The bar was set pretty high even before last year’s Bum Steers cover was named one of seven winners in the American Society of Magazine Editors’ annual Best Cover Contest. I mean, honestly: How to top Dick Cheney with a scowl and a shotgun? It’s not as if there was an obvious worthy choice to succeed the veep as Bum Steer of the Year—and certainly there was no image as clever and uproarious (to us) as our National Lampoon homage. But time marches on, and as it did, we got increasingly dispirited. Al Gonzales? Boring. (And sad.) The “Book ’Em” Longhorns? A little too easy. Karl Rove? Ewwwww. Eventually we settled on what would have been a generic BSOTY: a steer presented in mug shot form, a nod to stupid criminals, corrupt pols, and, yes, Burnt Orange—clad student-athletes who spent less time in the backfield than in the back of a squad car. Yawn! If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll shoot … ourselves?
Fortunately, as often happens, the Aggies rode to the rescue. It’s an article of faith around here that when we want people to buy us and read us, a handful of cover subjects are as close to sure things as exist: Big Bend, barbecue, Willie Nelson, Mexican food, and anything related to Texas A&M—good or bad. In this case, the cavalry arrived in the form of Dennis Franchione, whose tenure as the Aggies’ football coach seemed destined to come to a crashing end as soon as the last whistle of the season had been blown. We had our cover boy. At one point, it was rumored that Coach Fran would be sacked with a few games left to play—not true, it turned out, though we still sprung into action. We eagerly plotted a photo illustration featuring Fran and the Aggies’ snarling mascot, Reveille. All we needed was for the Ags to continue their downward spiral.
Unfortunately, as often happens, the Longhorns gave us a scare. (Best joke I heard all year, courtesy of my pal Danny Gillespie: What do Billy Graham