Category Archives: Sports news

Bye, bye … Pac 12

My old-fashioned sports sensibilities are being dealt a body blow by none other than the football conference I’ve been following since I was a kid growing up on the West Coast.

I heard last night that the universities of Oregon and Washington are jumping from the Pac 12 to — get ready for it — the Big fu**ing 10! They join USC and UCLA, which already have made the leap. Which schools stay in what’s left of the Pa 12? Oregon State, Washington State, Cal and Stanford. Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State all have leaped into the arms of other athletic conference suitors.

The conference that will welcome those two former Pac 12 football powers now will become the Big 18, or some such ungodly number.

I am a Ducks fan. I didn’t attend the school in Eugene, but I have followed the Oregon Ducks since I was a boy.

Now, why is this such a big deal to this traditionalist college football fan? Because the Rose Bowl — the so-called Granddaddy of Bowl Games — is played every New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif. And it used to feature the winner of the Pac 12 vs. the winner of the Big 10. Therefore, the Big 10 becomes the hated conference of the enemy.

The NCAA has managed to make a mess out of traditional football rivalries already. They allowed Texas A&M to join the SEC, removing the annual Texas-Texas A&M football rivalry game — played on Thanksgiving — from the schedule. That will change because Texas is now set to join the SEC, which will enable the Longhorns to hook up once again with the Aggies.

West Coast college football fans used to revel in the Rose Bowl game. In recent years, the Ducks have enjoyed modest success in the big game, beating Wisconsin twice, losing to Ohio State and Penn State once each. The NCAA has placed the Rose Bowl among the games to determine the college football championship and in 2015, the Ducks pummeled Florida State (from the ACC) en route to the NCAA championship game, which they lost to Ohio State.

The Pac 12 as we West Coast natives have known it soon will not exist. The four schools remaining will seek to join other athletic conferences.

It’s all about the money, man, and it is ruining what I formerly thought was a sport so steeped in tradition that it couldn’t be sullied by the great American dollar.

Silly me.

Up close with The Greatest

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Anyone who knows me well — family members and my closest friends — understands that Muhammad Ali is my all-time favorite professional athlete.

Well, gang, today I walked into the Muhammad Ali Museum and Center to pay my respects to The Greatest.

It is, to say the very least, a stunning display on Main Street in downtown Louisville that honors the three-time heavyweight boxing champion. Moreover, it speaks in great detail to the social consciousness he exhibited by refusing induction into the Army in 1967 and for the sacrifice he endured when the pro boxing authorities deprived him of his ability — at the peak of his physical prowess — to make a living by beating up other men.

The Champ was The Greatest. I need no convincing of that. The chatter we hear from time to time about whether Ali would defeat, say, Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis — two of The Champ’s boxing descendants — is just mindless chatter.

In my humble view, and I am no expert, a prime-time Muhammad Ali would make mincemeat of those two fine athletes. But that’s just me.

The exhibit does explain that Ali was a flawed man. He was a womanizer who treated his wives terribly. It speaks as well to the rhetoric he spouted by declaring that all white people were “devils.” I long have found that “devil” nonsense to be just that. The Champ’s boxing team comprised the likes of Angelo Dundee, Ferdie Pacheco and other white dudes who guided him to the pinnacle of his sport.

As for the Parkinson’s disease that turned this monumental chatter box into a silent statue of a man, one exhibit speaks to whether the brutal sport that Ali practiced contributed to his illness. It says “no!” A physician who examined Ali says the disease would have taken The Champ down without the punishment he endured while fighting. Yes, I know that’s a debatable point. I just won’t engage in that discussion.

The museum is a marvelous tribute to this city’s most notable son, a man who went on to become what many have argued “the most famous person on this Earth.” 

I am so glad I took time to visit this fantastic exhibit to The Greatest of All Time.

‘No’ on review of calls

I will admit to being a professional sports fuddy-duddy, given all the technology being introduced to manage the conduct of various games.

Allow me this brief rejoinder to one of those elements: instant replay.

I attended a big-league baseball game Friday night in Arlington, Texas, where my friend and I watched the Texas Rangers blow out the Cleveland Guardians. What’s more, they did it without a lick of help from the umpires.

