Friends don't let friends play hurt

Talk about sidelined! Even if the turf on Rebel Field in Evadale, Texas, dries sufficiently this evening after pounding rainfall, the stadium will remain silent from the bustle of the gridiron. That is because the scheduled battle between the Evadale Rebels and the Chester Yellowjackets has been canceled. In fact, the Yellowjackets’ remaining season has been canceled.

Football ended for Chester on Oct. 23 after what turned out to be their final game, which was against High Island. In that game, seven Yellowjacket players suffered season-ending injuries, according to the Beaumont Enterprise. With a student body of 58 attending Chester High School — located in a town of only 256 about 90 miles northeast of Houston — the football team is comprised of 20 of the 26 boys who attend classes there. Another student broke his foot the week before. You do the math.

Yes, the Yellowjackets could still field a team provided no one got hurt in the last two games. A team with a total squad of 12 also would not provide any rest for the weary. I can’t speak for the six Chester students who don’t play. Kids have all kinds of reasons why they don’t get into organized sports. The closest I got was as a varsity football and basketball equipment manager. Nevertheless, the coach decided it best to end the season while the school still had some able bodies for basketball season. That’s a joke, although I realize a bad one. The result was that the Yellowjackets forfeited its final two games.

The abrupt ending to the season may have left some kids and fans heartbroken but the coach’s decision was both without recourse and smart.

Canceling was smart because had more players suffered incapacitating injuries a whole raft of wrath might have been heaped upon the coach and administration’s head like players scrambling for a goal-line fumble. Society has become less tolerant with the idea of “playing hurt.” And with recent hearings about football brain injuries suffered by NFL players — the pros also being shown to influence youth football safety levels — the idea of “shaking off” an injury seems destined for such discredited medical practices as “bleeding” someone for various illnesses.

One must recognize the difference between traumatic brain injury as well as other potentially deadly and disabled syndromes related to concussions, and the normal broken bones and  dislocations which are common in high school football. Even concussions, or getting one’s “bell rung,” are not unusual. Two Chester players reportedly suffered concussions while the rest of the injuries along with a host of broken  bones and dislocations, according to Beaumont TV station KFDM. The Chester coach called the number of injuries incurred freak accidents.

But even orthopedic injuries these day in football at the high school level have been under scrutiny along with head injuries, all wrapped up under the category of sports safety.

A number of factors bring safety to the forefront of sports in general such as the size and athleticism of youth who workout on weights and some of whom take illicit steroids. Protective sports gear has also improved as has emergency medical care. Some notable cases, however,  exhibit tragic holes in protection from injuries.

The case of Will Benson is a particular example of gaps in safety.

Benson was a 17-year-old quarterback for St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin who died after suffering cerebral hemorrhage during a game in 2002. Benson collapsed and was looked at by the team’s trainer and doctor but no ambulance or emergency medical technicians were stationed on the scene. Problems with the ambulance finding and accessing the patient were reasons almost a half-hour elapsed between the time Benson collapsed and was rolled into emergency surgery.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Benson’s dad was able to convince Texas legislators that sports safety needed improvement and “Will’s Law” was passed among which provisions include a requirement of safety training for coaches and trainers.

I have to admit that I read about Will Benson’s tragic case for the first time today. I suppose I have become somewhat numb following news of kids dying from sports injuries. What shocks me most is that in 45 years of watching high school football I can’t remember seeing  a game that did not have an ambulance standing by. This was even the case back in the day when EMTs — which I was certified as for 10 years — was just another unknown acronym and funeral homes usually operated the ambulances. This is even in the smallest of East Texas towns in which I grew up.

The machismo of the still overwhelmingly male sport of football has long dictated toughness as a rite of passage. One must decide whether such concepts are all they’re made out to be. But as was emphasized in the macho profession of firefighting in which I was involved some five years one can’t help someone in need if you are unable to show up. Translation: Don’t drive like a bat out of hell and all crazy en route to an emergency.

If the logical extension is taken for football, you can’t play if you’re hurt really bad. That can be taken for what it’s worth if logic can be applied amongst the emotional world of football.

