Behind-The-Scenes With The King: How Barry Switzer Is Changing The Way We Watch Football

Copying The Cabana

The revolutionary concept of the second screen experience isn’t just a closely held Switzer secret. As he tells it, ESPN copied the Cabana for their national championship coverage. He’s likely talking about ESPN’s “Homer Telecast” where former players from Clemson and Alabama provided decidedly biased coverage of the game in a second-screen style experience.

“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. People see that. You don’t need to tell them all that bulls**t.”

The reason he says he was copied (he doesn’t seem to mean this in a legally binding way) is that he knows ESPN knows about his show. One week Coaches’ Cabana got more Twitter impressions than College Gameday and Switzer says Gameday host Chris Fowler noticed. He had to call in a few favors to get it done, but it does show Switzer’s promotional eye that’s made him a successful recruiter and businessman.

“I called all my celebrity buddies: Toby Keith, Deion Sanders, all my pro guys and I said I want every one of you sumb**ches to tweet about the Coaches’ Cabana,” says Switzer, laughing, as always.

Switzer’s former players are fiercely loyal to him, and often stop by to say hello. Some have unwittingly dropped by during a broadcast and found themselves with a headset on before even knowing what the Coaches’ Cabana was. That’s how Lott got the job in the first place.

“I walked in here on Coach’s birthday. I was dropping by to give him a bottle of wine, and he calls me over and has me sit down,” says Lott. “We got to talk football, and the next thing you know he told me to come back the next week and then the next week and I’ve been doing it for three or four years now.”

There’s a rhythm to all sports commentary, finding that rhythm is what separates good commentators from bad ones. But with the Cabana, Switzer can create his own rhythm. The “affinity fan” watching the game with the Cabana on another screen doesn’t need or doesn’t care about the play-by-play or the stats. They want the funny stories, the nostalgia, the second guessing. In truth, they want Switzer. And they get it for four straight quarters.

Barry Switzer Coaches Cabana
Barry Switzer jokes to someone off camera.

“Hey, you guys would be proud of me,” Switzer says at one point, to Rodgers and Lott and the streaming audience, but also to no one in particular. “Last night I went to bed at 10 and only had two glasses of wine.”

Rodgers and Lott just chuckle and nod, not entirely sure how to congratulate a 79-year-old on his early bedtime and relative teetotaling.

There were long discussions about the earthquake that had occurred that morning, German Shepherds that Switzer and his wife have rescued, discussions about the many German Shepherds that the Switzers currently have in their backyard that would occasionally bark very loudly, and of course, they did talk about the game.

But this particular game was not going the Sooners’ way. Despite Switzer’s best efforts, the mood in the Cabana turned sour toward the end of the third quarter. Switzer, perhaps seizing an opportunity to lighten the mood, or, conversely, just speaking out his actual feelings, broke the silence.

“Think I’m going to start drinking again tonight.”

Laughter once again rolled throughout the cabana.

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