- May 29, 2001
Hoo-boy, I can't believe I'm about to do this again, but ...
Let's just talk about it.
Full confession: I imagined a week ago what this weekend would be like once it crossed my mind that we were definitely heading for this exact weekend and what I imagined wasn't actually nearly as bad as the reality that unfolded.
Oh, I knew there would be anger, probably a 10 on a 1-10 scale, but I don't know if I was able to foresee a 14 coming. I knew I would be on duty all weekend, but I didn't foresee that it would mean being on duty at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning and waking up with terrified fear that Orangebloods had been turned upside down in the two hours I'd been able to get some shut-eye. Hell, I knew it would be something else to watch unfold in real time, but I underestimated how frightening "something else" can be.
The Eyes of Texas isn't just the school song, it's a wedding song thousands of times each year (complete with a DKR groom's cake). The Eyes of Texas isn't just a school song, it's the pride of getting a piano player to play it for $200 when you're on the road and inside a rival's bar. The Eyes of Texas isn't just a school song, it's the last sound many people want heard before they are put into the ground.
It feels like after loving the idea of Santa Claus your entire life, you've just learned that the original Santa Claus was involved in reindeer fighting and human trafficking.
It's not that Christmas is never going to come around again. It's not that we can't have a great time and exchange presents. It's not like future generations of kids won't be ok because the big man is no longer coming down the chimney while they sleep.
That's not the point.
It's that the very thing that we've found so romantic about this thing that we love beyond the ability to reason is suddenly being positioned as being toxic by something that happened before anyone alive was even born. All we've ever known is amazing associations with the idea of Santa and now everything that we've ever sworn to love is being questioned to the core.
F that. The anger builds. That's bullshit! The blood pressure rises. This is not right!!!
To say it's been an uncomfortable 48 hours for a lot of reasons is a wild understatement. Completely understood.
I want every last one of you to know that while we might not see eye to eye on everything (or nearly anything as the case sometimes can be), I feel your pain. I know what The Eyes of Texas means to you. I stood in the Rose Bowl with Sean Adams in January of 2006 and watched you drench yourself inside of it with tears. I've stood next to Darrell Royal and watched tears swell up in his eyes at the mere sound of his former players singing the song together as brothers.
No. 2 - Here's the thing, though ...
It really bothers me that I have lived, gone to school and worked around or on the 40 Acres for 34 years and I only learned about the angst surrounding the song in the last week.
To see the looks on the faces of black people when I've told them to their faces that I've lived in this town for 34 years and was oblivious to any connection at all that the song's origins might have to minstrel shows and blackface performers was to the see the looks of people that questioned the integrity of how hard my effort to look could have possibly been.
The things these eyes have seen. The things these ears have heard. Yet, not one damn thing about Robert E. Lee serving as some sort of an inspiration behind the actual phrase "The Eyes of Texas."
My God, it's embarrassing.
For all of the uncomfortable nature of the last 48 hours, perhaps we should have a walk in the shoes of the discomfort that every black Texas student that has known a damn thing about any of the song's history might feel.
I've learned in the last week that this discussion has been going on among black students at Texas since at least the 1980s (based on the personal calls I made to former students this weekend) and that there actually have been efforts to call attention by various student groups for at least 20+ years. In addition, I've learned that if you want to know how insulting a minstrel show is to a black person, just spit in a black person's face because those two things live in the same area code.
We all might want to play the "that stuff happened over 100 years ago" card, but you know what happened a little more than 150 years ago?
So, I think we're all going to have to issue some sort of a pass to anyone with dark skin (or any color of skin) who feels some form of ick when they hear that the song was inspired by a man that not only owned their people, but broke their families apart for sport in the process. We're going to have to give a pass if they find reason to flinch when they hear a song being sung by overwhelmingly white audiences that was first performed in a minstrel show and almost certainly in blackface per university historians.
They've been the ones that have carried this burden around with them for years and have been quiet enough about it to the point that dudes like me can go most of my life without being forced to even be bothered to know.
