"Remember the Cotton Bowl!" Texas students and fans chanted all week--an appropriate plea to voters to look past Texas' loss to Texas Tech and, in considering Oklahoma and Texas, vote up the Longhorns, 45-35 winners of this year's Red River Shootout.
It's been a case worth making, but now it's time for Longhorns fans to remember two of our other favorite program slogans--starting with "Come early, Be loud, Stay Late." Longhorns fans showed up early this week, we damn sure made our case loud, and we stayed late--rooting, campaigning, and hoping through the final snap of Saturday night's on-field action. That complete, Longhorns fans today have to do their part in the university's "Make Us Proud" campaign, refraining from staying too late by handling today's BCS standings release without any beyond the pale screaming or tantrum throwing.
Whatever we find out tonight,Texas backers do have a strong argument that voters should rank the 'Horns ahead of the Sooners on their ballots. To be more precise, a Texas backer's analysis might be based on any of several sound arguments supporting Texas ahead of Oklahoma. With literally dozens of variables that can legitimately be considered relevant factors in comparing the teams, how one values, for example, venue relative to margin of victory or difficulty of intra-conference versus non-conference schedules, will color that analysis.
Unfortunately, so long as we admit that much, we also have to admit in this particular instance that there are legitimate arguments for ranking Oklahoma ahead of the Longhorns. Inconvenient as it is--due largely to Texas Tech's 7-1 Big 12 record and win over Texas--head-to-head can neither be the beginning-and-end of a pro-Texas nor anti-Oklahoma argument. If a Texas fan believes the Longhorns can be ranked ahead of the Red Raiders despite the head-to-head loss, he necessarily must concede that it's possible Oklahoma can be ranked ahead of Texas despite the RRS setback. And even if Texas Tech didn't finish with the same record as Texas and OUl, we still have to be open to the possibility that there could exist circumstances under which a voter could justifiably rank the Sooners ahead of the 'Horns. Head-to-head play is simply one factor among many.
Texas supporters had this week, and still have today, a strong case supporting a higher ranking for the Longhorns. Personally, in my analysis? I think Texas deserves to be ranked above OU. When I measure out and weight each variable, then mix them all together, I come out pro-Texas. Others undoubtedly weight the variables a little differently but also come out pro-Texas. What Longhorns fans now have to acknowledge, however, is that there are legitimate ways to weight and mix the variables to justify ranking the Sooners ahead of the 'Horns. It's not an analysis I find compelling, given the Cotton Bowl, my thoughts on Texas' performance against the toughest four-game stretch in the country, and a host of other factors related to those two points. Nevertheless, I can imagine a perfectly rational argument for Oklahoma.
The upshot of all this is that Texas, Oklahoma, and every other team which hopes to play for a national championship all operate in the same system, and that system is a highly subjective one. College football is a poll-driven sport and not only is there no escaping that there will be ballot winners and losers, but more importantly, there is no Objective Truth in any individual ballot or, even, the aggregation of multiple ballots. Voters are allowed to weight the variables how they see fit, and even where we strongly disagree, if the voting argument is clearly rational... there simply is no way to say, "You're wrong." Or, "I'm right."
That's where we are today. While I, and most of you, believe we have strong reasons outside our fandom for supporting Texas, there will be some--probably many, hopefully not most--who go the other way. It will do us no good to heave wildly accusations of bias, wrong-headedness, or insanity. The truth is, ranking two teams so near-equally accomplished is more art than calculation. And while I'm going to be crushed if too many voters adopt a line of reasoning that leads them to rank OU ahead of Texas, the only thing I can do is explain why I analyze it differently, brainstorm and propose solutions to make this system less subjective, and acknowledge--however mournfully--that Texas didn't quite do enough this year to wind up where we hoped.
Of course, as many things that did not go Texas' way yesterday, perhaps today we'll be find ourselves celebrating a change in human voting that sends the 'Horns to Kansas City. It could certainly happen, andI don't have to spell out for anyone here any of the pro-Texas analyses upon which a large chunk of voters might base their realignment. But if things turn out the other way, let's take a deep breath, look at all the final voting, see how it shook out, express one more time (for therapy, I suppose) the case for Texas, and then move forward with some grace and some class.
Try to take that to heart, BONizens, because that last point is really the one which led me to this post. I couldn't possibly count how many times this football season Longhorns fans have at BON and other sites either praised Colt McCoy or Mack Brown for the way that they've carried themselves or, on the flipside, disapproved of the way another player or coach or fan has handled themselves and disgraced the team they support. Relatedly, a favorite pastime around these parts is pointing out the worst of the worst over at a place like TexAgs, where Farmer partisans regularly embarrass themselves blindly vomiting all brands of nonsense through the keyboard.
So please: Don't be a TexAg today, no matter the outcome. Don't let frustration lead you to spew half-truths or untruths. If you spot a take you don't agree with, challenge it on its merits without being an internet asshole. If opponent trolls come by to try to get your goat, do what you'd do at your tailgate outside DKR: try and reform them with a little politeness and hospitality, or ignore them if they're a lost cause.
And last, but not least, if the vote doesn't go our way, try not to be petulant in a way that winds up crapping on the 2008 Longhorns' incredible football season. This team is comprised of some of the most likable players in my lifetime, has been nothing short of brilliant, inspiring from start to finish, and a joy to watch. We take enormous pride in the University of Texas football program and have of late enjoyed enormous success while remaining a team, city, university, and fan base that most other college football fans respect. Visiting fans may not leave DKR thinking it's the wildest stadium atmosphere they've ever seen, but it's near-universally enjoyed thanks to the friendly spirit Texas fans embody.
Make Us Proud today, Texas fans. Win or lose. At worst, we root one more week against Oklahoma, prepared to settle for a Fiesta Bowl berth if OU beats the Tigers. Or... hey... at best, come 7:00 this evening we may lose our collective minds when it's announced that Texas picked up enough human votes to stay at #2 in the BCS Standings. All we know for sure right now is that it's going to be close either way.
Here's to a long, tense afternoon of waiting, and a BON we can all enjoy and be proud of this evening, no matter the outcome.