Making The Magic Happen
Rodgers wasn’t even aware that Switzer did this first show by himself. He says he’s been doing it all four years, so he must have been the first call Switzer made after he recovered from his first show.
Pilson also watches from his home in Massachusetts and critiques the show for them. Switzer, a man beholden to almost no one, keeps Pilson in mind while broadcasting — not that it changes the way he acts, but at least he keeps him in mind.
“I’m not supposed to do this, but I want to eat this cookie. I’m not supposed to eat on camera. Neal’s gonna call me and chew me out,” says Switzer, live on camera during the second half of the game.
He breaks off a piece of cookie and puts it in his mouth while chuckling. He’s almost childish in his defiance of TV decorum, but, like everything Switzer does, it’s met with laughs. After all, it’s his show, his cabana, and his cookie.
“Pan the camera to these sponsor posters,” Switzer says between mouthfuls.
Oh, yeah, the Coaches’ Cabana is sponsored to the hilt by national beer companies, cable companies, casinos, and soft drink brands. Switzer doesn’t broadcast from his backyard as an act of charity.
The men he’s telling to pan the camera are Craig Huddleston and Jacob Wright of Titan Standard, the production company in charge of keeping Switzer, Lott, Rodgers, and whoever else stops by, on the air. It’s a surprisingly small crew of people that keep the Cabana operational. Huddleston and Wright handle the entire technical side, making sure that the stream still works online and on Cox Cable, keeping Switzer’s monitors working, and desperately trying to silently signal to Switzer that they are back on camera.
The other members of the Cabana team are OU seniors Mesa Sharp and Carolene Stephan, whose technical job titles are…“Well, Barry just calls us Twitter Girls.”
“I got two good looking gals that sit right over there, they’re Tri Delts. They handle all of our tweets,” says Switzer. “They read them, make sure they are good, and show them to me on the monitor there during the show, and I answer the questions live on the air.”
Sharp was quick to correct one part of that statement.
“We’re Pi Phis! We’ve been telling him that for three years,” says Sharp with a laugh.
Despite Switzer’s uncanny grasp of new technologies for someone who is almost 80, Sharp and Stephan do have some trouble getting him to adapt to new social media accounts. Switzer, though, will do what it takes to reach the audience he wants. He’s unsatisfied with Twitter and wants to be able to interact with fans in different ways. He talks with Sharp and Stephan about Instagram for a full commercial break, a conversation that continues even when the show comes back from break.
“People are just watching me talk about the game. If I invite them over to the house, they come to talk about the game, so it’s the same thing. But this way you don’t have to come to my house. You can stay home and turn on the damn cable to watch me talk about the game.”
This, too, is a common theme of the Coaches’ Cabana. Switzer really gives the viewer the feeling that they are peering into his world and not a normal TV show. Often the return from commercial follows this pattern:
Rodgers welcomes the viewer back to the show – Switzer is either talking to one of his houseguests, playing with a puppy, trying to set up Sharp with a young man that’s just joined the gathering, eating a cookie, telling a story, or asking someone if they want to be on TV – Lott may offer some game commentary – Switzer finally picks up his headset – Switzer either joins the conversation in progress or remembers a story about Billy Sims and starts telling it for the next three plays.
It’s a highly entertaining act, especially for the “affinity fan” that Switzer is going for. If you love Barry Switzer and have been watching the Sooners your whole life, you are going to love watching the game with Coach. If you have no interest in Switzer or OU, then you’d probably rather watch the network guys.
“The most boring thing is doing a game when you’re hanging half a hundred on somebody. We’re not one of those people that gives the play-by-play,” says Switzer. “People see that. You don’t need to tell them all that bulls**t. We also get to second guess what’s going on.”
Switzer seems to relish not being a coach anymore. Instead of answering to the media, with whom he often had a complicated relationship, he gets to be the media.
“I told Bob Stoops that I can say things that he can’t. For example, Bob can’t say that his defensive tackle isn’t worth a s**t. Stoops has to coach his guys all year long. I don’t have to, so I can say if someone is a problem,” says Switzer. “Most of the time I get to talk about how good the team is playing and how well they are coached. I get to tell the truth. Football coaches can’t tell the truth sometimes.”