Dallas Sports Powerhouse

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 31, 2006

Buck Stops Here?

With the MLB trading deadline officially past, I can confidently give Jon Daniels a B+ for his deadline activity. Carlos Lee is an All Star who lives in Texas and wants to play for the Rangers, Of course, the hitters always do. Nelson Cruz is a bit of a free swinger but has potential All Star skills. If you saw John Rheinecker's start tonight, or any of his starts the last month, you know Kip Wells has no chance but to be an upgrade. And Matt Stairs is a good addition to the bench who may make the team less reliant on Whiff Wilkerson.

In another year, the grade may have been lower as starter and reliever holes either weren't addressed or weren't filled with a sure thing. In the context of this season, with only perhaps the Yankees doing better at the deadline, it's been a great rookie year for Daniels, minus the Soriano trade.

But Daniels is in danger of seeing his hard work go to waste at least for this season. The team is in an inexplicable skid and having trouble gaining momentum from the Carlos Lee trade. Some would say holes in the rotation have finally once again been exposed. Some would say it is the uncharacteristic lack of power from the offense. Some would say it is the absence of David Dellucci in the clubhouse.

Yet, these answers, while factors, may be missing the main flaw of all: the manager. In case you've missed it, Buck Showalter is under.500 in over 3.5 years with the Rangers. A team that flashed a ton of potential in 2004 has faltered since. In case you don't remember, that was a young team relieved to be free of the veteran primadonnas that roamed the clubhouse and often worked against the young players that would soon take their jobs. A freer clubhouse resulted in a team that enjoyed the game of baseball and almost shocked the AL West.

Fast forward two years. It's year four for Showalter, traditionally his final year with a team after he's worn out his welcome. And while I believe this has been in the making since 2003, it is starting to come to a head. First, it was the screwball treatment of stripping Kevin Mench and Gerald Laird of their jobs when they elected to rehab injuries over playing winter ball in 2003 and 2004 respectively. At the time, those could be dismissed as isolated incidents and a manager trying develop young players.

Now, those sort of actions in the treatment of players have ballooned and festered in the minds of the players and they are starting to speak out. Take a look at some of the grievances coming out of the clubhouse:

"Nobody has said anything to me. I saw the lineup; it didn't have my name in it. I do feel a little confused right now. I've come to the park every day preparing to play hard. Now, things look different." - Hank Blalock when asked about Buck's comments that he would no longer play against left handed pitchers.

"I'm very surprised. If they are taking a different approach to the catching situation, I'd expect to hear something. I haven't heard anything." - Rod Barajas upon learning Gerald Laird was getting his first start in weeks against a right handed pitcher.

"I had conversations with some of my teammates like [Brad] Wilkerson and it was just a joke. We were like, 'What are we doing? What have we done to deserve this?' I hope to come here and play every day. That's what I'm thinking and that's what I'm hoping for. It's nice to get that opportunity again." - Mench after being traded on his platoon situation in Texas.

Now you can say Blalock is hitting poorly against lefties and should hit the pine. But here's a guy heating up in July being benched while Wilkerson, hitting worse against lefties, plays DH. Also, Mench has been streaky this season but was a guy who had shown he's a better hitter when playing every day instead of being platooned. And I have called all season for Laird to be the regular catcher.

Regardless of if these are the right moves, it is clear proper communication does not exist between player and manager when changes are made. It's also a sign the Showalter has worn out his welcome and the players no longer respond to him. He very well may have lost the team.

And now, Jon Daniels, with all the moves he has made, sees his team in the AL West cellar. He has to wonder if there's one more move to made. The players spoke out against John Hart and an upgrade was made. Will Daniels recognize this and make a move to free up the clubhouse once again? Or will he let his hard work go to waste?

Breaking News- The BCS Sucks

“Under the double hosting format, the champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific-10 and Southeastern Conferences will continue to play annually in one of the BCS bowls through the post-season following the 2007 regular season. In addition, one conference champion from among Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic Conferences will automatically qualify to play in a BCS bowl if it is: (1) ranked among the top 12 teams in the final BCS Standings; or (2) ranked among the top 16 teams in the final BCS Standings and ranked higher than the champion of one of the conferences whose champion has an annual automatic berth in a BCS bowl.”

