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Scene & Heard
Use of inverted Longhorn logo ignites controversy

George Schroeder Published: October 3, 2004

Produced by an Oklahoma winery, the chardonnay is moderately priced. And it features an intriguing hook.

Or perhaps, Hook 'Em.

Grape Ranch, a start-up vineyard near Okemah, offers several wines. But its "Beat Texas!" line has recently found a niche, said Amie Hendrickson, manager of the Edmond Wine Shop.

"A lot of people are buying them as gifts," Hendrickson said.

The reason might be on the label. A cluster of grapes adorned with steer horns the unmistakable Longhorn silhouette poses upside down.

That's right. The inverted Longhorn, which in recent years has become a popular way for OU fans to express their views on a hated rival, has made it to wine labels.

Maybe it was a natural progression. After all, the upside-down logo is found on everything from caps and cars, T-shirts and ties, mailboxes and more. Wine might just be the latest step in the fermentation process.

"It's everywhere," said Chris Plonsky, Texas' women's athletic director and the school's director of external services. "Some people are just horns-challenged."

The idea has been around for a long time. Almost as soon as Texas cheerleader Harley Clark created the "Hook 'Em Horns" hand signal (pinky and index fingers up) at a pep rally in 1955, some opponent turned it upside down.

But the inverted steer head silhouette, and its placement on various items, is a newer phenomenon. And not necessarily a good one, according to J. Brent Clark, a Norman author and attorney (who is not related to Harley Clark).

"It's obsessive behavior," he said. "I don't think there's any doubt about it. It's an obsession for people."

Clark, by the way, is a longtime OU fan. He authored "Sooner Century: 100 Glorious Years of Oklahoma Football" and "Third Down and Forever," a biography of troubled OU star Joe Don Looney. By definition, he's not favorably disposed toward Texas.

But Clark has watched with dismay the proliferation of inverted Longhorns.

"It symbolizes a dead longhorn," Clark said. "It's on its back. If a cow gets over on its back and can't get up, it dies. It's very strange.

"I think it's sick."

Clark's is no doubt a minority position among OU fans. But the inverted logo is definitely disconcerting to Texas officials. An upside-down "TEXAS" is fine. "Beat Texas" and "Bevo Bash" meet their approval. Even a depiction of the inverted hand symbol is OK.

"It's part of the fun of the rivalry," said Craig Westemeier, director of Texas' office of trademarks and licensing.

Just don't invert the steer-head silhouette.

"We know what our trademark Longhorn silhouette is and it is not upside down," Plonsky said.

Except, of course, that it is. On all of those items, and more.

"You name it, I've seen it," said Greg Davis, owner of the Sooner Schooner store in Norman, which specializes in OU clothing and collectibles.

But Davis doesn't sell it. He can't.

Texas and OU are among 180 universities, bowl games, conferences and the NCAA that have licensed their marks and logos with the Collegiate Licensing Co. The inverted Longhorn silhouette is not on the list of approved items.

Westemeier said Texas officials weren't aware of Grape Ranch's inverted logo. But Jack Whiteman, who owns Grape Ranch along with is brother, Daniel, and their families, doesn't expect any trouble.

Whiteman said the company occasionally catches "a little grief" about its usual logo, with the grape cluster and horns right-side up. He said they inverted the logo to have a little fun. Though the line is marketed as "Beat Texas!" the labels do not have a reference to Texas.

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