Conner's Burnt Orange Glasses: Arkansas State

Berkley Breathed, University of Texas alumni and political cartoonist, made headlines like a corduroy pillow this week. Breathed, who began his career at the Daily Texan, wrote and drew the widely-syndicated cartoon Bloom County, which gave us the sweet, wise, clueless, and correct-despite-himself character Opus the Penguin.

For more than a decade in the 80's and early 90's, Breathed gleefully satirized politics, religion, social mores, and pop culture with a memorable cast of characters including the smart-alec youngster Milo, precocious science prodigy Oliver, wheel chair-bound Cutter John, and misogynistic pig Steve Dallas, who was originally based on a prototypical U.T. frat boy.

After making a Barry Sanders-like retirement at the peak of his career, Breathed now does a Sunday-only version of his strip, renamed Opus. Last week, Breathed was at it again, having one of Steve Dallas' old flames show up in a floral-print burka, announcing that she had converted to Islam for reasons that made me smile, but probably not Muhammad. Then, like the craven, castrated, gutless cowards they are, several major newspapers refused to run the cartoon, which was potentially offensive to Muslims. Problem is, Breathed satirized Jerry Falwell's death a few weeks earlier (which was potentially offensive to Christians), and nobody even blinked.

When archaeologists dig up our society twenty thousand years from now, they won't remember Britney Spears' even-a-crack-whore-would-be-embarrassed bad parenting, California's curious let's-elect-a-horribly-accented-former-steroid-abusing-bodybuilder-and-porn-star-turned-bad-action-movie-guy governor, or even the fact we were so culturally stoned we actually gave an Oscar to Kim Basinger. They will remember our Constitution and, in particular, our Bill of Rights, the First Amendment to which guarantees freedom of speech and the press.

I know, I know. Technically, the First Amendment prevents only Congress from censoring speech. Newspapers are businesses, free to print or not print whatever they think will generate more advertising revenue. Well, I say you can't have it both ways, you where-the-hell-were-you-when-they-were-selling-us-this-war dinosaurs. If you hide behind the First Amendment to make your occupation a sacred public trust, protect reporters' sources, and save you from libel laws, you can't come to the table with unclean hands. This spineless, pathetic, craven cowardice toward Muslims, masquerading as political correctness, nauseates me to the point of revulsion. If the First Amendment teaches us anything, it's that everybody and anything is a potential target, and nothing is so sacred as to be above ridicule. If Islam is a legitimate religion, then it is subject to the exact same rules as Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, Jews, evangelical Christians, or Hindus, all of whom have and will be fair game for satire, mockery, general finger-pointing-and-snickering, and an occasional Saturday Night Live skit. Just because a religion makes some of its adherents obsessive, crazy, stupid, dangerous, women-hating fiends doesn't mean it's beyond criticism.

Ask Tom Cruise.

Speaking of talent-less, joyless, effeminate, know-it-all, anti-social hypocrites, the NCAA still appears to be on the … uhm … warpath against Native American school mascots. Pity the poor Arkansas State Indians. They're a fine school as far as these things go, and they wanted nothing more than to be left alone by the NCAA's fascist do-gooder medieval Crusade which wants to convert them to a "right" way of thinking at a figurative spear point.

We have brave soldiers being blown to pieces in Iraq, innocent kids stepping on land mines in Afghanistan, murderous scumbags killing indiscriminately in Darfur, and rampant crime, poverty, hopelessness, and drug use in America's inner cities. Our solution? We stand idly by while a powerful, well-funded bureaucracy (so grotesquely incompetent at it's primary duty it can't stop O.U. from conveniently looking the other way while their alumni yet again pay star athletes for jobs they didn't perform) car-jacks innocent institutions like tiny McMurray College in Abilene. It's like a U.S. prosecutor ignoring Enron, the Mob, and a black tar heroin dope ring while going after a guy spraying his back yard with insecticide that says, "Misuse of this product violates federal law." The last time I saw so much time, energy, and self-righteous chest-thumping put into something that will actually improve life on this planet so little was Al Gore's Antarctica concert on Earth Day.

The fact that Arkansas State has not yet caved in to the NCAA's mascot-changing bullying makes me respect them, but the play of their terrific quarterback Leonard and fast, agile secondary makes me respect them even more. Talk about walking right into a Little Big Horn. The Indians gave my beloved, might, fighting Longhorns all they wanted and then some Saturday night.

I had a bad feeling about things just walking into D.K.R. I know they're doing the best they can with the north end zone construction and all, but seeing those huge cranes and half-poured concrete made me feel like I had dropped in on somebody who wasn't expecting company.

It seemed like everything was a little off kilter. Colt missed a wide-open Limas three times, the counter zone read and bubble screen still don't work, our defensive ends over-pursued, we are apparently incapable of throwing the ball on first down, and our linebackers looked a step slow all night. Even the officials struggled, ruling one of Colt's deflected forward passes a fumble. The head-scratching call was thankfully reversed just before halftime, but when have you ever seen a fumble fly forward fifteen yards?

Regarding the game, you will see what you want to see. Those of you hating Greg Davis now have fresh ammunition. The debates about the physical limitations of our starting linebacker corps can begin anew. Sunshine pumpers will happily cogitate ways to spin this close game against a mediocre non-B.S.C. school into a positive learning experience for the young players on the team.

Truth is, I don't think I learned much about this year's model of the Longhorns this week. We could be on a steep learning curve, or we could be one of the most underperforming teams ever to step onto D.K.R. sod. It's simply too early to call. But, as we say with all things related to Greg Davis, it could have been worse. On a day when South Bend looked bewildered, Ann Arbor hung its head in shame, and Blacksburg openly wept, Austin crawled away with a win.

And that always counts for something.

Hook ‘em.

Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at

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