So the NFL season comes to a close on this weekend. For many of us, it’s the first time we’ve paid attention to the professional football league in over a decade or more. Others have had no curtailment of their interest over the years, and still others may be following it for the first time. There’s no need to wax about the qualities that Vince brings to a team to the Longhorn faithful. Some knew it immediately. For others it took time. But everyone came around at one time or another to realizing that he’s special, and he won’t be denied. This year he’s proceeded to take the NFL by storm. It’s been no surprise to us true believers. Folks who have had their faith shaken in one way or another may have strayed, but he continues to vindicate his long time acolytes by doing what he does best --- doing whatever it takes to lead his team to victory week after week. The only thing even slightly unusual was how quickly it happened, but if he didn’t take the NFL by storm this season, it was going to happen eventually. After a 6 game winning streak, Tennessee harkens upon their final game of the season needing an improbable set of circumstances to enter the playoffs. I’m not going to review the various scenarios. It’s done well enough elsewhere. What is remarkable is that they even have a shot at the playoffs in the more difficult AFC, after opening with losses in the first 5 games. If they do end up as one of the wildcards, it will be the first time any team has started off with 5 losses, and still made it to the postseason. I will say for the long term it matters little whether the Titans make it in or not. In fact, in some ways it will bode well for the future if they don’t. If they win the game against New England on Sunday and yet are left out, they will enter next year with the NFL’s longest winning streak --- unless San Diego wins its last game and goes on to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy, which could occur. Will there be anything more motivating for the team members than knowing if they’d just started out strong they would have had a chance to win a championship? This offseason the Titans players will work harder than they ever have before --- with Vince Young leading the way, just like he did at UT following the first Rose Bowl. In addition, it will put the Titans 11 draft picks in a more favorable position. Plus, Tennessee currently enjoys $41 million in cap space to spend on key critical free agents. The chance to improve considerably the Titans roster is available, and they already have some of the most expensive components locked up in a playmaking QB, CB, and some decent running backs. Next year the Titans will be Super Bowl contenders. I don’t know if they win the championship next season or not, but it’s coming, and it’s coming soon. Vince simply won’t be denied. I’ve told people this, and had them talk to me about how Tennessee isn’t really that good. That they’ve pulled these wins out of their asses. That it’s going to be too soon. I say balderdash. The indomitable spirit of Vince will not be denied. He’s going to take that team on his shoulders and lift them to heights they didn’t realize they could attain, and it’s going to start the moment the season is finished. By the time next year rolls around, they’re going to believe they can’t be beaten. So the offensive line isn’t that great? They’re going to know if they just do a little extra, Vince will make special things happen. So the defense has holes all over the place? When their fourth and inches comes, they’ll be suffused with the knowledge that if they just get the ball back to Vince, he’ll find a way to win the game. I don’t know how many Super Bowls Vince ends up winning. It’s going to be at least one, and probably more, assuming he manages to keep his gumby body healthy. But I do know his time on a legitimate Super Bowl contender is going to start next season. So what does this mean? See, that’s the interesting part. First, let’s talk about what it means for the University of Texas. You see, Vince Young is going to continue to pay dividends long after he’s gone. He’s going to be associated with UT in the same way Jordan is with North Carolina. He’s going to become the face of the NFL, surpassing even the marketing ubiquity Peyton Manning currently enjoys. Nike is going to make him a central part of their campaigns. Why is this going to happen? Well, number one because he’s talented, and he wins. But so does Tom Brady. Why will Vince Young be put in a position to sell products in ways that Brady isn’t? It’s because Vince Young is cutting edge. Vince Young is hip. Vince Young appeals to demographics that those other guys can’t really touch. Yet, there’s plenty of crossover. The key is, Vince “keeps it real.” He’s closer to a less flamboyant Muhammed Ali than a Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods. He’s a new archetype. The black man who succeeds without selling out, yet remains publicly humble, allowing him to crossover in appeal to a majority population that sometimes is uncomfortable with tattoo/bling bling, hip hop looking superstar athletes. He’s going to be a new iconic figure, with a celebrity that goes beyond the sports world. After years of being perceived as a bastion of The Man, UT is going to be many inner city youths’ team of choice. In one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country, the Golden Triangle, Texas is going to have talented young men growing up wanting to be future Longhorns. Only, as Vince Young’s reach becomes nationally pervasive, it’ll have the same impact Michael Jordan had on UNC --- except, Vince Young is going to have crossover appeal in basketball, too, particularly in the Houston area. Second, Vince Young is going to spawn a couple of important archetypes. The Minister of Information for the Houston Texans, Marc Vandermeer of Sports Radio 610am, would have you believe that all the Texans have to do is win, and a lot of the Vince Young nonsense will fade away. Nothing could be further from the truth, but without dissecting that belief in minutiae, I’m going to touch on two specific ways that Vince Young and how the NFL draft was handled is going to enter the public lexicon. The first one is simple. Any popular local sports star available to a professional franchise is going to have his fans inundate that team with pleas not to “pull a Vince Young.” “Don’t do what the Texans did!” they’ll cry. We’ve already seen it from Kirk Herbstreit, who publicly warned the Cleveland Browns to pick up Troy Smith. We’ve heard it from various people involved with the Houston