Category Archives: Sports news

What’s so wrong with a defensive struggle?

I am going to take up the cudgel for the two professional football teams that just played in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history.

The New England Patriots scored 13 points compared to the three points rung up by the Los Angeles Rams.

I’ve been reading social media and other commentary about how “boring” and “stupefying” and “disappointing” the game turned out to be.

Let me stipulate that I didn’t want either team playing for the NFL championship. My favorite among the four teams vying for the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, lost to the Patriots in overtime in the AFC championship game. The New Orleans Saints, it can be argued, should have been the NFC rep, but were robbed by a non-call that should have gone against the Rams in that conference’s title game, which the Rams won also in overtime.

When did massive offensive output, though, become the benchmark for on-the-field excellence in these football games? I watched most of the game Sunday night. I watched a lot of sequences when both teams would take three snaps and then punt the ball away. It got to be so repetitive that CBS Sports color analyst Tony Romo joked that the first-half highlight was the Ram punter’s record-setting kick of 65 yards.

However, we all did watch some stellar defensive strategies being played out. Both teams were hitting hard and their tackling was sure-handed. Patriots QB Tom Brady got sacked for the only time during this year’s playoff season. Rams QB Jared Goff was hassled and chased around constantly by New England’s defensive front line.

I didn’t see many defensive mistakes out there. I saw some hard-hitting tackle football.

So what if the teams couldn’t ring up 30 or 40 points apiece? The outcome was in doubt until practically the very end of the game.

There. Having said all that, I am kinda/sorta glad the Patriots won the game, owing only to my longtime affection for the AFC over the NFC. We saw a bit of history made Sunday night, with the Patriots winning the franchise’s sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What is so wrong with that?

Voters retain ultimate power

Two political incidents in the Texas Panhandle have provided significant evidence of just who holds the power in these disputes.

I refer to two dustups: one involving Texas state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; the other one involves the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees.

In both instances, the voters are getting the shaft by those in power.

First, the Seliger-Patrick battle.

Patrick is angry with Seliger because the Amarillo Republican lawmaker doesn’t always vote the way Patrick prefers. What the lieutenant governor needs to understand — and I am sure he does at some level — is that Seliger works for West Texans, not for Dan Patrick.

Patrick yanked the chairman’s gavel from Seliger, who chaired the Senate Higher Education Committee. Seliger said something supposedly unkind about a Patrick aide. Patrick then responded by pulling Seliger out of the chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Seliger owes his allegiance to the voters of the sprawling Texas Senate District 31. As for Lt. Gov. Patrick, he is acting like a legend in his own mind.

Now, the AISD board.

An Amarillo High School volleyball coach, Kori Clements, resigned after one season. She cited parental interference as the reason she quit; she also said the school district administration didn’t back her.

The chatter around the school district is that the offending parent is a member of the AISD board of trustees.

The board has been silent. It has refused to speak to the issue directly. It needs to do exactly that. Why? Because the board works for the public, which pays the salaries of the administrators and educators and which pays to keep the lights on at all of AISD’s campuses.

The voters are the bosses. The AISD board answers to them, not to each other, or to the superintendent.

There needs to be a public accounting for what happened to make Coach Clements pack it in after just a single season as head coach of a vaunted high school volleyball program.

The public needs to know. It has every right to demand answers.

Now, let’s play ball, Sod Poodles . . . shall we?

That’s a relief.

The Amarillo Sod Poodles have settled a goofy trademark dispute and are now setting their sights on opening night when they play a minor-league game of baseball at Hodgetown, the ballpark that’s under construction in downtown Amarillo.

An outfit named Stone Ranch Media had lodged a complaint against the Sod Poodles, suggesting that the team had pilfered the team’s nickname. The two entities have announced a settlement that will result in $5,000 being divvied up among the Amarillo Youth Activity Center, the Donley County Community Fund and the Downtown Amarillo Women’s Center.

So, the fight is over.

Next up is for work at Hodgetown — the ballpark named after retired pharmaceutical executive and former Amarillo Mayor Jerry Hodge — to be completed. The venue has sprung up along Buchanan Street and, to be honest, it’s looking like a first-class place to play some hardball.

This venue — if you’ll pardon the intended pun — is a serious game changer for Amarillo. Its future is looking brighter all the time as its downtown district reaps the reward from the attention it has received.

Hey, AISD board . . . will you speak to your ‘bosses’?

I want to stand with my friend and former Amarillo Globe-News colleague Jon Mark Beilue, who is demanding answers from the Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees.

The AISD board accepted the resignation of a highly valued girls volleyball coach who quit because of pressure she was getting from the mother of one of her athletes.

The coach, Kori Cooper Clements, lasted one season. The Amarillo High girls volleyball program is among the best in Texas history. What Clements has alleged is shameful interference by a parent.

