Bill Little commentary: Choose wisely
Sept. 4, 2009
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
"Are you ready for some football?" the song says. And in Austin, Texas, that's a pretty stupid question. In the history of Texas Longhorns football, few seasons have been awaited with as much anticipation as this one. Ever since the clock ran out in the 2009 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the burnt orange nation has been waiting.
Historians would probably tell you the seasons of 1941, 1963, 1969, 1970 and 2005 were as charged as this one, as eager fans and a ready-to-play team and coaching staff await the Saturday night kickoff.
Other years have certainly been filled with high hopes. This one is filled with high expectations.
And that is where our story begins.
Life is, as we all know, about choices.
I still remember a speech a preacher gave to an assembly when I was in grade school, and that's been a long, long time ago. He said our parents ask us these questions. Today, and throughout our lives, these would be the choices we've got to make.
"Where are your going?"
"Who are you going with?"
"What are you going to do when you get there?"
As Mack Brown delivered his last preseason message to his team on Thursday, that theme was powerful.
"You need to choose who you are going to be," he said.
The 2009 Longhorns football team enters this season in rarified air. If you look at the seasons mentioned above, each of them found the respective team ranked No. 1 in the country at some point during the season.
Four of them ran the table during their regular seasons and became National Champions.
All of that, however, is about the finish. Titles are won, quite simply (and trite as it may seem), one game at a time.
There was a time in college football when a coach could say, as Darrell Royal did prior to some games in 1969, "On paper, we are a better team than they are, and if we play like we should, we ought to win the game."
One of the points Mack made to the team on Thursday was that all that is asked of a team, or a fan base, is to be ready to play 14 times. Therefore, back to the beginning, you have to know where you are going, who you are going with, and what you are going to do when you get there.
The excitement is brimming over for this season to start. Just imagine the largest crowd in the history of football (pro or college) in the southwestern United States. Put it in a stadium that has taken its place among the very elite in the country. Then bring out the No. 2 team in the nation.
That is where Mack Brown went with his team on Thursday. Football, the ultimate team game, is really about a series of individual battles. Beat the guy in front of you. Block the tackler. Tackle the ball carrier. Throw the ball. Catch the ball. Kick the ball. And do it better than the guy you are matched against.
Ultimately, it is about, "Who will you choose to be?"
Lots of folks have compared this upcoming season to the Longhorns of 2005, and you can make a case for that. The caveat is that team is in the record books.
College football is unique in that it presents a different picture every year. Players come and go, and with each new autumn comes new excitement.
This particular team carries extra bonuses. Not only are there some known stars, but there is a stable of folks just waiting to have a chance to play. It is the nature of the sport.
Most important to remember, however, is that this isn't about the destination; it is about the journey. If you are driving from Austin to Dallas on I-35, you don't get to Dallas without going through Belton and Temple and Waco and Hillsboro...and...well, you get the point.
And as it was with those seasons past, we all have been given a great gift. Ask those who were there and saw the likes of Pete Layden and Duke Carlisle and James Street and Eddie Phillips and Vince Young. Ask them and watch as they get misty-eyed and remember.
The players have used a theme for each season Mack Brown has been at Texas. This year, it is simple: "We Are Texas."
That is not a mandate, and it is not a decree.
It is, instead, about who you choose to be.