Big 12 Media Days aren’t like they used to be. Heck, the whole Big 12 isn’t like it used to be. And not for the reason you’re thinking.
Jonathan Kimble is gone. The original Mountaineer mascot.
Oh, not original to West Virginia. But original to the Big 12. Jonathan took Big 12 Media Days by storm two years ago at the Westin Galleria. He walked in with his ‘coonskin cap and musket, in full uniform, and charmed his way to the top of the hit parade. Jonathan did more for West Virginia public relations than anything since John Denver.
You know the rest. I made fast friends with Jonathan. He gave our Oklahoman contingent a personal tour of Morgantown in 2012 before the OU-WVU game. Then last September, I picked up Jonathan at the Norman Embassy Suites and gave him a tour of the OU campus. Just a super guy.
I wrote a column in November 2012 proclaiming the Mountaineer college sports’ best mascot, and I’ve heard no legit rebuttals.
But Jonathan’s two-year run as the Mountaineer has ended, and a new man wears the cap. Michael Garcia was at Big 12 Media Days on Monday. I chatted with him and we even shot a video, which you can watch here.
Michael is a nice fellow with a big smile. But he didn’t take over Media Days. Didn’t upstage Bryce Petty or Mike Gundy or Bob Bowlsby. Jonathan did. Michael’s got big shoes to fill.
Big 12 Media Days is a great place to catch up with familiar faces you haven’t seen in awhile.
I got to chat with Donnie Duncan, a Big 12 icon if ever there was one. A Barry Switzer assistant, an Iowa State head coach, the Sun Bowl executive director, the OU athletic director and the Big 12′s director of football. That’s quite a 40-year career.
Duncan told some great old Switzer stories. Including one I’ll share.
1976 Nebraska game. OU won 20-17 with two of the most memorable plays in Sooner history, the Woody Shepard-to-Steve Rhodes halfback pass and the Dean Blevins-to-Rhodes-to-Elvis Peacock hook-and-lateral.
The Sooners get back to the Lincoln airport and board the plane. Duncan said all kinds of people were on the flight. Regents, wives, girlfriends. All kinds of people, some of whom hadn’t flown up with the team. Switzer was informed that someone would have to exit the plane and ride back on the equipment truck.
Switzer got up at the front of the plane and called up Chuck Lester, a graduate assistant coach. Lester was a promising young coach with a great deal of confidence.
Switzer put his arm around Lester’s shoulder and said, “Chuck, you having fun? You like being on this plane? Is there any place you’d rather be?”
No, coach, Lester said to all three questions.
“OK, Chuck, I need you to do something.”
Anything, Coach, Lester said.
“Chuck, I need you to go back and sit on the (crapper) until we take off.”
What, Lester said?
“I need you to go back and sit on the crapper. They’ll never look back there.”
Lester went back and sat in the lavatory until the charter took off from Lincoln. One passenger more than it should have carried.
SQUAT THRUSTS AT DINNER
We worked late — OK, I worked late; I was the Last of the Mohicans, still going at 7 p.m., when everyone else had long finished. I piddled around and took too long — and then gathered for dinner. Johnny Damon still was working on his videos and said go without him.
So the other eight of us from OPUBCO, plus the Dish, set out for a Japanese steakhouse. Tim Money, our other videographer, loves Japanese steakhouses, especially Kabuki in Amarillo. But we often just go on on to Lubbock and skip dinner in Amarillo. So last week, I told T-Money we’d try to find a Japanese steakhouse in Dallas.
And so we did. The Omni desk clerk told us the closest was a Benihana off Central Expressway and the LBJ. We headed up there, parked, went in about 8:25 p.m. and were told there was an hour wait. An hour wait at 8:30 on a Monday night? You’ve got to be kidding.
So we bolted, googled Japanese steakhouse and found another one, Kobe, farther north, into North Dallas. A Kobe steakhouse. We got there a little before 9 p.m. and got right in.
And this one was a little different. The tables were in their own little room. And they were sunken. You were asked to take off your shoes, and you sat on a mat on the floor, with your legs under the table and the table sunken into the floor. It made for a nice atmosphere, but getting up and down was a bear for someone with joints more than 30 years old.
As soon as I sat down, I realized I should have taken off my sportscoat, since it can get a little hot at an Hibachi grill. But I had no chair on which to hang it. I needed to get back up and hang it on the chair outside the room, where my shoes were. And I thought, “Rats.”
Made me think of my favorite M*A*S*H episode, when the gang has to bunk together during a freezing night, to save on fuel and stay warm. It’s a fiasco, with people snoring and carrying. Colonel Blake — the great McLean Stevenson — goes through an elaborate ritual to get ready for bed, wiggles into his sleeping bag, puts patches over his eyes and suddenly exclaims, “Rats! I’ve got to go to the sandbox.”
But the food was very good — all Japanese steakhouses are good, I’ve never had a bad meal at one. I had my usual seafood. Shrimp, scallops and salmon. This one was a little different, in that we were given broccoli in addition to the usual zucchini, mushrooms, onions and sprouts. Super vegetables.
We told our new hand, Kyle Fredrickson, who I’ve nicknamed The Fieldhouse, all the wild stories about our crazy cast of characters over the years — present company excluded, of course — and had a great time.