The waiting, is the hardest part;
Every day you get one more yard;
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart;
The waiting is the hardest part.
Author note: Thomas Earl Petty is, in this author’s estimation, the great musician to ever live. If it were not for some persistence from my lovely wife, I may have gone my whole life without seeing him live in concert. She bought me tickets to see him May 2017 at Red Rocks, simply because it might be his last go around.
Little did she know how right she was. He died a few days before the birth of my son that year.
Thomas Earl got me through a lot stuff in life. Whether it be death (Wildflowers), growing up (Learning to Fly), break ups(Change of Heart, Don’t Come around Here No More), evenunemployment (Southern Accent), his songs have gotten me through them all. I’ve held off using any of his songs because I really wanted to make sure it was a good time to use it. I can think of no better time than the present for his 1981 hit “The Waiting”.
Last Saturday night I could not go to sleep. I even took melatonin to help, but I found myself wide awake when my son woke me up early Sunday morning for milk and some Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
What kept me up at night was the embarrassment I felt when my mind drifted to an area it never really drifts. The “What If” area of your brain where all the decisions you have made, every single one is logged by detail and filed neatly by some brain librarian, in order for you to visit sometime late at night 10 years from now and keep you awake. The question that kept me up, you ask?
What would have happened if I didn’t go to Texas Tech, but instead, another school? Maybe one with a blue-blood athletic program. Like LSU, or Bama, or Oklahoma. So fun, right?!
I immediately felt ashamed for even thinking about that. As embarrassing as the loss was Saturday night, it was a loss in an athletic sport that was making me question my personal past choices in order…for what? To win a game played by 18-22 year olds I had literally nothing to do with?
To understand why I was embarrassed, you need to know a little more about me.
My father actually dropped out of high school and started working from that day on. He has turned in to one of the most respected and influential men I know. My mother elected to pursue her calling as a nurse to the elderly and to be there for people when everyone else in their life left, which sometimes meant she had to sacrifice seeing her own. My parents did everything they could (umpiring little league games in 100 degree heat or working two jobs with little to no sleep) to make sure we had food on the table and provide a tremendous life for me and my sister. A life I probably took advantage of.
I didn’t think college was for me. So, I did what I knew how. I worked in a grocery store alone at night with an iPod that had like, ten songs on it. By then, I was seeing my friends have fun at college parties and classes, and here I was making sure canned tomatoes were all facing the right way and freezing my rear-end off re-organizing a deep freezer for the eighth time just to have someone else mess it up. Something had to change, because I couldn’t do this forever.
I visited Lubbock with a friend in 2007 for a football game and met up with some friends who were already at Texas Tech. By the time I got home that Sunday, I had made up my mind. I was moving eight hours west to Lubbock, Texas. I was going to attend Texas Tech University. I loved the campus and the atmosphere at the game. I identified with everything about it.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because I am now a husband to a girl I met 10-plus years ago on that first visit to Texas Tech, a father to an amazingly smart and healthy son, and after nearly nine years, some weird gigs, and a bachelors and MBA later, Iam finally on track for my dream job. I owe nearly every good thing in my life I have because I chose to go to Texas Tech University (and an amazing and unwavering support system).
I don’t blame the folks who are mad. We’re all mad. We’re all frustrated. I understand people’s frustrations. They are tangible. At some level, they may even be valid. Losing to Kansas isn’t good or even fun (surprisingly!).
When you need real examples of not overreacting after the first season or making wholesale changes to be successful in collegiate athletics, Tech fans need to just look a few hundred feet away from Jones AT&T Stadium for two really great examples.
Chris Beard’s first season in Lubbock is largely forgotten, which is fair. Yet, it was a building block for the next season that saw his team go to the Elite Eight, further than any team in Tech Men’s Basketball history. Even despite a large roster turnover the very next season, Beard and his staff navigated his program toplay for a National Championship…in year three. That’s called a “culture change”.
Tim Tadlock had an underwhelming record in his first seasonwith a losing Big 12 record, which saw the very next season become the first of many trips to Omaha. Texas Tech is now considered a powerhouse in baseball and we are going to win the National Championship in baseball this season (you read it here first).
My dad has a really cool saying that I FINALLY get and it fits so perfectly here. “You can’t fix the plumbing by just getting a new toilet...”
This isn’t a situation you can’t get yourself out of by terminating employees eight games in. This program hasn’t had a winning conference record in over a decade, and that doesn’t just get changed overnight. Collegiate athletics is about wholesale changes. It’s about buying into some sort of culture you believe in and sticking with it. And that’s not something that can be done in eight games.
And, to put my money where my mouth is, I will be in the stands when we play the team my personal arch-nemesis and all-around-hateful-guy Gary Patterson coaches on November 15th. If any of you have a good tailgate or gathering, I’d love to meet you and steal one (or two) of your cheapest beer or a generous swig of bourbon.
Believe in this process. Believe in the timeline. Believe in Matt Wells. Believe in our student athletes. Because once this train gets rolling in the right direction, there won’t be any room for those who weren’t two feet in at the jump.