Let's be clear. Not all former black students knew about this stuff in college. Of the 17 different former black players and students I communicated with this weekend, five claimed that they didn't really know a lot about the song's origins when they were active students. However, all said that knowing the details of the song changed the way they felt about the song moving forward.
One former Texas student that I've known since our days as students together at Texas told me this weekend that she wouldn't stand up for The Eyes of Texas moving forward. This is new for her. This is how she felt after learning the things about the song that we're discussing.
I suppose that's the most power thing about this entire situation.
You can't unsee this. The Eyes of Texas can be performed for the next 2,000 years, but it won't change the fact that we all now know that this song makes some people really uncomfortable and to ignore that discomfort out of protest against personally having to make a concession comes with a new set of implications.
It's rare that I got to scripture for words in this column, but I've been mindful of a passage from James 1:19 all weekend.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
My fellow Orangebloods family members, our brothers and sisters of the black UT community are telling us that they've been carrying an uncomfortable burden with them for too many years. Upon sharing with us this burden, it's critical that we listen. It's critical that we are slow to speak. It's critical to not become angry in the blink of an eye.
I'm also reminded of words I once read from Darrell Royal about the subject of race.
“See, back when I was coaching, you didn’t see black families coming to the game. You didn’t see black families wearing orange and white. You didn’t see little kids of the family with little Texas sweaters on. You just didn’t see it. You didn’t see blacks at the game. Well, obviously that’s all changed. It’s integrated and it’s a thing of the past, thank goodness. Those kids have families, and just like everyone else, their families show up to the game, and they show up in support. And they’re ‘hookin’em, Horns.’ That thing is disappearing about the University of Texas. Time has taken care of it.”
Time hasn't quite taken care of all of it, Coach.
The rest of us still have some work to do.
It feels like we'd be letting down the memory of what Royal was all about to drop this important ball all these years later
No. 3 - So, what the heck happens next ...
Here's what is critical to know.
1. It doesn't seem like anyone is freaking out behind the scenes, partly because key people at the top in the football building and in the athletic department were aware of this development.
2. Not everyone in the athletic department was in the loop and I got the sense from some folks involved in other sports that a little bit more of a heads up would have been appreciated.
3. Multiple athletic department officials told me this weekend that the university was already in the process of contributing money to projects that would likely qualify as projects that the people involved in the movement of Black Lives Matters, which at this point includes eight-year old little white kids, would absolutely be in tune with. We're talking about programs involved in inner cities and low-income backgrounds. Both officials believed that educating the players on everything the school already does and everything it still plans to do will go a long way towards satisfying players on that front.
4. As it relates to the names on various buildings, I get the sense that the university will have an open mind about the changes that have been requested, but some are going to be trickier than others. For instance, the Hogg Foundation and The University are super aligned. James Hogg might have signed the first Jim Crow laws into existence, but the foundation with his name does a lot of good for mental health these days. I get the sense that efforts are going to be made on the buildings/statues of Hogg, Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall and Littlefield Hall, but it will take some time to completely come together.
5. Expect some sort of a statement to come from the desk of Chris Del Conte this week, which will express support for the concerns of the athlete and a strong conviction to show that his support will be backed by action.
No. 4 - About The Eyes ...
Believe it or not, things are much quieter on this front than on the message board, mostly because both sides of the equation on this have no desire to see the world burn.
While the UT athletes absolutely wanted to express their feelings about the situation involving "The Eyes of Texas," they don't appear to crave a full on protest that will turn the burnt orange world upside down.
Here's what I've been told we should probably expect ...
* The "Eyes of Texas" is played before games when the players are still inside the locker room, which means that it can and is still expected to be performed.
* That leaves the situation in the post-game. The first thing that players will immediately be told is that they will not be forced to participate in the song if they don't want to.
* With there being a desire to not have a situation where a dozen or more Texas players are simply not involved with the rest of the team, coaches and fans after the game out of discontent with the song traditionally played, expect discussions to take place about possible tweaks to the current tradition.