The Rangers filed one challenge to a play at the plate. A runner was called “out!” … and he was out, by a mile. The review of the video proved the call was the correct one.

Which brings me to my point. We should let the umpires do their job. They have to make decisions in a split second. You know what? They get it right about, oh, 99% of the time. It never ceases to amaze me how the momentum of games is disrupted by the challenges allotted to managers of both teams.

Well, the game we witnessed in Arlington was left to the athletes. It cheers me to no end to see the Grand Old Game played the way it’s intended.

Ump let the players play!

I feel the need to offer a brief critique of the Major League Baseball game I attended Friday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

What about it? Hardly anything to criticize about it?

I want to offer one comment, though, on the rule changes enacted this year to speed up these games. They work.

MLB has put a timer on pitchers. They have to toss a pitch within a certain amount of time. They are warned by the home-plate umpire. The home-plate ump, Mark Ripperberger, offered one warning to a pitcher. The rest of the night? He let the players play the game, which is what umps should do.

It took a little less than three hours to finish it.

There was exactly one appeal of a call, which wasn’t even close. A Texas Rangers runner was thrown out at home plate. He was out — as the saying goes — by a “country mile.” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy thought he would appeal the ruling. It was upheld … and the Rangers faithful, of course, booed the decision, even though it was so very correct.

This was my first big league ballgame in nearly 60 years. It was enjoyable to the max. I got to spend some time with a good friend and former colleague; we gossiped about this and that individual we knew and with whom we worked.

Not only that … the good guys won the well-played game of hardball!

It’s gone … finally!

AMARILLO, Texas — What you see here is a pile of rubble that was too long in the making, but which — I hope — will be gone in short order.

It is what is left of what they used to call Potter County Memorial Stadium, aka the Dilla Villa.

It sat on the corner of the Tri-State Fairgrounds in Amarillo. It has been knocked down and will be cleared away soon (I will presume) to make room for more functional uses on the property owned by Potter County.

The former Dilla Villa was a rathole. A dump. An eyesore.

The Dillas once were an independent baseball team that played ball in Amarillo. They were among a lengthy string of teams that once called this place a “home field.” The Dillas eventually gave way to another organization, but the management couldn’t even play all their home games in this dump. It was that unsuitable. They split their “home games” with a stadium in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

It was a sad turn of events.

Now, to be clear, you may spare me the crocodile tears about the stadium being the source of so many memories, going back deeply into the 20th century. The county simply didn’t perform upkeep on the place to keep it suitable for athletic events.

Instead, this one-time sports venue gave way to the modern park that emerged in downtown Amarillo, where the Sod Poodles play AA minor league baseball under the guidance of the National League’s Arizona Diamondbacks baseball franchise.

They recently set a home-field attendance record at Hodgetown. Fans are flocking to the still-shiny ballpark. The Soddies, moreover, are playing some good hardball downtown.

So, is the demise of the Potter County ballpark a reason for tears? Hardly. To this former Amarillo resident’s eyes, it’s reason for cheering.

Thanks for the memories, Dilla Villa, but your time has been up for a long while.

MLB game on tap … woo hoo!

I’ve just received a marvelous invitation from a friend of mine … and I have to share it here.

In a couple of weeks I am going to see my first Major League Baseball game in nearly 60 years.

My friend called to tell me he purchased a couple of tickets for the Texas Rangers game in Arlington. We’ll meet before the game and head for the seats. The last MLB game I witnessed was in August 1964.

It occurred at Candlestick Park. The San Francisco Giants played host to the Cincinnati Reds. It featured three future Hall of Famers, two of whom played that game; the third one, Willie Mays of the Giants, sat it out.

But the two H of F’ers who did suit up delivered big time. Willie McCovey of the Giants hit a home run into the SF Bay cove that now bears his name. Frank Robinson of the Reds hit a couple of dingers out that day. The Reds won 7-1.

I want to thank my friend profusely for inviting me to this game.

I have heard plenty about the Rangers’ new ballpark. My son and I attended a Sir Paul McCartney concert in the “old” ballpark in the summer of 2019 and to be honest, I do not quite understand why they had to build a new ballpark, because the old park looked pretty nice to me.

Whatever … I’ll be like a kid again when the Rangers take the field.

