So long to Texas-TAMU rivalry, hello to money-grubbing sports, sports, sports

The rivalry is dead. Long live the rivalry.

I wonder if anyone will remember the name Justin Tucker? Last night Tucker became a hero after literally booting a last-second kick for 40 yards through the east Central Texas air of Kyle Field, thus ending one of the most storied college football rivalries of all times. In the end it was Texas Longhorns 27 Texas A & M Aggies 25.

It would be no exaggeration for me to say that I practically knew the words to “The Aggie War Hymn” by they time I was five thanks to a record of Aggie songs my oldest brother brought home once, during the several semesters he attended A & M. A Christmas picture snapped with my four brothers at my Grandmother’s house one Christmas shows me hamming it up with a toy guitar while proudly wearing an Aggie Corps of Cadets garrison cap.

I have several close relatives who are Aggies — given that you believe once an Aggie always an Aggie — and a number of friends who attended “The” University of Texas at Austin. Actually, if you say “The University of Texas” that pretty much is understood to be the campus which is bounded to the west by “The Drag” or Guadalupe (pronounced “Guad-a-loop”) Street in Austin. I thought about attending UT both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. My undergrad degree is from Stephen F. Austin. I’ve not attended graduate school. Obviously, I have nothing against TAMU. I just never thought of it as a collegiate choice due to the criteria I used to select a school. As is the case with some folks who might get a degree from a good school, some people I know who have gone to either school seems to think their educations are much more special than they believe.

Wither thou goest Bevo? Photo by Taylor Ramsey courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But the end of a regular football game between Texas and Texas A & M has nothing to do with academics. Well, at least not with athletics per se. The end of this long famous rivalry — the two teams may not play each other for at least seven or more years — has to do with money. The O’Jays, those grand philosophers of funk, sang it best:

For the love of money
People will steal from their mother

The football rivalry festered during the many years the two schools played each other in what I feel was the Daddy of all collegiate conferences, the Southwest Conference. Those teams plus others such as TCU, Baylor, Rice, Texas Tech, Houston, SMU and Arkansas, were mostly a Texas affair from the SWC’s beginnings in 1914. Schools from Oklahoma also played from time-to-time in the league’s history. The conference was truly an all-Texas from 1991, when Arkansas left, until the SWC disbanded in 1996. The break came as some of the schools heard those coins a jingle-jangle-jingling.

For the love of money
People don’t care who they hurt or beat

UT as the king of the schools comprising the Texas component of the Big 12 seemed to have all the prestige — a National Championship in 2006 and runner-up in 2009 — and big money that it could want. Money, though, seemed to overtake prestige. The University signed a $300 million deal with ESPN for its own sports network. The move, of course, rankled some schools and caused others to go “Wild West” on everyone and to do anything at all for money.

For the love of money
A woman will sell her precious body

Talk began of one Big 12 school going here another going there. Then, other schools, in other conferences, started making deals for new super-duper league alignments in which geography was thrown out the window.

In the meantime, Texas A & M had its eye on the prize. It lusted for what many to consider to be the Mother of all athletic conferences, the Southeast Conference. It seemed at one time as if the Big 12 would implode. That would surely be big trouble for schools already on the bubble such as Baylor. Baylor,  which has one of the Lone Star State’s best law schools, sued.

All of the drama — to this point at least — played out to the ending blow last evening as Texas A & M said goodbye to its long-time rival, like the steady and sure teen headed out to make his way in the world. Unfortunately, the bon voyage ended badly for A & M. Now, the nationally-ranked albeit no potential national champion Aggies, will face some really tough SEC opponents in years to come and perhaps even experience extended periods of future cellar-dwelling what with foes such as LSU, Alabama, Auburn, et. al.

And of the rivalries, well, providing a school needs rivalries — perhaps not but whatever extra revenue, recruiting benefits and camaraderie such serial competitions bring, why not? — Texas still has a huge one with Oklahoma in the “Red River Shootout.” The Aggies may end up renewing an old Southwest Conference rival with Arkansas within the SEC. The teams are not strangers having played 68 games. The two teams first played in 1903 and met in October when the now No. 3 Razorbacks beat A & M 42-38. Another possible in-conference rival is present No. 1, the LSU Tigers. The Aggies have played the Louisiana team 50 times, the most games with any non-conference school although the two schools were twice in a pre-SWC league for a couple of years.

