Monday, September 27, 2010

OU-Texas time

Well, it’s that time of the year again. The week that was, or is, in this case, down here in this part of East Texas. Oklahoma versus Texas. The Sooners versus the Longhorns. The Sooners are unbeaten in four games and the ’Horns are 3-1, after last week’s drubbing by UCLA. A lot is at stake, mainly bragging rights, for myself and a few hundred others. Most people in this part of the country refer to the annual Red River shootout as Texas-Oklahoma week, but I, being a big Sooners fan, refuse to see it that way. When I make reference to this weekend, it’s always OU-Texas! And since I’m retired from the sports writing business, I no longer have to be unbiased.

I naturally pick OU. I predict it will be by as many as 10 points. Say, 30-20. I’ve also asked many of my friends, some with Oklahoma ties and some with Texas ties. Here’s what they had to say.

Olin Buchanan, who writes for, a former writer as well at the Austin-American Statesman, and somebody that should know: “Oh boy … this is going to be just like 1983 … I think Oklahoma is very good, but I don’t know if the Sooners as the national championship contender some say they are. My questions are mainly about the interior defensive line and the cornerbacks. I do think Ryan Broyles may be the most explosive player in the country and the OL will be better (how can it not be). I think Landry Jones is a good college QB, but I have my doubts how much better he’s going to get. I wonder in Blake Beall won’t be the starter next year. They are good enough to win the Big 12 (my pick is Nebraska) and if the defense shows me it can play consistently well (like against Florida State) then I’ll buy them as a national championship contender. If right now I had to put my hard-earned money on the Texas-OU game (remember, which side of the river I’m from) I would put it on OU. Texas hasn’t shown me anything offensively to make me think it could win the Big 12. The running game isn’t that great, they’ve had injuries in the OL and Gilbert hasn’t been asked to throw too much. I think the defense is better than OU’s. I’m going to Lubbock Saturday to see that game, so it will be interesting to see if they reveal more in a conference game. But right now, I’d take OU by a touchdown.” He used to write for me in Longview, too. That’s one for Oklahoma.

George Whitley, a huge, huge Longhorns fan, and a former writer for me in Longview, offered this opinion: “Well, if Texas plays as poor as it did Saturday against UCLA, I don't think OU will have much trouble. That being said, I think the Horns will improve from their Saturday fiasco. I'm not overly impressed with the Sooners through four games, either. I say Oklahoma by a 24-14 count. Texas is just not that strong on the offensive front and it looks as if its run defense has a lot of question marks. I just hope Texas is close in the 4th and has a chance in the end.” That’s two for Oklahoma.

Steve Mattison, an OU fan for many years, although he switched to Texas for a short period, before coming back to his senses, said: “If Landry Jones brings his A game and the secondary can cover their unheralded receivers, then I see OU by at least a touchdown --maybe more. Of course, we (meaning OU) haven't been good at stopping the run, but UT can't run it (the ball), so that levels that out. Our real threat lies in the secondary. Gilbert has a cannon and we (meaning OU, again) don't want this to be his ‘coming out’ party. Sooners 31, Texas 17.” That’s three in favor of Oklahoma.

Jim Patterson, also an Oklahoma fan for many years, but lives in Arlington, had this to say: “I really have no idea. After Texas’ loss, I would think OU has the edge, but then again the Sooners haven't really looked overpowering the last two games. I'd say it's a tossup and whoever capitalizes on the other team's mistake late in the fourth quarter, wins.” I guess that would be a tie, or whomever has the best fourth quarter.” We’ll call that one a ‘waffle’.

That makes it four for Oklahoma’s side and one “waffle”. OK, now you don’t have to tune in at 2:30 Saturday afternoon. You already know the outcome! Sort of …

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Scorekeeping ain’t so easy

There we were, two old friends from the Heavener High School class of 1965, both ex-sports writers and sports information directors, as well as official baseball scorers, at one time, yet we were rooting for opposite teams, sort of. He for the Texas Rangers, me for the New York Yankees, who just might wind up playing each other when the MLB playoffs start next month. Never mind, the Rangers won with a three-game sweep over the weekend, the first time the Yankees have been swept all season and the first time the Rangers have done it in Arlington for the first time in 14 years.

