The 2009 Bum Steer Awards

January 2009By Comments

Clemens: Corbis

We knew it was going to be a Bum Steers kind of year when, right off the bat in January, Harris County district attorney Chuck Rosenthal was found to be using his official e-mail account to send sexist and racist jokes and pornographic videos. OMG! LOL! Then the mayor of Alice resigned after news broke that she had stolen a tiny dog named Puddles from her neighbors and lied about it for months. What a shih tzu storm! And the fun was just beginning: Lance Armstrong was shocked by his own water bill; Mark Cuban was coldcocked by the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Longhorns were knocked out of the Big 12 championship by a computer; and the Texan in the White House was clocked with a 20 percent approval rating, the lowest in history. Heckuva job, Bushie!

But nothing compared with the enhanced performance turned in by our Bum Steer of the Year: Roger Clemens. Here’s the dope: Not long ago, the former Longhorns and Astros star was a legitimate candidate for best pitcher in the history of the universe. Then Major League Baseball’s Mitchell Report identified him as a steroid user. Batter up! Huffing and puffing, Clemens traveled to Washington, where members of Congress found his protestations so unpersuasive they asked the FBI to investigate him for perjury. Strike one! Faced with damning testimony from Yankee southpaw Andy Pettitte, Clemens first discredited his longtime friend and then implied that the drugs had been for his wife. Strike two! And just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had carried on a long-term affair with singer Mindy McCready that had started when she was fifteen years old. Yer outta here! And you’re our Bum Steer—make that Bum Steeroid—of the Year.

We’re Number One, Not Two, Not Three, Not Four! We’re Gonna Win, Not Lose, Not Tie The Score! We’re on Top, Not Bottom, Not In Between! We’re Going To Violently Slaughter Our Opponents As Part of This Routine! A cheerleading skit during a September pep rally at Nacogdoches High School simulated the execution-style slaying of players from a rival school.

Warning: Side Effects May Include Drowsiness, Itchy Palms, And Career Loss Harris County district attorney Chuck Rosenthal resigned after news broke that he had deleted more than 2,500 e-mails subpoenaed in a federal civil rights lawsuit. Officials later determined that Rosenthal had used his official e-mail account to share racist jokes and sexually explicit videos, send campaign messages, and write love notes to his assistant, all of which he attributed to being under the influence of prescription drugs.

In an Attempt To Prevent This From Happening Again, Hot Wings And $6 Pitchers Of Domestic Draft Will Now Be Served at Snack Time A five-year-old boy at a Denton day care facility asked for permission to use the rest room, whereupon he slipped out of the building and wandered to a Hooters restaurant half a mile away.

Ceaze And Dezizt In a year marred by an expensive fight to fend off a Microsoft takeover, an enormous earnings drop, and plans for big layoffs, Internet giant Yahoo still managed to find time to instigate legal action for trademark infringement against Yahooz, a Tyler-based chain of three drive-through coffee shops built to resemble giant hats.

Rebels Without A Clue The Southern Legal Resource Center filed a suit on behalf of Burleson teens Ashley Thomas and Aubrie McAllum, who felt that Burleson ISD had violated their rights by banning them from carrying purses displaying the Confederate battle flag in school.

I Don’t Know. Will We Still Call You the Grand Dragon? A vendor at the Republican state convention, held in Houston last June, sold buttons posing the question: “If Obama is President . . . will we still call it The White House?”

Thank God It Wasn’t Jock Itch Jorge Espinal, of Fort Worth, shot himself attempting to use a revolver to scratch his back.

Take Heart, Anjali: With Your Brains And Work Ethic, You’ll Never Get Stuck Working at the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD Despite the fact that Anjali Datta had graduated in three years and had the highest grade-point average in school history, Grapevine-Colleyville ISD administrators refused to name her the valedictorian of Grapevine High (and grant her the corresponding scholarship) because school district policy states that the valedictorian must be the student with the highest four-year GPA.

He Thought Pat Wanted A Shiner When Austin country singer Pat Green asked a Michigan concert audience, “Anyone got a beer?” a crowd member threw a can of suds onstage, hitting Green between the eyes and knocking him unconscious.

Matched Only By Its Disdain For the Environment Streak A study by trade magazine Waste News found that Houston recycles only 2.6 percent of its solid waste, lowest among the nation’s thirty largest cities, a fact Mayor Bill White attributed to the city’s “independent streak.”

It Mustard Been An Inside Job, But We’ll Hope For A Hero Who Won’t Loaf, Who Will Find Those Turkeys And Toast Their Buns, And When The Law Does Ketchup And The Cell Door Salamis Shut, The Caper’s Perpetrators Will Swiss They Were Somewhere Else. They’ll Be Bacon For Mercy. So Lettuce Reflect On This: Mayo Never Find Yourself In A Similar Pickle A Subway employee dressed as a giant sandwich was assaulted by three youths outside the Flower Mound restaurant where he was waving to passing motorists. The youths tackled the helpless mascot, stole his costume, and fled in a getaway car.

