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The Trouble with Troubadours

Football season is finally here. And so is Bill Little's regular column. This week, Bill fashions one of the most tightly strained metaphors in the history of analogical reasoning. Enjoy!

Bill Little commentary: The troubadour

Like for senior WR Jordan Shipley, sometimes it isn't just the believing that carries you -- it is the faith in believing.

So, Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley has faith in believing, just like a ... wandering minstrel?

Sept. 6, 2009

Bill Little, Texas Media Relations

One of the challenges of "faith" is that you have to believe to make it work.

What? That's like saying "one of the hardest things about eyesight is you have to use it to see stuff."

And sometimes, it isn't just the believing that carries you -- it is the faith in believing.

Jordan Shipley knows this all too well. If there is a poster child for faith -- both that which has been challenged and that which has been validated -- the Longhorns receiver fills the role.

...or, I don't know, maybe Jesus Christ would be a slightly better choice as the poster boy for faith? Just sayin’.

Skipping ahead a bit.

Through all of it, Shipley gave his time to kids in hospitals, spoke for church groups and wrote kids who were struggling with injuries, hoping that they, too, one day could walk through that valley just like Jordan.

What valley?

Yeah, I know – I skipped a bunch of stuff and maybe Bill introduced this "valley" to which he refers. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that he didn’t.

He had proved he could catch, proved he could take a hit, but the blazing speed which had helped make him the state of Texas' all-time leading high school receiver hadn't yet been tested.

And so it was that on a sunny day in Dallas, right there on the floor of the newly remodeled Cotton Bowl Stadium where so many destinies have traveled,

I love it when Bill invents poetic turns-of-phrase. Other contenders for this week's flowery idiom:

"…right there on the floor of the newly remodeled Cotton Bowl Stadium where so many fates have ventured"

"…right there on the floor of the newly remodeled Cotton Bowl Stadium where so many predetermined futures have traversed significant distances"

"…right there on the floor of the newly remodeled Cotton Bowl Stadium where so many fortunes have hitched a ride on the dream wagon"

"…right there on the floor of the newly remodeled Cotton Bowl Stadium where so many human beings have been utterly human"

Jordan Shipley caught a kickoff from the Oklahoma Sooners. With his team trailing, 14-0, he turned the game, the season, and Jordan Shipley's world around.

History will tell you that Jordan Shipley returned that kick 96 yards for a touchdown.

And I will tell you that using a phrase like "History will tell you…" to introduce an event that your readers witnessed approximately 11 months ago is completely unnecessary and, frankly, kind of pretentious.

Texas went on to a 45-35 victory. The season of 2008 turned into one of the best in Texas history, and a big part of it was the receiving tandem of Shipley and Quan Cosby, who helped roommate McCoy earn honors as the most accurate passer in NCAA history for a single season.

As the regular season ended, it was now time to put faith in some human beings who were part of an NCAA committee that considers appeals for those players who had lost seasons of eligibility to injury.

What a coincidence! At the end of last season, I also converted to the Church of Some Human Beings Who Were Part of an NCAA Committee that Considers Appeals for Those Players Who Had Lost Seasons of Eligibility to Injury. Before that, I was a member of the Church of Rhetorical Brevity.

Jordan earned his bachelor's degree from UT in December of 2008, and just before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, he learned that his sixth year had been granted.

All of that brings us to Saturday night in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Throughout the summer, Jordan and Colt and their Longhorn teammates had worked every day for this moment - a crowd of 101,096, the opening of a new season, high hopes, big dreams.

The record will show that Texas defeated the ULM, 59-20.

"The record will show?" Is Bill addressing a jury?

Colt McCoy surpassed 10,000 passing yards in his career, and UT posted an impressive season opener with all of the components of a great night - a tremendous showing with room still for improvement. Call it an impressive "work in progress."

Jordan Shipley was out early for practice on Saturday night, joining the kickers as their holder as the crowd began filtering into the stadium. Before the night was over, he would catch eight passes for 180 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown. His fourth season, in his sixth year at Texas, began with a flourish.

