I've always hated the phrase, "It is what it is."
It's self-evident, mincing. A waste of words. An expression of helplessness, of resignation. A sports cliche for our times with even more universal applicability.
Didn't take out the trash when you were supposed to be? Shrug. "It is what it is." Failed that big test because you went out and got wasted the night before? "It is what it is." Didn't show up for your meeting with your probation officer because you forgot? "It is what it is." Got your butt kicked by the Sooners for the fourth time in recent history? "It is what it is."
All told, Texas players and coaches used the phrase six times in the post-game press conference -- once from Mack Brown and Kenny Vaccaro after the game, twice from Brown on Monday, and twice from Marquise Goodwin on Monday.
It pretty much summarizes the state of Texas football right now. When normal platitudes aren't enough, "it is what it is." Awesome. Move over RISE, "It Is What It Is" is the new motto.
It's also the exact reason why things clearly need to change.
The players talked about Brown being a "fighter" in the words of offensive guard Mason Walters and Brown himself adopted an "us against the world" mentality in his press conference talking about finding out who your true friends are. But neither of those comments addressed the inescapable reality — when the only thing to say is, "It is what it is," the phrase itself is a clear admission of defeat.
Left with little else to do at this point other than psychoanalyze the Texas head coach, it's not easy to know what to make of the Baylor press conference. On one hand, Brown didn't look nearly as defeated as he did after the game and spoke about being "competitive" and "determined" to right the ship. If he's given up, he hid it reasonably well.
As for what he said, it's difficult to know what he should have said following such a loss. Is there really anything to say? Obviously everyone needs to get back to work, from the coaches to the players to the support staff.
Brown spent a fair amount of the press conference talking about negativity after the loss:
Mack: There's a lot of negativity out there in modern day sports and modern day life.— Jim Vertuno (@JimVertuno) October 15, 2012
A possible attempt simply to keep the team focused and moving forward, all the talk about finding about who their "true friends" are came out as a criticism of anyone who dares to be negative after a legacy-defining loss that provided the tipping point in the "Bob Stoops owns Mack Brown" narrative. It came off as the snippy Mack that Texas fans have grown to hate when he tries to act like the big, evil world of the media, new media, and fan opinions are illegitimate.
Brown also went out of his way to emphasize that he's engaged with the rebuilding process, which is clearly not as far along as previously hoped:
Mack: I have my energy, we're moving forward and we're darn sure giong to get this thing fixed. #hookem— Jim Vertuno (@JimVertuno) October 15, 2012
In his conversation with the print media, Brown also showed some self-awareness:
Why did Mack Brown raise quitting with his team? "There will be some people who say, 'He thought about retiring before and he'll quit now.'"— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) October 15, 2012
Junior offensive guard Mason Walters had mentioned that Brown talked during the team meeting on Sunday night about quitting and how it can transcend football, a clear volley at those who believe that he has or will quit in the near future.
Despite the growing chorus calling for a resignation from Brown, it's unlikely that such a decision would come down before the end of the season, which raises the question of whether there's anything that he can do to prove that he's the right person to lead Texas back to another national championship as fans and observers increasingly have come to believe that there is no saving Brown's tenure in Austin.
Brown was adamant that he's in it to get this thing fixed and that the administration has told him that he'll have the time necessary. How much time is that? Until the end of the season? Next season? Considering the aftermath of 63-21, it's hard to believe that Brown could survive another performance like what happened on Saturday, against any team.
The starting quarterback weighed in Monday and was clear in his assessment of what people who doubt Mack Brown should do. "Stop," said Ash.
Easier said than done.
Brown also expressed confidence in his defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who had said after the game that the defense is about as simple as it can be, though Brown said Monday that the defense will be simplified to allow players to quit thinking and just start playing. Is there a disconnect there?
In the end, though, maybe we should all stop worrying about the state of the Texas program because it is what it is. It's the phrase of the week and the new motto for Longhorns football.
Why try to change anything when things are as they are?