A Mess In Texas







SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

From the takeover of Wrigley Field last Friday to the invasion of South Bend you can’t help but be impressed by the commitment of the Longhorn fan base. My assumption would be there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 - 30,000 UT fans in the shadow of “Touchdown Jesus” for a season opening 38-3 beatdown by Notre Dame.

There are many college football pundits that say the UT nation is incredibly impatient and place too much pressure on coaches in Austin. Unless the handful of influential boosters have a significantly different mindset than the burnt orange fans that filled Notre Dame stadium, or have called or texted my show[s] in the five years I’ve been here in Houston, the pundits couldn’t be more wrong.

A coach in WAY over his head is why Texas was embarrassed in its third consecutive game, but an overinflated sense of success among the fan base is why he’s running the Longhorn football team.

Charlie Strong will not make UT a national title contender, it’s as simple as that. Following the loss to Notre Dame, Strong essentially changed his offensive philosophy for the third time in 14 games when he demoted co-offensive coordinators Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline for Jay Norvell. 

Congrats Longhorn fans the offensive problems should now be solved. Norvell was hired as wide receivers coach at UT this year after being fired as co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. That’s right, your new OC is essentially an old mattress left at the curb by your biggest[?] rival. Problem not solved. 

On a side note; Wickline whom Strong probably befriended when both coached under Billy Brewer at Ole Miss has never been more than an O-Line coach - sans one season as head coach at SW Mississippi Community College until Charlie applied the “Peter principal." Brewer was such an offensive savant that he installed a trap-option offense while trying to convince Peyton Manning to follow in father’s footsteps. For some odd reason Peyton chose the pro style offense David Cutcliffe was running as OC at Tennessee instead of the school he passionately followed growing up.

Perhaps the only thing worse than the Texas offense in the “Charlie Strong era” has been the recruiting. Allegedly, Strong thinks Texas kids are soft. He also has the elite recruiters in the SEC shaking their heads because UT is going after kids they have evaluated as not worthy of an offer.

So why was the consensus among the Longhorn fans that stayed to the bitter end in South Bend that Strong just needs some more time? A combustible mix of arrogance and ignorance - right 12th man? Texas IS one of the few premier programs in college football in every sense but on the field success.

Texas is tied with North Carolina for 54th in winning pct. since Colt McCoy went down with a shoulder injury in the BCS Title game. Under Mack Brown Texas was 4th in Division I winning percentage at 77%, which probably explains his “Not my fault” claims and provides further evidence that reality and perspective are sorely lacking on the 40 acres.

Texas went 35 years between national titles without “Top 10” program success between Royal and Brown. Eight different schools won multiple titles since Royal left, and those hated Sooners have more than doubled UT's Big 12 titles.

If I had an oil well for every UT fan that’s told me they were glad they didn’t get Nick Saban as head coach I’d have T Boone Pickens money. Coaching matters Texas, it’s time you pretend you understand that.

The Longhorn nation talks as if they were an elite program, when are they going to start acting like one?

Hypocrisy Of Sports Fans







MARCH 19, 2015

One of the more entertaining Broadway plays of the past decade is Avenue Q (A Broadway play for a sports metaphor?! Yes!). There’s lots of great songs among the soundtrack; The Internet is for Porn and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist among them.

When it comes to sports lets be honest, everyone’s a little bit hypocritical.

We slam Penn State fans - unless we’re a part of the Nittany Lion nation. We consider the Syracuse and North Carolina basketball programs deplorable stains on their universities and college basketball unless our diplomas came from UNC Chapel Hill or Syracuse.

College hasn’t monopolized the market on fans that will forgive any sin as long as it happens on “our” campus. The NFL is proving its fan bases also know how to forgive the home team while finding transgressions of players on other teams disgusting.

Domestic violence was supposed to become the one common issue all fans could agree was unforgivable, but in reality, it’s completely forgivable provided the offender helps your team. Baltimore rallied around Ray Rice (the rest of the country forgot about his elevator beatdown of his then finance  because it was much easier to turn our anger to the NFL personal piñata - Commissioner Roger Goodell). Rice isn’t out of the league because of domestic violence, he’s out because he has little to no value on the field. 

