Conner's Burnt Orange Glasses: Baylor

I was at the Laundromat Saturday morning, reliving washing day memories from college and law school. Laundromats are a unique blend of success and failure. People arrive with stinky, disgusting, useless rags and leave with a clean, folded, fresh-smelling wardrobe.

There's something extremely satisfying about washing clothes, making the dirty, clean, the useless, sacred, and the corrupt, pure. It's a type of full immersion water baptism for garments. Think of Laundromats as the Jesus of All-Temp-A-Cheer.

But there's also loss, failure, and sadness in the Laundromat. Washing clothes in public is a tacit admission to the world that you don't possess a washer and dryer of your own, that you haven't yet passed some type of minimalist societal poverty test. Whether through divorce, apartment living, creditors you can't get rid of in bankruptcy court (the baseball-bat-carrying kind), outstanding warrants in another state, or a simple love of the nomadic lifestyle, appliance-challenged Laundromat people live outside well-established middle class norms.

So what was I doing there? No, I'm not a Jehovah's Witness (although the lead guitarist in my band is), and I don't have a thing for single mothers. Actually, I was there on a simple mission: the comforters on our king-size bed don't fit in our standard washing machine, so I needed an oversized, commercial unit that costs nine quarters or $2.25 a throw to operate. As a result, about every six weeks (more often if one of the pets has a "Rut-Row" on the bedspread – When my wife says "Uh-Oh" related to the dogs, she does it with a Scooby Doo accent), I find myself scavenging through the change jar, parsing nickels and dimes from quarters. Like Ghandi returning to his spinning wheel after engaging world leaders, I find an odd comfort and a few private moments while completing this simple task. Plus, I always take the ipod, and crank up Chrissie Hyde and the Pretenders belting out "Watching the Clothes Go ‘Round" from the "Learning to Crawl" album.

Speaking of learning to crawl and blending success and failure, how ‘bout that Baylor Bear Athletic Department? I know, I know: I'm shooting fish in a barrel. Taking cheap shots at Baylor athletics is like running a 100-meter dash against an asthmatic Alzheimer's patient; it may be funny in a sick sort of way, but most people will be offended and end up questioning my taste, gentility, and upbringing.

Still, the Bears are a part of the Big XII and are therefore not completely immune from my smart-ass electronic pen. A modest Baptist school in a modest size town, Baylor has done all right for itself, becoming a full-fledged BCS school with the help of the late Governor Ann, God rest her sweet soul. But, as the Baptist pastor said when discussing true faith versus mere church attendance, "Parking a bicycle in the garage doesn't make it an automobile." Or as a junior high coach of mine once noted, "Running with the big dogs doesn't give you a spot on the front porch." Athletically speaking, the Bears, much like Moses, can see the Promised Land from where they are, but can't figure out how to get over that dang river.

Baylor performs well, but only in certain areas, like a restaurant with terrible service and location known only for one specialty dish. The Bears have outstanding tennis teams, a nationally competitive baseball program, and an incredible string of 400-meter runners ("quarter milers," as my retired track coach father calls them – his motto was, "Lean to the left and get back as quick as you can!") and corresponding 4X400 relay teams.

But it's been a long time since Grant Teaff, and the Baylor Bears are hardly the team even the most obsessive Horn fans think of on a regular basis. Like a squished mosquito, you ponder how its bite made a bigger, itchier lump on the back of your hand than you anticipated, even as you flick the flat, bloody carcass off your body and into oblivion.

Like Coach Royal's famous quote about angry men winning football games, I write better when I'm a little on edge. I was certainly mad last week, and my rant received more than its share of generous responses. I've really tried to keep that streak going this week, but I just can't get worked up over Baylor. I like it when we beat them, but it's something I've grown to expect and even become petulant about, like sex on my birthday. Come on, how many Baylor grads do you know? I can't get mad at them. They're almost always genial, decent people with self-deprecating humor and a realistic perspective on the Bears' place in the pecking order. They're our Vanderbilt – without the academics.

Oh, and Vanderbilt has beaten somebody good besides the stinking Aggies in the last decade.

The Horns shared my malady on Saturday, losing the ability to get really worked up about a team they have soundly beaten every single year since our current players were in junior high. The offense occasionally sputtered, and the defense gave up a few third-and-longs, but in the end we won a conference game by three touchdowns on the road. Colt McCoy played brilliantly and sloppily in turns, Jamaal Charles still loves running sideways, and our receiving corps continues to adjust to Limas Sweed's early departure. The defense had some nice moments, and really looks like they're getting the hang of this whole "knock the crap out of the guy with the ball" thing. The personal foul call on Sergio Kindle was questionable at best, but I give him high marks regardless for a vicious hit, reminding all of us that being penalized for being too aggressive is infinitely preferable to being too timid.

And, despite the fact the Sooners looked genuinely pitiful and scored a mere 17 points against an Iowa State team we pummeled back into the Stone Age last week (Or, as Spike Dykes, the former Texas Tech coach used to say, "We beat them like a tied-up goat!"), many Posters will be enthusiastic in their lack of enthusiasm for our less-than-overpowering win in Waco. We have now made our Offensive Coordinator's initials an abbreviation for blasphemy, even though an objective observer would note the Horns moved the ball up and down the field almost at will most of the game. Since one of the oft-stated criticisms of Greg Davis is his lack of creativity, it seems his detractors could show a bit more imagination in their truculence.

But we'll have no such luck this season. To someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder who washes, dries, folds, then re-washes, re-dries, and re-folds, then re-re-washes, re-re-dries, and re-re-folds their clothes, the Laundromat is not a comforting or satisfying place. It is just another reminder of the OCD's own perceived imperfections, empty rituals, and inadequacies. So it is with the Horns, where every victory is greeted with joyless scorn, good enough is never, ever good enough, and posts circulate regarding scenarios to get rid of the winningest coach in college football over the past decade.

The Baptist pastor I mentioned earlier had another saying: "Be careful what you pray for. You just might get it." As A&M and Nebraska have discovered, getting a new football coach is not a baptism, where a holy and perfect result is guaranteed ahead of time. Coach shopping is more like gambling, where the new fellow will have his own set of positives and negatives, things he does better, worse, and differently than the last guy. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

And, as any good Baptist will tell you, baptism is a sacrament, but gambling is a sin.

Hook ‘em.

Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.


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