Instead of playing "The Eyes of Texas” after games with the full team and fans, what if the band plays "Texas Fight"?
As one former player currently in the NFL told me on Sunday afternoon, "I love that. That's the song that gets everyone hyped. Whoever came up with that idea needs a raise."
On paper, could you live with that? Singing the "Eyes of Texas" before the game and singing "Texas Fight" afterwards?
It feels like the kind of potential concession that can work.
I'm not telling you that this is what's going to happen, I'm telling you that there's almost certainly going to be some sort of compromise that is attempted that straddles a fine line like this idea probably does.
No. 5 - The one question I can't really answer ...
The same NFL player that I quoted at the end of the last section also asked me the following question:
"What happens if members of the band decide to protest the playing of the song? Black people are in the band, too"
You know what I sent him back? If you know me at all, you know what I sent.
No. 6 - A few words to Anthony Cook ...
Good luck, young man. Hang in there. Personally, I'm really happy that you're still in the Texas program.
We're going to be rooting for you, not just in football, but in life.
No. 7 - A few actual football thoughts ...
Expect Monday to be one of the bigger days of the year for the Longhorns in the 2021 class.
I'm a huge fan of Kennedale athlete J.D. Coffey, a total bad-ass of a safety prospect that shows flashes of having pieces of talent in the mold of Earl Thomas and Kenny Vaccaro. He's just a junk-yard dog on the field that brings athleticism, physicality and serious play-making to the table. Although he's ranked No. 14 in the state in my current rankings, it's possible that he should absolutely be in the top 10 and inside the top two most valuable tiers of the rankings game. I kind of have him rated as a mid four-star plus at the moment (5.9+).
Meanwhile, Dallas Kimball cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem is an interesting mid-level four star prospect in his own right. He brings great size and physicality to the position as a young player, but he's probably a little rawer than someone like Coffey with a lower basement, even if his ceiling is potentially just as high. Why is he 18 spots behind Coffey? Mostly because he's not quite the dynamic ball hawk when the ball is in the air, but he's still really good. He kind of reminds me of former Longhorns player Davante Davis.
No. 8 – BUY or SELL …
(Sell) Of course, I care. Losing half of the paying members would be a life-changing event and the site as we known it for the last 15 years would look quite different. I also wouldn't frame the question the way you have because I don't view what's happening as an effort to "erase the Eyes" as much as it's an effort to bring their beef to the attention of the public. In general, I suppose the athletes in almost everything. Full stop. I'm sensitive to every single concern they've raised. I support the athletes. Yet, there's no world where losing half of our business results in anything but horrible things for everyone with the site, so I can't see how I wouldn't care. It feels like kind of a trap door question with a pretty obvious answer.You don’t care if it results in losing more than half of your paying OB customers, you’ll support the athletes to erase the Eyes of Texas.
(Buy) I actually think the two are intertwined at this point. The good news is that I think he's been playing his cards very well in the last couple of weeks. The tricky hurdles are clearly still in front of him and I think we need to acknowledge that a mistake could be made at any point that could make it all unravel because it's 2020 and it's the Year of the Unravel, but it's hard to be critical of anything he's done in the last few weeks from my perspective.B/S: Tom Herman’s navigation of the locker room is more important than his W-L record this season?
(Sell) Nah, I just don't believe that.The 2020 football team will finish no better than 7/5 again due to all the chaos going on and we lose our beloved school song also.
(Buy) I'm pretty scared shitless.The upcoming football season is not a sure thing.
(Buy) Zero hesitation from me if he's healthy.Tommy Brockermeyer is a better college prospect than Walker Little was coming out of high school
(Sell) It's a little crazy to suggest that there's not unrest in locker rooms all over the country. I mean ... I noticed you didn't mention Clemson.Texas is a snowflake and all “football as a business” schools like Alabama and LSU aren’t allowing any distractions?
