Bill Little commentary: Faith, family and friends
Oct. 29, 2010
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
There is probably nowhere in our lives where a yearning for instant gratification is more present than in the world of sports. And that is why Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is a great opportunity for retrospection, hope, and faith—all at the same time.
It will include the retirement of a jersey of a Longhorn great, a poignant, touching moment of the reality of a battle against breast cancer, and a football game matching two teams whose desire is to prove something to somebody—if only to themselves.
Chip Robertson, the veteran equipment manager for the Longhorns, doesn’t know why he pulled out a No. 12 jersey when the young kid from the little town in the Callaghan Divide country south of Abilene walked into his life that day in 2005. Colt McCoy doesn’t know why he got it, either. He had worn No. 4 as a star playing for his dad at Jim Ned High School. He did greatly admire Roger Staubach, who wore No. 12 as a college player at Navy and a star with the Dallas Cowboys, so it was okay with him. Fact is, he says, from junior football on he had worn just about every number you could think of.
Now, however, it is No. 12 that will be front-and-center significant Saturday night. Following a policy approved by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas several years ago, five former Longhorn football players have had their jerseys retired, and are recognized prominently high above Joe Jamail Field on the rim of the Red McCombs Red Zone at the north end of the stadium. Now, there will be six.
The policy is clear. Players in the modern era of the sports of baseball, men’s basketball and football earn the right to have their jersey retired by being named national player of the year in their sport. In the case of the late Bobby Layne, who played for the Longhorns in the 1940s when there was only one recognized national player of the year, an exception was made. Tommy Nobis and Vince Young both won the Maxwell Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club of Philadelphia. Ricky Williams won that as well as the New York Downtown Athletics Club’s Heisman Trophy. Earl Campbell also won the Heisman.
McCoy was a two-time winner of the National Player of the Year as presented by the Walter Camp Football Foundation of New Haven, the nation’s oldest all-American team. He also won the Maxwell his senior season.
After the pre-game unveiling of McCoy’s name and number about 5:40 p.m., emphasis shifts from the euphoria of sports to the reality of life. The Longhorn team, last year, following the lead set by NFL teams, requested that they be allowed to do something to further the effort to bring attention to the disease of breast cancer. Calling their effort “Horns for Hope,” the team will be wearing a pink ribbon decal on their helmets, as well as pink remembrance wrist bands. The coaches will wear pink ribbon lapel pins. In pre-game, three women whose lives have been affected by the disease and have significant ties to the Longhorns will serve as honorary captains. The team physician, Dr. Andrea Pana, underwent surgery last summer. Safety Blake Gideon’s mom, Ralene, also had surgery last summer. Brenda Davis, wife of the team’s academic counselor Brian Davis, is a cancer survivor as well.
The football game matches a Baylor team which is trying to beat Texas for only the second time in 18 years with a Longhorn team that is seeking to find itself. Baylor is ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 1993. Texas is out of the top 25 for the first time in years. The Bears, at 6-2, lead the Big 12 South with a 3-1 record after victories over Colorado, Kansas, and Kansas State and a loss to Texas Tech. The Longhorns are 4-3 overall, and are 2-2 in league play with wins over Texas Tech and Nebraska and losses to Oklahoma and Iowa State.
The Longhorns are coming off of a good week of practice following a disappointing loss in Austin last Saturday to Iowa State.While a good bowl game, and a remote chance to get a piece of the Big 12 South title are still possibilities, Saturday’s game for Texas will be about pride. And despite their early success this season, that is also exactly what the Bears will be playing for. The motivation, therefore, is clear for both teams.
The truth is, all three of the events of the weekend for Texas are about one simple word, and how you choose to handle it. In each of these stories—the boy from the little town who came to the big college, the men and women who face the ominous diagnosis of breast cancer, and those who will take the field and play the game for Texas on Saturday—the message to be addressed is fear, and how you handle it.
Once, when my son Bobby was frustrated as a young college graduate unsuccessfully finding a job, he told Darrell Royal, “Coach, I’m afraid.” To which Coach Royal replied, “Never be afraid. Be concerned. There is a difference.”
The difference is, fear is paralyzing. Concern brings awareness.
Colt McCoy became Colt McCoy because he had faith in himself, and in his God. Even in the toughest times, he never lost that belief. We love him and will always remember him, not for what he did, but for who he is.
The cancer patients fight a battle of the unknown. The Fred Steinmark scoreboard is a memorial to the little Texas safety who lost his leg and later his life to cancer in the early 1970s. But today, the cancer that killed him is almost 90 percent curable. That is where efforts like those of the sports teams are significant. Modern medicine, with its continual progress, is winning the battle against the disease. That, and a large dose of faith, family, and friends must carry people through in the dark days.
It is true that football is a game, and it pales in comparison to the magnitude of reality battles. But it is also a teacher of life’s lessons. You will have losses, and you will have fear of failure. In a desperate time in America in the 1930s, wasn’t it President Franklin Roosevelt who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself?”
Colt McCoy’s monument will last as long as the stadium stands, and the jersey No. 12 will never again be worn by a Texas player. The cancer victims will bravely face tomorrow. And the players will play a game. Each is an example of lessons learned, and those that are still being absorbed. And as we watch, let us remember that part about faith, family and friends. Because that, in the end, will make all the difference.