Football as a Metaphor for Personal Growth (Week 1 Prediction)
I've been playing with a concept for a little while now.
My life trajectory is and has been intimately connected to that of the Texas Longhorn Football team...
In 2010, The Longhorns had gold in their hand, an almost guaranteed National Championship against a measly and lame Alabama team that nobody liked or thought had a chance. Led by the 2nd best quarterback I'd ever seen, Mr. Colt "Colterory" McCoy, my Texas Longhorns were unstoppable. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that we would win that game. McCoy ended up finishing at Texas as the all-time record holder for career completion percentage, nationally, like including any quarterback ever. I mean, just think about that for a second...
Actually I just looked it up and he's second, but STILL.
Anyway... We all know how the game turned out, with Colt's arm mysteriously becoming temporarily paralyzed in an almost mafia movie moment. The Longhorn faithful had to watch our highly touted freshman quarterback prospect, Garrett Gilbert, be thrust into the biggest game he'd ever played and will ever have to. He put up a decent effort but I think he weighed like 155 lbs and if you know anything about football you probably shouldn't play at that weight if you want to live.
Ever since that game there has been a dark cloud floating over The 40 Acres, with ghosts of Longhorns past returning to teach us lessons about entitlement and hard work. Why should Texas be any good? How is it proper to demand success without hard work? I mean you probably shouldn't even be demanding success. You should just work hard and be humble.
Uninspired seasons started to blur together as my college years became equally as fuzzy. One thing I had learned in my time as a Longhorn was how to successfully and delicately walk the tight rope of drinking and partying as much as possible while still making sure I got a B on a test or a paper. Boy, I thought I had everybody fooled. I could do whatever I wanted. I could drink a beer at noon, have a cigarette outside, come back inside to my dark and dirty house, sit on the couch and meditate on the fact that the freedom I believed I had established through my actions was actually a maximum security prison with 22 foot walls and no way out. But that thought was depressing, so I just grabbed another beer and tried to find some weed.
I got lucky though. Somehow a force outside of my control planted something within me in the form of music. I started writing songs voraciously. I had broken up with my high school girlfriend Juliet for the umpteenth time and I had a lot to write about (If you're reading this now Juliet, I'm sorry for being a shitty guy). I was skipping a lot of class because of my new "hobby". I'd start playing and writing and I couldn't stop until I had finished the idea. I'd be able to have the most awful day, in which I did almost absolutely nothing, but if I wrote a song it was as if I had repented. I was cleansed and I had made up for my mistakes. At least it felt this way.
Honestly I can't take credit for the songs I wrote during this period. They were already existing in long felt sentiment that I had simply connected to through some cosmic opening that must have been forged by years and years of repetitive college-aged darkness at my David St. house in West Campus. I got Lucky. A window opened and I had an opportunity.
Its sort of like having talent in football. By most people's definition, talent is "unearned" and essentially gifted to an individual. Every year thousands of talented high school football players sign their letter of intent (LOI as the blogs call it) to the school that they wish to attend. If you don't really know much about the nature of football, physicality is extremely important. When considering high school football, the vast majority (99.99%) of the players across the country will never play in college. So while the kids who get recruited at the age of 16 look superhuman, one has to consider that they are generally matching up against future accountants, executives, teachers, Lyft drivers, and car salesmen.
If these kids realize how blessed they are physically, stay humble, and work harder than they ever thought possible, they have a shot at playing professionally for a few years in the NFL. If there is any carry over from being known as the best player in high school, or an attachment to that ego consciousness, they generally fade into obscurity. This is precisely where success is determined.
The amazing thing about college football is observing the potential metamorphosis of its participants. These are young men who, with good leadership, are learning how to live life without excuses. 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 year olds who are generally foregoing the temptation of drugs, alcohol, and sex that their status on campus would easily grant them. How is this possible? We all know how hard it is to be young.
Through the leadership of their coach, the players begin to understand cause and effect. The power in sacrificing short term pleasures for longterm fulfillment. How time plays a factor and deceives you with delayed results. How to have certainty that if you follow the plan, it will work out for the best.
Talent + Nothing = Darkness
Talent + Hard Work = Success
Nothing + Hard Work = Not Darkness
In comes Charlie Strong, the new coach at Texas. When he took over the team last year, a sort of cleansing process began. "These are the rules and this is how we work. If you don't follow the rules, if you don't work like this, you will not be a part of the team." I think he ended up dismissing 13 players...
Last year was incredibly painful for everyone involved with the team. Texas finished 6-7 last season, ending with terrible losses to TCU and Arkansas. An uninformed observer wouldn't have much reason to be optimistic about the future. Yet the work had begun.
This was different than a disappointing season. This was honesty, and from honesty we could begin to build a solid foundation. We had to start at the bottom, because if we were being honest with ourselves, we weren't as far along as we thought.
I have spent years toiling in obscurity as a musician. Hoping that some magic email would come, or I'd play a show and someone special would be in attendance, helping me ascend into magical fairytale rockstar world. I wanted to skip the work.
There were times when I became upset at a low turnout, little or no pay, shows running late. I had been told I was talented. I thought I deserved more. I know now that I don't. I hadn't worked nearly hard enough.
Here's a bit more honesty for you. I'm not embarrassed to say that Charlie Strong and his staff has actually impacted my work ethic. From waking up every morning for his 5am run, to sleeping in the dorms during fall camp, he lives what he's preaching and I love that. How can you not be inspired by this guy?
Eventually it clicked for me, this is EXACTLY about the work. Its not about the stuff after the work at all. In fact, it IS the work. Thats the secret, and the answer and the question all in one little bundle of fun. I can't chose a career path because I hope it will bring me a good lifestyle, or an escape from my work. The work is an opportunity to share, to change, to connect. The gratification is in the work itself. Its actually crazy, because I've found this to be true. Whenever I take a moment to connect to what I'm working on, I'm in awe that I'm lucky enough to do what I do.
There is no happy ending to an unhappy journey.
This began to really sink in over the last few months. I remember getting back from my last solo tour feeling really excited that I was finally being honest with myself. "Wow! I have a lot of work to do!" I might as well had just started my music career. This wasn't scary or deflating, it was and is exhilarating. Now I know what to do. I know how hard I have to work. I know how to have patience and how to let go of the results.
I'm really excited about what the work yields in the future, but I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't more excited about doing the work now.
And so, as the Summer is coming to an end, and football season is reborn, I'm expecting good things this year...
Texas starts their season tonight in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame, the 2nd winningest team of all-time. Texas is 3rd. Only one win separates the two programs. At the same time, I'll be playing at The Neon Parrot Lounge here in Abilene, Texas. Let's get to work.
Overexcited and totally biased prediction: Texas 27 - Notre Dame 24
The Rationale: Texas is a much better state than Indiana