What a Bummer! It was supposed to be a great year for Texas. It started out as a birthday celebration, the 150 th anniversary of the republic, but ended up more like a funeral. How bad was 1986? UT had its first losing football season in thirty years, and Fred Akers got fired. Texas had its first losing season 150 years—for the first time, more people moved out than moved in—and Mark White got fired.
This was the year of the red tide and the black plague—black gold, that is. The price of a barrel of oil dropped below $10 in April, and the rig count fell to an all-time low of 663 in July. The collapse of oil left an empty feeling in Houston, where 72 high-rise office buildings were totally vacant, and in Dallas, where a $7 million spec house went begging. Times were so tough that in San Antonio, mayor Henry Cisneros came home from another day of promoting economic growth to find that Fox Photo had laid off his wife.
To make matters worse, 1986 was an election year. Mark White’s primary opponent called him “nerd” and a “scumball,” White called Comptroller Bob Bullock “Chicken Little,” Bullock called White “Foxy Woxy,” and we elected the meanest of them all, Bill Clements. Teachers blew a fuse because they were forced to take competency tests, which 97 per cent of them passed and the rest were able to take again. It wasn’t our year in sports either. The Rockets and the Astros came close, but in the end everybody in Boston and New York got to remind us about those “Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers.
With so much to choose from, it wasn’t easy to single out a Bum Steer of the Year worthy of succeeding such past