Teams are standing in line to acquire Adrian Peterson, with the stumbling block being his contract not the photos from his style of discipline toward his son. And now everyone but Cowboy fans has a problem with Greg Hardy getting a “second chance” after a North Carolina judge felt he was guilty of tossing his girlfriend into a bath tub, choking her and then tossing her onto a futon of loaded guns. In Dallas they see their team getting a sweetheart one-year deal for a Pro Bowl defensive end. Fans of the other 31 teams in the league are outraged a person they believe to be guilty of something they justifiably deplore - domestic violence - has the potential to earn $13-million this season, though they know in their “heart of hearts” they’d at the very least feign forgiveness if he could help the hometown team to a title. 

The Great Distraction







SEPTEMBER 24, 2014

He’s a clown. An untrained monkey could do his job. He’s the most incompetent CEO in the business world. The worst commissioner in the history of sports. Those are the descriptions most often applied to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. As domestic violence and the mishandling of the Ray Rice case lead the headlines, Goodell is now often considered the buffoon that has ruined the league’s public perception and is clearly a liability to the league’s success and must be replaced.

He’s got ‘em all fooled.

Truth is, Goodell is probably the best commissioner in sports today when you consider he is truly most successful at accomplishing the goals of those that employ him - the 32 NFL owners. Goodell has stood in front of the bus of negative publicity and public outcry that SHOULD HAVE been directed at the owners so many times, there have got to be tire tracks tattooed on his back.

Put his performance into perspective in this manner: 32 billionaires - who while they don’t always look to be the sharpest knives in the drawer regarding the management of their respective football teams - are with limited exceptions smart enough to become billionaires. They pay Goodell in the neighborhood of $40-million a year to run their league. Do you really think they’d pay that kind of money if a functional illiterate could handle the job? Remember Mike Ditka's famous line (that got him run out of Chicago originally) about former owner George Halas being so cheap he tossed nickels around like they were manhole covers. That was then you say? Tell that to the cheerleaders who can't earn minimum wage from these same owners that pay Goodell's salary.

What everyone is missing, is that Roger is getting all that scratch because he’s outstanding at doing the job THEY’VE  hired him to do, in the manner they WANT him to do it.

Last Friday Goodell faced the media, took all the shots about mishandling the Rice situation, and accomplished little more in the public’s perception than to consider him even more incompetent, not an easy task when the bar was already so low. Within hours, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” released a story detailing the Ravens handling of the case. 

In the article it paints Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, team president Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome as the parties truly responsible for the complete f-up of Rice’s uppercut knockout of then fiancé, now current wife Janay Palmer. Once we became aware of the Valentine’s elevator massacre we immediately sharpened our pitchforks and waited breathlessly for Goodell’s response. When TMZ released a video of Rice dragging the KO’d Palmer from the elevator, we headed down to the hardware store for torches and gasoline. When Goodell finally announced the meager two-game suspension it was light the torches and grab the pitchforks time. When TMZ released the video of what occurred inside the elevator, we stormed the castle in Game of Thrones” style. We all wanted Roger Goodell’s head atop a stake.

How much of our frustration over the mishandling of this situation was directed at the Ravens front office? How much at the “incompetent” Goodell. If you’re Goodell’s boss - as Bisciotti and 31 other owners are - whom would you prefer suffer the slings and arrows of the angry mob, the guy you’ve paid millions to take the hits or yourself? If we in the media and public had known all along the lengths to which the Ravens leaders went to protect the public face of their franchise player (see: Ray Rice), what would that have cost the organization financially and publicly in Baltimore? Would Newsome or Cass still have a job? Would Bisciotti be respected in the same manner Cleveland reveres Art Moddell - the man who moved the Browns to Baltimore to become the Ravens?

For months we’ve been unable to believe a commissioner that carried such a massive sword when it came to discipline (see: Saints bountygate), had not have seen the elevator video. Perhaps it's because that’s what the Ravens owner, and golfing buddy Bicsiotti wanted?

