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.