The loss of rivalry is a loss of tradition. Yet It isn’t just college tradition that is being destroyed by ” … that lean, mean, mean green/Almighty dollar, money … “ as the poignant 1973 O’Jays hit penned by Gamble, Huff and Jackson says.

High schools are being infected by big money. Look around Texas and one can find multi-million dollar football stadiums with deluxe computerized scoreboards and huge Jumbotron-like screens, usually bearing the name of some corporate sponsor.

Sure the money helps students. There is the old joke about one never having seen a stadium filled for a chemistry lecture. But the money doesn’t strictly benefit the kids in either college or high school. Look at UT’s Mack Brown, paid $5.166 million, making him the highest-paid Texas state employee. Then there is the money made in deals among school alumni. Let’s not even go to professional sports. It’s about enough to make one’s head explode.

So as we say adios to a great old rivalry, perhaps we shouldn’t go out with verses of the “Aggie War Hymn” or “Texas Fight.” Perhaps we should just keep in the groove with the O’Jays, “All for the love of money … ” Tradition, flattened by bundles of cash.

 

Bridges to nowhere fast

A quick trip to Houston today that I would just as soon forget — except for the fact I have to return for the same thing Friday — brought at least one pleasant surprise.

The reconstructed Interstate 10 bridge spanning the Trinity River, between Beaumont and Houston, has finally been completed after four years. Or perhaps, make that after 50 years as that is how old the bridge was. The structure arcs 75 feet above the river which along with the two lanes it had for so many years made it a little close quarters for my taste. I have long had this love-hate relationship with bridges which has eased somewhat over the years. Narrow bridges were never really my cup o’ soup so this fully-functional six-lane bridge, three lanes in either direction, makes traveling a bit more mentally comforting.

I think I was listening to Fred and A.J. on The Blitz, an early afternoon show on Houston’s sports-talk ESPN 97.5, and by the time I got to Anahuac on the return trip I realized I had already crossed the bridge a second time. I guess that’s the hallmark of a good road job. Or maybe it was the degenerate discussion Fred and A.J. were having which made me space out however many miles I had traveled. The Blitz discussion centered around an alleged one-night stand Sarah Palin had with NBA player Glen Rice in the late 1980s when she was a local TV sports reporter in Alaska. Rice was playing college hoops and was in Alaska for a tournament. Now, I admit that you are likely to hear anything on The Blitz, even some sports. That is why I tune in while driving during that time of day, it being such a well-rounded bastion of broadcasting that you just don’t see much of anymore.

As for Sarah’s supposed one-night stand. I say right here that I make no judgment of it on its face. But actually this alleged revelation comes via, where else but, the National Enquirer in the new Joe McGinnis book about Palin. This is the book that was being written while McGinnis moved in next door to the once almost 2/3-term (check my math) governor of Alaska.

The story, if you really want to know the nuts and bolts, is right here. Personally, like the old song says:

“Candy is dandy and liquor is quicker/You can drink all the liquor down in Costa Rica/Ain’t nobody’s business but my own.”

Now if she tries or has tried to be all hypocritical and sanctimonious about the subject, that might be a different matter. But to my knowledge, and that is just to my knowledge and that of no one else, I don’t know if she has either fessed up to the alleged affair or has been a hypocrite regarding this supposed happening. I speak of that particular subject. She has definitely been a hypocrite on other topics.

Nevertheless, this is surely one of those subjects that gets you off of talking about bridge construction in a hurry. Maybe that’s the Republican plan to prevent the president from talking about his jobs plans and getting millions of construction workers back to work. Of course, Palin was known as being for the “Bridge to Nowhere” before she was against it.

Wow, back to solid Democratic footing through all of that. I’m not sure how that happened.

Shoot! The Muffler Men done took over our state bowl game

This afternoon I am a bit on the tired side. Going back to work after more than a couple of days off — I had four in a row — is hard to do. As much as I try not to face it, I am busier than scientists studying cats flying backwards. Yeah, give me a “Huh?” It is one of my busy times of the year at work, I haven’t stopped to look at my schedule for too long because it keeps changing but it looks like I will be working every day for the next three weeks. That isn’t to say I will work a full day every day, but still, work is work when you get right down to it.