Cougars, who are campaigning for their favored son, Kevin Kolb, to be drafted by the Texans. For Vince Young acolytes such as myself, there’s a tendency to be dismissive of these links. We know that a realistic comparison to Vince Young doesn’t exist. There’s never been an amateur athlete more closely associated to a city than Vince Young’s connection to Houston. Some of that came from his success at the University of Texas, but that impact is overemphasized. Vince was a legend in this city before ever making it to Austin. He would have been a legend here whatever school he attended. It’s true that being a Longhorn enhanced his stature, but people who think that’s where the majority of his devoted following comes from in this city, you’re missing the boat. He’ll be a beloved icon here until the day he dies, and he would have been for a significant portion of this city --- including me --- no matter where he’d played his college ball. But instead of feeling like these comparisons to Vince Young diminish his stature, realize that invoking his name will be shorthand for getting a message across, a sort of ultimatum --- the nuclear bomb of fans towards their local professional sports franchise, who really don’t want to have their personnel decisions tied by the localpopulace. And my guess is sometimes it’s going to work. Because as the years go by and the level of disaster this one pick is going to visit upon the Texans becomes clear, franchises are going to go out of their way not to let it happen to them. Not every time mind you --- but there will come times when franchises are going to make picks they normally wouldn’t, because the specter of pulling a Vince Young is going to be too ominous to risk. The second one is even more powerful. There are two personnel moves in professional sports history held up above all others as the most laughable of all time. Frankly, there are arguably worse than these two, but because they ended up becoming the best in their respective sports of all time, they’re pointed to more than any others. One, of course, is Portland passing on Michael Jordan to choose Sam Bowie. The second is the Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The decision to pass on Vince Young is in the process of becoming the third. It can’t pass Babe Ruth for the worst ever. There’s too much historical weight behind it. Not only did he become the best baseball player of all time, and the icon of Yankee pin stripes, he did it for his former team’s most hated foe, arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports --- AND 80 years of not winning a championship followed, the supposed Curse of the Bambino. So that one’s out of reach, I don’t care how well things go for Vince Young, or how badly they go for the Texans. If it ever does reach Babe Ruth proportions, it will be long after I’m dead, for a future culture I undoubtedly wouldn’t even recognize. HOWEVER, the Michael Jordan draft is well within striking range, and this is the second big way the Vince Young draft is going to enter the lexicon. You see, what we are about to see --- if not this offseason, then the next one --- is the Michael Jordan and Vince Young picks set down side by side for comparison. It’s going to become a set conversation piece, because the Portland passing up Jordan has become such a part of our collective sports lore, it’s an easy topic to bring up. What is going to kill the Texans is how they’re found wanting compared to the Trail Blazers. It boils down to 3 chief areas: 1) Portland Trail Blazers already had Clyde Drexler. Hall of Famer. Among the Top 50 NBA players of all time. Jersey retired, and hanging from the rafters. Not Michael Jordan, obviously, but hardly chopped liver. Who will Drexler be compared to? David Carr, of course. 2) Portland made it to two NBA finals with Drexler as the team leader and MVP where they lost to two of the most powerful teams of the era, Detroit’s Bad Boys, and Jordan’s Bulls. Perhaps the Texans make it to a Super Bowl within the next 10 years. It would help them immeasurably. 3) Michael Jordan wasn’t from Portland. One of the things that’s going to make it more difficult for the Texans, is unlike Drexler’s Trail Blazers --- who only had the possibility of facing Jordan in the championship series on their way to a title --- the Texans will be matched up with Vince Young twice a year. They’ll compete in the same division. Then, if both franchises make it to the playoffs, they’ll have to beat the Titans there, too. And I’m only talking about the national conversation. Locally, of course, they’re never going to get away from it. Titans merchandise sales are going to flourish. Whenever the Titans come to town Reliant is going to be filled with a large fan base cheering the other team. When the Titans win their Super Bowl/Super Bowls, Vince Young is going to be celebrated locally as a conquering hero --- which will be an utter embarrassment to the Texans. Statewide, the Texans as a moniker will be laughable. Already we’re seeing Texans’ television coverage limited. For the next decade they’ll be the third most popular NFL team in the state, and if San Antonio ever gets a team, that will move to fourth. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is going to be a painful decade for Texans fans…but it doesn’t have to be this way. Your best chance for enjoyment as a sports fan is to stop rooting for the local team, and follow me in rooting for the Titans. It’s going to save a great deal of suffering on your part. It’s not your fault the Texans made this colossal mistake. Why should you have to pay for it? The answer is, you don’t. I understand it seems tough right now. You’ve always supported the local franchises. You had so much hope when the new expansion team was formed. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Let go of that heavy burden. You’ll be amazed at how much it will improve your spirits as a sports fan. You know you want to. You’re holding on because of a misguided feeling of loyalty towards a franchise that hasn’t done anything to hold on to you as a customer. But whatever you do is fine with me. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, enjoying one of the most remarkable rides in sports history, just like I’ve been doing from the beginning. I’ve never felt as vindicated as a sports fan as I have with Vince Young. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to follow his sports career, and to number myself among his most ardent fans. I look forward to continuing it as he reaches new heights rarely achieved in professional sports.