Category Archives: Sports news

Army-Navy game: always so very special

Army beat Navy today by a single point.

The Black Knights beat the Midshipmen 14-13 while snow fell on the football field during the entire game.

I’ll stipulate that I was pulling for Army and I am delighted the Black Knights beat the Middies. There, I got that out of the way.

But this game always brings out the best in college sports. We’re all proud of these young athletes and not just because of their athletic prowess. They are scholars. They excel in the classroom.

They also are preparing to do something relatively rare among college students. They are going to serve their country while wearing military uniforms. The Middies either will receive their Navy commissions or they might become officers in the U.S. Marine Corps. The Knights are heading to service in the Army.

They’ll perform their duty. Many of them might see combat duty somewhere in one of the many trouble spots where the Pentagon is deploying young men and women.

As I watched most of the game today, I couldn’t help but think of the futures that await these young men. They make me proud, as I am sure they make you proud.

Think of this for a moment. There once was a time — a couple of generations ago — when Americans didn’t express this level of pride in their military academy students, let alone for the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who came home from their active duty assignments.

But that was then. The here and now fills us with pride in these young Americans.

To see them compete today on a snow-covered athletic field filled me with pride not just at watching them playing tackle football, but in anticipating the contributions they are set to make in defense of the country we love.

‘The Gun Guy’ is getting back into the game

Well, I’ll be hornswoggled.

Jerry Patterson wants his old job back. What is that? He is the former Texas land commissioner who four years ago decided against seeking a third term.

His successor is George P. Bush, the grandson and nephew of two former presidents of the United States. Patterson doesn’t think Bush has done well at the Land Office. He considers him to be too much of a politician with his eyes seemingly on grander political prizes.

So the former Texas state senator who once was known primarily for authoring the state’s concealed handgun carry legislation in 1995 is wanting to get back into the political game.

I welcome Patterson back. The former “gun guy” is going to liven the Republican Party primary if he actually takes the plunge.

I remember meeting him years ago during his time as land commissioner. I found him to be self-deprecating yet smart at the same time. I recall him mentioning how he finished “in the top 75 percent of my class at Texas A&M.” He was acutely aware that his primary legislative accomplishment — enactment of the concealed carry bill — would brand him with the “gun guy” moniker.

Those two matters endeared him immediately as someone who did not take himself as seriously as he takes his public service responsibility.

I’ve never met George P. Bush, although I do remember him speaking on behalf of “Poppy” Bush during the 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston. The youngster stood at the Astrodome podium as a 16-year-old and declared “Viva Boosh!” in an appeal to Latino voters, given that his mother is an immigrant from Mexico. He brought the house down.

The next time I would see his name would be during the 2014 campaign for Texas land commissioner.

Patterson seems to be primed for a tough battle against the incumbent, according to the Texas Tribune: “Patterson has been a regular critic, recently sending an editorial contrasting the land office’s response to Hurricane Ike, when he was in charge, with his response to Harvey this year. “Harvey victims still living in tents along the coast are, at least in part, victims of a politician’s desire to look good for the next election by being a ‘small government Republican,'” Patterson wrote in what looks like a preview of his political campaign.

This could be a fascinating campaign to watch.

Go for it, Mr. Gun Guy!

There’s no loyalty anywhere these days

Loyalty, shmoyalty …

I’m going to rant briefly about a college football coaching change that just chaps my hide.

It occurred out yonder in Eugene, in the state of my birth, Oregon. Willie Taggart signed on a year ago to coach the Oregon Ducks, which plunged from college football elite status to doormat in the span of one season.

The university fired head coach Mark Helfrich and brought in Taggart, who had coached at the University of South Florida. Coach Taggart didn’t exactly return the Ducks to elite status in his only season, but he did coach the team to a 7-5 record and an upcoming bowl game in Las Vegas against Boise State.

Then it happened. Jimbo Fisher was hired to coach Texas A&M, leaving an opening at Florida State, which in the state of Taggart’s birth. FSU called the first-year Oregon coach, offered him a lot of money … and then it happened.

Taggart took the FSU money and ran back to Florida.

One and out. Taggart moved his young family all the way from Florida to Oregon. Now he’s moving them all the way back.

I’m not angry that Taggart went for the bigger money; hey, he wasn’t getting paid chump change in Eugene. I’m angry — as a diehard Ducks fan — that he couldn’t commit to rebuilding a once-premier football program.

Coach Taggart broke a lot of Oregon Ducks fans’ hearts when he skedaddled back to Florida. Mine is one of them. I didn’t play ball at Oregon; I didn’t even attend college there. I am just a native Oregonian who had high hopes that this coach would lead this team back to the level of success it had enjoyed over the past decade.

It’s a sign of the times. Companies have no loyalty to employees who dedicate their careers to the folks who pay them. Neither do employees have loyalty to their employers. When the employee — in this case a top-dollar football coach — decides to bail, his departure affects young student-athletes who commit their own future to a man who’s no longer around.

