Kate McGee wrote an eye-opening piece for the Texas Tribune last week that details the lengths the administration at the University of Texas will go to in order to keep boosters happy, even if it causes pain for their students. McGee published multiple emails filled with less-than-coded language . In those emails, the old, rich alumni base makes it clear that they do not care what students have to say about the history of the school song “The Eyes of Texas”. They want it played and they want the students that refuse to participate in a postgame singalong kicked out of school.
For those unfamiliar, here is a very quick, very broad-strokes history of “The Eyes of Texas”. Really, there are just two things you need to know.
- The phrase “The eyes of Texas are upon you,” (the song’s opening lyric) is derived from something Robert E. Lee would say to Confederate troops in the Civil War. The implication was that the soldiers did not want to live with the embarrassment of their defeat being what lead to the end of slavery.
- The song made its debut in 1903 at the Varsity Minstral Show, when a group of white students in blackface sang it to raise money for the Texas track team.
As a result of the alumni backlash, the administration told the football players that they had no choice. They didn’t have to sing, but they did have to be on the field while “The Eyes of Texas” plays.
There is only one logical conclusion you can come away with. The University of Texas cares more about people it doesn’t really need (more on that in a moment) than it does its own students. I guess a logical follow-up conclusion would be that the boosters, people that claim to be so devoted to Texas football that they give hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to the program regularly, don’t really care if the team is ever any good.
I have heard a lot of smart people talk about this on ESPN and FOX Sports Radio and various college football blogs I read regularly. They all say that this is a problem for Texas. They all say that there are deeper issues at play that the school needs to address than just this song. But no one will be blunt.
Just say it. Texas doesn’t care about football. We do not have to entertain the “is Texas back?” conversation ever again, because Texas has demonstrated that being “back” doesn’t matter to them.
You have heard the saying “there are two sides to every issue,” right? Well, let’s call that what it is: total bullshit.
The sports media has no problem saying that a call is bad or a coach made an awful decision that cost his team a game. For some reason though, we can be so scared to use the phrase “bullshit” when it comes to a bigger, off-field issue and I am not sure why, especially in this case where Texas isn’t even trying to pretend their argument is anything less than pure, uncut poop from the cow they so love.
Obviously, if you are on the radio or working with restrictions sponsored by major corporations, you have to be more creative. Using the actual word “bullshit” will get you fired. As a lifelong Southerner, might I recommend “hog wash” or “horse feathers”? The barnyard provides so many wonderful ways of calling something a wild falsehood.
Is it important to be fair to both sides of a debate? I guess, when one side of the debate can’t be boiled down to “I want people to suffer” or doesn’t come from a place of total bad faith. That isn’t the case in Austin.
Maybe it isn’t so important to be fair though. Dan Dakich has a radio show and is calling games on ESPN every week. Jay Bilas is calling games and showing up on various ESPN studio shows every week. Do you see either of them being particularly fair to the opposite point of view when they discuss whether or not college athletes should be paid? I don’t. Both Sarah Spain and Clay Travis are on the radio five days a week. Do you see either of them being particularly fair to the opposite side of literally any opinion they have? I don’t.
Texas doesn’t need money from boosters that demand America stay stuck in 1903. The school’s media rights deal alone is valuable enough to make its athletic department one of the ten richest in the country without any booster money. The University of Texas takes the money and gives control and influence to old racists simply because it wants to. Certainly the results on the field throughout the majority of the school’s football history don’t indicate that system is working.
From 1915 until 1996, Texas played in the Southwestern Conference. Their peers and opponents included TCU, Baylor, Houston, Rice, and SMU amongst others. It is easy to look at that landscape and wonder how, even with Arkansas in their heyday and Texas A&M in the conference, Texas didn’t win the football championship every single year.
It’s because this racist booster culture has existed in Austin for a long, long time. Imagine the kind of culture problem you have created when an 18 year old Black kid looks at Waco of all places and decides that is a more welcoming environment!
Texas football is good at one thing – selling the myth of Texas football. As an industry, we have totally fallen for it. The team hasn’t been truly relevant since 2009 and yet every year, there is a large portion of the college football media that writes that this is the year! They are listed alongside archival Oklahoma, Alabama, Notre Dame, USC, and Ohio State as the sport’s blue bloods despite Texas having fewer national championships to its name than Illinois, Pitt, and Minnesota.
