12::12

 

The future is uncertain and the end is always near. Roadhouse Blues, The Doors

 

What are the odds of one team having two All-Americans wearing the same number?

Twelve turns out to be the propitious number, the first 12 steps in the MNC quest and the players wearing #12 become some of the key anchors in that quest.

 

But no one ever said it would be easy for the 12s, for the team or for the rest of us.

Football is endurance and perseverance. There’s really only one option: to play or not play. If you play, it is for keeps. You are committed to battle on the field and to survival of the herd.  You can quit at any time, usually the sooner the better.

 

We, as fans, have our own perseverance and endurance, too, both inside us and with respect to other fans. Some, like our brethren over on the Brazos, are sorely tested. Some are more fortunate and can celebrate their victories. Some always question, even in the best of times, because change can occur so quickly. 

Good fortune itself can be a source of perseverance, for on a game-by-game basis, our will can be severely challenged and our support and resolve battered on a play-by-play basis.

 

Twelve games is a long season, more like long- distance horse race than a simple sprint. Keeping the longer term in mind can be a stabilizing perspective, for the deeper you delve into the gory details, the more you will invest emotionally in the result. You, the fan, up the ante and the possible reward but you also assume more risks. You, like the real players, have to take it as it comes and be ready again in 45 seconds even if a Muckleroy just rattled your physical being in ways you didn’t think possible a few seconds before. You can go from starry eyed to seeing real stars in no time flat. If you want the glory, you’re gonna take some hits.

 

Fans take emotional hits as well. In the live blogs you can viscerally feel the flow of emotion during a game, especially among those who lose a little perspective one way or another. We like going over the top and indulging ourselves. If I were to ever do that with soap operas, someone remind me to kill myself. But in live blogs I have no regrets; the tribal ritual takes over and the pack naturally moves toward high-depth involvement and will become pumped into frenzy in an instant, good or bad, with a whole range of individual maniacal behavior enacted before the screens. This is light-through behavior, the TV and monitor screens becoming the sanctified multi-hued blissful church aglow in heavenly light. Fiat lux. Reverence in the midst of such violent action represents the enigma of life itself. We revel in crushing bodies. Particularly Sooner bodies.

2009 has acquired a legacy of ugly wins, so some say, the kind that pull the scabs off of issues many thought had healed or at least wouldn’t be much of a problem once the Horns started steamrolling through the schedule. At 6-0 we should be all smiles but concerns for tomorrow outweigh the joys of today. The second half of the 1963 football endured a similar scenario for the Longhorns.

Texas had strong teams in 1961 and ’62. A 6-0 upset at TCU had derailed the Horns in ’61 after eight straight wins. In ’62, five straight wins to start the season were washed away by a tie to Rice, 14-14. A 13-0 loss to LSU in the Cotton Bowl knocked the undefeated but once-tied Horns to the wayside once more. But 1963 started with a bang as the #5 Horns knocked off Tulane (21-0), Texas Tech (49-7) and OklahomaState (34-7) in dominant fashion. When they faced #1 Oklahoma, Texas had moved up to #2 and wasted no time in bashing the Sooners, 28-7, and claiming #1 in the AP poll. It certainly looked downhill from there. There was no other ranked teams on the schedule.

The Southwest Conference was strong overall at that time and parity was a legitimate discriptor. These were teams, like the others in the present day Big 12 South, who were very familiar with Texas and everything they did. Defense was the real name of the game and nobody got off easy on any given week. It was a black and blue league.  

What seemed almost destined turned ugly. Texas went up to Little Rock and barely escaped with a 17-13 win after running up a 17-0 lead in the first half. Then Jess Neely and Rice turned Memorial Stadium into a dog-fight arena, with Texas eking out a 10-6 victory. At SMU the next week put up a stiff fight before going down 17-12. The Baylor game was dramatic with Duke Carlisle’s last minute interception to save the game and a 7-0 victory. TCU wasn’t any easier, although 17-0 looked better. Despite all the high scoring games early in the season, Texas wouldn’t score over 17 points in the final six games of the regular season.

The worst came at A&M, of course. Texas had only three games televised; two of those were in the regular season – OU was broadcast only in Austin, Dallas and Oklahoma City – and A&M was before a national audience. (The Cotton Bowl was the other game.) Unlike now, where most every game is available, then you were either at the game, listened on the radio or read about it in the newspapers a day later.

Rain had saturated Kyle Field and A&M had sprayed the field with green paint so it wouldn’t look like the mud bath it was. It was as butt ugly a mess as you’d ever seen, and the Horns bogged down. Going into the fourth quarter, Texas was down 13-3 and fans were choking on their turkey and dressing as the MNC seemed to be slipping away in the green-tinged slime at College Station. But #11, Duke Carlisle, a skinny 6-1, 178 pound senior from Athens, would sneak in from the one-yard line with 1:16 to redeem the season with a 15-13 triumph that would sweep the Horns into the Cotton for an appointment with Navy and fulfill their destiny.

Texas was not a dominant team in the second half of the ’63 season. In fact, if it had become a beauty contest, they would have washed out long before the end. As it was, they just kept winning as every challenger for the #1 spot kept losing. Slowly but surely, Texas survived more than dominated the national scene. Those six weeks seemed like an eternity, sandwiched in with the assassination of the President at the end, and were filled with anxiety, raw emotion and uncertainty. The end always seemed so near.

The coming six weeks may be just as tough for the Horns and their fans.

Except for the OU game, really, the Horns have had few ugly games where we’re gagging in the mud, the blood and the beer. It might come down to that level of endurance and perseverance. For as much as we know, as much as this feast of information can be, we’re still twisting in the destiny of our time: what seems so real and certain one moment can be just as illusory the next. So, we’ll roll our dice and hope they come up 12s - and that the 12s come up winners every week.

Hook ‘em

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