Robertsons taking the New South by storm

They’re bearded. They’re quotable. They’re camouflaged. They’re armed. They’re wildly popular. They are the Robertsons.

Unless you manage to completely avoid all media – other than New South Essays, of course – then you have probably seen or heard about the Robertson family. The pride of West Monroe, La., the Robertsons are self-proclaimed rednecks who have turned a duck call manufacturing business into one of the most popular reality shows on television.

From left, Jase, Si, Willie and Phil Robertson are bearded Louisiana rednecks who are ruling the reality TV airwaves.
From left, Jase, Si, Willie and Phil Robertson are bearded Louisiana rednecks who are ruling the reality TV airwaves.

We discovered the Robertsons last year when my dad turned us on to “Duck Dynasty” while it was still in its first season. Not typically an early adopter, Dad was on board from the beginning after finding their duck hunting show “Duck Commander” on the Outdoor Channel. It seems that while searching for his beloved fishing shows one day, he stumbled onto the wise-cracking Robertsons . Although he cared nothing for duck hunting, he found them so compelling he started watching.

The Robertsons then found an unlikely TV home on the Arts and Entertainment channel when they premiered in March 2012. A little more than a year later, “Duck Dynasty” is A&E’s highest rated program. Renewal for season four is currently on hold until new contracts can be negotiated. The Robertsons are reportedly seeking $200,000 per episode.

The season finale airs this week on April 24 to mark the end of the third season. I’m trying to figure out why “Duck Dynasty” has caught on in the New South like no other redneck reality show, and there are many.

So why are the Robertsons so popular?

Not since The Waltons has a TV family consistently shared a prayer of thanksgiving at meal times. The Robertsons end each episode with a blessing, pronounced by Phil, the patriarch. They are obviously people of faith with their involvement in their church featured regularly on the show.

They also demonstrate a strong commitment to their family. The brothers squabble and their Uncle Si is a foil to all their well-laid plans, but in the end, they embrace, pray and pass the victuals.

Conservative Christians gravitate to the Robertsons because they finally feel represented. A family with their general beliefs is on television, and they are drawn to them.

Truth is, there aren’t many shows that we watch as a family. The kids watch their typical fare of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or Disney Channel, but with “Duck Dynasty,” we can and want to watch together.  There’s no cursing, and only the occasional expression of marital bliss between Phil and Kay can be considered “adult content.” It may be gross, but there’s a lot worse on television than an affectionate older married couple showing that their love still burns brightly.

The Robertson women, from left, Jessica (goes with Jep), Missy (goes with Jase), Miss Kay (Goes with Phil) and Korie (goes with Willie... or the other way around.)
The Robertson women, from left, Jessica (goes with Jep), Missy (goes with Jase), Miss Kay (Goes with Phil) and Korie (goes with Willie… or the other way around.)

My wife, Carla, fully admits to enjoying the segments of the show that include the younger Robertsons’ wives and children. She particularly likes seeing their homes, their choices in clothing, and how they parent their children, who just happen to be a mix of biological and adopted. She is fascinated by these beautiful, thin, well-coifed women and what drew them to their redneck husbands. Photos are circulating online that prove under their massive beards there are men who were once handsome enough to woo these lovely women.

Despite all these reasons for watching, the real reason for their success is that they are funny. We never fail to laugh when watching the Robertsons. I’m not so naïve as to think everything that happens is unplanned, but even with a sense that scenarios may be contrived, I can’t help but giggle.

Uncle Si trying to earn enough tickets at a local pizza arcade to win a stuffed purple gorilla is funny. Godwin, a co-worker at the duck call plant, shirtlessly scurrying across a path on all fours to see if he resembles a panther from a distance is funny. Willie and Jase taking their wives hunting and Korie dousing herself in doe urine is funny. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

“Duck Dynasty” may not be everyone’s blue Tupperware cup of iced tea, but the Robertsons have become heroes to a segment of the population that can’t find many in the media these days. We can debate whether or not they are role models, but you cannot deny they are trending.

It remains to be seen how many seconds are left on their 15 minutes of fame, but when the season finale airs Wednesday, as Si would say, “I’m down like a rodeo clown, Jack!”

What’s your take on the Robertsons? Do you watch and laugh out loud or do you cringe and avoid them like the plague? If you are a fan, what are your reasons? Leave a comment and make us “happy, happy, happy.”

Goofy Southern Golfers: A New Tradition Unlike Any Other

The Masters Tournament, the first of professional golf's four major tournaments each year, is played at the stately Augusta National Country Club in Augusta, Ga.
The Masters Tournament, the first of professional golf’s four major tournaments each year, is played at the stately Augusta National Country Club in Augusta, Ga.

Based on in-depth demographic research, I’ve determined that New South Essays readers may not know that this week is the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga. As a public service, I am writing to let you know that this is happening , and it is important.

Or at least it is to some people. Like CBS. And Augusta, Ga. And Tiger Woods.

As I scoured the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) headlines for some New South nugget to pull from the array of staid and stodgy story lines, I found and discarded the story of the 14-year-old Chinese phenom, Tianlang Guan. No New South angles there.

Then there’s Tiger. Trying to win a fifth Green Jacket (that’s what they give the winners. Not very practical. They can only wear it at Augusta National Country Club) might be interesting to some folks, but in the New South, it’s about as exciting as watching Alabama play Georgia State in football. Oh, and there’s a lot of hullabaloo about Woods breaking some arcane rule and needing to disqualify himself, but that will never happen.

Before you judge, admit it, you've been known to slouch around school classrooms, too, haven't you?
Before you judge, admit it, you’ve been known to slouch around school classrooms, too, haven’t you?