It reads like an internal joke that accidentally got distributed instead of the final copy. Under this new rule set, football fans were 1 regular season loss away from seeing Notre Dame battle TCU in last year’s Fiesta Bowl instead of #4 Ohio St.

Not that TCU was a bad team mind you. But, would they really have deserved a nod over Ohio St.? Ohio St. lost to #1 Texas and #3 Penn St. by a combined total of 10 points. TCU lost to Dallas’ own SMU by 11 points. The road of competition doesn't even compare.

Under the old rule structure, a non-BCS school had to be ranked in the Top 6 to automatically qualify for a BCS bid. This makes much more sense. Even though your games bring in ratings lower than a rerun of The Benefactor, we’ll throw a bone your direction every now and again to let you match up against the Big Boys of college football. For a non-BCS team to be ranked that high they needed to be really good or the dominoes had to fall really hard. In fact, it has only happened one time since the formation of the BCS. (2004 Utah) It’s a pity pairing…if you will.

But, now college football went ahead and made itself a much more watered down process. Instead of seeing a 1-loss Texas or 2-loss Ohio St. fighting their way into an automatic bid they will have to peek over their shoulders at what the mid-major conferences are up to. It’s as if the NFL eliminated an NFC wildcard spot to allow the best college football team to have a shot at the first round. It robs a hard working team of a large audience and an even larger payout.

I call shenanigans.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Aggressor Strikes

It's a straight up fact. Jon Daniels and Hank Blalock obviously read the Powerhouse. You may have noticed that since I my July 25 post exposing Blalock's expendability, he's gone 4 for 11 with 3 RBI. He's standing up taking notice that he must be a second half player to have a true Major League future.

You also have likely noticed Jon Daniels has become the aggressor, the Anti-Hart, leading up to the trading deadline and acquired Carlos Lee without giving up top prospects John Danks and Edinson Volquez, Volquez being a player Brewers GM Doug Melvin coveted.

True, he traded the lovable, studdable Kevin Mench, but maybe only because, as reports indicate, he has another deal in the works in which Blalock is the centerpiece. More about that later.

I liked the deal at first: Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, Francisco "Oh No!" Cordero, and Class A pitcher Julian Cordero for Carlos Lee and Class AAA outfielder Nelson Cruz.

Carlos Lee brings respectability back to a stagnated offense. Nelson Cruz adds potential to a struggling crop of Texas outfield prospects. Kevin Mench is a guy I really like and think is still going to be a player. But he was the Marquis Daniels of the Texas Rangers. A guy with a ton of potential who wouldn't get a fair shot with the current coach or manager. Nix and Cordero needed a change of venue to try and get back on track.

I only liked the trade because the initial talk was Lee would DH leaving Wilkerson in LF, meaning the biggest offensive problem would go unremedied. However, Lee is an unquestionable upgrade over Mench so this is a good deal.

But then the reports changed. Lee asked to play LF and Showalter said anytime he wants to play LF he will. Cruz was immediately promoted and will play right field. Potentially, that leaves Mark DeRosa rotating all over the field to give guys off days and Wilkerson on the bench. It tinkered with the AL's fifth best bullpen to do the deal but I now love this trade.

Back to the Blalock talk. Jon Daniels has apparently been in talks with the Orioles to acquire another bat in Miguel Tejada, who would play third base, for the Hammer, Joaquin Arias, and John Danks or Thomas Diamond. (If Danks is a part of the deal, they better be getting SP Erik Bedard as well.) It seems an odd way to go after aquiring Lee.

Consider, though, the Rangers are a team in a pennant race in need of pitching in a year when all the good would-be available pitchers are in pennant races of their own. Facing the prospect of not being able to upgrade the pitching staff, Daniels is looking to go the only other possible route: adding more offense. It doesn't usually work, but he is giving this a shot and, so far, has not mortgaged the future.

So, Jon, I thank you for reading and keep up the hard work.

The Life of Terrell Owens- As told by a Kindergardener

Today I got picked to be on a 49er team. I hope it is warm in California because I like to wear shorts.

