Primal Fears

Primal Fears

As if we needed any more reasons to lose confidence in Tyrone Swoopes, this week, reflecting on his play in the Baylor game, said, “I had gotten hit a couple times. That kind of made me a little bit nervous”. Somebody on the Texas sideline better have some handy wipes and an extra pair of football pants handy Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.
And then he said this: “Sometimes, defenses will give me the same looks over and over again, and I don’t decipher it like I’m supposed to, and I do the wrong things. Simple things like that. Nothing major.”

I’m glad it’s nothing major.

Even with these comments by Swoopes, I know many if not most Texas fans would disagree with what I wrote on Monday, that his two fumbles on the goal line and his terrible numbers should cost him the starting quarterback role. I’m certain that Charlie Strong disagrees, and I believe I know why he does. It’s fear. My observations over 50-plus years of watching football have convinced me that one of most important guiding principles for a vast majority of football coaches is fear. Fear of innovation and breaking with the past. They don’t seem to fear getting fired for not innovating.

I know what the stated reasons are for not playing Jerrod Heard, at least in a relief role: the need to preserve his redshirt, and he’s not ready. As I have written before, speculating on what may happen four years from now in football is akin to speculating in 2012 who the Republican nominee for President would be in 2016. It’s purely academic if not folly. It’s more likely that Heard would transfer, flunk out, suffer a career-ending injury, or get beat out by another quarterback than it is that he will still be playing for Texas in 2018. As far as Heard not being ready, ready compared to whom, Swoopes? At this point, that’s not a credible argument, in my opinion.

Strong should consider how much goodwill he’s burning through with the team, with the fan base, and with his employers for not pulling out all the stops to win football games this season. If Texas scores less than 20 points or so against Oklahoma and gets blown out on Saturday, look for a crowd of about 50,000 in Austin next week for the Iowa State game. That’s something Charlie Strong should fear.

Perhaps lost in the demoralizing loss to Baylor were some solid performances by the Texas defense and offensive line. The defense limited Baylor to 21 points and Bryce Petty to only 7 pass completions for 111 yards. Petty said after the game that his head was still spinning from all the coverages Texas threw at him. Hats off to Defensive Coordinator (former Longhorn All Southwest Conference defensive back) Vance Bedford and his Texas defense. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Steve Edmond played a whale of a game. The offensive line, reconfigured with the insertion of Darius James as the starting right tackle and the move of Kent Perkins to starting right guard, played pretty darned well as Texas gained 190 rushing yards and gave Tyrone Swoopes time to throw down field. It would be nice if the next time the offensive line plays well, Texas could score more than seven points.

My Fears
My father and I had many interesting conversations. Some were pretty light like the time he told me about the pleasures of trying new things, such as when he switched from an olive to a lemon twist in his martinis. He was quite pleased with the lemon twist. Driving to the beach in the summer of 1968—just my father, mother and I—he compared and contrasted the running styles of Red Grange and Gayle Sayers. That really engaged my 12 year old sports obsessed mind. Also during that trip he told me that Babe Ruth was not a “high-type” guy and didn’t wear underwear.

Other conversations were more serious. When my brother David was, ahem, struggling academically during his sophomore year at UT, my father read me the riot act about how I was going to conduct my studies in college starting with the first semester of my freshman year! At the time, I was in ninth grade and my grades were pretty good for crissakes.

The most memorable and perhaps the most valuable conversations I had with my father were intimate ones. When David and I were devastated by the assassination of Robert Kennedy, my father told us that we had to pick up where RFK left off by always doing our best in school, in work, and as citizens.

When I was in high school and my father and I were with a realtor looking at a house in Reston, Virginia my father wanted to buy, he started crying when he told me how much my mother deserved to have this house.

Though one of the biggest disappointments of my youth was getting cut from the junior varsity basketball team and never playing beyond my freshman year, my father knew I was secure enough that he could tell me about how proud he was of David. David was his letterman. When I was in my early-30s with a career and lofty ambitions of my own, my father let on to me that my brother Clayton was the highest achiever of anybody ever named Frink.

When my parents were in their mid-80s, during one of the last times they had dinner at my house with Helen and me, my father told us a remarkable story about when he met the Army lieutenant who accompanied his brother’s body home after World War II at the train station in Norwich, New York, and took him out for a drink. It wasn’t remarkable because anything particularly interesting or unusual happened when he met the lieutenant. It was remarkable in the casual way my father told us the story, the fact that I had never heard the story before, and for me the literally jaw-dropping contrast it drew between his life and experiences and mine.

There is a conversation with my father that I didn’t have that I wished I had. I’ve been to 37 Texas-OU games. Since the first one I went to in 1974, until as recently as 2012, I couldn’t imagine not being excited about going every year for the rest of my life. Suddenly last year, as OU Weekend approached, I felt ambivalent about going. On Monday of this week I had the same feelings. I fear that it’s not just the Longhorns downturn since 2010 that’s causing my ambivalence. I’m afraid it’s because I’m getting old.