The school board has remained silent. The school district’s constituents — the board’s “bosses” — deserve an explanation on what has been alleged.

What’s more, the chatter all over Amarillo implicates Renee McCown, an AISD board member, as the offending parent.

So, as Beilue has suggested, it is past time for the board to speak to the constituents. Explain its action or it inaction on this matter.

Here is what Beilue posted the other day on Facebook. Take a moment or two to read it. It’s worth your time.

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So it’s been one week since the Amarillo ISD school board heard from an angry public at its regularly scheduled meeting, including two Amarillo High volleyball players among 10 there to support head coach Kori Clements, voted to accept Clements resignation, and then has publicly done what anyone who has been paying attention to this board expected.

Nothing.

No word of support for fellow board member Rene McCown who’s been twisting in the wind, no admonishment of allegations of her misuse of her school board position, no announcing they are looking into this troubling situation and will issue their findings as soon as possible.

Nothing.

It’s as if Amarillo voters elected a bunch of Marcel Marceaus, the famous French mime.

To recap quickly, promising young coach Kori Cooper-Clements resigned earlier this month in her first year with the storied program, and also her alma mater. She publicly accused a board member – read, McCown, who has two daughters on the team – of what appears to be greatly overstepping her bounds as a board member with regard to playing time for her daughters, and an administration who did not back the coach and played the political game of siding with the board member.

It has ignited a community firestorm that far exceeds the interest level of a high school volleyball program for the bigger picture of what appears to be a violation of the public trust of a board member, an administration that caved and a board that sits in stubborn silence.

There’s an old axiom in coaching when bad behavior, or lack of discipline on a team, occurs: “You’re either coaching it or allowing it to happen.”

Since I doubt the board is coaching it, let’s just vote for allowing it to happen. Board members can stiffen their backs all they want, but what conclusion should reasonable people reach when a board’s response seems to be just wishing it would go away?

At this moment, the entire public trust of the board from those who vote is about as low as it gets. If they disagree, they need to get out more.

This is not some run-of-the-mill parental interference of an athletic program that occurs frequently. This is not a parent who works at – oh, I don’t know – Owens-Corning who’s raising a stink. No, a board does not need nor should it get involved in those instances.

This is much different. This is one of your own who has allegedly inserted herself into the process almost from the moment Cooper-Clements was hired last March and attempted to use her position for personal gain that is not in the best interest of AISD.

That demands an internal investigation and public accountability to a public that put this board in that position in the first place. It demands transparency and getting on top of this instead of sticking their heads in the nearest Sod Poodle hole. To not do that is an insult to Amarillo and reeking of arrogance.

This goes beyond the tepid statement last week of a policy that “AISD does not comment on personnel matters out of confidentiality and respect for our employees.” This is a bigger matter than that, and the board knows it. Or should know it.

So as the board continues to play the public for a fool by remaining silent and invite even more questions, and the same public is left to wonder if board members can just play by their own rules, maybe the question is exactly that: Is the board coaching it or allowing it to happen?

Take it away, Tony Romo!

There is, as they say, a first time for everything.

So, for the first time in my life I am looking forward to a major sporting event not so much for the competition on the field, but for the announcing that will come from the broadcast booth.

Yep, it’s true. I have no particular interest in the Super Bowl LIII matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. I do have an interest in hearing the real-time game analysis by Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who has become a media superstar.

I was among the millions of Americans who became enthralled with Romo’s expertise while calling the Patriots’ AFC championship game victory over the Kansas City Chiefs a couple of Sundays ago. His energy and enthusiasm were contagious. His knowledge of the game, quite naturally, was stellar.

Moreover, his ability to predict what the Patriots or the Chiefs would do on the next play was utterly astonishing!

I expect fully to hear Romo bring all of that into the booth this coming Sunday when he provides color commentary for the Patriots-Rams showdown. I also heard it said that he makes Jim Nantz, the play-by-play announcer with whom Romo will be teamed for SB LIII, even better at his job.

Let me be clear about something. I have been a longtime AFC supporter. Only one time have I rooted for the NFC team over the AFC team in the Super Bowl. It was in 2010 when the New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts.

Yeah, I’ll root quietly for the Pats to beat the Rams. I’ll likely provide golf claps if the Patriots pull off big plays.

But my interest in the big game centers mostly on hearing Tony Romo, who never excited me much as a QB for the so-called “America’s Team.” I say that even though I now live in the heart of Cowboys Country.

But, man, the boy knows how to bring a pro football game to life with his commentary!

Coach kerfuffle serves as a reminder

The recent outrage that occurred in Amarillo’s public school system over the resignation of a highly regarded volleyball coach reminded me of some hideous parental conduct I witnessed long ago in another state.

