Less fan cam, more Cronkite

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When Domino’s Pizza releases a new ad campaign that explains how much their pizza sucks, consumers fall to their knees in praise of the company. But when UT releases new ads, football fans almost throw their boots at the jumbotron in disgust. Now why would a stadium full of Longhorn lunatics be upset with a skillfully crafted commercial emphasizing the greatness of the University? Because Walter Cronkite’s voice is missing, that’s why!

Walter Cronkite, with his commanding and melodramatic voice, is as much a part of UT as the man who first mixed the color red with yellow. Cronkite was a writer for The Daily Texan, a radio and news personality and eventually became the “most trusted man in America.”

But to UT football fans, Cronkite is much more than that; he is the general that rallies the troops at the end of every third quarter. For comparison, Leonidas had to yell, “This is Sparta!” at the top of his lungs to spur a mere 300 Spartans into battle, but Cronkite needs only to gently advise Longhorns to “Get your horns up,” and 100,000 fans scream deafeningly.

We have grown to expect his commercial at the same time every home game. It has become a tradition — a DKR staple. Thus, the pulling of the Cronkite ad at the last home football game was upsetting to most and enraging for many.

Certainly students have led protests, embarking on an aggressive campaign to reinstate the ad and adopting the battle cry “We want Walter.”

Barbara Friend, a radio-television-film senior, created a Facebook group that currently has more than 1,500 members and it just happens to be named “We Want Walter.”

“[The commercial] has just embedded itself in the game-day tradition,” Friend acknowledges. “There is something about the energy of that ad that just lights up the crowd.”

Friend is pushing for the Cronkite spot to re-emerge during this Saturday’s game against UCLA. A “We Want Walter” petition is already online, and a hard-copy one is in the works. Even alumni and Student Government are voicing their support for the movement.

Many students curse and loathe the transition. Sure, the new ads have a picturesque background of campus and are voiced by UT alumna Barbara Smith Conrad. But they aren’t inspirational. They don’t send chills down my spine. In short, they ain’t no Cronkite.

Seeking support, I contacted Erin Purdy, associate director of communications at the Briscoe Center for American History. I figured if anyone were to be displeased by the new campaign shift it would be someone who works a good deal with the on-campus Cronkite exhibit, “Eyewitness to a Century.”

“We are certainly proud and honored to be the home of Cronkite’s legacy here on campus,” responded Purdy. “But we are also proud and honored to be affiliated with Barbara Smith Conrad.”

That wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping to hear faculty join the fans, but that wasn’t going to happen. I only received information about Conrad’s involvement with the University and The Briscoe Center, which produced an award-winning documentary about her life titled “When I Rise.”

After a little research, I, on behalf of all the filled stadium seats, started to regret the intense negativity toward the campaign shift.

To give a little history, Conrad was one of the first black students at UT and was cast as the lead role in a University play opposite a white lover, until the racist culture of 1950’s Texas pressured her removal. Conrad was betrayed and her theatrical and musical ambitions were suppressed. Yet after decades of disillusionment with UT, she is promoting the University that treated her with such disrespect.

Conrad’s story of enduring societal pressure is just as inspirational as fans’ negative backlash is embarrassing. UT’s history has too much to teach to focus on only one person, but so far the focus has been on whose ad will rally the most fans at a football game. So I request of my fellow students: Drop the hateful bashing of the new ads. Stop the ignorant name-calling of a narrator whom most of us know nothing about.

Mrs. Conrad, we are honored to have you as our official spokeswoman, as you teach us with powerful lessons. However, UT football games need their general, and Cronkite’s 30 seconds have become a tradition.

“We Want Walter” offers a simple solution on its webpage: “Less fan cam, more Cronkite.”

I agree. Why not honor them both by broadcasting Conrad to the world while bringing Cronkite back just once every football game?

<em>Nestenius is an engineering sophomore.<em>