Mr. Marriucci isn’t nice to me. He told me I was immature and to go away. I am happy because he moved away. We have a new man named Dennis. I don’t know if I like him yet.

I do not like it here. Jeff doesn’t want to play with me and only plays with the other guys. He seems to REALLY like the other guys. He hurts my feelings so I called him a bad word. Dennis made me sit in time out because I didn't behave good. I yelled at him and he didn't like it.

Jeff’s dad said Jeff and me can’t play together anymore. I met a boy named Donavan. He lets me play with him on his team. We are best friends. Sometimes when it is cold his mom gives us some soup. His mom lets us stay up late to play video games. It is fun. Sometimes I ride my bike past Donavan's house but he isn't home.

Some girl showed me her boobies and I was on TV!!! They were nice. Donavan was mad at me for looking at the girl’s boobies but I don’t care. I think he wants to see her boobies too but his mom won’t let him.

Today Donavan didn’t share the ball with me. I told Donavan why don’t you share? Donavan said he was sorry to some people and we are friends again.

A man named Roy hurt me today. He hit me and hurt my leg. I tried to catch the ball but he was mean and pushed me to the ground. The doctor says I can’t play for a while. I am sad. :(

Donavan is not my friend anymore. I told him that I wanted to play with Brett because he was mean to me. He called me a name and it hurt my feelings. I want to run away and live somewhere else.

The Eagles won't let me play anymore because I don't act good but I don't care because they are all poop heads. Especially Donavan.

My friend Drew is good. Some bad people tried to make me sad but he told them to leave me alone. Drew doesn't like to answer questions.

I met a man named Tuna today. He is nice. He bought me ice cream and a soda. He gave me a lot of dollars and said that he has guys that will play with me not like Donavan. I am happy. :)

Mr. Jerry came to visit me this evening. I fell in love with him on his jet plane. He said I look good in the shower. Must be all those sit ups I’ve been doing in my front lawn.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Inside J. D.'s Head

Well, Cowboys fans, you may have heard the news. Seems strong safety Keith Davis wasn't returning home from visiting family in Shreveport. But he may have very well been gambling to be out late partying while playing for Bill Parcells. Word has it Texas College contacted the Cowboys wanting to hire Davis as a assistant coach if they cut him. Seems Ramonce Taylor needs a mentor once his transfer is complete.

First, Lance "Uni-Nad" Armstrong is accused of using performance enhancing drugs during his record setting Tour de France winning streak. Now Floyd Landis, the one-hip wonder, reportedly tested positive for high levels of testosterone during his improbable Tour win. Should we Americans start to get suspicious of our cyclists? I'll tell you what. When Petey Palmerino, the one-legged former jockey, wins the Tour, then I'll be concerned.

Good Riddance to former Mavs point guard Darrell Armstrong. That pagan Redskin lover was threatening family values in Dallas Forth Worth.

Well, the Heisman voters may have gotten it wrong, but justice was served today when Vince Young signed a contract worth $4 million more than first overall pick Mario Williams.

Did you hear the one about running back Thomas Jones pulling his hamstring during his Chicago Bears training camp physical? He said, "It could happen to anybody." True. That's why it's happened to all of one person in the history of the NFL. Somebody didn't eat their Wheaties this morning.

Word is several women were rushed to the hospital after fainting when the new Milwaukee Brewers mascot, El Picante the Mexican Weiner, thrust past them during the Brewers traditional sausage race.

Rumor has it the Mavs have had their eye on Nuggets power forward Reggie Evans, who so gently caressed the groin of Chris Kaman in the NBA playoffs. It appears they are looking to add another ball handler to back up Jason Terry.

So one Miami Hurricane is shot and another returns fire on the assailant. Good to hear the legacy of Jimmy Johnson lives on in Florida.

Here's three phrases that will give you a disturbing mental image: Super Bowl...Taylor Hicks...Wardrobe Malfunction.

Football for the win...and Twins

Repeat after me: I’m a Texan and I like football.

Not that fancy Euro style of football either. I like the in your face, gang tackling, fourth consecutive “worst friggin’ call I have EVER seen” quantification of everything that is male. I want my beer cold, my stadium seats sticky and a hairy fat guy to bump chests with as I watch my team scoreboard their opponent.

