Coach's Corner

The UT Longhorns have two very good quarterbacks, but it's a lie to say they're both starters. And in tennis, Venus and Serena Williams are making it look so easy, people may not recognize just what unique talents they really are.

Mack Brown's mantra -- "We have two starting quarterbacks at the University of Texas" -- is ridiculous. Brown is so popular with the fans and local media that he makes pronouncements belaying all common sense, which are then reported without even a hint of healthy skepticism. Party line: "He's got the team sold on the idea both Simms and Applewhite are starters." And call me the Easter Bunny. There are 112 guys on that team and -- unless they're cyborgs -- each has an opinion on this matter, probably a strong one. It's human nature. Mack's certainly got the team "sold" on not talking to the media about this potentially divisive issue. He's certainly got them "sold" on the company answer. The media -- not, in fact, an extension of the UT Athletic Dept. -- should do better.

Then there's: "the Major and Chris are great buddies. They don't care who starts. They only want to win." This is a sweet, but doubtful, proposition. These are aggressive athletes competing their guts out for one of most visible athletic positions in America. Do you really believe that Applewhite, an unknown reserve before he started rewriting UT record books two years ago, wasn't really pissed about being relegated to second string behind anybody, let alone a green sophomore? Shake off the pixie dust!

Mack, fully aware of how divisive a QB controversy can be to a team's morale, wants to have it both ways. Wanting to keep Simms and Applewhite happy, he asks them to digest platitudes, and he doesn't want us to talk about it. He even went to the extreme of publicly asking fans to ignore a who-should-be-the-starter Internet poll on a local TV station. This is the sort of stuff sports fans thrive on. It's grist for the soul. He can't stop people from talking about it any more than he can make it rain. It won't work.

It's my opinion that this should have been Applewhite's job to lose from the start. What's he done to be demoted? (Oh yeah, I forgot, he's really just starter No. 2.) But anyway, so what? Just another opinion. To not see Brown's accomplishments in the past two years is to be deaf, blind, and stupid. Still, he's not a saint yet. This quarterback double-talk is a blunder. It's a thin, transparent façade anyone can see through. By not publicly announcing his first-string QB and selling the other kid (whomever he chooses) on his value to the team, Brown fuels the controversy he desperately seeks to avoid.


It would be easy to use words like revolutionary to describe Venus and Serena Williams. It would be easy to proclaim them as a glimpse into the future of woman's tennis. Both would be wrong. Venus and Serena -- with their unique combination of Jordan quickness, Michael Johnson speed, Derek Jeter hand-eye coordination, Lindsay Davenport power, and a growing mental toughness, can't be replicated. A revolution implies that a whole bunch of kids with that awesome package are out there on the public courts just waiting for a chance. I don't think so.

For the same reasons, this is no look into the future. I'm not saying there will never be another like them, but be assured a look at the woman's Top Ten in 2050 will not feature 10 players with the Williams' gifts. Venus' utter annihilation of the No. 1 and 2 players in the world on consecutive days, on the road to her first U.S. Open title, are particulary illuminating. Davenport and Martina Hingis did not "collapse" as commentators Mary Carrillo and John McEnroe suggested. They are both -- make no mistake -- extraordinary tennis players. Davenport's improved conditioning and destructive ground strokes (in a female class of its own until the rise of The Sisters), and Hingis' precision, power, and court moxie put them grade levels above 96 of the other top 100 players. Davenport and Hingis, with 18 Grand Slams between them, should be grateful they had some quiet time on Broadway before Venus and Serena hit the block.

Frustrating can't come close to expressing the feelings these champions must have experienced last week in Flushing Meadows. Both played outstanding physical and tactical matches, blasting rockets into one corner then the other, tried and true shot combinations that, in theory, can't be returned. But Serena and Venus can return them; not only running them down but pounding them back for clean winners. No one's ever transitioned from defense to offense like these two. Martina and Lindsay visibly sagged as the tennis impossible happened over and over.

Commentators prattle on about how the other players are "going to have to raise their level of play." What bullshit. There's no training -- real or bottled -- capable of making Lindsay that much quicker. There's no diet or weightlifting regime known to science able to give Hingis that kind of power, any more than David Duval can lift weights and run mile after mile every morning, trying to catch up with Tiger. Sorry, it just doesn't work that way. When athletes like Woods or Shaq -- blessed with exceptional talents in occupations where even the most ordinary participants are in every way extraordinary -- are willing to do whatever it takes to dominate their sports, there's nothing the rest can do except hang around and hope for the odd scrap the Big Pup leaves behind.

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