Archive for category Football
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.
This was my column for the quarterly magazine, Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country Spring 2017 issue.
As I write this column, it is Super Bowl Sunday. Normally, my favorite day of the year, but this year God threw a curve ball and took our Boxer Rex away from us a week ago. It just won’t be the same without him. “Big Boy” Rex was the one who would obediently come to the closet when I said, “Game Day! Where’s your bandana?” He would sit and hold his neck up, still as a statue, as I put his New England Patriots scarf on. He knew it came with his mom’s crazy superstitions on game day! You ask how could a gal who lives in Texas like a team who deflates footballs? Well, I’ve lived in three areas of Texas all but 14 years of my life, but I was born in New England. Patriots football is in my blood along with fall foliage, skiing on ice, “pahking the cahr” and loving “lobstah.”
It was fortunate for Rex that he was so big that I couldn’t find game jerseys to fit him. He just wasn’t into clothes. He made his point with one torn football jersey from his puppy days. He drew the line at bandanas. One time when I put my ski hat on him, you could tell by his look that it wasn’t a game face; it was instead a “Seriously, Mom?” There were exceptions to the rule like the time Rex helped me with a Duck Dynasty contest entry at Texas Motor Speedway by donning a beard … well, sort of … it was Rex posing behind a cardboard beard.
Rex’s claim to fame came at the Texas Rangers Bark in the Park. The first year we went, Rex became the hit of section 11 as he howled at the hotdog vendor. The guy yelled back, “Ain’t no dogs for you Bud!” The following year he was chosen from over 700 canines to wear the FanCam in the pregame walk around the ballpark. He proudly stood stoic while they mounted the camera around his neck. I could tell he was thinking this was something important happening and to not to screw it up. What a great job he did! As he did his lap around the perimeter, he got the attention of the Ranger players and coaches observing from the dugout as well as fans hanging over the guardrail. He was the envy of every dog attending! And his footage ran on a Fox Sports Southwest Special including his shot of his “sister” Roxie licking his camera.
Yes, Rex led a life many dogs only dream of. R.I.P. Rex. Sports will never be the same without you.
You Tube — Rex and the Hot Dog Vendor — Texas Rangers Bark in the Park — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c423zq5PIOU A classic Rex moment !!!
My article in Heartbeat of the Texas Hill Country – Winter Issue
What an exciting year 2016 was for sports! It’s not too often that one sees so much history in the making as we did. The year started out with a Cinderella ending for NFL great Peyton Manning as he guided the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl win. What a way to end a career!! He hasn’t done too badly in post-football either. There’s rarely a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t see Peyton in a commercial. I think the funniest is the one where he’s sitting on the couch in his bathrobe and sipping coffee. Lionel Richie is singing in the background, “It’s Peyton on Sunday morning.” Manning is on the phone with brother Eli wanting him to come and watch Sunday football on his DirecTV set-up. Eli’s seen in the Giants locker room explaining why he can’t – he’s playing football. “I’ll pencil you in for Tuesday,” and Peyton writes “Eli” in the empty calendar.
March Madness in college basketball made history too when the number fifteen seed Middle Tennessee upset number two seed Michigan State in the first round destroying just about every basketball fan’s bracket including mine! The “experts” had predicted Michigan State to make the Final Four and some had even picked them to win the championship. And it didn’t end there! The fourteenth seed Stephen F. Austin upset number three seed West Virginia and Syracuse became the first tenth seed in history to advance to the Final Four. The finals were held in Houston where Villanova upset North Carolina to win the championship on a three-point shot at the buzzer!
The NBA followed suit when the Cavaliers brought Cleveland their first sports championship in fifty-two years! Hubby was happy as he’s from the suburbs of that city on the lake. As Rick watched the TV coverage, he wondered which speck was his nephew Bret and was probably secretly envious because he wasn’t there too.
Even car racing re-wrote history when both the June and July NASCAR races at Pocono Speedway had to be postponed due to weather as well as the Indycars at Texas Motor Speedway finishing the end of the June race in August due to weather. Weather delays are never fun for fans as a lot of the spectators travel in and postponements cause havoc on hotels, car rentals, transportation and work plans. We know only too well after waiting out a few ourselves only to be watching concession stand commercials on Big Hoss and covered cars on the track as the rain dripped off our hair and clothes.
But no greater history was made with the conclusion of the Major League Baseball season! For a while, it looked like both Texas teams, the Astros and Rangers were destined for the playoffs. Houston had a September meltdown, and then the best in the American League Texas Rangers found themselves swept by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1st round of the playoffs. Our home became a war zone with my husband’s Cleveland Indians and my Boston Red Sox meeting in the AL Championship. I was the queen of trash-talking only to eat my words as Rick’s Indians swept Boston and moved on to the World Series.
I quickly found myself OK with t he loss when I realized that I was watching sports history unfold yet again! The Indians were in the World Series in 1997 when they lost in extra innings in game seven to the Florida Marlins. They hadn’t won the title since 1948. The Cubs hadn’t won the title since 1908, and hadn’t made it to the World Series since 1945 – the infamous series where the Billy-goat curse was put on the team. We were witnessing one of the two longest championship droughts in baseball finally come to an end! It looked like destiny was going to hang onto the coattails of the Cavaliers and side with the Tribe, who jumped out to a lead of three games to one. Then Chicago shocked themselves and the Indians not to only to piece together back-to-back wins, but they also forced a game seven and won in extra innings! . I just wonder if sports will ever repeat a year like 2016!
