What we learn in life is that humans have made the line between daring, doom and dreams very thin.
And it is into that environment the Longhorn football team, version 2004, stepped into when they reported for duty on Monday night. Tonight, as they take the field for the first time in preparation for the season, they begin their quest of their dream.
A couple of Sundays ago, The Preacher--that would be the noted Rev. Gerald Mann at Riverbend Church in Austin--was talking about dreams.
It is easy to get caught up in clichés when you start speaking about dreams. They make cards and posters about them, send encouraging messages about them. Almost from birth, we are immersed in them. And we constantly get conflicting messages.
On the one hand as kids, we are told to "dream big." "The Little Engine That Could," the guy who kept saying "I think I can" is a nursery book hero. And on the other, we are told "don't do that" you're gonna fall." Which makes you wonder, is daring about trying, or is daring about doom?
But the point Gerald was making, and a critical theme in Mack Brown's opening talk with this team, worked well together.
Mack talked about the fact that football is a hard game to play. "You have to love it. You don't play it," he said, "just to participate. You play it to win, and to win championships."
And on Sunday at the big church in the hills west of Austin, Gerald Mann said, "Make your dream become you."
Most important in all of it, he cautioned, is to "beware of the dream slayers."
Whatever it is that you dream, there will be those who scoff, those who say that you can't. Those who find reasons a plan won't work, those who have trouble believing that it will.
The 2004 Longhorn team sat in the team room with a wealth of talent, new energy and determined dreams. Jeff Madden, the Longhorns' strength and conditioning guru who has worked closely with assistant head coaches Dick Tomey and Mac McWhorter, reported that the summer work the players did was among the best he'd seen in his 22 years in the business.
The guys ran in the sand. They ran hills backwards. They did everything Jeff and the coaches set out as a plan. And Madden and the trainers, who are the only ones who can work with the players in the summer by NCAA rules, reported resounding success.
From ashes that followed the ill-fated loss to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, they dared to not only dream, but to go to work. They had the toughest spring, and a dedicated summer.
And as Brown scrolled through his welcoming remarks, there was one phrase that continued to surface: "Stay Together."
As Derrick Johnson and Cedric Benson traveled to the Big 12 Media Day in Kansas City in July, that was the most apparent quality this team has. It is a team, and it is together.
And as nine senior leaders came to the opening press conference to talk about the team, they reflected that.
That message was not prevelant as the media's focus shifted toward those who didn't report and not of the togetherness and unity of those who did. As a piece of history, it was not unlike reporting day for the 1968 Longhorn team, when several key players, including a couple of starters, elected to leave the team just as practice started.
A revamped coaching staff, with new ideas and new plans, took that team to a 9-1-1 season, and started the era of the Wishbone and a 30-game winning streak.
Now, let's make this very clear: there is a big difference in dreaming, and predicting. Dreams are personal. Predictions are simply guesses of what might, or might not be.
But the point of the preacher was that you shouldn't let the predictors get in the way of the dream. The most important factor in the dream is not the daring, nor is it the fear of doom. It is about doing.
Once, a young man who would become an excellent journalist dreamed about playing basketball for the late Abe Lemons at Texas. It was an era of excellence, when the Longhorns were coming off an NIT championship and had one of the top programs in the country.
The young student had skills, and hopes, and armed with those, he ventured into old Gregory Gym to talk to Abe. He anticipated an audience about his background, where he was recruited, and what his stats were.
Instead, Abe chewed a little on his unlit cigar, looked him straight in the eye, and said, "just show me that you can play."
The point was, there is a time when it serves no purpose to talk. If you want to play, go for it.
That is the message of Mack, The Preacher, and the upcoming season. It is about becoming your dream, ignoring those who both praise and decry you.
Playing a game because you love it. But most of all, doing it when you have put the world aside. And in that space, dreams become you, and dreams become reality.
And for those of us whose only role is to watch, pull for the dreamers, they make the world different.