The excitement that has been building this year has been focused on "anticipation."
Aug. 25, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
Dr. Paul Tucker, one of Austin's great cardiologists, tells the story of an encounter when he was the Chief Medical Resident in the renowned heart complex in Houston. He was standing at the elevator with the legendary heart surgeon and UT graduate Denton Cooley when the doors opened and a distraught woman walked out.
"Dr. Cooley, Dr. Cooley, " she said. "I have to know...is George going to be alright?"
To which Dr. Cooley placed his hand on her shoulder and reassuringly said, "Yes, George will be fine."
Doctors Cooley and Tucker then stepped alone in the elevator, and as the doors closed, Cooley said, "Paul, I have no idea who that woman was...but I can't stand a doctor who is a pessimist!"
That kind of positive attitude is why I love Bill Hecke, the weatherman on the easy listening station which awakens us every morning. The other day, in the midst of the heat and drought, as we all fight to keep fires away and trees, grass and plants alive, Mr. Hecke gave the usual "heat advisory" and talked about the remote possibility that some storm would come from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and save us. And then he said this, and I am paraphrasing here; as he looked at the weather maps, north of Canada, he could see the stirring of atmospheric phenomena which meant one thing:
Fall is coming.
Tuesday morning in the midst of the hottest summer ever recorded in Austin, the Texas Longhorns went through their 22nd practice of their two-a-day drills in preparation for the start of the football season on September 3rd.
While the work in the meeting rooms and at practice has been extensive, there have also been opportunities to listen and learn from other sources. On Sunday, August 14, the Longhorns boarded buses after practice for a short trip to Camp Mabry, the historic home of the Texas National Guard and training facility for other important military reserve units. The plan had been to actually practice on the drill field, but what had germinated as an idea in the cool spring was frustrated by grass that had turned to brittle straw. Still, the players had a chance to meet and sign autographs for military personnel, their families, and families of those who are deployed.
Then, they heard from the commanding general and the chief aide to the Adjutant General of the State of Texas. They heard of the cold, and the heat, of the remote places in the Middle East where American service men and women stand in harm's way for our freedom.
A week of practice followed, and then came a visit with two very diverse Longhorn legends. First was Red McCombs, who as one of The University's major benefactors has both the business school and the "Red Zone" (the north end zone) at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium named for him (and he shares the softball field name with his wife, Charlene).
Red's annual talk to the team triggered a memory and a challenge. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the University of Southern California dominated the sport of college baseball as no team has ever done before or since. Each year, eight outstanding college teams would qualify for the College World Series in Omaha. Seven of the teams journeyed to America's midlands in pursuit of their dream--they went "hoping" to win.
Southern Cal, on the other hand, went "expecting to win."
And they did.
That was the challenge Red offered to the Longhorns of 2011--regain that swagger that brought Texas football to a similar place in the first decade of the 21st Century.
He then revived a familiar phrase that was part of Texas' campaign that took them to the national championship game in 2009--go "All In."
At the Sunday practice on August 21st, as temperatures even inside the "bubble" (the indoor practice facility) reached into the 90s, the team heard from the other part of that Longhorn history tandem.
Eric Metcalf, who arguably was the best Texas football player in the decade of the 1980s, has been a frequent visitor to Longhorn games over the years. The former NFL star and world class Olympian came with a special message this time, however. With UT President Bill Powers and his wife, Kim Heilbrun on hand, Metcalf told the team he liked what he had seen in practice, and how the young guys should embrace their opportunity. He was no stranger to some of the players. Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Major Applewhite has put together a tape of the legendary Longhorn runners to show his young players, and Metcalf is part of that highlight reel.
But this day, he talked of something beyond just the game. Eric Metcalf played his last down of football for Texas in the season of 1988. And in the fall of 2011, he stood before this latest version of the Longhorns as a brand new college graduate. So when he spoke of taking care of your work in the classroom, he spoke from the heart.
As classes started at Texas on Wednesday and the final scrimmage closed pre-season practice Thursday, game week is only a few days away. Friday, the Longhorn Network will launch its live telecasting of all things associated with The University of Texas.
Following Sunday's practice, Mack Brown took time to visit with the members of the Longhorn Band, who have also begun their practice in anticipation of the 7 p.m. meeting with Rice which will open the season on September 3rd.
Two years ago, the summer of 2009 was one of those times where everything was centered on "expectations." The excitement carried all the way to the national championship game.
The excitement that has been building this year (brick-by-brick, by the way) has been focused on "anticipation." And in that space, we celebrate with Dr. Cooley in his mandate for optimism, and rest assured by Mr. Hecke.