Did someone call a prognosticator?

Newton vs. Woodville Newton
Port Neches-Groves vs. Livingston Port Neches-Groves
Silsbee vs. West Orange-Stark West Orange-Stark
Diboll vs. Jasper Jasper
Hamshire-Fannett vs. Orangefield Orangefield
Kirbyville vs. Shelbyville Kirbyville
Oklahoma State vs. Texas A & M Texas A & M
Houston vs. Mississippi State Houston
Baylor vs. Oklahoma Oklahoma
Navy vs. Rice Navy
TCU vs. Air Force TCU
Texas vs. Colorado Texas
Auburn vs. LSU LSU
Stephen F. Austin vs. McNeese Stephen F. Austin
Minnesota vs. St. Louis Minnesota
Dallas vs. Kansas City Dallas
Houston Texans vs. Arizona Houston
Indianapolis vs. Tennessee Indianapolis

Never have I thought myself to be a great sports fan. But as it goes with enjoying other aspects of life of which I claim no expertise — art, fine wine, etc. — I know what I like.

I am not the kind of person that camps out all weekend long before the tellyvision watching first college games all day Saturday then pro games on Sunday. If a game interests me or a team, such as the Houston Texans, I will watch a game if I have no other pressing matters.

That’s always the way it has been for me, pretty much. So quite surprised, and extremely lucky, was I some 12 or so years ago when I worked for a small daily newspaper as a reporter and found myself among the weekly faces prognosticating football games on the sports page. I was a regular football fortune teller during the season along with the two sports guys, a photographer, a copy editor, a local radio station owner and maybe a few other assorted folks. I say I supposed myself to be lucky because I had the best percentage among all the other regulars who picked the games.

Now I will admit to reading the sports pages quite a bit more than usual during those times, but it’s not like I was some football genius despite the fact that I knew who “The Big Tuna” was.

So I thought for old time’s sake I would pick a selected number of this week’s games and see what happens. I will admit to following some of these teams though not others. I won’t say which ones of either. If I just remember to report back the results this all might work. The possible complication in this is that I am scheduled to be out of town and out of state all next week. But I will do my best and report my findings with honesty, if at all. Therefore, I give you my picks.



  • Newton (34) vs. Woodville (13)

Both these teams are named the Eagles so if you aren’t watching the game you can get confused but there should be no confusing which Eagles should win, that would be the Newton variety.

  • Port Neches-Groves (14) vs. Livingston (34)

I’m just guessing here but I think PN-G will win. They have the snazzier uniforms.

  • Silsbee (43) vs. West Orange-Stark (33)

Given the two teams’ records and who they have played, WO-S should beat the Tigers like a rented mule.

  • Diboll (0) vs. Jasper (14)

I see no reason why Jasper shouldn’t win handily over Diboll unless the H1N1 pandemic rears its ugly head or a nuclear strike hits East Texas on Friday night.

  • Hamshire-Fannett (9) vs. Orangefield (54)

Orangefield will win. I guarantee it. Of course, my guarantees in football mean about as much as David Letterman’s vows of  celibacy.

  • Kirbyville (38) vs. Shelbyville (0)

The Kirbyville Wildcats will beat Shelbyville like the  media beats a dead horse.


  • Oklahoma State (36) vs. Texas A & M (31)

Texas A & M shouldn’t win this one, but let’s say they do.

  • Houston (31) vs. Mississippi State (24)

Houston saw national rankings come and go with their loss to UTEP, so that means that the Cougars will probably beat Miss State.

  • Baylor (7) vs. Oklahoma (33)

The only game I saw Baylor play when I lived in Waco was against Oklahoma. It was G0d awful unless you were a Sooners fan. I predict a similar Bear drubbing though  probably not in the 60-some-odd to 10-some-odd fashion as with the game I saw.

  • Navy (63) vs. Rice (14)

I have always admired Rice because it’s a brainiac school. But brains alone won’t get you a win, especially since the Owls haven’t seen a win since Hector was a pup. Say what? Say Navy wins this one.