Personally, I’d like a job naming college football bowl games. Like the latest, “The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.” Yes, dear friends and neighbors, that is what the Texas Bowl — I didn’t even know there was one until this past football season although its been played since 2006 in Houston which is about 80 miles away from where I live — will be called.

Meineke, isn’t that a chain of muffler shops?  Maybe the world’s largest muffler will be on display at half-time on the 50 yard line. I’m sure the world’s largest muffler is somewhere. Let me see. Well, I didn’t find the world’s largest on my first pass o’er ye ol’ Internet. Now I will be up all night looking, searching for that elusive largest muffler in the world.

Nevertheless, Meineke started out in the muffler business in 1972 and since the early 2000s the company has evolved into a full-blown “car care” service with 900 franchise stores worldwide. And they apparently forked over a world’s largest muffler full of moo-lah to have this bowl game named after them. Glasspacks anyone?

I wouldn’t mind it so much if it was the Jacksonville (Texas) Bill Day Tire Center Tomato Bowl or the Baptist Church Branch Davidian Bowl in Waco being named, well, maybe the Waco thing is a little over the top. But the Texas Bowl? Have a little bit o’ respect for your state, son! I mean, I’m not one of those secessionist like our good-haired governor. But Texas deserves a certain amount of reverence, at least if you use the name for a football contest. Why there is nothing more important in the world than guns and football in Texas. I am surprised no one has thought to playing football while armed to the teeth.

The quarterback could take out that linebacker real easy with a Glock 22, which offers 15-rounds of .40-caliber love that will make the defense think twice about crossing the line of scrimmage. Can you say, center mass? Hey, Gov. Goodhair and his band o’ Merry Men known as the Republican Texas Legislature, wants to arm college students. So it is just simple evolution, oops, that’s not discussed on college campuses in Texas anymore, it is just the natural order of things. It’s just intelligent design. That’s kind of a funny phrase when you pair it with football. Not that football players are less than intelligent. I mean, there is Terry Bradshaw after all.

Andre Johnson scores while Barack Obama fouls out

There is so much to rant about today but I will limit it to just two topics: The federal salary freeze proposal made by President Obama and the donnybrook Sunday between Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Tennessee Titans defensive back Cortland Finnegan. Two very disparate topics, granted, but perhaps there is some connection there. Rather than my ranting, which seems to do no good for anyone, I will just provide some links that may be read so that if someone is interested they can decide on their own, like they’ll do that.

First, the president announced a freeze for two years on increases for federal workers. I think this is boneheaded, wrongheaded, or any other kind of headed move and illustrates what a cheap political ploy that Obama has chosen. It is public relations and perhaps a little payback for all the federal workers who didn’t get out enough to support Democratic congressional candidates. Of course, federal workers can’t do that supporting on their work time, it’s against the Hatch Act. So that leaves all those other hours federal employees have to spare such as those who may have to travel home from work daily in Washington into the heart of Virgina, Maryland, Pennsylvania or wherever.

The debate which has kind of laid beneath the whole issue of federal wages gained steam during the candidacy of  Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, the nude model who won the seat previously held by Sen. Ted Kennedy. Brown claimed the average federal worker makes twice what the average public sector employee receives for pay. That is hooey.

Federal statistics do show government employees with higher average wages than their public sector “counterparts.” The trouble with those statistics is that comparing the two is most often apples and oranges. Throw in the mysteries of federal compensation such as locality pay and how those government workers who are supposedly paid a salary are really paid by the hour and you have got an incomprehensible analogy. Let’s take, for instance, a part-time federal employee with a salary of  almost $35,000  who works 28 hours a week, that is with the “Rest of the U.S.” locality pay sector. That employee would actually gross about, $10,000 per year less than that individual’s official salary. Well, that’s just a part-time worker, you might say, that’s comparing apples to oranges. My point exactly. That also does not account for what scant overtime one might get, or benefits, although a part-time employee may or may not opt for all benefits such as the insurance.

Well, for not writing a lot, I sure have written a lot and this is only Part Uno.

As for Part II, the Texans shutout the Titans 20-0 Sunday, which is especially pleasing for me since the Titans once were the Houston Oilers until owner Bud “The Jackass” Adams moved his team to Nashville. During this game a fight broke out between star Houston receiver Andre Johnson and cornerback Cortland Finnegan of the Titans.

