Remember Texas vs. The Nation?
By Duke Keith, firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a good look at this picture.
High school football? Nah, that's a bigger draw any night of the week in Texas.
Okay, how about Odessa Permian freshman football? Semi-pro arena league something-or-other? Punt, Pass and Kick competition?
Nope, nope and nope.
Now take a look at the endzone logo in this next picture.
Nation? Stephen Colbert has a football game?!
No! It's Texas vs. The Nation in the Alamodome. Remember, the game is always held the day before the Super Bowl.
'Member? You 'member.
Remember the game's organizer and promoter Kenny Hansmire saying that El Paso disrespected the NFL logo by only bringing 28,000 to the Sun Bowl for last year's game?
If you don't, here's the clip:
Honestly, each part of that whole cheesy spiel made me laugh.
"A certain owner's daughter, and you all can guess who that might be," was good. Did you hear the one about the traveling promoter and the owner's daughter?
The part about the NFL calling him three times was good, too, like Roger Goodell has Hansmire on speed dial.
But the kicker was probably the one about the Pro Football Hall of Fame's logo being disrespected. Like El Paso hocked a loog on Canton's Hallowed Shield and ground it in with its heel. Like, in righteous anger, the football spirits of Mean Joe Greene, John Matuszak and Dick Butkus should then materialize, marauding and pillaging El Paso in slow-motion, NFL Films-style.
After Kenny's knee-jerk reaction he apologized to El Paso, but the damage was clearly done. Kenny then took his beloved Logo and planted it firmly on the Alamodome's field...where it has been promptly ignored by San Antonio and South Texas, as was predicted here last year.
We hate to say we told you so, Kenny, but...
No, wait. We don't hate to say it at all. We told you so.
San Antonio's reaction is exactly what everyone expected. The game worked in El Paso because we don't see a whole lot of large-scale events -- the kind Dallas, San Antonio and Houston see all the time.
But, remember? UTEP basketball was playing an important game in its conference title run that night. Remember? El Pasoans were unsure about the weather.
Getting 28,000-plus under those circumstances is great for El Paso, and should be considered great for any football game that doesn't really matter.
Credit Hansmire for doing lots of heavy lifting to get sponsorship from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, visiting schools, bringing in big names and more. The man is a good promoter.
How good? Check out this piece by WFAA-TV investigative reporter Byron Harris. Harris singles out Hansmire in roughly the last third of the piece.
Wow, not only money from the city and county, but $1.1 million from the state? Harris' story didn't get into El Paso's real economic impact from Texas vs. The Nation, but it was minimal. The straw that might have broken the game's back here was El Paso City Council's insistence -- after Hansmire's outburst -- that public funding would be tied to how many actual hotel rooms were occupied by people here for the event.
Hansmire loved to brag about how Texas vs. The Nation brought the NFL to El Paso -- scouts, assistant general managers and more.
But not only were there few recognizable NFL faces in El Paso hotel lobbies, of those football officials who were here, many in line for the continental breakfast went straight for the Canadian bacon.
And, National or Canadian Football League, there really weren't all that many. With public funding tied to the caveat of actual hotel space rented, the game wouldn't have gotten much.
It still doesn't change that the game was something else to do here. Doesn't change that any national exposure -- whether its CBS for the Sun Bowl or CBS College Sports for Texas vs. The Nation -- is still national exposure.
This wasn't a raw deal for anybody. Until Hansmire made it a raw deal for himself.
If Hansmire thought this game could play in Texas cities east of here -- heck, if he thought it could ever out-grow El Paso -- all he has to do is look at those Alamodome snapshots.
Texas vs. The Nation, which started off in El Paso as the nation's most well-attended college all-star game despite the fact it had no stars, is now dying. You could feel it the moment you heard Hansmire's ill-advised words.
Remember, Kenny? Remember the Alamodome.