Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Poteau Game

Before I relate my remembrances of this game let me first say this is according to the mind of an 80 year old man who at times forgets where he parked his car at Wal Mart, a man who can read the first three chapters of a W.E.B. Griffin novel and only then remember that he has already read this book in the past. With that caveat I will tell some of what I remember of that game. In my first year as the Heavener coach we had done reasonable well the first five games of the season. Not so well in the second half of the season, we had tied one game and lost three, now it was time to play Poteau in the final game of the season. Poteau, hated Poteau; they were the bullies of the county. They strutted around looking down on any little team that dared challenge them.

During the game we gave as good as we got, when the half came we were ahead with every expectation of winning the game. We had settled into our half time activities when a knock came on the dressing room door. It was one of the game officials, he said there was a penalty called on the last play of the half and we had to come back out onto the field and give Poteau one more play after they penalized Heavener. “If there was a penalty why did you not tell us while we were still on the field,” I asked.

“Coach you need to get your team on the field now.”

“What was the penalty?” He didn’t answer that question, but he did say, “If you aren’t on the field in two minutes you will forfeit to Poteau.”

We got out onto the field and the chain and down box were gone; the referee said the ball was about here. He then marched off fifteen yards and Poteau was given a down from there. They scored a touchdown. A dejected Heavener team found their way back into the dressing room, all too soon the halftime was over and we were lining up to receive the second half kickoff. Heavener’s backs and ends moved up closer than usual because the Poteau kicker was going to kick into a fierce wind. The kicker got his foot under the ball and virtually kicked it straight up, the ball blew back and a Poteau player gained possession of the ball. After a short conference the official placed the ball on the forty five yard line and signaled first and ten Poteau.

I called time out and asked permission to speak to the referee. I told him, “It should be first and ten Heavener at the spot you have marked.”

“They recovered the kick, so it is first and ten Poteau,” he said.

“If you will look at the ball you can clearly see that you only spotted it five yards from where it was kicked, it is Heavener’s ball first and ten.”

“One of our officials was on the fifty and he saw the ball cross the fifty before the wind blew it back to where it was recovered,” the referee stated. “Poteau’s ball first and ten.”

“I’ve read the rule book too. They did not kick the ball ten yards, it is Heavener’s ball first and ten.”

“Coach, if you are not off the field immediately, I will forfeit the game to Poteau.”

Just after the first half ended I was threatened with forfeiture if I did not get on the field in two minutes, just after the second half started I was threatened with forfeiture if I did not get off the field immediately.

We did not play as well the second half as we had the first, Poteau won by a large margin. Perhaps the thing that galled me the most was with time running out in the fourth quarter Poteau called time out to stop the clock and kick a field goal to pad the already lopsided score. I thought that if I was half the coach I thought I was, our day would come!


Since I wrote a blog yesterday on ‘10’, I thought today I would blog about my favorite number – 7. Coincidentally, it was Mickey Mantle’s number, and, yes, that’s the reason why it is my favorite number. Mickey Mantle was my hero and getting to meet him was a thrilling moment for me, on more than one occasion, I might add. The first time ever was when he was in Longview for a promotion at a local insurance company in town. I went out, interview him and had my photo taken with Mickey. I have it on my Yankee wall in our office, along with my other Yankee collectibles. I later got Mickey to sign a photo for my dad, which I also have on the wall. “To Floyd, Best Wishes. Signed, Mickey Mantle.” Dad was proud of that photo. He had it proudly displayed in his living room.

On the same wall, I have a little league picture of my grandson, Garrett, wearing his Yankee uniform from last season, his first to play baseball and he was chosen for a team called the Yankees. It is in a small metal Yankee frame. That was a big thrill for me, too, to have a photo of Garrett in a Yankee uniform. Also on the wall is a framed photo of a restaurant Cynthia and I went to in Oklahoma City , Mickey Mantle’s Steakhouse. It is a double frame with Mickey’s career statistics on one side. Plus, there is a photo of Mickey, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, sitting on the dugout steps at Yankee Stadium, as well as a framed Life magazine cover with Mickey from 1956 given to me by my step- daughter and her husband, Tammi and Kenny Carson. All the photos surround a framed column I wrote as a tribute to dad, on Father’s Day, 1995.