Kori Clements resigned as head coach of Amarillo High School’s highly regarded volleyball program. The Sandies have won multiple state titles and Clements, a 2006 AHS graduate, was brought back to coach the girls who reportedly revere her. But she quit, citing pressure from a parent who didn’t like the way she was parceling out playing time; the parent’s daughter wasn’t getting enough time.

What’s worse is that the parent allegedly is a member of Amarillo Independent School District board of trustees, who clearly should know better than to interfere with a coach’s policy.

OK, what did I witness in the old days?

I used to cover a high school football program in Clackamas County, Ore. This particular high school (which I won’t identify) had a very good team in the early 1980s. They were led by a quarterback who, upon graduating from high school, went on to compile a highly successful collegiate football record. He was drafted by an NFL team and had a brief — and modest — pro career.

However, the young man’s father was insufferable in his berating of the coaching staff during games. He would prowl the sideline standing directly behind the head coach, yelling at the top of his lungs about the play-calling that was taking place. If the young quarterback didn’t complete a pass for substantial yardage, let alone score a touchdown, dear ol’ Dad would come unglued.

I never discussed the father’s behavior with his son. It wasn’t my place. I would talk about it, though, with the coach. I never reported on Dad’s boorish behavior and, indeed, this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it in any form or fashion. I cannot recall all these years later whether the coach spoke ill of Dad personally. He surely did detest the way he behaved during the games. The coach professed to blocking out the profanities yelled from behind him, but surely he had to hear it.

I don’t know whether Coach Clements endured that kind of disgraceful behavior from the parent she said harassed her incessantly over her coaching policies. It’s just that what she endured is hardly unique to Amarillo High School.

That doesn’t make it right, any more than it was right for that fanatic father to act as he did in the old days.

It’s shameful, man!

Not getting too worked up over this missed call

I have to stipulate up front that I might feel differently if I lived in the city that is home to a pro football team that got the shaft in the biggest game of the year . . . to date.

I don’t, so I’m not going to get all that lathered up over what happened this past weekend to the New Orleans Saints in their NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams.

You know what I’m talking about.

The Saints were marching down the field. NOLA Quarterback Drew Brees took the snap at the Rams’ 13-yard line and threw a pass to TommyLee Lewis; Rams safety Nickell Roby-Colman mugged Lewis while the receiver tried to catch the ball. The official didn’t call pass interference or the helmet-to-helmet hit that occurred. The pass fell incomplete. The score was 20-20 at the time. Both teams kicked field goals in regulation, but the Rams won it in overtime. Had the field judge called the play correctly, the Saints could have scored to go ahead in the final seconds and won the game, yes?

I have listened to extensive commentary on this mess. Yes, it’s a mess. One official committed a disastrous non-call on what looked to the entire football game-watching world like pass interference. Some sports pundits talked on NPR about theories of conspiracy, the possibility that the “fix was in.” Sheesh!

Why not get too worked up?

Because the official is a fallible human being, just like all the rest of us. Fallible creatures make mistakes. That’s how it goes, man.

Look, I’m not even a fan of instant replay, or “official review” of these calls. I don’t hate them the way I hate the designated hitter in pro baseball, but I just wish we could rely on human beings to make the best calls they can in the heat of competition.

Besides, when you consider all the calls these folks make during the course of a 60-minute professional football game, I remain mightily impressed with the overwhelming number of correct decisions they make.

Would I feel differently if I lived in New Orleans and saw this play? Would I spit my gumbo out if I watched the official fail to make the obvious call?

That’s a hypothetical question, but yeah, I probably would go ballistic. However, I have no particular interest in the NFC championship game, other than wanting the Saints to win. They lost.

Besides, if the Saints were the better team that day in the Superdome, they should have put the game away in front of the raucous Big Easy crowd.

Now, let’s just get ready for the Super Bowl.

Prediction: AISD’s coaching pain will linger

We’ve returned home after a wonderful but brief return to the Texas Panhandle.

I am left with this lingering feeling about what I have witnessed regarding the stunning resignation of a high school volleyball coach: The Amarillo Independent School District’s athletic community is going to be in pain for perhaps beyond the foreseeable future.

Kori Clements quit after a single season as head coach of the Amarillo High girls volleyball team. It is a vaunted sports program. Clements is one of its star products, graduating from AHS in 2006. She played under a coaching legend, Jan Barker, and returned to succeed her mentor when Barker retired.

It didn’t go well, according to the letter that Clements submitted announcing her resignation. She said she is leaving because of pressure exerted by a parent of one of her athletes. The parent allegedly said her daughter deserved more playing time and Clements implied in her resignation letter that the parent made it impossible for her continue as coach. I heard some testimony this week about the parent allegedly calling on the coach unannounced at her home to, um, discuss this playing time matter.

