Category Archives: Sports news

Fractions of seconds … that’s all it takes

As we watch the Winter Olympics, my wife and I are struck by a fantastic observation.

It’s that so little time separates “winners” from “losers.”

We watched the men’s downhill skiing event and we listen to former Olympic skier Bode Miller tell us how so-and-so is a “half-second” behind the leader as he hurtles down the mountainside at breakneck speeds.

It then occurs to us that fractions of seconds keep skiers from standing on the medal podium. If they were only a tenth of a second faster, they would be able to collect a medal.

But are they “losers” in the true sense of the word? Not in my mind.

It’s not just in skiing, either. Speed skaters face the same high bar. The bobsledders, lugers and the skeleton riders do as well.

How can they consider themselves to be “losers” when they come so tantalizingly close to hearing their country’s national anthem being played at these Olympic Games?

They’re all winners … and I don’t mean that in the participation medal sense of the word.

All I can say is, um — wow, man!

Non-politician has learned how to politicize

Edwin Jackson died in a tragic automobile accident over the weekend.

He was a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. His death is a tragedy for his family, his teammates and for professional football fans who followed his career.

So … how does the president of the United States respond?

He fired off two tweets. The first one said this: So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!

Five minutes, Donald Trump wrote this: My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. @Colts

Which of these tweets more accurately reflects the president’s instincts? Is it the one that offered the typical knee-jerk political reaction to a human tragedy? Or is the second one that should have been the only comment coming from the president?

Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential campaign by touting his non-political background. He boasted of his business acumen, his instincts, as well as his ability to cut the “best deals” in the history of Planet Earth.

Here we are. One year and a few days after Donald Trump became president, the non-politician has acquired the politician’s taste — if not the nuanced ability — for politicizing an event that should remain far from the political arena.

Shameful.

You go, Philly Eagles!

Normally, I might be a bit down in the dumps over the result of a Super Bowl contest that ended the way Super Bowl LII did.

You see, I am a fan of the American Football Conference. I root for the AFC team over the National Football Conference team in the big game. I have rolled that way dating back to the original AFL-NFL Championship Game, in 1967, when the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers.

This year, the Philadelphia Eagles outscored the New England Patriots in a barn-burner.

Why aren’t I saddened by the outcome? The Patriots have won more than their share of Super Bowls. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady sought their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy together.

The Eagles had been denied the fruit of victory in their previous two attempts: once by the Oakland Raiders and once by, that’s right, the Patriots.

So it was their turn Sunday to bring home the coveted trophy.

It’s hard to feel too badly for a sports franchise that has won so much for so long.

As for the underdog upsetting the favorites, I return to one of my favorite sayings about such things: That is why they play the game.

Nice ‘problem’ to have, Eagles

How would you like to be the head coach or the general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles?

You have a quarterback, Carson Wentz, who was thought to be the prohibitive favorite to be the National Football League’s most valuable player. Then he gets hurt.

Wentz’s backup, Nick Foles, steps in and leads the team to the Super Bowl. Then, against the odds, the backup throws for three touchdowns and catches another one.

The Eagles win, defeating one of those “teams of destiny,” the New England Patriots, who have a pretty good QB of their own, a guy named Tom Brady.

So … what now?

Wentz will come back from his injury. But what about Foles? What do you with Foles, who won the Super Bowl MVP award while lighting up the stadium with the performance of several lifetimes?

Foles is nowhere the end of his playing career. The young man is a creaky 29 years of age, for crying out loud.

Good luck, Philly, as you ponder how you might cope with this “problem.” Congratulations, too, for one hell of a victory!

NFL does well with its Man of Year selection

I don’t normally get excited about pro football awards.

This year is different. The National Football League today announced its Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It goes to someone I just knew would get it: J.J. Watt, the standout defensive end for the Houston Texans.

What did Watt do to earn this honor, named after the late Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame running back and one of the great all-round great gentlemen of all pro sports?

Watt decided to launch a fundraising effort to help victims of his adopted hometown of Houston, after the wrath it suffered from Hurricane Harvey. He set a modest goal of $250,000.

Uh, Watt finished with a lot more than that. He ended up raising a cool $37 million for the waterlogged residents of Houston, whose homes were destroyed by the epic rainfall.

