It just can’t get any better! ESPN’s College Game Day on the campus of TCU. Had a blast with all the fans of both Ohio St and TCU!
This column appears in the Fall 2018 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
Last year, while my hubby and I were watching the NFL Draft on TV, an announcement was made that next draft would be in Arlington Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. I immediately added “Attending the NFL Draft” to my bucket list. My other half replied, “Your bucket list has become a wash tub!” Towards the end of February this year, there was an announcement during the local news, that volunteers were needed to work the NFL draft in April. By the end of the night I had talked my cousin Sherry as well as friend Melissa into signing up with me. One week later, our background checks were completed.
“Customer Service and Security Training” was the week of the draft. Seated on the front row, I was distracted by a backpack between the stage and us. Mental note: “Don’t trip over it when class is over!” The bag turned out to be needed for the security portion to see if the class noticed its presence and let someone know. Melissa did and won a prize! Three days later we reported to the volunteer tent and were issued our NFL volunteer red t-shirt, windbreaker and cap. What are the odds of meeting someone in line from the town next to one’s hometown over 1700 miles away? I did. Next were our assignments. Sherry was sent to the Red Carpet. Melissa and I headed to the fan interaction area with our lead, Joe. “I need two people who can throw a football,” he said. Not us. “I need two people to run alongside the fans doing the dash.” Not us. We finally found our home at the Super Bowl Trophies display. Six and a half hours after arrival, our shift was over with no break—the entire time on our feet and in the hot sun. Most volunteers elected to go home and rest up their feet for Day 2. I couldn’t. Remember – attending the NFL Draft was on my bucket list. I had free tickets for the 1st round of the draft six rows from the top of the nosebleed section. I was in envy of the fans in the VIP sections that were just a few feet away from the stage and players being drafted who were specks for me. But I was there!
It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off for Day Two. My feet were reminding me they were not the same feet that worked to Germany eight hours in heels over twenty years ago. Melissa and I worked an event coaching fans on how to use the special goggles which made them feel like they were on the sidelines of an NFL game. Sounded easy and was inside with A/C – a relief to my sunburned arms. Of course the goggles would overheat or I couldn’t find my laser point – Melissa was always close by to rescue me. I met hundreds of fans representing all thirty-two teams. The shift went by quickly and I was once again ready to be a fan the rest of the afternoon and night. Melissa’s common sense took over and she headed home. I found my cousin and I soon had passes for later that night back in the nosebleed section. Short crisis – I forgot my jersey to change into – $14.99 later, I was in a Gronkowski T-shirt. To kill time until the draft, we visited the displays of locker rooms, uniforms and helmets. While posing in front of a Patriots helmet, a gal in New England garb approached me. She offered us tickets for the draft and unlike ours; these were in the Patriots fan section a few feet from the stage! Soon we were looking up at the poor souls in the nosebleed section – and not only night two but day three as well! We received foil pom poms and inflated cheer sticks, got to meet a couple of retired players and Commissioner Goddell, be on the big screen TV several times and even trash-talked with fans of other teams! Life couldn’t have been any better for this sports fan! Check! What’s next on my bucket list… err….. wash tub?
This column appears in the Summer 2018 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
As I write this, I just finished watching the elimination game of the San Antonio Spurs to the Golden State Warriors. Sadness fills me as it is possibly the last game we will see the #20, Manu Ginóbili on the court. Manu was again in double digits just as he was in a lot of the games – Mr. Dependable. After the game was over, he immediately headed to Golden State Head Coach Steve Kerr. The two men go way back – they were teammates for the Spurs in 2002 – Kerr’s last year as a player. As the two men hugged (Yes, real men hug and eat quiche!), the reporters’ microphones caught part of their exchange. “Keep going, OK?” Kerr quipped. Seriously Steve?!? I know better! Manu and a healthy San Antonio team is the LAST thing you want to see next season.
If this was indeed Ginóbili’s ride into the sunset, he sure went out with a bang – record after record!! He became the only player in NBA history to have multiple 20-point games off the bench at age 40 or older. He was also the first player in his 40s to score 15-plus points in back-to-back games since Michael Jordan in the 2002–03 season. He surpassed David Robinson’s franchise record of 1,388 for most steals – with 1392. Teammate Patty Mills refers to him as “Grandpa Juice.” I beg to differ – he’s more like the Energizer Bunny leaving the younger players in the dust! Whatever he is doing, I want his secret formula!