What’s worse is the chatter about the parent, who apparently is a member of the AISD board of trustees. Her name is Renee McCown. Where I come from, the school system is witnessing a serious abuse of power by an elected official over a school district faculty member.

It is an unconscionable circumstance. The athletic community is hurting. Several AISD constituents displayed their pain earlier this week at a school board meeting. I listened to them express their angst — even anger and disgust — at the lack of support given to the coach who, if you heard the testimony from some of the athletes who played for her, is a beloved figure.

The pain won’t dissipate soon. It might have been exacerbated when the school board accepted Clements’ resignation with no comment. There was no public expression of support for her, or public expression of regret over the circumstance she said precipitated her resignation.

I feel sad at this moment for my former Texas Panhandle neighbors. I’ll keep watching this matter continue to evolve from some distance. I just know that the wounds are deep and painful.

Coaching controversy reaffirms valuable lesson for community

AMARILLO, Texas — The Kori Clements Coaching Era at Amarillo High School was far too short-lived than the former coach and most of the community she served had ever intended.

Clements quit as Amarillo High School’s girls volleyball coach and tossed out some bitter medicine for the school district and the community at-large to swallow. It was that she left because of pressure she alleged she got from the parent of one of the girls she coached; the parent, allegedly a member of the school board, harassed Clements because she wasn’t giving her daughter enough playing time.

The Amarillo public school trustees accepted her resignation Tuesday night. Then they adjourned what had been a sometimes-testy public meeting and they all went home.

We are talking about a public school system, financed by public money and governed by public laws. It is unacceptable for the governing board to hide behind some policy that prohibits it from commenting on personnel matters. There needs to be a public airing of what went wrong and a public discussion about how to fix it.

To that end, I hope the Amarillo Independent School District trustees and administrators begin with some candid conversation with the offending parent and make changes to avoid a repeat of this kind of hectoring of the next Amarillo HS volleyball coach.

This sad episode simply drives home a fundamental point about public education. We entrust our educators — be they classroom teachers or coaches, band directors or theater directors — to do right by our children. We expect our educators to be fair, to be stern if necessary, to be caring. We also should expect our public school administrators to have our educators’ back if the educator is doing all the right things.

Kori Clements apparently did her job well for the single season she was allowed to do it. But she didn’t have that support from the administration or the board. The school system failed the coach and by extension failed the student-athletes she was hired to lead in athletic competition.

That dereliction of public responsibility cannot be allowed to stand.

I’m going home Thursday to Collin County. I’ll be looking back at Amarillo from time to time to see how this drama plays out. I hope the Amarillo public school community will discern some palpable change in policy.

Kori Clements deserved better than she got from the school system that hired her. Let’s hope this sad chapter ends with a reaffirmation of the need to nurture the efforts of top-quality educators.

Trustees should have looked at those who scolded them

AMARILLO, Texas — I cannot get past a bit of body language I observed Tuesday night at the Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting.

I watched several AISD constituents stand before the board to offer public comment on the issue that brought them to the school district board room in the first place. They sought to speak to the board about the sudden and shocking resignation of Kori Clements, the head volleyball coach at Amarillo High School. Clements quit citing pressure she received from an AISD parent who didn’t like the lack of playing time her daughter was getting from the coach.

Some of the constituents who stood before the board spoke in tones that reminded me of a scolding you would get from your mom or dad. Many of the trustees never looked up from the dais where they sitting. They didn’t look their scolding constituents in the eye.

When Mom chewed me out when I was a kid, she usually would instruct me to “look at me when I’m talking to you!” I also had this annoying tendency to smirk when Mom scolded me, which prompted her to tell me to “wipe that smirk off your face or else I’ll wipe it off for you.” 

My point is that Mom demanded respect when she thought I messed up. I needed to show that respect by looking her in the eye.

I couldn’t help but think of what an AISD constituent might have said to trustees — particularly the one trustee who is believed to be the cause for Coach Clements’ resignation — while he or she was lecturing the board about the merits of offering total support for the school district’s educators.

It might go something like this: Ladies and gentlemen of the board, I am here to talk to you tonight about the resignation of a highly respected coach who has stated that she didn’t get the support she deserved from the board and the administration. She said she was pressured to do the “politically correct” thing . . . 

Oh, and by the way, I would appreciate it very much, board members, if you would look at me while I am talking to you. This is serious stuff and I think you owe it to me — as a taxpaying constituent whose money pays for this school system — to look me in the eye while I am addressing you.

I would bet you real American money that constituent would have received a standing ovation from the crowd that had crammed into the meeting room.

The trustees — especially the one who is believed to have pressured Kori Clements to quit her job after one season — most surely could have shown their “bosses” more respect than they did Tuesday night.

How? Just look ’em in the eye when they’re speaking!