Thursday, January 05, 2006


The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon Y'all

Our Man is back in LA after travels to the deepest, darkest corners of the United States. Over the holidays, the wife and I criss-crossed the country to visit family and friends, and to ring in a terrific new year.

But I had no idea how terrific it was going to be until last night.

Truthfully, I was going to let my hiatus from the blog stretch until next week, giving me a little more time to adjust to being back home, back at work. Give me a little time to finish the mammoth task of finishing the first draft of the new script. You know how it goes.

Brother, there are some things out there that just force you to write. Vince Young, leader of the Mighty, Mighty University of Texas Longhorns is one of them.

If you haven't heard by now, my beloved Horns hooked it to the USC Trojans last night, winning college football's national championship in the Rose Bowl, right here in Southern California. Superman Young found himself responsible for more than 460 yards of total offense. And this was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.


Seriously, dude. Wow.

Let's address this mammoth victory one point at a time, shall we?

First, let me say that I love the Horns. I'm a graduate of their film school, and I'm as proud of my time in Austin (the best college town in America bar none) as I am of just about anything else in my educational background. I was going to love the Horns whether they won or lost. That said, I have to admit winning is better.

Second, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the sports gods out there. Thank you, sports gods, thank you. The new century has been pretty good to me and my teams. After a particularly rough 1990s - when Ohio State couldn't beat Michigan, Texas couldn't beat almost anyone, the Bengals were the worst team in the NFL virtually every year, and Northwestern, although bowl eligible, was embroiled in gambling scandals - I've been very pleased with the first half of the 2000s.

Think of it. Ohio State, national champs. Over Miami. Northwestern, still bowl eligible and without scandal. Scandal-monger Gary Barnett out of a job. The Bengals back in the playoff mix.

And then last night, the best of all. Hook 'em Horns. Bevo gets it done (with the help of a QB so amazing that comparisons to both Michael Vick and classic Brett Favre don't seem to completely tell the story).

Third, I'd like to amend any and all earlier statements I had about Texas' coach, Mack Brown. Mack, you're not John Cooper. You never were, and I'm sorry for putting you in his sorry-ass company.

For those of you who remember, Cooper was Ohio State's coach during the aforementioned ugly 1990s. Great recruiter, great coach against mediocre teams, but couldn't beat Michigan or a team in a bowl game to save his life. Early on, Mack did similar things. Had great seasons against the Baylors and Iowa States of the world. Couldn't get it done against the hated Oklahoma. Couldn't win the big bowl games.

It started to change last year, with that miracle against Michigan in the Rose Bowl. What I should have understood then is that it was all a matter of taking the right steps. All part of the journey for Mack and the boys. Like Mr. Miyagi, he had to have Vince Young-san wax on and wax off before he could pull any crane-kicking mojo.

Vince Young arrived last year against Michigan. This year, in the same venue, the man showed us what he can do, why he's special. You made it happen, Mack.

And best of all, Mack made it happen with the right set of priorities. In his press conference after the game, Coach Brown said that he hoped, great though this national title game was, that this January night in Pasadena would not turn out to be the greatest moment his young men ever had. He said he wanted them to be great fathers, great men. That's a better reward than just playing a great game.

No word on whether Vince Young heads to the NFL draft or stays at Texas for his senior year. We'll know soon. Coach Brown has never lost a star player to the NFL before he's completed his eligibility. When you have a mentor talking to you about making you a better person, and not just about X's and O's, is it any wonder?

Fourth point in this ramble. As I mentioned above, this is the second time in a few years that one of my teams has won the national championship.

This one is better. Way better.

There are a couple of reasons why. First, Ohio State was my father's team. I love them dearly. I'll root for them in virtually every game.

Texas is my team. I went there, earned a degree from there. I cheered them in 90-degree October weather, back in the days when they were still in the beloved Southwest Conference. I suffered through every loss to Oklahoma. I swallowed my pride when they lost to Barnett and his Colorado squad. They're the guys I would watch every Saturday if I could.

Moreover, it happened here, in LA, and it happened to LA's favorite college team. For weeks, local and national pundits had been celebrating this class of Trojans as the greatest of all time, an unbeatable juggernaut that could easily dispose of any college team from any era, not to mention a few pro teams from this one.

You hear that kind of crap long enough, and you really, really want someone to take them down a notch.

Enter Vince Young. Wax on, wax off.

Fifth point in the ramble. This game proved that college football matters to the country. Early reports were that the game received a higher rating than anything broadcast on ABC for the past six years, other than the Oscars and the Super Bowl. Even if you're not a sports fan, you knew about this one. You probably watched.

This one didn't just matter to a bunch of goons in some cultural backwater or hillbilly college town. This one mattered in the major markets. This was something we all want to watch.

I prefer college sports to pro. Always have. It was nice to see one of these games not only living up to the hype, but surpassing it.

Sixth point. Final one, though I could probably go on for another ten. And that point's about the future.

I said before, I don't know whether Vince Young will stay or go. He was leaning toward staying in Austin. Then again, up until last night, some pundits said he probably wouldn't go in the top 7 of the NFL draft, meaning he wouldn't make top money.

Those pundits have been more or less silenced.

As a greedy Longhorn fan, I want him to stay. No question. I'd like to see him defend this championship, win the Heisman, be back in the final game in January 2007 in the Fiesta Bowl playing for all the marbles.

I'll love him either way. If he goes, the rest of Longhorn nation and I will always have the Rose Bowl, which I still think is the best venue and bowl of them all. You can have your Cotton Bowls with all their history. You can have your Sugar or Orange or Fiesta or Carquest.

The Rose just feels different. So Vince has given us this.

If he goes pro, that'll be fine, too. I'll follow that. The first slot in the draft belongs to his hometown Houston Texans, but it's unlikely he'll go there. One scenario has him going to New Orleans. That could be fun, since most people are pretty sure that the Saints will eventually end up as the team of record in Los Angeles, likely coached by none other than Trojan coach Pete Carroll.

Any way they could pull that together, and play their home games in the Rose Bowl?

Another scenario has Vince headed to Tennessee, where he'd be groomed to replace the amazing Steve McNair. That'd be cool, too.

Whatever. Mack Brown's not going anywhere. Why would you? You're in Austin, one of the great places on Earth, making good dough, coaching an elite team, and you're a god to one of the largest campuses in the country and virtually the whole state (except for those poor, ridiculous souls that prefer A&M, or God help us all, the Red Raiders of Texas Tech).

So Mack's still there, and he'll keep the program strong. If Vince stays, we might be back here again next year. If Vince goes, good for him, and we'll still be pretty good.

Anyway, this ends my Texas love column for now. I could (and will, if you see me) talk for hours about how this victory impacts the "Who Have They Played?" argument of sports fandom, the importance of defense in a title bout like this one, and any number of other minutiae.

Tomorrow, the blog will return with its tidbits of LA life, its talk of comics and movies, and with ridiculous stories of holiday travel and encounters with friends and family.

For now, the sun is setting over the Pacific. I can see it retreating into pink sky, the black horizon of the water. At a time like this, on a day like today, I have a simple plan.

Raise a Shiner Bock to the sky and toast once more the Mighty Mighty team from the University of Texas.

Hook 'em, Horns.

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