Dallas Sports Powerhouse

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 30, 2006

The STARS at night are big and bright...

I admit, I haven't been as passionate about hockey this season. With the Horns in the hunt, VY lighting it up for the Titans and all the shiny things on the ground, I just haven't devoted as much time as I'd like to cover the namesake of my children. Advice: Don't ever name a child based on which of your favorite sports teams won a championship when he/she was conceived. Luckily for fans like me, "Owens Romo" may be off the books this season. (But, I'll give the Cowboys their due for looking like an actual team on Sunday)

Lost somewhere in the mix is the outstanding play of the Dallas Stars who are currently second in the Pacific division and the Western Conference. Only one point seperates #1 and #2 in the early part of the season. The Stars are 9-2 while the Anaheim (Mighty?) Ducks are 8-0-3. So, basically, the Stars manned up and accepted defeat in regulation while the Ducks couldn't win, but get an "everybody gets a trophy" point for losing in OT and/or a shootout.

Sorry guys, a loss is a loss.

This year's Stars' team had major question marks going into the season. The departure of Bill Guerin was probably the most concerning factor. Add in Eric "The Concussion" Lindross as your big offseason signee and there was no telling what to expect. But, the Stars are actually playing some great defense this year inside of the blue lines. Lindross is leading the team in assist with 7 while Mike Modano is returning to old form with 7 goals. Brendan Morrow has brought some fire to the captain position and Robidas has set up a cot in the penalty box.

The biggest question mark will be whether or not Marty Turco can overcome his mental block. Turco is a great goalie for 90 games a year. In big games, and the playoffs, he gets the "L" more often than not. Hopefully the demons will be exorcised as the season progresses.

While hockey plays fourth fiddle to the other sports teams in these parts, nothing can beat the fan experience of watching the Stars battle on the ice. Watching a great team makes the enjoyment level all the better.

The REAL McCoy?

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Excuse the cheesy headline and overall homeristic post.

I am an obsessed football fan. Some guys, like Jason, stay up late at night surfing the web for porn. I stay up until 2 in the morning running down football stats, recruitment sites and fan message boards to get the inside scoop of our opponent. (With the occasional porn breaks) My mood greatly depends on what happens each Saturday my Horns take the field.

I never thought that we would be in the position we are right now. For me, nothing in the sports world will EVER top what I witnessed last year in the Rose Bowl. Even if Texas goes on to win 10 more championships before I am put in the ground, they won't hold a candle to Superman scampering across the goal line with 19 seconds left on the clock. For as much grief fans give their opponents, or even their own team, no one can ever take away the emotions and pride you feel when your passion is etched into the history books. For Vince Young to not win the Heisman was a shame. Reggie Bush was certainly deserving, but there is little doubt how the voting would have gone January 5, 2006.

Forgive me for saying it...but can we take a look at Colt for a second?

"Shenanigans!" you will undoubtedly say. Believe me I would have said the same thing a few months ago too. Colt looks like he should be learning how to write the word Heisman in cursive rather than having the downtown athletic club look at his stats. When Texas and Ohio State left the field, there was no question as to who was the better team...or quarterback. But, when you look at comparison with some of the other QBs on the Heisman watch list, you have to scratch your head a second.

The obvious first pick is Troy Smith. At the risk of sounding classless, I am not overwhelmingly impressed with how he plays. He is an amazing athlete, an accurate passer and a true leader. But he lacks the sexiness of some of the past races. Brady Quinn started off as the media golden boy playing for the "America's Team" of college football. But, a meltdown against Michigan coupled with several close calls fanned the flames enough for ESPN to not run a 10-part series of how Brady Quinn gets crunk off the field. There is still a lot of football to be played, but here are the comparisons thus far:

Troy Smith CMP:145 ATT:214 YDS:1898 CMP%:67.8% TD:22 INT:2 RAT:174.3

Brady Quinn CMP:193 ATT:303 YDS:2233 CMP%:63.7% TD:21 INT:4 RAT:145.8

Colt McCoy CMP:147 ATT:217 YDS:1705 CMP%:67.7% TD:24 INT:4 RAT:166.6

Now, I'm not wearing a "Colt for Heisman" button anytime soon but these are pretty outstanding. McCoy is losing the yardage and INT battle to Smith, but is neck in neck with the completion percentage. He has also thrown for 2 more TDs than Smith has. McCoy has had almost 50 less passing attempts than Quinn and is beating him in the TD stat and tied in the INT stat. McCoy also has the better completion percentage and overall rating.

Did I mention that Colt has outgained both QBs in rushing yards?

The competition played by all three are very similar, but Smith and Quinn will have the big stages against Michigan and USC later on in the season. Colt is on pace to shatter the passing TD record for a single season. Not the UT record...the NCAA freshman record.

But, Colt has two factors working against him that will ultimately cost him a trip to NY: This is his first year as a starter, and more importantly, he isn't Vince Young. Despite this, the future is looking bright for the burnt orange nation.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

McCoy and Romo: The Comeback Kids

This was a good weekend for the Powerhouse and we can give the credit to a pair of QB's with a ton of heart.

Let's start with Colt McCoy, the QB of the defending national champion Texas Longhorns. He's the leader of a team that has threatened to underacheive the last few weeks. He's a kid that was ultimately Texas' third, if not fourth, choice in the QB recruiting class of 2004.

He was considered an afterthought once Coach Brown landed Jevan Snead and the bluechipper graduated early so he could get a head start in Austin. The deck was stacked against him.

But now his legend continues to grow. Trailing by Texas Tech by 21 points in the first quarter after a throwing a pick six, it looked like Colt and his mates were in for a long night. But he battled back, played consistent ball the rest of the way, made some heady plays, and led the 'Horns to the narrowest of victories, but has to go to class tomorrow so he can understand this BCS scenario.

Now Snead is the afterthought, at least until the coaches are intrigued again by his big arm in the spring. Colt is now being compared to Major Applewhite, who is probably only below Vince Young and James Street in the UT Quarterback pantheon. Of course, Peter Gardere is right there, too, having gone undefeated against ou.

As for Romo, one start is hardly the thing of legends. After all, the Cowboys have had marquee performances from career clipboard carriers like the Mad Bomber and Jason Garrett. But the nature of this start is a serious step in the right direction.

He started slow and looked a little like McCoy by throwing an interception in his own end of the field that led to a score. After one quarter, his team trailed 14-0. He then led the charges to 35 unanswered points in a hard-nosed road win that keeps the Cowboys in the playoff hunt with winnable road games against Washington and Arizona.

And Romo flashed his skills that led Bill Parcells to make the QB switch. His quick release, ability to see the whole field, and knack for sidestepping a rush made the game much simpler for the offensive line. Romo was sacked twice, but he also avoided at least three other sacks that would have felled Drew Bledsoe. And did I mention he led the Cowboys to a franchise record 25 points in the fourth quarter?

So Bledsoe is on the quick track to retirement and Romo has the key to the Tuna's bus, though he wants to make it a Corvette. But to do so, he has to find consistency to be a legitimate QB and not just a young guy with potential.

But, yes, Powerhousers, because of the Comeback Kids, we had a great weekend.

Happy Hell-o-weekend

Sorry about this weekend folks. It was my fault.

JD, his wife and my clan were going to see a movie on Saturday night and commit the cardinal sin of missing a Texas game. As misfortune would have it, the Mrs. became irritated with her flawless husband and plans got cancelled. The laws of marriage were against me and I wasn't in the greatest of moods. So, I went into the Texas game with a bad attitude...and it took a while for it to get better.

3 quarters to be exact.

I'm not sure what it is about TBS broadcast games that make the Longhorns feel that they need to give their fans heart attacks. Earlier this year Baylor was cruising through the first half before the Horns woke up. In 2004 and 2005, Vince Young had to lead a miracle comeback to soundly defeat OSU. So when Colt threw an interception that was returned for 6...my adrenaline starting kicking in.

"Self", I thought. "You need to get rid of this negative attitude because our boys need us." After 3 shirt changes, moving foam fingers to all 4 corners of the room and balancing on 1 leg, the Horns finally took the lead. If we had just stuck to plan and saw the dreaminess of Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon, I believe that the disaster may have been avoided.

Pin this one on me. Better yet, pin it on my wife. (OK, we made up but she doesn't read this blog)

But, now I have to say it: Colt McCoy, you have my respect.

Did anyone realistically see Texas being able to fight adversity this year with a freshman QB? Once Superman flew to Nashville, Horns fans everywhere must have held their loved ones a little tighter. But Colt "effin" McCoy has shown the poise and composure reminiscent of "The Major". I just feel sorry for Jevan Snead as it will take an injury for anyone to point his way. I also dread the 2008 season where we will have John Brantley and Colt McCoy causing a controversy that only Simms and Applewhite can relate to. But, let's not get too ahead of ourselves.

As bad as they were, I forgive the Texas secondary. They are broken, battered and hobbling to the line of scrimmage. It's hard to play 11 straight games before earning a bye week. Luckily, the biggest pass test is behind us and they made the plays when they really needed to. The bottom line is that Texas won the points accumulated stat which counts the most.

As for the rest of the Big 12...

What happened guys? A Peterson-less Oklahoma beat Mizzou by double digits and a bad OSU team kicked the corn out of Nebraska? It is entirely possible that all 6 south teams make a bowl this year. So much for my shift in power theory.

But, perhaps the greatest non-Horn win this weekend was A&M over Baylor. The Aggies truly believe that they are one of the nation's elite right now. You couldn't ask for more as a Texas fan. They will be on cloud nine coming into Austin just to be reminded exactly who they are. Am I bad for enjoying this too much?

The only other significant downfall was USC's loss to Oregon...STATE. In the Pac-10, losing to a bad team is called an upset. In the SEC, this is called proof that the SEC is the toughest conference. (Sorry, couldn't resist...) The loss moves Texas up in the Coach's polls, but I'm not holding my breath for a crack at a title defense. Winning the Big 12 and having a good showing in a BCS bowl is more than I thought we could do at the beginning of the season.

But, don't ever count out Colt...make that Stallion...McCoy.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Do We or Don't We Want Tony Romo?

