At first glance, it should be go without asking that assigning sex workers to media members is not a perk of traveling to bowl games. And yet, here we are. And the story of how we got here is a journey.
People first began to question whether or not the Sun Bowl was in the habit of providing sex works for media that comes to El Paso yesterday morning, when former Detroit News columnist and radio host Terry Foster recounted his experience with the Sun Bowl on the Woodward Sports Network Show Big D Energy, telling host Neal Ruhl, “I love the guys that were running the Sun Bowl when I went down there for Michigan State-Stanford … they gave us female escorts and we hung out aaaaaalllll night long.”
Foster’s use of the word “escort” was enough to raise eyebrows. It’s one of those words that’s innocuous by dictionary definition, but has another connotation entirely. But the kicker came moments later, when Foster continued,” We got drunk, we ate, we saw a woman have sex with a donkey, we were able to bring (the escorts) back to our rooms…Sun Bowl, number one. They know how to work the media.” If there was any doubt what Foster meant by “escorts,” his follow-up comments seemed to make it clear. You can hear the story in its entirety at the 38:30 mark here.
Deadspin contacted the Sun Bowl, whose media rep, Eddie Morelos, audibly gasped, “He said WHAT?” when told about Foster’s comments. Needless to say, the Sun Bowl denies providing escorts of any kind for media members, and especially denies sending sex workers out on the town with the media. Sun Bowl Executive Director Bernie Olivas, who joined the Sun Bowl in 2001, said he wasn’t with the organization back in 1996, but said during his time, the Sun Bowl hasn’t provided media with anything beyond a hospitality suite.
Reached by phone in Detroit, Foster tried to clear the whole thing up. confirmed it was likely the 1996 Sun Bowl he was remembering, but clarified the “female escorts” were provided to the media only to show them around town.
“It’s probably not as juicy as you’re gonna think,” Foster said. “I used the term escorts,” but they weren’t prostitutes. The Sun Bowl officials in this big room that we have offered to have some females take us around… basically they took us out, we had some drinks, we partied … we got back at 2:30 in the morning. They escorted us, but they weren’t ‘escorts’ as in ‘prostitutes.’ Legitimately, they were just taking us out.”
When asked about his statement that the group saw a woman have sex with a donkey, Foster clarified that it was only him who took up a street vendor on the offer to watch the alleged act. Morelos insists the trope is an urban legend, that no such show actually exists, a claim which seems to be backed up by this piece in the Phoenix New Times, which documents the history of the popular urban legend:
Not only are (donkey shows) not a thing in Tijuana (or Juárez or Acapulco or anywhere in Mexico frequented by tourists), they’re actually a wholesale gabacho invention that says more about how America projects its fevered perversions onto Mexicans and Mexico than anything about Mexicans themselves.
Foster reiterated that “nothing nefarious” happened with the alleged Sun Bowl-approved escorts, that their job was simply to show the media a good time, though he did admit that he had no idea who the women might have worked for. Foster did volunteer that one woman took a shower in his room because her strong perfume was making him feel ill.
As for the Sun Bowl execs, they remain completely bewildered by the entire story, having no idea how or why their predecessors would have assigned “female escorts” to accompany the men of the media out around town. “We mostly deal with the football guys,” Olivas said, meaning coaches, staff, and players.
Whether or not non-sex worker escorts were indeed provided by the Sun Bowl in 1996, the women who never learns her lesson in me is hoping to God that’s a thing of the past, because I can’t imagine any woman, no matter her occupation, wanting to spent the evening with a bunch of sportswriters unless she’s being paid handsomely for it (I kid, I kid). But honestly, the only group who needs to be assigned the company of women for a night are the other women in sports media, to give them a break from being around men all the time.
Before we ended our call, Foster did share one detail we can all agree is disgusting and needs to end immediately: He says the media was served cold, soggy McDonald’s for every meal.
Updated at 1:59 pm CT: Vindication for Terry Foster! My old radio partner, Brian Hedger (who now covers the Blue Jackets for the Columbus Dispatch), reached out to me this afternoon via text to tell me that he could confirm nearly everything Terry Foster told me, making clear that he never heard any offers for sex or prostitution, while he covered the game as a college student for The State News student newspaper. But Hedger did confirm that the Sun Bowl provided the media with young women to enhance their enjoyment of their time in El Paso.
“It was pretty weird that female reps in their 2os, who were good-looking and friendly, said it was their job to make sure we had a good week, etc. But I didn’t think they were ‘escorts,’” Hedger told me. “They legitimately just hung out with us, had some beers, and showed us around to some good nightclubs and bars.”
Hedger was even able to confirm Foster’s recollection of the “donkey show,” recalling that Foster told the other media members about it.
So there you have it. Foster’s story has been confirmed by an independent witness, despite the Sun Bowl’s complete and total bewilderment at the story. Truth is so often stranger than fiction.