My father never talked to me about getting old. Oh, he made self-deprecating remarks about being old when he was in his 80s. But I’m talking about the aging I’m going through now. Though I’m quite fit—if I do say so myself—for a 59-year-old and I’m pretty sure I’ll be around for at least another 20 years plus but die before I run out of money, I have fears about being old. I fear that I’m seen as old by my clients and business associates. I fear that late in the fourth quarter of my career, my ambitions outstrip the time and focus I have to fulfill them. And I’m a little sad that my running career is over, and because of a nagging hip condition, I’m afraid I won’t ever be able to play golf as well as I did from 2000-2009. When my father was 59, I was 22, so of course it never crossed my mind at the time that he might be experiencing primal fears about aging. Over the past few years I’ve been wondering what my father would say to me if I could tell him about these fears. I bet it would be interesting. I bet it would be insightful and yet witty and there’s a chance it could be jaw-dropping.

Though I can’t have that conversation with my father, I’m often heartened when listening to a certain song on my iPod while I’m working out. If there was a theme song about my father’s attitude about life and the way he lived it, it would be this song.
“Young At Heart”
Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you’re young at heart.
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart.

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes.
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams.
And life gets more exciting with each passing day.
And love is either in your heart, or on it’s way.

Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart.
For as rich as you are, it’s much better by far
To be young at heart.

And if you should survive to 105,
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
And here is the best part, you have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart.

And if you should survive to 105,
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive!
And here is the best part, you have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart.

–Johnny Richards, Carolyn Leigh

Hub Frink, 57, Helen Frink, my date and me at the Sigma Phi Epsilon Red Garter Party in November 1975

Hub Frink, age 57, Helen Frink, my date and me at the Sigma Phi Epsilon Red Garter Party in November 1975

I’m going to the OU game, leaving early, staying late.

Beat the Hell Outta OU!

HooK ‘eM,


OU Over/Under







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  6. W.E., I will just scroll down to the end and compliment you on your confessional primal fear of aging, well said, and damn it if I wasn’t thinking the same thing across the seas. I was at a barbecue on the grounds of the Canadian Embassy in Amman the other night, and there came a point when the ladies started dancing led by a tight-bodied Venezuelan firecracker in spray paint white jeans, arousing the interest of the Mounties even though most of the girls including the Latina were in their 40’s if not 50’s. Meanwhile, their husbands were just sitting around, lamely, drinking their Labatt’s and cheap red wine, and it occurred to me that when men get older, most just graze quietly in the pasture. My son at UVA (the Hoos have a better record than the Horns, go figure) doing a religion course commented on my Zen-like attitude toward Texas football this year, with the blood just not rising to a boil. Nothing is permanent – not us, or the state of Texas football – so even within in our more limited timeframe we’ll see a few more cycles. We will beat OU many times more, but as for today grasshopper, one must look to the heavens for interventions. Stay young at heart and have an extra beer and corny dog for me at the fairgrounds.

  7. Ah, sweet melancholy memories. Nice post about your Dad–I wonder if he talked to mine at that Red Garter in 75? He passed away last February–miss talking to him about OU weekend, but I haven’t been since 1998. Have a couple for me, Bill, and let’s hope that we lay a good ol’ fashioned ass whoopin’ on the Land Thieves!

  8. 1. Excellent Hub stories. I will add them to the manuscript (Execs at Sony expressing strong interest in film rights but want to change name to “The Progenitor”). Speaking of Hub and Frink academics, I went to pick him up for a dinner once in 2007 and he asked about my grades– “How are your studies?” I told him they were going well and I’d made a 4.0 the previous semester. He roared something like “A 4.0!? are you trying to make your father and his brothers look stupid!?”

    2. Re: the picture. The vest of your 3-piece suit rises too far above the lapel and gives the suit a constrained look but your hair at 59 has more color than Hub’s did at 57. As for the running, I was impressed with the 40-yard dash times you posted at Drake Stadium two weekends ago.

    3. I’ll see if I can get away from work long enough to meet you for a beer at halftime but the outlook isn’t good.

    During Spring Practice someone wrote Swoopes looked like a Centaur with Tom Brady’s legs and Vince Young’s upper body. I feel like that is more or less what we’re seeing now.


  9. Horns lose, but manage to make it closer than wise guys think. Swoopes hits some big passes, but fumbles at least once. Armanti Foreman has at least one special play and then never sees ball again. It’s a Texas tradition. Nick Rose MAKES a field goal. Attendance at next week’s Iowa State game probably in the 85K-91K region, and they’ll see a devastated Longhorn team on the edge of quitting.

What Say You?