A few days after the Texas Longhorns defense, if not its offense, manhandled Oklahoma State 41-14, I went to the set of the television show The Deep End, an ABC lawyer drama/comedy shooting in Dallas, and it clicked for me: it’s all about attitude from here on out.
Sure, Texas will destroy Central Florida on Saturday. That’s a given. But listen to Coach Mack Brown talk and you get the real idea: “If it were at the first of the season, it would not have been talked about a lot, but if you look at it now, we are in the mix at the end where everything that we do is important.”
On the TV show set I heard the same story: Pay attention to the now. Show creator David Hemingson based the show on his own life. He was a young hotshot attorney trying to make it in Los Angeles. But that’s not Hemingson’s real story. His real story is about being a writer and becoming who you are by what you do. One day Hemingson couldn’t join a rock-climbing buddy on a jaunt to Joshua Tree. That buddy died, and Hemingson knew he couldn’t wait any longer to follow his writing dream. He’s since written for everything from Family Guy to How I Met Your Mother.
That’s what Brown is telling his players this week. They’re lucky in that this hasn’t been a season of true blowouts. Colt McCoy has played like a really good quarterback, but he’s dropped to No. 5 on the Heisman list. He’s throwing too many interceptions. McCoy’s life coach is doubtless telling him he has to live in the now. He has to strive to get better every week. McCoy tossed his 100th touchdown pass against the bumbling Cowboys, but his 171 yards on 16 of 21 completions doesn’t sizzle. It’s a day at the office. Jordan Shipley caught six passes for 64 yards, but he could do that while thumbing through his Blackberry. Yawn.
Meanwhile, the Texas defense and special teams are getting more monstrous by the week. The three goats of last year’s heartbreaking squeaker loss to Texas Tech – Blake Gideon, Curtis Brown, and Earl Thomas – all had interceptions against OSU. Only Gideon’s wasn’t returned for a touchdown, and he was so close to breaking it all the way that he could taste the dirt in the end zone. Now if they could just tell Chykie Brown to bat the ball away on the other team's fourth down try instead of going for the interception on the 2-yard line … but you can’t blame him for wanting to get his hands on the ball. The Texas D is all over the ball, stripping it out of hands (Sam Acho’s early forced fumble set the tone against OSU), and knocking it and opposing quarterbacks into the turf.
McCoy’s offense is still looking to find its true groove. Maybe they should take heart from what Hemingson quoted from his show’s script for me: “I get it. Everybody’s scared. The ledges are crowded. But it’s what we do in the worst of times that tells the world who we really are.” Time to take that leap back into destiny, Texas. Oh, and find a running game while you’re at it.
The worst of times for the Longhorns were in last season’s Tech game. It’s the memory of that moment – combined with a very weak schedule – that will propel the Longhorns through the rest of the season if they stay hungry. If and when this team reaches the National Championship Game, it’ll truly be proving its mettle on the ledge.
The Deep End star Mehcad Brooks was a standout basketball player at Austin’s Anderson High when the acting bug bit him. Coaches and counselors told him he was an idiot to give up sports stardom for the big and little screen. He had to fake illness to get out of playing. He grins about it now. “I realized at 16 or 17 that if I didn’t play sports for the rest of my life, I’d be fine with it, but if I didn’t act, I wouldn’t know what to do,” he told me.
That’s the question for the Longhorns: How bad do you want another National Championship? Is this the real deal or are you acting? Time to step out on the ledge and prove it. Well, maybe not this week in a 62-3 scrimmage win. But you get the idea.
OK, this is deep talk for both television and football. It’s only a game and only a show. As Hemingson told me, “This is the journey they are on in the show. Plus lots of sex and stuff like that ….” Play ball.
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