Andy Cotton: A Letter To Kevin

There’s only so much sports talk radio (one of the two or three worst things to happen to sports in the past fifty years) I can stand and it’s not much. Still, the format is usually pretty bland swill. So anyway, here I am, innocently stuck in traffic when I happen across The Zone’s Afternoon Show with Chad — absent this day — and my old radio buddy Kevin Dunn.	

The Austin radio media is really a simple creature. Like most simple, small cell organisms, they behave in predictable ways. If nothing earth shattering and stupendously obvious has occurred in the past three hours, they are either a) brown-nosing a coach or team or player b) trying to get a coach fired c) laughing at each others really bad jokes or, finally, the annual blood sport of early winter d) insulting the UT basketball fan. That’s me and I’m pissed!

You guys drove me to a place I never thought I’d reach, which was to call in, but then I got a grip decided to screw it… I have a column!

Consider this one of those trite open letters addressed to Kevin and his posse.


Let me start with a simple premise even radio talk show hosts can, if they really, really try, grasp. Intercollegiate sports are entertainment. Elementary concept, but there you have it. Now I’ll concede that what constitutes "entertainment" is a subjective term. For example, what makes for entertainment on a sleety December night in Stillwater (watching a cow sliding across the Sonic parking lot) or College Station (God can only imagine) or Ames (counting the odd tumbleweed bush as it blows in front of the frat lodge) or for that matter any of a hundred college towns across the breadth of our fair land, does not equate to the same standard we have in Austin (where we don’t have to talk to the operator to connect a phone call). This is a real city where the college is only a part of the complex collage in a metro area of a million people.

Let me put it a different way. A December basketball game against E. Kansas might look like an okay — forget okay, a GREAT! — thing to do for anyone dealt the joker card of having to attend KU, where your apartment’s heat doesn’t work so good and cable is something they have in Kansas City. We can all go down to Allen Field House, take off our shirts, paint our chest a deep blue, drink blackberry brandy and have the sophisticated media in faraway Austin be goo-goo-ga-ga about what great and cool fans those bright looking young Republicans are and why-oh-why can’t UT basketball fans be just like them?

I know this to be true and I’ll tell you why. When I was in high school I couldn’t wait — could not wait I tell you! — for the next swim meet. Why? Because, in the dead of a Chicago winter, in the boring North Shore suburb of Winnetka, there was nothing better to do! This brings us nicely back to premise one.

Today, in a better place, I have more choices. So, yeah, shoot me, I was two of the empty seats that missed the riveting drama that was UT vs. UT-Arlington a couple of weeks ago. My empty seats seemed to be the final straw that sent you over the edge to a place of dangerously frenzied hysteria. You ripped the fans for not being there. The team, for being human and knowing these fellows from UT-Arlington, whatever that is, didn’t belong on the floor with them. So shoot them all for coasting to a 15-point win. And then, for the love of God, you turned on poor, absent Chad for being a safe driver. Indeed, I considered dropping by and sharing my Zanex prescription

In my defense, it was my first miss of the year, but that puts me in an excellent position to tell you, with no equivocation whatsoever, "contests" against Lenoir-Rhyne, Tarleton State, Texas State, Coppin State and the Mean Green Machine of N. Texas rank low — very low — on the entertainment scale. It’s supposed to be fun guys, not a boring obligation like going to grandma’s on Sunday.

The fact 6,000 people will always show up for this watery gruel is a testament to what good fans the Longhorns have, not how bad we are. You boys spent most of your show berating the sorry Texas basketball fan and how Rick and his boys deserve so much better. New flash Kevin, you don’t live in Chapel Hill. I love Rick Barnes, and this is indeed a swell team. But most of the non-conference home schedule has been so dull the past two years, local pediatricians have been considering taking their ADD kids off of Ritalin and sending them to the Erwin Center instead.

Moving forward; I don’t know how many times you harkened back to the good old days when Abe was filling up the Erwin Center. You boys sound like sagacious grizzled vets of the press box when spouting this pabulum, willing to ignore the germane fact Master Dunn was still working out the kinks with his training wheels, maybe his diapers, when Abe was gracing the sidelines at UT. Anybody who insists they remember a full house for SMU is lying or has, regretfully, slipped into senility. I know. I’ve been a season ticket holder since 1978. I was there.

When Texas played Arkansas, the place was full and very loud. The Aggies, a good basketball program back in the day, drew 15,000. Rice, like UT-Arlington, maybe 6,000. Who can ever forget the day Biscayne College came to Austin on Dec 15, 1978? UT fans ran wild out on the Drag in the chaotic aftermath of UT’s 15-point spanking of those clowns from Miami. Kevin, you shoulda been there. You talk about your media frenzy!! Of course, that was nothing compared to the car-tipping, savage revelry rippling through our city when Vermont came to town a few nights later. Lordy, what a rowdy December that was.

The ability to say, ‘No, I’d rather do something else,’ does not make Texas fans indifferent or lazy or stupid or bad basketball fans at all. It shows we have choices, even if it’s doing nothing more than going home and watching television.

And finally there’s the issue of a media driven self-fulfilling prophecy. If we don’t come out and watch and cheer this dreck, (another theme of the show) Barnes is going to leave us and coach somewhere else. Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot for a second, the media never ever makes the news, they just report it. Anyway, I trust he’s smart enough to grasp that if 13,000 Austinites come out to see his team play Texas Tech, hey, that’s not bad. The Erwin Center, never built with basketball as its centerpiece, if a very big place. Too big. 13,000 is a lot of people.

If there’s entertainment value in the product being delivered — duh, a competitive opponent — fans have always come. But we’re not stupid. We can all read a schedule and shudder to see the season will be two months old before the first marginally quality opponent, UNLV, visits the Longhorns' home court.

Finally boys, I’ll pose this one final question. Would you take a similar position with some more airtime up in Stillwater?


How come?


Case closed.

For ten years Andy Cotton wrote the Coach's Corner for the Austin Chronicle, where he was voted Austin's Best Sportswriter three times and was runner up twice. During his tenure at the Chronicle he covered all the major sports including tennis, golf, major league baseball, the NBA and, of course, the University of Texas. He has authored a book on the mini-tours of golf called It's Not Fun… Life Below the Radar of the PGA Tour.

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