You know the problem with 24 hour sports coverage. It gives everyone ample time to prove each other's arguments irrelevant. Take the case of Tony Romo.

Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News has basically panned the move by the Cowboys to Romo as QB. As fodder, he tosses out the fact he's already on pace for 33 interceptions. What an insult! Aaron Brooks hasn't even thrown 30 interceptions in a season, although Peyton Manning once made a run at it.

WFAA's Dale Hansen reminds people of the fans' excitement when the Cowboys finally made the switch from 3-time NFC Championship Game QB Danny White to Gary Hogeboom. Hogeboom threw for three interceptions in his first start. After that, his biggest accomplishment was making the cut to compete on Survivor. I don't know about you, but I'd never confuse Drew Bledsoe with a 3-time Conference Championship game QB.

Then there's Mike Ditka reminding us how irrelevant the speculation is by reminenscing about how Roger Staubach threw for 2 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in his first stint as a starter. Ditka also set the record straight on the pocket passer v. mobile QB debate. He noted how, in today's game, the most successful quarterbacks haven't been the "pure" pocket passers with cannon arms like Drew Bledsoe or the really mobile QB's, ala Michael vick. It's been guys who can move in the pocket like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Compelling. That seems to describe Romo.

But we will not know until Romo gets some games under his belt. And now is his opportunity. The one thing we know? He's not a QB in his mid-thirties with no upside on a middle of the road team. So, I say bring him on.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Who wouldn't want Mike Leach?

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This weekend in the Big 12

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Colorado vs. Kansas- Surprisingly, this is a hard one to call. Colorado has shown that they can beat good offenses in Tech and play with decent defenses in Georgia. The loss to Baylor isn't nearly as laughable as it has been in previous seasons. Kansas is a team that will not quit as evidenced by their play against Nebraska. But, they still don't have the record to show for it. Colorado will win a close battle.

Iowa St. vs. K-State- Two north teams who are just hoping that the season mercifully ends. Iowa St. has a great QB to WR tandem, but they have failed expectations of their offensive output. However, K-State has proven that they can beat mediocre teams but has lost to the likes of Baylor, Louisville, Mizzou and Nebraska...by a lot. But, in the end, Ron Prince becomes the "X" factor. He just doesn't have the tools to win with this group of players. Iowa St. by 10+.

Texas A&M vs. Baylor- Ah yes, the hilariously close battle of the past two seasons is all of a sudden NOT so funny. Baylor is going to give A&M fits with its passing attack and Jovorski Lane is going to rush for well over 100 yards. But, in the end, Baylor is an improved team that has had trouble finishing out the close games. A&M has had more close games than they care to admit...against bad teams. But, A&M will win by a FG.

Oklahoma vs. Mizzou- This is probably the most interesting match-up of the day. Both teams already have a conference loss and Oklahoma needs to win to stay competitive for the Big 12 south crown should Texas drop 2 games. Chase Daniel is unquestionably the best QB in the Big 12 this year especially given the talent that surrounds him. Peterson would have been a great asset and Allen Patrick has not shown anything jaw dropping in his limited action. But, the coaching factor will take precedence. While we at Texas like to rag on the formerly known "Big game Bobby", Stoops is still a damn fine coach and has the track record to prove it. Gary Pinkle, on the other hand does not. Oklahoma will win by 10+.

Texas vs. Texas Tech- As bad as it sounds, this game somewhat concerns me. It's on the road against a pass happy team. Texas' secondary has been suspect for the better part of the year. (Can we at least SCHEME against trick plays Gene?) Every team Texas plays claims that the game is their Super Bowl. Tech is no different. There's a lot of pride to be had for Leach's legion of pirate faithful. But, in the end, Tech's defense can be rushed upon by a pee wee league team. If we keep handing the ball off to Charles and Young, expect 4 rushing TD's as a result. Texas wins by 10+.

Best scenerios for Texas:
Texas over Tech (Obviously)
a&m over Baylor (This is a push as an a&m loss could allow Texas to lose 1 conference game and still win the Big 12 south)
Mizzou over ou (We need to pull for Mizzou for BCS purposes as playing Nebraska twice does not help us in the BCS formula)
K-State over ISU (K-State has a better chance for a mediocre season to slightly boost our strength of schedule)
CU/Kansas is moot (We play neither)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

New Quarterback...Same Results

Well, a new era may have begun in Dallas last night. The Tony Romo era. A night that will live in history...er...infamy.

You have to ask yourself if Bill Parcells, a coach who loves experienced quarterbacks, had any choice. After all, this script was reading like those we've read before. Drew makes some throws. Gets sacked. Takes some hits. Next, he holds the ball way too long. Next, he throws an interception that costs his team a score, results in the other team's score, or both.

You know what Bledsoe is, he isn't going to get you where you want to go, so you have to make the change even if it's at the risk of taking a step back. Even if Romo turns out to be no Eli Manning, we know Bledsoe is pretty close to Kurt Warner.

And that's not to trash Bledsoe. He's an excellent guy. Works hard. Family man. Just not what the Cowboys really need right now.

And as alluded to earlier, Romo was bad. Three INT's. This included his first pass of the night as well as one inside the Giant's 10 returned for a score, ala Bledsoe. One was, perhaps, not his fault since it got tipped at the line, but there were two other nice passes that were awfully iffy.

Romo had rebounded from the first INT. Romo had moved the Cowboys into striking distance to try and get within a score of the Giants. Then, on 4th-and-2, T.O let him down dropping a pass giving NY the ball. The Giants drove down the field against the Cowboys suddenly porous defense to milk most of the third quarter and get the touchdown for a 26-7 lead.

I think that proved too much for Romo in his first real action of his career. He led the Cowboys to a touchdon on the followiing drive, but time and the Giants D pressured him into the kinds of mistakes inexperienced QB's and Drew Bledsoe make. But, being his first real action, we don't yet know what we have in Romo. We do in Bledsoe and that's why, for now, you stick with the kid.

Because, with Romo in, the O-Line has some room for error. With Romo, Jason Witten and Patrick Crayton became part of the offense again. With Romo, this was at least a fun team to watch. So give him a week of practice preparing as the starter. Maybe two. Maybe three. As long as you like. Because if the team is going to be mediocre, it may as well be fun to watch.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cowboys-Giants Prediction

Just a quick prediction to set up a post-loss rant. Drew Bledsoe will turn the ball over four times, hit one long bomb, and the Cowboys will lose by ten points to the NY "Football" Giants.

As for common sense, you can have it. I prefer sharing regular company with my own personal brilliance.

BCS revisited

Well, the latest BCS rankings are out and Texas has slid into the #7 spot with their victory over NU. For those keeping score at home, that's 2 spots better than last week. Slowly the computers are being convinced that an overated ND team is not worthy and only ONE Big East team should be in front of Texas...regardless of record.

As a fun fact, and to get under JD's skin a bit, there is something else very interesting about the latest BCS poll.

7. Texas (7-1; 4-0)
19. Oklahoma (5-2; 2-1)
20. Mizzou (7-1; 3-1)
21. Texas A&M (7-1; 3-1)
22. Nebraska (6-2; 3-1)

5. Auburn (7-1; 2-1)
6. Florida (7-1; 4-1)
11. Tenn. (6-1; 2-1)
13. Arkansas (7-1; 4-0)
16. LSU (6-2; 2-2)

The Big 12 has just as many teams in the Top 25 as the SEC does. The Big 12 is (32-7; 15-4) to the SEC's (33-6; 14-5) with an almost identical out of conference competition. (Tell me again how the SEC doesn't get misguided media love.) Now, I admit that I'm no math major...but that seems pretty dead even to me. Yes, there is a HUGE gap in team rankings but how much do preseason polls play into that? In the first poll, Texas and Oklahoma were the only appearances by the Big 12. The SEC had 3 in the Top 10, 1 in the teens and another in the lower 20's. Georgia, a team who's stock has plummented to negative numbers, was ranked #15 until they topped out at #9. As shown by these numbers, the Big 12 is holding its own. Both conferences have three 7-1 teams.

The truth of the matter is that the Big 12 has 3 teams that are in the nation's elite: Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. If 1 or 2 of the aformentioned teams is not undefeated, it's perceived that the Big 12 is "down this year". But, when the same thing happens to an SEC team it's because "the SEC is sooooo tough." Perhaps the usual players from the SEC have earned more respect for past accomplishments. (Please, point these out to me...) But, the Big 12 has been pretty stellar in their bowl appearances and contention for the NC title too. I think that too many people have bought in to the notion that a bad Tech team being replaced by a good Mizzou team means that the Big 12 is weak.

Imagine what the ranking would look like if the Big 12 had the same preseason head start as their SEC counterparts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Despite Greg Davis, Texas Masters the Cornhole

So a Texas victory that almost wasn't and you have to ask why. There's Greg Johnson, valiantly trying, and failing, to be one of a very few people who can both place kick and punt. (Seriously, there'd be a lot more roster and scholarship flexibility if these specialist spares weren't so "specialized.") There's the hole in the passing defense. There's the very creative and daring play calling of former NFL Super Bowl coach Bill Callahan.

But, really, let's go right to the source. It's someone I defended after the loss to Ohio State, a game played with a quarterback in just his second game. But this was game number eight for Colt McCoy and Greg Davis was still running scared.

I was watching this frustrating game plan and lost count of the number of wide receiver screens by halftime. Nothing downfield but a highly successful 55-yard touchdown pass to Limas Sweed and a complete failure to attempt to establish the running game. I mean, maybe I've lost my touch with football, but when did the WR Screen become an offensive staple? I've seen it used occasionally and strategically, but never treated as the bread and butter of an offense.

And it failed miserably. Texas struggled mightily to move the football even though it must have averaged a sizeable 1.5 yards per WR Screen. If not for Nebraska turnovers and special teams miscues, this game goes for Nebraska without much of a fight.

And, as if the 1-and-done approach to passing wasn't enough, Davis never went to the option. You know, the play the coaches have stated publicly that McCoy runs better than Vince "Superman" Young.