(Sell) Red Banquet still can't be touched. I had "friends" turning on the Orangebloods staff that night.This is the most divided the fan base has been since you've owned this site.
(Buy) That's kind of hilarious.When this team goes to the playoffs, OB will look like the town at the end of Remember the Titans, and no one will even recall what was the big deal in June 2020.
(Sell) I don't know anything else. It's like asking Quint right before he's eaten by the shark in jaws if he wishes he'd done something other than hunting sharks with his life.You wish you had sold OB and been enjoying life right now instead of dealing with Covid and riots.
(Sell) The TV partners in college football have a funny way of turning the narratives away from these types of stories over time.Race relations and campus politics will be a part of Longhorns football broadcasts all season.
(Sell) I'm going to say just shy of Jamaal when he's done.Bijan Robinson has a career on the forty equal to or better than Jamaal Charles.
(Buy) Oh yeah. Big time.Texas Admin are going to have to walk an incredibly tight rope, in order to appease our players while not pissing off our BMDs.
(Sell) Nah. Not feeling this at all.The undertones of racism the players perceive has affected recruiting in the sense that they share these concerns with recruits, the firing of Charlie is used as an example of the “systemic” racism at Texas, and the top tier of players are being scared away by this. It isn’t worth it to them to try to rebuild a floundering program if the current crop of players feel discriminated against and openly share with recruits.
(Buy) What's an April?You don’t remember the month of April happening at all
No. 9 - The List: Texas Road Games ...
Here's my personal Top 10 favorite/most memorable Texas road games that I have personally attended (bowl games and Texas/OU do not count).
10. 1988 Baylor
It was so cold and windy that mom went and sat in the car for the entire second half. What I remember more from that game is that Baylor partly won it because of a kickoff that got caught in the wind and blew back the other direction from which it was kicked, which Baylor recovered as an amazingly bizarre onside kick.
9. 1989 Houston
Andre Ware, folks.
8. 1992 Baylor
The Grant Teaff Retirement game.
7. 1997 Baylor
They tore the goal posts down after beating a 4-7 team.
6. 1984 Baylor
My first Texas game to attend in person.
5. 1999 Texas A&M
It's hard to explain, you would have needed to be there.
4. 2005 Oklahoma State
The magic of that 2005 team has never been more evident. OSU basketball players were talking smack in the stands at halftime and went running for cover in the third quarter like a bunch of busters.
3. 2004 Arkansas
I've only done the Arkansas road trip one. That was enough.
2.1995 Texas A&M
The most important pre-2004 game of the Texas program during my lifetime. There was a riot on the field after the game.
1. 2005 Ohio State
The most classless, rude, garbage people I have ever met in my life live in Columbus, Ohio.
No.10 - And finally...
I read about this over the weekend from the Times in the UK about what a couple of soccer clubs are considering in an effort to get fans in the stands.
Would you be down for this?
According to the Times, one possibility is the employment of ‘COVID-19 passports’, with fans taking a short test for coronavirus in the buildup to games and being given a laminate to allow entry if they are proven negative.
Two clubs are said to have held meetings with Hong Kong company PTG Pharmaceuticals, who claim to be able to provide 1.8 million tests per day, using a pinprick of blood to identify antigens.
Known as Quantum Dot, this test takes 20 minutes to produce results, and the plan would be for testing stations to be open at stadiums 72 hours before a game.
This would provide those involved with as close to a guarantee as possible that those attending would not be infected, with temperature checks also required before entry on matchday.
However, while this sounds like an ideal scenario, and could accelerate the return of fans to Premier League games, the cost and time required to conduct tests are held up as issues.
“Implementation would cost about £30 per supporter per game. The bill would be footed by clubs, fans or sponsors—or a combination of the three,” Jonathan Northcroft writes.
“It is also estimated that getting every fan through the match-day tests and disinfectant turnstiles would take two hours, based on a 50,000-capacity stadium with multiple entry points and a modern layout.”