Bill Little commentary: Do what you do
In the 1980s, a popular young actor named Michael J. Fox starred in a movie titled "The Secret of My Success."
Fox's escapades in the movie made it a fun flick, but that has absolutely nothing to do with this column. What is important is the movie title.
Several years ago, after a resounding victory in a Super Bowl, the guy who was voted the MVP of the game was being interviewed in the winning locker room on national television. When the commentator asked him about his performance, his reply was classic.
"Look," he said. "I do what I do, and that fella over there (he said pointing to a teammate) he do what he do."
Grammarians will flinch at that, but if you want to understand the "secret" of the success in games like Texas and Oklahoma, there it is. This is not rocket science or brain surgery. It's really simple. Go out and do what you do.
That has been the mantra of the Texas team that has strung together 11 straight victories--the nation's second longest winning streak. Coaches have worked hard analyzing opponents and developing game plans, and players have gone out and played.
That is why the speculation surrounding the upcoming meeting with Texas and Oklahoma in Dallas is amusing. Some members of the media are scrambling trying to get one team or the other to say something outrageous about their opponent. They all seem to agree that Texas has the experience and the physical talent to win, but they ponder about the "mentality" the team will bring into the Cotton Bowl.
The "streak" usually comes up in interviews and in fan conversations. "Pressure" is a major word of the week. The most interesting phenomenon of the game, the winning string of one team or the other, has extended to five straight Oklahoma victories.
What we know about streaks is that they end.
Last baseball season, fellow Big 12 rival Baylor owned Augie Garrido's Longhorns. The Bears won four straight over Texas, and it seemed that whatever Texas did, it couldn't get by Baylor. When UT beat Ole Miss in the Super Regional, it fell in a College World Series bracket that opened with its nemesis, the Baylor Bears.
"Everybody knows we can't beat Baylor," quipped Garrido in the post-game following the final game of the Super Regional. "You guys (the media) have all said it. We just can't beat them."
When Texas went to Omaha, "pressure" was a factor, but not for the team trying to break the streak. The pressure was on the team that held it. It's hard to beat a team a bunch in a row, especially when you have match-ups of very good teams like Texas and Baylor in baseball and Texas and Oklahoma in football. As all Longhorn fans know, in the CWS, Texas won both games against Baylor and went on to win the National Championship.
Every single player at Oklahoma is well aware of what Baylor faced. Whenever it happens, history remembers the team that doesn't get it done against its archrival. For this Texas team, on the other hand, the issue is the goal, and the next step toward that comes in Dallas.
In the last five years, Oklahoma has entered the game ranked higher than Texas, and the Sooners won every game, as the pollsters said they should. Three of the last four went into the fourth quarter with no more than six points separating the teams. Excluding the Oklahoma game, Texas has lost one regular season Big 12 football game over the last five years. That's a record of 35-1. In the months of October and November, including games against all opponents, Texas is 32-1 excluding the five losses to the Sooners. Oklahoma has gone on to play for the National Championships three of the five years.
What you have here is a match of two of the great programs in the 2000s in college football. In the days when this series earned its national reputation, it was unique in that it was a match up of two powerhouses from different conferences. They met one time a year for bragging rights, and then went their respective ways. Oklahoma could win the Big 8 and go to the Orange Bowl, Texas could win the Southwest Conference and return to the host spot in the Cotton Bowl.
All that changed 10 years ago when the Big 12 came into existence. Not only are the teams in the same league, they are in the same South Division. Because Oklahoma has had the better of the day in Dallas over the last five years, it has been able to advance to three national championship games. In two of those, a Texas victory would have put the Longhorns in the Sooners' space.
For the fans, this game may be about bragging rights and streaks. For the teams, it is about more than that, and that is particularly so for Texas this season.
Think of it this way: the famous tunnel in the Cotton Bowl, and the stadium and the city, are all part of a stop in the middle of a long highway. Behind the Longhorns this season are a magical bowl victory to start the calendar year 2005, and a classic victory at powerful Ohio State in September.
Beyond Oklahoma for the Longhorns are six regular season games against quality Big 12 opponents. Whatever Texas does against Oklahoma, it still has to play Colorado, which seems to be rising as the power team in the North Division of the Big 12, the next week, and Texas Tech after that, and so on and so on.
As a kid in Winters, Texas, I remember a speaker at my brother's high school graduation who delivered a little poem as part of his message.
"Isn't it strange that princes and kings, and those who caper in circus rings...and common folk like you and me...are builders of eternity? Each is given a set of tools, a pair of hands and a book of rules. And each must build, ere his time has flown, a stumbling block, or a stepping stone."
In football terms, what that means is, Texas plays Oklahoma on Saturday.
A stumbling block or a stepping stone?
The secret of your success will be determined, not by schemes or streaks, but by how well you do what you do, and your teammate does the same.