And the Longhorns were beat. A single first down and the Cornhuskers could run out the clock in the cornhole and celebrate their upset. Only Aaron Ross swooped in as Nebraska converted the would-be clinching third-and-four to force a fumble and allow the Horns a chance at the game winning field goal. And the offensive coordinator tried to screw that up with a third down fade route inside the five yard line. So, despite the win, Greg Davis failed. Despite Greg Davis, the Horns mastered the stadium I have dubbed the cornhole. (Huh,huh...he said hole.)

Here's hoping Mack Brown lays into Davis this week and reminds him to open up the offense. Here's hoping Brown doesn't have the same apparent mistrust of McCoy that Davis has. We know he doesn't the big arm. Or the quickest feet. But he's done the job. Hell, he seems to view a pass rush as nothing but a challenge. So they need to show the kid some faith.

And if you don't have faith in Colt, then get him out. Put in Snead and find out what he can do surrounded by blue chip talent. No knock on Colt. But if the coaches aren't going to put him in a position to succeed, then quit wasting our time.

Because, if the coaches go to Lubbock with that same lame ass game plan, then Texas' BCS plans are toast.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sure the Future is Now...But...

If you watched these last two Mavericks' preseason games, you may have been reminded just how valuable Drik Nowitzki is to this team's hopes. The fans have watched a team struggle with new personnel and poor shooting while Nowizki, Jason Terry, and Jerry Stackhouse rode the pine nursing nagging injuries to make sure they are ready for the opening '06-'07 tip.

With just Dirk back, the team's shooting and overall game improved. And we saw that Dirk may have found a way to step up his game once again: assists. In just 22 minutes, the big German dished four sweet looking dimes. He looked as if he may be seeking his first triple double this year.

In fact, it seemed pretty clear that the Mavs have worked hard on ball movement this training camp after ranking next to last in assists last season. Everyone was getting in on the act on this night, creating open looks for their teammates time and again. It's hard to say if this will remain their game after Terry and Stackhouse, two good players who are notorious over-dribblers, return to action.

Also, with Dirk's return, came reassuring performances for some of the Mavs' new guys who have struggled this offseason. Greg Buckner and Devean George both scored in double digits while providing a solid defensive presence. Anthony Johnson didn't post the numbers but looked more like himself yesterday.

At this point, it is still hard to tell where this team is at, but as long as Dirk is healthy this team will contend.

But, if this team can win it all now and doesn't, can it win in the future? Absolutely!

Exhibit A: D. J. Mbenga. He still hasn't reached consistency but continues to show improvement. He failed miserably last night when the Little General gave him the chance to start. It's obvious, however, that opposing players don't like going to the basket against him. And, on the offensive end, he's showing an array of moves he didn't have before. I still think, once he learns how to finish at the basket, he'll be the team's best big man.

Exhibit B: Pops Mensah-Bonsu. He's the new developmental PF, ala Josh Powell. He would have been drafted in the first round this year if not for knee surgery. He's got hops, moves around the rim, and plays tough defense. And the fact his last name means "King of the Whale Killers" has to be a sign. He's either a great hunter or he's Ishmael.

Exhibit C: Ndubi Ebi. Okay, this guy looks clueless at times but what an athlete. The thing that may hurt him is he and Pops have similar skill sets. But this is a guy drafted three spots ahead of Josh Howard who should have gone to college rather than the NBA draft right out of high school. The only way he can play in the D-League, however, is if he's not on an NBA roster since he has two years in the NBA already before being cut last year by Minnesota. But he's flashed some major potential and Avery Johnson has said his D-League status won't hurt him in the competition with Jose Juan Barea for the final roster spot. Considering Ebi has size and the Mavs have three point guards, I think he makes the team.

Exhibit D: Maurice Ager. He's in a similar boat as Josh Howard in being drafted by the Mavs several picks later than they believed he would be available. He's shown he's a rookie in preseason while displaying why the Mavs liked him late in the first round. Don't expect the same production Howard had as a rookie, though. This team is much deeper than the one Howard entered the league with three years ago. But he's a major cog as this team goes forward.

I have no real predictions other than to say this team, while displaying rough edges this preseason, is set to contend for the next several years. Perhaps this year's picture will come into focus as we watch the final three games of the preseason.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hello, my name is Horn Fan...

And I'm an aggy misery addict.

I suppose I should start at the beginning. I got in to aggy misery back in 1996. It started pretty harmlessly enough. I thought I could just go to the Texas game at Pyle Field and have a fine time with a few friends. "Everyone was doing it," I was told. But by the time Bryant Westbrook had finished leveling Leland McElroy, I was high as a kite. I couldn't control myself; I was out of my gourd. I tried to rush the field and when that didn't work, I just chanted "poor aggys" in the parking lot over and over again.

But everything was still okay. It didn't interfere with my work. I was just a recreational user. I got another hit the following year. 51-15. That was the last year we gave aggy a ton of tickets in Austin (10,000? 15,000?). As they all left early in the fourth quarter--something they claim they never do--I and the rest of the students leaned over the edge of the east side stands to sing "poor aggys." The maroon throng could only hang their head in shame as they left out the north gates below us.

But everything was still okay. 1997 and 1999 came and went. And though there were the occasionally humorous losses to the likes of Texas Tech and Kansas State, it was a welcome reprieve. I told myself that I could quit any time.

But then we got to 2000, and I really started sliding downhill. A 43-17 blowout was followed by a 21-7 manhandling at Pyle Field. But soon that wasn't enough. Soon I needed the thrill of aggy misery brought on by embarrassments to Tech and Oklahoma. Once I tasted the misery of a Tech shutout and the consequent goalpost incident, I knew there was no going back. I had become an addict.

It's not that it was entirely my fault, mind you. At least that's what I tell myself. My pusher--aggy--has to share a lot of the blame. Each year aggy became more and more delusional in their August predictions, and each year they got worse and worse. The result is that the aggy misery doses got higher and higher.

By 2003, I was taking huge hits. The 77-0 loss to OU sent me to the hospital for three days. Apparently, I couldn't stop laughing uncontrollably. And the loss to Baylor nearly killed me. I wound up in a ditch by the side of the road mumbling "poor aggys." I was later told that I tried to dig up the grave of a dead dog, paint it green, and leave it on the corps' parade grounds. I have no recollection of those events. But I kept having flashbacks for months. I could have sworn I saw a guy in a bear suit in the Texas student section more than a month after that game.

By 2005, the normal losses just weren't doing it for me anymore. I needed the predictable losses to Tech, OU, and Texas just to get by. I needed ever bigger hits. But my new pusher--Fran--was there to give me my stuff with a home blowout at the hands of Iowa State. Seriously, Iowa State. That evil bastard knew just where to hit me to keep me coming back for more.

I suppose I hit rock bottom last Saturday. I knew I needed a bit hit. The "moral defeat" to Army had been nice, but it only kept me going for a week or so. And the loss to Tech had just become mundane. So I eagerly anticipated the Missouri game. Surely Fran would deliver the hit of aggy misery that I so desperately craved. But from the first quarter, it didn't look good. I kept begging Fran to "please, just give me a taste." I tried to bribe him with Little Debbies. I even offered to suckle Mark Mangino's man-breasts for his sick voyeuristic pleasure. But he just slapped me in the face and deprived me of the aggy misery on which I had come to rely.

I couldn't watch Sportscenter. Hell, I could barely even think about football. I have the jitters and my stomach clenches every time I even consider the possibility that aggy is 5-1. I know Fran will come back offering the good stuff next month. But I just don't think I can live like this any more.

Thanks for listening.

(HT: Horn Fans)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Texas v. Nebraska - You never get a 2nd chance to make a LAST impression?

Preface: As in all end-of-season projections, we must assume that the teams in question run the table. Otherwise, this whole debate becomes a TON less interesting. But I am granting the fact that ANY game can become a big game if you lose.

The mighty Longhorns have the biggest test they have for the rest of the year coming up on Saturday against Nebraska. This is their last chance to "impress" voters and the "strength-of-schedule" part of the BCS formula with a convincing win against a ranked team. On the schedule for the remainder of the year we have a sneaky Tech team, along with an Aggie squad that I have no doubt will have 2 more losses and be out of the polls by the time they roll in to Austin on 11/24/06.

Even the Big XII Championship game is not guaranteed to help out much. Assuming a win (as all Texas Exes do), the most likely scenario is a Dec. 2 rematch with the Huskers. A series-split is the worst case scenario for both teams. The loser of the either game will likely drop out of contention for a BCS appearance.

Can the Horns do it? Early questions about Freshman quarterback Colt McCoy have been answered, but not conclusively. The kids is as cool as the other side of the pillow (thank you Stuart Scott) and has the numbers to compete with anyone in the nation (5th in QB Rating, 3rd in TD's, only 3 INT's in 147 attempts). Granted he's only 50th in yardage, but that is in a "run 1st" offense and considering that our average point differential is 39 pts and we are usually letting off the accellerator by the 4th quarter.

But McCoy does have his deficiencies. Anyone looking beyond the numbers will tell you that his decisions are not always the best. It's one thing to suggest that he just trusts his seasoned receivers to make plays...but some of those decisions were just bad. To be expected from a freshman, but bad nonetheless.

The defense has been a strength this year, as expected. Specifically, the D-Line. But with a balanced attack like Nebraska's, it is scary that the best thing you can say about the secondary is that they make big hits AFTER the catch. Linebacker coverage has been non-existent, and a freshman corner and safety have each been thrown into the mix. The good news is that gained valuable experience with the newfound offensive powerhouse of Baylor. They will be ready.

There's another side of the equation here: Nebraska kinda would like to win too...but that's for another post.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

BCS = Bullsh*t Crying Syndrome?

I feel that the BCS topic deserves a thread of its own.

I am a die hard Texas fan. I bleed orange from every porous of my body. As my cohort JD has pointed out (see comments on my last post) I am constantly accused of being a homer. In some instances, I would agree with him. Being an arrogant, egotistical graduate of The University of God in Austin can make one appear that way.

However, I think that I have a legitimate gripe with the BCS rankings. So, let me qualify my statements from earlier today.

"The SEC is the toughest conference in college football." Says who? The media, preseason polls, and history? That's awesome...but show me how it relates to present times.