And that doesn’t even include a couple of Yankee pennants and an Upper Deck set of Yankees trading cards. It’s quite a wall, or as I call it my “Wall of Fame.” I got to interview Mantle some years later at a Longview golf course, and another time during a fund-raising golf tournament in Longview .

How about the name, Seven? There was one episode of Seinfeld, which I thought was hilariously funny, when George Costanza was trying to help a couple pick a name for their child when it was born. If it was going to be a boy, George had an idea, “How about Seven, it was Mickey Mantle’s number!” The couple thought the name was ridiculous. I knew one high school player with the name Seven. The first time it was called in to the newspaper one baseball season, I took the call and assumed it was spelled wrong. I figured it was Steven. I discovered later, his name was Seven Armstrong. Maybe his parents named him because they, too, were big fans of Mickey Mantle. To see more on Mickey, go to http://www.mickeymantle.com/.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Bo Derek made the movie ‘10’ in 1979 and while it was pretty good, 10 has another reason that means more to me personally. I penned a blog about Cynthia’s retirement some 10 weeks ago, writing that she had 20 weeks left before the magical day. Now, it’s down to 10. Nobody is happier about it than me, except maybe Cynthia. We can both see light at the end of the tunnel. Ten weeks ago, I wrote, “But, who’s counting?”

So, the countdown is officially on. 10, 9, 8 … using old NY Yankee uniform numbers to make a point of reference: 10 (Tony Kubek’s number which should-be-retired, as far as I’m concerned), 9 (Roger Maris’ retired number), 8 (Yogi Berra’s retired number), 7 (Mickey Mantle’s retired number, 6 (Joe Torre’s soon-to-be-retired-number-as-soon-as-the-Steinbrenner’s do-what’s-right), 5 (Joe DiMaggio’s retired number), 4 (Lou Gehrig’s retired number), 3 (Babe Ruth’s retired number) 2 (Derek Jeter’s number-to-be-retired-number-when-his-playing-days-are-over) and 1 (Bobby Richardson’s old number and Billy Martin’s retired number). Cynthia’s last day is June 5 and we plan to begin celebrating a week earlier by going to The Ballpark in Arlington with our friends Jim and Gwen Patterson to see the Yankees-Rangers play on Memorial Day. We already have the tickets, or, at least, Jim does, but we have plans to meet for brunch with the Pattersons at Cracker Barrel and go to the game. We will be rooting for the Yankees (got that Jim?), even though the Pattersons will be rooting for the other team.

Jim and Gwen are among our closest friends, because we both celebrate the same wedding anniversary (Dec. 14). They attended our wedding, but at the time, we didn’t know it was also their anniversary. Jim has long been a friend of mine since 1963, back to our days at Heavener High School . We had lots of friends there from Heavener, along with many of my friends from Longview , as well as an auditorium-full of Cynthia’s friends from Tyler and our church. Not long ago, Bro. Benny introduced a couple in church that had just been married the day before. He said, “How many can say they got married and went to church the very next day?” Cynthia and I were the only ones to raise our hands. Bro. Benny said, rather sheepishly “Oh, yeah, I remember that.”

BTW, today is my daughter Karen’s birthday. Happy Birthday, sweetheart. (I just wanted to throw that in for good measure.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Best at the Best

Never having been one to run from controversy, I thought I'd try to name the All Time Best ball players I remember watching play football at HHS. The Big 12 recently stirred up some controversy by naming 10 girls to the All Big 12 Girls Basketball Team. Likewise, I have not limited my choices to just eleven guys. Many greats played before my time and some afterward too, but I have only listed ones I have watched and surely should have recalled some others but here's my list and I challenge you readers to add to the list.
Hal Dowden
Frankie Sykes
John Council

Running Backs
Jim Davis
Jerry Johnston
Don Cron
Don Lewis
Micky Wynn
Mike and Garlena Vickers son whose name I can't think of right now.