Press accounts show Finnegan, who some call the “dirtiest player” in the NFL on the “dirtiest team” in the NFL, was dogging Johnson all day. That is to be expected. However, Finnegan became increasingly aggressive and, say Texans on the sideline, deliberately provoked Johnson by jamming him in  the face mask. Johnson ripped off Finnegan’s helmet and proceeded to punch him several times “about the head and shoulders” as the old saying goes. The zebras threw Johnson out of the game while a smirking Finnegan stood on the sidelines. However, he too was ejected and walked to the dressing room with the ever-present smirk on his face.

The reputations of both players show that there could not be more different individuals to face each other on the field. Finnegan is short and lightweight, and relishes trash-talking or any other way he can get under a receiver’s skin. Johnson is tall, like a solid immovable mass, who is known for his quiet and humble demeanor while letting his playing do his talking for him. Johnson apologized to the fans and his team after the incident, acknowledging he lost his cool and that he expects the league to punish him for his part. Late news reports, not yet substantiated, indicate Johnson will be fined but not suspended.

Although I am not, have never been and most likely will never be a brawler, I could see myself punching Finnegan if I were in Johnson’s big shoes (I am assuming he has big shoes, I’ve never seen people his height with tiny feet, much less someone who is one of the NFL’s best receivers.) One can say what they want about football. Especially pro football is a very aggressive and a very punishing game. When you start  dealing with your own fortunes and that of your teammates in the millions of dollars as well as your ability to project the kind of aggression needed in the game, you damned well better possess the ability to defend yourself. That is what I saw Johnson doing.

So, apology accepted, Andre.

As for Barack, I supported him and continue to support him. But I think his federal pay freeze proposal is just wrong, wrong, wrong. And I don’t expect an apology from him.

So I lied. This time I will watch the Rangers.

So sue me. It’s been done before with unfavorable results for the plaintiff. Thankfully.

Not that I expect anyone to sue me but I did say awhile back right here in this humble little blog that I didn’t plan to watch the American League Championship Series pitting the playoff needy Texas Rangers against the World Champions for All Time New York Yankees. I think I saw all six games if I remember correctly. I swore that I wouldn’t though because I expected the Yankees to win as always.  The reason for such a ridiculous resolution was basically that this was a year I didn’t watch baseball.

My team is the Houston Astros. Although I have long considered myself a fan of the Rangers, I am not a fanatic. Of course, neither am I a fanatic about the Astros — especially since they stunk up Minute Maid Park this year — but I suppose I am less of a non-fanatic about the Rangers than the Astros. I have seen both teams play and rooted for both teams in their respective parks. Of course, the last time I actually saw Houston play live and in color was on opening day in 1987 when Mike Scott faced off with Dodgers’ hurler (I wonder if he ever really “hurled?” Orel Hershiser in the Astrodome. It also has been seven or so years since I saw the Rangers play at The Ballpark in Arlington.

I suppose that since the Astros pretty much stunk from the beginning I wasn’t too interested in baseball altogether. To real hardcore fans of the game, that must sound like I am a fair-weather fan. Maybe I am. Yet, like so many other people I have other matters on my plate. Some are important. Truthfully, many are not. I am sure I could have called up one of my Houston friends this baseball season, if they could take a day off because I surely can, and we could have gone to a game. It  just didn’t happen.


A-Rod: Expensive Yank for a 4-for-21 showing.

But I will likely watch all of the World Series games with the exception of Saturday because I will be hanging with friends in Galveston. Surely the Rangers can win one game without me.


Rangers’ Cliff Lee: I can fly. And throw off the page too.

Beside the fact that the Rangers have never played in the Series, much less have won one, there was quite a lot about this year’s bunch which intrigued me when I saw them beat the Yankees in the ALCS. First off, the influence of Rangers president and part-owner Nolan Ryan is unmistakable what with pitchers Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis going deep into late innings. Ryan is old school, back when a reliever was something you took for a sore shoulder. Texas also had some offense that kept the Yankees at bay in all but two games. Plus, it was also a kick seeing the Multimillion-Dollar Man Sir Alex Rodriguez with a dismal 4-for-21 performance in the six games, his long-ball prowess saved for perhaps some other seasons of the Yankees’ pissing millions away. I bear no ill will against A-Rod, just the fact that he played for the Rangers like teammate Mark Teixeira makes them natural villains in the Rangers world. No one except some truly sick individual would have wished Teixeira the pulled hamstring he received running out a ground ball in Game 4. But  you have to look at “Tex’s” performance over all in the ALCS to realize just how much the experience must have sucked for him, the injury topped off by his going 0-for-14. That happens to be the worst non-hitting streak for the Yankees in their post season history, according to ESPN.

