Category Archives: Sports news

St. Louis Blues could make history in unusual fashion

I need to stipulate that I am not a hockey fan. I don’t watch hockey matches often. I don’t know most of the teams in the National Hockey League, nor am I even aware of most of the NHL’s top players.

But … I know a little about league history, which brings me to this point: The St. Louis Blues lead the Boston Bruins three games to two in the Stanley Cup finals series and are poised to win the Cup. If they win, they will make history in a most unusual fashion. I now will explain.

The Blues came into the NHL in 1967 when the league expanded from six teams to 12. The NHL then had the horrible sense to put all the new teams into one division and all the original hockey teams into the other.

The newbies then would play their season, along with the oldies. The newbies all had losing regular-season records. The Blues were the best of a bad bunch of teams in that initial 1967-68 season.

They qualified for the Stanley Cup finals in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

The Montreal Canadiens swept the Blues in four straight games in the first two Cup finals; the Bruins scored a 4-0 sweep in 1970, which the latest time the Blues made the finals. That was 49 years ago, man! Three Cup finals and the Blues were zero-for-12 in all of ’em.

The NHL finally woke up to the travesty it created with its goofy alignment after expansion, moving the Chicago Black Hawks into the newbie division for the 1970-71 season. Well, over time the new franchises got up to speed and have been quite competitive.

However, if the Blues win the Stanley Cup over the Bruins they will have erased a 49-year blot on the franchise’s record.

For that reason alone, I am pulling for the Blues to bring home the Stanley Cup and swill the beer that will fill it.

Resignation is a big deal, but not a cure

Renee McCown, the Amarillo school trustee implicated in an ongoing controversy surrounding the resignation of a popular high school coach of a vaunted athletic program, is going to resign her position on Thursday effective immediately.

She said the usual thing, that she intends to spend time with her family and will look for other opportunities to serve the community.

But, her silence on the controversy is not a matter of breaking some mythical state law, as one of her board colleagues has suggested. Newly seated trustee Dick Ford reportedly said that McCown could not comment on the matter because of restrictions set forth in policy and law. Ford said, “The only way she could had defended herself would had been to violate rules, state laws and AISD policy as it relates to AISD employees.”

I get the policy matter might have stood in the way. State law? Not an issue.

You know the story. Kori Clements quit as Amarillo High’s girls volleyball coach. She cited interference from a meddlesome parent who disliked the coach’s decision regarding playing time for the parent’s daughters. A complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency identified the parent as McCown, a member of the Amarillo ISD board. If McCown did what was alleged, she has committed a serious ethical error. Trustees set policy, but are supposed to leave the nuts and bolts of staffing matters up to the staff and to administrators.

Ford also said McCown has been “unfairly chastised” by constituents and in the media.

I won’t respond to that, except to say that McCown was not under any legal obligation to remain quiet. She could have answered the criticism directly. She has remained silent, which to my mind lends credibility to the accusation of interference.

She will submit her resignation. The Parents for Transparency Coalition, formed in recent months to seek an “independent inquiry” into the matter, said her resignation won’t solve any problems.

I’ll disagree respectfully with a portion of that argument. This resignation will help lift a cloud from the school system. OK, so there will remain some issues to resolve. This particular matter involving a former coach who said she was hassled out of her job, however, will be lifted from the Amarillo Independent School District.

It also allows school trustees to speak candidly among themselves so that they all understand fully the ethical standards of the public office they all occupy.

A change coming to Amarillo ISD board? One can hope

I am going to rely on my friend and former colleague Jon Mark Beilue’s assessment on this one, as he is much closer physically to the matter than I am.

He posted a note on Facebook today that wonders whether there’s a sea change coming up on the Amarillo Independent School District board with the upcoming resignation of yet another trustee.

Renee McCown is expected to leave the board soon. She becomes the second trustee to resign in recent weeks. Two other board members were elected in early May. Yet another trustee did not seek re-election.

McCown, as I’ve noted already, is at the center of the current tumult that is roiling the district. Here is Beilue’s post, which lays out the situation nicely:

https://www.facebook.com/jon.beilue/posts/10214030339253125

In short, Beilue fears that the AISD board will remain shrouded in secrecy. It needed to clear the air over the accusation leveled against the board and senior school system administrators in the resignation letter submitted by former Amarillo High girls volleyball coach Kori Clements. It did not. The board, in my view, disserved the district and the people it serves.

A significant new majority is about to comprise the AISD board of trustees. Five of the seven members on the board have been replaced by a districtwide election and by two resignations tendered since that election.

As for Renee McCown, her apparent departure from the board will give her the opportunity to speak for herself about whether she was the parent who hassled the former Amarillo High coach to the point of forcing her out of what should have been the job of her dreams.

