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On Happy Marriages: Patience, Loyalty, and Priorities

I've been waiting for this news to come out so I could write this column. Mack Brown was given a pay raise to bump his annual salary to about $2.5 million, making him the third-highest paid coach in the country.

The news in and of itself is unexceptional. Mack was already one of the highest paid coaches around, and the raise itself only ensures that he'll remain among the top five paid coaches in the country. I'm happy to see Brown get the raise, and equally happy the university didn't go overboard like Notre Dame did with Charlie Weiss.

I've been waiting for this news because I wanted to use it as a vehicle to talk about patience, loyalty, and priorities/values. I'm going to try to do this without sounding -too- preachy...

About fifteen months ago, Texas lost to Oklahoma 12-0, their fifth straight loss to the Sooners. Many fans, myself included, reacted angrily and, in many cases, petulantly. Those carrying the sharpest pitchforks were calling for Mack to be fired. Others, more justifiably, wanted Greg Davis canned. In reality, though, UT Athletic Director Deloss Dodds never even considered firing Mack Brown. He made public statements about the strength of the program as a whole and urged fans to take the long view--the whole view. And here's where we get to what I want to talk about.

Mack Brown isn't the sexiest college football coach. He doesn't have the charisma of Pete Carroll, or the pedigree of Charlies Weiss, or (until now) the trophies of Nick Saban or Bob Stoops. He talks kind of funny. People fault him for being too kind. In short, Mack's detractors talked endlessly about what he couldn't do. Can't beat Oklahoma. Can't win a conference title. Can't do this. Can't do that.

Too few of us, though, and we were not always above it here at BON, were honed in on all the things he did bring to the table. Well, one national title later and we're all singing a different tune. The point of this is not to say that Mack Brown didn't deserve careful scrutiny, or that all of the criticisms of him were unfair or off base, only that we need to take greater caution in how we apply those criticisms. I think it takes a certain maturity, as a person or as a sports fan, to get past looking at things this way. I think there's a real danger in life for those that focus too much on what a person isn't, or can't do.

Take dating, for example. I have certain friends that spend all of their energy evaluating women in terms of what they aren't. She's not hot enough. She's not fun enough. She talks funny. She doesn't go out enough. She goes out too much. Other people don't like her enough. Well, you know what? The idea is not to find the single hottest girl in the world. You girlfriend doesn't have to have Marilyn vos Savant's IQ. She needn't come from the richest family in town. We get so bogged down in the extremes of these qualities that we lose sight of the things that are actually important. In the case of dating, you need a partner. You need someone that YOU are attracted to; it doesn't matter if anyone else is. You need someone that engages you, even if she's not as fascinating to your friends. We get lost trying to find a girl that answers to these extreme standards instead of seeking out someone that delivers on the values and priorities of our own lives. It's a vicious trap and some people never get past it.

And we almost fell in to that trap with Mack Brown. He wasn't the sexiest coach in the room. He was easy for outsiders to snicker at. He had all kinds of warts, just like every human being in the world. But in the end, he was a great partner and we were lucky to have him. Above all, he built a program that we could be proud of. He operates with integrity. He is humble and kind and generous. He treats others with respect. He values the history of the institution and the program. As Texans, and, specifically, as Longhorns, what could be a higher priority than that? Especially considering how much success we were having? Where was the patience, where was our loyalty? What were our priorities?

In the end, the university stuck with Mack Brown, warts and all, and it's a happy ending. The point, of course, is that things have been good all along. It's easy to forget that--both in sports, and in life. Count your blessings, boys and girls. Don't take the good for granted. The grass, I'm afraid, isn't always greener on the other side.