  • TCU (20) vs. Air Force (17)

The Horned  Frogs of TCU have this one unless they don’t.

  • Texas (38) vs. Colorado (14)

Unless the Longhorns do something incredibly stupid as they are known to do on occasion, they should whip Colorado until they yelp like chihuahuas.

  • Florida (13) vs. LSU (3)

Three letters, L-S-U.

  • Stephen F. Austin (16) vs. McNeese (13)

I’m sure the experts would go for McNeese but I am no expert and I am a Lumberjack and I’m okay. So SFA Lumberjacks get my nod.


  • Minnesota (38) vs. St. Louis (10)

Led by 143-year-old quarterback Brett Favre, the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Rams despite the path from the huddle to the Vikings’ sideline being littered with Geritol bottles.

  • Dallas (26) vs. Kansas City (10)

Unless some young starlet grabs Tony Romo’s attention, the Cowboys should beat  Kansas City with little trouble.

  • Houston Texans (21) vs. Arizona (28)

The Texans should mostly be recovered from the Swine Flu so they stand a good enough chance to beat Arizona that I will go with the Texans.

Indianapolis (21) vs. Tennessee (9)

Let’s see. Indanapolis good. Titans stink. The Colts win, I think.

True confessions: It's Friday night lights

If you have ever watched NBC’s rightfully, hit TV show, “Friday Night Lights,” saw the Peter Berg movie of the same name or read the exceptional Buzz Bissinger book that inspired both shows then you might know why people around my area are excited right now.

This is “Week 0” in Texas. That is all you need to know although it means that it is the first week high school football teams can officially play over an 11-week season. If they played last night or tonight or Saturday they will have to take one week off during that time. Or at least that’s how I understand it. If I am wrong sorry.

One high school game tonight interests me greatly. Had circumstances not been beyond my control I would probably be one my way to watch the game.

It is the classic class 2A battle of the Newton Eagles and the Corrigan-Camden Bulldogs. The game will be played tonight in Corrigan, which is about 90 miles north of Houston.

Now my interest is two-fold but more accurately two-fold times two-fold by something or other square. Please forgive my math. I went to Newton High School. Actually, my poor math is owed more to my disinterest and disdain for arithmetic than the ability of that school’s teachers to teach it.

As an aside, Coach Curtis Barbay, 67, now in his 35th year as Newton head coach — who is the No. 8 winningest HS coach in Texas with a 302-93-6 record and who led his Eagles to three state championships — was my World History teacher during my sophomore year. Coach was less than inspiring as a history teacher and as I mentioned before, he once used his ham-handed fist to power a paddle that beat my ass for talking in class. When the Eagles won their last state championship in 2005, I finally forgave Barbay for that. Nonetheless, he was at least more than 35 years ago a mediocre history teacher — back then and my opinion only — but I eventually came to love the subject and generally excel at it. Although, I will admit I was probably a pretty mediocre if not exceptionally lazy student. I was, afterall, voted Laziest in my school.

With all of the former high school animosity out of the way, I have long been a fan of high school football and as well one of my old high school team. The fact that Barbay was able to win 300-some-odd games over 35 years as well as having few seasons without his team in the playoffs speaks to an exceptional coaching ability. But beyond that, it shows someone who can find raw talent and turn little into lots.

As for the Corrigan end of the equation, I lived there for a couple of years. It was where I had my first newspaper job as editor of the town’s little weekly. Now I must state here that even though I don’t plaster my name all over my blog, I have never made it difficult for those whom I do not know to find out just who the hell I am. So, I still am not going put my full name here there and everywhere just to add a little, imagined at least, mystique.

It was interesting editing the weekly and basically doing everything by myself with the exception of the three different secretaries who worked for me during those two years and my wonderful sales rep and friend who helped me leave that paper a lot better than it was.

The town itself gave me an education and insight into small-town America that my own childhood in an equally small town nor a truckload of Sinclair Lewis novels could have hardly afforded.

