Archive for category Football
This column runs in the Summer 2019 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
I’ll never forget the day – May 5, 2015 – 5:09PM. The email read, “Hi Carlotta, Long time no see. Was wondering if you would care to write for our magazine. Noticed that Happenings has gone dark and I always loved your columns. Would you have any interest? Either way keep writing cowgirl! -Greg”
The following day, our call lasted over an hour. I could tell right away this was going to be a fun gig! It was so easy talking to Greg. He understood my passion for sports and respected my ideas. More importantly, he was as “pumped” about my column as I was!
For the fall issue that year, he dropped me a line a couple of weeks before deadline. “Do you think you could focus on Texas football? Your take on the upcoming NFL/college season? Hoping to have all editorial in by the 15th. We’re at third down and goal to go!” I already had the column finished when I read his email. It started with, “For those of you reading this that haven’t lived in Texas, let me explain. Football is the culture — an array of delicacies from the traditional fantasy football leagues to Friday Night Lights to Big 12 and SEC rivalries to The ‘Boys at Jerry’s House or JJ Watt and Company at the NRG. Fall is Texas football!” Greg’s response? “Girl — You rock!” Go figure – it was what he wanted.
Greg not only communicated with me in sports lingo, he also recognized my other passion – the canines! He already knew about my years of chairing the Bark For Life cancer fundraiser. When I asked him to run a flyer on a Kerr County Bark in one of the issues, he said he would. A few days before print, he discovered the copy in his spam. He emailed me saying, “Hi, somehow you got in my spam list. Just noticed this morning. All is good now. Thanks! (I mean “woof!”)”
I normally decided which sport my column would touch on. Last year, he had a special request. “How about a piece on Manu Ginobili? I know NBA season will be over by summer but I would like a tribute to him.” I had just volunteered for and attended the NFL draft in North Texas. My plan was to write about that. Instead I went with a Ginobili tribute. It’s always nice to keep the boss happy. And apparently it made the readers happy too! The feedback as Greg would say, “Rocked!”
I delayed the NFL Draft to the fall issue. When he got the copy and pictures, he called me. “Girl! You met the NFL Commissioner! Girl! You have your picture with him!! Girl!! You were on the floor of the NFL draft! You didn’t tell me about THAT when I asked you to run something on Ginobili! Manu could have waited! “ We both laughed!
That was the last time we laughed together. Greg was diagnosed with liver cancer that fall. I tried to reassure him. I had been on a caregiver’s journey back in 2015 with my husband’s cancer. Medical science had made great strides. Get the treatment and stay on it no matter how awful the side effects are. Attitude is 99% of the cure. Stay strong and listen to your body. Get lots of rest. You will get through this.
We talked one more time in early March. There was nothing more the doctors could do and the end was near. He passed away on the 18th of that month. While others think they will see Greg again on the beach in the Jamaican part of Heaven, I know I’ll find him near the San Antonio Spurs angels waiting on Manu. You rock Angel Greg. RIP my MVP.
This column appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
Heisman winner Kyler Murray has decided – he has chosen the National Football League over Major League Baseball. I can’t help admire the kid – he’s very talented when it comes to throwing passes and crushing home runs. In high school, as the starting quarterback, he led North Texas’s Allen HS to three straight state championships and won 43 games in a row. He also played baseball – shortstop/second base – and was a top prospect for the 2015 MLB draft. He was the first player to ever be selected for both the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game and Under Armour All-America Football Game!
Instead of entering the baseball draft, he chose to attend Texas A &M his freshman year. Just a few months into the football season, he transferred to Oklahoma when it became apparent he would be battling against another high recruit, Kyle Allen, for a starting nod. With NCAA transfer rules, he had to sit out in 2016. In 2017, he hit the ground running as Baker Mayfield’s backup and even had playing time in a couple of games. Come spring, he switched hats and had a sluggish start playing Sooners baseball, but did so well the following year; he again caught the attention of Major League Baseball. The Oakland As took him as the 9th pick overall in the 2018 MLB Draft last June and presented him with a high dollar contract including a lucrative signing bonus. In return, he would play in the fall one more season of college football, then report to spring training in 2019.
Things got complicated when Murray led the Sooners to the semi-finals of the College Football National Championship collecting a slew of hardware along the way. He won the Davey O’Brien Award, AP Player of the Year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, First-team All-American, First-team All-Big 12 and the big daddy of them all, the Heisman Trophy. He finished out last year with an estimated net-worth of three billion dollars! Meanwhile, the Oakland As quietly waited in the wings for his report to spring training. Now, it is possible to play in both the NFL and MLB at the same time – about seventy have accomplished it – only a small handful since 1987 including Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. Seahawks Russell Wilson played in minor league ball a few years and currently has a contract with the Yankees.