The myth ends the second we stop buying the bullshit! It’s no different than the idea that the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s Team” or that The Masters is something every sports fan needs to experience. There is no evidence that makes either of those facts definitively true in 2021, but as long as First Take keeps leading shows by talking about how a 2-6 Cowboys team can get to the Super Bowl and CBS keeps force-feeding us human Vinyard Vines belt Jim Nantz, those narratives will live on.
At the press conference introducing Steve Sarkisian as Texas’s new football coach (I know, LOL!), he was asked about the controversy surrounding “The Eyes of Texas”. He answered that the team would “sing that proudly”. Remember, this is a guy that in addition to coaching kids, also has to go out and convince the most talented football players in America, most of whom are Black, that they want to spend the next 3-5 years in Austin. Don’t think he doesn’t know that the song is a problem.
Call Texas football what it is – a farce. There is no wider berth between branding and reality in the entire sports landscape. The people that claim to be the program’s biggest fans are actively holding it back. They are choosing a song, which by the way is set to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” over actually being good. That is asinine. There are not two sides to this. Pretending there are is nothing short of utter nonsense!
When the sports world tries to sell us nonsense, we cannot be afraid to push back in the harshest way possible. Doing anything less makes your audience dumber.
Being Wrong On-Air Isn’t A Bad Thing
…if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign.
In the press conference after the Warriors won their fourth NBA title in eight years, Steph Curry referenced a very specific gesture from a very specific episode of Get Up that aired in August 2021.
“Clearly remember some experts and talking heads putting up the big zero,” Curry said, then holding up a hollowed fist to one eye, looking through it as if it were a telescope.
“How many championships we would have going forward because of everything we went through.”
Yep, Kendrick Perkins and Domonique Foxworth each predicted the Warriors wouldn’t win a single title over the course of the four-year extension Curry had just signed. The Warriors won the NBA title and guess what? Curry gets to gloat.
The funny part to me was the people who felt Perkins or Foxworth should be mad or embarrassed. Why? Because they were wrong?
That’s part of the game. If you’re a host or analyst who is never wrong in a prediction, it’s more likely that you’re excruciatingly boring than exceedingly smart. Being wrong is not necessarily fun, but it’s not a bad thing in this business.
You shouldn’t try to be wrong, but you shouldn’t be afraid of it, either. And if you are wrong, own it. Hold your L as I’ve heard the kids say. Don’t try to minimize it or explain it or try to point out how many other people are wrong, too. Do what Kendrick Perkins did on Get Up the day after the Warriors won the title.
“When they go on to win it, guess what?” He said, sitting next to Mike Greenberg. “You have to eat that.”
Do not do what Perkins did later that morning on First Take.
Perkins: “I come on here and it’s cool, right? Y’all can pull up Perk receipts and things to that nature. And then you give other people a pass like J-Will.”
Jason Williams: “I don’t get passes on this show.”
Perkins: “You had to, you had a receipt, too, because me and you both picked the Memphis Grizzlies to beat the Golden State Warriors, but I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that. Go ahead Stephen A. I know you’re about to have fun and do your thing. Go ahead.”
Stephen A. Smith: “First of all, I’m going to get serious for a second with the both of you, especially you, Perk, and I want to tell you something right now. Let me throw myself on Front Street, we can sit up there and make fun of me. You know how many damn Finals predictions I got wrong? I don’t give a damn. I mean, I got a whole bunch of them wrong. Ain’t no reason to come on the air and defend yourself. Perk, listen man. You were wrong. And we making fun, and Steph Curry making fun of you. You laugh at that my brother. He got you today. That’s all. He got you today.”
It’s absolutely great advice, and if you feel yourself getting uncomfortable over the fact that you were wrong, stop to realize that’s your pride talking. Your ego. And if people call you out for being wrong, it’s actually a good sign. It means they’re not just listening, but holding on to what you say. You matter. Don’t ruin that by getting defensive and testy.
WORTH EVERY PENNY
I did a double-take when I saw Chris Russo’s list of the greatest QB-TE combinations ever on Wednesday and this was before I ever got to Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski listed at No. 5. It was actually No. 4 that stopped me cold: Starr-Kramer.
My first thought: Jerry Kramer didn’t play tight end.
My second thought: I must be unaware of this really good tight end from the Lombardi-era Packers.
