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.

It could be a great week for the East Coast

My niece in Virginia Beach, said a short while ago on Facebook: “Earthquake on Tuesday, hurricane on Saturday…this is shaping up to be a stellar week!” I’m glad of course that she is doing well as is her family and she can maintain her sense of humor.

The East Coast earthquake seems to be the topic of the afternoon. A fellow who works on my floor — our conversations have never ventured beyond small talk in the past couple of years I’ve known him — mentioned how weird the quake was. A man passing time listening to NPR while waiting on someone at the grocery store also made some mention of it. This fellow said he had lived in California and studied quakes. He said that when cool temperatures come up suddenly there tend to be more shaking.

Compared to the 80-degree nights we have been having in Southeast Texas, the last couple of nights in the area of the quake’s epicenter has been cool — in the upper 50s and 60s for lows, we’d take it — but hardly earth-shaking cold. Nonetheless, it was an interesting theory to listen to while putting the groceries in my auto.

This was the most powerful earthquake in the Eastern U.S. area in 100 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That is significant enough. But the fact that the quake was felt in Washington, New York City and Boston — the Megapolis (BosWash) — is another reason that this is such a big event even though the quake was nothing as severe as the 9.0 quake and tsunami that hit eastern Japan in March.

The fact is earthquakes happen all the time and all around the world. An earthquake can strike any location at any time, the USGS says. The last earthquake in Texas was 11:30 p.m., Aug. 6, about 6 miles west southwest of Dallas, this according to the “Last Earthquake in … “ page on the USGS Website. Pretty neat site, actually, as is individual state earthquake histories by that same agency. Included in the Texas earthquake history was a blurb of the series of shocks that hit in the mid-1960s in the area just north of where I was raised:

 “A series of moderate earthquakes in the Texas – Louisiana border region near Hemphill started on April 23, 1964. Epicenters were determined on April 23, 24, 27, and 28. There were numerous additional shocks reported felt at Pineland, Hemphill, and Milam. The only damage reported was from the magnitude 4.4 earthquake on April 28 – wall paper and plaster cracked at Hemphill (V). The magnitude of the other epicenters changed from 3.4 to 3.7. Shocks were also felt at Pineland on April 30 and May 7. On June 2, three more shocks were reported in the same area. The strongest was measured at magnitude 4.2; intensities did not exceed IV. Another moderate earthquake on August 16 awakened several people at Hemphill and there were some reports of cracked plaster (V). The shock was also felt at Bronson, Geneva, Milam, and Pineland.”

There was a lot of local interest in these shocks in my area, not because it was spread over the news or the Internet. It wasn’t. This was, after all, 1964 in the Pineywoods of East Texas.. All the talk, as I can remember, was by word of mouth. Much of the concern centered around Toledo Bend Reservoir, which spans the Texas-Louisiana border for 65 miles and is the largest man-made water body in the southern U.S. Toledo Bend was being built during that time so some dismissed the shaking as dynamite charges, used for what in building the huge lake I have no idea. Others still, worried about building a large dam holding almost 4.5 million acre feet of water — think 4.5 million x 1 acre of water that is 1 foot deep — being built on faults capable of producing seismic eruptions as those in 1964. But just as suddenly as the quakes came did they leave.

Everyone, it seems or at least in the U.S., has some sort of violent natural aspect for which to be concerned. Where I live it’s hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes (not recently though), lightning, forest fires, marsh fires, extreme heat and humidity,  disease-ridden mosquitoes, alligators, snakes, flesh-eating bacteria from the Gulf waters, and if you believe some, Bigfoot. Those are just some of the natural threats. Oh and earthquakes, we don’t have a big risk but remember what the USGS said. At least we don’t have mudslides, like California.

Hopefully, my niece and her family and my friends on the East Coast will escape Hurricane Irene. It is bad enough just surviving everyday life without earthquakes and tropical cyclones to worry about. If my loved ones can get through that storm and the earthquake with little or no problems, then perhaps those folks might just really have a stellar week. Let’s all hope they do.

Aides “Newtloose” so where does this leave Rick and Dog on Man?

Well, it looks like advisers of Newt Gingrich took a vote of no-confidence as most of the aides walked on the former House speaker and current candidate for GOP presidential nomination. Since two of the aides have what The Texas Tribune calls “extensive links” to our good-haired Gov. Rick Perry, the star-powered non-profit Web site puts A + B together to get a capital C, which rhymes with P and that stands for Perry. (With apologies to Meredith Wilson, even though he’s been gone for quite awhile now.)

