Most likely, if you're reading this website, you're a fan of the University of Texas. And, like most fans of the University of Texas, you've probably attended plenty of football games, a decent amount of basketball or baseball games, and perhaps even yelled "Point, Texas" at a volleyball match. For better or worse, that's just how things tend to work around the Forty Acres. Thankfully, in my time on campus, I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of fans who broke the mold of the typical "Texas Fan." I was also lucky enough to meet the fan who shattered it.
I don't remember exactly when I met Ryan Clark, but I absolutely remember the context. Even though he was just getting started, he was already "the Road Trip guy." The guy who attended an entire season of Texas basketball games. And then he was the guy who did it again. And again. And again. And...again. And, unless something goes terribly wrong in the next six weeks, he's going to do it yet again.
In case all the "agains" got confusing, Ryan is currently in the midst of completing his *sixth* straight season of attending every single UT Basketball game. The home game against Iowa State marked his 200th consecutive game and tomorrow night at the Lloyd Noble Center will mark game #212. The mind boggles.
After the jump, I want to provide some further context for Ryan's accomplishment, plug his outstanding website, and try to explain how his story is truly about more than just the streak.
Anytime a streak is celebrated in an article, it's a basic requirement to use bullet points to encapsulate its length. So here we go:
- When Ryan's streak started at the 2006 Big XII Tournament Championship Game, the Texas Longhorns lineup consisted of Daniel Gibson/PJ Tucker/Kenton Paulino/Brad Buckman/LaMarcus Aldridge. Kansas countered with Russell Robinson/Mario Chalmers/Sasha Kaun/Brandon Rush/Julian Wright. Kansas won. : (
- When his streak started, the top three movies at the box office were "Failure to Launch", "The Hills Have Eyes", and "The Shaggy Dog." The top single was "You're Beautiful" by James Blount.
- When his streak started, Colt McCoy had not thrown a single collegiate pass. Jordan Shipley hadn't caught one, either. In fact, when the streak started, the Texas Football team was in the midst of a 20-game winning streak.
- When his streak started, Jaylen Bond was 12 years old.
- When his streak started, Tyrone Swoopes was 10 years old.
- When his streak started, the Texas Rangers were managed by Buck Showalter and were about to unveil a starting rotation of Kevin Millwood/Vicente Padilla/Kameron Loe/RA Dickey/John Koronka.
The list could go on and on. However, the point I really want to highlight is the larger context of the streak, which is the series of EPIC FAILS from Texas that caused other fans to quit following the team altogether. Even back in 2009, when I wrote our Greensboro trip recap, I remember being struck by his answer over his most memorable drive home:
The most poignant moment of the entire trip came when I asked Ryan about the best feeling he's ever had during a drive home. In case you still dont know, he's been to 115 consecutive UT games. In many of his longest trips, we've been beaten, including every single one of his trips to the NCAA tournament, Big XII Tournament, College Station, Lawrence, and Columbia. And we wont even bring up the massacre in MSG or the collapse in Knoxville from a few years ago. He's suffered a lot of high-profile losses, but I wanted to ask about his highest point heading home from a road trip.
I immediately asked if it was after the Paulino shot, but he reminded me that we wound up losing to LSU before he drove home. After thinking, probably about all the crushing tournament losses, he said it had to be when we knocked off UCLA at Pauley Pavillion. I thought this was a satisfying answer, but then he added more.
He said, "You know, the more I think about it, the best feeling I've ever had might have been driving home from the Triple-OT loss in Stillwater. The night when Durant took on Boggan. We lost, but the entire drive home I kept thinking, 'that was some (freaking) amazing basketball."'
And that's where it both starts and stops for any recent fan of Texas basketball. We still haven't won a Big XII Tournament, much less an NCAA Title. Our 2003 trip to the Final Four has been immortalized by a commercial reminding the world that we had "no answer for Carmelo Anthony." With a team that has had so much success, all of the success feels a little hollow with all the high-profile disappointments.
That last segment gets me every time. And yet, since writing that piece, Texas has experienced additional collapses and losses that created even fresher scars. The scar of falling from Number 1 to an 8-seed. The scar of watching Ishmael Smith's jumper ripple through the net. The scar of losing a 1-seed due to road losses against Nebraska and Colorado. The scar of watching 4.3 seconds magically turning into 5.0. The scar of watching everyone else's underclassmen return to school, while ours left for the NBA Draft. The scar of watching the fan base start losing interest.
If there was ever a time to gracefully end the Longhorn Road Trip streak, the loss to Arizona last year would have been a fitting conclusion. I don't think many people expected Ryan's streak to continue through this season. But that's the thing...at this point, the streak really isn't even about the streak.
Put another way, I think my favorite part about Ryan--and his streak--is that it's never really been about him. It's about the basketball. If you read his articles on Longhorn Road Trip, he largely avoids making himself part of the story. Ryan goes to games, he watches the games, and then he writes about the team. That's it. To that extent, I think his streak tends to overshadow the fact that he's a fantastic writer. In fact, I've always thought his writing talent was bigger than the streak itself. If you aren't reading his website...well, you should be.
When I started writing this article, I had three simple goals: reference the LRT streak hitting 200 games, plug the website, and highlight the fact that Ryan is a great writer. Bing, bang, boom. That was supposed to be it. In all honesty, that probably should be it.
However, in writing this piece, I've somehow stumbled toward a fourth goal that I cant really explain. Somehow, someway, I want the UT fan base to truly appreciate the uniqueness of Ryan's streak. It's one thing to realize that something was difficult or challenging. It's another thing to realize that it will never happen again.
In conclusion, I don't know when the Longhorn Road Trip streak will end. I don't know if Ryan himself knows when it will end. But, when it does end, I just hope that Ryan will continue writing about the Texas Longhorns and College Basketball. Few (if any) do it better.