Al Gore has no life-like qualities whatsoever.
But other items do. My niece names her baby dolls and, when she's not sitting open-mouthed before the boob tube, having her brain sucked out by the brightly-colored, quickly-moving images on the Disney Channel, treats her dolls like infant children. Several of my high school buddies named their cars or pick-ups and spent more time washing, maintaining, and accessorizing their rides than they did with their girlfriends. Which may, incidentally, explain their status as divorcees. The Marines in Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece "Full Metal Jacket" were required to name their rifles during basic training on Parris Island and memorize a poem in the rifle's honor.
The most obvious example for me is acoustic guitars, some of which show what I can only refer to as "personality." Two acoustic guitars made from the exact same lot of wood in consecutive order at the same factory can sound startlingly different in terms of tone, volume, warmth, clarity, and bottom end.
My best guitar is a Martin Orchestral Model, an OM-21V to be exact. Without boring you with the technical details of the instrument, let's just say I've sung to her, written songs with her, accidentally spilled adult beverages into her, and cried tears onto her. A part of me really believes that little guitar will be sad when I'm gone, because no matter to whom I leave her, no one will ever make music with her the way I do.
What less-observant folks haven't figured out is Mike Leach's unique version of the spread is not just an offense, it is a living, breathing organism. I don't mean in the sense it's made up of living players. The offense itself is alive – a sentient being. Leach's spread has a full range of emotions – from a professional assassin calmly waiting just inside your front door to put two in your head to a pouting, spoiled brat who screams she hates you as she petulantly slams her bedroom door hard enough to rattle the dishes in the kitchen.
Example One is the second half of the 2006 Tech/UT game in Lubbock. Tech initially blew our doors off, throwing for over 300 yards in the first half. The game was getting away from us faster than Billy Gillispie's honeymoon with Kentucky basketball fans. The second half, we made no major defensive adjustments, but completely shut out the Raiders. Why? How? One can't explain it logically, intellectually, or athletically. The second half of the game, Tech's offense simply didn't want to come out and play. With a snap of her fickle fingers, the game was the Horns' for the taking. Like a toddler who locked himself in the bathroom, Tech was stuck until the locksmith arrived, and by then the game was over and UT took its victory and red paint-splattered buses and headed southeast.
Having seen Tech's artificial turf ballet often over the years, the simple fact is that as long as Mike Leach coaches in Lubbock, the Red Raiders will live or die at the whims of Her Royal Majesty – the spread offense. Problem is, not only can she be a moody bitch, she is also quite mad, extremely paranoid, and as loyal as Nick Saban. One day you get a promotion and knighthood (blowing out Nebraska); the next you get the guillotine (losing to TCU). One day you get the gold mine (beating OU; multiple wins over A&M); the next you get the shaft (getting pounded by lowly Colorado two years running).
Saturday was another prime example. For three quarters, Tech's offense was interestingly disinterested, not playing poorly, not playing particularly well. Leach's best techniques were apparent – the quick slant, the underneath flanker screen, overloading a zone by simultaneously running 3 and 9 yard crossing patterns. Despite the number of yards given, holding Tech to 20 points through three quarters was a reasonably good, respectable defensive outing.
I'm not sure what I was expecting from this game defensively. Jared Norton was missing from our LB corps, Eddie Jones from the defensive line, and Drew Kelson from the secondary. Tech traditionally doesn't play well on the road, but for the past few weeks, our defense had given it up all day long like a Tijuana hooker on coupon day. I expected a lot of things, I suppose, but what I didn't expect was the fourth quarter.
In the final period of Saturday's contest, Her Royal Majesty went postal on Texas like a female meth junkie with a bad case of P.M.S., a huge chip on her shoulder, and a .45 semi-automatic with a full clip. Tech super-receiver Michael Crabtree blew past our DBs like Kansas Coach Mark Mangino heading for an "all you can eat" buffet. We can chalk it up to fatigue, injuries, playing so many games in a row without an off week, or some vague notion by the defense that the game was out of reach, but Saturday's fourth quarter was a disappointing, unsatisfying end to an otherwise strong outing filled with good tackling and ferocious hits. Like an old man without his little blue pill, we just weren't able to finish what we started.
But, thankfully, as bad as the defense's fourth quarter was, the offense shone more brilliantly the entire game. Lose Tony Hills, our one remaining senior lineman, to a broken leg on Senior Day? No problem! Jamaal Charles goes down to a heel injury before halftime when he's having an unstoppable, potential career day? We can handle it! Favorite target tight end Jermichael Finley is out for several series? OK – How about we keep the ball for freaking 14 minutes in the third quarter?
I know the Kansas State loss was terrible, but I'm developing not only respect but also genuine affection for the 2007 Horns. The things I admire most in people in non-athletic endeavors – faith, determination, grit, cleverness, teamwork, guts, tenacity, and, above all, an absolute refusal to let adversity control a situation – are the things I love about this group. Yes, they have underperformed. Yes, they are frustrating at times. No, they haven't come anywhere close to meeting our expectations. But they know how to win and they know how to fight and there isn't an ounce of "quit" in this entire bunch. And like Colt McCoy's twisting, twirling, spinning dervish touchdown run with seven minutes left in the game, these Longhorns figure out how to get the job done. I'll take that seven days a week, and twice on Sunday.
Also, I need to thank the attendant in the DKR eleventh floor southwest men's room who went out of his way to help me retrieve my cell phone I inadvertently left in a stall before the game. I know you're probably not reading this rant, but thank you for your kind help. I swear, sometimes it seems that little phone has a mind of it's own.
Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.