Category Archives: Sports news

It’s time to name that baseball team

Amarillo’s upcoming minor-league baseball season, which commences in April 2019, will welcome a new team nickname to the region.

The Elmore Group, owners of the team that will play hardball at the multipurpose event venue under construction in downtown Amarillo, has opened up the team-naming process to the fans.

I welcome this challenge. I likely won’t submit a suggested name, but I’ll watch from the peanut gallery as the team ownership ponders what to call this new team that will move to Amarillo from San Antonio.

The team now plays under the name of “Missions.” It’s a AA ballclub affiliated with the National League San Diego Padres. San Antonio will get a AAA franchise that will relocate there from Colorado Springs.

Hmm. Think of that for a moment. Maybe the new Amarillo team will have a sort of religious name, given that “Padres” can be construed as having a religious meaning, just as “Missions” is so interpreted.

Well, whatever. The last time I lived in a community that went through a pro franchise team-naming exercise, the name that came forward was initially greeted with derision. That was in 1970. The NBA awarded my hometown of Portland a pro basketball franchise. They had to name the new team. I preferred “Lumberjacks,” given the huge impact the timber industry has on the Pacific Northwest.

Instead, they came up with “Trail Blazers,” which as I remember it was meant to honor Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led that “trail blazing” expedition from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Still, I didn’t like the name initially — but it grew on me and the rest of the community.

Thus, I caution baseball fans in Amarillo to be patient with whatever name comes forward for the new team that will play ball at the MPEV. The name might grow on you, even if you don’t like it at first.

And, come to think of it … the ballpark needs a name, too.

Gangs are for cowards

I just stumbled on a quote attributed to a most unlikely source.

It comes from the late Mickey Mantle, the one-time New York Yankee slugger and athletic descendant of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.

The quote attributed to The Mick is this: A team is where a boy can prove his courage on his own. A gang is where a coward goes to hide.

Interesting, yes? Of course it is.

Mantle wasn’t known as a philosopher. He was a plain-spoken kid from Oklahoma who could hit baseballs farther than anyone, run faster than anyone, field his position better than anyone. He was the real deal, the total package.

Mickey was my favorite baseball player as I was growing up. I cheered for him when he did well, and slumped a bit when he got hurt … which was entirely too often during his Hall of Fame career.

These few words, though, ring so true to me.

I’ve heard for longer than I care to admit that the gang culture becomes “family” to young men and women who have no real family at home. They run into the embrace of others who adopt them as one of their own.

But then these “family members” subject them to initiation rites. They haze them. They threaten them if they don’t do what they’re told.

I am left to wonder whether it’s more courageous to refuse to do what they are ordered to do than to follow orders blindly. Courage would lead them to defy those who profess to adopt them as family. Cowardice leads them to a path of mindless compliance.

Mickey Mantle was known as a “great teammate.” He treated all the players on his New York Yankees team the same, whether they were all-stars — as he was — or end-of-the-bench substitutes who saw little, if any, playing time.

Mickey Mantle must have known more than many of us give him credit for knowing about the courage of belonging to a team and the cowardice of adhering to gang life.

Who in the world knew?

You go, Mo, into the Hall of Fame

West Texas State University alumnus Maurice Cheeks is headed to the Naismith Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, along with some other great former pro basketball players.

I am so happy to see this development, as I have been a fan of Mo Cheeks for a long time. I watched him play ball for years as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. He also coached my hometown NBA Portland Trail Blazers.

I know that Cheeks has a lot of fans here in the Texas Panhandle, where he lit ’em up while playing college ball for the WT Buffaloes. He went through a serious culture shock, coming here from Chicago and learning about life in the Texas Panhandle.

Cheeks will join Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and WNBA legend Tina Thompson in the Hall of Fame.

But … there’s another reason Mo Cheeks has earned many Americans’ undying love and respect. It occurred during the opening ceremony of an NBA game in Portland, where he was coaching the Blazers. A teenager was selected to sing the National Anthem to open the game. Natalie Gilbert did her best … then something happened.

She froze. Natalie forgot the words. Hey, it happens.

Up stepped Coach Cheeks in an astounding display of presence of mind. He did the following, as shown on the video attached here.