My heart broke for UT’s Charlie Strong today. I don’t know who I felt sorrier for — him or the players of Houston knowing that their coach was in negotiations for two other schools. Distractions for both teams and staffs and because of those, losses for both teams. Texas will not see a bowl game and Houston will see one, but because of today, one of the lower tiers as well as drop out of the polls again. I am disgusted with the system which allows college coaches to be approached by teams before the playoffs are over (unlike NFL). I am disgusted that only money and notoriety is what the coaches care about rather than loyalty to the kids who committed to the program because of them. And I am disgusted with the media — for their hammering of the coaches involved and the players. Bon Voyage Tom Herman!
Just finishing my 1st month at KWQQ Radio. Originally, I thought I would be doing three sports segments a week. By the 2nd week, I was doing 1 minute sports and 1 minute state news during the top of the hour news segment starting at 5am – 9am. I also have my 5 minute sports for the local schools, colleges and universities in Iowa running Mondays and Tuesdays 1am, noon and 6pm, 5 minute professional sports and Cubs, White Sox, Royals and Cards coverage on Thursdays and Fridays 1am, noon and 6pm and 5 minute “Sports Snapshot” perspective running Wednesdays 1am, noon and 6pm and weekends. Here’s a recent Sports Snapshot:
Hope you’ll tune in — in addition to broadcasting on 1610AM and 106.3FM Farmington, IA, we’re on the Internet — Click here to Listen
Two more weeks until start of my new job doing sports for an AM/FM station in Iowa. While the internet radio gig was fun for the past year, the early 520AM ups and staying up late to catch the last sports was a challenge; this new format is much better suited for my hours. I will tape a 5 minute sports Sunday night reviewing the weekend and it will run the beginning of the week, tape another 5 minute sports on Thursday nights for the weekend run. I will also have a segment called Sports Snapshot which can be anywhere from 5 mins to 30 mins which will run other days, I already have some interviews set up with people in sports. The station is on the airwaves to not only the area in Southeast Iowa, but is accessible on the Internet also. I will be covering the local high school and community college action — also, Big 10 Iowa and Big 12 Iowa State, MLB Cubbies, White Sox, Cards and Royals as well as major stories in sports. Although I was ready for this week, wanted time to get tax stuff done and do advance prep for the new show— scheduled launch to coincide with the beginning of the baseball season. I will also continue writing my sports column for the quarterly, Heart Beat of the Texas Hill Country. Next issue on the stands March 1st.
The holiday season is upon us and some of my most fun sports memories are around this time frame. My mom worked for a dentist in Houston who was a Texas Longhorns alum. One Thanksgiving Dr. Senglemann gave mom his tickets to the UT – Texas A & M match in Austin. Well, I wasn’t into the Longhorns since they were so condescending to my University of Houston Cougars who were an independent at the time. So I decided I would root for the Aggies. Imagine my mom’s embarrassment when I was on my feet in the middle of the University of Texas alum section screaming, “Gig “em!” That was the last time my mom invited me to a football game! By the way, A & M won the game.
Every Christmas, I hang a Houston Oilers ornament and as it spins on its blue string, I think back to the first year I got it. It was back in the late 70s when the Houston Oilers were under Coach Bum Phillips. He was fun to watch during games pacing the sidelines, easy to spot with his cowboy hat (except when the Oilers played inside), western style suitcoat and cowboy boots. He coached the Oilers to be a winning team; we referred to as “Love ‘Ya Blue.” The city lived and breathed Oilers football. Almost every store you entered would have the fight song streaming through the air. “Look out football, here we come …. Houston Oilers, number one.” My blue spruce tree was decorated with blue balls, blue lights, icicles and of course my Oilers ornament. My front door was covered in blue foil with a wreath – complete with blue-ribbon bow and a miniature football. Just inside my foyer stood a tall bird cage. It was home to a blue and white parakeet named “Bum.” I had Oilers fever bad. Can ‘ya tell?
One of my favorite memories is from New Year’s Eve, 1969. I was a desk clerk at the Holiday Inn on Gulf Freeway and Wayside Drive. That day I checked in the cheerleaders and several Auburn fans that were in Houston for the Bluebonnet Bowl at the Astrodome. They were playing my school, the U of H Cougars AKA Cougar High. One of the guys checking in asked, “Do you allow pets?” I assumed he meant a dog so I replied, “As long as we know and as long as you clean up after your pet.” As I retrieved a dog marker for the room card, another guy said, “Thanks for letting us have War Eagle in the room. Would you like a free ticket to the game?” It turned out that I had just checked in the Auburn mascot. Yes, I went to the game that night despite Houston being a huge underdog. My seat was pretty good — 50 yard line on the mezzanine level. It was a great night — a huge upset by my Cougars 36-7. Yes, I love the holidays with a ‘lotta sports memories.