THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Unthinkable: Texas Tech victory also unrememberable
People who witness an extraordinary event report that afterward, something strange happens to their memory. The overall event remains clear, but the details get fuzzy. They know they saw it; they might even remember what they were wearing at the time. But it takes only moments for the memory to grow hazy. Perhaps it's because those moments are so unexpected that the brain can't quite get a grip.
"Unexpected" is right. If Saturday Night Live hadn't gone to commercial as the Texas–Texas Tech game reached its final seconds, I might have a clear recollection of that evening. If I hadn't watched the first three quarters, I might not have been tempted to check the score, and my memory would be intact.
To my surprise, the unexpected moment didn't come from Tina Fey; it came from Texas Tech.
Last Saturday began as a day of dismal football. After "drinking the UVA Kool-Aid," I was stunned to realize Bill Buckner was playing tailback for the Cavs, albeit in a Cedric Peerman mask. Ashamed at having subjected myself to such an ignominious defeat, I considered the Texas game a just punishment.
From high school to the NFL, Texans consider their state the fertile crescent of football. When Buzz Bissinger wanted to write a book about high school football, did he go to Alabama? I don't think so.
When Sports Illustrated mentions "America's Team," does it mean the Redskins? They wish.
When a men's magazine wants to put cheerleaders on the cover, do they go to Green Bay? As if.
If there were an ego contest between Madonna and Texas, I‘d bet on Texas.
Okay, so the big ego isn't entirely undeserved, at least in Texas' case. The Longhorns have the third-winning-est football program in the country after humble-pie-eating Michigan and Notre Dame. They've won four national championships, and their current quarterback, Colt McCoy, may have the best name of any athlete ever.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one hoping for an upset.
By the fourth quarter, all that I had expected to happen had happened. After trailing 22-6 at the half, the Longhorns had chipped away at Texas Tech's lead. Hadn't I seen this earlier? Wasn't there some other team that gave it up in the fourth quarter?
Enough is enough, I thought. It was like watching UVA all over again. How much can one person take? Faced with a choice, I chose Tina Fey.
When that fateful commercial came on, and I switched back to the game, Texas was leading by one point with eight seconds left on the clock. Eight seconds can last only so long, even in college football.
The moment Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell threw that last pass, I knew. As the clock ran down, I knew. I knew something special was about to happen. Unfortunately, I can't remember a lot of it.
Texas coach Mack Brown didn't waste any time calling for a review of the play. There was no way his team would lose with one second left on the clock. There was no way a sophomore with a name like Michael Crabtree– who hadn't caught a touchdown pass all night– was going to put Colt McCoy to shame.
All the reviews in the world couldn't make that last catch less extraordinary. Two Texas defenders covered Michael Crabtree and forced him to the sidelines. If the pass fell incomplete, it was over. If Crabtree made the catch and went out of bounds, there was no time for another play.
What happened in those last seconds is simultaneously clear and fuzzy. I can see Crabtree look over his shoulder. I can see him plant his foot, the sideline just inches away. I can see the defenders slide off him as if he were water.
The next thing I remember is thousands of Texas Tech fans rushing the field. How did Michael Crabtree run those five yards to the end zone? I couldn't tell you. Did he fall to his knees? I don't know. All I remember is a ball, a foot, and then pandemonium.
I don't know if Michael Crabtree's touchdown will go down as one of college football's greatest moments. What I do know is that what I can't remember always seems to be important. So whatever happened, I'm awfully glad I saw it.