Category Archives: Sports news

‘Gotta love minor league ball’

I suppose it could be a lot worse, or a lot more worthy of argument, as Amarillo, Texas, awaits the naming of its new AA minor-league baseball team.

The team owners are pondering a list of five names that emerged as “finalists” to be considered for the new team name.

My favorite, if you want to call it that, is Sod Poodles, which the Elmore Group said is an old-time term used to describe prairie dogs, a critter common throughout the High Plains.

But I got an interesting message from a friend of mine who wanted to provide a bit of perspective to this whole matter of team-naming.

My dear friend writes: I know you’ve been agonizing over the Amarillo team’s name, but here are some examples from Thursday’s Word Sleuth: Bees, Curve, Fire Frogs, Hooks, IronPigs, Lugnuts, Muckdogs, Owlz, Rawhide, Snappers, Stone Crabs, TinCaps, Yard Goats, and my personal favorite, Biscuits and Gravy. Love that minor league ball!

My friend, who lives in Beaumont, Texas, also wants me to mention “Golden Gators,” which was the name of a team that once played hardball in the Golden Triangle.

Yep, I love minor league ball, too.

The Amarillo team’s ownership said it wanted to build a community talking point with the list of finalists. It seems to have succeeded in that mission. Whatever name they reveal for the team is sure to get ’em talking.

But … I’m still all in for the Sod Poodles. Yeah, it’s a weird name, but the fans will get used to it. Of that I am certain.

It’s not about flag, military, or love of country, Mr. POTUS

The 2018 National Football League season is about to commence and once again — as we were a year ago — we’ll be talking as much about players kneeling as much as we’ll talk about touchdowns, first downs and superlative athletic prowess.

The NFL has issued an edict at the suggestion of Donald Trump that requires players who are on the field to stand while they play the National Anthem.

Some players are ignoring the mandate. They are continuing to kneel in protest of law enforcement policy relating to African-Americans. Some of them are raising a clenched fist. The players are angry that police in some communities treat black citizens differently from other Americans.

Of course, the president has managed to twist and contort the argument into something it is not. He blames the players — almost of them black — of disrespecting the flag and the military men and women who fight to defend it. He did so again this week. He is demanding the players who kneel be suspended by their team.

C’mon, man! It’s not about a player’s love of country. It’s about policing. It’s about the treatment of some Americans by law enforcement.

To suggest that the players are disrespecting our military, or the flag, or the nation is to reduce this discussion into another litany of maximum demagoguery.

Do I wish the players had employed another method to protest? Yes. However, I recognize what they’re doing, what they’re saying and we should allow them the opportunity to speak out.

Hey, it’s in the U.S. Constitution!

Worst or best names?

A letter to the editor in today’s Amarillo Globe-News comes from a man who, I think, understands why the weird names on the finalist list being considered for Amarillo’s new baseball team may produce one of the potentially “best” team nicknames of all time.

Here’s the letter; it’s brief:

Regarding the recent letter to the editor in Amarillo Globe-News (Letter: ‘Sod Poodles’ has competition for worst name in minor league baseball, Aug. 3, amarillo.com) about “Rocky Mountain Oysters” being the worst name in professional baseball, it is just a matter of opinion, but I think “Rocky Mountain Oysters” is one of the best minor league baseball team names.

Ever.

And “Toledo Mud Hens” runs a close second.

The letter is signed by Dick Novotny of Amarillo.

I think the man gets it.

I admit to being initially turned off by the list of finalists when the Elmore Group — owners of the AA team that will play ball in Amarillo beginning next spring. Then I started thinking about it. I also heard the team’s justification for going with the goofy names.

It made sense. The team owners want the team name to become some sort of brand for the outfit that will play ball. They point out that many other minor-league franchises have fielded teams with strange-sounding names. The two of them noted in the AGN Media letter are good examples.

I have heard already of the Mud Hens. I understand that the Mud Hens are popular in Toledo, Ohio, irrespective of the name of the team.