Bama had a decent year last season. This year, they are winning the easy games and losing the tough ones. Losses include a nice margin to Florida and by ONE POINT to Arkansas. (The Big 12's version of KSU/OSU: Shows up fighting a few years out of every decade and puts up a fight for one game but that's about it.)

Georgia dropped out of the rankings this week. They escaped a winless Colorado team by ONE POINT, lost to Tenn. handily and dropped a game to conference dweller Vandy. Georgia is a team that ALWAYS gets ranked in the top 15 and flutters through the season. (And post season as evidenced by the whipping they took from WVU during bowl season) I do not understand why they consistently get ranked so high. (The Big 12's version of Texas A&M: Look good to great in out of conference play but cannot consistently beat the conference elite or win bowl games.)

Florida lost a squeaker to an Auburn team avenging their stunning loss to Arkansas the week before. They also escaped a Tenn. team by ONE POINT. (A pattern forming here?) Florida, like Georgia, has a history of getting their ranking and falling the second half of the season. (The Big 12's version of Texas Tech: May beat a conference elite from time to time but have 2-3 conference losses at the end of the year.)

LSU has lost two games to the best teams on their schedule...yet they are #18 in the BCS rankings? I know that beating the powerhouses of LaLa, AZ, Tulane, Ole Miss and UK is impressive, but you cannot go 0-2 in conference and expect respect. LSU had an amazing year in 2003 but have consistently lacked the drive to follow through to the end. (Big 12's version of Oklahoma: Good to great at times, beats their rivals but fails to close it out.)

Auburn lost a stunner to, at the time, unranked Arkansas. They barely escaped a 2-loss LSU team at home. They beat Florida and that is a good quality win. However, Auburn is a team that ALWAYS gets a high preseason ranking, deserved or not, and is inconsistent on whether or not they can sustain it. (Ex: 2004 was great for Auburn but they were ranked #2 in 2003 and ended up losing 5 games) Auburn has looked very beatable this year. (Big 12's version of Texas: Flashes of greatness but does not always capitalize on their talent)

Tennessee is a team that I cannot argue much against. They have beaten the teams that they are supposed to and only lost to Florida by one point. But, Tennessee also falls in the category of unpredictable. (Big 12's version of Nebraska: Rise up and the history is strong...but how many times are they going to be labeled as "rebuilding"?)

Arkansas is a team that will jump up from time to time but does not get the credence of being a real threat. (Big 12's version of CU: Upsets teams from time to time but is rarely a true conference power and is never favored to win the conference title.)

The rest of the teams from both conferences offset each other as no real threats. (Although Mizzou and ISU sometimes rise up as one-trick ponies)

If I have been unfair, please let me know. I understand that some of the SEC teams have titles from 20 or 30 years ago, richer history and have been intact as a conference longer. But, what I'd like to know is why these teams are always ranked above their Big 12 counterparts in the preseason? Especially considering that the BCS title game features a Big 12 team more often than not. The preseason rankings do in fact matter when a 6-1 Mizzou or a&m team can miss the top 25 while their same to worse record SEC counterparts are sitting pretty in the Top 10. The rankings are a starting point for coaches that do not have enough time to watch every Top 25 team play to rank their opponents. I've never seen a coach's poll come out in week 2 that puts Duke in the Top 10 because they are 1-0 while LSU gets beat by the Citadel. However, I have seen a #17 Big 12 team replaced by an SEC team. The out of conference games are on par, so what about the SEC makes them stiffer competition? In fact, the Big 12 has 4 one-loss teams to the SEC's 3 at the present time. Two of those losses came against the #1 and #2 teams in the country. Where's this huge gap?

The SEC played a total of ONE road game out of conference...At Memphis...Please read that a few times...

Now, to the rankings...

I have zero issues with Ohio State or Michigan. In my opinion, these are the 2 best teams in college football. I have little issue with USC because they are unbeaten despite their struggles. I have slightly more issue with WVU, but they too are unbeaten and it is not their fault that the Big East isn't a strong conference.

I take issue with Auburn for the simple fact that they were beaten by an unranked team in conference. I also take issue with Florida for the simple fact that they are 1-1 against any challenges including a conference loss. If WVU is in the top 5, I do not feel that Louisville should also get the nod. I take MAJOR issue with ND being ranked ahead simply for the fact that they were embarrassed by the #3 team in the country by a larger margin that Texas was by the #1 team. ND has also struggled against 2 other teams, GT and MSU, which is the equivalent of Texas struggling against Oklahoma and Baylor. (Which they didn't) Frankly, I'm tired of the media love that goes to the Irish while Texas isn't supposed to win without Vince Young.

But, stranger things can happen in the BCS era. However, I find it VERY interesting that 6 out of the 8 teams ranked higher than Texas will play each other before the season ends. (Auburn/Florida already happened.) I'm not saying conspiracy, but that is pretty parallel to ratings don't you think?

And I have the microfilm to prove it.

Ugly Win Becomes the T.O. Show

Powerhousers, how you like him now? Who? T.O., that's who.

We saw what he brings to a team today. The yards weren't huge, but three TD's is always huge, especially considering the difficult adjustments two of those scoring grabs required. That was impact.

Suddenly, he has four TD's in five games which projects to a Pro Bowl level. Or shall we say to a contender level.

It's clear that now T.O. reads the Powerhouse. He saw the challenge to perform I blogged this week and answered the bell.

Sure, you may be willing to celebrate those Cowboys champions of the 90's who were doing drugs, dealing drugs, and pimping hos at the Las Colinas White House. All this while you lampoon a guy who may be a pest to his positional coaches while being anything but a menace to society. But I say bring him on, throw him the damn ball, and shut up.

You may say his catches are down as are his yards. Yeah, but while he draws double coverage, Julius Jones has quietly rushed for 100 yards in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. Terry Glenn has been able to get open. Patrick Crayton has been able to get involved in the offense.

Meanwhile, Bill Parcells is handling this thing the right way: not talking about it. And I don't heap a lot of praise on the Tuna. Legacy or not, he has to earn it with me. He and Jerry Jones refuse to add any fuel to the fire the way Eagles management did. They are going to keep this thing in house and let their hired hands play the game. And, don't forget, T.O. has his money. Get him the ball and he'll be happy and the Cowboys will win. But let's shift gears.

Quarterback Watch

Drew Bledsoe's performance was rather mediocre today. His play looked almost as bad as it had against the Jaguars and Eagles. The only difference is the Texans have a horrible defense making it easier for Bledsoe to avoid the bad pass.

But, when a team wins 34-6, its hardly the time to bench your quarterback. I have full concern, though, that the Giants will remind us next week how ineffective Bledsoe really is.

And when they do, we can no longer say the only guy we have to replace him has never thrown an NFL pass. Tony Romo has that monkey off his back. In fact, he is now the reserve QB who has never thrown an incomplete pass in the NFL.

But, seriously, his first pass was a beauty. It was a pass you would not see Drew Bledsoe complete. Bledsoe doesn't see a pass rush quickly enough and is not athletic enough to get the ball off in that situation. But Romo knew a Texans defender was running free and unloaded quickly so he could get the ball out and up enough to give Sam Hurd a chance to catch the ball. And Hurd couldn't have played the ball better. Looks like he's really been listening to T.O. in practice.

His second pass was a touchdown so it seems Mr. Romo is destined for greatness. And his energy should only help to fire up this team for the remainder of the season.

So the pressure is on Drew now as the Giants pass rush comes to town next week. Romo got to flash his moxie in a real game. It's a small sampling, perhaps too small, but it gives the coaches something to think about.

Shooting Stars

In case you haven't noticed, Dallas has a powerful hockey team once again. A shootout victory tonight against Anaheim helped maintain the Stars' position as one of three remaining NHL unbeatens.

The victory itself was a bit disturbing. The Stars got press last year for being the best shootout team posting a 12-1 record in such games. However, one third of those games and the shootout loss were the result of blown third period leads. The same way tonight's game shook down, with the Ducks posting two goals in the final frame to take the game into overtime.

We'll give the Stars a pass tonight, though. This was the second of games on back-to-back nights for Dallas with the team in the second half of a four game West Coast road trip. They played two periods of hockey at the level of dominance the Stars have displayed since the third period of the season opener. It was clear they had lost their legs and fought to claim a win.

And while there are clearly other factors involved, two acquisitions stand as the Stars primary reasons for the Stars early success: Eric Lindros and Mike Ribeiro.

Lindros' first Dallas rodeo could be his last. He signed a one-year deal with low risk for the Stars due to his past injury problems. It is clear why Doug Armstrong wanted number 88 in Dallas.

He has flashed his point-a-game talent and Tippet has taken huge advantage of his size and athleticism by putting him on the first line with Mike Modano and Brendan Morrow. His presence has opened up the offensive zone for Modano and raised Morrow's game to a whole new level. The line has combined for 15 points and a +12 in the first five games and helped ignite the power play after the teams 0 for 9 start. If Lindros can stay healthy, the fans will be glad Bill Guerin was sent packing.

Ribeiro is proving to be a steal. The Stars brought him from Montreal for Janne Niinimaa and a draft pick. His slick puck movement and surprisingly physical defense as the third line center gives this club a depth at center they have not had before. He has put guys like Hagman and Miettinen in postion to score creating tough matchups for the opposing team. We will be talking more about this guy as the season progresses.

These two players, along with the development of some of the Stars' younger players, has made this a better team, sans Guerin and Jason Arnott. The penalty killers, with Turco's help, remain strong and the power play is much more lethal making this a team that should not only be able to compete in what may be the league's toughest division, but should be better prepared for the second season.

Big games for the Big 12

Texas vs. Baylor- Despite the score, I am very upset at the performance by the Longhorns. McCoy, while setting a school record for passing TDs, still looks like a freshman QB with his throws. If not for great WRs, he would have a much higher TD to INT ratio. Luckily, none of our Big 12 opponents have an all world defense to expose his lack of arm strength. (I know I'm committing the Longhorn sin of ragging on a QB, but don't put on the burnt orange jersey if you have soft skin.) Our pass defense needs to do wind sprints until they vomit. They were completely embarrassed by Shawn Bell. Sans one play, our run defense was stellar which makes the faux TD at the end of the game all the more upsetting. The knee was clearly down on the 2 with 18 seconds left in the game, the clock would have started moving when the ball was set and Baylor was out of timeouts. With the way we were playing, the final score could have easily been 63-24 Texas. In such a tight BCS race, those 7 points could haunt us. Especially when you consider that no other team, including the #1 team in the nation, had put those kinds of points on Texas thus far.