J.J. Watt is a tremendous athlete. I am delighted to know that the NFL has recognized him for possessing a tremendous heart.

Many of us far away from the coast saw this award coming. Our hearts were broken when Harvey came ashore not once, but twice along the Texas Gulf Coast. It pounded the Coastal Bend with killer winds and storm surge, then backed away from the coast and returned as a tropical storm.

It was on its second visit to the coast that Harvey did its damage to Houston and to the Golden Triangle, just east of the big city.

J.J. Watt stepped up in a big-time way to raise money for those victims — and has richly earned the title of the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Well done, young man. I would bet that Walter Payton, the man they called “Sweetness,” would be proud of you, too.

MPEV ground broken; city bolts toward brighter future

A crowd of about 200 or 300 folks came today to a vacant lot across from Amarillo City Hall. There was some back-slapping, congratulatory wishes and plenty of smiles to be seen.

And for a very good reason.

They broke ground today on a $45 million entertainment venue — aka The Ballpark — that is likely to help lead downtown Amarillo toward a future that few of us thought was possible.

I do believe the future is a bright one.

The multipurpose event venue has been called a “catalyst” that would spark downtown Amarillo’s revival and rebirth. They lit that catalyst this afternoon. May the spark now light an economic fire.

City officials welcomed executives from the Elmore Group, owners of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball at the MPEV when it’s done, no later than April 2019. Elmore execs declared their intention to make Amarillo the nation’s top minor-league baseball city.

Given the hope and optimism I witnessed today under a bright winter sun, I have a hunch many of those in attendance today believe that high-minded goal is well within reach. I hope it comes true.

I am acutely aware that a big crowd at a ceremonial groundbreaking doesn’t guarantee success. Construction has to proceed quickly. It should be done at or under budget.

The MPEV will need to open with lots of people sitting in its seats to watch the baseball team that is moving here from San Antonio. Many high-profile supporters of the MPEV — and I can cite retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney as one of them — have contended that Amarillo is a “good baseball town.” We will determine the legitimacy of that claim in due course.

The catalyst also is slated to bring more business into the downtown district. It will help fill a shiny new hotel and a parking garage across the street from the Civic Center. It also might become a good promotional tool for the city to lure more convention business, which will bring presumably deep-pocketed visitors to Amarillo.

That’s all in the immediate future for a city that has embarked on a serious makeover of its central business district.

Today, they broke ground on the next big step on the city’s journey toward a brighter future.

Now … let’s get busy.

Sexual abuse story now heads for Texas

Larry Nassar, the serial sexual assailant, has settled into his new “home,” which happens to be a Michigan prison, where he will spend the rest of his miserable life.

The story of this monster is still unfolding, in Texas.

Nassar — a former physician — was sentenced to 175 years in prison after he was convicted of sexual assault of young women and girls while they were under his medical care at Michigan State University. His victims were young gymnasts, some of whom were Olympic champions.

The Texas connection? Several of the women contend that they were abused while they trained under the eyes of Bela and Martha Karolyi at their famed “ranch” near Houston.

Gov. Greg Abbott has deployed the Texas Rangers — the elite investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety — to look into the allegations of abuse that have been leveled against the Karolyis.

The Texas Tribune reports: “The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.”

Indeed.

I have supreme confidence that the Texas Rangers will get to the truth, whatever it is and whomever it involves.

Nassar’s conviction and sentence already have brought down members of the U.S. gymnastics association, as well as the Michigan State president and athletic director.

I am not going to bet against the Rangers finding more culprits lurking right here, in Texas.

Waiting for big ceremony downtown

I accepted an invitation today.

It wasn’t an exclusive invitation, as I’m sure the folks who extended it want as many folks as they can find to attend.

They’re going to break ground Thursday on the, um, multipurpose event venue on Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo, Texas.

The MPEV, aka The Ballpark, will be completed in time for the 2019 AA minor-league baseball season. It will cost an estimated $45 million. It will seat around 4,500 fans for baseball and a lot more for other community events that proponents hope will be part of the venue’s agenda.

This is a big deal, folks! The MPEV reached this point after countless public hearings, serious public debate, two contentious City Council elections and a citywide referendum that voters approved by a narrow margin in November 2015.