There needs to be a reckoning.

I am hoping for the best, but fearing that my friend who’s closer to the epicenter than I am has a better feel for how this drama is going to play out.

Once more about hiring Briles at Mount Vernon HS

I got raked over the coals for an earlier blog post critical of a hiring decision at Mount Vernon High School in East Texas.

A fellow who criticized my blog post stood behind the hiring of former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles as the head coach at Mount Vernon HS.

He said this: You are talking about one of the best coaches our state has ever seen. He deserves a second chance. Yes he made mistakes but a college coach cannot babysit all of their players.

I feel the need to respond briefly with — yep! — another blog post.

Briles was fired in 2016 as Baylor’s head coach after he covered up allegations of sexual assault by his players on women at Baylor. The scandal swallowed the campus damn near whole. It also swept away the university’s chancellor, Kenneth Starr, who resigned.

Here is what I cannot accept about the idea that Mount Vernon Independent School District was looking for a first-rate football coach before hiring Art Briles: Texas is a gigantic state chock full of fine football coaches who aren’t tainted by the indelible stain of a sex scandal!

Football is a big deal in this state. Isn’t that what we all recognize? Sure it is!

Therefore, I am baffled, puzzled and utterly astonished that Mount Vernon ISD would turn to a guy with the baggage that Art Briles brings to this job. The Dallas Morning News noted today in an editorial that while Briles is likely to coach his team to a lot of wins on the field, the football program well could be sullied by the history Briles brings to his new job.

I just believe that Mount Vernon ISD could have done so much better than to hire a guy who got fired from his college coaching job because the young men he was assigned to lead toward adulthood became involved in a case of serial sexual assault!

This is the best that a public school system could do?

Hardly.

Why isn’t this guy in the MLB Hall of Fame?

I can’t believe I’m thinking of this, but I am and I feel the need to state my piece.

Bill Buckner died this week at the age of 69. He crafted a stellar Major League Baseball career that ended in 1990. He collected more than 2,700 hits; he compiled a .289 batting average; he won the National League batting title in 1980; he batted more than .300 in seven of his years playing in the big leagues. Buckner appeared in several All-Star Games. He played for more than 22 years in both the American and National leagues.

Oh, but he is known to most baseball fans for one play. It occurred in the 1986 World between the Boston Red Sox (Buckner’s team at the time) and the New York Mets. In the sixth game of the series, Mookie Wilson of the Mets hit a “routine” ground ball to Buckner, who was playing first base. Buckner bent down to catch the ball — and then watched it scoot between his feet under his glove.

Error on Buckner! The Mets scored the winning run and went on to win the World Series.

For that play, Buckner was vilified, scorned, ridiculed, hassled and harassed for the rest of his career and beyond. The Red Sox eventually brought him back to honor him. The fans who once booed at the sound of his name stood and cheered him that day.

Which brings me to my central point: Is that single play responsible for this fine player being denied enshrinement in baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Players with far less impressive stats are in the hall. I think, for instance, of Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski, a second baseman who — in my view — is in the HoF because of one hit: a Game 7 walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees.

Buckner’s window for induction into the HoF induction has been closed for a long time. The old-timers committee cannot even let him in.

It’s a shame. The guy could hit a baseball. Absent that one play in the 1986 Fall Classic, he could field his position, too.

For what it’s worth, I think he deserved induction into the Hall of Fame . . . right along with Bill Mazeroski.

Students are the real victims in this coaching controversy

I’ll admit it: I cannot let go of the story that has roiled the Amarillo Independent School District athletic community.

An Amarillo High girls volleyball coach quit after a single season at the helm of one of the state’s most vaunted athletic programs. She was critical of the school board and the administration for what she said was a lack of support for the coach who alleged she was hassled by a parent over the playing time the coach was giving to the parent’s daughters who played volleyball for the Sandies.

I won’t get into the individuals alleged to be involved here. I do want to echo a comment made to me on social media about the collateral damage that has been inflicted by this matter.

It likely has damaged the student-athletes who play for the high school. They have been whipsawed by the tension that has gripped the AISD athletic program. They are caught in the glare of a community that has been looking a lot more closely at the program and how a future girls volleyball coach is going to respond to the tension.

The daughters of the parent who allegedly hassled the coach, of course, are the primary victims of this collateral damage. None of this would seem to be fair to them. I don’t know the girls. For that matter, I don’t know the parent who reportedly hassled and harangued the former Sandies coach.

But I do know how these matters potentially play out. I also have beliefs on how the governing body ought to respond. The AISD school board hasn’t responded well to date, as near as I can tell.

Trustees’ silence is not doing anyone any good.

I managed to attend the school board meeting when the resignation of the former coach, Kori Clements, was accepted by the board. I heard the testimony of a couple of the Sandies players who spoke in support of their coach. I am absolutely certain they were hurt by what transpired.

