Hilarious ‘punishment’ for Johnny Football

I laughed out loud a little while ago when I heard the news: Johnny “Football” Manziel will be suspended for the first half of Texas A&M’s game with Rice for breaking a rule prohibiting players from getting paid for autographs.

Why even have any punishment if that’s all he’s going to get?


Manziel won the Heisman Trophy this past season as a freshman. He’s been a sensation at College Station. Manziel may be one of the exciting football players in the past half-century.

But then he got ahead of himself, apparently, when he signed autographs and reportedly got paid for his signature. The allegations have prompted debate over whether college athletes should be paid. My view? The free college education that blue-chip athletes get at these schools is payment enough, thank you very much.

My thought was that Johnny Football would get much more of a punishment than he got. Maybe half a season. But half a game?

The NCAA enforcers cannot possibly be serious.

Syria should present unifying threat

Suppose the president of the United States orders aerial strikes against Syria.

And suppose those strikes involve manned aircraft, piloted by young American servicemen and women who are thrust into harm’s way by their commander in chief’s order.

What will be our national response? Are we going to rally behind our commander in chief or will we second-guess, armchair quarterback and be openly critical — if not hostile — toward those who issue the order?

I’m hoping for a unifying effect.


President Obama is weighing his options carefully. He’s meeting with congressional leaders, the very folks who insist that the president consult with them before taking action. He’s calling allies around the world, enlisting others to join in a coalition to strike against Syria, which used chemical weapons against its own people. Secretary of State John Kerry called it a “moral outrage,” and no national leader anywhere with a conscience can — or should — condone such an act.

It’s not yet clear whether we’re going to become involved in an all-out shooting war in Syria. Obama’s stated mission would be to punish the Syrians for violating a widely accepted tenet of international behavior. The use of chemical weapons crosses that so-called “red line” the president said exists in that conflict.

The late U.S. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, R-Mich., once said that partisan disagreements must stop “at the water’s edge.” Will we heed the wise man’s words?

‘Regime change’ is hidden strategy

The columnist Charles Krauthammer says any attack on Syria would be a “pointless exercise” if it’s not about “regime change.”


White House press guru Jay Carney says regime change isn’t on the agenda if U.S. forces attack Syrian military installations in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians.

It’s all very interesting. Let me walk us back 20-plus years.

In August 1990, the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sent troops into Kuwait to invade and occupy that country. He took Kuwait’s vast oil supply hostage, threatening to cut off supply lines to countries such as the United States.

President George H.W. Bush said immediately the invasion “will not stand.” So he put together a coalition of nations, obtained United Nations approval to strike back at Iraq, then got the Congress to go along with it. The president stated over and over that the aim of any planned response would be to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait and nothing more.

A force of more than 500,000 troops, commanded by U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, stood ready to attack.

Then came the first shot of the war, on Jan. 17, 1991. It was a Tomahawk cruise missile launched by the battleship USS Wisconsin. Where did this missile score a direct hit? On the presidential palace in Baghdad.

Had the missile strike killed Saddam Hussein, there would have been a regime change, correct?

No one should be surprised, therefore, if an attack on Syria doesn’t start with a similar targeting strategy.

WT set for crucial season opener

Few times in the football history of West Texas A&M University has an opening game had as much significance as the game that’s coming up Sept. 12 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

The Buffs will take the field against Chadron State. They will have to deal with the shadow of a man who’s no longer a part of the program. Former Coach Don Carthel got canned two weeks ago over an ethics violation.

The interim coach this year will be Mike Nesbitt, who I believe could be an early-season favorite for Division II national coach of the year if he holds his team together.

Carthel’s firing couldn’t have come at a worse time. The team was finishing its preparation for a season most observers believed — maybe they still do — would be full of glory for the Buffs. I’m still uncertain as to whether the violation rose to the level of punishment that WT’s athletic department levied against Carthel. The coach took players to a baseball game, received reimbursement from the athletes and then fibbed about the timing of the reimbursement.

Boom! Like that he was gone. What’s done is done.

Nesbitt has taken over. He’s saying all the right things to local media, about how his team is “focused” and is getting ready for the season — as if he’s going to say anything to the contrary. You never hear coaches talk of turmoil upsetting team chemistry or causing emotional heartache. The stated public view is always the same: We’re soldiering on.

So we’ll see in short order whether the Buffs are as focused and dedicated to the task at hand as their coaching staff is saying. Texas A&M-Commerce comes to Kimbrough Stadium on Sept. 21 to begin the Lone Star Conference season.

The WT brass still has some explaining to do regarding Carthel’s firing. I hope it comes clean. Meanwhile, the players and the coaches who remain deserve the support of a fan base that had returned to the Buffs’ side when Carthel’s teams began winning so many football games.

