Texas Longhorns Fallout: The Liver's “What If” Game

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Texas Longhorns Fallout: The Liver's “What If” Game

The Liver had no intention of writing this, but...

A. as we aren’t currently in therapy;

B. have received countless unanswered texts, emails, phone calls, etc. over the last 24 hours worrying for our safety yet demanding that a piece like this be written;

C. have driven an unknown number of aimless miles today through the L.A. streets staring through the dashboard while listening to Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” Hank Williams Sr’s “Lost Highway,” Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” and Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” on a continuous repeat cycle on my ipod; I give you yet another insipid column.

There are simply too many crazed, life-reflecting emotions inside that must be released. Thanks to all who were concerned for The Liver’s safety, it means a lot. Incidentally, this column will be an instant classic for The Liver’s female constituency.

I’m still processing last night’s National Championship game between The Liver’s beloved Longhorns and Alabama.

Hard to put much into words the next day when you’re still drunk, nauseous, depressed to the point of near suicide, reflective, and feeling like you just got out of the ring with a young Mike Tyson. Yes, men do let sports affect them like this.

Championship games have varying degrees of emotions for the true hot-blooded fans of the two teams involved. But I have never in my life experienced a championship/winner-take-all game for one of my teams like that, and hopefully I never will again.

It will always be the agonizing “What If” game of my sports life. It’s worse than having lost with your team at full strength.

If Texas loses with Colt McCoy in the entire game, I don’t think I’m feeling half as awful and gutted as I am now. Why? Because there would’ve been closure and I, as a Texas fan, would’ve known that my team gave it everything they had with their full arsenal.

Hard to have that closure when your Heisman finalist, All-American QB who has the most wins in college football history gets knocked out of the game four minutes into the first quarter.

The game starts, and Alabama receives the ball. The Alabama offense looked like a bunch of scared rabbits and was clearly out of sync.

If you don’t believe me, check out Nick Saban’s fake punt on fourth-and-23 from the Alabama 20 that resulted in a Texas pick. Longhorns can’t get it in on third and goal and settle for a field goal.

Alabama goes three and out on their next series. Texas gets the ball back. Then Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus puts what could be the most painful hit in Texas football history on Colt McCoy, in effect ending his storied college football career.

Freshman QB Garrett Gilbert comes in for Texas with slightly more college game experience than The Liver, and the Texas offense completely falls apart.

Texas goes from up 6-0 to down 24-6 at the end of the first half. Seven of the points came courtesy of the most poorly executed end-of-the half play calling you ever saw.

Instead of running out the clock down 17-6 and trying to get the hell off the field while counting their blessings that they weren't down by more, Texas coach Mack Brown called a timeout with 15 seconds left and the ball at the Texas 37.

Then the Horns called up a shovel pass play that will go down as possibly the worst ever in college football history.

Gilbert's pass bounced off the hands of D.J. Monroe and into the hands of Dareus (AGAIN that guy), who took it in the end zone for a touchdown that seemed to end the game. I was contemplating suicide during halftime and was seriously considering leaving Eric the Lions fan’s apartment and driving my car off a Malibu cliff.

I’ll bet you green money, that’s my favorite type by the way, that EVERY Longhorns fan felt the same way. But, I stuck with my team. I wanted to see their pride and what their level of fight would be in the second half against insurmountable odds.

Then the second half starts and Gilbert starts throwing bullets. Fifteen unanswered Longhorns points later sprinkled with a conservative, run-the-ball-and-the-clock Alabama offense and the game is, incredibly, Alabama 24, Texas 21 with three minutes, 14 seconds left in the fourth quarter, AND Texas has the ball, albeit deep, in their own territory.

Gilbert is engineering one of the five greatest comebacks in college football, hell SPORTS history, in Hollywood no less. The Liver believes. There is hope. After everything that had happened, Texas was in position to win.

Then the dream is destroyed when Alabama linebacker Eryk Anders breaks through the Texas offensive line and blindsides Gilbert, resulting in a fumble the Crimson Tide recovered at the Texas three-yard line. They score the TD, game over.

Alabama had the better defense, as had been demonstrated all season long. They made key plays when their offense needed it. They hit with poetically brute, savage, animalistic force.

Their running game rushed for 205 yards, four TDs, and controlled the clock. The final, deceptive score: Alabama 37, Texas 21. They are the champions. Alabama QB Greg McElroy threw for 58 yards on six of 11 passing. That is not a misprint.

Are they champions if Colt McCoy plays the entire game?

Never have my sports emotions been mercilessly and repeatedly plucked like strings on a guitar as they were last night. That’s an emotional freight elevator that has been previously reserved for the women in The Liver’s life.

Why did I keep hearing Rosie Perez’s voice from "White Men Can’t Jump" telling me “Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs”?