My feelings upon being the small-town editor that I often related to my friends was of it seeming as if “I was the full-time mayor though not elected.” When I visited the local grocery store, I was on, I was editor. I remember one old man, a fairly well-educated ne’er do well, sitting outside that store who threatened to whip my ass because I laughed about his indignancy over an error in the paper over which he could not cause me to cower.

And football! Man, was that town crazy over football! They also had a very heavy history of football insanity although I thought my hometown had a better record and didn’t seem quite as deranged about it. The school board meetings I covered at their school didn’t draw headlines over test scores, no it was about something related to football. That is with the exception of a national story on a slow news day when they decided to have a closed basketball game with a neighboring school due to threat of violence after a shooting in that nearby town.

I’ve looked at a couple of pre-season polls this afternoon. lists Newton as No. 10 in Texas 2A and Corrigan-Camden at No. 32. “Dave Campbell’s Texas Football” only has 25 slots in their preason poll and lists Newton at No. 10. Of course, “Texas Football” is the premiere football publication in the state, not just according to me and not just because I think Dave Campbell is a very knowledgeable fellow and quite the gentleman. Whatever the polls, it’s a long couple of months. During the last few years, schools down here in the southeastern corner of Texas have had their ups and downs due to unexpected guests named Rita, Humberto and Ike. Hopefully, that kind of action will stay away this year.

Let men, women and children see hopefully the best of their schools and their towns, big and small. It’s time for Friday night lights. And it’s time for some football!

Talk about Favre will likely be football

It seems I write about Brett Favre at least once a year. That is mostly because of his waffling on whether he wants to retire and stay retired or play for some other NFL team.

Brett Favre with the NY Jets -- between the Packers and the Vikings.
Brett Favre with the NY Jets -- between the Packers and the Vikings.

My opinion, and we all know opinions are like a**holes, is that a really great sports star like Favre or a Michael Jordan or Emmett Smith should stay retired once they go out on top. This cuts the risk of their last years of a truly stellar career ending up a stinker. Likewise, I think the waffling appears a little too cute, like it is being manufactured by an agent and for greed. Also, as is in the case of football stars, they stand to get hurt really bad in any game so why push their luck at 39 or 40 years old?

With that said, I still like Favre. He’s a hell of a quarterback. He’s a Mississippi boy. And he was a Golden Eagle from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, one of my favorite colleges I didn’t attend. I did have a great connection with the school though.

While stationed at Gulfport in the Navy I hung out some with my Mississippi cousin Teri who was going to college at Hattiesburg. Being a college town, Hattiesburg had some killer concerts during the mid-1970s. It was there I saw Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Review with Joan Baez, the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn, future mystery novelist and Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman with his band, the Texas Jewboys, as well as others on the tour. I think Teri got me a dorm room to stay in when I saw the original Lynyrd Skynyrd, before the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant and the others. Later, I also watched Jimmy Buffett play at the school he attended where he would sing at the university commons and horrify public school teachers from the rural areas there for continuing ed classes by singing songs like “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw?”

I digress, but I thank cousin Teri — the last I heard she was a nurse in Alaska — for turning me on to Southern Miss and the fact that Favre attended there makes him somewhat okay in my books.

Favre also had quite a back story before the pros. From his bio in Wikipedia — although you’ve got to take it any bio there with a bit of caution — it said Southern Miss was the only school to offer him a scholarship. He was signed as a defensive back but wanted to play quarterback and was something like seventh-string at first. He had quite a bit of his gut removed after a car wreck that almost killed him. But he ended up with a spectacular history at USM and graduated with an education degree before the NFL draft and a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers.

As for the waffling on retirement, that can be looked at differently as well. To paraphrase ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd — or so I believe it was him — the other day, Favre lives in a big house in the middle of nowhere. And after having seen the city lights, he gets bored. If he can still play, then why not?

Favre faces some possible concerns including a rotator cuff issue but, waffling aside and the rumors he wants revenge on Green Bay , at least with Favre all the talk will be about football. This unlike the new Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Vick and his past prison stint for promoting dog fighting, or the Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo and whether he will get back with Jessica Simpson, or the latest melodrama involving Terrell Owens and his new team in Buffalo. With TO, there will definitely be some melodrama over something.

