Bill Little commentary: The rest of the mail route
It is not where you have been, but where you will go - folks are waiting for you down the road.
Oct. 19, 2012
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
In the 1940s and 1950s, when the U. S. Post Office was seen as one of the most reliable establishments on the face of the earth, Eddie Little drove a mail route out in Winters, Texas. Long before there was tweeting and the internet, letters and telegrams were the only written communication folks had.
Country folks relied on their mail carrier. Every morning, Monday through Saturday, my Dad would drive 70 miles close to the foothills near the mountains of the Callaghan Divide in west-central Texas, delivering everything ranging between mail order catalogs to letters from the front in World War II, Korea and later Vietnam.
There were muddy days and snowy days, days when high water meant an hour or so detour and times when he was so late he stopped and ate chicken soup with his patrons before going on.
And that is the point here. People at the end of the route were waiting, and the day wasn't done until the last piece of mail had been delivered to the last person on the mail route. If you were a kid waiting for your Dad to come home, you came to understand the commitment that "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
In other words, he wasn't finished until the job was done. It was a 70-mile journey, not 35. It had nothing to do with "go the extra mile." It was all about "going the distance." And as the Texas Longhorns stand at the half-way point of the regular football season of 2012, the most important thing I learned from my Dad in the midst of those days on the mail route was this: when a flat tire stopped him for a while (as it would often do on those old dirt roads), he never once approached the rest of the trip as, "I have to go on." He, instead, loved his patrons and enjoyed his job. He always approached the journey with, "I get to go on."
For the football team, Saturday's Baylor game is a chance to get back on track after that flat tire in Dallas. For the fans, it is a chance to try and recapture the excitement they shared in the electric atmosphere that was the West Virginia game.
In Texas football, all losses are painful. Lose in the closing seconds and you always wonder about the might-have-beens. Lose big, and you are embarrassed. The great thing about games, and the great thing about life, is that whatever happens there are two givens. One is that you cannot change the outcome, and the second is, we have a God-given right to try the game again.
Saturday's meeting with Baylor manifests that as two teams which have both suffered two straight losses meet in a crucial Big 12 Conference contest. Both had similar losses to West Virginia - Baylor 70-63 and Texas 48-45, and both were handily defeated by TCU and Oklahoma last Saturday, respectively. All week, Mack Brown, his staff and his players, have been focused on what can be, rather than what has been. It is, after all, the only way that competitors can function.
The product on the field, Mack has told them, is what matters the most. You can talk about injuries, and for better or worse, the fact is those folks will be only seven days better on Saturday than they were last week. You can reference age, which is a very fair assessment, but those players will be only a week older when they take the field Saturday in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite spoke to the Austin Longhorn Club Thursday, and on the way over to the arena he recalled a saying posted on the wall of John Calipari, who coached his Kentucky Wildcats to an NCAA National Championship in men's basketball in 2012. "Coach your team," is what the sign says. The point, of course, is to get back to basics. Focus on your job.
That is the attitude the Longhorn family has tried to achieve all week. There are a lot of positive motivational things that can be said, and all of the support the team and coaches have received is greatly appreciated. But the message that resonates the most is that Texas has a 4-2 record through six games.
I have said this before, and you will likely hear it again if you hang around long enough, but my memory of my brother's high school graduation was a guest speaker who quoted the poem which says, "Isn't it strange that princes and kings and those who caper in circus rings and common folks like you are me are builders of eternity? Each is given a book of rules, a pair of hands and a set of tools. And each must build, ere his time is flown, a stumbling block, or a stepping stone."
In other words, it is not where you have been, but where will you decide to go? Folks are waiting for you down the road.