No escape from politics in the NYT: “In Deeply Conservative Texas, a Folksy Voice of Progressivism,” by New York Times reporter Juliet Macur made the front page Thursday -- of the Sports section? Yep, the Times has taken ESPN’s lead and allowed liberal politics and cheerleading to infect one of the last nonpoliticized bastions of American life.
Macur, a sports reporter, wrote an encomium to Texas liberal sportscaster Dale Hansen. She never actually identifies what Hansen does at ABC affiliate WFAA in Dallas in the story, but he’s a sportscaster. That, and Hansen’s liberal take on the National Anthem controversy, explain this front-page Sports section profile, apparently:
You probably know Dale Hansen. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you have surely seen his work by now.
Hansen, a white-haired grandfather who hasn’t voted since 1972, has become an unlikely viral video star at age 69. You probably have noticed him scroll by as you traverse the Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines and pop culture websites that now serve as America’s secondary news source. All of them have helped to disseminate the folksy commentaries Hansen delivers on WFAA in Dallas, the ABC affiliate that has employed him for more than 30 years, to a much, much wider audience.
If you skipped that headline and its dopey labeling, you might have wondered why a story about a folksy sports guy from Texas getting such big play in the New York Times. And why would a Times reporter assume we've seen his work from our friends on our social media feeds? Oh, that’s why:
Maybe you’ve seen Hansen talking -- in remarkably personal terms -- about sexual abuse. Or about violence against women. Or racism in sports. Or, to borrow his words, nuts with guns.
A slightly gentler Jim Hightower, in other words, who rants on "white privilege" and is a Texan the NYT’s readership can relate to.
The paper’s justification for Hansen’s front-page Sports section treatment are his recent hot takes on the N.F.L. controversy over players refusing to stand for the National Anthem. Macur is under the impression that there’s no liberal commentary among local newscasts, and clearly approves of Hansen’s strident-seeming commentaries. (Conversely, the paper gets skittish over any instances of conservative commentary on local newscasts).
What he had to say most recently was a bit about the national anthem protests in the N.F.L. But what has made Hansen’s words reverberate, both in conservative North Texas and elsewhere, is that his resounding voice often delivers a point of view one might not expect from a local TV newsman: a progressive one.
Hansen’s latest commentary -- in which he presented his Texas audience with a heartfelt defense of black Americans’ protests and an indictment of “white privilege” -- was just the latest in a recurring segment, called “Hansen: Unplugged,” that has run on WFAA for years. He says he writes the segments in about 10 minutes and delivers them in about three, but only, he said, when he feels strongly that he has something to say. For Hansen, that’s about eight to 10 times a year.
In a 2014 piece supporting Michael Sam, a commentary that received national attention and landed him on Ellen DeGeneres’s television show, Hansen pilloried N.F.L. teams and fans for what he saw as a double standard.
The riffs have made Hansen something of an outlier: a local newsman with a national voice, a champion for social issues in a stick-to-sports world, a liberal voice in a deeply red state that’s as passionate about its sports as it is its politics.
Here in Texas, mixing those two religions is nearly a sin, but the cocky Hansen revels in taking on sacred cows, saying, “Oh, well, I’m agnostic anyway.”
Many days, before he drives to Dallas to tape the 6 and 10 p.m. news, he often plays cards with a group of buddies at a local golf club, gambling maybe a couple hundred bucks and chatting about the world. It is at those tables, he knows, where he hones the arguments that he later presents on TV.
“I’ll say something that gets them mad and they’ll say, ‘You’re nothing but a goddamn liberal,’” Hansen said. “And I laugh and say, ‘Gee, I thought you’d say something really bad.’”
Hansen has done little to promote, or embrace, his rising social media celebrity, though it seems to grow a little every time he opens his mouth. He rarely updates his own Twitter and Facebook accounts, leaving it to his granddaughter, who is 24, to call him and say, “Grandpa, you blew up on Twitter!” It is her opinion of him that matters, he said, her respect that makes him proudest.
A prominent New York Times profile won’t hurt in that regard.
Macur related how Hansen cried telling a story about a friend killed in Vietnam. Hansen had used the friend to make a liberal point about the anthem controversy, telling his audience: “He did not die so that you can decide who is a patriot and who loves America more.” She concluded with pure gush:
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Hansen has been around long enough, and has seen enough, to know that.
Lucky for us, he’s happy to tell everyone about it.