Homer Jones
John Tatum (I know he was a back also)
John Titsworth
Larry Wisdom
Bob Babcock
Don Wheat
Glen Lazalier

Don Frost
Jim Scrivner
Ray Gaskin
Jerry West

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Rest of the Story

In a recent comment to one of Mr. Inman's stories, I wrote about a kick that I made in a 1961 football game. Turns out my memory was a little faulty when I reported that we were ahead 58 to 22 when Coach sent me in try a kick for the extra point. While digging around for something else today I ran accross an old clipping from the Tulsa World which indicates the score was actually 58 to 0 and my kick made it 59 to 0, so the game was really "out of reach" when Coach decided it was safe to try for 1 point instead of 2. The scoring rout was not the only indication that the game was out of hand; the record of yards gained indicates that the Wolves had already accumulated over 600 yards compared to Hugo's less than 100. There was no story included with the clipping; just an accounting of the scoring and yardage but it appears that Hugo made all of their points and most of their offense after Coach Collins cleared the bench toward the end of the game. The clipping shows Heavener scored as follows:
Jim Gore Scored the first touchdown on a 4 yard run.
Buddy Westmoreland ran the extra point in. Heavener 8----Hugo 0
Ray Gaskin made a 42 yard run to score the second TD.
John Newcommer ran the extra point in. Heavener 16---Hugo 0
John Council scored on a 3 yard run for the 3 rd TD.
Jim Gore ran in the extra point. Heavener 24---Hugo 0
Micky Wynn ran 17 yards for the forth TD.
A try at a run for the extra point failed Heavener 30---Hugo 0
Ray Gaskin bolted 66 yards for TD #5.
Bing Lile caught a pass from Council for the extra point Heavener 38---Hugo 0
Micky Wynn took Council's pass and went 45 yards for # 6
Ali Mirgambari ran the extra point in. Heavener 46---Hugo 0
Newcomer ran 2 yards for the 7th TD of the night.
The running play for the extra point was no good. Heavener 52 --- Hugo 0
Newcomer then dashed 54 yards to score our final TD.
And some kid named Bud Kelley kicked the extra point Heavener 59---Hugo 0
Hugo then finished up the game scoring their 22 points Heavener 59---Hugo 22

After I get my taxes figgered up (man I hate taxes)
I'll see if I have any more old clippings laying around. colin (bud kelley)

Move to Tulsa

Wanting to move from Grand Lake to Tulsa we put our home up for sale by a broker from Tulsa who extensively used the internet to show his listings. The first people who came to see our home wanted to buy it and made an offer within twenty four hours. After a bit of negotiations we accepted the offer and began looking for a place in Tulsa to be our future home. We found a house that was not being lived in at the time and placed on offer to buy contingent upon the successful completion of the sale pending on our home. Our broker told us that our purchasers wanted possession on closing, and that the closing was in two weeks
We went to the owner of our property in Tulsa and asked if we could begin moving in our possessions before our closing on the Tulsa property, that closing was going to be later on the same day as we closed on the lake house. He said yes.
This gave us two weeks to move, I told Betty that I would make the move myself and save the five or six thousand that a mover would charge. I had an old Ford Passenger van with all but the front seats removed. That was some huge cargo area that had once been a passenger van. It was rated a full ton, and had truck tires. It was plenty capable of moving everything we had. One thing the buyers made a part of the contract was that they got our washer, dryer, and refrigerator which greatly simplified the move.
We took the first load that afternoon, furniture that would not be needed at the lake. After getting the stuff situated in our almost new home we went on a search for boxes, bought some from Wal Mart, and found a huge pile of empty liquor boxes stacked behind a Tulsa liquor store. Betty began packing boxes as soon as we got home, and I stacked then in the van. When the van was loaded the next morning I left for Tulsa and Betty stayed home and packed boxes. It soon became apparent that we needed more boxes. A friend who worked at Hobby Lobby said he could get us all the boxes we needed, and he did. We filled up the van with flattened cardboard boxes from which Hobby Lobby had received merchandise.
Every morning after breakfast I would begin loading boxes, furniture, and other of our possessions into the van, when it was full, usually early in the afternoon I would take off for Tulsa to what I hopefully thought would be our new home. There was no reason to think that either sale would fall through, but you never knew.
Betty would usually stay home and continue boxing up our stuff, a trip a day would require a lot of boxing. We were in such a hurry to get everything that we had boxed up whatever we had, no decisions were made as to what we could do without, and so we just moved everything. It cost about $45.00 a day in gas to make the round trip to Tulsa and back to the lake. Spending all that money on gas, and doing all the work ourselves it began to get tiresome to both of us; but then we would console each other that we were saving thousands of dollars. That worked for a while, but toward the end we both wished we had just paid someone to make the move for us.
The last day finally arrived, we were going to fill both cars and then go to my brothers house, he lived nearby, spend the night with him then get up bright eyed and go to the closing on the lake house; then drive to Tulsa and close on the house we were purchasing. A perfect plan, but as Robert Burns the Scottish poet wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley.” Ours went agley rather rapidly, Betty came down with a virus, she was really sick. I took her to my brother’s house, and went back to our house to get the rest of our stuff loaded. This time I loaded both cars, but could not get everything loaded, not enough room.
We had to get all of our stuff out of the house before the closing in the morning. The new owners were going to do a walk around inspection just before the closing, so everything had to be out. I drove the van to Tulsa and unloaded it in the dark, then headed back to finish. Getting back about twelve at night I loaded the last of our things in the van, then began going from room to room to make sure nothing was missed. When nothing was found I began cleaning the house from room to room. When that was over all the cleaning implements and tools were gathered up and loaded them into the car and van. It was morning. Driving over to my brother’s house I remember thinking that this move was almost over. Betty was feeling much better, so we drove over to our house to wait for the walk through inspection. She easily found what I had not cleaned up to her standards and began finishing that job for me.
The walk through inspection and closing went through without a hitch; we drove to Tulsa for our second closing of the day. It too went faultlessly. We drove to our new home and let ourselves in, furniture was placed haphazardly just as I left it, and boxes were piled up in every room. We had to have the kitchen redone and buy a new stove, microwave oven, refrigerator, sink, disposal, counter top, floor, and a washer and dryer. We had successfully moved out of one home, but are still in the process of moving into a new one a year later.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


