January 05, 2006

Only One Topic Around Here This Morning

What was that helicopter doing flying over downtown Austin after midnight last night? Why was a car going by with its horn bugling "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You?" It's just that the University of Texas won the nation's college football championship at the Rose Bowl, beating a great USC team by a thrilling come-from-behind 41-38. (Here's the local paper with a gallery of 143 photos from the game -- registration required. For the legalists among you, there's even a photo of Sandra Day O'Connor, who tossed the coin for the kickoff.)

Not the most perfectly played game ever, nor the most perfectly officiated -- plenty of agonizing fumbles bouncing loose, and several crucial plays put under review, or ones that should have been reviewed left unreviewed -- but all the more exciting for it. And one of the great individual performances in American sports history by Vince Young, the UT quarterback who, with his unprecedented gifts, is also their star running back. Playing against a Heisman-Trophy-winning quarterback and a Heisman-winning running back -- i.e., they were voted the best college players in the nation the past two years -- he outclassed both at their own specialties. And his exuberant personality makes his teammates want to play their best for him. The big question now is whether he'll return to UT next year to add to his glory on this level, or sign with the pros. It will be great if he returns, but if I were he I'd take the money while he's still healthy. Big and strong though he is, his style of play doesn't seem likely to be conducive to a long professional career. The defenses will be bigger, faster, and shrewder in the pros, so every year of making multimillions will count.

Here in Austin this morning, people greet their coworkers with, "We won!"; a kindergarten pupil stammers to a classmate, "I saw the, the, the football game." No homework was given yesterday at our kids' elementary school, so that they could watch the game (we put them to bed at halftime); the pricipal came to work this morning wwearing a burnt orange Rose Bowl 2006 sweatshirt. The university's still on winter break, so there weren't as many honking horns last night as we'd anticipated, but enough students had returned to Austin just for the game's sake so that the police closed down The Drag -- the strip of Guadalupe Street bordering the campus -- as a precaution. Television news showed us crowds milling downtown on Congress Avenue, all dressed in burnt orange, and people in sports bars biting their nails, gasping, standing and cheering.

How good to have a whole community united in one burst of joy!