It was Tiger Woods, to the best of my memory, who first told us all about the importance of "bringing your 'A' game." And as Tiger became a world-wide golf legend, we began to think he always did. We even became convinced that even if he didn't, he was good enough to win, anyway.
Just a few years later, the golf results are filled with guys who, on a given weekend, brought a better game than Tiger did.
The point is, in sport today, the competitive edge is extremely thin. It doesn't mean you are no good, or a bad player, if you don't win. It just means if you don't play your best, you can get beat.
As Texas heads to Rice, that is a good thing to remember.
College football, perhaps as much as any sport today, is more balanced than it has ever been. The results of the early games make that very clear. Darrell Royal used to say, "the big 'uns, will eat the little 'uns." In the college game today, there are no big ones, and fewer and fewer little ones.
Last week against Arkansas, the Longhorns didn't bring their "A" game, and the Razorbacks did. On 46 plays, two-thirds of the time, Texas stopped Arkansas for gains of less than four yards. Nineteen of those were for no gain or minus yardage. But on 10 plays, the Razorbacks gained more than 10 yards. Some of the Longhorns' best players had double-digit great plays, but their one bad play was catastrophic.
Going into the game, nobody was willing to give Arkansas any respect, despite the fact that the Razorbacks returned 16 starters from a team which played in the SEC championship game last year. And what they brought to Austin was a very good football team that was ready to play its best game.
Longhorns who had never lost a home game, and in fact had lost only seven times in their previous 39 games, got bushwhacked by guys who just flat played better.
On Monday, they reviewed that game for the final time, and put it away. Tuesday, they began to concentrate on Rice.
The trip to Houston, and to a game in the ultra-modern Reliant Stadium, is exciting. A huge number of players are from the Houston area, and the chance to play in the NFL Texans' new home is special.
But what is most important is to get back on the football field and get to work. Again, the 'Horns are heavily favored by the folks who are foolish enough to bet on college football. What we know about Rice, however, is that they have a patient offense and they are stirred up to play Texas. We caught that act last year in the College World Series from their baseball team. Even the coach was dancing when he beat Texas.
From the week of practice and the attitude of the players, it would appear that the Longhorns learned a very painful lesson last Saturday. Mack Brown has said he wants the guys to have fun, and they learned the hard way that losing is not fun at all. You don't ever forget a loss.
It is a true story that Darrell Royal, after consecutive losses to Oklahoma and Arkansas, once told a story to a Longhorn club meeting.
"I am told," he said, "that the philosopher Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that losing can be good, because it teaches you about life. After two straight losses, all I can say is, 'bleep' on Oliver Wendell Holmes."
We're a little more politically correct than DKR was, but you get his message.
What is fun is playing the game, making the play, and winning. Hanging out with your teammates, being a part of something special like Texas, all that is meaningful. But winning is fun.
That's the message that the Longhorns got loud and clear last Saturday. They figured out that talent alone, as a player or a coach, doesn't win games all of the time.
Bringing your "A" game does.