This is why I do not understand the fascination people have with soccer.

Don’t misunderstand me. I can see the parental advantages to registering your child for a team. Soccer teaches your children leadership, coordination, strategy, and most importantly, how to work with others. As a father, I often reflect on my own son's success with euphoric nirvana as I patiently wait for my wife to post bail. (I wasn't kidding about #14 throwing elbows Ref) Seeing the smile on that little face during my supervised visits makes it all well worth it. But past the age of 18, I don't understand the allure.

Back in my college days, I lived in London where “football” rivals the Catholic Church as a religion. By day, the city was bustling with people trying to get from point A to point B. At night, the streets emptied and the pubs busted at the seams while 200 grown men rabidly watched the Chelsea Blue Angels fight for a nil-nil score crouched around a 20” TV. Songs of support and admiration could be heard from every facet of the neighborhood as the building around me seemed to sway. Peace and goodwill to the family of a poor bloke that walked into the pub wearing the wrong jersey.

But, in America, we just don't care.

I tried to like the World Cup. I mean, I really tried. But, 99.9% of the matches I watched entailed the ball being passed back and forth while some guy occasionally puts on an acting clinic that would rival Lance Bass’ perceived interest at a wet t-shirt contest. What’s so compelling about 90 minutes of no score (plus stoppage and an overtime) just to go to a shootout where each shot is just a guessing game?

Why not eliminate the formality of regulation soccer and go straight to the shootout?

Man Law.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"The direction of my athletic career will be determined this weekend...and I'm only 10!"

I hope you didn’t need to be anywhere in Frisco this weekend. There will be over 3000 families descending on Pizza Hut Park and surrounding soccer complexes in the next few days. And this is just on the girls side…the boys will do theirs later this summer. The mission? To play some soccer? Get some exercise? Have fun?

*scoff*

This is QUALIFYING! This is the tournament that will determine which teams make which division in which league. 200 teams competing for 123 slots. At the top, you have Lake Highlands Girls Classic League Division I. These are literally some of the best youth soccer teams in the country. The Sting and Dallas Texans clubs each have teams ranked in the top 20 nationally. Then there are the lower tier, but still respectable Divisions II and III in Lake Highlands. Utter failure would be to lose in qualifying and be relegated to Arlington or Plano select leagues.

And once you miss qualifying for Lake Highlands, your lot is pretty much cast. You might still stand somewhat of a reasonable chance if you are on the “white” squad of a major club. The clubs designate their “premier” teams by color…reserving the “white” designation for the “JV”. But if you are a small club or an independent team, forget about it. Sure you can enter the qualifying tournament each year, but you are sure to be seeded to match up with the best of the best of the existing teams, making subsequent qualification very difficult.

So, coaches and parents all over North Texas are trying to distract their darling daughters from Bratz dolls and slumber parties in favor of soccer camps, daily 2-hour training sessions and even two-a-day practices. Yes, two-a-days. Real, blood-sweat-and-tears, throwing-up, be-all-you-can-be-type two-a-days.

Don’t let me give you the impression that it is all driven by the adults. Some of these kids are naturally talented and are just out there excelling at something they love. Others are tremendously driven. These are the “Type A” personalities I feared in the 80’s. 10 is the new 15. They are making decisions for themselves now that, right or wrong, will have a real and significant impact on their futures.

The bottom line? The fate of America’s soccer future will be decided by a bunch of 10 year old girls on summer vacation.

In Defense of Youth

Hello, Mavs Nation. Are you Rowdy Loud and Proud?

Or are you concerned about this offseason? Do you think, so far, it has lacked the big splash needed to get this team that just missed the championship over the top? Are you lamenting that Cuban and the General missed out on Mike James?

You probably remember Cuban's ABC reality show. What was it called? It was a big hit. Why can't I remember the name? I remember everyone was so intrigued to know who won they had to condense the final two episodes into one just to appease the viewers.

If you saw the show, you remember Mark Cuban's catchphrase: "Bad mother f#@$ing call, Ref?"