The Rangers are packed with a pretty amazing and interesting group of individuals as well as saddled with a history that might leave one shaking their head for quite a bit. As for the San Francisco Giants, I couldn’t tell you jack about them except that Barry Bonds the “home run king” played for them as did a really dynamic player by the name of “Say Hey” Willie Mays. He is one of the old timers back in the days of Maris, Mantle, Koufax, Bob Gibson, and Boog Powell (can you imagine being called Boog?)  that I loved to watch play on the old black and white. Nolan Ryan was, if not in reality then in spirit, at the tail end of that generation.

Such a big game means a lot of sports and other types of writers have to start earning their keep finding stories relating to Texas, the Giants and the World Series. Some of these stories will be good and some, well perhaps not as interesting as they are in the minds of the writers and editors.

Nevertheless, this is a Series I relish, perhaps with pickles and mustard and wiener on a hot dog bun. Even if  I miss a game.

Have a nice day. No really.

King James decided to head South. And I don’t care.

It is doubtful that I am the only person in the country who doesn’t care that LeBron James took his act to Miami. He’s from Ohio and knows how crappy the weather is in Cleveland, even though the game of pro basketball is played indoors. Too bad, actually. The NBA ought to have some outdoor games like the NHL does with their Winter Classic — the 2011 game is New Year’s Day at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. I would love to see Shaq and Kobe and some of the big men shoot it out in Lambeau Field in January.

Of the most popular pro sports, basketball is my least favorite. That is part of the reason I didn’t care one way or the other about the super-hyped LeBron Sweepstakes. Sure it was a lot about LeBron saying: “Look at me.” Although the whole deal with Dewayne Wade and Chris Bosh along with the possibility of Hall of Famer Pat Riley coaching, if he returns to the bench from the Heat front office, could turn out to be one of the most brilliant moves in professional sports. Or not. I just don’t give a flying puck.

One thing I will say for pro basketball: Stamina. But that is a quality required in large doses in many other sports, yes, even in futbol. Oh, and there is one more word essential to the NBA: Money. Lots and lots of money.

Those poor schmoes in Cleveland who had their hearts broken by LeBron King James, one has to believe, just didn’t have enough money. What makes a young man stray long distances from the only home he has ever known? Money. Or the military. Or a two-timing girlfriend. Or college. Or the circus. Or San Francisco. There is a long list after all. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe the “Deal of the Century” involving the Miami Heat doesn’t evolve around money. But I don’t think so.

That is because money is so, so important to so, so many people. Why this woman from the billing office of a local Catholic hospital was just plain un-Holy this morning when she called me out of my late-sleeping slumber and asked why I hadn’t paid my bill. The reason was that it was a worker’s comp claim my employers owe. But you’d have thought I had taken all of the money straight out of this woman’s pocketbook and snatched one of her babies. She ended the phone conversation with one of those really snide “Have a nice days.”

I had a lady tell me “Have a nice day” at the dump other day. As a matter of fact, she got really into telling me to have a nice day and then finally said she hoped God would take away my pain that made me so angry. I told her that He needn’t bother, that my pain would disappear in about 10 seconds when she was no longer in my rear view mirror.

Well, I’ve strayed off the path now. My whole train of thought has just jumped the tracks and started folding down a cliff like a Cajun accordion at a fais-do-do. Ay-yee!

It is time to put a merciful end to this post. So keep cool and well fed. Until next time, this is your old buddy EFD saying “Your feet only smell when someone can smell them.”

Fall down, go boom

The title says it all. It looks as if the Big 12 Athletic Conference is about to fall down, go boom.