In the Final Urinalysis, It Was Money Piss-poorly Spent The State of Texas shelled out $3 million last year on a brand-new program to test 10,407 high school athletes for performance-enhancing drugs. Two kids tested positive.

Oy Holy Night For a White House Hanukkah reception George and Laura Bush sent Jewish leaders across the country invitations featuring a Christmas tree.

Or Give Them a Clothing Allowance for Fishnets After Cleveland teacher Laurie Ann Lewis was busted for prostitution by Houston police, her next-door neighbor told the Houston Chronicle, “It makes me wonder if we ought to pay our teachers more.”

Same Shih Tzu, Different Day The owners of a shih tzu named Puddles were heartbroken when their friend Grace Saenz-Lopez, then the mayor of Alice, called to tell them the dog, which they had left with her while they went on vacation, had died. Three months later, they discovered that Saenz-Lopez’s new pet, Panchito, was really Puddles.

“You Know, I Think I’m Really Getting Over My Fear Of Snakes” Jackie Bibby, of Dublin, set the world record for “most rattlesnakes with human in bathtub” by sitting in a glass tank fully clothed for 45 minutes with 87 rattlers, which was 12 more than the previous record, also set by Bibby.

That or He Was Just Done Bathing After a poisonous African bush viper went missing from its enclosure at Moody Gardens, in Galveston, only to be found on a ledge near an entrance to the visitors center a week later by a window-washing crew, animal husbandry manager Greg Whittaker surmised that the venomous snake had been stolen by someone who “got cold feet and brought it back.”

Why Don’t We Get Drunk (And Screw Jody Rosen) After a reader tipped him off to the fact that an article about Jimmy Buffett in the Bulletin, a Montgomery County newsweekly, had copied many paragraphs from his own Buffett profile, Slate’s Jody Rosen looked into the matter and discovered that, over a three-year period, dozens of pieces in the Bulletin had been whole or partial copies of previously published work from other periodicals, leading him to wonder, “In purely statistical terms, do the articles in the Montgomery County Bulletin amount to the greatest plagiarism scandal in the annals of American journalism?”

Now Her Political Career’s Runnin’ On Empty Carrollton mayor Becky Miller lost her bid for reelection after the Dallas Morning News ran a story that exposed major details of her biography as fiction, including her boast that she was a former backup vocalist for Jackson Browne, whose representatives told the paper that he had never heard of Miller.

“Eighteen Billion Twenties Will Be Fine” Charles Ray Fuller was arrested in Fort Worth after attempting to cash a fraudulent check for $360 billion.

Dude, Quit Bogarting The Cranium Kingwood teenager Kevin Wade Jones Jr. told police that he and two accomplices dug up a corpse from a graveyard and used its skull as a marijuana pipe.

But the Ancestors of Ignorant Judges Got Here Fine The Commission on Judicial Conduct ordered Fort Worth County court at law judge Brent Keis to take racial and gender sensitivity classes after he declared from the bench that African Americans were “bigger and stronger athletes because weak slaves were thrown overboard and never made it to the Americas.”

Two, Four, Six, Eight, Looks Like We Might Suffocate! Twenty-six teenage girls attending a cheerleading camp at the University of Texas at Austin last summer got stuck in a dormitory elevator while trying to see how many of them it would hold.

Unfortunately, His Head Was The Voters’ Biggest Concern A mailer for congressional candidate Dean Hrbacek, of Sugar Land, included a doctored photo showing the candidate with a slimmer body.

Can You Hear Me Now? A 23-year-old Collin County man fleeing police stripped naked, climbed a cell phone tower in Lowry Crossing, and spent seven hours on his perch before a negotiator talked him down.

Lessor Shall Furnish Balls The new tenant of a Fort Worth apartment called police after he found what he believed were human hands in his freezer, but the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office determined that they were animal testicles frozen inside surgical gloves.

That Good Old Baylor Lyin’ To raise the freshman class’s test score average and improve the school’s ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s annual rating of U.S. colleges, Baylor University sought to entice incoming, already admitted freshmen to retake the SAT by offering them a $300 credit at the campus bookstore.

That’s the Last Time He’ll Be Faking and Entering Trying to brush off a bill collector’s call, a homeowner in Bedford answered the phone, “Sorry, I’m breaking into this house.” The bill collector tipped off police, who showed up at the home a short time later.

He’s Ideal for the Inappropriations Committee State representative Borris Miles, of Houston, was indicted in April on charges stemming from an incident in which he crashed a holiday party at the St. Regis Hotel, flashed a pistol, threatened the host, and forcibly kissed a married woman on the mouth.