Perhaps Brett Favre’s return to football with the Minnesota Vikings will generate a buzz more centered around football than something way out in the periphery. That is, unless Favre gets abducted by aliens who give him a never-seen-before play that wins the Super Bowl for the Vikings. Then, we have a whole new ball game.

More to Mike Vick story than football

Lately, the local sport talk radio station has been one of my more frequent stops on the FM dial.

It is a good time for sports talk. Football season is on the horizon and major league baseball is winding down with the playoffs in the not-too distant future. Besides, one has little to pick from when it comes to music on FM in the Beaumont-Houston area. And on AM, of course, it’s practically all right-wing radio unless you get in just the right geographical spot and can get the Cajun station out of South Louisiana.

A lot of the radio sports guys have recently spent a lot of air time on the fate of Michael Vick, the one-time Atlanta quarterback who was recently reinstated into the NFL after serving federal prison time for organizing dog fights.

As a story — be it sports or just news — Michael Vick’s is a compelling one given the standard for news stories these days. It is a story tinged with race as well as that of animal cruelty. If gay abortionists were somehow involved in the story you would touch just about every hot-button out there.

The sports talkers are, not to a man, mostly missing the boat when it comes to the fate of Michael Vick. Many of these talk show folks I have heard want Vick back on the field where he belongs (their sentiment). There also seems to be a good-sized element of the African-American community who feel Vick is being, pardon the pun, black-balled from playing football. After all, Vick was one of the top NFL quarterbacks before his trouble with the law began.

I can’t speak for the sports guys and certainly not for blacks. I do believe though that the former are swimming against the tide in a great cultural gulf. Some of the sports talkers can’t understand why, if the NFL commissioner has reinstated Vick, that he has not been automatically snapped up by the league’s teams. Some have even gone so far to say the team executives must be worried about PETA showing up on their 50-yard lines.

But my guess is that the concerns go way beyond PETA. Some of the same folks who abhor animal cruelty show up on Sunday’s in the seats and skyboxes of the NFL’s stadiums. Countless others are chomping down on hot wings and drinking Bud Light at home while the games televised into their living rooms feature young guys knocking the bejesus out of each other. Yet many of these same fans go ballistic when they see abandoned or abused puppies on the evening news.

During my career as a, full-time, journalist I covered double homicides, wrecks killing or maiming handfuls and other miscellaneous mayhem. But never, ever, did I get as many phone calls and e-mails than the next day after a story I did involving stray dogs and cats.

This guy had become a one-man animal rescue and he kept taking in dogs and cats until animals had occupied one house and mostly took over another. I was out at this guy’s house when sheriff’s deputies came to take the animals away because this otherwise Good Samaritan couldn’t properly feed or otherwise care for these strays. It was as sad as it was vile, if you can imagine nothing but dogs and cats everywhere and doing pretty much as they do when not housebroken.

I notice that the local television news reporters lately also jump on animal abuse stories like a duck on a June bug. These stories run at the top of the newscasts, ahead of fatal car wrecks, Saturday-night stabbings and armed robberies. That’s because they know such stories play on the basest of human emotions. That is, at least for those who have the compassion to understand what is taking place.

I won’t dwell on the racial aspect of it because that is something which I personally know little about. However, there is also the “gangsta” element in the dogfighting cult that ticks off people of more than one race. Some people just can’t abide by crack-smoking, drive-by shooting, thugs for some reason.

NFL owners know the tightrope they are walking. Should they give Michael Vick another chance? And then that one little nagging thing: What if he lost some of his umpph while he was in the joint?

I have thought that perhaps Vick deserves a chance at some point in time but only after he has shown sincere remorse for his actions. I thought perhaps his talk in Atlanta to some kids over the weekend might have been a start. Although, some folks see it more as self-serving.

In the end, neither the sports talk guys nor Jesse Jackson nor PETA nor I, will have the say as to whether Vick suits up again for the NFL. Whether that is the case, ultimately, is another story.