But, I'm a Texas fan...and I'll gripe about anything.

Texas Tech vs. Colorado- I admit, I didn't see this one coming. In a way, I'm glad that Tech gets a bad season under Leach to come back to reality. On the other hand, we play Tech later on and they already have 3 losses. This does nothing to help our strength of schedule with the BCS. The fact that their starting QB, Graham Harrell, was on the bench in the second half says it all. Colorado flat out dominated Tech in all aspects of the game. The bright spot is that a trip to Jones Stadium looks more like a road bump than a pothole.

Texas a&m vs. Mizzou- Mizzou has looked pretty damn good this year. Since I have a boss that is a Mizzou grad, I have paid particularly close attention to the progress of their team as I believe we will eventually meet them in the Big 12 championship game. Yesterday, the Tigers just ran out of gas. Out of the gate, they looked stellar. The score should have been 14-0 before a&m knew what hit them. But, a mishandled run at the 1 yard line and Jovorski "The Hut" Lane would have none of that. With this loss, Mizzou has dropped out of the Top 25 despite several 2 loss teams being ranked in the teens. As much as some Mizzou fans hate to admit it, this speaks volumes about their competition thus far. When your best win just lost to a winless team, and you have no history of being a player, it's hard to get respect. As much as it pains me, I am cheering for the aggies to run the table until the Texas game. With the Big 12 south stinking up the joint, we need to win a showdown against ranked competition. I am also rooting for Mizzou to run the table to give us that little extra schedule buffer.

Iowa State vs. ou- Oklahoma rebounded nicely from their loss in Dallas. But, the score is secondary for them at this point. Adrian Peterson broke his collarbone by hot-dogging it into the endzone with a dive ending his season. If his intent was to make Sportscenter...mission accomplished. As much as I hate the guy, and ou in general, I never like to see kids go down. He truly is an excellent running back and I do not wish serious injury on any college athlete. But, this just magnifies the stigma that Bob Stoops has of running his players into the ground. It's really a judgment call: You have the game well in hand and decide that you want to pad your Heisman candidate's stats. The fact that AD's dad was in the stands certainly added fuel to the decision I'm sure. As you can see, there is a risk involved with this. It is the exact reason Vince Young came in second in the voting last year. Now Peterson will leave ou with no Heisman, no national championship and a 1-2 record against Texas. I'm sure that the millions that will be shoved at him will help him cope. But, the ou football team is in a world of trouble...which will hurt the credence of our win.

Nebraska vs. Kansas State- Not much to talk about with this game. K-State is where it was predicted as was Nebraska. I caught bits and pieces of the game, but I think that Nebraska is more than beatable. As long as Texas can win the turnover battle, we will win.

OSU vs. Kansas- Neither team is a factor, so no analysis.

The Good- Florida lost to Auburn which moves Texas up another spot. Georgia lost to Vanderbilt and Iowa lost to Indiana giving us a little more breathing room. Ohio State remains undefeated which we desperately need at this point.

The Bad- USC, Michigan and Louisville all escaped close games. With more than half the season already over, time is starting to run out. Luckily, the meat of their schedules are coming up in the second half. Cal and West Virginia won convincingly. WVU is more problematic than Cal, but after the 2004 season, I do not want to be in another head-to-head against the team Mack Brown "whined" against.

And Miami should really evaluate the priorities of their program.

Update: The BCS computers can stick it where the circuts don't shine!

You ranked ND, Auburn, and Florida above Texas? Texas was whipped at home by the #1 team in the country, ND was embarresed by Michigan, Auburn was embarressed by Arkansas, and Florida was dominated by Auburn. I take issue with Louisville, but that will take care of itself.

Well, I guess the goal is to get to a BCS game this year. The road ahead doesn't look too rosey...excuse me, Fiesta-y.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Child Erupts

I have been supportive of T.O. I believe in grace and second chances. I believe, up until yesterday, the media was making a story out of T.O's sideline demeanor and postgame comments that wasn't there. Sure, he expressed some criticism of coaches and the quarterback.

But it is not the story because it was only half the story. The sports talking heads, like arrogant political pundits, chose the part of the facts that fit the story they were trying to tell. They ignored his criticism of himself and his encouragement of his teammates during last Sunday's game.

But the latest episode is a story simply because we know this is Owens' history: getting sideways with coaches. He is now showing his true stripes and can no longer complain about the media's coverage, because now they have a legitimate reason to pile on him.

I still say, though, that players like this are sometimes needed for championship dreams to be fulfilled. Where would the 80's Pistons have been without Dennis Rodman. Or, as great as Michael Jordan was, where would the Bulls have been after MJ's comeback without The Worm.

But T.O. has to earn his spot now. He has underacheived thus far this year. If he is to have value as a malcontent, he better perform.

As for those who say they won't cheer for the Cowboys as long as he's on the team, I would simply ask how many of those championships in the 90's do you claim? That was no cast of saints.

And T.O., you obviously still haven't gotten your work week act together. So the game day act better improve dramatically.

Friday, October 13, 2006

We're still trucking along...

Example

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. JD was arrested for stalking the SMU QB and we've been in depositions all week.

Updates to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Shocker

Example

I'm going to get all philosophical today.

I read a headline in the newspaper about police having a 300% increase in prostitution arrests through organized stings Dallas has staged all over the city. Female officers are posing as streetwalkers to solicit "Johns" and arrest them after they have agreed to exchange money for sex.

Yeah Scott, but this is a sports blog. What does this have to do with sports?

Everything my friend.

An avid sports fan will spend countless hours scouring the internet for any tidbit on his team. He will also spend a lot of time researching the best prices to purchase tickets to a high profile game. He will elect to watch a sporting event at home or subscribe to channels that let him indulge his fandom for a fee. He will buy DVDs of great games, magazines that feature his favorite player on the cover and place bets on "sure things"...even illegally. When his team loses, he will feel let down and has buyer's remorse for spending so much to see them. Despite the risk of injury, from mild to life threatening, the players go out there every day and earn their paycheck. Sports are a bonding experience shared with friends or unknown counterparts all there with the same goal: To be entertained.

A sex addict will spend countless hours scouring the internet for pictures or videos of acts that fit his liking. He will spend time driving down shady areas to find the perfect prostitute to pick up for the evening. He will elect to watch porn at home or subscribe to channels, or websites, that let him indulge his fantasies. He will buy DVDs of movies and magazines that feature naughty bits...and even download illegal material. After the act is completed, he will feel guilty about having paid so much for it. Despite the danger of diseases or other risks, a sex addict will seek out ways to satisfy their cravings. Like sports, sex is an experience that can be shared with friends or a random stranger with the same goal: To be entertained.

So when you think about it, we're all just a bunch of perverts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mavs Renew Their Quest!

We know their names. Their favorite colors. Their know;ledge of the airspeed of an African swallow. And we know their quest. To bring the NBA title to Dallas.

That quest was rebirthed tonight in Oklahoma as the Mavs began the preseason and started to put the final touches on the roster for the season opening showdown with the Spurs. The result: an 84-81 defeat at the hands of the Bobcats.

But no worries, mate. Preseason isn't about W's. It's about building a title team. Finding out who's at the back end of the bench and the rotation. This is why Dirk, Jet, Jerry Stackhouse, and Devin Harris did not travel to the OK state. Avery needs to keep them fresh and and learn as much about the other players in camp as he can.

A big concern is getting more offense from the center position. Erick Dampier posted six points and 11 rebounds in 20 mintes of preseason scrub minutes. More importantly, D.J. Mbenga (my new favorite Mav with Marquis Daniels in Indianapolis literally going to war with his Pacer teammates) posted six points and five rebounds with two steals and a blocked shot, all while staying out of foul trouble. This suggests he is learning the game, which is huge concerning his athletic ability and the fact Amare Stoudemire is returning to action this season. As for Diop, the projected starter saw limited action tonight. His will be an exciting storyline with the vast improvement he made last season.

As for the new vets, they all seemed to contribute in some way. Greg Buckner posted ten points and likely did plenty on defense that doesn't show up on a stat sheet. Anthony Johnson distributed five dimes. Austin Croshere did a little scoring and a little rebounding. And Devean George scored eight points to go with five rebounds and a pair of blocks.

What does all that mean? Not much. It's preseason game number one. We'll know more in a couple of weeks.

But now down to the brass knuckles of camp. Draft pick Maurice Ager was solid in his debut. Pops Mensah-Bonsu posted scant numbers in seventeen minutes but has a guaranteed contract so he has the fourteenth roster spot. The final spot comes down to four players: Darius Washington, Pat Carroll, Jose Barea, and Ndubi Ebi. With eight points and seven assists in 23 minutes, consider Barea in the early lead.

Next game is Thursday against Sacramento, so we'll talk again then.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Someone please think of the children!



Since this is a relatively dead day in the local sports scene, I am posting perhaps the greatest ESPN commercial of all time.

(Translation: We have a day off from work and I am too lazy to do a full update)

Example

Sunday, October 08, 2006

'Boys Fans: Be Careful Who Gets What Blame

I can see how everything that gets written or said about the Cowboys' loss in Philly is going to center around one Terrell Owens. And he deserves part of the blame. Personally I'm hoping the follow up to Little T Learns to Share is Little T Learns to Catch. Because, let's face it he's had problems with the catching of the ball and the alligator arms recently.

And I'm usually one to defend the media against all the political and sports-related "Oh, they're out to get me" talk. But T.O. may soon have a point. During the game, you could hear the legendary and usually repectable Troy Aikman pointing to T.O. shouting on the sidelines and saying it was a tired act. He was yelling at the O-Line, the offensive coaches, and one Drew Bledsoe. Joe Buck joined in the censure. And admittedly, maybe I should be concerned its Mike Vanderjagt who approaches him to get him refocused.