Those student-athletes’ needs to be considered by the school board and the administration as they move forward.

Yes, the damage has been done. It need not fester.

Sod Poodles packin’ ’em in

This graph showed up on my Facebook page a little while ago, so I thought I would share it on High Plains Blogger.

Check it out.

Amarillo’s AA minor-league baseball team, the Sod Poodles, is leading the Texas League in attendance early in its initial season playing ball on the High Plains.

Sixteen home dates have drawn nearly 100,000 spectators to the Sod Poodles’ shiny new venue, aka Hodgetown, built for about $45 million in downtown Amarillo.

I’ll acknowledge that I haven’t been to a game. I’ve only seen the ballpark from the other side of the right field fence. The front entrance looks impressive, too.

I am just delighted to know that Amarillo is turning into a “baseball town.” Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised.

A few years ago, when residents were preparing to vote on a referendum to approve construction of what was known only as a “multipurpose event venue,” retired Amarillo College President Paul Matney came to the Rotary Club of Amarillo to pitch the idea to Rotarians. He said at the time that “Amarillo is a baseball town” and it deserved to have a Major League-affiliated team playing ball for the fans who had wanted a return to that quality of baseball.

Matney spoke from a position of deep institutional/community knowledge, given that he grew up in Amarillo, graduated from the University of Texas and then returned home to carve out a stellar career at Amarillo College.

It was evident to me then that Matney knew of which he spoke. It’s clearer to me now, seeing those attendance figures, that he was spot on declaring Amarillo to be a “baseball town.”

Wait’ll next year for return to horse-racing interest

Well, that’s it for me for this Triple Crown horse-racing season.

It was bad enough that the “winner” of the Kentucky Derby actually was the second-place finisher, given that the initial winner, Maximum Security, got disqualified for interfering with other horses’ gallop down the stretch.

Now we hear that Country House, the Derby “winner,” isn’t going to run in the Preakness, the No. 2 leg on the chase for horse-racing’s vaunted Triple Crown.

That’s it. I’m out.

I was thrilled to watch Justify win the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes in 2018. It thrilled me even more to watch American Pharaoh do it in 2015, as it had been 37 years since Affirmed won all three of ’em in 1978.

The same horse has to win the first two races for me to gin up any kind of excitement for this sport.

So, the horse-racing season is over for me.

I’ll just bet, too, that TV ratings for the Preakness and the Belmont are heading into the tank.

Nothing PC about this disqualification, Mr. POTUS

Donald J. “Horse Racing Expert in Chief” Trump has tweeted his displeasure over this past weekend’s result in the Kentucky Derby.

It seems the president of the United States is unhappy that Maximum Security was disqualified for blocking a couple of his competitors as the horses came down the home stretch in the famed horse race.

The president, though, said the decision was a bow to what he called “political correctness.” To which I scratch my noggin in astonishment.

There was nothing I could see that was PC about the stewards’ decision to DQ Maximum Security and give the victory to the second-place finisher, Country House.

I saw the video of the infraction. Maximum Security violated the rules. Country House, one of the longer shots in the field, was granted the victory according to the rules of the race.

So, Mr. President, stop blaming a form of “political correctness” where none exists. Stick to tweeting about things about which you know something.

Oh, wait! That would be nothing at all.

UVA declines invitation to visit White House … what gives?

The list is now up to three.

The University of Virginia won the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a stunning victory over Texas Tech University. Then the White House invited the Cavaliers to be feted by Donald Trump.

The Cavs’ response? No can do, Mr. President.

They now join the University of North Carolina and Villanova University in declining to take part in what most of us thought was a part of D.C. normalcy. Teams win national championships, then travel to the nation’s capital to be honored by the president of the United States.

That was until Donald Trump became president of the United States. Now we find the president politicizing these events, criticizing pro football players for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. He infuriates players, who then balk at coming to the White House. The Golden State Warriors this past year won the NBA title, chafed at going to the White House and then the president disinvited them.

Now the third straight men’s college basketball team has said “no thanks” to the White House, citing what school officials called “scheduling conflicts.” Sure thing, man.

When you think about it, what we’re seeing is an ongoing trend involving this president.

Donald and Melania Trump haven’t attended a Kennedy Center Honors event that pays tribute to artists who contribute to the world’s culture. The president refuses to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, I presume because of his antipathy toward the “enemy of the American people.”

These once-pro forma events have become news in and of themselves because of the president’s clumsy relationships with national institutions.

So the drama continues.

The UVA Cavaliers won’t break bread with the president. I fully expect Donald Trump to say something inappropriate — if not downright stupid — in response to the NCAA men’s champs’ decision to stay away.

Weird.