My dad used to love all the television ads with Yogi Berra in them, whether it be the AFLAC duck commercials or just plain ole’ Yogi. It didn’t really matter. Dad always laughed at whatever Yogi had to say. Truth of the matter is, Yogi in his day was quite a ballplayer, too. An all-star catcher for the New York Yankees, Yogi made an impact on the game. I’ve read several books written by Yogi and although I never got to see him play, he must have been really good.

Here are some of the funniest things Yogi had to say: “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious,” he used to say describing a switch-hitter. Being a catcher, Yogi did a great job handling Yankee pitchers, but he could never figure out Sandy Koufax, in a manner of speaking, the year Koufax finished 25-5. “I can see how he won twenty-five games. What I don’t understand is how he lost five.” Somehow George Steinbrenner and Yogi got cross-ways and Yogi didn’t attend Yankee games for a while. But what he had to say after ‘Yogi Berra Night’ at Yankee Stadium was a classic. “I’m a lucky guy and I’m happy to have played for the Yankees. And I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.” When Major League Baseball had a strike several years ago, Yogi had a comment, “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?” Yogi had some tough years, but not many. “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and it keeps up. I change bats. After all, if I know it wasn’t my fault, how can I get mad at myself?” Or, “In baseball, you don’t know anything” One comment came concerning a seemingly unbreakable record. “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.”

Yogi never had a hard time hitting, though, because he tried not to think about it. “How can you hit and think at the same time?” When he moved from catcher and played the outfield later in his career, “It gets late early out there.” He always paid attention, though. “You can observe a lot by watching.” And he always went to a player’s or a friend’s funeral. “You should always go to funerals; otherwise, they won’t come to yours.” Or he had a word of advice for everyone. “You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you are going because you might not get there.” Yogi, however, seemed to make himself at home when the Yankees had to travel out of town for a game. “The towels were so thick there, I couldn’t hardly close my suitcase.” One time, he missed the Yankees train and his explanation for manager Casey Stengel was, “I knew I going to take the wrong train, so I left early.” When the Yankees went out to eat after one game, Yogi said, “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” And he didn’t make excuses for not hitting. “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.

And some of the favorites we’ll always remember and probably use at one time or other:

Baseball is 90 % mental, the other half is physical.

*When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

*This game’s not over until it’s over.

*I never said most of the things I said.

*This is like deja vu all over again.

*A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The toe

The big toe is just plain funny when you think about it. Whoever came up with the name toe when they were describing a metatarsal? But, now-a-days there is such a thing as “turf toe” when talking about an injured toe on a college or professional athlete. Running backs and middle infielders often get turf toe. It’s actually a sprained toe, caused by a running back when he makes a quick cut, or a shortstop/second baseman when he tries to pivot on said toe when making a double pay toss.