In post-game interviews, you heard Terrell Owens talk about how the Cowboys missed some opportunities as a team in the loss and hinted that a large part of the blame lay with Bledsoe. You then heard the reporters seeking to goad him into saying something more direct and controversial, which he resisted, excpet to say you can look at the film. Sounds like an old Bill Parcells line.

Now, I'm guessing that's the bulk of what you'll hear about after this game. You won't hear the other half of the story. The part where he gives his quarterback five as they trot back onto the field for one last possession. The part where he cheers on his defensive mates with all his energy. The part where he states very clearly he needs to work harder and be prepared to help this team win ballgames.

He's a small part of the blame and I'm betting he gets better. More of the blame lies in two areas that harken back to 2005.

Let's start with the play of the safeties in pass defense. For now, I have to retract my previous statement that Roy Williams has become a complete player. He completely blew a coverage on a first half play leading to a Philly score and assisted rookie Pat Watkins on another blown coverage on the second half flea flicker that gave Philly a late seven-point lead. And, of courrse, this was the second time Watkins was juked out of his jock on a double move by those "sterling" Eagle receivers. So safety may once again be an issue. I expect Watkins will learn. Williams? I'm not so sure. He brings a hell of a lot to the table, but this is something we must just have to learn to live with as fans.

And of course, there's turnover machine Drew Bledsoe who managed under six yard per pass attempt. Three fumbles, one of which he lost and led to an Eagle score. At least two of the three interceptions did, too. And let's not forget the horrible underthrow in the fourth quarter with Owens strolling uncovered toward the corner of the end zone.

What a story line that would have been. Owens had struggled for three quarters before coming to life in the fourth quarter. That would have completely turned Owens' day, and perhaps his season, around.

And let's also not forget the pick-six Bledsoe threw on second-and-goal with under forty seconds to play trying to force a pass into coverage to Jason Witten. This was the last of many bonehead plays on the part of Bledsoe. You have four downs to get in the end zone. If no one's open, you throw the ball away until you absolutely have to complete the pass because it's either fourth down or time has run out on the clock.

And I was ready to praise Bledsoe. His hard-nose scramble for a touchdown. His beautiful bomb on 4th-and-18 to Terry Glenn leading to the pass interference call and setting up that final chance to tie the game despite being beat up all game. Despite holding the ball way too long several times leading to yard-eating sacks and turnovers. I was ready to give him kudos, even if he had ended up throwing an interception on fourth-and-goal at game's end. But, no. He reminded us why he is, at best, a .500 quarterback.

He supposedly has the tools but doesn't have Colt McCoy's equine balls in his jock. Instead of stepping up into a blitz, he lofts dangerous passes off his back foot as if he's Michael Finley shooting a fadeaway jumper. This is why the Cowboys have an average future in front of them as long as he leads the team.

The quarterback watch has officially begun.

Longhorns' Story Behind the Game

It's good to see guest blogger Jason Patlan has graced us with his presence. I don't want to write this game into the ground, but there was an undercurrent to this game of which I'm not sure many people were aware.

That undercurrent was a potential new Longhorn quarterback controversy. We've seen this before. A high school star whose first name is his sweet ass nickname comes to Texas after the Horns missed out on their top QB choices. He redshirts. The Longhorns lose a Senior QB early and he's thrust into action. He shows guts. He shows character. He just maybe doesn't have the sexy physical tools the fans want in their QB.

Next, comes a recruit at the the top of the Horns wish list. He's got those physical goods that the fans and coaches drool over. We haven't seen him play but the chatter begins among the coaches. Next thing you know their splitting time followed by the younger kid taking the helm in favor of the favorite.

Major Applewhite and Chris Simms, meet Colt McCoy and Jevan Sneed. (Please tell me you didn't think I was talking Chance Mock and Vince Young.) Admittedly the current story hasn't bore itself out just like that to this point. But it appeared to be heading that way.

The early weeks of the season, Snead had struggled, temporarily removing him from any thought of starting this year. McCoy hadn't been superb but had displayed the equine balls to step up into a blitz and throw a pass for a first down or a touchdown. He also, despite some struggles with accuracy, had avoided an unhealthy number of interceptions.

Dateline: October 1, 2006. McCoy plays well against program fundraiser Sam Houston State. Snead, however, knocks everyone's socks off in half a first quarter of play. After the game, you hear Mack Daddy talking about his true freshman quarterback. Says he wished they had played him more early in the year because with his strong arm and running ability he thinks Snead could help them win ballgames. Certainly sounds like Colt needs to assert himself against OU (sucks).

Dateline: October 8, 2006. Colt struggles in the first half with a textbook Greg Davis play-it-safe-and-lose-without-really-trying gameplan. You get the feeling the coaches don't trust the kid in a big game. You wonder if they may insert Snead to try and open up the offense in the second half. Coach Brown stays in Colt's camp, though. Demands Davis open up the offense and turn them loose. Suddenly Colt looks like more than a gutsy quarterback. He looks like a college quarterback. Connects for a 33-yard touchdown strike to Limas Sweed to put the Horns back in front of the Sooners. He follows that with a beauty of a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Shipley with a defensive end in his grill. His job is safe.

And if Colt continues to play like that, they will have no worries against Baylor next Saturday in the battle for first place in the Big 12 South. That is, unless Aaron Harris treats his former teammates to an early morning hayride.

Longhorns show that consistency beats big plays

Scott beat me to the cry-baby headline (and the shot of the day on the broadcast), so allow me to provide the breakdown:

I'll preface this by congratulating the Sooners players and MOST of their fans for accepting this defeat with grace. It's not often enough that you are stomped into a mud-hole and can still shake the opponents hand and share a beer with 'em. Two acceptions are 1) Bob Stoops and 2) the balance of the Sooner fans.

1) You were NOT screwed by the refs. Replay didn't overturn any call...nor should it have. This tells us that the refs on the field did their jobs, and the replay guys did theirs. Let's see if I can remember the controversial plays:.
a) AP's fumble was a fumble. I love internal consistency...when your own argument in Situation A is the same as Situation B. Well, AP was doing his usual hard running, fighting for every yard...the exact thing he did in the 1st qtr. OU driving at the Longhorn 41...AP takes a handoff and gets hit at the 44, puts both hands on the ground, gathers himself and salvages a ~4 yd gain on the play. EVERY Sooner was pounding his chest, talking about how tough a runner AP is. So don't try to claim later in the game that a hand on the ground is "down by contact". By the way, the "ground can't cause a fumble" axiom doesn't apply when the hand with the ball is the only thing that touched the ground.
b) The lateral was a lateral, and a lateral is a fumble. Argue with the rule if you want, but it is a rule. A forward pass is the only thing that can be an "incompletion". Anything else (backwards or exactly sideways) is a fumble. Here's how you know: if it HAD been a forward pass like it was supposed to be, the receiver would've caught it and we wouldn't be arguing fumble v. interception.
c) Pass interference I (Sweed's TD): That, my young Sooner Nancies, is football. Both players were hand-fighting. Our guy was bigger and stronger and won that particular hand-fight, got some separation, and caught the TD. I can see how it COULD be called, because by the letter of the rule, his arm was extended and he gained separation because of it. But it involved "willing combatants", so you have to let that go.
d) Pass interference II (Joe Jon Finley Offensive interference call): Of any of the calls, this was the most ticky-tack. I wouldn't have called it, but...again, by the letter of the rule, his arm was extended and he gained separation. The difference here is that the defender had his back to him and wasn't engaging him. Which makes it all the more dumb for Finley to initiate contact. All of that aside...it was SO early in the game (12:00-ish left in the 2nd qtr., that OU had the opportunity to recover whatever was lost. This was precisely the argument that they used in Oregon (which I agree with) that you CAN blame it on the officials because they were literally the last plays of the game. But 2nd qtr...nope...you better take yo' ass home wit' dat...

2) "Texas didn't beat us, we (OU) beat ourselves" - Sorry, you got beat by a better team. Many said it (including Vegas, the Polls and Switzer) before the game. This sentiment seems to consider the penalty differential in the category of "beating ourselves". Well, then who did we beat considering that Texas DIDN'T commit penalties? Do we get credit for that?

3) Who's the better team on the field? - Call me crazy, but I like to let the scoreboard answer that. However, having been on the business end of a bad loss, I understand the temptation to look to the stats for excuses. That's a couple of steps up from the "refs screwed us" camp, but still not valid in this case.
a) Offensive stats - Texas lost the yardage battle in both rushing (-10 yds) and passing (-110 yds). But we must consider that the 4th qtr was played mostly while the game was in hand and OU playing desparately. Texas ran the ball 9 straight times to run the clock, and gained 23 yds. When OU had to move the ball, they only got 83 yds (with 27 of that coming on 1 play), and threw 2 interceptions.
b) Consistency - this sounds like an excuse, but hear me out. OU outgained Texas by 121 yds, but 156 was on 4 pass plays and 1 run. My point is not "those don't count", but rather a strategic/game-planning move. Many analysts said before the game "AP will get his yds...you just want to contain him and don't let anyone else beat you". This is exactly what happened. At least 2 of those big plays were play action, where the safeties bit and got beat. Keeping in mind the defensive focus was on AP, this was acceptable collateral damage. The 2 times they were able to get close, 1) we made them settle for a field goal, and 2) it took an NFL-caliber run by an NFL-caliber runner of 29 yds to take it to the house. It's not like OU (as a team) was able to punch holes in our D.

4) Intangibles
a) QB - Colt: 0 interceptions v. PT's 2 int's and a fumble. And this from our freshman v. their 5th yr senior. I don't think it's fair to expect PT to perform as if he's been at the helm this whole time...NOR do I think he "freaked out". But he was outplayed, and that's all that counts.
b) OL v DL - I think that we didn't dominate their DL as much as I thought they would, but we handled them well enough 1 on 1 (even with Dockery injured), that we were able to control Rufus Alexander...so much so that you really only heard his name on special teams.
c) The Series - after 5 straight losses, Texas now has 2 wins in a row. With AP, RA, and PT all gone next year...and McCoy looking like a rising star...things are looking very good for the Horns.
d) Coaching mystique - Stoops...Need I say more? His legacy from 2006 so far is whining to the refs. Right or wrong, doesn't really matter. Whining is whining. He doesn't have the mystique of coaching circles around anyone anymore...much less a "weak gameday" coach like Mack. Mack is proving, along with Greg Davis (begrudgingly admitted by this reporter) that they CAN survive without VY.