Just because Newt had a massive ship abandoning and some of those jumping are former Perry guys that adds to the “rampant speculation that Gov. Rick Perry will scoop them up to launch his own White House bid,according to a Tribune story by veteran Austin reporter Jay Root.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Jay Root, former Associated Press and Fort Worth Star-Telegram capitol reporter, is one of the best state government reporters and definitely one of the best writers covering the subject. I just think it’s a little weak to make such speculations.

Maybe Good Hair, after this and perhaps more Special Sessions of the Texas Legislature this year, will decide to throw in his hat. It just musses up that purty coiffure anyway. But I don’t think such a leap as is being made due to the Newt-fection, which Root tags as “speculation” in any event, is warranted at 4:01 p.m. CDT, June 9, 2011. Or 4:02 p.m. CDT, …

It does not take much of a hop, skip or jump to surmise that the mass defection might have had more to do with Newt being a weak, turned weakened and particularly unattractive candidate. That also is not to say Rick Perry would be a stronger or particularly appealing Republican presidential aspirant. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of two more less appealing candidates for president or even dog catcher to represent any party.

So at least for the moment, I would say the tote board shows: Gingrich defection 1, Perry probably < 1. But, I live in Beaumont and not Austin, so what do I know?

Oh, and speaking of another possible GOP hopeful — this one actually makes me feel sorry for the Republican Party — former Sen. Rick “Man on DogSantorum declared today that climate change is “junk science.” That’s not so surprising especially since Rush Limbaugh — on whose show this “great man of science Santorum” made such a proclamation, has a jihad against the scientific notion of climate change. However, GOP candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire last week that he thinks the Earth is warming and as a result of human activity. I suppose the GOP has got that “big tent” thing working.

And, I take it back, I can think of an equally unappealing candidate for president as Rick Santorum. Move over Newt and Good Hair.



Sharks everywhere

More and more nowadays the Tea Party seems as if its prime target is the Republican Party. Sooner or later the GOP faces possible vaporization of the Whig Party type if the TP frustration with the Republicans finally reaches a China Syndrome phase.

William Temple, chairman, Tea Party Founding Fathers, is exasperated that Newt Gingrich would dare finding fault with the plan by House Speaker John Boehner and his budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan to put Medicare into the hands of private insurance companies. Gingrich called the plan “right-wing social engineering” and “radical change.” Temple rebuts:

“Mr. Gingrich, who seems not to mind “radical change” in his domestic life, is simply wrong about the Boehner-Ryan Medicare plan,”  Temple says in a press release.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Temple goes on to criticize Gingrich while damning Ryan and Boehner with faint praise:

“It is not “radical.  It is tame as a pussy cat,” says Temple. ” The Boehner-Ryan Medicare plan is to fix Medicare and Medicaid sometime way off in the future, in the sweet bye and bye.  While Obama, Gingrich, Romney, Pelosi and Reid favor the essential tyranny behind ObamaCare – forced purchasing of a product – Boehner and Ryan have, up to now, been content to fiddle while Rome burns with regard to Medicare.”

Great stuff. With friends like Temple, the Republicans sure don’t need enemies although they’ve got them up the yang.

So, let the political allies tear themselves to shreds. I’m going fishing. Well, maybe not. Here is why.

Scott Jennings, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden, responded to a call back in March that a commercial fishing boat had pulled into Freeport with an 8-foot, short-fin mako shark. A Game Warden field report states that the crew told the Jennings that the shark had jumped into the boat’s stern as they were weighing anchor.

Yeah, right.

Incredibly, the shark flipped over the crewmen’s heads and landed forward beside the center console of the boat. The crew told the game warden that at one point, they had seriously considered abandoning the boat to the shark.

The report goes on to say that the shark couldn’t be removed from the boat without it being harmed so the game warden called up National Marine Fisheries Service agent Charles Tyer, who arranged the purchase of a “federal highly migratory species permit so that they could legally land the shark.”

Now that’s one hell of a fish story and a lot more fun to relate than the continuing soap-opera-like squabbles between the Republicans and the Tea Partiers.

So until next time, Show me the way to go home/I’m tired and I want to go to bed …