Now Dale Hansen Has To Pretend To Be a Dumb Old White Guy
Here's an afterthought on the galactic response to WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen's anti-homophobia commentary last week about football player Michael Sam. It puts him in a weird position, old-white-guy-wise.
My own comments on it at the time were typical -- making a big deal out the fact that Hansen is an old white guy and yet he's not an idiot throw-back from the dried-up end of the gene pool. Generally speaking and under the circumstances, we old white guys tend to brag about small accomplishments.
But now Hansen is in the position of having to play the dumb old white guy almost as shtick, because what else can he do without looking like a joke egotistical TV guy? He can't say, "No, actually I'm really smart. I'm basically a good reporter. I happen also to be a great TV writer and performer. That commentary was a smart-bomb, and I put it together knowing exactly where and how it would hit. No, I didn't get that it would be this big, but, yes, I did know it would be big."
But I believe all of that is what's really true here. Why? Because I've been watching Hansen for decades. Consistently over those years what I have seen down deep beneath his act is a good reporter who happens to be a sportscaster. He is always looking through the show to find the sport. The most frequently recurring collision in which you see that Dale Hansen in action is in his coverage of another really smart local guy, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of the great voodoo showmen of sport.
I know my editors are shuddering to see me even trying talk about professional sports. I only watch Hansen for the beat-downs. I seldom have any idea otherwise what he's talking about, but I do know a good beat-down when I see one. I also have interviewed Jones (once), so I happen to know that he is not an easy beat-down.
Just after Christmas, Hansen did a commentary on rumors that Jones would fire Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. As soon as Hansen commenced his commentary, I felt immediate pangs of sympathy, because WFAA was making him use the huge "touch-screen" graphic, which some producer must think makes them look all iPaddy but instead it makes them look like they're at a plumbing parts convention.
Hansen's theme was that fickle, jumpy, ADHD managers who also happen to be owners produce lousy football teams, while many great coaches began their careers with worse records than Garrett's. (Note to editors: Garrett is the coach right? And it's football?) With huge assistance from the touchscreen behind him, Hansen ticked down through great coaches in history with frequent references to how many would have been fired early on by Jerry Jones.
Then he wound up: "All of the coaches I mentioned, the coaches who should have been fired because they were losers, didn't have to deal with a salary cap, didn't lose players to free agency. And the biggest advantage they had? Every one of them had a general manager who had a clue. And cared more about building a team than building a stadium."
See what I'm talking about? The Michael Sam speech was part and parcel of the kind of stuff Hansen does pretty much day in and day out. He's good at bringing the fun and escapism of sport to the audience as well as wonder and awe. The reporter in him claws through the bullshit. But mainly he just knows what he's doing.
He didn't write that Sam thing by accident. It's also a very good sign about Gannett, the new owners of WFAA, that they let it go up, because, believe me, that was no accident, either.
It also does count that he's an old white guy. It's a big cultural signal to people for someone in his position to say what he said, just as it was very important for Sam to come out in the first place. It helps strip homophobia of its jock right-guy camouflage and tells people there is wickedness in all bias.
But what can Hansen say now? He's on DeGeneres. He's gotta keep doing the fat old white guy shtick, or he looks like a thin-skinned dork -- another type for which I have huge empathy, by the way.
So, anyway, last words, will never talk about football again, promise. But I am curious. Where would I go to get a salary cap?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.