Loyalty? Hah!

Just who is LaVar Ball?

I’ll admit readily that I am not all that keen on pop culture personalities. I don’t keep up with them.

I’m actually a bit unclear whether LaVar Ball fits into that category of celebrity. But he’s intriguing me in a curious sort of way.

He’s the father of a professional basketball player, Lonzo Ball. His second-oldest son also is a pretty good basketball player who, until just the other day, was enrolled at UCLA; his name is LiAngelo Ball. There’s a third kid, too, who I reckon is going to play hoops for someone.

LaVar the Loudmouth thrust his name into the news, which I guess is his specialty, when LiAngelo and two UCLA teammates got caught shoplifting at a department store in China, where they were playing some non-conference games.

Chinese authorities were threatening to imprison the young men. Then Donald Trump intervened. He persuaded the commies to let the boys out. They came home. Daddy Ball got into a public beef with the president over whether he thanked the president sufficiently.

Back and forth they went.

Then LaVar pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA.

This is a case of someone hogging attention away from others. Imagine that. LaVar Ball and Donald Trump engaging in a man-to-man fight over who should bask in the spotlight.

So, what’s going to happen to LiAngelo? Is he going to play basketball for another college? As for Lonzo — who’s playing hoops for the Los Angeles Lakers, what does the future bode for him? What if he washes out? What is Daddy Ball going to do?

I’ll presume that LaVar loves his sons. He might think he’s doing them a big favor by cheering them on so loudly — and obnoxiously — from the front row.

However, the very idea that this guy — whose major talent seems to rival that of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton and the whole roster of Housewives of Wherever — is able to thrust himself into the public discussion speaks so very graphically about what has become of popular culture these days.

It seems that anyone can be a celebrity in the Social Media Age.

Olympics joins the world’s squirrely nature

As if this world of ours hasn’t gone batty enough … we get this word from the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC has banned the Russian Olympic Committee for what it calls “systematic doping” among Russian athletes. Is that clear?

Sort of. Get this: The IOC says Russian athletes can compete as “neutral” competitors; they won’t stand under the Russian flag, nor will they compete in the name of their country.

My question is this: What happens if a Russian wins an event? Tradition says they play the national anthem of the gold-medal winning country during the award ceremony. Will they play the Russian anthem?

The Russian Olympic Committee has threatened a boycott if this ruling stands. I think it will. Thus, the Russians will do what they did in 1984 when the Soviet Union boycotted that year’s Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; that boycott retaliated against the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980 after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

I do not object to the IOC ruling regarding the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea. The IOC has accused the Russians of state-sponsored doping that has been detected among dozens of Russian athletes.

Doping is cheating. The Olympics are supposed to symbolize the best in sports. The Games are meant to pit athlete against athlete, pitting men and women against each other fairly and on level playing fields. The Russian efforts to boost their athletes’ prowess through drugs slaps the Olympic spirit squarely in its face.

It must be a Russian-government ethic that has pervaded the once-pristine world of sports. Hey, does this episode remind anyone — other than me — of the Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election?

This award transcends athletic prowess

I cannot stop smiling when I think of this news item.

J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve have been named Sports Illustrated’s co-Sportspersons of the Year.

Why does this bring a broad smile to my face?

For starters, Watt — a standout All-Pro defensive end for the Houston Texans — hasn’t played a lot of football this calendar year; he has been injured. He did, however, step up in a big way to help Houston’s beleaguered residents recover from the battering delivered by Hurricane Harvey this past summer.

Watt helped raise more than $37 million for hurricane relief. He became the voice and the face of Houston’s still ongoing battle to rebuild after being inundated by record-breaking rainfall that Harvey brought with it.

And then there’s Jose Altuve, the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2017. He had a stellar season for the World Series champions. However, SI decide to honor both young men because Altuve, too, embodied the “Houston Strong” motto that has helped fuel the city’s recovery from Harvey’s wrath.

As the Associated Press reported: “I think the World Series gave the people a big smile and hope during the tough time they were getting through,” he said. “And I feel really happy that we did it because they really deserved it.”

For those of us who have grieved along with the Texas Gulf Coast residents affected by nature’s intense power, this award sends a heartfelt message that professional athletes — who often receive their share of criticism for their off-the-field antics — are quite capable of exhibiting heart and compassion to those who are struggling.

Indeed, many professional athletes have done much to lend their high profiles to worthy and noble efforts. This award should be seen as a statement of thanks for all the good work that these men and women do when most of aren’t looking.

Sports Illustrated chose well.

Is Tiger back? Well, let’s hold our breath and hope it’s so

One round of golf on a relatively tame layout does not constitute a comeback for the greatest golfer of his generation.

But I am glad to see that Tiger Woods shot a 69 today at the Hero World Challenge tournament in The Bahamas.