Funny how one school starts talking. The others start talking. Pretty soon you got a lot of chaos and an athletic conference ends like a pair of old, ragged underwear. Not a pretty sight! The Big 12 seems as if it is folding before our very eyes. Colorado has accepted an invitation to join the Pac-10, Nebraska could joint the Big 10. The Pac 10 would also like to have Texas, Texas A & M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

How old is the Big 12 anyway? Like 15 years old, or something? It came as a merging of some Big 8 and Southwest Conference schools. Some didn’t get to come along to the big party from the SWC like Rice, SMU, TCU, Arkansas. Hey, it couldn’t have been the Big 16 could it?

Of course some of these schools are matched sets because of rivalries. You can’t have Texas without Texas A & M and vice versa. Ditto for Okie and OSU. Or even Texas Tech and Texas A & M.

Then there is “poor” little Baylor at Jerusalem on the Brazos. With Ken Starr as its president. What would Ken Starr do? WWKSD? Impeach ‘em. Impeach the whole mess of them, that’s what.

"It's time to bring in the 12th Man."

I say have an all Texas conference: Texas, Texas A & M, Texas Tech, Rice, Baylor, SMU, University of Houston, UT El Paso and maybe rotate two of the bigger but less well-known schools for a ninth and tenth every couple of years. University of North Texas one year. Texas State the next. Lamar, once it gets its revived team on its legs. Stephen F. Austin, I’m kind of biased there, of course. Maybe the two that does the best drawing revenue and, of course, plays well might just get tenure. Texas football is where it’s at!

But that is as likely to happen as Bear Bryant returning from the dead and herding all the young Aggie team out to Junction for practice.

Money is what it’s all about. Who gives the best deal with the most TV appearances, bowls, all that jive. Forgive me for being football-centric but that is all I really care all that much about when it comes to college sports. I know basketball is huge, Texas and Rice, big time in baseball and Baylor? Tort law and intelligent design?

This will either be really good for college, especially football, or really bad. I can’t see how it might turn out in between. But that’s me.

Who Dat fever: Riding the bandwagon with no remorse

Edited version: I missed an “I.” It’s XLIV instead of XLV. And 44 instead of 45. But what’s a year or two among good Romans? And, if there happens to be any Indianapolis  fans out there, here is a little tune to get stuck in your head while the Saints are winning.

This year, unlike many years before, I am pumped up about the Super Bowl.

What is this, the 42nd National Football League championship, or XLIVif you like the NFL’s Roman numeral version? I am sure there is some reason why the NFL has used Roman numerals all these years, but I don’t know why and don’t care. I just know that I probably haven’t really looked forward to watching the Super Bowl — for football and not the commercials — since probably No. XX. That was when Mike Ditka’s wacky bunch of Chicago bears, including Jim McMahon and William “Refrigerator” Perry as well as superb running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton played and beat New England.

There is some irony in that particular game as it relates to XLIV. That game was played in the Louisiana Superdome, home of NFC champs the Saints. Also, the Bears’ defensive coach, who said that the team had wasted its draft pick earlier that year on “The Fridge” Perry, was none other than Buddy Ryan, whose son, Rex, was head coach of AFC championship loser New York Jets. Buddy Ryan is a whole ‘nother story in itself. All the ties are like playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, only its not.

Wonder if the referees stopped at Best Buy in Beaumont on the way to Miami?

But yeah, I plan to be in front of the TV starting about 1 p.m. Sunday to catch all the hype leading up to the game. That is because of the New Orleans Saints. I suppose I have been rooting for the Saints since they returned to play in the Superdome after the devastating Hurricane Katrina. I know that isn’t being a fan for very long in their 40-something year history, but after all, they really sucked for so many years.

That sounds rude, I know. But I am not the only one on the Saints’ bandwagon who is riding along and doesn’t, frankly my dear, give a damn what anyone says.

I saw the evacuees from Katrina pouring across the Texas line into my area of Southeast Texas. Then, they had to evacuate once more as Hurricane Rita pounded just about the easternmost fourth of Texas. Even though I was 80 miles away from the Gulf during Rita, it was “hurricaning” outside. Then came Hurricane Humberto in 2007, which I slept through. Next was Hurricane Ike the following year which I watched for most of the night as it whipped through Beaumont.

Fortunately, I didn’t suffer much from any of those storms except for the lack of electricity for a number of days. But my neighbors in Southeast Texas  and Southwest Louisiana did, some greatly. So you might say my cheering on the long-suffering Saints was a matter of “hurricane-related empathy.”

