Orange Peril

Editor’s Note: The online archives of Texas Monthly preserve content in its original form, as it first appeared in publication. This may include language and subject matter that would not be found in the magazine today.

When Darrell K. Royal’s season on earth has ended and he ascends to the Big Bowl to sit at the right hand of God Almighty, some asshole in orange slacks and white shoes will be waiting to market DKR dolls with orange halos. 

The orange halos are what is known among speculators as the edge. If the University of Texas football team is ranked in the top ten, Orange Mullets can be counted on to swarm the marketplace in search of identity. If not, they can remove the halos and melt the dolls down for ashtrays. It would be very difficult to sell DKR dolls after an 8-3 season: after 7-4, it would be very difficult for DKR even to get into heaven. God don’t sit around in his orange underwear jawing with losers. 

The taste of the consumer must never be overestimated. It is impossible to catalog the number and variety of orange trash or to comprehend the appetites of the Orange Mullets who faithfully purchase the beer mugs, drinking glasses, caps, blazers, Cadillacs, toilet seats, and key chains bearing the colors and logo of the Longhorns, but someone is getting fat and it’s not Darrell. No royalties are paid, not to DKR, not to the athletic department, not even to the University. 

“All we get out of it is mad,” says Jones Ramsey, the UT sports information director. “After our 1963 national championship, this insurance salesman in an orange coat came by and asked me for a team picture, which I gave him. Later, I heard he had it copied and sold them for three bucks a print.” 

The largest selections of orange flotsam can be found in Austin, at the University Co-op and at Rooster Andrews Sporting Goods. Under the catch-line ORANGE FEVER, Rooster Andrews, who in the days of Bobby Layne was known as “the All-American waterboy,” stocks such items as Longhorn coaching caps, helmets, jogging shoes, stocking caps, and carry bags. As the official outfitter of the Longhorns, Rooster can be forgiven his zeal, but it’s still tough on the rest of us. For example, the Hill Country Middle School requires its students to wear blue or red (the school colors) gym shorts in physical education classes, but you can’t buy blue or red gym shorts in Austin. Even the street signs were orange before an Aggie bureaucrat decided to switch to more readable green and white. I fully expect to walk into Rylander’s someday during football season and see orange lettuce.  

For the intellectually inclined there are at least three dozen record albums and half a dozen books extolling DKR and his young students. At least Aggie joke books are funny.  

The manager of Rooster Andrews, Ron Habitzreiter, detects a cooling down of orange fever, especially in Austin. “Most of our orders come from Houston and Dallas,” he says. “There is an indication that the consumers in Austin are being oranged to death.” Six years ago a San Antonio record company consigned to the sporting goods firm an album called Legend of the Longhorns. All but a dozen copies are still in stock. I listened to the album and I promise it will make you cry.  

By far the best of the DKR books is one that Royal and Dallas Times Herald sports editor Blackie Sherrod (“The Best Sportswriter in Texas,” TM, December 1975) collaborated on in 1963. It’s called Darrell Royal Talks Football, but the only thing dreary about the book is its title. What DKR really talks about is red beans and how ol’ ugly is better than ol’ nothing and why the sun don’t shine on the same ol’ dog’s ass every day and how when that big scorekeeper finally comes to write against your name all he really wants to know is who won. DKR has a marvelous gift for the shit-kicker metaphor, but no small amount of credit for the book belongs to Sherrod, who made up some of the best quotes, such as: “Our faces were so long we could have eaten oats out of a churn.” Vintage Sherrod. 

“When Darrell first read the galleys of our book he called me and said it was amazing how much it sounded like him,” Blackie recalled recently. “I pointed out that he didn’t invent all those Will Rogers quotes.” 

Another thing DKR never said, though it has been attributed to him dozens of times, is: “Every coach likes those old trained pigs who’ll grin and jump right in the slop for him.” Dan Jenkins retouched this one for Sports Illustrated, or so it is claimed. DKR still bristles when he reads it, and his wife Edith to this day groups Jenkins with Lee Harvey Oswald and Charles Manson. According to DKR’s version, he said slot, not slop. Slot refers to that narrow chute steers tread enroute to auction or slaughter; it is also a football expression used to indicate that fleshy caldron at the heart of a scrimmage line so in favor with blood-crazed linebackers. “Slop doesn’t make any sense,” he claims. But it obviously made sense to Jenkins and to many others who have repeated it over the years. 

Understandably, DKR is thin-skinned about his slick image. It is his white plume and his meal ticket as well. A lot of mamas in Jasper and Dime Box didn’t appreciate it at all when he described the game of football as “meat on meat, flesh on flesh, and stink on stink.” The TCU football team was less than flattered when he compared them to a cockroach — “It isn’t what he eats or totes off but what he falls into and messes up.” 

The latest contribution to Orange literature, if the term can

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