Oh wait, I mean, "No balls, no babies!"

You're wondering if he's living up to this slogan or if he is playing it safe giving the rest of the Western Conference a chance to pass the Mavs.

Well, rest easy, Debbie Downers of the world. Cuban, The General, and Donnie Nelson have a plan with a high probability of success.

They began the summer by assuring the core of the team would be together. Jason Terry signs a six-year contract. Dirk Nowitzki agrees to an extension he will officially sign before camp begins. Josh Howard is likely to do the same.

They planned to follow that by adding a scorer. They had their sights on Mike James coming off a year in which he averaged 20 points. Nevertheless, he signed with Minnesota. Mavs fans all over groaned that the Mavs wouldn't beat the Timberwolves' deal to get James here and get the team over the hump.

Well, let's put that in perspective. James had a career year in a contract year. Remember how ballyhooed Erick Dampier was as a free agent out of Golden State after the 2003-2004 season. Now, he's a role player with an ugly contract. And James had a chance to play for something in Dallas or with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming in his hometown, yet he chose the going nowehere Timberwolves for more years and more money. Tells me all I need to know about Mike James.

Then the Mavs shifted gears quickly and closed deals for players that upgrade roster spots while making the 8- to 10-man rotation younger and better. A sneak peek:

Keith Van Horn is replaced by Austin Croshere who brings the same perimeter skills but is tougher in the paint and on the boards.

Adrian Griffin is supplanted by Greg Buckner. Buckner is a true defensive stopper that can harass players at four positions and is a better scorer than Griffin

Marquis Daniels is uprooted by Maurice Ager. Daniels was a personal favorite and there's more uncertainty with a rookie. But Dick Vitale basically said this kid is like Michael Finley except he plays defense.

Darrell Armstrong is replaced by Anthony Johnson. Armstrong is so old he could be playing in the wheelchair league soon. Johnson gives the Mavs a bigger point guard who can dish the dime and play great perimeter defense. Having started 89 games the last two seasons, he also provides a safety net if Devin Harris is still not ready to take the reins on a regular basis.

So quit your crying! The Mavs missed out on a guy in a shallow free agent class who is very likely not to duplicate his career year. When they didn't get extra offense, they upgraded their defensive abilities at four spots on the roster, all while getting a little younger.

Remember, last year their biggest moves were signing Doug "Alpha Male" Christie and DeSagana Diop. And yet the team went to its first ever NBA Finals.

Have some faith. Be Rowdy, Loud, and Proud.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Putting a "Ring" in Transferring

Upon announcing that he will not return with the Longhorns next season, former running back Ramonce Taylor had this to say: “Frederick Douglass once said, 'No struggle, no progress.' I've had my share of struggles and now it's time for progress.”

Perhaps Taylor should have attended class more often.

Douglass’ essay, ‘No Struggle, No Progress’, embodies the oppressions that African-American people endured in a time where the country was divided on their civil rights. Sorry Ramonce, but blowing a chance to earn a top notch education, and potentially millions of dollars, because you could not stay out of trouble does not parallell with the hardships that were imposed during slavery.

Maybe his interpretation of the Cliff's Notes differs from mine.

Taylor made progress as a player, but has constantly struggled as an individual. In September of 2005, Taylor was detained and released for an aggravated assault with a semi-automatic weapon. A few weeks before the Rose Bowl, Taylor was questioned for assault and attempted robbery. In the latest string of unfortunate events, Taylor was caught with several pounds of marijuana in a car registered under his name after a complaint was issued for disorderly conduct.

Taylor's "oppression" has been self-inflicted. His frequent bed and breakfasts on the tax payer's dime leaves no one to blame but himself. Hopefully, this talented young star can put his life back on track. Otherwise, he may soon find himself permantly wearing a different shade of Texas orange.

Rangers Rookie of the Year?

You hear Rangers Rookie of the Year and who do you think of? The first name to come to mind is Ian Kinsler. Perhaps John Koronka and John Rheinecker are given consideration based on the fact they have helped keep this team in a pennant race as Padilla and Millwood struggled early in the season.