I started out as a running back way back when, but I guess I didn’t have the proper cuts, because I quickly faded into oblivion. I was, however, a great running back in my back yard and could make all kinds of cuts. During high school football in 1963 at Heavener, Joe Babcock was our kickoff specialist. One game Joe approached the ball to kick off but stumbled and almost missed the ball, instead dribbling it harmlessly to one side. Thus, his nickname became “Joe the toe.” Earlier, during the 1961 state-playoffs, I think, Colin Kelley kicked what is believed to be the first extra point attempt (PAT) ever tried at Heavener (help me out here, Colin). Colin was a conventional-style kicker, in other words, he kicked it from straight-on. The kick was good, too. It came against Hugo Washington in a 58-22 romp. If Colin wasn’t the first, he had maybe the best percentage ever, 1-1, or 100%. So many players now days, kick soccer-style, on the side of the foot. So, toes are good for something.

Note: Heavener had scored to make it 58-22 to go in front comfortably and some of the Wolves players talked coach Collins into trying a “giffle.” That was the term Carl Lazalier used in his weekly Ledger write-ups. Collins conceded and Kelly proved to be accurate.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Since You Mentioned Free Food...

Let me tell you a short story about my experience with "free food".

A few years back, while I was still working at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, I experienced a day in the life of show business.

One of the many duties that my office was responsible for at the time was coordinating media requests. During the last three years of my career, I had the opportunity to work with several film companies who used our facilities to film documentaries pertaining to air traffic control and/or aircraft operations and accidents. Companies desiring to use our facilities had to be approved by FAA Headquarters first, so by the time they came to me, it was just a matter of my making sure they followed our rules.

Most of the time, the coordination wasn't too big a deal. We would only allow access to our facilities in areas that would not impact air traffic control operations. Since DFW had three control towers, along with the radar approach control facility, it wasn't too difficult to provide limited areas for the producers to set up their equipment. We didn't allow video or voice recordings of the controllers while they were working, so my office would provide them with an area where no actual controlling was being done.

Of the three control towers, we only used two at a time for controlling airport traffic, so there was always one available for extracurricular activies such as tours and the occasional filming.

The films made at DFW while I was there were small, but interesting, documentaries that you might have seen on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, or The Weather Channel. Normally the "crew" consisted of only one or two camera-men, a sound engineer, a lighting technician, the director, an occasional 'actor' (or on-camera speaker), and a couple of guys (or gals) to help tote all the cables and equipment that might be used.

However, the experience I wanted to detail here involved the company that produced the TV series "Walker: Texas Ranger". After having worked with the small groups mentioned earlier, I was quite shocked to see what showed up on the morning that we scheduled our facilities for this TV show.

As it was explained to me during our pre-filming meeting, the scenes that were to be filmed at DFW would require one full day of work (12 hours, as it turned out). All of the scenes would be filmed in our oldest tower...the Center Tower, which was not being used for air traffic controlling on the day of filming.

The director assured me that his people would not touch any of our equipment without coordination with our personnel. His plan would be to add a couple of plexiglass see-through "screens" that his actors could have as a back-ground. He planned to use some of our off-duty controllers (volunteers who wanted to be "actors-for-a-day"), who would be wearing their headsets, talking to each other, and pointing out the windows behind the screens, but visible to the camera. The tower was supposed to be an "emergency operation area" in the film. It seems that the star of the series, Walker, had been kidnapped and while being moved across the country, his small plane crashed...somewhere. The scene to be filmed in our tower involved his co-star 'working' with the search-and-rescue people attempting to find him.

The entire scene would take up less than 5 minutes of the finished show, but it would take all day to film. Unbelievable!

As our pre-filming meeting ended, the director asked if his crew would be able to set up a tent across the street from the tower. At that time, there was an adequate area available...and it was coordinated with the Airport Authority.

On the day of our scheduled filming, I arrived at the Tower around 6:30 a.m. As busy as DFW Airport normally is, at 6:30 in the morning, it's usually reasonably quiet. As I exited my car, however, I heard a new sound. It was the sound of diesel generators going across the street from the control tower. There were at least 3 or 4 trailers lined up in the area where the sound was coming from. There were temporary lights illuminating the area. There was a tent set up large enough to accomodate a dozen 6-foot-long dining tables, each surrounded by folding chairs.