I’m still going to go with Sod Poodles as the new team’s name. Who knows? Perhaps the Sod Poodles will emerge eventually as the “best minor league baseball team name … Ever.”

LeBron’s noble act gets lost in the Twitter storm

Seemingly lost in all the hubbub over Donald J. Trump’s tweet about LeBron James and Don Lemon has been the noble act that the pro basketball player has committed on behalf of at-risk children in his hometown.

Sure, Americans are talking about the president’s racist-sounding message in which he calls Lemon the “dumbest man on television” and how the CNN anchor made James “look smart.” I’ll add that both men, Lemon and James, are African-American. Trump’s insult is in keeping his with his history of insulting African-Americans’ intelligence.

The story ought to center on what LeBron James has done for students in Akron, Ohio. He has invested several million dollars of his own immense fortune in establishing a school for those children.

Trump, who said in his tweet “I like Mike,” drew a response from “Mike,” aka Michael Jordan, the retired NBA great who endorsed LeBron’s efforts on behalf of the kids.

The reality is this: LeBron James has done far more for children in Akron than Trump has done in his entire professional life. I will repeat what I’ve noted already, which is that Trump focused his entire career on self-enrichment. He demonstrated zero interest in public service prior to running for president in 2016 … and I’m convinced that he intended to become president for completely personal reasons.

LeBron James’s act of generosity will long outlive the current dust-up over the president’s Twitter tirade and perhaps even the debate over its racist tone.

How much change awaits downtown Amarillo?

A young couple we met this week in Plano, Texas, seems to share my optimism about the future of downtown Amarillo.

They both grew up there. They know the city well, better than I do. Hey, my wife and I only spent 23 years in the city, so I’ll concede that my body of knowledge isn’t as deep as those who are of the Texas Panhandle city.

Our conversation turned to the upcoming ballpark that’s under construction. The stadium will be done no later than the spring of 2019. Then they’re going to start playing AA minor-league hardball at the shiny new park. It will seat about 5,000 fans. My hope is that it’s full on opening night — and on subsequent game days.

Our new friends said the city well might see the kind of entertainment explosion that has occurred in other cities with downtown athletic venues. They didn’t mention them specifically, but I thought immediately of Oklahoma City, where they built a ballpark, then welcomed the burgeoning revival of the old warehouse district that’s now called Bricktown.

One of our new friends believes the row of old warehouses east of City Hall and the new ballpark are slated for a similar revival once they start playing baseball downtown.

I hope he is right. Indeed, if other communities can rehabilitate old buildings, bring them back to life, generate more revenue for the community, then Amarillo would seem to be ripe for a similar spate of good fortune.

The city is witnessing a significant uptick in business activity already along Polk Street.

I am going to hold out hope — and belief — that more good fortune is on its way.

Common denominator with sports figures and Trump?

The Hill newspaper has posted an item online that chronicles the sports figures who have clashed with Donald J. Trump.

I am struck, as are you, with the common denominator that stands out. All the celebrities are African-American.

Check out the story here

The sports figures — and I use the term “figures” because one of the men mentioned is LaVar Ball, the loudmouth father of a pro basketball player, LiAngelo Ball — all have gotten into beefs with the president, who has taken to Twitter to castigate them.

Is it a mere coincidence that all these individuals are black?

Or … is the president singling out these fellows because of their racial background?

I hate thinking that the president is a racist. The evidence continues to mount that the president’s worst instincts are proving to be so tragically true.

Stick to things that really matter, Mr. POTUS

Dan Rather has it right when he lambastes the president of the United States over a ridiculous message sent out via Twitter regarding — and this is rich! — comments from the world’s greatest professional basketball player, LeBron James.

Rather, the one-time CBS News anchor, said this, also via Twitter: This is apparently what the President of the United States feels the need to share with the world at what should be long past his bedtime? It’s a disgrace. It’s racist. And it’s the product of petty but dangerous hatreds. I repeat this is the PRESIDENT??!?