Cry me a (Red) River



That about sums it up. Sometimes a Youtube video is worth a 1000 words.

Chin up Jr., you still get to live in Oklahoma...

We had a great time at the game. Smack aside, the ou fans I talked with were great. But, perhaps that has to do with the "I can't believe we lost to a one-man team without their one-man" feeling. The train back to the car was much quieter.

Since I am a gentleman, I will refrain from gloating. So I will politely say "SCOREBOARD BIATCHES!"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mavs Ready for Next Step?

The nightmare has been dancing in their heads all offseason. Dwayne Wade and the Heat toasted their title chances. Every night must look something like this:

NBA Finals 2006


Dallas has responded by tweaking the roster with toughness, obviously noticing what a difference players like James Posey, Udonis Haslem, and Alonzo Mourning make. Anthony Johnson, Devean George, and Austin Croshere have all seen time in the NBA Finals and make offensive players work for their points. (Okay, okay Croshere isn't all that tough but is a bully compared to Keith Van Horn) And Greg Buckner has never been in the finals but may be the toughest of them all.

The Mavs learned something last year they missed in all their years under Don Nelson: defense. This year coach Avery Johnson wants to add an adjective to the noun: tough defense. And with their veteran signings combined with still developing players in Josh Howard, DeSagana Diop, D.J. Mbenga and Devin Harris this team stands ready to take that step. Add in rookies Maurice Ager and Pops Mensah-Bonsu and it gets even better.

Will that next step mean a championship? It's hard to say. The Western Conference is the deeper of the two conferences and gets better every year. But know this: the Little General won't let this team get off track.

(Check in this preseason as I endeavor to give an update on player progress with each game.)

Red River Shootout- Wednesday - Friday

It seems that I have fallen behind in my posting...

I am not a superstitious person unless it is a sporting event. I cannot tell you how many times I have neglected to wash shirts, socks, underwear or under arms in fear of the slightest wrong move jinxing my team. When I was younger, I actually used to believe that missing a quarter of football because the sermon ran long was the reason the Cowboys lost. I grew up in the 80's, so needless to say I was a very depressed child

This week, I have abstained from shaving my face in hopes that the magic will work in the same manner as it does for playoff hockey. Why you ask? Because before last year's romp I was too lazy to go to the store to buy razors despite a 5 day collection of stubble and Texas absolutely murdered Oklahoma. I truly believe that this had as much impact as the Great One taking snaps from the shotgun formation. My itchy wife repellent may be the ticket to sending the northern folks back across the Red River a little less cocky.

I have also employed a new tactic this year: Going with a friend from Norman and a friend who has no stake in the game to the Bash before the Clash. The three of us will make the long trek to the West End to talk our smack, drink our Zimas and get pissed at each other for missing the last train back to the Park 'n Ride. My theory is that one should not shift too much power in their favor. The Sooner fan cancels out my homerism and the neutral guy keeps it pure. It's sort of like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost without the religious connotations.

On game day, coupons will be squandered, lunches will be lost and new bonds will be made from being part of college football's best rivalry. At the end of the day, we're all just fans.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my prediction...

Texas will win 33-17. Oklahoma's best receiver is taking the snaps, their defense has severe holes and Adrian Peterson will account for their only significant yardage. This will be a break out game for Selvin Young with a strong Jammal Charles to back him up. Sweed will get 80 yards and Ross will grab an interception. This will be the game that identifies the maturity of Colt McCoy.

So, there you have it fans. The game in a nutshell. Of course, if I'm wrong, I may try shaving my legs next season.

And not just for fun this time.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Buck's Luck Runs Amuck

Didn't take the Rangers long. Regular season ends on Sunday. Buck Showalter fired on Tuesday. But such a decision is easy for Jon Daniels who has obviously immersed himself in the wisdom of the Powerhouse.

You know this is a move I've mentioned a few times. I wanted to get on this blog and scream when Hicks seemed to be laying the blame for this season on his players alone and letting his manager of the hook, but I'd taken a vow to not talk about the team until the season ended. And, it seems wisdom has prevailed.

Now, I don't think Buck is a bad guy. I think probably he is a very good guy. After all, this is a man who missed a game here and there to be at his kids' landmark events and allowed his coaches to do the same. He never would have been in the face of the Blue Jays first baseman Shea Hillenbrand for needing the day off to be with his wife as they brought their adopted child home the first time.

However, in Texas Buck was a mediocre manager who turned off both players and fans. He has a lot of knowledge and know how when it comes to baseball. However, he knows that too well. With his players, there was little communication as he was self-assured about the course of the team with himself at the wheel. This failure to communicate caused confusion and led to alienation. The resulting tension made it hard for a team to perform because they felt they always had to look over their shoulders.

The fans must have taken notice as attendance dropped this season. Sure, the team is in a decade-long rut, but the Cowboys are still selling out games. It's also clear that this was a hellishly hot summer, but that has not stopped baseball fans before. The one thing that quite possibly drove them away: the attitude. It was a tradition started by the now departed John Hart. Only Buck made himself more accessible so his arrogance was more clear. You could hear him in weekly interviews talking down to hosts and speaking as if he invented the game of baseball and it got old fast.

And it was visible as well. They way he hopped out of the dugout to remove a pitcher, something he had bad instincts for doing. His constant complaining and grandstanding directed at the umps. Who does he think he is? Mark Cuban? It had to wear on the fans and make it harder to go to the Ballpark.

So now comes perhaps the hardest decision Jon Daniels has had to make. Who will be the young GM's (well, he's my age) first managerial hire? Some say Don Wakamatsu or Rudy Jaramillo internally. Others point to some coaches around the major leagues. But who's the right man? This is important because the Rangers often pass on the right man. Missed out on Jim Leyland a few years back. Didn't stick with Jerry Narron long enough. Trust me. That's just a short list. Their track record with managers is about as good as their record with pitchers.

Me, with all the wisdom of the Powerhouse? I say Joe Girardi. Here's a man that took a team of players who would have been in the minors for most clubs and almost coached them into the playoffs. Unfortunately, he had a run in with his owner early in the year that his owner hasn't let go of yet. But, it's not an attitude problem on Girardi's part. The owner was making a fool of himself (we know what that's like) and Girardi called him on it. So here's a guy with guts as well.

Truthfully, I'd like to see Rusty Greer manage this team. Brings his hard-nosed, fun-loving personality to the clubhouse and unleash chaos on the AL West. But that's a sentimental pick as Greer likely needs coaching experience before he'd be ready to manage a team.

And I'm tired of watching the Rangers lose, so Girardi is your man, Jon Daniels. Or if you go with someone else, I'll be hoping you got lucky. And if you don't, maybe in four years Rusty will be ready.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Ice Men Cometh!

It always sneaks up on us here in Dallas, what with the lack of winter and all, but it's hockey season again. Scott' busy working in photoshop trying to figure out how to superimpose Adrian Peterson's face on Papa Klump's body, so I figured I better get this season rolling.

We use to enjoy this time of year in Dallas. But a string of playoff collapses and a lockout have robbed us of that joy. Let's face it. Fans in the Dallas market want the world, not just a corner of it.

But let's be realistic. This team has a pretty significant stretch going that reaches back to two years before they won the Stanley Cup in 1999 before returning to the Finals in 2000. This stretch has only had one major blip on the radar. After all, when I was eight, I never dreamed of championship hockey in this town. Didn't dream of hockey at all. Barely knew what it was. So I think we're doing quite well with Dallas Stars.

But this has been a flawed team in recent years. And the Stars have tried to change things year sending guys like Bill Guerin, Jason Arnott, and Niko Kapanen packing, replacing them with the likes of Matthew Barnaby and Eric Lindros while opening the door for a few younger players.

But for this fairly successful team to once again take the next step a few things are in order:

Closing Games

This team, for whatever reason lacked the toughness to close out games. They demonstrated, in a negative way, what the the NHL's new rules are all about. Each night you could feel the collapse coming. And in the playoffs, there was no shootout to bail this team out. This could be what changing captains from Mike Modano to Brendan Morrow was all about.

Special Teams

The penalty killing ranked a respectable 11th in the league. The power play was abysmal, though, ranking 20th. That's too many squandered opportunities where teams could have been rendered incapable of making the inevitable comeback. Considering it's unlikely to win 12 of 13 shootouts in consecutive seasons, this is where the points must be recouped.

Goaltending

I know. Everyone wants to blame Marty Turco for recent palyoff failures. But he's a solid goalie who consistently gets the Stars to the playoffs. And this year, he is all we've got. Rookie Mike Smith takes the net behind Turco meaning there is no longer a veteran security blanket.

Centers

A lot of effort has been made to put veteran depth in place at this position and provide some help for Modano. Eric Lindros was signed on a low-risk deal and joins free agent Jeff Halpern and 2006 acquisition Stu Barnes. Although, with the steal of Mike Ribeiro for defenseman Janne Ninnima, Lindros may be tried at right wing. (Others to watch: Steve Ott and Patrick Stefan)

Wingers

Behind perennial All Star Jere Lehtinen, captain Morrow, and veteran agitator Matthew Barnaby, this is a young group. The youngsters are headlined by sophomore Jussi Jokinen who showed he has a scoring touch in 2005-2006 and gets to ride shotgun to Modano this year and try to prove it was no fluke. (Others to watch: Niklas Hagman, Loui Erikson, and Antti Miettinen)

Defensmen

This group was often decried by fans and coaches for letting opponents set up camp on Turco's crease. They must improve and have the talent to do so. The begins with veteran and power play trigger man Sergei Zubov who will be rejoined by old linemate Daryl Sydor. These two, along with more experienced youngsters Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas should be ready to step up for Turco this season. (Others to watch: Jaroslav Modry and Philippe Boucher)

So what are the prospectsfor the Stars this season? It's hard to say. The regular season means a lot less in the NHL and with this team we won't really know until April. Until then, we'll be sure to act like we know what we're talking about.