One of the trailers turned out to be a movable kitchen which contained three cooks and two order takers who were stationed at a 'window/counter' facing the dining tent. They were taking breakfast orders from all of the crew and actors that had showed up for the day. It was a full-service kitchen, offering all the pancakes, eggs, grits, ham, bacon, biscuits, gravy, etc, that one might want for breakfast. A beverage area was set up in the dining tent where you could help yourself to milk, orange juice, coffee, water, or tea (hot and cold). It was all-you-can-eat (and drink)....FREE!

By the time everyone had finished breakfast and headed for their positions in the tower cab, it was around 8:00 a.m. For the first four hours, we mostly just sat and watched as the technicians readied their cables, monitors, cameras, and other equipment. The towers are comfortable working areas for the 10 or 12 controllers that normally cover a shift of air traffic control in them, but for all of the technicians, actors, crew, and off-duty controllers that were there that day, it was crowded.

While all of this preparation was going on, there was a steady flow of free food being brought up from the ground floors. There was fresh fruit, pastries, soft-drinks, coffee, water, and candy continuously. When the last banana was taken from the table, another bunch suddenly appeared. It continued like that all day.

We did have a lunch break around 12:30. The lunch break took everyone back to the dining area across the street for more free food. This time it was grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, cold-cut sandwiches, french fries, chips, pickles, more fruit, and drinks...all-you-can-eat.

It was an interesting experience. Even though there was a lot of sitting around and waiting, I would do it again just for the food.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The best way to a sports writer's heart...

Most sportswriters are underpaid but over fed! Lotsa free food. Everywhere sportswriters go, whether it’s a high school football game, a high school track meet and/or especially a pro sporting event such as the Dallas Cowboys or an NBA game, there always seems to be something to eat, mostly buffet-style. That means all-you-can-eat.

Take Craig and me for instance. We were both underpaid, or believed we were, that’s one reason we changed jobs, but we also were both over eaters. Not so much now. The first time I met Craig was at a Cowboys game and he can attest that the Cowboys always had plenty to eat in the press box. When Clint Murchison and Tex Schramm ran the show, the press box food was delicious, more so than when Jerry Jones took the reins. BBQ all the time, soft drinks whenever you wanted them. Mercy! One time I took dad to a Cowboys game and I told him all the food and drinks were free, so it was okay for him to help himself. He was a little uncomfortable with it, and asked me if it was always like that. It was pretty much the same with high school games, although on a smaller scale. Think high schools don’t know the way to a sports writers’ heart? It’s through his stomach!

I went to several NBA games in Dallas and it was pretty much the same way with the Mavericks, too. And the Texas Rangers baseball games. Plenty of food to scarf down. And at every high school track meet I covered, there was usually a spread for you would die. Craig wised up and got out of sports writing and into banking business. Me, I changed jobs not so much because of the work, but I got into PR work with a college, and one thing I always had to do was make sure there was something to eat, or something for snacks, when we wanted something covered. Kinda like, “If you feed them they will come.”

Friday, March 6, 2009

Shout out to my homies

Hey, y'all! Well, ain't this something? I decided to sign up for Facebook about a month back because I was bored at work, surfing the net, and read a blurb about how "everyone who is anyone is on Facebook now." Hmmm....I wasn't, so everybody couldn't be...perhaps I should check this thing out. That very evening I created my account.

"Hey, hey, Darla Kaye!" I found this message in my mailbox within the first day or two, so I KNEW someone from Heavener had sent it. Nobody else knows my middle name, but I reckon everyone that grew up in Heavener in my day knows it. Well, it was none other than Laura Ray, a girlfriend from school days who up and married a guy from Turkey and moved to the other side of the world ages ago and lives there to this day! Next up was Nancy Bateman, then Joe David Johnson, then Beverly and Bud Turman. Next I get a message from John and Cynthia Inman. I have had more fun chatting about old times with these folks. Who knew? Facebook is A-OK in my book! Now I'm signed up to write these blogs. As I understand it a blog is pretty much a place to ramble about this or that. Since Fred Addison was a distance cousin of mine, and y'all probably know that ol' Fred could ramble about as good as anyone, since he's gone I'm thinking maybe I can carry on where ol' Fred left off.

Without T.O. maybe things will look up

The last time I sent anything on the Cowboys about acquiring ‘T.O.’ was three years ago, and then I sent it to Craig to put on HOL (Heavener On Line). That was when the Dallas Cowboys first acquired Terrell Owens. It concerned T.O. being a ‘cancer’ and Bob Collins , a former football coach, agreed with me. In a poll on Fox sports.com recently, 78% of the fans that voted agreed., too.