Those whose lives he has touched along the way cheered. When he came to Texas, Vince Young nicknamed him "ESPN" because of some of his highlight catches.

I imagine Bill's thoughts in composing the above paragraph were something like this: "Hey, here's two completely unrelated statements that I feel compelled to include in my latest piece for some unfathomable reason. Maybe I should group them into a single paragraph and leave out any transition that might explain why on God's green Earth I believe these two sentences have anything to do with one another."

Jordan has now spent more than a quarter of his life at Texas, and in the space of time that has spanned his stay,

"Space of time." Einstein would be proud.

he has learned the hard lessons of reality and challenges. But most of all, this has never been about him.

"This" what is not about Jordan Shipley? Because this article certainly is about him. I think. To be honest, though, I can't be sure. The title is "The Troubadour," and as far as I know, that’s a description that in no way applies to Jordan Shipley. Bill certainly hasn’t explained the connection. Let’s see what he comes up with.

It is he about the team, and it is about people.

Oh my God - is it about Soylent Green?!?

He has learned the value of being who you are, and the faith of who you can be - whatever that may look like. They call that maturity I am told.

No. No one calls "learn[ing] the value of being who you are, and the faith of who you can be - whatever that may look like" maturity. No one. I actually polled people on what they would call that, and here are the most popular answers: "inscrutable nonsense," "an awkward stream of rhetorical nothingness," "trite textual filler," and "holy hell - what the fuck is this dude yammering about?"

He's an outstanding golfer, and he writes songs and picks a pretty mean guitar. That fits a country boy from Burnet, Texas who likes to hunt and fish, and it also is a bit prophetic, when you consider one of his favorite performers is country singer George Strait.

Whoa. That prophecy just blew my mind! Could it just be a coincidence that Jordan Shipley is an outstanding golfer / amateur songwriter and yet also kind of likes George Strait? I mean, what are the odds? I’ve got goosebumps.

Strait's recent album is entitled, "An Old Troubadour," and the hit title song probably strikes a chord with Jordan, even though he's not going to be hanging around any honky tonks.

Why not?

In the song, Strait talks about a mirror of life and offers that a mirror "Don't really tell the whole truth. It don't show what's deep inside...".

And then the refrain says, "I was a young troubadour when I rode in on a song, and I'll be an old troubadour when I'm gone."

In other words, it is not about what you are, but who you are. Time doesn't change that. And faith takes many forms, but the strongest for Jordan Shipley is his faith in his God, which helps fuel his belief in himself.

Wow. That’s it. Apparently, this is the theme Bill was working on this week: Jordan Shipley is analogous to a troubadour because he has a guitar and is arguably a fan of George Strait. This metaphor still applies, according to Bill, even though unspecified reasons will keep Shipley away from honky tonks, which apparently undermines the central Shipley/troubadour thesis in some way. Also, Jordan Shipley has faith in God. Because this fact is somehow relevant to Shipley's troubadourishness, it is worth noting for the first time in the last sentence of the piece.

Does that about sum it up?

This piece reminds me of one of Bill's high school English essays, a copy of which I obtained through a trusted Barking Carnival source. I thought some of you might enjoy reading it, as it demonstrates that Bill's style really hasn't changed over the years:

The Salty Old Sailor, by Bill Little.

One of the amazing things about life is that sometimes you have to focus on what's real and what's there in that moment of the time in which you're living. And it's all about people being human. And so it is with Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a delightful old sea chantey about a down-on-his-luck sailor, his fishing buddies and a magical bird. Theirs is a story about friends being who they are, which is to say being human in the sincerest sense of the word.

And that brings us to a beautiful sunny day on the boat:

"Water, water every where
And all the boards did shrink;
Water,water every where,
Ne any drop to drink."

In other words, it's not about where you are, but who you choose to be and where you're going. And through it all we learn that you have to be absolutely human and have faith in your friends and your boat. Those are the lessons they say last a lifetime.

History will tell you that the old sailor survived and went to a wedding. He told his story to the guests, knowing that they too may one day climb that same mountain. And that is the greatest wedding gift of all.