A bumper sticker from the 70's advised potential hitchhikers: "Gas, Grass, or Ass; No One Rides for Free!" Turns out automobile parts make good philosophers, because nothing in this world is free except the love of God and a good dog.
As a result, when Directv offered me three free months of Showtime for being a "valuable customer," I was justifiably skeptical. I'm certain the corporate weasels giving this "gift" will conveniently fail to tell me when my trial period is over and try to stick me for 10 bucks on my cable bill if I don't call to cancel on time, but for right now I am enjoying repeated viewings of movies to crappy to show on HBO.
In high def.
Plus some original programming, like "Penn & Teller: Bullsh*t," a show about butchering sacred cows. The basic premise of the comedy takes widely held views (world peace, sensitivity training, environmental hysteria) and holds them up to ridicule in a mocking and humorous manner. I had heard of the show but never seen it. Turns out these guys have no time for serious examination of the subjects covered, but are adept at setting up straw men and knocking them over and repeated use of the f word – that would be Penn, and not Teller, who intentionally does not speak as gimmick in the pair's magic act.
The whole incident got me thinking about cynicism, belief and faith. My basic contention is that distrust and skepticism are easy, no-thought-required responses to the vicissitudes of life. Let's face it, any C-list celebrity like Penn can sit on his big butt with a disgusting, stringy, is-it-still-the-80's ponytail and poke fun at other people's beliefs. It is an election year, we are at war and the economy is in the toilet; suspicion is the natural state of the American voter.
The harder task, in my humble opinion, is to actually believe deeply in anything. I'm not talking about the mindless, I-only-read-books-and-watch-shows-that-support-my-viewpoint, head-in-the-sand, fingers-in-my-ears-la-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you blind faith. I'm talking about genuine belief, hard-earned, smart, tough, intellectually honest and resilient, the mental equivalent of Jacob wrestling with the angel until the break of day.
Like most folks who part with their hard-earned shekels to subscribe to this web site, I am a fan of my beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns. Together, we support our team; we type our opinions on the Inside Texas forums; we go to the games; we cheer the cheers, stand and clap, and sing the songs; we wear burnt orange. We all want the Horns to win, but that is not the key issue.
What I'm asking is: Do you believe? Specifically, do you believe in the heart of this team? Do you believe our young defensive backs will line up and knock the snot out of somebody, even though they may make mental mistakes along the way? Do you believe these guys can go toe to toe with Oklahoma, as dominant and powerful as they have appeared in their non-conference games? Do you believe our offense can keep up with Mizzou and Tech if those games turn into a track meet? Do you believe in the power of the Muck? Do you believe in His Eminence, Pope Colt I?
Do you hear what I'm saying, brothers and sisters? I want you to put you hand on the computer and TESTIFY! I want you to feel the power coming through the net from the Horns to you. I want to read from Chapter One of the Gospel of the Goal Line Stand: "Yeah, verily, the Nocturnal Fowl progressed across the turf. And, having lodged inside the five yard line, the Blue birds hiketh the ball and failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And failed. And, behold, the prophets with the whistles charged interference of the pass, and one was good and one was bad. And verily the valiant Defenders sayeth, ‘You shall not pass!' And there was no score. And the people rejoiced and feasted upon Skittles. And nachos. With jalapenos. And all God's people said, ‘Amen.'"
Seriously, I understand there are still many problems with this team, but it appears we are making progress on defense each week. Our goal line stand was more encouraging than watching Colt plow over two Rice defenders on his first quarter score. I swear, against Florida Atlantic, Colt thought he was Vince; last Saturday, he had delusions of being James Brown. Just remember one thing, tough guy: please, please stay healthy.
I know a lot of Horn fans are ready to give up on our running game, but I am not one of them. First, we have a terrific offensive line that is well-coached, deep and will improve steadily as the season progresses, especially when we get Tanner back. Second, our passing game is solid and will back off opposing linebackers and DB's, making the running game more effective. Finally, we have four terrific running backs, each with different skills, who together are more than the sum of their parts.
Think about it: our running backs are just like the comic book heroes, the Fantastic Four. Cody Johnson, listed as 5'11", 255 pounds, is thick, strong, and tough; we'll call him the Thing and wait for him to yell, "It's clobberin' time!" Chris Ogbonnaya is the best blocker and receiver of the bunch, almost completely alone on his wheel route touchdown catch; he can throw up impenetrable barriers like Sue Storm. Vondrell McGee is so fast he burns up the turf; we'll call him the Human Torch. Fozzy Whitaker, based on his runs against UTEP, can contort his body and fit through tiny holes other human beings cannot; he's like the stretchable Mr. Fantastic.
Also, hats off the Ross Lucksinger and the other Alumni Band members. Despite having to listen to Led Zeppelin's warhorse "Stairway to Heaven" and missing Rice's famed clowns in the Marching Owl Band (MOB), the halftime show was far and away the best of the year. Great job, folks.
Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.