Roger Goodell is the person today that is taking the heat for being soft on domestic violence, not the owner of the Ravens. I’m truly confounded at how many people that consider themselves to be so intelligent, have been completely duped into believing Goodell is “an idiot” and at fault rather than Bicsiotti. How could someone making thousands a year question the intelligence of a man, employed by billionaires making millions because he took the bullet that clearly should’ve been aimed at his boss (Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti)?

Has anyone given any thought to the possibility that it was the owners that wanted Goodell to be, “Judge, Jury & Executioner?” As we look at Goodell’s “track record of failure” let’s do so with how his mishandled decisions affected his superiors.

*  Spygate - 2007. The Patriots are caught videotaping New York Jets defensive signals during a game from a sideline location. Goodell fines Pats coach Bill Belichick $500,000, the team another $25,000 and takes away their first-round pick in 2008. Whether the punishment meets the crime is not the issue, that Goodell destroyed the tapes is. What a maroon. Or, what a great job of taking blame for mishandling the evidence (a la the Warren commission) so as to protect close friend and ally Robert Kraft? Think Kraft has a problem with how Goodell handled the situation? Has the Pats owner ever taken the potshots that Roger has regarding the incident?

*  Goodell goes before Congress to discuss head injuries in football - 2009. Goodell acknowledges a “connection” between head injuries on the football field and later brain diseases, but defends league policy. He’s soon raked over the media coals for lying to Congress. Alongside Goodell that October day in 2009 is Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith who says, “the union has not done it’s best in this area. We’ll do better.” That the union whose sole purpose is to protect and fight for its employees rights admits fault but garners no outrage. No blame for the owners - who saw the same evidence Goodell did - yet said or did nothing, and certainly don’t blame the union which is in place to protect the players and also knew of the peril. 

No doubt, as late as 2009 - under Goodell’s watch - the NFL was still sticking to its story that it was convinced there was no link between head injuries while playing and brain damage among players in retirement. In fact, Ann McKee, professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University and co-director of BU’s center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) was convinced the league was in a “state of denial.” 

What’s interesting in its absence to me, is any fault or blame to the wonderful, caring Steelers owner Art Rooney, who offered little if any assistance to Hall of Fame center Mike Webster who died in 2002 as a result of brain damage caused by head injuries suffered while playing in Pittsburgh. While the media clubbed Goodell like a seal for his performance before Congress, nobody turned a spotlight on Paul Tagliabue, commissioner in 2004 when the league formed a “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (MTBI) that fired off report after report calling any link between head injuries and brain damage, “a complete misunderstanding of relevant medical literature” and “inadequate clinical evidence on the condition.”

It’s just too easy to blame Goodell rather than go after those truly culpable.

*  Goodell is too harsh in his punishment of Ben Roethlisberger - 2010. Following a sexual assault suit in Lake Tahoe in 2009, and an investigation of sexual assault in 2010 Goodell suspends the Steelers QB for six games - later reduced to four - despite no convictions. How could he be so heavy-handed?!! Perhaps, just maybe, because his good pal Art Rooney wanted to send a message to his franchise QB?

*  Goodell sees no issue with the nickname “Redskins” - 2013/2014. While Goodell has not been able to completely take every bullet deservedly aimed at Washington owner Daniel Synder, he has jumped in front of as many as he can. We call that incompetence, his bosses (see: OWNERS) call that deflecting criticism deservedly aimed at them.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about Goodell is the “any trained monkey” could negotiate great TV deals and keep the money flowing into the NFL coffers, Roger’s just a guy in the right place at the right time. Again, his 32 billionaire bosses see things otherwise. That reason is simple, no commissioner has ever outpaced the economy in generating money for his league the way Goodell has. He has also kept the screws to the union on his watch with owners pretty much “owning” the negotiating table when going against the union.

You know what else the blockhead has also managed to do - unlike his predecessor - keep teams where they belong while gouging local communities for sweet stadium deals at the low, low cost of hosting a Super Bowl.

