Bill Little commentary: Winning open date
Yes! We won the bye week!
With a 4-0 record over their first games, the Longhorns have handled the beginning run, and on Saturday, they embark on the rest of their journey.
Oct. 4, 2009
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
Mack Brown figured out a long time ago that a college football season’s duration and its intensity – at a place like Texas – is more like a pace lap than a race lap.
I'm the reverend Jesse Jackson, and I approve of the preceding sentence.
And so far, 2009 breaks down into three distinct trips.
1 pace lap = 3 trips. Got it.
With a 4-0 record over their first games, the Longhorns have handled the beginning run. At one point, in fact, Mack had considered breaking this 12-game regular season into quarters.
Oh no! Please tell me he didn't go through with it!
The games against ULM, Wyoming and Texas Tech actually constituted his first mini-season. But when the Longhorns were so impressive in their blowout of UTEP, he changed the plan with the players and put that game in the first segment.
Whew! Thank God. I was really worried that Mack would adopt a quarter system, and the UTEP game would remain forever in the second segment. But it appears that Mack realized what we all know to be true: the win over UTEP was far too impressive to be placed in the second mini-season. We can all breathe a huge sigh of relief now. Order has been restored.
It is rare for Texas to have an open date in mid-season, and it is always up for debate whether it is good or bad to take a break.
Sailor Ripley is currently negotiating with Gwen Ifill to moderate a debate on this very subject during Barking Carnival's next podcast. closetojumping will take the position that it is bad to take a break. closetojumping will then take his meds and argue the contrary position.
On further review of this year, the coaching staff likes what it sees. If an open date comes too early, as it did after the second game of 2004, it really doesn’t offer some of the advantages a later break can. In that case, it is too soon after you just finished fall training to have video and experiences that will serve as a teaching mechanism based on what has happened so far. Practice, just for the sake of practice, isn’t as productive as practice for the sake of teaching. And nothing is a better teacher than experience.
Wrong. The best teacher is that hot young blonde chick who was boning her students. End of discussion.
You can debate for long hours the benefits of sustaining momentum by playing versus using the break to step back a bit, and it is probably different in different years. This time, it falls about as perfect as it can for the Longhorns.
Bill's writing is like a shell game played with pronouns. He takes the word "it," places it under the shell of one noun and then starts shuffling everything around. You smirk cockily as he engages in this child's play. You know what "it" is. After all, you're an excellent reader and have a keen mind for following the various rhetorical loops and twists constructed by even the most confounding of authors. You can't be fooled.
And then Bill shows you where "it" is. You are shocked and confused. You feel cheated. You start to panic. "Where did I go wrong? What turn of phrase did I miss? When did he switch modifiers without me noticing? How in the Hell did this happen, dammit!?!" And by the time you sort through Bill's knot of run-on sentences, dangling participles and sappy sleights-of-hand, he's already picked up shop and moved on to his next mark.
First of all, it gives those players who are nicked and bruised a chance to heal. More important, however, is the opportunity to work with young players. Because all but one of the early games were lopsided enough to allow a lot of guys to play, the coaches and the older players can now communicate with them based, not on theory, but experience. They have a chance to understand "why" as they are learning "how."
So, is theory the "why" part or the "how" part?
The coaching staff did that as the Longhorns worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before taking a full break that began Friday. The open date also gives the team a chance for a particular kind of bonding as they spend time together. Then, as many of them take advantage of an open weekend, they are challenged to remember their goal as they travel home to see friends.
Nothing solidifies the bond between teamates like going your separate ways to take care of personal business.
The strength and conditioning work the Longhorns did over the summer allowed them to sustain through the heat of the UTEP game. As the team members went their separate ways, they were charged with personal accountability to maintain the standards they have established.
That's a fancy way to say "Mad Dog told them to run a few laps, do some pushups and not get the clap over the weekend."
All of that is critical when you look at the next two segments of Mack’s mini-seasons.