They Were, However, Liberally Dosed With Toll House Morsels In a case that made headlines worldwide, Lake Worth police were forced to drop felony charges against eighteen-year-old Christian Phillips after exhaustive lab tests showed that the cookies Phillips had delivered to the police station as part of his court-ordered community service were not laced with marijuana and LSD, as the cops had claimed.

The Golden Gloves Gave Him Away Former World Boxing Association middleweight champ Reggie Johnson, of Houston, was charged with the theft of between $100,000 and $200,000 in grant money that was intended to sponsor boxing camps for children displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

And Most Were Habitually Truant Throughout June, July, and August Administrators at Frenship High School, near Lubbock, removed the photos of some male students from the school’s yearbook because the school asserted that the boys’ long hair violated the dress code, but the photos had been taken during summer vacation.

So Did She Ever Find Out? Juan Carlos Rivas alleged that he had been abducted, beaten, and held against his will, but El Paso police ultimately arrested him for making a false report after he confessed that he’d faked the assault by striking his own head against the side of a car and pouring transmission fluid over himself and that he’d cooked up the whole story because he was afraid his wife would find out that he had been out partying all night.

Shows Him For Leaving Behind That Kitty Porn After moving into a new apartment, an Austin woman noticed that her cat was preoccupied with an area above the kitchen pantry; after she found that it held a stash of child pornography, she called the police, who traced the material to the previous tenant, Luis Jimenez, whom they arrested.

They Were Protecting The Student Body From The Student’s Body Finding Marche Taylor’s dress too revealing, officials at Madison High School, in Houston, barred her from entering the school’s senior prom, and when she objected, they called the police, who took her away in handcuffs.

He’ll Never Get Into the Madison High School Senior Prom Seventy-four-year-old Lawrence “Poppy” Vincent, a coach at Bracken Christian School, in Bulverde, was arrested in a San Antonio park for indecent exposure while wearing women’s underwear and clutching a Bible.

In Fairness, He Did Order It to Go Austin fireman Michael Pooler was fired for stopping to place an order at a burger joint before responding to an emergency medical call.

Fortunately, There Were No Injuries to the Passenger, Doug Dickwad After Burleson police were called to the scene of a one-vehicle accident in which a truck had crashed into a house, DUI charges were filed against the driver, Bryan Scott Moron.

No, but Getting Caught Is Ty McDonald, a columnist for the Daily Toreador, the Texas Tech University student newspaper, was forced to resign after the editorial board found that he had passed off material as his own in two columns, including a piece titled “Plagiarism Is Not a Sin.”

On the Plus Side, the Few Surviving Roaches Left Voluntarily Battling a roach infestation, Galvestonian Patricia Espiricueta set off five bug foggers in her house but failed to heed warning label instructions to extinguish all pilot lights beforehand. The explosion blew the roof off her home.

Jessica Simpson Saw Her And Said, “Oh, Sorry—I Didn’t Realize I Was Already Sitting There” In an effort to distract Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, the New York Post planted a Jessica Simpson look-alike behind the Cowboys bench in Texas Stadium for the NFC divisional playoff game between the Cowboys and the New York Giants, which New York won, 21–17.

But He Continues To Invest Heavily In The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Dallas billionaire and NBA bad boy Mark Cuban with insider trading for dumping 600,000 shares in the Internet search company Mamma .com just hours after receiving a confidential phone call from the company’s CEO detailing a private investment plan that would effectively lower the stock price.

They Had No Immaculate Enrollment Plan LeVern Jordan, the co-founder of Parkway Christian School, in Spring, was the target of a sting by a local news crew who secretly recorded him soliciting sex from a woman in exchange for waiving the registration fees for her daughter.

At Least He Put It First on the Docket State district judge Robert Dry set a hearing for convicted murderer Charles Hood’s appeal for two days after Hood’s scheduled execution date.

Yeah, But Tomorrow Lubbock Will Be Sober and Still Won’t Spell Worth a Damn A story on the Web site of Men’s Health magazine naming Austin, San Antonio, and Lubbock among the ten most dangerously drunk cities in the country was headlined “The Sobbering Truth.”

It’s Hard to Brush Your Teeth When You’re Drunk A story in Men’s Health ranked Lubbock last among one hundred cities examined in a survey of dental health.

Daa-aad! Stephanie Martinez was surprised when, during an attempted burglary of the Denton pizza restaurant where she worked, another employee violently subdued the robber, sending his wig-and-sunglasses disguise flying and revealing him to be Martinez’s father, Benjamin Ramirez.

Country First John McCain volunteer Ashley Todd, of College Station, reported to the Pittsburgh police that she had been robbed by a black man who, upon seeing a McCain sticker on her car, proceeded to carve the letter B into her cheek with a knife. Under questioning, she confessed that she had made up the entire story, which helped explain why the B was backward, as if carved by someone looking in a mirror.

