For the record, my favorite Bum Steers cover is from way back in 1976. It features Governor Dolph Briscoe smiling and waving from a herd of cattle with the line “Find the Bum Steer in This Picture.” I realize it’s not the most original joke or the smartest image—it’s entirely possible that I’m the only one who finds it funny—but its tone has always struck me as just right when it comes to capturing the spirit of the Bum Steers issue.
My first Bum Steers cover as an employee at texas monthly didn’t come until 21 years later. You may recall when Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin was arrested for allegedly possessing cocaine around the time when those “Got Milk?” advertisements were showing up everywhere with celebrities sporting milk mustaches. We took an official team photo of Irvin wearing his uniform and holding a football and added a white streak over his lip. The type read, “Mike, where did you get your mustache?”
What both of these covers have in common is that the punch lines are instantly clear and the subjects, despite their shortcomings, were people who fascinated us. I grew up a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, and despite my love for Irvin—he won three Super Bowl titles, after all—I laughed out loud the first time I saw his Bum Steer of the Year cover.
Wendy Davis now joins this illustrious club, one that is filled with politicians—Briscoe, yes, but also Rick Perry and Dick Cheney and Ross Perot. All of these individuals were of profound consequence to the state, and the magazine covered their careers extensively (Davis, for her part, was named one of our ten best state legislators in 2013). But they are also easy to poke fun at. Given the unsolicited suggestions that have come my way over the past few weeks about who should be the Bum Steer of the Year—the most frequently mentioned nominees were Wendy Davis, the Democrats, and Battleground Texas—I don’t think we were off base.
The responsibility of naming the Bum Steer of the Year and selecting the items that make up this year’s article falls to a small group of immensely talented and funny staff writers and editors, including David Courtney (a.k.a. the Texanist), Jeff Salamon, and Andrea Valdez, with a huge assist from Austin copywriter Rich Malley, who pores over hundreds of possible stories for the perfect amount of je ne steer quoi. Our work may be done for this issue, but it’s never too early to start taking suggestions for next year.