Tag Archives: NBA

Sod Poodles name will catch on eventually … honest, it will

I am quite sure the Amarillo minor-league baseball community is trying to digest the name of the city’s new team.

The team ownership announced that the Class AA team will be called the Sod Poodles, which reportedly is an old-fashioned term meant to describe prairie dogs. Whatever they say, I guess I’ll have to go along with it.

As dubious as I am of the alleged origin of Sod Poodles, I do like the name.

It grew on me quickly. My first reaction to the name that appeared on the list of “finalists” under consideration was pure,, unadulterated hatred. However, my conversion from name hater to name lover was rapid.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. Then I heard about the ownership’s logic in selecting this group of names. They sought quirky names. They want the community to talk about them. They want the rest of the Texas League to talk about them, too.

From what I hear, Amarillo’s baseball fans are talking all right. It isn’t all goodness and light. There’s some grumbling from what I have heard.

Hey, pay attention. These kinds of reactions have this way of passing. I know how it goes. I’ve lived through some of this already.

My hometown of Portland, Ore., was awarded a National Basketball Association franchise. The team began play in the fall of 1970. They had to come up with a name. I was finishing my hitch in the Army and I submitted the name Lumberjacks to the powers that be. Hey, Portland is at the hub of the nation’s timber industry. Therefore, Lumberjacks made perfect sense.

The team owners didn’t think so. Neither did the rest of the community. They came up with Trail Blazers as the name for the new NBA team. You could hear the shrieks up and down the Pacific Coast.

Then it dawned on a lot of us: Trail Blazers pays tribute to William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, who “blazed the trail” in the early 19th century from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean, trekking along the Columbia River to their destination. The team name honors the exploits of Lewis & Clark. It’s perfect!

I believe Sod Poodles will become part of Amarillo’s identity. Eventually.

It might take some time, but I am keeper of the faith in good things happening for the city I used to call home.

LeBron off to La La Land

LeBron James has broken the hearts of his hometown pro basketball fans once again.

The best basketball player on the planet is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers a second time — for Los Angeles, where he has just signed a $154 million deal over the next four years to play for the Lakers, a once-great team that has hit the skids in recent seasons. So help me, the amount of money simply boggles my mind.

He started his pro career playing for the Cavs. Then he bolted to Miami — after a good bit of phony melodrama — where he won a couple of NBA titles with the Heat. LeBron, who was born in nearby Akron, returned to Cleveland, where he took the Cavs to an NBA title of their own. I was impressed by his declaration that he wanted to return home, where he reportedly took a cut in pay.

I’ll give “King James” credit for this latest departure from Cleveland: At least this time he didn’t put together a TV special at the end of which he declares, “I’m taking my talents to Tinseltown.”

Don’t go, LeBron

I cannot possibly know what is going through LeBron James’s mind now as he ponders his future as a professional basketball player.

The man known as King James is considering whether to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for, oh, somewhere else. I keep hearing he’s being courted heavily by the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that once achieved greatness but which stinks to high heaven these days.

I’ll get right to the point. I don’t want James to leave Cleveland. I want him to stay put. He makes enough money as it is. The Cavs ain’t paying him chump wages.

Do you recall how his first stint with the Cavaliers ended? His contract expired. He entered the free agency market. Then he put together that goofy TV special, at the end of which he announced he would “take my talents to South Beach,” meaning to Miami, where he would play for the Heat.

The Cavs fans went nuts. They burned LeBron jerseys in public bonfires. They protested. They howled. They wept. They accused LeBron of the equivalent of sports franchise “treason.”

Then he did something quite remarkable. He decided at the end of his Miami contract to return to Cleveland. All was forgiven. The Cavs fans welcomed back their favorite son, who I should add was born and reared in nearby Akron.

What is the 33-year-old superstar going to do now? It’s anyone’s guess.

I’ve never been in the position of a supremely gifted athlete who can earn many millions of dollars annually for playing a game. LeBron James is a tremendous physical specimen. He plays basketball at a level rarely seen by anyone at any time — ever! — in this history of the sport. Some experts call him the “Greatest of All Time.”

He’s already fabulously wealthy.

However, it might be that at this moment, he’s still hurting from the four-game sweep from the NBA Finals he and the Cavs suffered at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

But the sun came up the next day. He still has a supremely healthy bank account.

He also is at home. I wonder, therefore, what the home folks will think if he decides to abandon them a second time.

Sod Poodles? Let’s think about this

I am about to deliver a assessment or two I hope I won’t regret.

I’ve been giving more thought to the silly list of “finalist” names delivered by the owners of Amarillo’s future AA minor-league baseball team. I also have been trying to digest the reasoning behind the five names chosen to be considered for team’s nickname.

My thought at this moment is this: I am starting to understand better what the team ownership is trying to convey to the community that will sit in the ballpark that is currently under construction in downtown Amarillo.

They want a silly name that elicits a community conversation. They want the name to be the subject of good-natured giggles. They are striving for something different, perhaps a bit unique that becomes a talking point in minor-league — maybe even major league — baseball circles.

That all said — and I am hoping to avoid being struck by lightning by adding this point — I am actually sort of thinking Sod Poodles isn’t such a bad idea … after all!

I want to be candid on one point. I have never heard the term used to describe prairie dogs. I had no idea on Earth that it is some sort of “historical” term used in the old days to refer to the critters that are the bane of ranchers and farmers. Don’t hold against me that I am not a Texas Panhandle native. I mean, I have known about prairie dogs since I was a little boy growing up in Oregon; sod poodles never crossed my radar — ever!

None of this discussion is about me or whether any of us have heard of this term. It’s about prompting a community discussion.

The owners of the team that begins playing hardball in Amarillo in the spring of 2019 have done that very thing.