Counselor Needs To Get Out More Often After a humiliating incident at Lubbock International Airport during which TSA screeners insisted she remove her nipple rings before boarding a flight, Mandi Hamlin hired publicity-hound attorney Gloria Allred, who held a press conference and declared, “The last time that I checked, a nipple was not a dangerous weapon.”

So That’s The Secret The children of Nell and Wallace Crain saw a photograph in the San Antonio Express-News on January 28, 2008, of their elderly parents, accompanied by a story in which the old couple shared their secrets for a happy marriage. The Crains had died in 2007.

All Opposed To Showing Her Mercy Say, “Neigh!” Corsha Beasley was arrested outside a bar on Austin’s Sixth Street, where police had been called to break up a raucous crowd; after refusing a mounted officer’s order to move along, she pulled off her shoe and smacked the officer’s horse in the head with it.

Wastestrong An Austin American-Statesman survey of the biggest local residential water users revealed that Lance Armstrong consumed more than 7,430 gallons per day, 26 times more than the average area homeowner.

Or Steal a Car. Whatever’s Easiest Wanted for murder, Cristobal Jaimes, of Dallas, called 911 to give himself up, but the operator told him he’d have to find his own way to jail and suggested he take the bus.

Sign Him Up! A brawl erupted after a wedding reception in a Galveston hotel, resulting in several people being arrested, including the bride’s father, her brother, and Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe, a friend of the bride’s family, who was punched twice in the face by a police officer.

He Still Couldn’t Carry Palestine An October poll by University of Texas government professors showed that 23 percent of Texans thought that Barack Obama, a practicing Christian who speaks often about his faith, was really a Muslim.

Luckily, The Muslim Has a Plan The latest Census Bureau report tabulating the number of citizens without health insurance showed that Texas again led the nation, with 24.8 percent uninsured.

Okay, but She Still Dominates in The 49.9375-Yard Event Texas A&M University swimmer Triin Aljand’s NCAA record in the 50-yard freestyle was disallowed when the Aggies’ state-of-the-art pool, which has a movable bulkhead allowing it to be configured at different lengths, was measured after the race and found to be set an inch short.

Explains Why The Sheets Were So Sticky Fellowship Church pastor Ed Young preached to his Grapevine congregation from a king-size bed for a sermon encouraging married couples to have sex every day for a week, claiming that “sex is like Super Glue.”

1: Locate Floor 2: Place Feet on Floor 3: Remain Upright Capital Metro transit, of Austin, paid an advertising agency $4,990 to create bus placards instructing riders how to stand while the bus is moving.

$10K a Month in This Economy? Have We Got a Job For You! According to the Texas attorney general’s office, for almost two years Brian Brumfield, of Houston, made at least $10,000 a month in a “badge fraud” scheme, billing companies for advertisements in bogus publications purporting to raise money for the families of fallen lawmen.

Sixty-nine Percent Felt It Was Unfair to The Effluent Thirty-one percent of voters approved of an initiative placed on the ballot in San Francisco by critics of the president to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.

Another Satisfied Haltom’s Customer A customer at Haltom’s, a jewelry store in Fort Worth, brought in a 4-carat, $60,000 diamond ring to be cleaned but left with a 7.4-carat, $121,000 ring mistakenly given to her by a store employee.

How to Win Friends and Influence Teammates After Texas Rangers closer C. J. Wilson’s statements in an ESPN interview about his teammates’ general lack of political knowledge offended starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, McCarthy posted a rebuttal in the comments thread of a blog post on, to which Wilson posted this reply: “Come on man you have to admit the median or average guy in a baseball clubhouse does drive an SUV, drinks beer, golfs, likes college sports, chews or dips tobacco and is relatively a douchebag.”

They Were Going To Send Him Back To the Land Of Criminal Masterminds For several years, Saúl Espinoza, of Boerne, posed as an illegal immigrant to avoid arrest warrants issued under his real name. He confessed to the truth when agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement sought to deport him.

It Is Said the Devout Were Able to See the Savior’s Nose Bleed Bernardino Garcia-Cordova was arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs into Laredo from Mexico after a drug-sniffing dog alerted on Garcia-Cordova’s statue of Jesus, which turned out to be molded from six pounds of cocaine.

Bats: “We Understand It’s A Business” Laredo’s minor league baseball team, the Broncos, obtained pitcher John Odom, of the Calgary Vipers, in a trade for ten maple baseball bats.

Because Nothing Says “Friday Night Lights” Like An Order of Ana-Kyu-Maki The concessions at Southlake Carroll High School’s Dragon Stadium now feature a grass-skirted tiki hut that serves sushi.

Is That Where The Term “Subpoena” Comes From? Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, representing a man charged with indecent exposure, called an expert witness to testify that his client’s private parts were too small to have been seen by the arresting officer.

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