Oct. 31, 2010
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
Longhorns baseball coach Augie Garrido figured this out a long time ago. So did Nike.
Webster defines the word "try" as "to test; to attempt; to endeavor; to make effort."
"If you set out to 'try' to do something," says Garrido, "you'll never get it done. Don't 'try' to hit the ball, just hit the ball." Nike's slogan has become "Just Do It."
I realize we are playing with words here, but Saturday night in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium may well have been a case of guys "trying" too hard. Wanting desperately to make a play, they got lost in the attempt and failed to achieve what they thought they were "trying" to do.
You can test this for yourself. Drop a piece of paper on the floor and "try" to pick it up. Your natural reaction is to reach down and grab hold of the paper. You didn't "try" to do it, you just did it. If you simply "try," it will just lay there. Good intentions are good, but that is kind of like what Darrell Royal once said; "Potential means you ain't done it yet."
It is both the most gratifying, and yet the most frustrating, part of coaching a team. You appreciate it when your team plays hard -- when it "makes effort" if you will -- and yet you are immensely disappointed when that effort does not translate into success. You can't "try" to stop them; you "have" to stop them. You can't "try" to score, you just score. And what happened Saturday night was that every Longhorn player wanted to win so badly that they let their "want to" get in the way of their "get to." The result was a handful of big plays by Baylor, and too many dropped balls and penalties by Texas, that netted a 30-22 Baylor victory.
The frustrating irony for the Longhorns, who are now 2-3 in the very balanced Big 12 South, is that they have had a final chance on the last drive of the three losses to tie the game. Oklahoma won, 28-20. The Iowa State game finished at 28-21. And now Baylor stops a final drive for a 30-22 victory. When it has needed to get points inside the red zone, Texas has had to settle for field goals. Saturday, a remarkable Justin Tucker tied a UT school record with five field goals. Had two of those penetrations translated to touchdowns instead, the score would have been tied.
After a night when the Longhorns honored history by retiring Colt McCoy's jersey, the Longhorns of 2010 now need to celebrate the past, but also need to turn their attention forward. At 4-4, there is still a third of the regular season to play. Mack's saying of "They will remember November" has never applied more than to this 2010 team. The media and the negative folks will dredge up all of the dire historical notes of what has happened so far, but what happens next is all that can be controlled right now. True enough, in time all that may be will be a line in the record book, but the November games against Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Florida Atlantic and Texas A&M will ultimately determine how this team is remembered.
Prior to this season, the Longhorns only losses in Big 12 regular season competition under Mack Brown had come to Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Kansas State. The Wildcats, in Manhattan, are the next team on the UT schedule.
When a reporter asked Mack Brown in the postgame press conference, "How do you fix this?", his answer was simple. He didn't talk about "trying." He said instead, "You just keep working."
I remember when I was with The Associated Press in Oklahoma City in 1967 and the Longhorns were in the midst of a season that would end at 6-4. I had called the home of Darrell and Edith Royal about 10:30 p.m. on a Sunday night to get a quote about Texas' upcoming game with the unbeaten Sooners. Coach Royal wasn't home.
"He's at the office, Bill," Edith had said. Then she paused. "They are having to coach a lot harder this year."
The decade of 2000-09 for the Longhorns produced the most number of wins in a decade of any team in the history of college football. The decade was also the most successful, percentage-wise, of any ever at UT.
Several times on Saturday, the crowd of over 100,000 arrived at a place which respected that what was happening on the field was only a game. The first was the recognition of Colt, for all that he had meant. The second was the recognition of the significance of the players' effort to call attention to the lives -- including many of their own -- affected by breast cancer. Each player and coach had dedicated their game to someone in their lives who had been touched by the disease.
Finally, the silence was incredible as Aaron Williams and Blake Gideon lay on the field after colliding near the end of the game. In that moment, it was no longer about a game, but about real people, and real lives.
It always is. Football at Texas has brought tremendous joy to hundreds of thousands of people over the last years. We respect that, and we treasure those moments. And players, coaches, and fans never expect that to change. But for fear of being philosophical here, it does. They call that life.
You keep working. You keep fighting. In the movie "Star Wars," the Jedi Master Yoda put it another way: "Do or do not. There is no try." I say again, and here repeat: a third of the season remains.