Bill Little commentary: Time to play
Dec. 4, 2009
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
ARLINGTON, Texas -- There is nothing left to say and little to do as Saturday’s Big 12 Championship Game between Texas and Nebraska approaches. The formula at this point is really simple – just go play.
Television commentators, newspaper scribes and fans from both sides have “what iffed” this thing to death. Any crystal ball by this time would be really cloudy, just from the hands that have passed it from pundit to pundit.
The bottom line for Texas was articulated well after the final home game in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. In the Longhorns’ locker room, senior center Chris Hall made a strong point about a simple visual that all of those in that place following the Kansas game could easily relate to.
“Every game we play, from now on, is about putting a number up on the wall,” he had said.
“The wall” is the chronicle of history that is marked in the team meeting room by various superlatives. That day, Texas had secured the right to place “2009” along with the other teams who have won the Big 12 South Division. The victory over Texas A&M added another year to the accounting of “unbeaten regular seasons.”
There are two categories remaining, and next on the list is the Big 12 Championship. And that, of course, is the entry passage for the right to play for the prize of the final category on the wall, the last notch of which was put up in 2005.
The Big 12 Championship game gives the seniors of 2009 a chance to win their first league title – a right that was lost by a second in Lubbock and a few BCS percentage points last year.
The first Texas team to sweep through a 12-game regular season unbeaten stands at the precipice of achieving its dream of playing for a National Championship, but to get there, it must accomplish its final goal of winning the Big 12 Championship game. Many people have groused that college football should have a playoff system, and in 2009, it is does for Florida, Alabama and Texas. It is one and done if you lose.
But again, we are repeating old news here. Just play the game.
In a way, I am reminded of Augie Garrido and his Longhorn baseball team a day or so before UT won yet another College World Series championship a few years ago. Sensing the pressure on his team, Garrido took them out to the outfield before one of their final practices. He talked there about a bat and a ball, and a game they had been playing since they were kids.
That is exactly what Mack Brown did when he talked with his team after its last full practice on Wednesday. He talked about the game, and the practice, but most of all, he talked about the precious value they have as a team, and about having fun.
“You don’t ‘work’ baseball,” Garrido had said. “You ‘play’ it.”
And that was the message Mack left his team with as they looked toward the Big 12 Championship game in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. It will be everything you could ask for – two of the storied programs in college football and a repeat of the original pairing of the very first Big 12 Championship game in St. Louis 14 seasons ago.
There will be a packed house, and a national television audience will be watching. The past, and the future, will not be hanging from the rafters of the stadium, like the famous video board does.
In that space, it will not matter that the Longhorns have won all of their games or what Nebraska’s record is, or where the North and the South Divisions are rated in some computer model.
It will take three and a half hours to play 60 minutes of football. Sixty minutes of hopes, goals and dreams. For a week now, folks have been speculating, surmising, wondering.
In time, it will be about a record in a book, or a number on a wall.
But Saturday night, it is time to play.