In addition to Michael Jordan, Manu is in great company with others in the “Over 40” club for athletes. There’s Jack Nicholas, the oldest Masters winner in history, when he was 46. Five days before his retirement, 40 year-old Babe Ruth went 4-for-4, three of those home runs. Who could possibly forget Nolan Ryan’s seventh no -hitter thrown when he was 44?!?! I was at that game. Jack Daughtery had left me comp tickets behind home plate. In the 7th inning, I saw the scoreboard and excitedly said, “LOOK! Nolan has a ….” Before I could say what I planned to say…. “a you-know-what,” my hubby’s hand was across my mouth!!
We’ve seen Ginóbili through two Olympic medal winning performances for Argentina, four NBA Championships with the Spurs and two All-Star appearances. Yes, Manu…. You can flirt with the “R” word…. or heed Steve Kerr’s advice. Either way, we’ll see you someday in the NBA Hall of Fame.
This column appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
2017 will be the year I almost stopped being a fan of the National Football League. The NFL had already been testing my patience with inconsistencies in officiating, the handling of player misbehavior and interpretations of rules like “what is a catch” over the past three years. However last year, I was truly disappointed at how Commissioner Roger Goddell dealt with the players kneeling during the National Anthem. I don’t have a problem with someone wanting attention for their platform. Our forefathers wrote the first amendment for that reason. However, I draw the line at doing this during the National Anthem. Our flag is a symbol of this nation’s pride and our freedoms. People have risked their lives, been injured, or died defending our country.
While other professional sports addressed their players on the need to stand during the anthem, the NFL ignored the situation. Momentum escalated to some players not only kneeling, but clenching Black Panther fists and laughing with each other during the anthem. The media was not helping by filming the players kneeling rather than ones with their hands on their hearts. Mid-season, when a majority of Houston players took a knee during the anthem, Texans owner Bob McNair finally spoke out with words many fans were already thinking – “the inmates are running the prison.” Many of my relatives and friends stopped watching professional football, buying memorabilia and attending games. Was the NFL realizing the magnitude of their problem? No.
The league tried to sooth the waters with their players by having meetings with them to discuss their feelings and even run commercials for their platforms. There were creative attempts with having all the players first kneel, and then stand for the anthem with their arms interlocked. They even tried not showing the National Anthem to the TV audiences and having the players remain in the locker rooms until it was finished. The players reappeared on the field during the playoffs for the National Anthem and those who stood, most with their hands on their hearts, were shown on television.
The 2017 – 2018 NFL season officially ended on a positive note. Texans JJ Watt was the winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award which honors a player’s volunteer and charity work, as well as excellence on the field. After initially setting a goal to raise $200,000 in Hurricane Harvey relief, Watt raised more than $37 million. He not only did the fundraising, but was very active during the recovery efforts. Come next season, will fans remember the players like JJ Watt who chose the right moments for their platforms and forgive those who had a lapse in judgment? That remains to be seen.
The NFL ended their 2017-2018 on a positive note. After all the season’s negativity that blanketed the business with the kneeling saga and the usual bad behavior by some players, the Super Bowl was probably the best Super Bowls in its history. The game was won with Eagles Coach Pederson’s two gutsy calls – one, a 4th down play at the end of the first half to score and again towards the end of the game. Most coaches (except Belichick or Carroll) would have just punted and hoped for their defense to stop the other team. Both teams had trick plays where the QBs handed off to others who threw back to them. Tom Brady showed why he is a quarterback instead of a receiver missing the easy 6 points. Youth prevailed with Nick Foles catching his and scoring. The game ended on a Hail Mary pass with 7 defenders surrounding Gronk. I knew with Referee Gene Steratore officiating (remember the down determined by the index card?) that the game would not end on a defensive penalty. With the exception of the “Catch Rule Hell Moments” with Zach Ertz’s TD, the game officiating was pretty non-existent with only 5 for 47 penalty yards for the Pats and 8 for 79 for the Eagles – most given to offenses. They let the boys play — including the horrific helmet-to-helmet hit by Malcolm Jenkins on Brandin Cooks. Unfortunately, it may have been one of the least watched Super Bowls though because both teams were so disliked by the rest of the country as well as the hatred/jealousy for Tom Brady.
For those who didn’t watch the post-game on the NFL channel, a very drunken (or something) Kevin Hart stumbled to the podium where owner Jeffrey Lurie, coach Doug Pederson and MVP Nick Foles were being interviewed. The Philadelphia native said the F-word while professing to be an Eagles fan and then fought off Deion Sanders who tried to remove Hart from the stage. Also, unfortunate was how the Eagle fans destroyed the downtown area. Of all the championship post-celebrations, this one will probably go down as the most costly for cleanup. I know it’s a big deal for a city to win their first Super Bowl championship, but I question the need to be so destructive.
