Bill Little commentary: Follow the yellow brick road
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Oct. 26, 2012

Bill Little, Texas Media Relations

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- It has been more than 70 years since we first learned about Dorothy, Toto, and all of the assorted cast of characters who weaved their way in and out of Kansas in the movie "The Wizard of Oz."

But as the Longhorns football team travels to Lawrence Saturday for a meeting with the Kansas Jayhawks, it is a reminder that the road in the Big 12 Conference is an adventure not to be trifled with. And the story of the lion, the tin man, the scarecrow, the little girl, the witch and the wizard has its own reminder of the importance of lessons learned and what is real and what isn't.

Texas, at 5-2, is in the third quadrant of its football season. It has survived the gauntlet that was the second "season" -- against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Texas started phase three with a win Saturday over Baylor, and now must face Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State. The final stage is the two-game stand against TCU on Thanksgiving and Kansas State in Manhattan on Dec. 1.

The tornado -- and everyone who saw the movie remembers the tornado -- was the whirlwind loss to Oklahoma. Somewhere in the middle of the victory over Baylor, the sun came out, and the Horns began to play. The tin man shook off his rust as he has gone in search of a heart, the scarecrow seeks a brain and the lion seeks courage. And through all of this, Dorothy and Toto stick together, the way teammates are supposed to do.

What you learned in The Wizard of Oz, and what the Horns are learning about themselves as they journey into Kansas, is that the only person in charge of what you do is...you. And therein lies the secret to success. The greatest enemy of self-esteem is fear.

Texas, a young and growing team, is looking to grow from the 56-50 victory over Baylor. Most of all, it is hoping to show improvement in every phase of the game. All of that starts, of course, by respecting your opponent. Lawrence is a lesson learned about what can happen if you don't do that.

When the Horns played here in 2000, Texas trailed 14-0 early in the game before Chris Simms and Roy Williams put together a resounding statistical show in a 51-16 rout. The most dramatic game of the series, of course, came during the UT campaign to the Rose Bowl in 2004. Then, a Kansas team that would finish with a losing record, had Texas on the ropes late in the fourth quarter.

But in one of the most dramatic plays in his ultra dramatic career, Vince Young snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Facing fourth and eighteen and trailing 23-20 late in the game, Young rolled right, jumped through the tackle of one of the best linebackers in the Big 12 and picked up the first down. With 17 seconds to go, he threw a touchdown pass for a 27-23 victory.

All of the message of the characters in The Wizard of Oz, and the story of Vince and UT's dramatic comeback, reinforced one thing -- just do what you can do. If you worry about the mountain, you cannot climb the hill. Such is the nature of the game, and the nature of life.

Dorothy and her friends at first believed that they needed to find strength from an outside source. What they learned is, the secret to success is within you, not outside you.

That is the message the Longhorns football players have been working on during a week of intense practice. They have worked hard at getting better, and have avoided the fear of failure that we learned so much about in The Wizard of Oz.

Victory is attainable if you are prepared, if you execute, and if you do not take your opponent lightly. The wicked witch expired because Dorothy and her crowd believed, and the characters in the movie succeeded because they learned something about themselves that was there all along.

Games can teach that. There is no substitute for pride. Confidence comes from believing that you can, and victory is achieved when all of those things work together. The "Yellow Brick Road" doesn't lead to a real wizard at all. It leads, instead, to an understanding of yourself, and what it is that you really can do. The critics, and the cynics, may miss that. But the message of the movie, and the story of the chance to play a game, has been around for a long, long time.

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