason, and Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert himself do not stand a Chinaman's chance against this warlock of words.

Having worked for two years in Oklahoma City with The Associated Press, I can tell you that the Oklahoma nation traditionally approaches this game with more intensity than our folks south of the Red River. Again, that is a given, year after year.

I'll just leave that there. Please continue when your blind rage ebbs, sufficient for the purpose of reading and not killing.

An expression I heard a long time ago from a coach often serves well as you bounce back from a loss like Saturday's. Somebody asked him to break down the debacle he had just seen publicly. "It serves no purpose," he said. And he was right.

The purpose of Bill Little's analysis is that there is no purpose. The Bill Little that can be repurposed is not the true Bill Little, but is actually a label maker I got for my birthday in 2002. It always comes back to me, no matter how I wrap it.

Losing. My. Mind.

But I can expect no mercy.

A learned oilman once was told that one of his workers had inadvertently run over and broken a well-head in West Texas. "I am going to fire that guy," said the foreman. "No," replied the oil man. "You're not going to fire him, because he is the only guy in the company who knows where that well-head is."

Verily, the only man who can un-shit this bed is the one man ... The. One. Man. who actually tried the enchiladas at the Posse. His ulcerated sphincter alone stands between us and the hazards of comprehension.

In the locker room following Mack Brown's comments, players spoke emotionally and defiantly, not about what had happened, but about the future of this team.

AND THIS IS A GOOD THING?

"Doctor, how is he doing?"

"Well, the bullet went through and through, but at least he's scared witless that he's going to die. That will be $94,000."

Games like Saturday are a reminder that sport teaches lessons of life, and life, conversely, teaches lessons in sport. In a league where everybody plays everybody, there is a bunch of business - a combination of challenges and opportunities - remaining in this season.

There. There is the one constant in all this insanity. Bill Little, Omphalos of the universe, unmoved and unmoving. Nations rise and fall, oceans boil, mountains split open to reveal Sean Connery pursuing Donald Pleasence on a monorail. But is Bill Little moved? No. There is only one thing that moves Bill Little:

As a kid, I was a great fan of poetry, and one of the most interesting was a poem by an author named Edmond Vance Cooke. It was entitled, "How Did You Die?"

For men of my generation, we didn't encounter Cooke's "How Did You Die?" until we heard Flava Flav's solo single, "Bitch Shot Me," and only later learned how deep the lyrics ran.

Bill, I think, is the sort of man that Tom Lehrer had in mind when, attempting to supply the United States Army with its own song, he wrote "Fred's an intellectual / Brings a book to every meal. / He prefers the deep philosophers, / Like Norman Vincent Peale."

A significant, and applicable-at-this-time verse

Great, you just used three hyphens to spell the word "timely." Our judges would also have accepted "apropos," "apt," "synchronicitous," and "creepy as shit how did you know that".

reads, "You are beaten to earth? Well,well, what's that?

It's a planet, you gibbon. Learn a language.

Come up with a smiling face. It is nothing against you to fall down flat - but to lie there, that's disgrace."

I think Mr. Cooke is putting one over on Mr. Little, because I'm getting more of a "Norman Rockwell Illustrated Deep Throat" from that last line, all knobby knees and apple cheeks and gee-whiz expressions of surprise. No? Just me?

Damn.

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