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PHOTOS: Vintage Football Programs Show a Less Serious Game Face

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Today, the mood in virtually all sports promotion from T-ball to the pros is set by the dead-serious game face. Whether it’s a middle school volleyball poster or an NFL hype video, players brood for the camera in darkened studios through a fog of dry ice, arms crossed like humorless bouncers.

But such was not always the case. A collection of game programs for UT football match-ups in the 1950s, from the archives of UT’s Briscoe Center for American History, reveals just how different the look and feel of sports promotion was 60-plus years ago — light, cartoonish and hilarious. Reminiscent of Looney Tunes, the anthropomorphic characters go at each other with sadistic glee but always return the next season without a scratch. The covers were the work of New Orleans cartoonist John Churchill Chase (1905–1986). Enjoy!

UT vs. A&M Game 1954
A&M Game 1954 – No turkey for Thanksgiving this year! Rather, it’s a steaming hot Aggie with a football shoved in his mouth roasted pig style. And since it’s homecoming, looks like Grandpa in his vintage 1910 uniform has returned to the Forty Acres for a second helping. Oddly, Grandpa’s horns over the years have migrated down his face and now form a translucent, upside down handlebar moustache.
UT vs Baylor Game 1953
Baylor Game 1953 – What the heck is happening here? A Texas defender with quite malleable horns has lassoed an out-of-shape Baylor Bear while riding on the shoulders of his pipe-smoking dear old dad, who, for some reason, is fully human.
UT vs Rice Game 1953
Rice Game 1953 – What’s that fowl smell? Why, it’s barbecued owl, of course. The owl is none too pleased to be suspended between his opponent’s horns. And the salt shaker is a nice touch.
UT vs Rice Game 1954
At Rice 1954 – All of the premises put forward on these programs require significant suspension of disbelief, but none more so than that an owl — the largest species in the world of which is 9 pounds — could skip rope with longhorn steer. And it looks as if artist John Churchill Chase is playing both sides of the fence! In fact, in addition to drawing for Texas and Rice, Chase drew for Tulane, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU and the Houston Oilers.
UT vs TCU Game 1955
TCU 1955 – Horned Frog. Get it? We guess that since the Longhorn is blowing into the reptile’s head, and beautiful music is emanating from his other horns, there must be a void where a brain normally would be. Sick burn, Mr. Chase, sick burn.
UT vs Rice 1956 Game
At Rice 1956 – Uh-oh! Looks like two can play the barbecue game. Also, the price of a game program has doubled since the previous year to 50 cents.