I despise the “moral victory” card but I’ve never been prouder, aside from the 2006 National Championship win, to be a Texas alum and fan. That’s the kind of fight that is universal in all of us when everything tells us we should quit. Never stop going no matter how far behind you are.

Never quit. Never say die. You’re the best…around…nothing’s gonna ever keep you down. Insert any 1980’s film soundtrack theme song lyrics you like.

Could the 90s Cowboys have won a Super Bowl, let alone three, if Troy Aikman got knocked out at the beginning of the Super Bowl?

Could the 2005 Longhorns have beaten USC for the National Championship if Vince Young got knocked out in the first quarter of the Rose Bowl?

Could the Mean Machine have beaten Warden Hazen’s guards if Paul Crewe got knocked out at the beginning of the game?

Before I answer all of those questions let me say that there is only ONE version of The Longest Yard, and that is the 1974 version. That 2005 shit doesn’t exist, never has, never will.

Incidentally, you’re looking at three for three for the aforementioned questions in terms of no f***king way. Star QBs are kind of important for football teams in big games. Impossible to win without them.

("And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say, 'Do you know that if is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you." Acid-laden Dennis Hopper referring to Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now .)

If truly is the middle word in life.

If Colt McCoy plays the entire game, do the Longhorns win?

For those of you, and I’m talking to the Liver’s female constituents here, who faithfully read The Liver’s column and don’t care about sports, think of it in cinematic terms.

The Liver is a closet romantic and much like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca , a rank sentimentalist.

What happens if in The Graduate , Benjamin Braddock doesn’t literally stick a cross in Elaine Robinson’s wedding?

What happens in Shampoo if Julie Christie says no to Jack Warden’s marriage proposal and doesn’t abandon Warren Beatty at the end?

Is it insane to feel all of this because of a football game? Maybe.

If Colt McCoy plays the entire game, do the Longhorns win?

Maybe that’s why I love football so much. It really is the sport that mimics and replicates the uncertainty and sheer chance in all of our lives.

Just go to Al Pacino’s Inch by Inch speech in Any Given Sunday if you don’t believe me.

“You find out that life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game
life or football the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or too early you don't quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game every minute, every second.”

“What happens if” can literally be the difference that changes your life forever. Here’s a hypothetical that just about every guy and girl can relate to: What happens if you work with someone who you grow to have romantic feelings for but can’t tell them because you’re afraid of how they’ll react or how it might change the work dynamic?

What if you think that they might feel the same way about you but you’re not sure?

What if you tell them in a moment of weakness how you feel because it’s burning out of control inside of you like a Southern California brush fire, and they don’t reciprocate?

What if they do reciprocate? Do you get scared? Do you start over analyzing your feelings in a mind-f**king attempt to find out what’s really behind them? Can you already see the beginning, middle and end of the relationship?

Do you start to hear Robin Williams in The Fisher King saying to Amanda Plummer, “We just met, made love and broke up, all in the space of seconds. I don't remember the first kiss, which is the best part.”

What if you’re the one who’s afraid of your life changing because of the emotional uncertainty of a new relationship? You have the feelings but you DON’T act on them because IT MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN?

There’s a certain security and comfort in unrequited crushes because there’s a limited amount of pain that it can inflict on you. You’re not completely investing yourself emotionally.

It’s the same thing with being a diehard sports fan. Somewhere along the line, you have to make the choice to commit, love, and follow your team for better or for worse. Unless you're a bandwagon jumper, in which case The Liver has no use for you.

It’s very similar to a love relationship with another flawed, imperfect human except for the slight difference that in that specific type of relationship, you’re committing to one person. In a sports love relationship, you’re committing to an organization.

You could almost argue, if you’re slightly unbalanced and utterly insane as The Liver is, that a sports love relationship is more problematic to maintain.

Most human love relationships don’t last. Sports love relationships last for our whole lives. In both types of relationships, you commit to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Watching the team in which you’ve invested years and in many cases, tears, win a championship is akin to making love for the first time or looking in a woman’s eyes and just knowing that she loves you completely and unconditionally no matter what your bullshit, demons, or flaws are.

There’s nothing like it.

Watching your team lose equates to falling out of love, having your heart broken, or having one of those fights where there’s no make-up sex afterwards. You want to avoid those moments at all costs but it's an impossibility.

It's going to happen if you live long enough. For better or worse, your emotions are frequently powerless in both types of relationships.

Why has The Liver’s column devolved into a male Carrie Bradshaw column that tries to improbably make the argument that the relationship men have with their sports teams frequently and uncomfortably mirror the schematics, sways, and passions that they have with the women in their lives?

Because they both have the capabilities of making you feel proud, invincible, and strong, yet can also leave you emotionally and physically gored. That’s why we keep coming back. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self awareness.” Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) in Bull Durham.

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