In the 17 years Tagliabue ran the league, St. Louis lost the Cardinals, LA lost the Rams, LA lost the Raiders, Houston lost the Oilers and Cleveland lost the Browns. (To be fair, at present only Los Angeles is without a team.) During Tags 17 year run as commish, 17 new stadiums opened - two because teams in a new city needed a place to play (Nashville, Charlotte) - five to attract teams back to an NFL city (Houston, Cleveland, Baltimore, Phoenix, St. Louis). One could argue nine teams managed new stadiums - without leaving home - in 17 years. Under Goodell, in eight years seven teams have gotten new homes, without a single relocation. How do you think the owners feel about that.

As fans and media we seem to be under some huge misconception that Goodell serves at the pleasure of the fans and media (a public relations fallacy that may ultimately cost him his job), when in fact he serves at the pleasure of 32 owners who are deservedly very happy with his performance. He's stood in front of every political nightmare bus that should’ve rammed straight into the owners, while setting record television deals and is an LA stadium away from some team opening a new (even greater) revenue generating stadium every year.

Most Inspirational Moment Of Super Bowl XLVIII







FEBRUARY 2, 2014

Okay, so the title’s a little deceptive. This “inspirational moment” didn’t happen at MetLife stadium, site of the game between Denver and Seattle. It was neither an electrifying run by Percy Harvin, a touchdown pass by Russell Wilson, nor any of the many bone-crushing hits handed out by the Seahawks defense.

For me it actually happened on Saturday as my wife and I visited the 9/11 memorial. The hour-and-a-half tour tugged at my heart and brought back the memories of a day that rivals few in my life have.

Yes, there’s our actual wedding day, and the birth of our two wonderful girls - and being the first to hold my oldest daughter is a moment that will always rank atop the list of best things to happen in my life. But beyond personal events, nothing holds a more significant and lasting memory than the morning of September 11, 2001.

Perhaps for those to young to remember, the day holds importance, but I would be hard-pressed to believe it could hold the same significance.

I lived in Atlanta at the time, and was awaiting the “bug-man” for our home’s annual termite inspection. I’m not a morning TV watcher - as if I was a typical New Yorker in a rush to do everything, my morning routine is as brief and structured as possible. Why waste time watching the tube when that time can be more effectively used getting an extra moment or two of sleep?

So as I waited for the inspector to arrive, impatiently because he was running late and now affecting my start to the day, the doorbell finally rang, and with a look of a man already deeply affected, his initial comment was to apologize for his delay in getting to my house but adding, “I’m sure you can understand.” I responded, “No I don’t,” while thinking to myself, dude I don’t want to hear excuses, get this inspection over so I can get my butt to work.

Rather than explain, he urged me to, “turn on the TV.” As I followed his instruction, my first view was the North Tower of the World Trade Center ablaze 90 stories up.  Almost before I could conceptualize what I was watching, a second plane plowed into the South tower.

I couldn’t actually believe what I was seeing. So shocking and almost impossible to mentally process, I felt as if perhaps I was watching the trailer to the latest Hollywood action thriller. Unfortunately, this was not the work of special effects, it was real. My day, and more significantly, my life was forever changing before my eyes.

Seemingly about a half-hour later a third plane hit the Pentagon, and what seemed about a half-hour after that, United flight 93 crash landed in a Pennsylvania field.

Suddenly the entire country was in full-on panic mode not sure what would happen next. As if in a hypnotic trance, I was glued to the television for the remainder of the day. The how’s and why’s of what was happening filled my mind as I watched the horror unfold in lower Manhattan.

As the finest and bravest of New York’s fire, police and rescue crews risked life in a manner that seemed without reasonable thought rushing into the towers, were images of people jumping 90 floors to their death rather than burn alive. How desperate and hopeless could a person be to choose a thousand-plus foot jump to certain death as the best viable option?

Then the  South  Tower collapsed as if it were the final move in some sick, distorted game of Jenga.  Not long after, the North Tower collapsed one story crushing down atop the floor beneath. In seconds, two of the three tallest buildings in the Western hemisphere were a pile of rubble that seemed 20 stories high. I think it was midnight when my wife ordered me to turn off the television, and allowed my mind and soul a respite from that day’s events.

