The destiny of 1996 should have been clear on January 1. That was the day Texans became legally entitled to carry concealed handguns—and we spent the rest of the year shooting ourselves in the foot. Presidential candidate Phil Gramm tried out a TV ad on a focus group in New Hampshire and got the response, “Thank God for the mute button.” Two state legislators sponsored the “King” of Togo on a charitable fundraising expedition in Central Texas—until, that is, a State Department official pointed out that Togo was not a kingdom and thus was unlikely to have a king. South Texas prayed for rain to end the drought and got hurricanes and flooding. UT, A&M, Tech, and Baylor turned their backs on the Southwest Conference and spent most of the football season getting their backsides kicked in the Big 12.
No one suffered more self-inflicted harm in 1996 than the Dallas Cowboys. Leon Lett was suspended for substance abuse, but for sheer public spectacle, nothing could match Michael Irvin’s performance. Found in a hotel with two topless dancers, sex toys, and 10.3 grams of cocaine, Irvin asked the police, “Do you know who I am?” Alas, they did. He went before the grand jury in a full-length mink coat. At his trial, another dancer testified, “He said that he’d make a touchdown and everyone would love him again.” He struck a plea bargain, but he struck out with the NFL, which suspended him for five games. Michael, you weren’t all you were cracked up to be, and that’s why you’re our Bum Steer of the Year.