Well, T.O. is no more. Jerry Jones finally came to his senses, and released the receiver with the huge ego problem. To me, T.O. has been Jerry Jones’ problem all along -- ego. Jerry’s ego, that is. Jones for some reason has to have all these guys on the team that are trouble-makers but still headline-makers. Owens, Tank Johnson, Pacman Jones, etc. They’ve all been in and out of trouble with the law more times than anyone can count. It just took Jones a while to figure that out. I’m not saying all those guys aren’t talented. T.O. certainly has been in his NFL career, but he’s worn his welcome out with the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles and now the Cowboys. Maybe Tony Romo can blossom with T.O. not around moreso than he could with him. Jason Whitten, Roy Williams, promising Miles Austin and the others can carry the load. And there are some talented receivers out there such as Torry Holt, just to name one, that could be scooped up for the right price Seems Jerry has no problem with money, or he wouldn’t have spent the money to give it to guys like Owens and some of the others he’s signed

Without Owens, Tank, who wasn't re-signed, and Pacman in the locker room and on the field, there’s bound to be more harmony and less trouble. Roy Williams, the safety and former OU star, is also gone. He and Owens were released. That Williams was reasesed be wrong, but the move of T.O. sure wasn’t.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The '22' story

There are a few hilarious moments from the newsroom that I can recall. One, at the Longview News-Journal, stands out. One of my sportswriters, Olin Buchanan, who was an energetic and ambitious young man, was attempting to get in touch with a football player from Gladewater High School who had moved on to the University of Tulsa. Olin, you have to understand, was good at impersonations, too, and very funny himself. Anyway, Olin wasn’t having much luck getting in touch with Michael Gunter thorough the SID at Tulsa , so as a last resort, he called Michael Gunter’s mother in Gladewater. I was sitting at the desk near Olin and suddenly he hung up the phone and just started cackling. Laughing hysterically, I tell you.

I said, “What on earth is so funny?” In between catching his breath from laughing, he did his best impersonation as he explained. He had told Michael’s mother who he was and that he was trying to get in touch with her son to do a feature story. Did she know his number? She said, “Yeah, sir, I knows his number. It be 22!” The 22, of course, was his jersey number at Tulsa . Now I said Olin was am ambitious young man. I trained him well! That’s why he went on to work for the Bryan Eagle, the Austin American-Statesman and today works for Rivals.com. I bet he’s told that little story over and over, everywhere he’s been.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mecca for RBs

Have I mentioned I started my newspaper career in Kilgore, Longview and east Texas , which is a virtual mecca for football and running backs? Earl Campbell, Billy Sims, David Overstreet played in consecutive years --1973, 1974 and 1975 -- and the list goes on and on. Yep, they all got their starts right here in east Texas . I’ve been fortunate to meet those three, along with numerous others.
Earl (pictured above) starred at John Tyler High School and made his debut against Longview in 1971 as a linebacker, not as a running back, before going on to the University of Texas and winning the Heisman Trophy. He, of course, followed that by being the No.1 draft choice in the NFL and went on to an all-pro career in Houston and finally retired as a member of the New Orleans Saints. I remember seeing film of him against Longview when he was a linebacker.
He was inserted late into the game when he was a sophomore and made a crucial unassisted tackle of Mike Mock, who later went on the New York Jets as a linebacker himself. I met Campbell for the first time when he was with the Longhorns playing against OU. Sims was a standout at Hooks, where he rushed for over 100 yards in 39 straight games, before he went to Oklahoma , where he also won a Heisman and later the Detroit Lions. I got to meet and interview him at the Texas high school all-star game before he ever went to play for the Sooners.
Overstreet played at Big Sandy with current Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, and I watched them play for three years together. Overstreet and I became friends and, in fact, he called me to help him get together some of his high school teammates for a reunion the same year he died in a tragic car accident when he was playing for the Miami Dolphins. Overstreet rushed for an amazing 3,030 yards and scored 52 touchdowns, more than the majority of the teams in east Texas that season. His feats were unbelievable to me. I saw his high school team score a then national high school record 824 points (it was later broken by a team from California in the early ’90s) and gave up only 15. I also got to cover Daingerfield High School en route to a state championship in 1983 when it allowed only eight points in a 16-game season. I got a first-hand look at Adrian Peterson when his high school team, Palestine , played in the first round of the state playoffs against Hallsville.
East Texas has always had top-notch running backs, regardless of classification. Now, the small town of Cayuga has a 6-2, 210-pound RB by the name of Traylon Shead, who rushed for over 3,500 yards and scored 52 times last season as a junior. It’s a Class A school, but just recently he verbally committed to Texas , even though he is still a junior. Like Overstreet, it’s been proven that a small-school back can make it big, too. So, the tradition continues.

