Somewhere, somehow, I would like to find my college English professor and tell him I finally got it. The course was American Literature, the subject was poetry, and the book was a dog-eared blue paper back entitled "How Does A Poem Mean?"
Journalism majors and English profs never seemed to get along, and I was the perfect journalism major. When we studied Robert Frost's poem "Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening," I insisted that good old Bob was just covering the story. He saw a pretty scene, and he wrote about it. But somewhere on the Delta Connection between Austin and Dallas Saturday night, I figured out what Frost meant.
It wasn't about the scene, pretty or otherwise. It was about his next line.
"But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep ... and miles to go before I sleep."
In the aftermath of Dallas, the reality is that Texas is at the mid-point of its regular season. There are six games remaining on a schedule, in a season stung with losses to two neighboring states who are anything but neighborly when it comes to football.
There are, indeed, a lot of miles to go.
Saturday, if you were into omens, dawned a perfect day for Texas football. Through the fog and the clouds of the morning, the sun was a solid burnt orange as it rose over the State Fair and the decaying stadium that is the Cotton Bowl. By the end of the day, it was raining and dark.
What we know about games is that if you choose to play, you can lose, and losing hurts. The psychology prof, who said we learn from losing, and I still have issues. I never did want to hurt that badly just to learn.
And neither did Texas on Saturday.
Rivalry games are about pride, and none more so than the Texas-Oklahoma game. That is why it still stings on Sunday morning when you see the boastful Sooner fan wearing his OU cap in a restaurant in Austin. There are hundreds of college towns from coast-to-coast where that cap would have summarily been ripped from his head, and he would have been told to go back to Oklahoma.
But this, we are told, after all, is only a game.
The series goes in streaks, and the momentum is like a pendulum. And what we know about pendulums is that they swing back when the stress and the tension determines it will not allow it to go further.
Going into the game, folks rated Oklahoma No. 1 in the country, and the Sooners played like they were. Credit them. Time after time, they made the plays. Texas did not.
Once, on a plane trip back from a basketball game in Ames, Iowa, one snowy winter just before Christmas, our team had boarded a flight in Des Moines to head back to Austin. It was the last flight out, and the connections in Dallas would mean we would get home in time for Christmas Eve.
But as the pilot pulled away from the terminal, the airplane was significantly jostled. Peering out the window, you could see the arc of the plane's wheels in the snow, and you could also see the right wing jammed into the jet bridge. In his effort to get us home, the pilot had run the plane into the terminal.
"In 35 years of flying," he said as we learned we would miss our connection and have to stay in Dallas as a new plane would have to be flown in, "something like this has never happened."
These were his final words before he turned off the mic as we got off the plane:
"No Excuses. No explanation."
When I was Sports Editor of The Associated Press in Oklahoma City, I once covered a game between the No. 4-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers and a break-even Oklahoma Sooner team. This was in the days of a positive media, and when Oklahoma pulled the upset, a noted Omaha writer messaged his newspaper, "The wrong team won. Pick up the AP story."
There was a part of me that wanted to go there today. But my responsibility is to write, and so that is what I have chosen to do. What I learned on that flight home was something that my professor tried hard to get me to understand.
Robert Frost's poem was not about the scene. It was about responsibility, and about not giving up. There are promises to be kept, and there are miles yet to travel. There is half of a season to be played. You have no choice. You don't get to just quit and go home.
That was Frost's message, and that is ours. The legacy of the journey didn't end at the scene. We are not told what happened from there.
As with this Texas football team, that is for us to decide.