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Life & Death & UTEP

Updated: Sep 17



NYE in NOLA '95

It was New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, 1995. Ricky Williams and Texas had just lost the Sugar Bowl to Virginia Tech, and we were wandering around Bourbon Street, chasing hurricanes with ice beer. The balconies were thick with sloppy-happy Hokies. We made our way off of Bourbon and found somewhere to sit down. We were divided on if we should order a second round or re-locate one more time before midnight. Someone had a lead on some flaming Dr. Peppers nearby, but we wouldn’t know for sure until we started walking. Which we didn’t.

Upon ordering the next round we saw the flier posted behind the bar. It warned that New Orleans was prone to celebratory gunfire on NYE. The flier advised everyone to remain indoors between 10:00 PM – 2:00 AM, or something like that.

So three years after non-honors, non-AP physics, it finally clicks for me that the concept of what-goes-up-must-come-down applies to bullets, too. We were just walking around out there, keeping an eye out for displays of bead acquisitive behavior at street level, while avoiding triumphant shit talk from the feather boa’ed drunks roaring above. We never considered that actual Death could rain down from the sky at any moment without warning.

This evening when Texas tries to fill Darrel K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium to 25% capacity, the Death will not rain down from the sky. It will instead dislodge itself from the backs of throats shouting “Texas.” The lungs that just emptied out “Fight” will refill with Death a breath later.

Oh well, it's like they say, Death comes aer-o-sol.

Since we are all about to get sick and Austin will never recover, let’s take a moment to consider how much safer we would be if all we had to worry about was celebratory gunfire in the stadium.

Celebratory Gunfire Reconsidered

I’m gonna keep using the word “bullet” for what shoots out of a gun. Someone corrected me once on that being imprecise, and maybe I should have said “round,” but I can’t remember why. Maybe it’s one of those things like not all felons are Republican Finance Chairs, but all Republican Finance Chairs are felons. Or maybe the round is part of the bullet?

So if DKR were really 25% full that would be 25,000+ in the stands. KXAN reported that the athletic department is expecting closer to 18,000 tonight to watch the home opener against UTEP. So let’s just say that after the temperature check on the way in, each of the 18,000 fans gets handed a gun loaded with one celebration bullet. Now, that would be insane unless the athletic department had a plan to make the celebratory gunfire as safe as possible and to mitigate risk for all in attendance.

For instance, no one should be pointing a gun straight up in the air when firing in celebration. I know now that every bullet traces a parabola and bullets fired straight up come back down again close to their original firing point. These straight-uppers have the greatest likelihood of coming down within the stadium. At 25% capacity much of the bullet barrage would end up landing on empty seats. Even if the stadium were at full capacity, unoccupied aisles between seating sections would safely absorb a significant percentage of the celebration bullets.

While potential wounds to feet, arms, and even shoulders could be survivable, a bullet that lands in the stadium is just as likely to land on Campbell-Williams Field. That means even if players survive their celebratory wounds, it’s unlikely they would be back to 100% in time for the trip to Lubbock in a couple weeks.

Speaking of Texas Tech, their mascot is pretty much Yosemite Sam, who is also prone to celebratory gunfire. He empties twin six shooters all the time, and he’s not dead, so what gives? The answer is two-fold:

  1. He is a cartoon.

  2. Shooting straight up is still a relatively safe shot for the shooter. It is a near impossible trick shot to shoot yourself with a bullet fired straight into the air. It’s so improbable that no sharpshooter has ever achieved this rare feat twice.


Dedicated celebratory gunners, who personally fire hundreds or even thousands of shots straight up, might never once catch their own bullet. This is why it would be wise to play an instructional video or put some diagram in the game program or put up signs visible from the concession lines. The athletic department could remind fans that even if they don’t shoot themselves, they could still be responsible for someone else getting shot. This is bigger than the individual shooter’s survival. A careless shot could lead to the death of exactly one other person.

If Texas fans take a moment to adjust their shooting angles, we can greatly reduce the risk of in-stadium injury and death from celebratory gunfire.

It’s not realistic to expect 18,000 celebratory shots to result in zero stadium wounds. Maybe 5% of fans get hit? That would be only 900 wounds. Apart from direct hits to the head and neck, it’s reasonable to assume a high survival rate among the burnt orange bullet recipients. That is, unless, the bullet-riddled fans had underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to a cardiac event or bleeding out rapidly.

If in-stadium gun wounds can be kept under 1000, it’s plausible to project a total in-stadium death toll of under 100, give or take a few 50/50’s in the ICU over the two weeks before Texas Tech game.

Horns Have a History with UTEP

Texas’ first match up with UTEP – then known as the Texas College of Mines – was the Longhorns' second game of the 1930 campaign. Texas shutout the Miners, winning 28 – 0. On the Friday before the Sunday game Texas held its first ever pep rally in Gregory Gymnasium. Gregory had opened early that year on April 11, 1930.

Know Before You Go

You need to wear a mask and maintain physical distance during entry and exit.

If you are a UT student, you will need to provide proof of a recent negative test for COVID-19 to qualify for entry.

If fans do not maintain adequate physical distances and keep masks in place for the entirety of the game, Austin may be forced to cancel SXSW again next year. That would mean this year’s un-refunded badge holders would have to wait another year to enjoy full platinum VIP access.

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