Monday, March 2, 2009

OK, that's fine with me

Making the move from the Kilgore News-Herald to the Longview News-Journal was a real no-brainer to me. I mentioned at the end of my last blog I had an idea for another blog. Kilgore was only 12 miles from Longview and the Longview paper covered Kilgore extensively, so I was still able to live in Kilgore for a while, and I had developed a good deal of “sources” in my short time at the newspaper in Kilgore. So, I figured it would be a good move in my career to make the switch, although I had only been there for a few months. The circulation was much larger in Longview and I would be able to get away from the general manger I didn’t really care for, Mr. Jones. I had already gotten an interview in Longview and had been offered the job. I had covered a basketball game on Tuesday night and, because I liked to write my stories as quickly after the games were over -- mainly so I wouldn’t forget a key play or something that had happened – I was in the Kilgore office afterwards, even though the paper wouldn’t be published until the next afternoon.

Well, the telephone rang and, naturally, I answered. Nobody else was around and the lady on the other end had called to complain about a news story, I believe. She wasn’t about to listen to my explanation, either. She was extremely upset and wanted something done immediately, if not sooner, she said. I tried to explain I was in that night just to work on a story of a sporting event I had covered, but that wasn’t what she wanted to hear. Apparently she just wanted to complain to someone and didn’t really care that I wasn’t interested. After several minutes of explaining myself, she huffed and said, “I’m guess I’m going to have to start taking the Longview paper …”, like she expected her remark to shake me up.” I calmly said, “Okay, that’s fine with me, I’ll be working at that paper beginning next week.” She had nothing else to say and quickly hung up.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A retraction

Chuck asked an interesting question concerning my last blog “Case of the phantom death” and I said I would tell him about a retraction I had to print while I was sports editor at the Kilgore News-Herald the next time I saw him. Well, I thought why not make it my next blog instead? I won’t have to wait until I see him again to relate my experiences. After all, I can laugh about it now. Maybe you can, too.

In 1973, I had to cover a game versus Big Sandy and Leverett’s Chapel, a pair of at the time Class B schools. Leverett’s Chapel was within our coverage area although Big Sandy wasn’t. Still, I did an advance of the game, covered it on a Thursday night and had the game story on Friday afternoon. The game was on a Thursday night, so the Big Sandy coaches could scout their next opponent on Friday night. Big Sandy was in the midst of winning three consecutive state championships and was a heavy favorite over Leverett’s Chapel. Big Sandy had David Overstreet, who later was recruited by Oklahoma . Overstreet returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and by halftime it was 35-0. The finale was something like 72-0. So, I interviewed the coach at Levertett’s Chapel, Dan Chadwick, afterwards and he said Big Sandy has a “helluva team.” I swear to this day that’s what he said. That game story came out Friday afternoon.

Well, come Monday morning my general manager J.P. Jones came over to my desk in the corner of the newsroom and said, and I can still hear it, “John, Dan Chadwick got up in church yesterday morning and said you had misquoted him. Did you?” I really didn’t know what to say. Mr. Jones said I should print a retraction in the next issue, Monday afternoon. Kilgore was a very small afternoon daily and didn’t have a Saturday issue. I called Coach Chadwick and asked him about the quote. To save face in church, or whatever, he said, “No, I didn’t curse and you should not have said I did.” Mr. Jones insisted I print a retraction. So, I did, with his quote that I was wrong and what he actually said was, “Big Sandy has a heck of a team …”

Coach Chadwick and I run into each other from time to time and we still have a little chuckle over it. Whether he or I was correct is neither hear nor there, but I knew what he had said and I couldn’t stay at the Kilgore News-Herald after that. I moved to the Longview New-Journal shortly thereafter, which, incidentally, reminds me of another blog idea which I will share with you in my next blog.