Right there is my all time favorite Maurice Cheeks moment. It might be my favorite NBA moment … of all time!

Congratulations, Maurice Cheeks.

Tiger appears to be back … all the way

I know this sounds snobbish of me, but I want Tiger Woods to win the tournament he is playing in this week.

It’s something called the Valspar Championship. He is a shot behind a young man from Canada named Corey Conners.

Snobbishness? Well, my desire to see Tiger win is to see some excitement generated in professional golf. Conners hasn’t won yet on the pro golf tour. His day will come. I just don’t want it to come this weekend.

You know how I feel about Tiger Woods. He turned out to be a dirt bag of a husband. He cheated repeatedly on his wife, a former Miss Sweden for criminy sakes! She caught him cheating, kicked him out of their mansion and Woods’s career nosedived not long after that.

He’s had some injury, multiple surgeries, a couple of aborted comebacks.

Woods does play with a certain panache. He is so damn fun to watch on TV. I noted in an earlier blog post that he might be “bigger than the game,” although he surely wouldn’t ever say as much out loud.

Woods will be paired with young Corey Conners on Sunday. They’ll get to go head to head. If Corey holds up under the pressure and fends off the greatest golfer of his age, then he well could launch himself into a potentially great career in professional golf.

If Woods’s latest comeback produces his first win in five years, that will make the Earth shake under golf’s feet.

Still enjoy waiting for baseball to begin

I don’t follow big-league baseball with nearly the fervor I did when I was a kid.

Free agency managed to wreck it for me in the late 1960s, allowing big leaguers to sell their talents to the highest bidder. Players have switched teams, causing some upset to those of us who long associated players with teams.

Mickey Mantle: New York Yankees; Ted Williams: Boston Red Sox; Stan Musial: St. Louis Cardinals.

Sure, some post-free agency players stayed with the same teams throughout their careers: Tony Gwynn: San Diego Padres; Cal Ripken: Baltimore Orioles; George Brett: Kansas City Royals.

All six of those guys are first-ballot Hall of Famers.

OK, now that I’ve stipulated that I don’t follow Major League Baseball the way I used to follow it, I remain anxious as we get ready for the first pitch to be tossed out. I still like old-fashioned hardball. It remains in my mind and heart the National Pastime.

I don’t await the start of pro basketball or pro football with this kind of anticipation. Pro hockey? Umm. Not even close.

Baseball is still a bit different for me.

I follow a couple of players more than the rest of ’em. By fave at the moment plays for the Los Angeles Angels: Albert Pujols, who’ll enter the Hall of Fame on the first ballot when his time comes up. Pujols is set to get his 3,000th hit this season. He’ll get his share of home runs to add to his ninth-best career total of 614. My hope is that he can put together at least one more career year to match the seasons he piled up in St. Louis before he decided to shop his skills around before he ended up in LA.

So, with that I’ll await the 2018 MLB season with some enthusiasm. I’m no longer a kid. Baseball no longer is quite the same as it was in those days.

They still play good hardball and, brother, they get paid lots of money to play a kid’s game.

Maybe he really is bigger than the game … maybe

He wouldn’t actually admit it out loud, but I’m beginning to think Tiger Woods just might be bigger than the game he plays for a living.

He is playing well in a PGA golf tournament this week. The CBS Sports broadcasting crew can’t stop talking enough about Woods. He isn’t in the lead as I write this brief blog post but he’s lurking not too far behind the tournament leaders.

What’s more, I’ll admit to liking to watch pro golf on TV more when Tiger is playing, let alone when he’s in contention to win.

Woods has been on the shelf for most of the past three seasons. He’s had those injuries. He’s had several back surgeries. Woods tried to come back a time or three, but then went back to the physical therapist for more PT and rehab.

Then, of course, Woods had that rather remarkable scandal involving his serial philandering.

That was then. Woods is back in the game. I’ve said before I am seriously pulling for Woods to come all the way back. I want him to return to something resembling the all-world form he displayed from 1997 until about 2009.

Golf is a great game to watch. Really! I like watching it on TV.

I like it a bit more when Tiger Woods is in the hunt.

Does that mean Tiger is “bigger than the game”? Maybe it does.

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!