This is the first of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
Three summers ago, during an interview on a Houston radio station, the host asked me to identify the key to starting and building a successful sports blog.
"Oh it's easy," I explained. "Just figure out when a transcendent player has lost for the final time before embarking on an epic winning streak and becomes the greatest player in the history of his sport. Then go ahead and launch your blog."
He got the joke and laughed, but that is, in fact, what happened with me and the launch of this sports blog nearly five and a half years ago. Following my 2003 graduation from Texas, I took a job in Washington D.C. and had been living there a little over a year when the Longhorns lost 12-0 in the Red River Shootout, Mack Brown's fifth consecutive loss to the hated Sooners. Had I been in Austin, I likely would have gotten my ranting done out on the golf course with Wiggo; in Washington, however, I found myself isolated from one of the greatest constants of my entire life: UT sports.
I was born in Austin and lived here for 22 of my first 23 years on this planet. Both my parents were professors at UT, which is also where they'd met when a colleague on faculty set them up on a blind date. Except for the brutally hot early-season games, we'd gone to most home football games, and since I was a toddler I accompanied my father to every single men's basketball game at the Erwin Center.
My father also served a four-year term on the Athletics Council, during which time he lobbied for Texas to move to the Pac 10, before the university eventually decided to help launch the new Big 12. And still to this day, when conversations turn to Texas football he's quick to tell everyone who'll listen that he pleaded with John Mackovic to recruit Drew Brees. (Although he eventually learned not to do it when I'm in the group, because I'm just as quick to remind everyone that he wanted to replace Mackovic with Gary Barnett, not Mack Brown. Whoops!)
Outside my immediate family, I've known and loved UT sports longer than anything or anyone else in my life. Austin is my home, and the University of Texas is my first and only true sports love. Always has been, always will be.
So it's no real surprise that I would eventually find myself in front of a computer, publishing thoughts on Texas sports as fast as I could type them. I just got lucky with the timing: my very first post hit the Interwebs after the Vince Young-led Longhorns' shutout defeat to OU, in which I argued that "Fire Mack Brown" talk was unfair, while joining the chorus of critics who couldn't stomach the thought of Greg Davis for even a second longer.
Three months later, Dusty Mangum's kick fluttered through the uprights to win Texas' first-ever appearance in the Rose Bowl and cap an 11-1 season. And twelve months after that, I stood alongside 50,000 other Longhorns fans in Pasadena to sing the 'Eyes of Texas' following UT's second Rose Bowl win, securing a 13-0, national title-winning season in which Vince Young's offense scored a mind boggling 652 points, the most in the history of the sport.
Fifteen months of sports blogging; twenty consecutive wins for the Longhorns. And the program's first national title in thirty-five years. Like my father with Drew Brees, I'm quick to share that fact with anyone who will listen, but they always want to talk about that Vince Young guy. I suppose he had a little something to do with the winning streak, too.
Okay, he had a lot to do with it. Everything to do with it, and like every Texas fan on the planet, I haven't even the slightest doubt that he was the greatest college football player of all-time and, if no one ever matches or supersedes the level of dominance he displayed during his undefeated run, I won't be surprised.
So maybe that's not the best advice for someone looking to launch a sports blog. The better advice is to write about something for which your passion runs deep. That's why I am here, as are each of you. The site has rapidly grown over the last five years, through many great times as well as some not-so-fun struggles. We are a community of fans, and this is our online water cooler. We gather here because we love the University of Texas and because we care more deeply about its sports teams than almost anything else in our lives.
The University of Texas is where we come from. And whether we remain in Austin or move half-way around the world, we'll never leave.
Feel free to share your own story of how you came to bleed burnt orange in the comment section below.