Sitting in his giant, well-furnished office on Monday morning, surrounded by his memorabilia and reminders of past success, Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown is looking into a mirror. He says the words slowly, hesitatingly at first, as he usually does now. Then they rise in intensity and emotion, until he's nearly shouting.
Flute music plays softly in the background.
Even though it's still in the 90s outside in Austin, he's wearing a burnt orange cardigan. There's been a chill in the air of late to Brown, like the type of damp winter cold that soaks immediately to the bone. It's a chill that feels like the hand of death upon his shoulder and it occasionally makes his whole body shiver and shudder.
But Brown is feeling stronger with every recitation -- he's learned to shake off the chill.
The cardigan helps.
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."
And just for good measure, and to add his add his own special twist, Brown now adds a final line: "And I'm going to get this fixed."
He smiles, finally fulfilled after the 27th recitation.
The first time, it took two hours straight before Brown started to feel his insecurities drift away like a leaf in a burbling mountain stream, before he started to feel as if he possessed another layer of skin, extra protection from the incredibly unfair and cruel world out there, full of read options and competent coaches, disciplined athletes, and teams willing to play hard and with effort for 60 minutes.
Cruel and unfair, unquestionably, he used to think. Used to.
He's been a different coach since he found the inspirational words of self-help guru Stuart Smalley -- more positive, relentlessly upbeat, unwilling to acknowledge just how much everything has fallen apart around him. He's standing in the rubble of his career, his football program, but all he can see is what a mighty structure it can be again, if everyone could just believe enough.
Championships, accolades. A time when he won't have tell himself that he's good enough -- everyone else will do it for him again.
The assistant coaches and members of the athletic department support staff have noticed a different Brown in the hours since he discovered the powerful words of Smalley late on Saturday night after the loss to Ole Miss. But no one has yet had the courage to tell him that Smalley is a joke, satire, a parody of the self-help craze, not even when Brown asked them to pull every episode of Saturday Night Live that included a Smalley skit, not even when Brown had the team recite the affirmation on Sunday, over and over again until he felt that they started to believe in it.
It took an hour, non-stop. And that was just for the giggling to cease. But Brown believes in his heart the team is starting to buy in -- he thought he could see it in the way that they practice on Sunday as he stood in his usual spot, mouthing the words to himself over and over and over again.
And the assistant coaches? Well, Brown was too blissful in his discovery to notice them rolling their eyes at him, but then, he's long since ceased to notice that. Doing so always brought back those painful memories of Harsin and Muschamp doing the same thing.
All Brown feels is the progress, that the affirmations are helping push his team back to the brink of being good again. Now, with the help of the incredible Smalley and his words, he won't have to admit that he was wrong all along about the team that he had consistently said for so long was going to finally to turn it around. To accept blame after clearly saying that there are no excuses this season, not even a perfect storm.
Now, none of that is going to have to happen.
The discovery of Smalley has changed all that, the epiphany for the long-time head coach about his previous behavior.
Like that dark day in 2010 when he threw his players and coaches under the bus, saying that he couldn't trust them, that he was fighting his butt off, implying that they were not.
Or those dark days earlier in 2010 when he found himself so low after the loss to Alabama in the national championship game, when he moped around for days and weeks and months, sitting in his pajamas eating buckets upon buckets of ice cream and watching daytime television.
In those days, only the cartoonish dysfunction the guests on Maury Povich could afford him any comfort. Well, that and the ice cream.
Had he known about the affirmations then, Brown thinks to himself, he wouldn't have had to fire his bestie Greg Davis and they could still be dinking and dunking their way to
conference championships 10-win seasons, even with Case McCoy at quarterback, Brown now believes, buoyed as he is by Smalley's words.
Brown gets up from his desk and takes off his cardigan -- he doesn't want anyone to know how cold he's been feeling recently, to know about the empty void in the pit of his stomach that barely even goes away after minutes upon minutes of affirmation. He knows he can't let anyone see that darkness again. It could tear him apart and strip that razor-thin but hard-earned veneer of confidence away from him.
He takes one last look in the mirror and says the affirmation again.
"I'm good enough, I'm start enough, and doggone it, people like me. And I'm going to get this fixed."
He smiles a happy smile, a truly happy smile, thankful that he has found this incredible inspiration at such a trying time. He walks down for his Monday press conference, ready to exude confidence to the world, to tell everyone that Texas still has a chance to win the Big 12, to reach their goals, to succeed.
Just before walking in to face the media, he pauses, silently mouthing the words with that same self-satisfied smile now so frequently on his face.
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me. And I'm going to get this fixed."