You might not guess it, but Coach is a rabid UT basketball fan. He's also one of the world's foremost pessimists.
-- Winston Churchill, commenting on cramming for a mathematics exam
I'm probably not as vile as some of you think. Steady, relentless, year-in-year-out deadline pressure has created a long written record that one could, I'll concede, misconstrue. The University of Texas has many teams; soccer, volleyball, track and field, and I'm told, baseball. I harbor no ill will toward these teams. However, anxious moments of intense paranoia have been heightened due to reader response concerning comments made last week about the Longhorn basketball team. It's assumed my alleged anti-Longhorn sentiments were clouding my judgments and predisposing my remarks toward the unfairly negative.
This I take as an insult, because I am a certifiable sports nut. You can confirm this with either of my two wives. The first one would certainly have divorced me sooner if modern devices such as satellite television sports packages and the First Wonder of the New Century, TiVo, had been available to the consumer back in the old days BT (before TiVo). As it was, the advent of the VCR and the natural consequences of growing disposable income (a television set in every room) set the process in motion. It prolonged things that I was still a quiet pill-head back then, before my drinking became more problematic. The jury, as they say, is still out on the eventual effect HDTV (which I'm desperate to have) and newer and better TiVo's (one for each room) will have on my second attempt at matrimony. Time will tell.
So it is that I take my sports serious and dry, like the Kettle One martini I'm thinking about just now. So when I express the opinion that none of the Sweet 16-bound Longhorns could start for Oklahoma or Kansas, a statement only reconfirmed by watching KU and OU play last weekend, my sports judgement isn't clouded by any sort of anti-team virus. In fact, if you're sitting down, I'm going to let you in on a secret: I'm a rabid UT basketball fan.
Credentials? A season ticket holder since the Erwin Center's first year in existence. I loved Abe and hated Bob. (One of the great mysteries of any age: How did Bob Weltlich ever convince Travis Mays, Lance Blanks, and Joey Wright to play for him?) Anyway, most of my friends gave up their tickets then, but I'm from Chicago, I can stand anything. I continued to go. In '79 I followed the 21-8 Horns to the SWC Tournament in Houston. The championship game -- possibly the worst "Championship Game" ever played, anywhere by anyone, a 39-38 loss to Eddie Sutton's Razorbacks -- caused me to drink, for the last time in my life, Greyhounds (many Greyhounds) with pig-snouted Razorback fans shamelessly making snuffling barnyard sounds in the bar of the new Marriott hotel. In due time I vomited copiously and often in the lobby/bar/elevators of the hotel. The next morning, when they made me check out, I was still far too drunk to navigate my way home. Still retching pitifully, now regurgitating only black specks of my stomach lining, I checked myself into a seedy motel somewhere south of Columbus. Eddie Sutton, who I blame for this spectacle, had one of the great teams of all time -- three future NBA stars. But he insisted, nevertheless, in passing the ball for endless periods of time until Sidney Moncrief could stand it no longer and, with Sutton glaring malevolently, finally shot the ball. Rick Barnes made a suggestion last week, actually one of mine, Rick, that UT should sign Arkansas to a 10-year home-and-home basketball contract. There's no team I hate more than Arkansas.
If I digressed, I'm sorry. There's one other element of my personality that needs to be understood: I'm a cut-the-air-hose-and-slit-my throat pessimist. This, for lack of a better theory, I also blame on my upbringing in Chicago. Was it so wrong to note UT's long history of failure in the NCAA tournament? To me this is self-evident, like knowing the phrase "evil-doer" will sprout from the president's mouth if he's left alone for a few minutes. Negative? Pessimistic? I prefer to view it as objective ... but I think that about my football commentary also.
Watching Texas come close (so very, very, very close) to turning a giggle-a-second blowout into a gut-ripping loss wasn't really any fun at all. The only real humor in Dallas was the boiling controversy over UT having a "home court advantage." Don't those TV guys know Texas doesn't even have a home court advantage on its real home court? Anyway, I begged Kelly not to warp speed TiVo through the second-half commercials. I actually craved the comfort of the wireless phone commercials. My stomach was exquisitely ripped with cramps. My head was throbbing. If there were a hell it would look like this to me: My team would build a 30-point lead in the first 10 minutes. Then, one point at a time, one bad call at a time, one missed free throw at a time, one turnover at a time, we'd give 29 points back. The final shot would be in the air when it started over.
This coming Friday night, Texas will play an Oregon team that seems to have a roster filled with Luke Axtell clones. Tall, quick, white guys with lots of hair.
I am not optimistic.