, Port Arthur, Texas

February 9, 2013

West column: Past Lamar greats need fan support in Southland Poll

Bob West
The Port Arthur News


    Those who have been around long enough to remember when Lamar was a legitimate mid-major basketball power have a chance to help get the feats of the Billy Tubbs and Pat Foster eras saluted by the Southland Conference. As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the SLC is conducting an on-line poll to pick the top moment in the league’s basketball history. Among the 10 nominees are Lamar’s 80-game home winning streak from 1978-84 and Lamar’s amazing run of NCAA tournament success from 1979-83. LU is also part of a third option labeled “Awesome 80s era — The Cardinals, The Mailman (Karl Malone), Joe Dumars and more.” You can see all the choices and vote at Conference. Working against Lamar is having two such strong options as the home-floor win streak and the NCAA success. I’ll vote for the NCAA success, but count me skeptical that Lamar fans care enough to mount enough of an intense voting campaign. Results will be announced at the SLC tourney next month in Katy . . . Following yet another game in which his Lamar basketball team wasn’t even competitive — Saturday’s 78-40 wipeout at Sam Houston State — it was nice to hear Cardinal coach Pat Knight put the blame squarely where it belongs — on himself. “I’ve done an awful job with this team,” Knight said. “This was embarrassing. I apologize to our fans.” Despite finally winning a Southland Conference game Thursday night against equally inept Texas A&M- Corpus Christi, Knight’s second Cardinal team remains two wins shy of matching the fewest season victories in school history. Jack Martin’s 1966-67 club went 5-19. The 2012-13 Cardinals fell to 3-21 after the school’s worst ever loss to the Bearkats. They now have five consecutive games at the Montagne Center to try and get to five wins.

    Nederland’s Brian Sanches has been at the Kansas City Royals Surprise, Ariz., spring training facility since Thursday and is optimistic about his chances of being on the Royals’ 25-man roster when the season opens. Sanches, who will be 35 in August, says he made some changes to his off-season routine and is much farther along than he was this time last year as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Lamar baseball coach Jim Gilligan is in total agreement, after watching Sanches pitch against his team in a recent intrasquad game. “Brian was really sharp,” Gilligan said. “He had great command of all his stuff, especially his curve and split finger pitch. It was a terrific learning experience for my pitchers to be around him. That’s why I think he’ll make it with Kansas City. They’ve got a lot of young pitchers who can really learn from a guy like him.” . . . How about those Houston Astros? Now only can’t folks in the Golden Triangle  see their games on TV until Comcast reaches a deal with area cable providers, we won’t even be able to hear their radio broadcasts at night. That’s because the broadcasts have been moved from 50,000 watt KTRH to KBME (790-AM), a station whose signal is hard to pick up much beyond the Houston city limits once the sun goes down. Maybe it’s all part of a slick new marketing strategy of the Jim Crane regime to keep baseball’s worst team out of sight, out of mind until it reaches major league caliber a few years down the road. With a projected payroll slightly above $20 million, or slightly more than a handful of baseball’s star players make, many who follow MLB consider Houston a serious threat to topple the 1962 NY Mets modern-era record of 120 losses.  

     A North Carolina-based organization called Public Policy Polling usually focuses on political issues. But apparently Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was too inviting a target. So forthwith is the result of Jethro’s latest humiliation. Jones’ PPP approval ranking among Texans (13 percent) was lower than that of Lance Armstrong (16 percent) or the idea of the state seceding from the union (20 percent). Additionally, the polling found that only 42 percent of Texans now consider themselves Cowboys fans while 50 percent do not. Meanwhile, 52 percent of those saying they were Cowboys fans said the team would be better off without Jones. One area of the poll that should really concern Jethro is that only 38 percent of those in the 18-to-45 age group said they were Cowboys fans. Younger fans, of course, know the Cowboys mostly as that overhyped, mediocre team their parents can’t get over . . . Cowboys QB Tony Romo figures to get considerable air time on CBS’ telecast of the final round of the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach today. Romo and his partner, Jordan Spieth, the teenage Dallas whiz who turned pro after one year at the University of Texas, are leading the pro-am portion of the tournament at 25-under par. As was the case last year, when he almost helped Tiger Woods win at Pebble, Romo’s shotmaking has played a major role. Since Spieth is 6 under on his own ball, it means Romo is responsible for adding 19 shots to the team total with birdies or par saves when his partner was making 9 bogeys and one double bogey. That’s all the more impressive when you consider Romo is a scratch handicap. In other words, he gets no shots. For him to be playing so well on such a big stage will probably infuriate Cowboys fans who think he should be working on football 24-7.

    Former Houston Texan Jacoby Jones did more than excite Baltimore Ravens fans when he returned the second half kickoff in the Super Bowl 108 yards for a touchdown. Jones’ record-setting return also let customers of Gardiners Furniture in Baltimore cash in on a promotion refunding money to all customers who made purchases between Jan. 31 and 3 p.m. on game day. The bottom line came to $600,000 worth of free furniture. Fortunately for Gardiners, the long-shot promotion was underwritten with an insurance policy much like hole-in-one insurance in golf tournaments . . . Jones, by the way, probably should have won the game’s MVP award over Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco. Flacco was terrific and deserving, but Jones’ kickoff return, his 50-yard TD reception on an underthrown ball and his Super Bowl record of 290 combined yards should have been difficult to dismiss. Long touchdown plays like he delivered are daggers in big games. Considering that he’s also the one who kept Baltimore in the playoffs with a 70-yard TD catch in the final seconds at Denver, one could easily make the case there would have been no Super Bowl for the Ravens if Texans’ fans had not helped run him out of Houston . . . Speaking of the Texans, owner Bob McNair didn’t let his team’s late-season flameout prevent him from once again raising ticket prices. A 9.8 percent boost hiked the average ticket for a Texans game to $86.39, with prices ranging from $41.50 to $145. It’s the second consecutive year McNair has bumped tickets almost 10 percent. What a nice way to reward folks who suffered through all the lean years.

    It was hard not to laugh at Mack Brown stomping his foot and warning future players who verbally commit early to Texas that if they opt to visit other schools he’ll tell his coaches to check out others who play the same position. Poor old Mack must not realize how much leverage he’s lost with the combination of going 11-15 in the Big 12 the past three seasons and Texas A&M making a head-turning national splash in the SEC. It’s a big part of why UT lost two players to A&M, one to Alabama and five overall, shrinking a class that would have been 20 down to 15 . . . Not that anybody’s going to feel sorry for them after clearing some $7.2 million on Super Bowl betting that reached $98.9 million in Nevada alone, but Las Vegas oddsmakers were doing some serious whining over the late safety Baltimore took to avoid punting out of its end zone. A considerable amount of money was paid out to gamblers who took the 9-to-1 odds there would be a safety sometime during the game, and 50-to-1 odds the 49ers final points would come on a safety. It seems crazy, but lots of folks jump on proposition bets like that. Much more than the bookies, I feel for folks who had 4 and 9 in Super Bowl squares bets, and were already spending their money when it looked like the Ravens would win 34-29. What a windfall for those who were holding 4 and 1 . . . That brutal snowstorm which hit the Northeast this weekend, canceling hundreds of flights, downing power lines and leaving a large area virtually paralyzed, came exactly 51 weeks prior to the 2014 Super Bowl scheduled across the river from New York City. It was a stark and scary preview of the NFL’s worst nightmare because a similar storm next year could very well force the Super Bowl to be postponed to another time and place. Although the people who live in that area don’t need to be inflicted with more hardship, another big storm next year would be exactly what the NFL deserves for arrogantly daring Mother Nature to intrude on its greed.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at