Paying visit to the site on Saturday, I lost track of the number of times holding my emotions in tact seemed impossible. Pictures of victims filled the walls of the make-shift museum (a permanent and much larger museum is soon to open). A portion of the window from one of the planes was on display, crumpled and bent as if it were a discarded scrap of paper. Huge yet mangled structural support beams from one of the towers were bent and twisted as if they were made of aluminum foil.

As the tour - led by a survivor of that fateful day - brought us to the huge infinity reflecting pools that now replace the towers, names of victims are cut from the bronze ledge that surround the pools, symbolizing the utter vanishing of those lost on 9/11. (I believe I was informed that less than 30 people were ultimately able to be identified from the small fragments of their bodies that were uncovered in the rubble.)

A dozen years have now passed from the day that has forever changed our way of life. No Super Bowl moment could possibly match the indelible  images from that day. No line awaiting a security check point can be so annoying if it means we will never have to relive a day like September 11, 2001.

With Mother Nature’s assistance, New York City - all apologies to New Jersey where the game was actually played - comes off as the perfect host for the biggest game of our football crazed society. Yet no matter how many “big” moments happened in Sunday’s game, no image of my wonderful visit to New York can compare to Saturday’s emotional visit to the 9/11 site.

The Future of A&M Football







DECEMBER 14, 2013

You can almost feel the electricity that will permeate Kyle Field when it welcomes a "12th Man" 102,000 strong. The goal is for the $450-million dollar renovation to be ready for the 2015 season.  

If the first two years of the Kevin Sumlin era are any indication, there could be a trip to Atlanta - for the SEC Title. Perhaps a trip to Dallas or Miami for one of the College Football Playoff semi-final games that same season. (The Title Game venue has not been determined.) Continue on the path Sumlin has started and A&M could be a title contender in two years.

The magic on the field has been shocking. Even the most loyal 12th man wasn't predicting the Aggies would enter SEC play going 10-6, not after going 37-44 [8th], and just 20-21 at Kyle Field in the final decade of Big 12 play. But thanks to Johnny Football, A&M has been exciting, must-watch, and usually very successful football for Sumlin's brief tenure. 

What bodes extremely well for the future is the recruiting success. As even Mack Brown - at least used to be able to - tell you, recruiting is the life-blood to a championship caliber football program. According to Scout.com A&M is on track to land the top class, when you base rankings on average star rating of prospect. Sumlin's first "full" class - in which he had a full year in College Station to recruit, he finished eleventh. And even his first signing class, with only December & January before signing day, A&M finished 16th.

However, there is a dark side to be concerned with in Aggie-Land. Just how long will Camelot last?

The recruiting better be as good as advertised, because the team is set to lose it's - generational - quarterback, it's top running back, all world wide receiver, not to mention arguably the best tackle in college football. How will that offense look without Manziel, Evans, Molena, and Mathews?

Before we anoint Sumlin as the best coach in college football shouldn't we at least wait until he actually takes a team to Atlanta? Or wins with his own players? (He didn't have to do that at University of Houston - those were mostly Art Briles kids he won with.)

If he does prove to be college football's offensive version of Nick Saban, with his knew six year contract extension in hand, how long do you trust Kevin Sumlin will be there? 

If you are to believe the story via Ryan Phillips of Rumors & Rants, it's not that Sumlin wasn't willing to take the USC job, he just wasn't willing to interview for it. The blog also appears to confirm another long-held belief, his ultimate goal is the NFL. Let's face it, this is a weak draft class the Texans are entering as they look for their Gary Kubiak replacement. If Sumlin can keep the offense rolling with pinball like scoring, using a quarterback he recruited, the NFL offer won't be too far off. Another successful season in College Station and he won't have to interview for jobs in LA anymore either.

And when it comes to replacing both Manziel and Sumlin, to assume that remaining in the top-third of teams in the SEC is a given, think again. See: Auburn without Cam Newton, Tennessee after Phil Fulmer, Florida without - dare I say it - Tim Tebow. Yep, the fall can be hard for many an elite SEC team. But don't worry too much, that problems just a David Klingler from being fixed. Call it the Gus Malzahn solution.