Trump had posted this message: Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!

Yep, the commander in chief, the leader of the free world, the head of state of the world’s most indispensable nation is concerning himself with some comments that LeBron James has made about the president.

Read The Hill story here

Did I mention that James has just opened a new school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, giving at-risk kids a chance to achieve greatness? There. I just did.

Or the fact that James is married to his high school sweetheart, has been faithful to her over many years of marital bliss? That, too.

Yes, James — as well as CNN news commentator Don Lemon — happen to be African-American. So that means that POTUS, the liar in chief, feels compelled to question their intelligence. Is it just a coincidence, too, that Trump has singled out African-American football players for their decision to “take a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games? I, um, think not.

Disgraceful.

Texas AirHogs speak Chinese?

I saw a story in the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News and chuckled quietly as I pondered how I might respond to it.

You can read the story here.

It’s about an independent baseball team that plays its home games in Grand Prairie, near Dallas. They call themselves the Texas AirHogs. But here’s where the chuckle comes in: Its roster is populated by Chinese athletes who are getting some playing time while preparing for the Asian Games in 2020.

There’s more. This team used to play some of its home games in Amarillo. The team once was based exclusively in the Panhandle, then it decided to split its “home” schedule between Amarillo and Grand Prairie.

Over time, the team decided to move exclusively to Grand Prairie, where it now is a training ground unit for the Chinese national baseball team.

My head is spinning over this one.

And it damn sure makes me glad that Amarillo is on the verge of welcoming a AA major-league-affiliated minor-league team that next spring begins playing hardball at the downtown Amarillo ballpark that is now under construction.

There won’t be this kind of Mickey Mouse baseball going on with a team associated with a bona fide Major League outfit. They will play baseball in a shiny new park, ushering in a new era for the city’s profound image makeover.

Good luck, Grand Prairie. Amarillo’s fortunes have taken a significant turn for the better.

Penalize players for kneeling?

I saw this Twitter message from Donald J. Trump.

He asks whether the NFL player contract requires players to stand with the hand over their heart when the National Anthem is being played.

Then he suggests that players should be suspended for the season without pay if they kneel a second time.

Hmm. Interesting. That kind of reminds of when the boxing authorities denied the late Muhammad Ali the ability to make a living because he refused to enter the U.S. Army; he protested the Vietnam War on religious grounds.

The Supreme Court would rule later, unanimously, that Ali’s suspension from boxing was unconstitutional. He was being denied the right to protest the government.

Aren’t the players protesting local governments’ treatment of African-American offenders? Isn’t there a parallel here between today’s protests and the one that The Greatest made a couple of generations ago?

Get ready for it: Amarillo Sod Poodles

I am getting a bit of enjoyment reading the smattering of letters to the editor of the Amarillo Globe-News from baseball fans arguing against Sod Poodles as the name of the new AA minor-league baseball team that will play ball next spring in Amarillo, Texas.

One of them appeared today. There have been some others. They cannot stand the name that emerged as one of the finalists selected by Elmore Group, owners of the team that will move from San Antonio.

I hated the name when I first saw it, too. Then my mind changed. I now have become something of a fan of the name. Sod Poodles supposedly is some sort of historic, Old West reference to prairie dogs. I keep hearing from lifelong Texas Panhandle residents that they’ve never heard of the term … until now!

The team owners wanted to choose from among five names that would cause fans to talk about the team. I believe Sod Poodles is the name that will have fans talking the most vociferously.

I don’t know what the team ownership will decide. They’re supposedly polling the public for its preference. They’ll announce the “winner” later this year. I am not certain of this, but I am betting the Elmore Group is under no obligation to certify and release the ballot results while announcing its decision.

Just a note to suggest that my hunch is that the team owners are going to go with their gut on this one.

You go, Sod Poodles!