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The 2013 Longhorns football season, as explained by Death Cab for Cutie

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With the Texas Longhorns' Big 12 title expectations decaying more by the week (and the Mack Brown era with them), one writer uses lyrics by the indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie to explain UT fans' current state of mind.

Jeff Scott's career-best performance against Texas likely made people repeat "What Sarah Said"
Jeff Scott's career-best performance against Texas likely made people repeat "What Sarah Said"
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

I had much of this post in my head on Thursday evening, and I was hoping Texas would rise to the occasion Saturday night, beat Ole Miss, and keep me from having to actually write it out, but it was not to be. In the aftermath of a second consecutive 2nd half no-show on the part of the Longhorn defense that led to another embarrassing loss to a less-talented opponent, Wescott led off his post-game post by quoting from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb". In a similar vein, here's a "Texas Longhorn football, as explained by music lyrics" post, with some help from songs by Death Cab for Cutie.

Ben Gibbard, lead singer and principal songwriter for the 16-year-old indie-rock band, can be called many things: singer, songwriter, poet, social activist, erstwhile Mr. Zooey Deschanel. Whether or not Mr. Gibbard is a football fan, I don't know, though through one of his side projects he once recorded and toured under the name All-Time Quarterback. I know of no explicitly football-related lyrics in Gibbard's past work, but if you spend enough time listening to Death Cab albums - especially their work from the past decade (which conveniently corresponds to the period during which I've been a fan) - you, the Texas Longhorns fan, are bound to hear lyrics that speak to the grief this season has brought through its first three games. Let's explore a few examples, with the lyrics presented completely out of context.

"Expo '86"

This song, the fourth track off DCFC's 2003 album Transatlanticism, was the one that initially inspired this post. The lyrics came back to me while I was, of all things, mowing my lawn Thursday evening. Tell me these lyrics don't describe your feelings toward the Longhorn defense.

I am waiting for something to wrong
I am waiting for familiar resolve
I am waiting for another repeat
Another diet fed by crippling defeat
And I am waiting for that sense of relief
I am waiting for you to flee the scene

That last line could fit how many people feel about Mack Brown right now, though "flee the scene" might also be applied to Texas linebackers and safeties displaying a tendency to run themselves out of position over the past two seasons. Maybe those connecting those lyrics to UT football seems like a stretch. Let's try a more obvious one.

"What Sarah Said"

This one is a sad song about sitting at a hospital awaiting the impending death of a loved one. Only two lines really work for purposes of this post.

But I'm thinking of what Sarah said

That love is watching someone die

The first line is easy enough, as there's only one Sarah it could apply to: UT senior and friend of this site Sarah Smith, who was immortalized during ABC's broadcast of last year's Red River Rivalry game when a camera caught her just as she was dropping an F-bomb. See below.



Forget "for the man on my right and the man on my left"; "I'm thinking of what Sarah said" could be this season's UT football theme for most fans. When we watched helplessly (not unlike UT's defense) as BYU quarterback Taysom Hill ran untouched for another long gain off a zone read play, as Ole Miss running back Jeff Scott was made to look like Arkansas-era Felix Jones, and as Case McCoy once again threw the ball six yards down field on 3rd-and-long, many of us were definitely thinking exactly what Sarah said. Miss Smith may very well have been repeating that scene herself during those moments.

The "love is watching someone die" line, on the other hand, could be dedicated to the fans who stayed until the end and didn't leave DKR early in the 4th quarter of the Ole Miss game, or even more appropriately to the ones who stayed at the Cotton Bowl until the end of the 2012 OU game.

"I Will Possess Your Heart"

One can almost imagine the opening lines of this song (the second track from Death Cab's 2008 album Narrow Stairs) being played on a video of Manny Diaz pathetically telling Mack Brown, "We'll get this fixed" during the defensive atrocity that was the BYU game.

How I wish you could see the potential,
the potential of you and me
It's like a book elegantly bound,
but in a language that you can't read just yet

For at least two games too long, even Mack seemed to believe in Manny's ability to fix the problems that plagued the Longhorn defense through much of 2012. With the way Diaz recklessly and frequently ordered fire zone blitzes and twists on the defensive line, it's believable that he would think of his defensive playbook as "a book elegantly bound". And regardless of the soundness or recklessness of Diaz's defensive playcalling in 2012 and 2013, the way the Longhorns actually executed on defense suggests the defensive plays might as well have been in a language they couldn't read.

"The Sound of Settling"

This song (another track from Transatlanticism) could be played over every Mack Brown press conference. The blind loyalty to certain assistants, associates, and QBs whose names rhyme with Base McFoy; excuse-making of the "America has a tackling problem" variety, and celebrations of Alamo Bowl victories could appropriately be greeted with a chorus of:

Bop ba, bop ba
This is the sound of settling

"Bixby Canyon Bridge"

The first track off Narrow Stairs contains these lyrics, which could describe how incredulous Manny Diaz was that his defensive schemes didn't work against BYU, or how Longhorn fans who bought into the preseason talk about a Big 12 title or an 11-win season felt after seeing the results of the past two Saturdays:

I cursed myself for being surprised
That this didn't play like it did in my mind

"Brothers on a Hotel Bed"

(No, this isn't a reference to Case McCoy and Jordan Hicks.) This elegaic song - one of my favorites in Death Cab's catalog - could be interpreted to be about aging. Listening to the first stanza of the song, one can picture Mack Brown looking at himself in the mirror the morning after another devastating loss, and realizing he doesn't have the same coaching fire he had earlier in his Texas career, let alone when he made North Carolina into a respected program. His hair is more gray, the wrinkles more pronounced, his BCS championship ring replaced by an Alamo Bowl ring.

You may tire of me as our December sun is setting 'cause I'm not who I used to be
No longer easy on the eyes but these wrinkles masterfully disguise the youthful boy below
Who turned your way and saw something he was not looking for
Both a beginning and an end
But now he lives inside someone he does not recognize when he catches his reflection on accident

"You Can Do Better Than Me"

Another song for the Manny Diaz playlist. This gets played during the scene from this past offseason where he admits that Mack Brown might be the only coach who would have retained him after the Texas D's performance last season.

I have to face the truth
That no one could ever look at me like you do
Like I'm something worth holding on to

"You Are a Tourist"

These lyrics from the best-known song on 2011's Codes and Keys could describe Mack's descent from being a beloved figure to UT fans, to having his popularity hit an all-time low, with fans wishing he'd quit sooner than later:

'Cause when you find yourself a villain,
In the story you have written
It's plain to see
That sometimes the best intentions
Are in need of redemption
Would you agree
If so, please show me

Though many hoped that the conclusion of the Mack Brown era at Texas would be "A Movie Script Ending", it's clear that he's now "Underwater" on his credit from the fan base, many of whom would love to see him retire "Tomorrow", with DeLoss Dodds telling him "I Will Follow You Into the Dark".

Hopefully, "The New Year" will bring "Stability"and find the program on "Steadier Footing", which would presumably happen once a new AD does a coaching search and sells a worthy candidate on "Why You'd Want to Live Here".

Until then, I'm left to wonder where on Bill Simmons's Levels of Losing does "seeing how many parallels can you draw between your favorite team and the sad and depressing lyrics of Death Cab for Cutie" fall.