Regular readers of this blog know what we think about most of the interesting Texas topics these days. So we thought we'd invite a fresh voice to comment in this space. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman. We asked Kirk about Texas football, basketball, and the evolving sports media landscape and he was gracious enough to give us some interesting answers. Enjoy.
Burnt Orange Nation: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kirk. You've been writing columns about the Longhorns for a long time now. As Austin has continued to grow and change, how have you changed in your approach?
Kirk Bohls, Austin American Statesman: I don't know if I have changed my approach so much as Texas football has changed its. Mack Brown and the team got over the proverbial hump by beating OU and finally winning a title for the first time in 35 years.
BON: Justified or not, you have a reputation for being fairly critical of the Longhorns' football program (or at least being no cheerleader), especially under John Mackovic and in the early years under Mack Brown. Has all the winning mellowed you out?
BOHLS: Again, I don't think winning has mellowed me out. I probably have become a little less harsh, but winning cures a lot. I columnize about what I see, and Texas was not winning the big games. Now Mack won a lot of big games before 2005, and I have said so repeatedly in my columns. I considered as big wins any victories over OU (two before 2005), Texas A&M (seven), a Top 25 team, a bowl game. I think all of those qualify. We hired a writer from Iowa about a year ago, and he told me he can't understand why readers think I'm so critical. I tell him since his arrival, Texas has won championships in baseball and football and went to the Elite Eight in basketball. What's to criticize? I think a lot of people, maybe most. do not understand the role of the media and particularly columnists. Our job is not to cheerlead. That's especially true in a columnist's case. I consider my job multi-level. I want my column to enlighten hopefully, provoke, amuse, anger, rise to action, etc.
BON: I know it's awfully early, but how do you see Mack Brown handling the two young quarterbacks? Do you think Mack Brown is serious when he says he's going to play both of them, especially given all the problems that came with Applewhite-Simms? What would you do if you were Mack Brown?
BOHLS: I think Mack and Greg Davis will play two QBs in the fall, and I see no problem with that, at least in the early going, as they try to decide who is the best leader. I think they think Jevan has the bigger upside, but that Colt has been around longer and probably will take the first snap of the season. I'd concur with that, but I hate to say whom I would start after seeing only the spring game since all of spring practices were closed.
BON: Despite the extraordinary success Rick Barnes has brought to the hardwood for Texas, Longhorn fans still don't show up for basketball games? What's going on here, and what can Rick do to change it?
BOHLS: Changing a basketball culture is a tough assignment. People in this state are always going to care more about football. That's life. I do think Rick understands that but doesn't want to compete with football. He thinks the two can happily co-exist, and I agree. I think UT needs to put season ticket-holders' feet to the fire and make sure they come or give up their tickets to fans who want to be there. I think beefing up the home schedule is more important than always going to NY, which is important for recruiting but not as much as making UT a more frenzied environment that will attract the top players.
BON: The entire medium of sports journalism seems to be changing, with the boom of the internet and electronic information distribution. Some people say that the newspaper is a dying medium. How is the Statesman changing and how will we be getting Kirk Bohls' commentary 10 years from now? Or 20?
BOHLS: The newspaper world is changing, albeit not for the better. Surveys suggest people are reading less, which is scary and maybe a bit inaccurate since kids are reading mammoth Harry Potter novels. Blogs are in now, which I feel are dangerous because it's a less pure form of journalism. Readers are not that discerning and apply the same standards to blogs as they do stories that appear in print. Throwing out rumors and gossip that is unsubstantiated troubles me, but that's the direction newspapers are going. I wish I knew the future of my industry, which I dearly love. I do think there will always be the need for good reporting and commentary, and hopefully I can continue to provide that. One other thing people need to remember is that my columns solely represent my opinion, hopefully based on facts.
BON: With the explosion of the "blogosphere," fans have become empowered to become columnists with a medium to publish their thoughts. It seems to many that bloggers are just like columnists, only with smaller audiences. (In fact, many popular sports columnists have even started their own blogs.) What is your opinion of sports blogging? Do you read blogs?
BOHLS: Maybe I answered this question above. Again, blogs make me nervous when they are used to report stories in a less responsible manner. They do put us on a 24/7 deadline. I do not like anonymous blogging, chatrooming and talk-show calling. I think those can do more harm. I think everyone's opinion should be respected, and that those who offer those opinions do so with full disclosure of their name as columnists and reporters do on a daily basis. Thanks for listening.
BON: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kirk.
I'll be posting a brief response to some of Kirk's comments later today.