I’ve long supported the concept of the MPEV and I want this ballpark built on time and hopefully under budget.

The promise of the MPEV brought a shiny new hotel across the street from the Civic Center. They’ve built a parking garage as well, with ground-floor space set aside for retail establishments; to date, those floors remain dark, but there’s considerable promise that outlets will move in once the MPEV gets much closer to completion.

The groundbreaking event will be for symbolic purposes only. A group of dignitaries will line up with shovels under foot. They might make some remarks. They’ll smile for the cameras, push the shovels into the dirt, shake hands, pat each other on the back and then go back to their day jobs.

Then the real work will begin.

My confidence that the MPEV would become a reality for Amarillo went through its share of ups and downs. The City Council seemed to waffle on it after the 2015 municipal election. Then it sent the matter to a “non-binding” vote in that referendum later that year. The MPEV became the subject of sometimes-heated community debate. Then it passed. The city wasn’t obligated to abide by the result, but the council did the right thing and proceeded forward.

So, here we are. Amarillo is on the cusp of a new era. They’ll break ground on property just south of City Hall.

I’ll be there to watch the new era begin.

Then I will cheer when the era arrives. Who knows? I might even be in the stands to watch ’em toss out the first pitch.

Super Bowl: Who gets the cheers?

Oh, the quandary I face.

The Super Bowl will occur next weekend and for the first time in about, oh, 52 years I don’t know for which team I should cheer.

Some members of my family know that I am a fairly dedicated American Football Conference fan. I used to watch the former American Football League games over the NFL back in the very old days. When the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, I rooted for old AFL teams every time they played the NFL teams. There was a caveat, though: Three NFL teams — the Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns — moved to the AFC, so I grudgingly rooted for them as well. Let’s not forget that the leagues met in four Super Bowls prior to their merger, with the AFL teams winning two of those games.

This year I am faced with this problem: The New England (formerly the Boston) Patriots are playing the Philadelphia Eagles. Normally I’d root hard for the Pats, except they’ve so damn many of these Super Bowls I am inclined to send good karma to the Eagles, who’ve never won the big game. The Pats beat them years after my beloved Oakland Raiders smoked the Eagles.

I have tumbled off the AFC bandwagon once, when I cheered for the New Orleans Saints to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Lo and behold, the Saints won and gave the Big Easy plenty to cheer after the misery those folks had endured from Hurricane Katrina less than five years earlier.

It might take some kind of heart-warming story to make me switch my loyalty to the NFC for Super Bowl LII. Then again, perhaps I will simply tire of hearing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tell us how great he is.

I mean, c’mon! Would a sixth Super Bowl victory make him even an greater athlete than he already is?

Oh … the humanity!

A big domino falls in Nassar sex scandal … more to come?

Lou Anna Simon has quit her day job. It wasn’t just any job, either.

She was president of Michigan State University, the school that employed a doctor who this week was sentenced to as many as 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young female athletes.

Larry Nassar is now heading for prison for the rest of his life. He heard from scores of his victims during the sentencing phase of his trial. He said he is sorry, but the judge, Rosemarie Aquilini, didn’t believe him, declaring it was her “honor and privilege” to hand out the maximum sentence.

Then there’s the responsibility for the long-standing scandal that has rocked the sporting world far beyond the East Lansing, Mich., university.

Simon quit because this despicable conduct happened on her watch.

The question now must be asked: Did others know of this conduct but failed to act?

This hideous scandal does bring to my mind another one at another school, involving individuals charged with caring for youngsters. Do the names of Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno ring a bell?

Sandusky served as an assistant football coach at Penn State University. Then he was convicted of sexually abusing boys. Meanwhile, the legendary head coach — aka “Jo Pa” — got caught up in the scandal by allegedly looking the other way while he knew of the abuse that was occurring.

Penn State fired Paterno, who later died of cancer. Sandusky is serving a lengthy prison sentence.

We are learning from the Nassar scandal — as well as from the Sandusky scandal — that these events don’t occur in a vacuum. The men who do these things so very often do so with the implied — if not the outright — endorsement of their employers.

The implication surfaces when those in charge do nothing to stop this kind of hideous behavior as it is occurring.

Therefore, I am betting that Larry Nassar’s downfall will bring others with him.