Tonight we celebrated the kickoff to the college football season in general. Saturday, we celebrate the opening of the 2007 season for our team, Texas.
To be perfectly honest, this has been the longest offseason of my life. For many, many reasons. I had to endure the countdown of moving away from Austin. I had the headaches and hassles that accompany moving to a new city. Other real life problems made my summer excruciatingly long.
On top of all that, the baseball season - normally a source of relief - has been a disappointment. Barry Bonds gave me (not you, I know - that argument thread is Closed, thanks) some joy, but my fantasy team is in the gutter and my real team, the Giants, aren't much better. It's been hard to care.
More relevant to the audience at large, the only Texas news we had to talk about involved arrests or injuries. Hey, that's the summer for you, but it was an especially hard one for Texas fans.
It's also worth mentioning that we lost three games in 2006. One year after enjoying the Vince Young era. A national title. Twentysomething straight wins. We were Kings of College Football heading into 2006, and the wheels just came right off. Most painful of all, they came off because of injury. McCoy, Muckelroy, Lokey, Brown, Griffin - on and on and on it went. Texas caught as many bad breaks in 2006 as it did good breaks in 2005. That's football, that's life. It's intoxicating when you're on top, but it's devastating when you grind to a halt.
And then there's the loss to Texas A&M. More than anything else, that loss ruined the season. Losing to Kansas State and being knocked from the national title picture was painful, but we still controlled our Big 12 title destiny. Losing to Texas A&M - at home, 12-7, in one of the most uninspiring performances of the Mack Brown era - was crippling. The only Texas Longhorns football loss during Mack Brown's tenure which can compare with that loss is the choke job in the 2001 Big 12 championship game.
Think about it this way: You know all the scenes from the James Bond movies where our hero is captured but the villain inexplicably sets up an elaborate, scary-but-escapable death sentence? The ones where Bond always manages a narrow escape?
That was freaking Texas in 2006. We had Oklahoma and Texas A&M down on the ground, our foot on their throats, and then we walked away. We let them back in the damn game. Oklahoma won the Big 12 title; A&M pulled out a victory in Austin. We were that close to putting some kind of dagger in our two biggest rivals, and the whole thing fell apart.
I have an idea. Let's try death by shark tank.
Perhaps the greatest thing about sports, though, is the rebirth. There is always next year, thank God, and next year is, today, this year. The process starts again.
The slate is clean, the difficult offseason behind us. Non-fans don't understand, but we are, finally, whole again. Our weekends take on new meanings, and we have so much to discuss and worry about throughout the work week. We will visit friends and families who we only see on Saturdays in the fall. We will finally pick up the phone again to call old friends who we've been neglecting for too many months now.
We will celebrate wins with fervor, while losses will literally break our hearts. Even the bad times, though, are better than the empty times.
College football has returned, and if you rolled your eyes at the passion in this post, then you are not One Of Us. I hope your own passions are as exciting, rewarding, engaging, and inspiring as ours.
Game day is Saturday. General previewery forthcoming.