The Longhorns are 1-0 in Big 12 competition. A year ago, Texas faced arguably their toughest mid-season run ever, when they had to play four straight teams which had been ranked in the top 10 in Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Not since the 1940s had anybody made it through such a gauntlet undefeated, and Texas came within a second of doing that. But it is that second that Texas realizes was the difference between it and its ultimate goal of playing for a national championship.
"The difference between it and its ultimate goal." That sounds confusing. But allow me to clarify by putting Bill's words into a mathematical equation:
Texas's Ultimate Goal - Texas = 1 sec.
Makes sense now, right? No? Well, let's solve for the variable "Ultimate Goal:"
Texas x ('s Ultimate Goal - 1) = 1 sec.
('s Ultimate Goal - 1) = 1 sec. / Texas
's Ultimate Goal = (1 sec. / Texas) + 1
Ultimate Goal = [(1 sec. / Texas) + 1)] / ('s)
And now Bill's point should be crystal clear.
So beginning Saturday, Texas returns to Big 12 play and a treacherous four-game stretch. It begins with Colorado, a frustrated team with good players that began the year hoping for a 10-win season.
So they must be good, because they were certainly hoping to be!
Then, the Longhorns leave Austin for three straight weeks to play Oklahoma in Dallas, Missouri at Columbia and Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
The final piece of the season includes a rare late season non-conference game in Austin with Central Florida (moved to accommodate television’s request to play Texas Tech in September),
Oh shit. Bill thinks he has to accomodate his television's "requests." His house must be filled to the rafters with Sham-Wows and Dance Party Hits of the 90s! CDs.
then Texas is at Baylor before playing Kansas in Austin and Texas A&M in College Station.
It is, after all, much like those journeys pioneers used to make as they headed west.
Oh God. Here we go.
There was a point where they stopped and rested, to get ready for the hard journey ahead. Any way you slice it, that’s where Texas is right now.
Right. No matter how many different ways you look at it, one conclusion is simply undeniable: the Texas Longhorn football team is, at this very moment, out West lazing around with a bunch of lethargic pioneers.
Admittedly, you do have to (as the cliché says) take them "one at a time." But if you are driving to Dallas, you have to first get to Temple, and then to Waco, and so on.
Point, by Bill Little
You have to take them "one at a time." I know that is a cliche, but it is true. And I admit it.
Counterpoint, by Bill Little
I have argued that "you have to take them 'one at a time.'" I completely disagree. If you want to drive from point A to point B, you must first pass through each point between A and B, one by one.
So, now, the players will have used this weekend to watch games of opponents,
"Games of Opponents." Is that one of those Japanese competition shows?
visit with family, catch up on studies, and come back together on Sunday night in Austin.
And if you are wondering what happens next,
As luck would have it, I am!
the team will return to reality on Monday with a 5:45 a.m. practice. The early time is necessary, because a lot of the players have labs on Monday afternoon – which is normally a day off.
Mack has always made the point that the life of a team is 365 days long, and that it began for these Longhorns the day after the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory over Ohio State.
That's true. Ever since he's been at Texas, Mack has stated that the life of the 2009 Texas football team started the day after the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl victory over Ohio State. In retrospect, that was one hell of a prediction.
You work as a college football player year-round to play 12 regular season games, and then hope for a couple more in post-season. A third of that regular season is successfully behind them.
I'm a traditionalist, and haven't really accepted Mack's newly-adopted arbitrary way of dividing the season. I view it as revisionist history. Mack started off dividing the season into quarters. That's a fact. Look it up. Then, as soon as his team put together a big win against UTEP, he flip-flopped. All of a sudden, dividing the season into quarters wasn't good enough; Mack wanted to divide it into thirds. Sure, Mack's new segmentation of the season is perfect. Maybe a little too perfect, if you get my drift.
To me, the season will always be divided into quarters. That just makes so much more sense, and better reflects reality in a way that is useful, relevant and worthy of discussion in an on-line column.
Saturday, they embark on the rest of their journey.
Yet another missed "dreamwagon" opportunity. Damn.