Or maybe you made the mistake of thinking the Rangers Rookie of the Year has even played an inning this season. Probably, you should look in the front office, behind the door where a man named Jon Daniels sits.

Consider what he's done. Got the Millwood deal done. Traded castoff Ricardo Rodriguez for Vicente Padilla. Brought in Koronka and Rheinecker for Juan Dominguez. Had the guts to trade Chris Young and two others for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. The Rangers are dead this season without Otsuka. And Eaton, ignoring tonight's box score, may be a savior of sorts for this team.

What's that you say? He traded fan and clubhouse favorite Dellucci and all he got was a pitcher who couldn't stay on the major league club this season. Keep in mind the deal was made in desperation after Adam Eaton got hurt and Robinson Tejada has a future.

Besides, the only thing that makes this trade look bad is that abysmal Alfonso Soriano trade. Need another big bat? He would have been nice. Instead, we have Brad "The Whif" Wilkerson, the k-loving lefty Buck Showalter likes to play at DH from time to time.

But a rookie will make mistakes. And yet, in one year, he's made more positive moves than his predecessor made in his entire tenure with the Rangers.

But Soriano was a major blunder, like throwing an interception in the red zone down a field goal with under two minutes to play. Like popping up when a ground ball scores the winning run. Can he really be Rookie of the Year?

Rest assured, Kinsler has a step on him, but is slumping right now. But Daniels in his bowl week. It's the last few days before the trading deadline. The needs are well documented: a big bat, a starter, and maybe a reliever. Hicks has said his wallet is open. Daniels responsibility is to spend wisely.

Does Daniels mortgage the future to get a starter and and bat which could cost a couple of your top young pitching prospects? Does Daniels play it safe, make a small move hoping for the best, and count on this team next year?

I like the guy, so here's a few tips:

1) Shop Blalock, instead of Mench- Mench is heating up while Hank has once again quit Hammering in the second half.

2) Get rid of Wilkerson- Buck loves to play The Whif. Sell him for a bag of mound dirt so he no longer has the temptation.

3) Be patient-Remember you have at least two young guys in Danks and Volquez ready to compete for next year's rotation. Make these guys off limits unless you get stars in return, i.e. Carlos Lee or Freddy Garcia.

4) Be the Anti-Hart- John Hart showed little heart at the deadline. Rarely made moves and, when he did, they were of no impact. Maintain the persona established in this first season as general manager. Be the agressor and steal someone else's players when their guard is down.

If Daniels follows these steps this team will take the next step. They will move beyond competing with good teams and hovering around .500. They will become a team that competes with the elites and makes the playoffs. Then, he is a shoe-in. He will be the 2006 Rangers Rookie of the Year. Sorry, Ian.

Cowboys Head to Oxnard with New Ingredient – Hope

The Dallas Cowboys hit the trail this week to be in Oxnard, California for the start of training camp on Friday, July 29. Owner Jerry Jones and Head Coach Bill Parcells will host the opening press conference on July 28 at noon.

Fans always look forward to the usual festivities of Jones’ artful dance of self-promotion and dodging tough questions, and Parcells’ not so artful disdain of the event in general and the media in particular.

But this year, there is something more. There is Hope. No, not the normal “hope” that every team brings to training camp. You may hear the typical camp clichés of “We really feel we can compete for a title this year”, “the guys are really hungry”, or “We’re as good as any team out there”, but there is something else. Something…legitimate…about this year’s sense of big-H Hope.

Some may point towards the draft picks. Bobby Carpenter is the “sexiest” of all the picks, as any team’s 1st pick in the draft should be. He was the best player on the #4 college team in the Nation who everyone saw play in some big time games. He is expected to provide major help to Parcells beefed up linebacking core…particularly with the departure last year of scrappy Dat Nguyen. Anthony Fasano is a typical Parcells TE. Big body for run blocking and pass protection, but is talented enough to get out in the pattern when needed. However, Fasano is not expected to challenge young star Jason Whitten as a receiving threat. Jason Hatcher was the third pick, but is a longshot to become a player. He is very green as a defensive end, playing only 1.5 yrs at the position, switching over from tight end during his Sophomore year at Grambling before declaring for the draft after his Junior year. There are some other lumps of coal that the Cowboys are hoping to turn into diamonds, but who are we kidding? We know exactly why fans are anticipating this season more expectantly than previous years.

