, Port Arthur, Texas

August 3, 2013

West column: ESPN The Magazine offers eye-opening Manziel insight

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     For those who don’t already have Johnny Manziel burnout, ESPN The Magazine in its college football issue and Sports Illustrated in its Aug. 5  issue, deliver terrific in-depth pieces on Texas A&M’s controversial Heisman Trophy winner. The ESPN story, because of the unprecedented family access given to author Wright Thompson, is one of the most compelling insights into an athlete I’ve ever read. Those who can read it with an open mind are bound to come away with a better appreciation for the stress and pressure both Manziel and his parents are dealing with. Chilling is this quote from Manziel’s dad: “It could come unraveled. And when it does, it’s gonna be bad, real bad.” Shocking, meanwhile, is the hostility the family appears to have toward A&M . . . Manziel, in a roundabout way, made a noteworthy financial impact on the Port Arthur Sertoma Club’s Bryan Jackson Benefit golf tournament Friday at Belle Oaks. With a Manziel autographed football being sold in the tournament’s live auction, Kevin Johnson of the Port Arthur Renaissance Group, which recently purchased Belle Oaks, landed the ball for $1,200. Then, when Robert Giblin, one of the area’s  NFL alums called and offered $2,000 for the ball, Johnson gave it back and donated the $1,200 to the tournament fund. Also selling for $2,000 was one of Chris Stroud’s PGA Tour golf bags, which Stroud had stuffed with golf balls and gloves and topped off with a cap. Bill Taylor was the high bidder on the golf bag. More details on the tournament, and how much was raised to help with Jackson’s medical bills from his latest bout with cancer, will be published in Wednesday’s Golf Plus.

    Best news for the Houston Astros about the Bud Norris trade is that some in Baltimore are questioning it because of what the Orioles had to give up. One of the writers who covers Baltimore wrote that Norris will help the Orioles short term, but says people he trusts in the organization really hated to see 19-year-old southpaw pitcher Josh Hader sent to Houston. Hader is thought to have a tremendous upside and quality southpaws are hard to come by. The writer also felt the other player Houston acquired, outfielder L.J. Hoes, would be a solid major league player . . . Norris, by the way, did a good job of saying the right things about the Astros organization, but he had to feel like a guy who’d gotten a lengthy jail sentence commuted when the deal went down. In the span of minutes, he’d gained 22 games in the standings and gone from a woeful team with no hope in the immediate future to one with realistic playoff possibilities. It’s going to be very interesting to see if moving from a team that’s been the worst in baseball for the last three years  to an up-and-coming team that plays in the MLB’s strongest division will help elevate Norris to the next level as a pitcher . . . As if accused murderer Aaron Hernandez hasn’t caused enough embarrassment for the New England Patriots, the arrival of the month of August made the Patriots organization even more red faced. New England, you see, sells a team calendar featuring an action shot of a different player for each month. Guess who is Mr. August? As if that isn’t bad enough, the 2014 calendars have already been printed. Hernandez is Mr. February on that one. Reckon a recall could be in the offing???

     Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey apparently almost pulled off a stunning one-two signing blockbuster that would have elevated the Rockets above Oklahoma City and San Antonio in the NBA West and put them eye-to-eye with the Miami Heat. According to a Bill Simmons report on, Chris Paul told the Los Angeles Clippers that if they didn’t figure out a way to bounce Vinny Del Negro as coach, and hire Boston’s Doc Rivers, he was going to Houston with Dwight Howard. The Clippers, who had been rebuffed once by the Celtics on Rivers, took the threat seriously. Just one more example that players run the NBA . . . Looks like it’s 1st-and-goal for Bum Phillips An Opera. Although fund raising is still short of the budget goal, Luke Leonard, the project’s Producing Artistic Director, says plans for the opera saluting Bum and the Luv Ya Blue days of the Houston Oilers are moving forward. While fund raising continues with attempts to receive grant support from foundations, Leonard has started for focus on casting and production design for the planned New York premiere next spring. Anyone who wants to make a donation, or who has questions, can e-mail Leonard at . . . Speaking of Phillips, I know he was smiling when Curley Culp got inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame Saturday. Back in 1974, Bum fleeced the Kansas City Chiefs in a trade that brought Culp to Oilers, along with a No. 1 draft pick that became perennial Pro Bowler Robert Brazile. Then he introduced the 3-4 defense into the NFL with Culp, a former NCAA wrestling champion at Arizona State, as a nose guard who necessitated double and triple teams. With him anchoring what became a truly nasty defense, the Oilers improved from a 1-13 laughing stock to a team good enough to battle the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers in back-to-back AFC Championship games.

    Not only has Vince Young failed to hear from an NFL team willing to give him one last shot, off-field woes continue to mount for the guy who led Texas to the 2005 national championship. Harris County constables entered his home Monday to taken an inventory on anything of value, in preparation for auctioning off personal belongs to settle a $1.7 million debt held by a company called Pro Player Funding. Young had defaulted on a high-risk loan from PP. during the 2011 NFL lockout . . . Once upon a time, the Texas High School Coaches Association’s All-Star football game was a showpiece matching the state’s blue chip recruits in late summer. The THSCA game was so big and so powerful in fact, Bobby Layne, the coach of the Texas team in the Big 33 Game, needed help from then Texas governor John Connally to get the game moved back a week so he could  take the state’s top players to Pennsylvania. Now, because many college coaches discourage their recruits from playing in the THSCA game, it’s pretty much an afterthought. Only six Big 12 signees participated Tuesday night in Fort Worth. Neither roster had a scholarship player from Texas or Texas A&M. Ten of the players were headed to junior college . . . As noted in this space last week, former Thomas Jefferson coach Buckshot Underwood’s players planned to turn out strong for his Wednesday induction into the THSCA Hall of Honor. That’s exactly what happened as a crowd of over 1,200 looked on in amazement while the late Underwood’s daughter, Janet Ordway introduced 40 of Buckshot’s former Yellow Jackets. Ordway then delivered an emotional speech about her dad that drew two standing ovations.

    PGA Tour golfer Hunter Mahan triggered considerable debate on sports talk shows a week ago by withdrawing from the Canadian Open to go back to Dallas and be with his wife for the birth of their first child. The reason Mahan’s decision received an inordinate amount of attention was due to the fact he was the 36-hole leader in a tournament which paid over $1 million to the winner. Among those strongly in Mahan’s corner was Southeast Texas’ representative  on the PGA Tour, Chris Stroud. “It was a no brainer,” said Stroud. “I’d have done the same thing and I think nearly everybody on the tour would tell you the same thing.” . . . Mahan’s withdrawal in Canada, ironically, came on the 20th anniversary of the most celebrated — some would say scandalous — instance of an athlete deciding he needed to be with his wife during birth. In a fiasco that came to be known as “Babygate”, the wife of Houston Oilers tackle David Williams went into labor on the day the Oilers were scheduled to depart for a regular-season game in New England. Williams missed the team charter and his wife didn’t deliver until it was too late for him to catch a commercial flight. Bud Adams, who is the most disgusting NFL owner not named Jerry Jones, publicly criticized Williams for misplaced priorities and the team fined him a $111,111 game check. It was Adams and the Oilers, however, who paid a heavy price by taking a savage and well-deserved public relations beating over their stance.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at