Cheers to this inductee

As the saying goes, what goes around comes around … or words to that effect.

It is with interest that I saw the name of Kori Cooper Clements on the list of the latest group of sports figures to be inducted into the Texas Panhandle Hall of Fame. Who is this person?

Well, she found herself in the midst of a tempest when she resigned after coaching for one year at Amarillo High School, citing interference and meddling from a school board trustee.  She accused the trustee of forcing her to quit because she — the coach — wasn’t giving the daughter of the trustee enough playing time for the Sandies.

The school board never owned up to the conduct of the trustee, who eventually resigned from the board and has moved on to — oh, I don’t know — somewhere else.

Clements was a standout volleyball player in high school and in college and surely deserves a spot in the Panhandle Sports HoF. She became coach of one of Texas’s premier high school volleyball programs.

I just had to recall the turmoil that surrounded her departure from what she described as a dream job.

Clements has ended up in the right place … for certain.

He deserved the ovation!

Drew Maggi is the new fan favorite in Pittsburgh, where he made his major-league debut this week.

What’s the big deal? Maggi spent 12 years — count ’em, 12 years! — toiling in the minor leagues. He played in 1,115 minor league games before he got the call to go to the Bigs.

He went to the plate Wednesday night to pinch hit for Andrew McCutchen.

When he stepped into the batter’s box, the Pittsburgh Pirates crowd gave him a standing ovation. The Pirates were ahead 8-1, and eventually won the game. Maggi’s first plate appearance didn’t end heroically.

He fouled a pitch off, got called on a game-delay penalty and then struck out swinging.

Was he dismayed at his initial big-league appearance? Not at all.

Maggi said after the game: “It’s the best strikeout I ever had.”

Well said, young man. I can’t wait to see the reaction when he hits one out of the park.


How ’bout them Calf Fries?

There must be a marketing genius working for Amarillo’s minor-league baseball organization. The Sod Poodles have announced that for six games in the upcoming Double AA season, they will play under the name of Calf Fries.

Yes, the Amarillo Sod Poodles will assume an alternative identity and suit up as the Calf Fries. What’s more, the team will serve the delicacy at its games to be played at Hodgetown, the stadium that usually fills up during the games played in the city’s resurgent downtown district.

We all know what calf fries are, correct? They come from the “jewels” taken from cattle. You roll ’em in batter and fry ’em up. As the team said in a statement announcing this notion: Also known as Cowboy Oysters, Prairie Oysters, and Rocky Mountain Oysters, the delicacy will be served during the six game nights to promote the entire Calf Fries experience at HODGETOWN. Other in-game promotions will accompany the alternate identity for fans to immerse themselves in the new brand.

Amarillo Unveils “Calf Fries” as Alternate Identity (

Who am I to question the genius of this notion? Yes, I thought initially the name of Sod Poodles was a bit weird when the team first announced it prior to its maiden season. Then the name grew on me.

Now? I like it!

Now we have the Calf Fries. I acknowledge it, too, sounds a bit strange. But, hey, the name Sod Poodles has been recognized as Minor League Baseball’s most recognizable brand. Is Calf Fries next?

COVID vaccine: political weapon

Damar Hamlin’s collapse on the football field during the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals contest the other evening has prompted a disgusting and disgraceful display of politicization I didn’t believe was possible.

Hamlin is now released from the hospital and is home in Buffalo continuing his recovery from the frightening moment when he suffered a heart attack after tackling a Bengals player in the first quarter of a game that was suspended and eventually canceled by the National Football League.

Now comes word from some right-wing commentators and a Republican U.S. senator from Texas that Hamlin’s collapse might have been spurred by the COVID-19 virus vaccine.

What an utterly disgraceful turn!

The senator was Ted Cruz, who retweeted a message that came from actor Kevin Sorbo questioning the circumstance surrounding Hamlin’s collapse. Cruz took the tweet down. U.S. Rep. Collin Allred, a Dallas Democrat — and a former pro football player — called Cruz’s politicization of the Hamlin incident a “new low, even for Ted Cruz.”

This kind of second-guessing, grandstanding and hideous conjecture from the cheap seats simply illustrates the coarsening of our society.

It has no place … except in the gutter.