"Now we've got to shut up and do it," -- Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown in his State of the Union speech on Sunday to open fall practice.
Every fall, the opening of fall camp in early August heralds the long-awaited coming of football season, the death of the long and torturous offseason. The light at the end of tunnel, to devolve fully into cliche.
Last fall there was optimism. The narrative still lived. It all set up so perfectly -- the Holiday Bowl in 2003, a BCS game in 2004, the national championship in 2005, a cycle repeated starting in 2007 and one that appeared set to repeat starting in 2011 with the Holiday Bowl win over Cal.
Then it all came crashing down, the cracks in the foundation of that narrative apparent in the early going as the defense struggled to tackle in the secondary or stop the run with a front seven that lost leader Jordan Hicks for the season against Ole Miss. Against Oklahoma, the narrative was blown up as Texas was blown out for the second consecutive season. Pure demolition -- a season turned to rabble, belief destroyed, a bright future subsumed by the terrible realities of the present and what that meant for the future.
Now it's hard to yet feel the typical joy, even for open practices -- there's too much fear, too much anxiety, too much baggage. Too many tired talking points used and abused for months, if not years.
What if it all falls apart? What if there's another blowout loss to Oklahoma? Or even just a loss? Is there even a narrative now, other than Brown needing a strong season to hold onto his job amid fan discontent that is at the highest level of his tenure in Austin?
The last three seasons in the wilderness of college football mediocrity -- at least by the high standards of Texas football -- have left fans to deal with the wreckage of their belief in the program, the head coach, the defense.
Some cope with apathy, turning away from their favored internet water cooler, avoiding the preseason preview magazines, ignoring the approaching football season like an unwanted child. Some cope with anger, red-faced and shaking their fists, calling for Brown to be fired, for Bellmont to be razed to the ground. Some turn to sarcasm, cynicism, wrapping their fear in a protective coating of snark.
And that's fair, all of it.
In many ways, there's not much left to say about this team. Sure, the roster analysis, position battles, and insights into the new scheme on offense and whatever changes defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will make to his unit will all occupy this space over the coming weeks, but on some level, it all seems superfluous, just a way to kill time until the real season begins in 26 days and a handful of hours.
"Now we've got to shut up and do it."
How much else is there to say? Talk is cheap, it's value further diminished by how much of it hasn't come to fruition over the last three seasons.
Now Texas football has to just shut up and do it. And it better do it well.