Why doesn’t POTUS come here?

A headline in the National Journal online edition asks: Why won’t Obama visit North Dakota?

It’s a valid question, given the oil boom that’s changing North Dakota and beginning to change the nation’s energy strategy.


But I can answer the question posed by the headline and the article written by the Journal’s Amy Harder. He won’t go there for the same reason he doesn’t come to West Texas. There’s no political advantage for the president.

What’s more, West Texas is resuming its own energy boom, in the Permian Basin, not to mention the growth of the wind-energy industry throughout the Panhandle.

Presidents, though, are the supreme political animals. Democratic presidents quite often don’t bother coming to regions of the country where they lack popular support. That would be, um, West Texas and North Dakota.

Conversely, do Republican presidents spend a lot of time visiting places such as, say, the Bay Area of California, or Boston, or the Pacific Northwest? Hardly.

Frankly, I think quite a few West Texans — not to mention North Dakotans — would appreciate a presidential visit to talk up the industries that are fueling our manufacturing might and keeping our vehicles on the road.

And I also believe a Democratic president could get a warm welcome here. Do you remember the reception another very high-profile Democrat — one William Jefferson Clinton — got when he came to Amarillo in 2008 to campaign for his wife, then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as she sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination? The Civic Center’s Grand Plaza Ballroom was packed beyond capacity.

The nation’s energy future is, indeed, changing, as the National Journal article points out.

A presidential visit would be a welcome event to call attention to the hard work that’s under way out here in Flyover Country.

Politics might keep Hasan alive

U.S. Army officials are pondering whether a military court should sentence Nidal Hasan to death or life in prison for the 2011 murder of 13 people in that horrific Fort Hood massacre.

I’ve declared already my desire to sentence Hasan to life. A death sentence would give the Army major his wish, to be martyred as a practicing Muslim.


The military hasn’t executed anyone since 1961, when it hanged an Army private first class for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old girl. Seems the military has trouble carrying out death sentences because, as NBC reports, the high command gets cold feet.

Politics will play a big part in Hasan’s sentence. He killed those people at Fort Hood to protest U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan.

Think for a moment of what would happen if the U.S. executes Hasan.

Fellow Muslim extremists around the world would shout praises to Allah for his death. They would declare it as some sort of moral victory over the Great Satan. They would hail Hasan as a hero; he won’t hear the cheers, but they wouldn’t be for his ears.

I keep thinking back to when U.S. commandos killed Osama bin Laden in that daring May 2011 raid in Pakistan. They took his body quickly out of the compound, flew his corpse offshore to the Navy nuclear aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Then they conducted a brief ceremony and tossed bin Laden’s remains into the Indian Ocean. They had this plan all worked out in advance of the order to launch the raid and kill bin Laden.

Why did they do it? To prevent the creation of a shrine for Islamic extremists to worship their terrorist hero.

Keeping Nidal Hasan among the living would accomplish the same thing.

No regime change? Yeah … right

White House press secretary Jay Carney says “regime change” would not be a goal if the United States were to launch a military strike against Bashar al Assad’s forces in Syria.

But if it happens, do you think the White House high command would mope over the outcome? Not for a minute.


The Obama administration is clearly outraged over Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its people in the bloody civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people. Secretary of State John Kerry calls it a moral outrage. President Obama says use of the weapons crosses a “bright line” that separates diplomacy from military action.

The administration is consulting with congressional leaders now to assure them of its plans. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today the military is ready to go if and when the order comes from the commander in chief.

Syria needs to be punished badly for this vicious attack on its own citizens, including children. The videos of Syrian children writhing in agony is almost too difficult to watch.

But if a military response is strong enough to bring about Assad’s downfall, then so be it.

Then comes an even more dire concern: Who will replace him?

Democrats waiting on Wendy

The Texas Democratic Party seems to be in a state of suspended animation.

Nothing is happening in preparation for the 2014 elections until a certain Democratic state senator announces whether she’s running for Texas governor next year.

Well, Ms. Wendy Davis? What’s it gonna be?

That’s the crux of a Texas Tribune report that notes how other Texas Democrats — what’s left of them — are too “chicken” to declare their intentions until state Sen. Davis decides her next course of action.


Davis, D-Fort Worth, has become the state’s newest Democratic superstar. I’m thinking she could be the next Ann Richards, the colorful and articulate former state treasurer who ran for governor in 1990, defeating Midland oil mogul Claytie Williams in one of the more rip-roarin’ campaigns in recent years.

Davis’s superstar credentials came as she led a filibuster in June that stopped temporarily a strict bill banning abortions in Texas after the 20th week of pregnancy. Davis talked for more than 13 hours before the clock ran out on the Texas Legislature, whose Republican majority wanted the bill to pass.

