The creation of the Longhorn Network hasn't just offered Texas fans an entertainment outlet for Longhorn programming, but a chance to indulge what has proven to our true off-season entertainment: watching A&M's brass and many of their fans puzzle through its implications in real-time.
Texas A&M AD Bill Byrne, typically more concerned with A&M's elite competitive mutton assessment teams and cricket and bat plagues than driving revenue, was initially totally dismissive of the network (they'll never be able to find programming), then unsure, then - are they really actually doing this? - and finally distraught by his own lack of imagination in understanding how popular schools can drive revenue by owning production, scooping up niche content, and capitalizing on cultural loyalty. Watching UT partner ESPN ram the Longhorn Network down cable subscriber's throats with well-orchestrated marketing and opportunistic programming decisions has been a quick lesson for Bill.
ESPN's launch of ESPN2 is instructive. Their first move was to move their defining anchor Keith Olbermann over to the Deuce (his first words on air: "Welcome to the end of my career"), broadcast Duke-UNC basketball, run several attractive college football games, and force cable affiliates to carry it in response to the barrage from outraged fans. ESPN understands customer pull-through and when that fails, they're happy to push-through.
As for the outrage over Texas broadcasting high school football games, particularly - you know, just coincidentally - those of recruits it covets, that it's just occurring to A&M that we'd use a 24 hour programming presence as a recruiting tool and a means of enforcing cultural dominance is a fascinating view into a certain kind of myopia not usually seen outside of the PRK. I mean, no shit, guys. What were you expecting? Did you think our programming would be Bill Little spoken word poetry for seven hours a day and a Sally Brown book club with equal time offered to A&M for House Hunters International Silsbee?
Now A&M is pining for the SEC again.
A&M has best succeeded when it chooses to see itself as something more than the anti-Texas. Knee jerk opposition is not a coherent philosophy and though it's a useful historical motivator for an underdog, as A&M's academic and athletic profile has grown and its culture has normalized (see the shared disgust by UT & A&M over our governor's plans to turn us into diploma mills), a default reactionary stance has outlived its utility. Aggies are at their best when Aggies are secure and self-confident. Aggies are rarely those things when Texas is seen lording another perceived advantage over them.
Right now the SEC make-believe is being trotted out again to soothe feelings of inadequacy in a conference where Texas is perceived to call the shots, may be gearing up for its own run at independence, or will be one of the major shot callers in future super-conferences. The SEC seduction is being replayed to let Aggies feel that they're still desirable. Even in their housecoat.
The inescapable truth for both Texas and Texas A&M is that we find ourselves trapped in an unappealing league, whose national profile is ACC at best, stinks of the small time, and neither fan base should be particularly happy. Somehow, lost in all of the revenue and marketing chatter, is the fact that fans want to see good games played by good teams in exciting locations.
If A&M sees more culturally in common with Mississippi St than the University of Washington, Starkville than Seattle, then why bind us any longer? The internal tension is, of course, that there are many Aggies - precisely the ones you won't see crying on the internet - who see the downside of the SEC in terms of academic affiliation, shady recruiting, and general ill repute.
Read this fantastic piece of wordsmithing from A&M's Scout site:
First, for those ready to take to the streets in celebration, let me say that it is unlikely anything regarding realignment or acceptance of an SEC offer will happen in the near future. First of all, while there has been a shift in the winds in terms of certain Texas A&M officials now willing to entertainment the idea of at least analyzing the SEC option, I think some inside sources have misinterpreted the change in tone to mean that a decision has been made to join the SEC. To my knowledge based on the lack of response from certain internal sources, I’d have to say that there is not an eminent deal …but there has been a change in thought and mindset from some of the decision makers.
Two firsts in back to back sentences, entertainmenting ideas, an eminent deal, shifting winds of tone, and a paragraph of hedging euphemistic babble that could have been expressed thusly: A&M isn't going to the SEC in the near future, despite what you may be hearing.
The writing arguably gets no better from there, but the information is good and gives you some insight into the Aggie mindset. Sandhop contends that A&M is sticking around, but preparing itself.
TexAgs' Billy Liucci chimes in with a differing perspective that's actually less rhetorically sophisticated, as it finds him igniting matches on tree limbs near powder kegs of activity scattering teams across the country. He provides his argument that A&M may indeed be gone to the SEC like the shifting winds of unnamed sources because the Longhorns are pushing the envelope into untested waters.
Which gets the envelope soggy.
In any event, aside from the opportunity to read some Aggie Faulkner, it's a good chance to acquaint yourself with what our Maroon brethren are on about and further appreciate the literate Aggies who hang out here.