Right now, college football season is just days away and I should be excited about it starting, the way that I felt even after 5-7 and after the disappointments of 2011. I've always felt that way about football season, actually. Always.
And yet, there's no real excitement this year. I'm anxious. Agitated. Probably a little bit cynical and definitely snarky at times. On the purely fan side, I'm kind of an emotional wreck right now. The last three seasons have been really hard.
Right now, there's a tab open in my browser that links to Bill C's wonderful description of why we love college football and all I can see of it is the start of the title: "It's personal..."
This is somehow extraordinarily fitting as I attempt to craft a reply to a legitimate point about how it seems that it has become rather personal with Texas head coach Mack Brown right now.
I got called out for it in a well-meaning way today. This is my attempt at a response, at laying everything on the line from a purely emotional standpoint as a fan who lives this every day negotiating this weird space of being a professional fan with no access, a space I occupy in part because I don't want to be told what I can and can't write.
Right now, Brown's consistent condescension to both media and fans makes me agitated. His unwillingness to admit what seems like an admitted truth about last season's team makes me agitated. His consistent discussion of how unfair the expectations are around here makes me agitated.
Here's how Brown described the expectations to Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, who says that Brown "mildly chafes" at them:
I think Kirk Herbstreit said it best the other day," Brown said. "He said, ‘Texas is a 9-4 team being treated like a 6-6 team.' I think our standard is so high here that 9-4 is 6-6 in everybody's mind.
"It's funny that the 7-6 and the 8-5 teams are talking about how they're not sure who we are, and they're proud of their season. But that's this place and what we've become, and that's OK.
Mildly chafes being a generous description by Forde, who is selling the narrative of improvement and Mack Brown being back. He's playing nice, in other words. I'm not that interested in doing so at this point.
As always, too, that little "that's fair/that's OK" verbal tic means that Brown very much thinks the expectations are unfair.
But let's get real about this -- Texas fans aren't talking about this team like it went 6-6 last season, they're talking about it like a team that has gone under .500 in Big 12 play over the last three seasons and has lost to Kansas State for a whole decade almost and been blown out by Oklahoma two years in a row and fielded a defense that just admitted it quit last season.
Texas fans are talking about the team like that because it's all true.
Right now, I'm done with Mack Brown. I have been since he sat there saying "It is what it is" about another team unprepared to play in the Cotton Bowl, another Mack Brown trademark. There's no other way to say it -- I'm done. It makes me consider him a lame-duck coach and means that I'm merely passing the time until he's gone and that makes it really hard to be in the present of Texas football, as much as I have focused on and improved in that area over the last several years in my personal life.
The comments to Forde came around the same time that he had this to say in a press conference:
Modern day, you're going to have some that feel like things are awful when you win all the games. That's just part of the deal.
Maybe not everyone would be happy, but for the sane people there would be criticism only to the extent that it would help understand what it would take to win a national championship game. The other people? The crazy ones? Who cares what they think and why does Brown talk about them all the time?
And secondly, if he has such problems with expectations, this is maybe not the best place for him. Texas has everything it takes to be successful -- when it comes down to the bottom line, there are no excuses. That tends to create expectations. Guess what, they aren't really going anywhere, though Brown has unquestionably done an excellent job the last few years at chipping away at them.
Then there's also the fact that Brown should be more worried about winning all the games then what people will think when he does it.
Right now, I'm tired of Brown's insecurities and anxieties and annoying verbal tics that just seem like a sign of weakness.
So here is where it stands for me. When Brown stops being condescending in ways that are personal attacks to the fanbase and/or media, I'll stop being so agitated about the way that he frames things and I won't feel inclined to blow things out of proportion. He's setting a lot of the tone to this discussion himself.
I didn't care for some of Brown's weaknesses as a coach and didn't care for 2010, but I never advocated for Brown to go and it never felt personal until he made it personal.
So, is this is a little bit personal? Yeah, it is. I didn't really like losing to Oklahoma and being told that it was unacceptable and then having my fanhood questioned after the Baylor game when Brown said that only the positive fans showed up.
I showed up that game days after spraining an ankle that I wouldn't be able to run on for months. I stood the whole time, I yelled my throat raw, and my foot was so swollen by the end of the night that I was barely getting circulation and struggled to get my shoe off.
Then I was told that I wasn't there, because I'm one of the negative fans and only the positive fans were there. My existence was denied. I didn't like that. Don't tell me I'm not a real fan. Brown should stop passing judgements about the fanbase and worry about winning. Get blown out by Oklahoma and then trash the Rationals who jumped ship after the game following a win? No. I don't accept that.
And now I'm just scared to death. Scared to death that he really could stick around until 2020 and I would have to listen to him condescend for another eight years of my life, all while he struggles with his admitted weakness of wanting to build more than maintain. Scared to death that Texas could get blown out by Oklahoma again and then have to watch him go through yet another Monday press conference talking about friends and non-friends. Scared to death of more complacency, more anxiety transmitted to his team, more comments that just make me shake my head in disbelief.
Scared to death. And anxious. And agitated. I don't like it. I don't want to feel this way about Texas football, but I do and I have ever since fall camp started and ever since Oklahoma last year and the year before and ever since 2010 and I don't know what can solve it except for the football being good again.
I'm trying to muster up some optimism here and the rational part of my brain knows that it should be optimistic and I should be optimistic, but my experience of the last three seasons has been so viscerally difficult that it's just really, really hard.
By the way, happy birthday, coach. If you stop being so condescending and personally insulting me, this won't have to be personal any more. We'll call it your birthday present.
Now I should probably also go back and read Bill C's work and remind myself why I love this game so much.