The immensity of tomorrow's game in Austin is worth a few words. TCU isn't playing Texas for just a win-- that could be done with less fanfare against almost any other program in the nation. The Frogs have not circled this came on their schedule so that they could bask in the national spotlight, or re-live the glory days of the Southwest Conference.
What's possible tomorrow is both the closing of the door to a painful adolescence, and the re-opening the path to a forgotten throne. When football was young, the Frogs reigned, and purple-clad legends named Baugh, O'Brien, Aldrich, Matthews, Swink and Lilly ruled. Fort Worth's dynasty was toppled by the Longhorns in the '60s, however, and by the time the Southwest Conference dissolved, TCU was accustomed to penury.
The Frogs were ignominiously born again, as it were, in that dissolution. Being orphaned by the state's politically powerful programs in the '90s, TCU grew, and has become surprisingly strong. But, like a fatherless young man who suddenly meets his deadbeat dad only to discover that he is an heir in the kingdom, the Horned Frogs have a chance Saturday to throw off their childhood demons, and live independently, among their grandfather's peers. And all the king's men are watching to see if he will do just that.
This is a tremulous moment-- it can be a coming-of-age for the ages. The whole world is watching, so to speak, for the first time. Some of them paid brief attention when TCU beat a weakened aristocrat in the 1998 Sun Bowl. More still cocked an eye toward Fort Worth's little private school when the Frogs took a 10-game winning streak to Hattiesburg in 2003. After that game they smiled like a parent who dusts off a lost child who's scraped his knee, and sends him home where he belongs-- to the other side of the tracks. More still took a double take, and said politically correct things when the Horny Toads waylaid Oklahoma, a reigning aristocrat on a usurped throne, in 2005-- in Norman, no less. But when the Frogs were destracted by the glad words, and toppled by another scrabbling SWC orphan, the watching world turned away again.
But that world was not the same. The comfortable confines on the rich side of the tracks seemed less safe, when a TCU or a Boise State could raid with so much success among them. Next fell Texas Tech in Fort Worth, and the chattering class began to hedge their bets whenever the Frogs were on the table.
And so tomorrow, amid a torrent of carefully hedged publicity, TCU goes to battle another of college football's ruling elite- the same princely program that ousted the Frogs from their own throne generations ago. It should not surprise us that TCU has everybody's attention now. Their foe is their own grandfather's foe, figuratively speaking; the modern doyen of Texas Football, the Frogs' own crowned brother who watched with secret glee as the Frogs withered, and when finally TCU was powerless to resist, ousted them from the kingdom altogether. Since then UT has crowned itself "State Champions" when it won less games than TCU; it has received the BCS Championship Trophy with the fallacious commendation, "On behalf of the eleven BCS conferences..."; it has countenanced-- nay, spawned-- the outrageous condenscension of TCU's privileged twin in Waco; in sum, UT-- the Frogs' own brother-- has declared the Horned Frogs bastards: illegitimate, irrelevant, underprivileged, ostracized.
And tomorrow, Texas must defend its house.
From forgotten ashes in Fort Worth have risen the heirs to the house that Baugh built. The Lone Star State's very center of gravity is unsettled anew, and the reigning gods of the state cannot find comfort in their Austin tower. Their dirty deeds are shouted from the rooftops by the very syccophants who cheered them: Thy Brother Lives, and Hath Returned!
Indeed, the true giants of Texas's football history will not be forgotten, and in the awesome shadow of their descendants does all of Texas shake.