The commercials were different this year as well as, as Simon Cowell used to tell the American Idol contestants, not memorable. Was it just me or did it seem that there were a lot of NBC promotions of the Olympics and to their shows? Does this mean their price tag was so high that they had to fill spots with their own? And what about the 30 seconds of black when I thought it was because I paid our cable bill at the last minute? I’m sure someone got in a lot of trouble for not loading a spot. The Toyota’s ad kept my attention the whole segment, but I couldn’t figure out how all the athletes defying all odds tied to a car. Then this morning, I couldn’t remember it was Toyota who had the spot until I researched it. I loved the Budweiser water ad – what they did for the hurricane victims needed to be touted. The “Stand By Me,” music chosen was perfect for the ad. The most entertaining commercial was the NFL ad with Eli Manning and O’Dell Beckham doing their rendition of Dirty Dancing including the lift. Poor Peyton closely followed with his Universal Parks roller coaster ride with the kid, but it was like watching a field goal scored shortly after 100 yard pick 6. There was no comparison. Steven Tyler’s Forever Young Kia ad was fun as were the Tide ones.
Lastly, let’s address the halftime show or lack of. It was way too busy for me. It seemed like parts of it were pre-produced and if one is going to lip-synch badly, at least have the trombones in the background appear to be playing!! Wasn’t Justin Timberlake’s choice of wardrobe a little strange (his shirt looked like a piece of material cut from a curtain at a hunting lodge) and how does it tie in with a Prince Tribute? Maybe he could have worn a purple tux instead?
My report card:
Game – A
Post-Game – F
Commercials – B+ (would have been a C- but Budweiser and NFL brought average up)
Halftime – D
This column appeared in the Winter 2017/2018 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
I moved to Houston in 1964 where the baseball team was known as the National League Colt 45s and they played in an open stadium south of the city. The following year, the team moved to the Astrodome, nicknamed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and the team was renamed the Astros. It was fitting as NASA and the space program were just down highway 45 going towards Galveston. Because the stadium was closed in, an artificial turf was installed for the games to be played on. Above the scoreboard was an area where two bulls snorted, pistols fired and music played when the Astros hit a homerun. The Astros center fielder Jimmy Wynn was nicknamed the “Toy Cannon.” I knew when Wynn batted, there was a pretty good chance the hit would be a homerun.
My favorite player was 2nd baseman Joe Morgan who used to quickly lick two fingers just before taking his batting stance. I was a true fan and even sent him a Get Well card when he was in the hospital. All the girls loved right-fielder Rusty Staub with his red hair and the handsome pitcher Larry Dierker. Bob Aspromonte was the tall, lanky 3rd baseman. One had to be a diehard fan — – the Astros weren’t very good, but we still loved the team. Dad and I attended several games and even sat through the longest shutout ever played. The Astros beat the Mets as Houston scored the only run in the twenty-fourth inning at one-thirty in the morning!
When I moved away in the 80s to the DFW area, I didn’t get to see the Astros games since I was living in an American League city. My parents were still in Houston and my mom morphed into a huge Astros fan with her favorites — pitcher Nolan Ryan and shortstop Craig Reynolds. The ‘Stros were actually doing a lot better making it to two National League Championships and one Division Championship game in that decade, but typical of the team, they lost all three of those games. One Christmas, I found the perfect gift for her – an Astros Cabbage Patch doll waving a pennant. Also included was a cute little Houston batting helmet. My niece Jennifer was very impressed that Santa brought her Grandma such a special gift. In 1989, my mom’s Astroworld came crashing down. Nolan Ryan had signed with the Texas Rangers! Ironically, my parents moved to an assisted living in North Texas the following year. Mom reluctantly adopted the Texas Rangers, but her heart was still with the Astros. Her collection of Nolan Ryan baseballs, baseball cards and the Astros doll were displayed on a bookcase. Hanging in her closet was her yellow, orange and red striped Houston jersey. Meanwhile the team moved from the antiquated Astrodome to Enron Field. The bulls, pistols and fireworks were replaced by a whistling locomotive over the outfield.
Mom passed away in 2003. Her Astros finally made it to the big dance just two years later, but the series was ugly with a sweep by the Chicago White Sox. This year Houston not only got to the World Series but they were there as the underdog. The series went seven games with Houston shutting down the Dodgers in game seven 4 -1 and finally winning the big prize. Nolan Ryan is back with the ‘Stros as their executive adviser. Something tells me there’s an angel in Heaven celebrating the World Series Championship win and who is happy Nolan is back where he belongs.
A GREAT fall vacation with Chamber of Commerce weather until the last day when temperatures hit 88 at the Monster Energy Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was bittersweet as NASCAR is moving the fall race to Las Vegas next year.