Then, I found this: the latest trend among pro golfers is called “Dufnering.” Named for 36-year-old Jason Dufner, an Auburn grad currently tied for 7th at the Master’s, who had his picture taken by journalists while sitting awkwardly in a school classroom back on March 28.

Bubba Watson mocked Jason Dufner with a Dufnering pose in his garage with his beloved Gen. Lee.
Bubba Watson “Dufnering” in his garage with his beloved General Lee.

The photo quickly went viral, and soon, Dufner’s golfing buddies proliferated the image through Twitter and named the pose “Dufnering.”

It doesn’t appear to be hurting his game.

Then there’s Bubba Watson, the 2012 Master’s champion. Much was made of his victory last year, and the 34-year-old Bagdad, Fla., native and University of Georgia graduate has quickly become one of the bright stars of the golf world with his buttoned-up golf shirts and pink drivers.

Bubba in his 2011 debut music video "Oh, Oh, Oh."
Bubba in his 2011 debut music video “Oh, Oh, Oh.”

He and his buddies have taken to making music videos. Yes, you heard me correctly: music videos. Perhaps you’ve seen the 2011 rendition of “Oh, Oh, Oh”? Watson and fellow golfers Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan followed up that effort with  “2.Oh,” another in their series of madcap musical mayhem.

An argument can be made that Watson’s musical exploits could be interfering with his game as he currently sits at four-over-par, 10 shots off the lead.

In the Old South, golf was a genteel game practiced by wealthy gentlemen. In the New South, it’s a bunch of rambunctious frat boys seemingly taking it all in stride and having fun. Not since John Daly — the chain-smoking, long-driving, overweight, alcoholic everyman — was competitive have Southerners had someone they felt they could truly root for in a tournament.

Is it me or is Davis Love III "Dufnering" back in 2008 on the cover of Garden & Gun?
Is it me or is Davis Love III “Dufnering” back in 2008 on the cover of Garden & Gun?

Yes, I know, lots of golfers hail from the South. You’ll even see such stalwarts as Davis Love III gracing the cover of Garden & Gun magazine. But will you ever see Davis Love III “Dufnering” or performing in a rap video?

Sometime in the last 10 years, golf… or I should say golfers… stopped taking themselves so seriously. Whether this makes golf more accessible to the public and ultimately more popular remains to be seen. What I think you can predict is that whether people watch the tournaments or not, they’ll feel a stronger kinship with the athletes, and that has to be a boon to the sport.

OK, let’s all assume the position and do some “Dufnering” while we watch the final two rounds of the Master’s. It’s a tradition unlike any other.

Who’s your favorite PGA star? Do you think it disgraces golf for players to be dancing around in overalls and sitting awkwardly in school classrooms? Leave a comment below and share your reaction to the current crop of crazy Southern golfers.

Pollen counts

Nothing says springtime in Atlanta like piles of facial tissues, billowing clouds of yellow dust and an encouraging addition to the weather forecast known as the pollen count.

I heart pollen
Not really, but you get the point.

Simply defined, the pollen count is the number of grains of pollen in a cubic meter of air. It is measured by placing a silicon-covered rod outdoors for a 24-hour period and then analyzing the particles caught in the silicon. The higher the number, the worse conditions are for allergy sufferers.

Perhaps no other element of forecasting is as exciting to meteorologists short of a Doppler-enhanced, VIPIR II-detected bow echo in their severe weather center. As it rises into the tens of thousands, the smiling, suited, well-coiffed purveyors of climatological abnormality tell us with glee how miserable we are likely to be on any given day.

It never matters what the calendar says. I don’t care when the first pitch of baseball season is thrown.  I know that spring doesn’t officially begin until allergy season gets into high gear.

For those of us living in the New South, the pollen count has become an important consideration in how we plan our day. It influences whether we wash our car, visit a park, pack a wad of tissues in our purse before we leave the house, how far we plan to drive under the influence of an antihistamine and even what we wear.

I clearly remember trying to close my car door last spring with my derriere because my hands were full. My navy pants bore the yellow emblem of my foolishness throughout the workday, and my car door had the unique and FBI-database-traceable imprint of my rear end in yellow dust for several days. This is the real reason Southerners wear yellow in springtime. Khaki hides pollen pretty well, but maybe it’s time I invest in some yellow or even light green pants. Perhaps I should consider accessorizing my spring wardrobe with a gas mask.

Doesn't the sight of a pollen cell just want to make you sneeze?
The sight of microscopic pollen cells induces sneezing.

On Wednesday, I could tell the pollen count was high even before I rolled out of bed. The gurgling of fluid in my ear, the coagulation of mucus in my nostrils and the irritation in the back of my throat all told me that it was going to be a 10,000+ kind of day. Just writing that last sentence made me sneeze.

A couple of cold, rainy days have brought some recent relief, but that’s a high price to pay. Is it better to have a beautiful spring day or the last vestiges of winter just so you can breathe? It’s a Hobson’s Choice really. We get what we get, and we don’t pitch a fit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-pollen. I understand all about the birds and the bees. Pollen is a necessary part of the beauty of Southern springtime. Spring in Atlanta is really beautiful. The redbuds and Bradford pears have come and gone, our dogwoods are budding, the neighbor’s Yoshino is in full, glorious bloom and the azaleas are out. It is a spectacle that I anticipate each year.

I just wish I didn’t have to sacrifice breathing to enjoy it.

How do you cope with pollen season? Which variety attacks you the worst? Share your allergy cures and favorite spring blooms by leaving a comment below.