After further review, I don’t think that’s necessarily true, either. Ron Kramer did play for the Lombardi-era Packers, and he was a good player. He caught 14 scoring passes in a three-year stretch where he really mattered, but he failed to catch a single touchdown pass in six of the 10 NFL seasons he played. He was named first-team All-Pro once and finished his career with 229 receptions.
Now this is not the only reason that this is an absolutely terrible list. It is the most egregious, however. Bart Starr and Kramer are not among the 25 top QB-TE combinations in NFL history let alone the top five. And if you’re to believe Russo’s list, eighty percent of the top tandems played in the NFL in the 30-year window from 1958 to 1987 with only one tandem from the past 30 years meriting inclusion when this is the era in which tight end production has steadily climbed.
Then I found out that Russo is making $10,000 per appearance on “First Take.”
My first thought: You don’t have to pay that much to get a 60-something white guy to grossly exaggerate how great stuff used to be.
My second thought: That might be the best $10,000 ESPN has ever spent.
Once a week, Russo comes on and draws a reaction out of a younger demographic by playing a good-natured version of Dana Carvey’s Grumpy Old Man. Russo groans to JJ Redick about the lack of fundamental basketball skills in today’s game or he proclaims the majesty of a tight end-quarterback pairing that was among the top five in its decade, but doesn’t sniff the top five of all-time.
And guess what? It works. Redick rolls his eyes, asks Russo which game he’s watching, and on Wednesday he got me to spend a good 25 minutes looking up statistics for some Packers tight end I’d never heard of. Not satisfied with that, I then moved on to determine Russo’s biggest omission from the list, which I’ve concluded is Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates, who connected for 89 touchdowns over 15 seasons, which is only 73 more touchdowns than Kramer scored in his career. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe should be on there, too.
Money Isn’t The Key Reason Why Sellers Sell Sports Radio
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions.
A radio salesperson’s value being purely tied to money is overrated to me. Our managers all believe that our main motivation for selling radio is to make more money. They see no problem in asking us to sell more in various ways because it increases our paycheck. We are offered more money to sell digital, NTR, to sell another station in the cluster, weekend remotes, new direct business, or via the phone in 8 hours.
But is that why you sell sports radio?
In 2022, the Top 10 highest paying sales jobs are all in technology. Not a media company among them. You could argue that if it were all about making money, we should quit and work in tech. Famous bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed twenty banks over twenty years. He reportedly said,” that’s where the money is”. Sutton is the classic example of a person who wanted what money could provide and was willing to do whatever it took to get it, BUT he also admitted he liked robbing banks and felt alive. So, Sutton didn’t do it just for the money.
A salesperson’s relationship with money and prestige is also at the center of the play Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman is an aging and failing salesman who decides he is worth more dead than alive and kills himself in an auto accident giving his family the death benefit from his life insurance policy. Loman wasn’t working for the money. He wanted the prestige of what money could buy for himself and his family.
Recently, I met a woman who spent twelve years selling radio from 1999-2011. I asked her why she left her senior sales job. She said she didn’t like the changes in the industry. Consolidation was at its peak, and most salespeople were asked to do more with less help. She described her radio sales job as one with “golden handcuffs”. The station paid her too much money to quit even though she hated the job. She finally quit. The job wasn’t worth the money to her.
I started selling sports radio because I enjoyed working with clients who loved sports, our station, and wanted to reach fans with our commercials and promotions. I never wanted to sell anything else and specifically enjoyed selling programming centered around reaching fans of Boise State University football. That’s it. Very similar to what Mark Glynn and his KJR staff experience when selling Kraken hockey and Huskies football.
I never thought selling sports radio was the best way to make money. I just enjoyed the way I could make money. I focused on the process and what I enjoyed about the position—the freedom to come and go and set my schedule for the most part. I concentrated on annual contracts and clients who wanted to run radio commercials over the air to get more traffic and build their brand.
Most of my clients were local direct and listened to the station. Some other sales initiatives had steep learning curves, were one-day events or contracted out shaky support staff. In other words, the money didn’t motivate me enough. How I spent my time was more important.
So, if you are in management, maybe consider why your sales staff is working at the station. Because to me, they’d be robbing banks if it were all about making lots of money.
Media Noise: BSM Podcast Network Round Table
Demetri Ravanos welcomes the two newest members of the BSM Podcast Network to the show. Brady Farkas and Stephen Strom join for a roundtable discussion that includes the new media, Sage Steele and Roger Goodell telling Congress that Dave Portnoy isn’t banned from NFL events.