(It's been a fun week so far. Check back tomoorw when we take a look at the start of Dallas Mavericks training camp.)

Red River Shootout- The Tuesday Before

Example

The State Fair of Texas in early October...you can't beat it.

The Texas/ou rivalry has adorned the hallowed halls of the Cotton Bowl for over 80 years. Half of the crowd is in crimson and the other half is in burnt orange with nothing but the 50 yard line to separate them. This is the game where legends such as Earl Campbell, James Street and Ricky Williams willed the Longhorns to another victory as a smiling Big Tex oversaw the crowd of thousands. It is truly a day where dreams are realized and hopes are crushed.

But, the game is only a part of the experience. Fans who absolutely despite each other can enter the stadium as mortal enemies and have a beer together after the final cannon shot has been fired. Memories of childhood are recanted with total strangers as you wait in line to board the Texas Star. Even the most cosmopolitan Dallasite can enjoy watching a pie eating contest or potbelly pig race.

Though Horns and Sooners cannot agree on where to place their loyalties, there is one aspect that is unanimous: The food is second to none.

The State Fair of Texas is a fat kid's dream. If you are looking for California rolls or alfalfa sprouts, you will be kindly asked to leave. We all know about the generic funnel cakes and turkey legs of the world...so let's delve a bit deeper into the gastronomical journey. So, here it is readers, Scott's list of the best Fair Fare to clog your arteries.

10. Fried Twinkies- I admit, I bought these out of morbid curiosity two years ago. The idea of deep frying a cream filled sponge cake initially didn't sound very appealing. But, it is definitely worth the taste test. My preference is the raspberry fruit topping with whipped cream.

9. Fried Chicken and Waffles- A toasted 7" round waffle, brushed with melted butter and topped with three extra-crunchy honey-battered chicken breast tenders. Served with syrup or white cream gravy. Yes, it's sort of like eating ice cream and ketchup packets. But, two of the greatest creations for meals...at the same time?!? It feels SO naughty.

T-8. Fried Snickers and Fried Oreos- Both of these are equi-delicious so it's hard to label one better than the other. The Snickers are battered in a pancake batter, deep fried and have heaps of whipped cream and powdered sugar thrust upon them in artistic fashion. The Oreos share a similar fate before they meet their demise in a deep fryer. To maximize chocolate potential, these are best consumed at the same time. (Unless you have sensitive teeth or are giving these to your child in which case CPS should be informed.)

6. Fried Corn on the Cob- They changed the recipe a few years back, hence the drop in status. In my childhood, they used corn meal with a mix of jalapenos, pepper and grated cheese to batter the cob. These days, they have eliminated the spiciness of the product. While still very good, it's not the same kick it once was. It's been Bomared...if you will.

5. Fried Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich- How can you argue with the King's favorite meal? Buttered bread smothered in peanut butter and fresh bananas deep fried until golden and dripped with honey. You can actually hear yourself getting fatter when you eat these.

4. Frozen Key Lime Pie on a Stick- A nice sized slice of Key Lime Pie, covered in chocolate and frozen. While one of my favorite desserts, these are best eaten BEFORE consuming alcohol. (Shout out to the 2001 Parks and Recreation clean up crew of Dallas)

3. Fried Okra- We Texans can find this at any old southern food chain. But, having Farmer's Market quality okra plopped in sizzling oil in front of your eyes and lightly salted is tastes awesome.

2. Jack's French Fries- This is a selection that has the aggie mentality: If you are on the outside you cannot understand it. The seasoning blend should be state mandatory.

Fletcher's Corny Dog- The birthplace of the Fair staple. You know how New Yorkers claim that the tap water is the secret ingredient to their pizza? The same theory applies to Dallas' original icon. There simply is no comparison anywhere in the world. Yes, it looks obscene as you wander through the fairgrounds chomping on a vulgar shaped stick dripping with yellow mustard. But, the payoff is well worth it. You simply cannot eat just one.

On the menu to try this year: Fried Coke (Coke battered donuts filled with coke syrup and topped with whipped cream, cinnamon and a cherry served in an antique shaped glass)

I've already pre-ordered some coupons and mapped out my routes to waste no time.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ranger Vacation

Well, if we know one thing about our Texas Rangers it's this: they, like former partial owner President George W. Bush, like to vacation early and often. Mr. Bush would be proud as our team once again decides the playoffs are too much of a burden to mess with this year.

We, the fans, want more, though. At the very least, we want another first round playoff beating to celebrate. But what faces the Rangers as they try to get there in 2007? A need for starting pitching (talk about restating the obvious), a need for a beefed up outfield, and decisions on nine free agents. Oh, and don't forget they may need a new manager. It's like this:

Manager

There seemed to be clear signs this season that this team doesn't buy totally into Buck Showalter's program. And the book on Buck is that he is great for a young team, ala 2004, but not good for more experienced players, say 2005 or 2006. It's what led to his dismissal from the Yankees and Diuamondbacks a year before those teams won the World Series.

Then, the question asked is, "But if you fire him, then who do replace him with next year that will be any better?" I offer two names: Dusty Baker and Joe Girardi. Baker is a World Series manager whose failure in Chicago can be traced to a club relying on the fragile arms of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Girardi proved to be a solid, young manager in Florida but his owner's ego will likely make him unemployed.

Hicks, Daniels, and Company have dinner Tuesday night to decide Buck's future so keep an eye on this.

Starting Pitching

You have one certainty for next year's rotation: Kevin Millwood. A large swath of our DFW media suggests he was solid with a 16-12 record and worth the investment. But they seem to ignore his 18-16 TRIS (Team's Record in Starts) and 4.52 ERA. Two games above .500 and an ERA over 4.00 is not good enough for a $50 million-man. I don't care if he's really a number two starter and pitches in the Ballpark. You better be at least five games over .500 with an ERA under 4.00 for that money. We'll let this season slide, though, as he's now had a year in the Ballpark and seemed to adjust late in the year.

Two of their nine free agents, Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla, are starters who reportedly are unlikely to return. Padilla was pretty solid, but has said he's going to the highest bidder and is a bit of a head case. Eaton has a history of injuries but has great stuff and would be intriguing to return to the Texas hill.

The only other decent possibilty for the rotation is Robinson Tejeda who showed the goods late in the season and silenced the whiners criticizing the David Dellucci trade.

Beyond that, you have prospects John Danks, Thomas Diamond, Edinson Volquez (we'll label him that after a lackluster call up), and Eric Hurley. But Hurley just received the Rangers cursed Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the year award. Then there's Kameron Loe if he can rediscover his sinker. He's followed by reliever Josh Rupe, C. J. Wilson, and Nick Massett. The Rangers are debating if any of these guys should start, though they like them for the bullpen. Some Major League scouts have pegged Rupe as the Rangers best starting pitcher prospect.

And we won't forget lefties John Koronka and John Rheinecker. They couldn't make it through an entire season after being acquired from their previous team's bullpen at the end of spring training, but showed some potential. And lefties are needed in the Ballpark.

I'd mention Kip Wells, but...

Bullpen

With the emergence of Akinori Otsuka as closer, the bullpen became on of the American League's best. With the trade of Francisco Cordero, a minor hole opened at the setup position. This is where the above mentioned relievers Wes Littleton, and Frank Francisco come into play. They say bullpens are unpredictable from year to year, but this is a young group that's still on the rise. Look for them to be a key to any future playoff runs.

Infield and Catcher

This is a cornerstone for this team, but could see changes over the next year or two. Rod Barajas is a free agent and Gerald Laird may finally get his well earned opportunity to start behind the plate. Michael Young and Ian Kinsler should turn double plays for years to come, but the corners may be in question. Sure to be Gold Glover Mark Teixiera had a down year and has Scott Boras as an agent. He has two years to show this season was a fluke and that he is worth the kind of money he'll be seeking in 2008. Hank Blalock just had his shoulder scoped, routinely struggles in the second half, and may be moved for a starting pitcher. This is one of the considerations as the Rangers decide if they should, and can, re-sign utilityman Mark DeRosa, hoping he wasn't a one-hit wonder.

Outfield

This was a weakness for the Rangers this year. The Rangers have said Gary Mathews, Jr., is their top priority. A little troublesome since he's coming off a career year in a contract year. The difference between DeRosa and Mathews, though, is that this has been a pretty steady progression for Mathews so it is more convincing he's the real deal. Free agent Carlos Lee and the Rangers both want him to return if they can agree to terms. But the Rangers fancy him as a DH while he wants to remain in LF. Management thinks he's more likely to hit for power throughout an entire season if he's not carrying his big body all over the outfield.

The hope in LF, then, is that Brad Wilkerson returns to near-All Star form after shoulder surgery to help ease the pain of the Alfonso Soriano trade. Meanwhile, keep an eye on right fielder Nelson Cruz, the second piece in the Carlos Lee trade. He came on strong late in his first prolonged Major League tour. He could be huge next year.

Others

Also, if the Rangers are unable to move Lee to DH, keep an eye on Jason Botts. Here's a kid who has yet to get a legitimate chance when he's been called up. But he has a swing and he knows how to use it. Unfortunately, Buck has kept the reigns on him as he did with Kevin Mench. Give him everyday at bats and watch what happens.

And, if you are wondering what free agent pitchers I'd have the Rangers consider, here's a quick list: Barry Zito (though he's on record as saying Texas is not an option), Jason Schmidt, Andy Pettite, Tony Armas, Jr., Wade Miller, and Jeff Suppan. And, as always, there will be pitchers available via trade. The White sox are known to be looking to deal one of their starters and others will come available once the offseason arrives.

Remember: the Rangers like to vacation early.

Red River Shootout- The Monday Before

Example


During the course of the week, we will be posting random homeristic thoughts on the game. As a superstition, I do not reveal my prediction until the night before. A lot can happen between now and Saturday. For example, A Sonic in Norman may give free cheeseburgers to Adrian Peterson prompting an NCAA investigation. Or perhaps, a sale on hemp based products may tempt a Texas linebacker. You never know.

So, I will start it off easy today by posting a Cotton Bowl restroom etiquette for males. I know that it's a bit long, but there is really some good info here.

Enjoy.

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