Yes, it would be safe to say we’ve both come a long way since our days at Heavener, when we both played a little baseball. Jim Patterson is a Rangers baseball fan, I am a Yankees baseball fan. Our worlds crossed paths at The Ballpark in Arlington recently. Jim left Heavener in ’65, went on to graduate college at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah and become a sports writer in Ft. Smith before returning to Northeastern as the sports information director (SID). He later moved on to the University of Texas-Arlington as the SID. I left Heavener in ’65 also, went to Northeastern, then entered into the U.S. Air Force before going back to Northeastern and graduating. While there the second time, Jim got me interested in journalism and I became sports editor of the school’s campus newspaper, The Northeastern, and essentially worked for Jim. After graduation, I went into newspaper work myself in Texas. We continued to keep in touch through all the years.

Jim eventually got out of the SID work and moved to the publishing business in Ft. Worth, then back to UTA as director of publications. Along the way, he served as official scorer for the Rangers for a couple years. I eventually moved into the SID business at LeTourneau University in Longview, TX, but had a brief stint as official scorer for the Tyler Roughnecks, an independent baseball team. Neither of those side jobs was as easy as just keeping score.

“I was the scorer the night that Kenny Rogers pitched his perfect game in late July. It was very nerve-racking toward the end of the game, but fortunately I did not have to make any decisions on hits and errors. That was one of the last games of the 1994 season as Major League Baseball went on strike around Aug. 11,” Jim remembers. I was in the Las Vegas airport the night Rogers tossed his perfect game. I remember it coming on Sports Center.

I also had some forgettable experiences as scorer for the Roughnecks. One time the manager called from the dugout up to the press box to ask me if I was watching the same game as him! You just can’t please some people. My daughter Karen even got in on the act, keeping the scorebook for my grandson’s baseball team in Malakoff, TX. She, too, has had times she’d probably rather forget. But, through it all, Jim and I have remained friends ever since I first met him at a fireworks stand at the end of town in Heavener in 1963 – almost 50 years ago, give or take a few. Go Yankees!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vera Owen 1917-2010

We’re supposed to go to school to learn the three Rs. You know readin’, ritin’ and rithmitic. Vera Owen, bless her soul, was an English teacher for 42 years and she probably taught me as much as any teacher I had during my time in Heavener public schools, through all the grades, 1st through 12th.

The last time I was in Heavener for a funeral was J.F. Johnston and I sat next to Mrs. Owen. Just like J.F., she was 91-years-old. We talked about her and J.F. being the same age. Mrs. Owen was still sharp as a tack, still remembered me well and we laughed about some of the old days when I was still in high school. Mrs. Owen will be missed but will never be forgotten. When I heard of her passing, I immediately thought of her as my favorite teacher in school. So did a lot of other former students. Here are a few:

To my fellow HHS Alumni: I received several calls today of the passing of Vera Owen: an awesome teacher who devoted her life directing her students to do their very best and stay clear from “fools mountain”. My thoughts and prayers are with John, Linda, Rusty and their families. We will remember you, Mrs. Owen! Thank you for caring!
-- Anita (Robertson) Norman (on Facebook)

“Thank you for telling me about Vera. I thought she was a good person and an outstanding teacher.”
-- Bob Collins (coach and teacher at Heavener in the early 1960s)

Truly a loss of a wonderful woman, fantastic teacher. She’ll be missed. Thanks for letting me know.
-- Lee (Johnson) Lewallen

I was talking to one of my grandsons the other day and he asked me who my favorite teacher was. Didn't even have to think about that one! It was my English teacher, Mrs. Owen, of course!
-- Dayle (Dedmon) Reinkober

Thanks so much for letting me know. She was one of my favorite teachers.
-- Sylvia (Frizell) Ritzky

Gladys says thank you very much ... Think she was Gladys's favorite teacher. She said she was such a good teacher.
-- Wesley Minor, husband of Gladys (Luman) Minor.

Linda Roop had told me she wasn't doing well ... I'm sorry to hear that, but thanks for letting me know. She was a very good teacher.
-- Lalia (Click) Tate

Thanks, I also got one from Donald Frost. She was my eighth grade English teacher.
-- Glen Lazalier

Thanks very much for the notice. She was one of my favorite teachers.
-- Duane Mead

My daughter is a nurse that works for Select Care that has a floor of Sparks Hospital leased. She helped take care of her and said that Mrs. Owen remembered me well and was very sharp until about four days before she passed.
-- Dwayne Bain

And, other email responses from Chuck Hudlow, Steve Mattison, Karen Steed, who all thought very highly of Mrs. Owen. Most of my classmates in 1965 voted her their favorite teacher and we signed a card for her when we were all together this past summer for our reunion after hearing that she had fallen. Anita indicated the very same thing about the class of ’66.