, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

August 17, 2013

West column: Jim Dent's book should be read by all students

PORT ARTHUR — If I could have any sports wish granted today, it would be that every student from seventh grade up in Southeast Texas be required to read Jim Dent’s latest and, without question, most important book — The Kids Got It Right. Dent, who is a masterful story teller, is at his best with this real-life tale of how a courageous black athlete from Beaumont, Jerry LeVias, and a white superstar from Palestine, Bill Bradley, helped break down racial barriers in the 1960s in the context of a football holy war between Texas and Pennsylvania. With a supporting cast of superbly developed characters, like Bobby Layne and Doak Walker, it’s a book of historical significance — even the Kennedy assassination is part of it — that both warms the heart and brings emotions to a boil over the indignities LeVias endured trying to break the Southwest Conference color barrier at SMU. Maybe, just maybe, if enough folks in Beaumont read the book, a puzzling lack of appreciation for who LeVias is and what he’s meant in the big picture can be overcome, and there will be a long-overdue groundswell to get his name on the BISD athletic complex. Bradley, for one, can’t understand why something like that hasn’t already been done. “Jerry’s one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever known,” says the Lamar University defensive coordinator. “I am so proud to say he’s my friend. I hope I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes, but I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want his name on your stadium. He is such an amazing role model. He’s somebody whose story needed to be told like Jim did so well in the book. Kids need to know who he is and what he overcame.” LeVias, Bradley and Dent, by the way, will all be at the Barnes & Noble in Parkdale Mall for a book signing Friday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Hopefully, there will be a big turnout for the little guy who is truly one of Beaumont’s biggest heroes.

Fallout from the Johnny Manziel autograph saga has landed in the Golden Triangle. Two weeks ago, Robert Giblin of Port Neches paid $2,000 for a Manziel-autographed football that was part of a fundraiser for Belle Oaks Golf Club’s Bryan Jackson. The purchase came just about the time ESPN was breaking the story that Manziel may have violated NCAA rules by taking money for signing autographs. Amazingly, Giblin, who played at the University of Houston and in the NFL with the NY Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, was accosted by irate Aggies accusing him of paying Manziel. “I couldn’t believe they would think that,” said Giblin, who was buying the ball as a Christmas gift for an Aggie in the family. The real story behind the football is that A&M student John Graves, who used to work for Babe Zaharias golf pro Ed Campbell, knows Manziel and got the ball for the auction. For free . . . One of the many sidebars in the Manziel saga concerns Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who lost his junior season at Oklahoma State over an NCAA ruling that was totally unfair and over-the-top. Bryant and his adviser, David Wells, are watching closely to see how the NCAA deals with Manziel. If the A&M quarterback is not suspended, his name will be added to a list Wells is keeping of NCAA violations in which players were guilty of greater transgressions than Bryant and got off much easier. According to Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, it’s all fodder for a possible lawsuit . . . Here’s some food for thought for conspiracy theorists. ESPN broke the Manziel autograph story and has been the most aggressive media outlet in pursuing it. ESPN, as most of you know, is in bed with the University of Texas to the tune of $20 million a year with the Longhorn Network. Would ESPN have been as aggressive in going after the story, if Manziel were the Longhorns QB? Just wondering.

Opinions of Memorial ex Jamaal Charles seem to be soaring throughout the football spectrum, including the wise guys in Las Vegas. Despite the fact that Charles doesn’t figure to run the ball as much in Andy Reid’s offense, only Adrian Peterson at 3/1 and the Texans’ Arian Foster at 6/1 have lower odds of leading the NFL in rushing than Charles’ 9/1. Another interesting prop bet is Tony Romo at 20/1 to lead the NFL in passing yards. Dez Bryant is 10/1 to lead in receiving yards, behind only Calvin Johnson (5/2), A.J. Green (8/1) and Brandon Marshall (8/1). Dallas, incidentally, is now the Vegas favorite at 11/5 to win the NFC East. Houston is an overwhelming 5/12 to win the AFC South . . . No surprise that Forbes magazine’s latest assessment on the value of NFL franchises has Dallas far and away the most valuable. Forbes put the Cowboys worth at $2.3 billion, or a cool half billion more than No. 2 New England. Well, I never said Jethro wasn’t good at making money. He’s only a sorry owner when it comes to making the kind of decisions that prevent a team from being bogged down in mediocrity for years. Obviously, though, he laughs all the way to the bank. Houston, by the way, was ranked No. 5 in franchise value at $1.45 billion. Oakland was the bottom of the barrel at a mere $825 million . . . It had to happen sooner or later. Kurt Warner, who has to be in the top three of the all-time most amazing NFL success stories, is going to have his story told in a movie. From Northern Iowa, to the Iowa Barnstormers, to stocking shelves in a grocery store, to a two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl winning QB, Warner’s career path reads more like make believe than real life. Hollywood won’t need to do any embellishing.

Who says America is suffering because of a do-nothing Congress? Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio, have introduced a bill that would require NCAA schools to guarantee scholarships for four years in collision sports, provided the student is in good academic standing. Oh, you didn’t know scholarships are renewable on a yearly basis? Well, they are and  it gives coaches a way to run off recruiting mistakes. Or, in cases where a coach is fired and a coach with a different philosophy hired, the one-year scholarship gives the new guy a way to eliminate players who don’t fit his system. It’s all part of the one-way street college sports have become . . . If Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III listens to his dad, he’ll be looking to pass more and run less during upcoming seasons. “Historical data will tell you that the more a quarterback runs, the more subject he is to career injury,” says RGII. “You name one quarterback out there that would rather run the football than throw the football and I’ll show you a loser.” Defensive coordinators around the NFL are no doubt applauding . . . A&M fans shouldn’t put undue significance into Johnny Manziel being on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s college football issue out this week. SI does regional covers for this particular issue and the Aggies  are one of six featured schools.  Alabama, Stanford, Ohio State, Oregon and South Carolina are the others.  It is, however, the second time Manziel has been on an SI cover in three weeks. He’ll also be on the cover of the next Texas Monthly.

The plight of the Houston Astros hasn’t escaped the attention of sports satirists. With Houston on the way to a third consecutive 100-loss season, did a humorous bit on Astros second baseman Jose Altuve defecting to Cuba and petitioning to play there. The spoof had Altuve rowing 1,000 miles from Galveston Bay to Cuba’s coast. Most biting part of the story was an official of Cuban baseball saying, “We are a reputable baseball league that plays at a high level. It is insulting that an Astros player thinks he can make any of our teams.” Ouch . . . Who saw major league baseball’s bold move on instant replay coming? Awaiting approval of the players union is a replay proposal for 2014 that will give managers one challenge in the first six innings of a game and two from the seventh inning on. Using available technology for extended replay beyond home runs is long overdue but won’t come without controversy and pressure. No matter what they say, umpires are not going to like being overturned. Managers, meanwhile, like NFL coaches, are going to have the burden of making good decisions on when to challenge . . . The Houston Rockets haven’t played a game and already Dwight Howard has made a dramatic difference. After being scheduled for only two national telecasts during the regular season last year, the Rockets are guaranteed a minimum of 26 next year on ABC, ESPN, TNT and NBA-TV.

Sports Editor Bob West can be e-mailed at




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