It’s been more than 300 days since Woods played competitive golf. The game has flourished nicely without him. However, for many golf fans — such as yours truly — professional golf has been lacking a bit of the star power that Woods brings to any tournament he enters.

He has gone through four back surgeries. He sought to come back once, perhaps prematurely. He couldn’t swing a golf club without experiencing great pain.

But here we are. Woods played a solid round of golf today.

I hope he can string three more good rounds in the sport he dominated during the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

I get that no one is bigger than the sport at which he or she excels.

My hope, though, is that Tiger Woods can come back and give the game some of the pizzazz he brings to it every time he tees it up.

Build the ballpark, the stores will come

I got a glimpse of a headline on Amarillo.com that reveals how the retail space in the newly built parking garage on Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo likely will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

I couldn’t read the whole story because the pay wall popped up; since I don’t subscribe to the Amarillo Globe-News, I couldn’t read it.

The retail spots are going to remain empty until the ballpark gets closer to completion, which is about all I could see of the story.

I am reminded of the line from “A Field of Dreams,” where the Kevin Costner character is told, “If you build it, they will come.”

So it well could be when they break ground on the multipurpose event venue, aka The Ballpark. The MPEV is taking shape as a sort of “field of dreams” for city, business and civic leaders who consider the project to be the gateway to a brighter future for Amarillo.

I happen to agree with that view.

Thus, it doesn’t worry me in the least that the garage’s ground floor row of retail space will remain empty for the time being. It makes sense.

Why install an establishment that won’t reap the reward until after the MPEV is open for business and attracting crowds into the downtown business/entertainment district?

If that’s the prevailing theory, then it makes perfect sense to yours truly.

I remain optimistic — and you can remove the “cautiously” qualifier from that description — about the future of the MPEV and its impact on Amarillo.

The Local Government Corp. has negotiated a deal to bring a AA minor-league baseball franchise to the city. They’ll break ground soon on the MPEV. It will open no later than April 2019, just in time for some hardball to be played.

The MPEV will be built. I remain quite confident that the retailers will come.

Coaching pays well, even when you’re no longer coaching

I am all too willing to acknowledge that there’s a lot about many things I don’t understand.

College football coaching contracts is one example.

Kevin Sumlin got canned this week as head grid coach at Texas A&M University. Why did the athletic director fire him? Well, I get this: He didn’t win enough football games for the Aggies.

Now … in my world, that constitutes non-performance. It means to me that Coach Sumlin didn’t fulfill the terms of his agreement with the Texas A&M University System.

Here is where confusion sets in: Sumlin is going to receive millions more dollars even though he’s no longer a public education employee.

How do you justify this?

Sumlin received $5 million annually to coach the Aggies. Five million bucks, man! That’s a good gig, right? Sure it is. But you have to do the job your bosses demand of you.

University of Texas athletics officials faced a similar quandary when head football coach Charley Strong was fired. UT had to pay him lots of cash even though he didn’t measure up, either. The payout was reduced a bit when Coach Strong landed a coaching job at the University of South Florida.

But the Sumlin payout apparently is a bit of an issue in Aggieland. According to the Texas Tribune: Big payouts for fired college coaches are hardly rare, but Sumlin’s payout is relatively large and has been a source of frustration for some fans. Sumlin’s pay was bumped to $5 million per year after his first season — one of A&M’s most successful seasons in the modern college football era. At the time, he was rumored to be a candidate for jobs at other universities or in the National Football League.

These coaches operate in a parallel universe. If they don’t measure up to the terms of their contract, do they really deserve to get the kind of dough they’re getting when they are given the boot?

I need an explanation.

What’s missing? Oh, wait! Longhorns vs. Aggies

I was 34 years of age when my family and I moved to Texas. That was in 1984.

At the time I was a fairly avid collegiate football fan. I grew quickly to appreciate one of the country’s more intense gridiron rivalries not long after arriving in the Golden Triangle.

I refer to the University of Texas-Texas A&M rivalry. They used to play that game on Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I became friends in Beaumont with diehard Aggie alumni. They were four brothers, all of whom graduated from A&M; their children went there, too; and so did their grandchildren. They bled Aggie Maroon. I was schooled immediately — and often — about how much Aggie football meant to Texas Aggie families.

I even learned to refer to the University of Texas as “texas university.”

Then the Aggies decided they wanted to bolt to the Southeastern Conference. They wanted to play tackle football against Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee … and some other schools.

Then the rivalry was dissolved.

I am still somewhat saddened that we can’t see the Longhorns play the Aggies on Turkey Day.

I have no particular allegiance to either school. I didn’t attend either of them; neither did our sons. I wrote a year ago about missing a Thanksgiving tradition. I still miss it.

Missing a Thanksgiving tradition

Can’t there be a way for the athletic directors at these schools to work out a non-conference game that pits these football teams against each other … on Thanksgiving Day?

C’mon! You can do this!