Or at least not since 1997. Gloom and doom has set in around the Longhorn fan base this week, for two reasons it seems to me. One is the "free fall" of our anticipation of excitement from UT. Our questions going into the season for most games were "How much will we win by?" and "How good will we look doing it?" The true thrill of victory would come only from beating the Sooners, Huskers, and Aggies. Now, we are faced with only one question each week: "Will we win?" The other reason is that we have been told for years now that UT recruited great football players, so we are mystified as to why they aren't playing well.
I've been around several different universities and their football teams, including Minnesota, Indiana, Utah State, Syracuse, and Michigan. I think UT fans this year will have a lot more fun and enjoy the season if they take the attitude of fans from the first three of those places rather than the last two. Forget about National Championships and Big 12 titles and Heisman trophies. Revel in the struggle and celebrate every win. Anticipate the suprise of a dominating victory.
At Indiana, for example, no victory is ever taken for granted. When they beat Indiana State 55-7 this past weekend, fans were shocked (even though they probably shouldn't have been). They are fully prepared to have the smile wiped off their face in any game this season. If they beat a good team at home, it feels like Christmas all week. If they beat a good team on the road, it feels like UT-Nebraska did for UT fans last year. If they beat a great team (such as if they had beaten Michigan or Ohio State last year), the pleasure is so thick that fans think, "Bowl game? Ranking? Who cares? I just love that feeling that our boys beat the 'best'."
Contrast that with Michigan, which once went 6-6 and lost to a bunch of skinny guys from BYU in a bowl game in the year after a Rose Bowl trip. I doubt the fans enjoyed one game that year, because every win wasn't by enough points or the team didn't show sufficient domination. Every loss or close win was a reminder of the failures of the coaches and players and the entire season was spent whining and complaining. Where's the fun of watching football when you are waiting for the next screw-up or looking to confirm your suspicions that player X is lousy.
Which leads to the other new (or perhaps deja vu) experience for UT fans, who are wondering, "What's the matter with Greg Davis, Mack Brown, or Duane Akina? Can't they SEE that player Y (Brandon Foster anyone?) sucks?" Or, "Why can't the offensive line beat up anyone? I thought these guys were great recruits?" While surely these questions will run through fans' minds, they are just numbers on the board at the stock market: just a blur of information, fun to track and discuss. At the end of the day, all we really care about is did the "sale get made" (did we win?) and were there some great trades (awesome plays). For those of you lucky enough to see the games in person, you can enjoy the feel of fall air, the sound of a well-kicked football, colors, and sounds that make football great regardless of the score.
As much fun as it is to analyze the Longhorns to death (and I am as guilty as anyone), take a lesson from the fans of the downtrodden (Baylor anyone?) and savor every great play, and every win, and to beat a dead cliche, take'em "one at a time."