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Texas downs Open Date, prepares for Cougar High
I am glad for many things this week (and, no, before you immediately move on to something else, this is not another "proud to be an American" treatise).
I am glad that I did not try to get tickets to this week's Cougar High game. Given my lack of Foundation status, they likely would be tickets for seats that no longer exist.
I am glad Cougar High decided to dismantle the temporary bleachers at its stadium that's roughly a third the size of DKR-TMS. Not only did the school avert a potential safety hazard, but it somehow managed to look stupid and piss a lot of people off at the same time.
I am glad several Cougar High players have been popping off in print and on TV this week. Such gems as, “I'm not going to hit him (Simms) hard, I want him to stay in the game because if Applewhite gets in the game, he's smarter than Simms is,” from defensive end Adrian Lee, or, “I think they made a mistake by naming Simms as the starter. Applewhite is more poised and smarter. Simms is just a running back out there. He's got a lot of receivers so he's just pretty much playing street ball,” from safety Hanik Milligan, or this further from Milligan: "(The Longhorns) look at the University of Houston as being a team that has nothing. Saturday night on ESPN2, we'll show 'em that we've got a lot more than everybody thinks. We like people doubting us. They're sleeping on us, and if you sleep on the University of Houston, you might never wake up."
I am glad one of my co-workers and friends, a UH grad, despairingly refers to Texas with unflattering comparisons to the New York Yankees, and whines that schools such as Cougar High would be better and have the kind of facilities that did not require bleachers to be torn down four days before a kickoff if Texas would share all that state money with other state schools.
I am glad because, frankly, I needed a reason to get excited about this game.
I never have liked Cougar High, nor respected it much. Some of my best ('82, '90, '00) and worst ('84, '87, '88) moments as a Texas fan have been spent at UT-UH games, which can be said of games involving any number of longtime opponents. But there has always been an annoying, bratty little brother quality about Cougar High that heightens both the good and bad moments.
I never will forget the priceless comment a Cotton Bowl official made in the late '70s, saying (paraphrasing now) that he didn't like when UH was in the bowl because half the fans would be shopping at 7-Eleven and the other half would be robbing it. Or something like that. Tasteless, insulting ... and yet somehow fitting.
I thus far have started every paragraph with "I."
There. That's better.
It's fitting that the game most longtime Texas fans remember as being the loudest at DKR-TMS (though it wasn't initialed as such back then) is the '90 Cougar High game. After three straight years of watching in slack-jawed amazement as the Chuck and Duck offense went bonkers against us, we were ravenous that night. The fans, I mean; the team certainly did its part, too. But there was a sense that the order of things needed to be set right again that night, and it was.
Obviously, it's much harder to get that fired up about the Coogs these days. The death of the SWC meant that the strong survived while UH went to Conference USA. It's amusingly ironic that the biggest UH supporter back in the days when it first was trying gain SWC admission was none other than Darrell Royal. It was less amusing when the Coogs went to three of the first four Cotton Bowls for which they were eligible, but that's another story. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the SWC's steady slide began in 1984, when Texas died down the stretch and Cougar High, at 7-4, represented the league in the '85 Cotton Bowl and was Doug Flutie's nationally televised whipping boy. I am not blaming UH for the demise of the SWC; rather, I cite that game as the day when things forever went to hell. From then on, no self-respecting college football analyst from outside the state of Texas took the SWC seriously (not to mention quality recruits, etc.).
The 48-0 game last season at DKR-TMS was a reflection of the ho-hum attitude it's easy to have about this series these days. It wasn't a dominating performance, as the score might suggest. Texas' offense actually was pretty lackluster, and UH played without at least two of its best receivers. I remember it being high on the recent list of games in which Texas has won easily, yet fans found more to bitch about than to be happy about.
So while it was amusing to see UH get thoroughly dominated by a Rice team utilizing its third-team quarterback out of necessity, I still didn't enter this two-week lead-in toward Saturday's game expecting much. Another businesslike win, perhaps, with minimal excitement; the only worry figured to be bouncing back from the off week while UH played at home after playing Georgia the week before. So much for that, obviously, for many reasons.
So thank you, Cougar High. Thank you for your unintentional comedy and for playing to the hilt your role as the poor, neglected, unrespected, underfunded state school that happens to have an enrollment of about 25,000 and sits in the fourth-largest city in the United States. Thank you for turning out representatives such as Adrian Lee and Hanik Milligan to keep those wonderful stereotypes alive.
And thank you for allowing me to get excited about this weekend. 'Cause I have a feeling you're about to meet several uniform-wearing representatives of The University of Texas who you didn't wish to excite, and I plan to enjoy the hell outta that.
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