It is going to be a more difficult task to root for the Saints too, because they are playing the Indianapolis Colts. I like them as well. Or rather, I like Peyton Manning, who many think IS the Colts. But I will not have near the difficulty in loyalty that Manning’s family will. Dad Archie, of course, was the Saints quarterback in the bad old days. Thus, Giants quarterback and Peyton’s brother Eli, and non-pro football brother Cooper, all have ties to the Saints. So did Petyon. Rick Reilly, the ESPN Magazine scribe who is without a doubt one of the best sportswriters around these days, wrote a piece on ESPN.com the other day about the Manning family’s dilemma. It sounds damn near excrutiating, not only because of their family ties to New Orleans and the Saints, but because of what it means for the Saints to be playing in the Super Bowl after years of failure and then Katrina.

“In summary,” wrote Reilly, “you must either have had your heart removed by corn tongs or be in the Manning family if you’re not pulling for the Saints.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Will the games of Cowboys past haunt Vikings?

Around these parts — meaning just about all of Texas except maybe El Paso — when someone talks about “the game” they mean the Dallas-Minnesota matchup come high noon (Central time) Sunday. I say most of Texas except El Paso because I know it is home to many San Diego fans since El Paso is almost as close in distance to San Diego as it is Dallas and may well be much more near culturally.

I suspect the “the game” reference probably holds true in the Twin Cities  where the folks have more reason than most cities to hold a grudge against Texas. There was a little play that became known as the “Hail Mary Pass” in 1975 in which Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach hit wide receiver Drew Pearson on a 50-yard desperation pass. Pearson caught it and backed into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Vikings players and fans protested then and now that Pearson was guilty of offensive pass interference on cornerback Nate Wright who fell to the ground during the reception. The TD knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs.

As an aside, some nastiness ensued after the play including a ref getting struck on the head by a whiskey bottle thrown from the stands. The assault knocked the zebra out with his wound requiring 11 stitches.

Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News points out a laundry list of other reasons why Texas is the source of some understandable animus in the Twin Cities. This includes Dallas stealing the NHL team, the lopsided trade to Dallas for Herschel Walker and former Vikings owner and Texan Red McCombs threatening to move the team unless he got a new stadium. All in all it sounds more like a plot to an old “Maverick” episode than sports.

Despite the animosity and the fact its the Cowboys the Vikings that are up against each other in the NFL Wild Card match, the game has some interesting pieces involved. This includes the aged Brett Favre who still can throw a football pretty far and the Cowboys QB Tony Romo whom I heard a sports commentator on the radio today describe as a “cute puppy with  his hat on backwards.”

Seriously, Dallas has come a long way. I might even root for them. I am not one of those Cowboys bandwagon fans. I once long ago was a fan then I got turned off by that whole “America’s Team” thing. Since then I pretty much hated the Cowboys until that loudmouth Terrell Owens left. I would like to see coach Wade Phillips do good. As  I have mentioned before he is from my area — having graduated in the same Texas county in which I reside (Jefferson) at Port Neches-Groves High School. Plus, he is the son of probably my favorite all-time coach, Bum Phillips, who helped the Oilers provide some excitement in their games.

At the very least I plan to watch the game. As for the others, well New Orleans is my favorite NFL team left right now since the Texans didn’t make the playoffs. In the AFC, since the Texans didn’t have the cards in their favor I guess either Indianapolis or San Diego would do as my preference. I would like to see a New Orleans and Indianapolis Super Bowl or a Saints-Chargers Super Bowl. So many times though, I don’t get what I wish for so …

Have a fine football weekend.

Houston VA: MEDVAMC H1N1 AFT; Plus: Time for 'Horns HC Muschamp?

A memorandum dated Jan. 4  from Adam C. Walmus, director of the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC)  in Houston, and e-mailed Jan. 8 by MEDVAMC spokeswoman  Bobbi Gruner announces vaccinations are now available for the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

All I can say to this is reflected in one of the acronyms used in the headline above, AFT. The acronym, pronounced in the phonetic alphabet we used in the military, is pronounced “Alfa Foxtrot Tango.” I don’t know if that is a widely-used acronym but it’s one I chose to use of the ilk popularized in the Stephen Coonts book and later movie “Flight of the Intruder.” That acronym was “Alfa Mike Foxtrot,” for “adios mother f***er.” I use the acronym “AFT” to mean “Alfa Foxtrot Tango,” to stand for “about f***ing time.”

