, Port Arthur, Texas

May 11, 2013

West column: Texans' Cushing spells out reasons Wade's successful

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     With free agency having cost the Houston Texans defense three solid starters — OLB/DE Mario Williams, ILB DeMeco Ryans and OLB Connor Barwin – in the last two years — there’s legitimate concern surrounding where the team is at linebacker heading into the 2013 season. Brian Cushing, the team’s best linebacker, who is in the final stages of rehabbing a torn ACL, says there’s a big reason why fans shouldn’t worry. Wade Phillips’ grasp of talent.  “The one thing I’ve learned about Wade is he knows exactly what he’s doing when he drafts a player, Cushing told Paul Kuharsky of last week. “He sees things in people and prospects other coaches and scouts don’t. He will always play the best players and we have a lot to pick from now.” The Texans added two outside linebackers in the recent draft — Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams . . . Houston, by the way, is favored in nine of its first 15 games next season, is the underdog in three and is rated a tossup in three. Yes, they already have lines posted in Vegas for all but the final week of the NFL season. Biggest surprise on that early betting line was Seattle being a one-point favorite over the Texans in Houston. AFC favorites Denver and  New England are pick-em in their games at Reliant Stadium. Houston is also pick-em when it plays at Indianapolis. Other teams favored over the Texans are San Francisco (5.5) and Baltimore (3.5). Dallas, meanwhile, is favored in six games, an underdog eight times and a pick-em once. Interestingly enough, the Cowboys are favored in their first three games. Guess the oddsmakers figure Tony Romo will be spending a lot of extra time at Valley Ranch early in the season

    Beaumonter Kendrick Perkins’ latest problem in the NBA playoffs is one that couldn’t have been found on a scouting report. Perkins, obviously unimpressed with Shaquille O’Neal’s mumbling and sometimes self-serving commentary on TNT halftime and post game shows, tweeted “Do Shack (sic) ever stop talking?” O’Neal, who has never been short on sarcasm, was told about the tweet and didn’t take it well. Following Oklahoma City’s game two loss to Memphis, he said, “I need more out of the great Kendrick Perkins. He really dominated tonight. Four points. I won’t talk about myself, Kendrick, I’ll just talk about you.” . . . It was noted in this space a few weeks ago that first LSU, then Alabama offered a scholarship to 6-1, 215-pound Baton Rouge eighth grade running back Dylan Moses. Not to be outdone, Mack Brown and the University of Texas have jumped into the fray, making Moses the first middle school player UT has ever offered. Meanwhile, the Longhorns, according to the Dallas Morning News, already have 14 commitments for the Class of 2014 and are ranked No. 1. Sounds like old Mack is fighting back . . . Wonder how astronomical the odds are that a school which spends as much on athletics as Texas does, and has facilities other schools can only dream of, would be so across-the-board feeble in football, basketball and baseball in the same year? Whatever those odds are, the parlay has hit. Following a season in which football again got routed by Oklahoma and settled for the Alamo Bowl, and basketball finished near the bottom of the Big 12 and didn’t get any post-season invites, Longhorn baseball has finished last in the Big 12. Collectively, that has to be close to historical ineptness.

    Cleveland Indians’ Hall of Famer Bob Feller was supposedly the first pitcher to throw a baseball over 100 miles per hour. But, without radar guns, how did anybody really know? According to AARP magazine, here’s how the guy known as “Rapid Robert” was first clocked in Chicago’s Lincoln Park in 1940. With Feller into his windup, a Chicago police officer roared by at 86 mph on his Harley Davidson. Feller’s fast ball beat the cop to home plate, 60-feet, 6 inches away, by three feet. Assembled mathematicians then estimated the pitch traveled between 98.6 and 104 mph. Here’s a trivia question to go with that piece of information. What Southeast Texas sportswriter once belted a Feller pitch to the right field wall at Vincent Beck Stadium in 1983 ? ? ? Sounds like Lumberton ex Clay Buchholz may be in line to get rewarded with a commercial from the manufacturer of Bullfrog Sunscreen. Coming off a so-so year with the Red Sox in 2012, Buchholz has been virtually unhittable while posting a 6-0 record and a 1.60 ERA in the first five weeks of 2013. He’s been so tough to hit, in fact, it’s led to charges that he’s doctoring the baseball by applying Bullfrog to his arm, then mixing it with powered rosin while on the mound.  In theory, the mixture allows him to get a better grip on the baseball. Whether it gives him an edge or not, Buchholz certainly has a leg up when it comes to getting into the head of hitters.

    Everybody who knows anything about baseball expected the Astros to be terrible and they haven’t disappointed. But what about the Los Angeles Angels team that narrowly missed the numbing embarrassment of getting swept in a three-game series in Houston this past week? Angels’ management in the last two off-seasons committed to $365 million long term in risky free-agent deals with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. This year alone, the Angels are paying Hamilton $17.4 million, Pujols $16.2 million and pitcher Jered Weaver $16.2 million. Their payroll is a whopping $141,896,250. Yet if they hadn’t come from behind in the eighth inning Thursday night, they’d have left Houston with a 10-21 record, only a half game ahead of the last-place Astros  . . .   Some really sad and tragic things have happened to those attending sporting events — a man falling to his death at a Texas Rangers game in 2011 trying to catch a ball for his son, a fan tumbling to his death from a fifth-level escalator at a Texans game last season and, of course, the spectator deaths at the Boston Marathon, just to name a few. Add what happened at a Chicago Cubs game Tuesday to the list of hard-to-fathom fan deaths. A 28-year-old Chicago middle school teacher, who was such a big Cubs fan she often had team dress-up days for her students, choked to death on a hotdog shortly before the national anthem at the Cubs-Cardinals game she was attending with her brother. In tragedy, however, there was life. Maureen Oleskiewicz was kept alive long enough for organs to be taken. Her heart went to a 14-year-old girl who was near death.

    Kevin Costner, who has been terrific in the four sports movies he’s done — Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, For the Love of the Game and Tin Cup — is branching out to the NFL. In Draft Day, due out next year, he plays the general manager of a struggling team — the Cleveland Browns — who is dealing with the chaos surrounding the overall No. 1 pick. To add reality, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shot a scene for the movie at last month’s draft. Among Costner’s supporting cast are Chadwick Boseman, the guy who played Jackie Robinson so well in “42”, Texans running back Arian Foster, Jennifer Garner and Ellen Burstyn . . . Lest Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o delude himself into thinking the fake girlfriend stuff is about to die out, Maxim magazine nailed him pretty good in the current issue built around its world 100 hottest women list. Manti’s imaginary girlfriend came in at No. 69 on the list, with a pictorial featuring an empty black bikini hovering over the ocean . . . Not so funny was the Internet hoax about the Texans J.J. Watt. A false report Thursday night that was picked up by a Houston media outlet had Watt being severely injured in an automobile accident in Miami.  Among other things, he was said to have suffered two broken legs. “I’m perfectly fine, relaxing after morning training session and headed to an event for Houston Children’s Charities,” Watt tweeted on Friday.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at