Look, I mentioned once already that I hated the name of my hometown professional basketball team when it was announced in 1970. Portland’s new NBA team would be called the “Trail Blazers,” prompting a good bit of community angst. We grew to accept and actually like the name. Hey, it was meant to pay tribute to Lewis and Clark, who “blazed a trail” from the Midwest to the Pacific Ocean in the early 19th century.

Whichever name Amarillo’s minor-league baseball team owners select will attract its share of collective teeth-gnashing. Eventually, Amarillo’s baseball fans likely will accept it.

Maybe they will even learn to like it. I wonder, for example, if baseball fans in Toledo hate the “Mud Hens.”

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.

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.

This is how you sing the National Anthem

The singer Fergie has been taking a lot of grief over the way she “sang” the National Anthem at the start of the NBA all-star game Sunday night.

She deserves it. It stunk to high heaven. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Rather than go on and on about her pitiful performance, I merely want to share the following video from the 1991 Super Bowl. A young woman named Whitney Houston sang the Anthem the way it should be sung.

May this lovely young singer rest in peace. Enjoy.

 

Just who is LaVar Ball?

I’ll admit readily that I am not all that keen on pop culture personalities. I don’t keep up with them.

I’m actually a bit unclear whether LaVar Ball fits into that category of celebrity. But he’s intriguing me in a curious sort of way.

He’s the father of a professional basketball player, Lonzo Ball. His second-oldest son also is a pretty good basketball player who, until just the other day, was enrolled at UCLA; his name is LiAngelo Ball. There’s a third kid, too, who I reckon is going to play hoops for someone.

LaVar the Loudmouth thrust his name into the news, which I guess is his specialty, when LiAngelo and two UCLA teammates got caught shoplifting at a department store in China, where they were playing some non-conference games.

Chinese authorities were threatening to imprison the young men. Then Donald Trump intervened. He persuaded the commies to let the boys out. They came home. Daddy Ball got into a public beef with the president over whether he thanked the president sufficiently.

Back and forth they went.

Then LaVar pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA.

This is a case of someone hogging attention away from others. Imagine that. LaVar Ball and Donald Trump engaging in a man-to-man fight over who should bask in the spotlight.

So, what’s going to happen to LiAngelo? Is he going to play basketball for another college? As for Lonzo — who’s playing hoops for the Los Angeles Lakers, what does the future bode for him? What if he washes out? What is Daddy Ball going to do?

I’ll presume that LaVar loves his sons. He might think he’s doing them a big favor by cheering them on so loudly — and obnoxiously — from the front row.

However, the very idea that this guy — whose major talent seems to rival that of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton and the whole roster of Housewives of Wherever — is able to thrust himself into the public discussion speaks so very graphically about what has become of popular culture these days.

It seems that anyone can be a celebrity in the Social Media Age.

Trump keeps fomenting anger

Donald Trump seems to have found his latest lodestar.

It is to pump up his base, to use a flashpoint argument that keeps ’em fired up, as angry as he is. The target now happens to be highly paid professional athletes who are demonstrating — peacefully, I should add — against law enforcement treatment of African-Americans.

The consequence of the president’s ongoing battle against the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and anyone else who sides with the protesting players is to foment more anger, more division and more rancor.

I mean, it’s not as if we don’t have enough of it already simmering out here across the land.

NFL players are kneeling at the start of their games when the band strikes up “The Star Spangled Banner.” Trump calls them SOBs. He is getting lots of cheers from many Americans. He is getting consternation and condemnation from many other Americans. He is listening only to the cheering squads and is ignoring the rest of the country.

As Politico reports: Chris Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, said on Monday that the president is focused on the patriotism angle of the debate and is brushing off the charges of racism.

“He’s in a bubble here because he knows he’s not a racist. His friends know he isn’t,” Ruddy said in an interview. “He sees himself standing on the high ground of the truth. But the media are telling the rest of the country a different story about him.”

I get that the president sees himself as standing on moral high ground. Except that it’s not realistic for him to keep believing it.

Trump must see what is happening out here. As for the “media telling … a different story about him,” the media merely are reporting the fiery rhetoric that keeps pouring out of the president’s mouth.

The consequence is continued division — and rancor that seems to be quickly approaching hatred.

That’s not how you “unify” the country, Mr. President.

That’s how you ‘unify’ a nation, Mr. President?

My goodness, Donald Trump. When are you going to get it?

You’ve been handed yet another opportunity to say the right thing. To offer a soothing word of assurance. To tell those who are protesting U.S. government policies toward an important segment of our population that you hear them, that you will work to assuage their concerns.

So, what do you do?

You suggest that National Football League owners and football execs should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of games. Then the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said they oppose your view on the kneeling issue. Your response to them was Classic Trump when you disinvited them to the White House for a ceremony honoring their accomplishment.

You, Mr. President — the Leader of the Free World and head of state of the greatest country on Earth — have used your high, exalted office to score points with your political base. You have inflamed emotions on both sides of this issue.

Have you forgotten, sir, how you pledged to “unify” the nation once you took office? Or how you intended to be president for all Americans? Or how you would spend your waking moments working to “make America great again”?

I know the answer to that. You haven’t forgotten any of that. In my view, they were empty platitudes. You didn’t mean a word of it when you made those pledges.

I am left to wonder out loud, Mr. President: Do you have any idea what you are doing? Do you have a clue about what this high office to which you were elected entails?

You have managed yet again to make an absolute hash of a situation that has spiraled out of control partly because of your divisive, fiery rhetoric that is precisely the wrong thing to provide at a time when we need words of calm assurance.

One of the unwritten rules of your high office means you are obligated to be the voice of reason during difficult circumstances. As you have demonstrated time and time again since taking office, sir, you are failing this test.

I am left, then, to ask yet again: When are you going to get it? Ever?