Love Don’t Pay the Rent
You see what happens when you procrastinate? I had a postmortem Alamo Bowl column conjured up in my mind, but now what’s the point? It’s old news, so I’ll be very brief before I move on to the next subject.
All the hugs, participation trophies, clapping, win one for Mack, and the incessant replays of the Horns’ Rose Bowl victories on the Longhorn Network couldn’t propel Texas to a victory over a good football team—Oregon—in the Alamo Bowl. There’s just no substitute for a coherent game plan and a division one quarterback. It’s a good time to move on.
Except for slightly more than three years while I was in elementary school in Houston, I grew up rooting for the Longhorns from 1,800 miles away in Vestal, New York. During Texas’ 30 game winning streak from 1968-70 and their two national championships, I was in my early teens. When I was in ninth grade, three close friends of mine, Bob Burwasser, Will Cheng, Bob Luciano, and I formed a very tongue—in —cheek club called the “Give ‘Em Hells.” We bought black t-shirts and had a local sporting goods store customize them with our club nicknames in raised red letters on the back. My nickname was “Tex” for obvious reasons. Given the ethnic makeup of the club, my father suggested WASP, as an alternate nickname for me. The four of us had been friends since elementary school. We were jocks and three out of the four of us were in what we would now call “advanced placement” classes in high school. Yeah, I was the one who wasn’t. Anyway, we fancied ourselves to be smarter than everyone else, and we were interested in current events and politics as well as sports.
My friends were not Texas fans—or least they pretended not to be—and they enjoyed giving me a hard time by telling me that the Texas football team was overrated and not as good as Ohio State, Notre Dame, or any other team they could think of. All three of them called to taunt me during Texas’ loss to Notre Dame in the 1971 Cotton Bowl that ended Texas’ 30-game winning streak. What are friends for, right?
A valid criticism that my fellow “Give ‘em Hells” had about Texas—and the criticism was pointedly delivered—was that their National Championship team in 1969 was all white. I didn’t have a comeback for that one. I knew it was wrong that by 1969 Texas still didn’t have any black football players. SMU had a black football star—Jerry Levias—in 1966, but UT was still all-white in 1969. In 1970 Texas had one black player. I loved the University of Texas. I didn’t want to think that Darrell Royal was a racist, but it seemed to me that UT was behind the curve on this issue. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t doing anything extraordinary at that time to combat racism. But institutional racism still existed at UT—and UT wasn’t alone—in the late 60s and early 70s and I can’t deny that it bugged me a little.
Charlie Strong’s credentials are more than worthy of being the head football coach at the University of Texas. So I don’t mean to minimize his qualifications by making this all about race. As pleased as I am today about this hire, I’ll be as critical as anybody if he doesn’t win big. But darned if UT didn’t move the needle in more ways than one by hiring Charlie Strong.
Give ‘Em Hell Charlie.
If you haven’t read Ball Four by Jim Bouton, you should, immediately if not sooner. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. Bouton devotes several pages to his Yankee teammate Mickey Mantle and tells a story about Mantle conducting a raffle in the clubhouse for a ham. Mantle collected the entry fee from just about every Yankee. In the end, there was no ham and Mantle pocketed the entry fees. Mantle explained that the fact that there was no ham was all part of the “game of chance.”
So why am I telling this story? Because I conducted a couple of Over/Under Contests and I haven’t compiled and reported the results. I promise to deliver the results before this weekend is out.