In January 2019, Murray teased the sports world with hints he would not be splitting time with the two sports. The A’s and MLB met with Murray, deviating from the norm, and offered him a major league contract. A decision had to be made soon since spring training was on the horizon. The suspense was over Monday, February 11th. Kyler committed to professional football citing “football had been his love and passion his entire life.” Murray would not get to keep his entire $4.66 million signing bonus with the As. Brace yourselves — He already has in hand 1.5 million, but only has to repay $1.29 million of that! He hasn’t even picked up a bat! The A’s will retain his baseball rights going forward and he will be placed on the minor-league restricted list indefinitely. Should Murray ever decide to return to baseball, he would have to return to the Oakland organization.
Did the Phenom do the right thing? Will he be a part of the Heisman Curse? Will he ever see a batting circle? Will hard hits from his bat ever replace hard hits from a Defense? Check back with me in five years.
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 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 Fall 2017 issue of Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country
Fall is my favorite part of the year – changing of the leaves, relief from sweltering temperatures and of course, football. During the summer I attended the two-day Conference USA Kickoff where I interviewed coaches and players from the fourteen schools. I wondered who of this group was in the one per cent who might see the NFL gridiron in the next few years and which coach was a winner not just in championships, but with lessons in life for his team.
Before the session even started, I had one of those, “This Could Only Happen To Me” moments. I was still trying to get orientated and passed a slender black man in a suit. “Are you Coach Frank Wilson?” No, he wasn’t. He did look to know what he was doing, unlike me, and politely gave me directions to the room set up for the media. A few hours later, I again saw the mystery man. He was now wearing a Conference USA tag. He asked me how things were going and of course, I excitedly told him about my interviews so far. We chatted about football and somehow ended up in an area I am passionate about, the NFL. “So who do you like in the Pros?” I inquired. He grinned. “The 49ers” and then walked away. A photographer I knew from NASCAR walked up to me and said, “Wow, you were talking to the man…. Merton Hanks!” Yes, I googled him when I got home. “Safety San Francisco 49ers… 4 times Pro Bowler ….Defensive Player of the Year… Super Bowl Champion.” How did I miss that gigantic Super Bowl Ring? A good thing there was a day two!!
It’s no secret with young kids being thrown into the limelight overnight; coaches have their work cut out for them being a manager, mentor and in some cases parent. Imagine having that responsibility to 115 kids between the ages of 18 to 22. It takes special men to be coaches. According to Coach Brad Lambert of Charlotte, “I look at it as I do my own children. I have eighteen years to pack their suitcase. When they leave home, they go with this suitcase. When our guys come in, you have to look at who has been packing their suitcase for the last seventeen years. Some you have to unpack then repack. It’s a fun process, just getting to know kids and bringing the right ones in. Hopefully they leave better men than they came in. “
I asked how the coaches could keep their teams from unpleasant sagas like Baylor’s. Coach Jay Hobson of Southern Miss found that having two daughters of his own is advantageous to getting out his message – “I emphasize the importance of being a good man. I’m always looking for the guy that gets between the white lines – a guy that’s an extremely physical football player, but outside the lines, it’s my wife, my daughter, their mother.” As he pointed out, the morals and the principles are the same as our era, but young men have to be careful not to put any negative vibe out there especially with social media. We agreed that coaches have their work cut out for them.
Middle Tennessee’s Coach Rick Stockstill embraces the responsibilities. “A good coach wins games, but a great coach saves lives. I want to help these kids learn how to be a good husband, good father, good parent, good son and good person so when they leave my program; they are ready to take on the world.” His athletes must understand “You aren’t going to be able to play football all your life. There are more important things than football – get your education, build relationships that can get you the job you want, get involved in the community and internships. You may play football until you’re only twenty-five.” Unless you’re Merton Hanks, I thought to myself…. Where was he anyway?
I did catch up with Merton toward the end of the session. Known for his interception gyrations during his 49ers’ tenure, he is currently Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA. We chatted about his playing under Hayden Frye at the University of Iowa, being drafted into the NFL and life as a 49er as well as after the gridiron. His favorite quarterback to play against? Joe Montana in practice! And his last career interception? Brett Farve on Monday Night Football. His advice to the kids coming into football? “Don’t specialize in one sport. Play a little bit of everything. Guard against burnout. Guards against injury. Your body only has so many reps.” Merton also played baseball, basketball and ran hurdles in track. “My mom ran track too,” I interjected. “I didn’t take after her. I ran after the track team though.” We laughed in unison.