Monday, January 09, 2006

The Greatest Story Ever Told

I apologize for being away so long because there’s so much to discuss. The past week has been a blur, from the trip to California to the entire surreal Rose Bowl experience to the wonderful afterglow.

It may seem like tremendous overstatement, but I have waited my entire life to see this:

Now, the Texas Longhorns have won a National Championship trophy in football for the first time since 1970. As the same pundits who last week proclaimed the USC Trojans as The Greatest Football Team Ever now rush to call Vince Young The Greatest Football Player Ever and the Rose Bowl The Greatest Game Ever Played, I am bemused, bewildered and more than a little self satisfied.

I am just glad that I was there. It was pure spectacle and I had a ring side seat. Just how good was it? Well, check this shit out (I'm the chump in the yellow circle):

Pretty good seat, huh?

You have Sandra Day O’Connor conducting the opening coin flip, LeAnn Rimes singing the national anthem, Matthew McConaughey (Alright!, Alright! Alright!) stalking the sidelines, the Goodyear Blimp, parachutists, B-1 bombers, and – My, Oh, My! – Keith Jackson. Talk about the Granddaddy of Them All!

You know what happened and how it happened. Here are a few random thoughts:

  • The stadium wasn’t as loud as The Shoe was for the Ohio State game, but it was close. And the Texas fans were as geeked up as I have ever seen them. Every touchdown, turnover and defensive stand was cheered with more fervor than I imagined possible. And when Vince glided across the goal line for the game-winning TD, I nearly broke my leg celebrating. “The Eyes of Texas” has never been sung the way it was after the game.

  • Texas fans razzed Reggie Bush mercilessly. After his lateral attempt turned into a Texas scoring drive, Hornfans taunted him with a chorus of “REG-GIE! REG-GIE!” everytime he stood in the Texas endzone for a kickoff return. He was clearly uncomfortable. Then, after a dove into the endzone for a touchdown to cap his 26-yard TD run, he walked to the back of the endzone to strike a Superman pose directed at the Texas section. USC fans then began chanting “REG-GIE! REG-GIE!” on their own. If they only knew. After the game I yelled at him, "Hey, Reggie! Vince wants his Heisman back!" Yeah, I'm just a jackass that way sometimes.

  • Texas tight end David Thomas was nails – 10 catches for 88 yards and almost all of them clutch. I'll miss him as much as Vince.

  • LenDale White is a beast and the USC O-line were everything people said they were - big, nasty and disciplined.

  • Things I learned from t-shirts at the game: You can't spell suck without USC, O.J. Simpson is an example of Trojan pride, Trojans bust occasionally and VY is not from this planet, just visiting.

  • With six and a half minutes to play and down by 12, it seemed the Horns were done. I remember thinking, “OK, if they can score on this drive, then stop SC, they should get the ball back with enough time to score.” After Vince scored a few minutes later, I turned to Mike and said, “If we can stop them, we’ll win this game.” After they did stop them, I said, “We are going to win this game.” And then we won the game.

  • Former SMU Mustang Craig James flashed the Hook’em to Hornfans as he walked behind the endzone to the ABC booth during the game. And Mark May, USC’s main butt-boy at ESPN, got to hear 10,000 Hornfans chant “Mark May sucks!” as he took the Walk of Shame across the endzone after the game. That had to make Mark-e-Mark feel special.

  • This guy in front of me brought his nephew’s Flat Stanley to the game to photograph. Actually, Flat Stanley was on a little bit of a bender. He hooked up with Flat Stacey in Vegas and got married by Flat Elvis at a wedding chapel off the Strip.

  • And when it was over, we were champions. Here I am with my homeboy Mike:

    What can I say? I have a new thing at the top of my list of Coolest Things I Ever Did.

    After the game, Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena was like Sixth Street in Austin after a home game. We ate at as nice little Italian spot called Mi Piaci where everyone dining inside and everyone walking by outside was wearing the Burnt Orange. We sang “The Eyes” in the middle of dinner. It was great.

    OK, good times but – so what? I know that the anguish of the Longhorn fans pales in comparison to the long-suffering Red Sox or Cubs fans, but 36 years is a long freaking time. And I’m not exactly a t-shirt fan either. My first UT home game was 16-12 loss to Joe Paterno’s Penn State team at Memorial Stadium during my sophomore year in 1989. Those weren’t exactly the glory days.

    The Horns had their moments – I was there when Peter Gardere found Tony Jones for a late TD to upset OU later in the fall of 1989 and then the next year when Butch Hadnot helped steamroll No. 3-ranked UH. But for every stunning victory, there was always an inexplicable defeat – like this ass-whipping Miami gave us in the ’91 Cotton Bowl or losses to Rice and TCU. Even the stunning victory in the 1996 Big 12 title game was followed up by the utter humiliation of the Rout 66 game to UCLA. Every step forward was followed with a step back.

    But being a true fan is like a marriage – you gotta be there for better or worse. I stood in the rain at the Cotton Bowl in 2000 and watched every minute of the 63-14 drubbing OU hung on us. I watched the other Debacle in Dallas – the 2001 Big 12 title loss to CU – as a conference championship and BCS title game berth slipped away in a bizarre litany of mistakes and Mike and I sat stunned in the aftermath. And then I watched the Debacle in Dallas, Part 3 – when Bob Stoops hung 60-something on us – as my father lay dying in the bed beside me.

    And I suppose that is what makes the victory that much sweeter. I didn’t just show up for the party. I know how hard the journey was to get there. And I know it’s about enjoying the moment.

    It’s thrilling to watch VY cross the goal line to win The Greatest Game Ever Played, but it’s also over so quickly. The Moment is ephemeral. Already Vince is cashing in his chips and heading the NFL – and rightfully so. Already fans are looking forward to next year. Like a wonderful meal with people you love or standing in front of a work of art at a museum in a city you may never visit again, you have to savor the moment because it is gone too quickly. And, believe me, I’m savoring it.

    Thanks for the memories, Vince. We’ll always have Pasadena.

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