They brought it back in the second special session and it sailed through to Gov. Rick Perry desk.

Davis, however, now is acting very much as though she wants to run for governor. She’d be a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. A fall campaign, though, remains highly problematic in this heavily Republican state. Attorney General Greg Abbott is the GOP favorite; he faces former GOP chairman Tom Pauken in the upcoming Republican primary. There can be zero doubt that either Abbott or Pauken would be difficult for any Democrat to beat in the fall.

Decision day is coming soon for Wendy Davis. Whatever she decides about a governor’s race is sure to spring open the gates for other Democrats to decide what they’ll do. The question for the Texas Democratic Party well might be whether they’ll be able to field a slate of candidates up and down the ballot.

Someone such as Sen. Davis at the top of the ballot could go a long way toward luring other strong Democrats into the arena.

Let’s all stay tuned.

Beware of handheld devices

I cannot let a recent observation go without offering this commentary on it.

While working the other day at one of my part-time jobs, I noticed a young man — oh, about 30 years of age — doing something I thought had gone out of style with people his age.

He was reading … a book. You remember them, yes? They have front and back covers, with pages in between and they have words printed on those pages.

The event occurred at Street Toyota in Amarillo, where I work three days a week in the service department. Our waiting room often is full of customers waiting for their vehicles to be serviced or repaired, or perhaps to get a Texas state vehicle inspection sticker renewed.

Often as I walk across and around the service area asking customers if they need anything to make them more comfortable — such as a soft drink or a snack — I’ll notice people of all ages holding handheld telecommunications devices. Smart phones, I-Phones, Kindles, electronic tablets. This is especially prevalent among younger individuals.

Go to Westgate Mall — or any mall in America, for that matter — and watch the youngsters traipsing through the place looking down at some gadget in their hand. They don’t see anyone around them, oblivious to the throng that’s moving through the place, with so many of them doing precisely the same thing: operating a handheld device.

We provide plenty of reading material at our dealership: magazines, copies of the newspaper, etc.
The usual reading fare, though, is contained in these gizmos our customers pack in their pockets, their brief cases or their purses.

To see a young man reading an actual book took me back a decade or so when such an activity was a common sight. It’s become so uncommon these days, that I am moved to offer this brief salute to a tradition that hasn’t gone away completely.

Maybe it will eventually. I hope it hangs on forever.

One more thing: I do not possess one of those smart phones. It took me practically forever to purchase a cellphone. I’m holding out as long as possible before acquiring a telecommunications “upgrade.”

Carthel vs. McBroom, etc.

The earth is still rumbling under the feet of the West Texas A&M University football program, which saw its head coach, Don Carthel, fired over an apparent ethical lapse.

In his statement to the public, Carthel spoke of his “unhealthy” relationship with WT Athletic Director Michael McBroom, for whom Carthel worked and who did the firing this past week. Carthel was fired for violating a rule governing the conduct of players. Carthel took two of his players to a big league baseball game this summer in Arlington, got them to reimburse him for their game tickets and then fibbed about when he got the players’ payment; he then asked the players back up his story.

Bad call, coach.

It has since occurred to me that friction between a highly successful coach and his or her boss — namely the university athletic director — isn’t all that uncommon.

Let me make clear that I am not privy to the details of the two men’s professional relationship. I cannot vouch for how they feel about each other as men. I don’t know either of them, although I’ve shaken Carthel’s hand and spoken with him a time or two on occasion.

Almost by definition, a successful athletic coach must possess a large ego, not unlike a politician who seeks a high office. The late Sen. George McGovern, who ran for president, once said a big ego was the No. 1 requirement of a successful politician. So it should be with a successful coach.

It might be, then, that Carthel’s own ego got in the way of his relationship with McBroom.

Other coaches have run afoul of their bosses. Look what’s happened down the road a bit, at Texas Tech University. Head football coach Mike Leach was fired over an allegation that he mistreated one of his players, but the trouble had been brewing almost from the day Leach got there. He’s a bit of an oddball and his style didn’t always seem like a good fit with the hidebound types who call the shots at Tech.

Then, of course, former head men’s basketball coach Bob Knight got into that infamous salad bar argument with Tech Chancellor David Smith.

I’m not suggesting that Don Carthel is in Leach’s league, let alone in the same league with the fiery Knight.

Successful coaches don’t come along very often. Universities usually pay them lots of money to win football games, which means more fans come to the games, which means more cash for the school, which means better recruitment opportunities to lure blue-chip athletes to keep the winning program going.

Get it?

It might be that McBroom was looking for a way to get rid of Carthel — who then did his boss a favor by handing him the opportunity.