Terrell Eldorado Owens - “T.O.”

When long ago there was a debate (Moss v. T.O.), now there is none. T.O. is the receiver you want on your team. He’s THE receiver. Even amongst his detractors, his talent is not in question. You may call him the stereotypical arrogant pro athlete, a head-case, a cancer, a disgrace to the NFL with his post-touchdown antics and sideline drama…and you may be right.

But what you might also call him is a speed receiver, a possession receiver, or an inimitable homerun threat at any point on the field. Marketing savior or marketing pariah, the man WILL have an impact on this team.

And that’s what the fans sense.

And each faction has an answer for the others’ argument:

“You think T.O.’s talent will put this team over the top? What about the offensive line?”
“You think T.O. will disrupt this team’s chemistry? Parcells knows how to handle Stars.”

Whatever their particular hope is for the ‘Boys – failure due to or despite the TO move, to rekindle the 70’s and 90’s years, or just to be competitive again – this move gets them off center. T.O. is just as likely to take this not-quite-ready-for-primetime team to the Super Bowl as he is to send them to the NFC East cellar with a multi-game suspension and/or annual contract chaos.

Like a big Cowboy inkblot test, everyone sees in this move whatever it is that they want to see. But one thing is unanimous – we all want to watch.

Texas Football: On the rise or one hit wonder?

What constitutes a great college football team or coach? USC had a plethora of stars at their disposal and perhaps the most heralded coach in college football today but failed to cash their chips in when it mattered. Texas Tech has set all kinds of offensive records with Mike Leach’s system of ragtag recruits but has not won anything outright since 1955.

So, what exactly is the criteria for the title?

The 1995 Nebraska squad is widely considered the best team in the history of college football. Gurus point to a stout defense, an explosive offense and a legendary coach in Tom Osborne. But, can anyone outside of Lincoln name 5 players from the 1995 roster? All discussions inevitably revert to the play of the great Tommie Frazier.

The Texas Longhorns have a similar tale. After falling 13 points short of the chance to prove their worth in 2004, they bounced back to have an outstanding 2005 season culminating in the confetti of arguably the best college game ever played. But, when the season is dissected, it is always Vince Young who gets sole credit for their success. Never mind the clutch catches of Limas Sweed, the “blink and you’ll miss it” speed of Jamaal Charles or the defensive leadership of Michael Huff. No, Mack Brown went out and stole himself a championship for the Burnt Orange Nation riding on the coattails of the greatest player to ever pass through the Big 12.

The monkey may be off Brown’s back, but the chip is certainly on his shoulder.

Even after an amazing title run, the Longhorns have something to prove to the college football world: They can win without Vince Young. Like Brown, it took Osborne 21 years as a head coach to guide the Huskers to Hallelujah land. Any press on how Osborne couldn’t win the “big ones” has long since been forgotten. Despite having a superstar like Frazier, no one attributes Osborne’s 1994 and 1995 title success to having “lucked out”.

So why are the Eyes of Football upon Texas?

Brown has proven himself. In eight years at Texas, he has eight consecutive 9+ win seasons, guided the Longhorns to three Big 12 Championship appearances, posted an 83-19 overall record, defeated rival Texas A&M in 7 out of 8 tries and restored glory and pride to the Horn faithful with a National Championship title. Before he arrived at Texas, Brown turned a perennial doormat in North Carolina into a legitamate title contender. But, his failure to consistently defeat Bob Stoops' Sooners has outwardly tainted the perception of his ability…however unfairly.

Osborne experienced the same difficulties.

From 1973 to 1989, Osborne posted a 6-11 record against Barry Switzer’s Sooner teams. Switzer won three National Championships while Osborne came up empty. Like Brown, Osborne had to contend with a strong conference foe to reach the top of the mountain. Yet it is Brown who gained the label of “Mr. February” despite a considerbly shorter timeframe to deliver.

This season will begin a new chapter in the era of Texas football. The talent is there. The hunger is there. The fans are behind the team. It’s up to Brown to respond to the challenge.

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