I am sure there is an explanation why just now, in January 2010, the H1N1 shots are now finally available. The VA has known about the so-called “Swine Flu” for quite some time. A Houston VA press release from October noted:

“The H1N1 Flu is of concern to experts in the medical community because it is so new that very few people have any protection or “immunity” which means the virus may easily find vulnerable people to infect. As a result, it may spread rapidly to large numbers of people. Therefore, health care facilities may find it difficult to care for large numbers of patients with severe illness.”

The October release went on to say the hospital had received 300 doses of the vaccine and listed the priority of those who should get the vaccine. What they didn’t say was did the patients in those priority groups actually receive the shots? What do you want to bet that if I asked the Houston VA who, in fact, received the 300 initial doses I would be told that information cannot be released due to privacy laws?

I said there was probably an explanation why it’s taken so long to get the H1N1 shots to the general patient population within the MEDVAMC kingdom which includes outpatient clinics in Beaumont, Lufkin, Conroe and Galveston. I didn’t say it was a good explanation.

Fortunately, no large outbreaks of the Swine Flu have occured among veterans in this portion of Texas, at least no large outbreaks that come to mind. But the H1N1 is still a pandemic so it’s fortunate there aren’t more dead, especially older or our youngest, veterans.

When the pandemic is over, I hope the VA as a whole will do a thorough after-action review of their reaction to the outbreaks. I’m sure they will, but hopefully it will be honest and not just the same old glazed over horse s**t one seems to see coming from one VA report after another. The whole VA pharmaceutical system needs a careful going-over as well.  I can’t help but think — with such vast differences in medication given from one VA hospital system to another — that the acquisition of medications might be ripe for some kind of corruption. I’m not saying that’s the case, but it’s a suspicion.

Nevertheless, it’s AFT that the Swine Flu shots are available and unless I get the flu first or the VA runs out, I plan to get my vaccine during my next regular appointment in two weeks.

Something’s rotten in Austin

Only a few thoughts to follow up on last night’s “Pasadena Massacre.” I am talking about the Citi BCS National Championship in which Texas QB Colt McCoy was knocked out of the game the first rattle out of the box. I think The Regents should just pay Mack Brown all those millions and move defensive coordinator and heir-apparent Will Muschamp up to head coach.

Man, the game just turned to Bevo poo after freshman Garrett Gilbert was sent in to replace McCoy. I don’t fault Gilbert. I think he showed some flashes of not-badness. It just seemed the game had been choreographed like a Broadway production starring McCoy and the stand-in hadn’t been properly trained to know where the other cast members were supposed to stand.

Gilbert made a few bad passes. He was supposed to, he is a freshman. He also threw some passes that should have been caught. It was if the hearts and souls of the remaining offensive players flew off to the locker room when McCoy departed with his injured shoulder.

Although the score, 37-21 Alabama, doesn’t really reflect it, the Texas defense looked pretty awesome. Alabama QB Greg McElroy was sacked a season-high five times. That is why I think the loss falls mainly on Mack Brown. It was like he never thought of the possibility his star quarterback and field marshal would get hurt. And since the defense was the bright  spot for Texas and that Brown has made defensive guru Muschamp his replacement, Brown should have himself replaced, at head coach at least. They could keep Brown in recruiting and PR. He seems to really excel there.

After watching the game, I believe that Texas could have won if McCoy had not been knocked out of the game. But that’s not a given. Running back Mark Ingram brought back visions of “The Earl of Texas,” that being Earl Campbell. Both were backs which reminded me of Hurricane Rita blasting her way through the Pineywoods. There wasn’t anyone able to stop her. The same goes for Earl and the Tide’s Ingram. As I heard one caller to a sports talk show say this afternoon, the game was one “played by boys against men.” In a way, the caller was right.

Still, you have to wonder what would have been had McCoy not been injured. And you wonder what round McCoy will go in the NFL draft who picks him. Also, I heard it said that Alabama’s McElroy had never lost a football  game since the eighth grade. How do  you think he will feel when he gets to the NFL and finally loses that first game?