Ketch's 10 Thoughts From The Weekend (On The Eyes of Texas)
Somehow Sean Adams and I ended up inside the seating area of the Texas band.
Honestly, I can't even remember how it happened, other than we had seats separated from each other and as the second half of the national championship game between Texas and USC was set to begin, we both decided that it didn't matter where we sat, as long as we watched the game together.
Part of me wants to say that a member of the band was a member of Orangebloods and welcomed us into some open seats, but that might be making things up 14-plus years after the fact. What matters is that on the most important night in the modern era of the Texas football program, we had a chance to watch the second half together within a section of current (at the time) university students.
Outside of standing on the sideline, it felt like the closest thing to being involved in the game as one could feel. On a night when there were so many ebbs and flows within the game, being inside the band meant that you were inside the pulse of an entire fan base every time one of the ebbs and flows went a certain kind of way.
When it was over ... after the defense makes the stop ... after VY scores on 4th and 5 ... after the clock finally expired ... I witnessed something even more impactful than any play that occurred.
As the players walked over to the band and the school song started to play in their direction, emotion took control of the moment. I turned around to Sean to say something to him and I noticed that tears were in his eyes. Oh, he was smiling like his life depended on it, but something about the moment flat out got him.
At that exact moment, someone in the band (who wasn't playing their instrument) jumped into the arms of a friend and they screamed at each other in a way that suggested that they should have been sitting together for the duration of the second half like Sean and I had decided to do. Everywhere I turned was beautiful raw emotion. Some tears. Lots of smiles. Plenty of screams. Everyone united in one of the greatest moments of everyone's lives through the playing of one song.
The Eyes of Texas.
Black, white, brown, pink, green, male, female, gay, straight, religious, atheist ... together. The rest of the world didn't exist, except for all of the people back home that you wondered about, wishing they could share this moment. Honest to God, if we take away the moments in my life involving my wife and kids, it probably ranks as a top-five all-time life moment.
This boy from Waco, who grew up rooting against Texas as a Baylor fan until fate stepped in and switched his future, looked directly into the eyes of a former kid from Oakland, who had adopted The University of Texas as the home school he always wanted and never knew existed until he arrived in Austin to work as a grown-up in the real world. Both of us were bastard burnt orange children to some degree and yet the reality of neither of us having a degree from the school simply didn't matter in the moment.
It was just beautiful and I might live another 200 years and will never live it again, partly because Sean isn't with us anymore, which means I won't ever have that moment with HIM because it's an impossibility (I hated typing that sentence).
What it means is that when I think of Sean, I always think about this moment. When I think about the moment, I think of Sean. The thing that tied it all together was The Eyes of Texas.
The song is the ultimate connector to literally millions of people and it's the following truth that makes what's happening with the song a mixture of anger, depression, dismay ... did I mention anger?
For countless Longhorns, you simply cannot tell the story of their lives without including moments where the song was at the forefront of them, whether we're talking about a wedding reception or graduation or a trip to an out of town piano bar or to a funeral.
Full confession - I've been to multiple funerals where "The Eyes of Texas" is the final sound before a person says goodbye to his or her loved ones forever in the physical form. When you think it about it for a while, the weight of its importance is incredibly heavy.
All of this brings us to this moment in time when the song seems to hang in peril with the realization that its origins are less than ideal to say the least.
Now, before I go any further, let's acknowledge an elephant in the room, which is that I'm pretty much viewed as the resident snowflake liberal trouble-maker on the board. I've taken time to try and explain the player's feelings, in part because I acknowledge that I'm in no way, shape or fashion in a place where I can tell a Black person how insulted they should feel about something born in a minstrel show. I've acknowledged the complexity of the issue countless times.
However, in acknowledging its complexity, I'm going to require everyone to use their brains a little and acknowledge the following ...
a. Meredes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen (Hitler's dream car) all have ties to Nazi Germany.
b. Hugo Boss literally designed shirts for the Nazis because he was an actual Nazi.
c. Old Disney movies are historically filled with racist imagery and stereotypes.
d. U.S.A. Today's parent company (E.W. Scripps and Gannett) was linked to the slave trade.
e. Aetna and New York Life Insurance insured the lives of slaves and reimbursed slave owners when their slaves died.
f. Henry Ford was a leading anti-Semite. Same with Coco Chanel.
g. Adidas, Nike, Gap, Urban Outfitters and Victoria's Secret all still use products made in sweatshops and with child labor.
I could go on and on and on and on and on, but if you need more examples, let google be your friend. The list of companies and institutions with non-ideal backgrounds is longer than America's history itself. Yet, Mercedes found a way to get over its Nazi ties. Disney is still Disney. Nike literally outfits the Texas football program.
As American people, we universally forgive in the name of the Ford Expedition that I personally drive or the movie that I play on the Disney Channel for my kids or the newspaper that I buy when I'm in an airport (but only when I'm in an airport).
Every single one of us, including the young men and women that attend The University of Texas, make little concessions all the time when it comes to our moral compasses and when/where we decide to use them.
For some reason, this has become a line in the sand moment, but I have to ask why?
If I can acknowledge the existence of the song's beginnings and the wretched visual that is generated when it's discussed, then why can't they acknowledge the millions of people that have turned the song into something much more significant than a joke aimed at a school president?
Doesn't that history matter, too?
I'm all for these kids fighting the good fights ... all of them. I just don't view this situation as fighting the good fight as much as it’s applying misplaced pressure for sport. I don't believe these kids have been swayed by their college professors. Hell no, I give them way more credit than that. They haven't been hypnotized. Instead, these are frustrated young men and women that want to fight back ... against anything they can get their hands on. The Eyes has been sucked into the fray, perhaps even deservedly so.
Let's be clear - the history deserves to be discussed.
Yet, there's a difference between having a discussion and trying to render something so personal to so many as completely useless moving forward. There are people rolling over in their graves right now and not all of them were racist. Hell, there are people headed to their graves that are rolling over in them before they are even in them.
The students at The University of Texas, not just the football players, need to ask themselves a question of importance.
Is the mostly obscure history of the song more important than all of the good that the song has lived inside of over the last 100 years? Does a little bit of hate outweigh a hell of a lot of love? Are millions of past and future memories rendered completely moot because of one?
At the end of the day, if this is something a student can't get behind, why are they at The University of Texas?
Just go. You can't go inside any of the historic buildings without some sort of racist stink on them, so why give them the decency of acknowledgement when you won't do it for something others are begging you with their heart and souls to give the same consideration?
Understand, I don't want any of these kids to leave, but I don't want them to be unhappy, either. However, I also don't want to tell others that their own happiness is being cancelled out by young people that haven't lived long enough to know how precious the memories associated with this thing with an unfortunate origin truly are.
If love, acceptance and equality are the end goal, then it's time to get together and find a better answer because what's currently happening isn't it.
--- To read the rest of Geoff Ketchum's 10 Thoughts on the Weekend, click here.