, Port Arthur, Texas

June 1, 2013

West column: Another crisis looms in Gonsoulin's path

Bob West
The Port Arthur News


    Former TJ, Baylor and Denver Bronco star Goose Gonsoulin is facing a potentially scary situation in his ongoing battle with prostate cancer. Gonsoulin, who turns 75 next Friday, has been told that he may soon be removed from a clinical study program at M.D. Anderson that’s providing him an experimental drug. Depending on what his insurance decides, Gonsoulin, whose weight has dropped from 240 to 192, could be looking at a cost of up to $45,000 a month for the four pills he takes each day. Despite the cancer having spread throughout his body — “the last X-ray lit up like a Christmas tree,” he says — and the fact he’s still recovering from a quadruple bypass last December, Goose insists he’s still fighting the good fight. It sure sounds that way when you talk to him . . . Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was back in Southeast Texas this weekend, lending his usual support to the Babe Didrikson Zaharias Foundation’s golf tournament and sports auction that helps underwrite endowed women’s athletic scholarships at Lamar. Wade, as always, stepped up big with auction items, bringing along an autographed J.J. Watt jersey, donating 4 tickets and a parking pass to the Texans Sept. 29 game against the Seattle Seahawks and putting up for bid a round of golf with him for three players at a Houston-area club. Although the Texans’ defense was hit hard by free agent losses for the second consecutive year, Phillips was his typical optimistic self about the defense and the team’s overall outlook for the 2013 season.

    Pretty impressive stuff from Chris Stroud in the third round of the Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Classic Saturday at Muirfield Village. Following one of his worst-ever days on the PGA Tour, a 77 that included three double bogeys, Chris rebounded with a sparkling three-under par 69 that jumped him 37 places up the leaderboard into a tie for 21th. Conditions were so tough Saturday that the low round was 68, only six players were under 70 and the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlory and Zach Johnson shot 79, 75 and, 81, respectively. Amazingly, after looking like he might miss the cut, Chris has an outside shot at another top 10. It speaks volumes about his resilience, particularly when he’s struggling at times with his driver . . . As a long time sports editor in Southeast Texas, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the passing of former Orange Leader sports editor Fred Cervelli. I never met Fred, but from what Russ DeVillier and his brother John tell me, he was a truly remarkable guy and a great credit to the profession. I’m still blown away by the fact that a sports editor from a small paper like the Leader was pretty much the lead dog in putting together the Texas roster  for the much ballyhooed Big 33 games against Pennsylvania in the 1960s. It speaks volumes about the respect Cervelli, who was blind for nearly half his 79 years, must have held statewide. In the works from author Jim Dent is a book about the Big 33 battles. Dent leaned heavily on Fred in his research. Hopefully he will dedicate the finished product to him.

    Is Baylor coach Art Briles on the short list to replace Mack Brown whenever the current Longhorn boss makes his eagerly anticipated exit? That’s the speculation among UT’s big cigars, after Briles and Longhorn AD Deloss Dodds were spotted playing golf in Austin recently. Dodds supposedly has been asked to formulate a list of possible successors for Brown. Others reportedly on the list include Boise State’s Chris Peterson, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Stanford’s David Shaw . . . Texas A&M is getting heavy play among the first college football magazines to hit the newsstands. Lindy’s Sports ranks the Aggies No. 5, behind Alabama, Ohio State, Stanford and Oregon. Athlon Sports has them No. 8. Both publications, of course, have Johnny Manziel as their All-America first team quarterback. Texas, meanwhile, is listed No. 18 by both magazines. Manziel, incidentally, is the subject of a first-rate, 16 minute video called “Dragon Slayer” that can be found on YouTube. It documents his work in San Diego recently with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. . . . One of Athlon’s off-season projects was rating all 125 head coaches in the Bowl Championship subdivision. As a sidebar to the main story they ranked the coaches in each conference. UT exes will be pleased to now that $5 million-a-year-man Mack Brown is listed No. 6 in the Big 12 behind Bill Snyder of Kansas State, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, TCU’s Patterson, Baylor’s Briles and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy. My only problem with that list is Stoops being No. 2. What’s he done lately besides embarrass Texas? Where are the significant wins? Losing to Notre Dame in Norman last year, with a senior QB starting for the fourth year, convinced me Stoops and the Sooners are regularly overrated.

    Manziel, by the way, has a rival as the next big thing to come out of Texas A&M. Michael Wacha, who was pitching for the Aggies this time a year ago, has rocketed through the St. Louis Cardinals farm system and made what some in St. Louis were calling the most anticipated rookie debut in team history Thursday night. Wacha, who never lost a game in his sprint through the minor leagues, didn’t disappoint a sellout crowd, going seven innings against Kansas City and allowing one run, two hits, striking out eight and walking none. The pitching deep Cardinals, who took the Aggie ace 19th in the MLB draft last summer, didn’t expect him to be in St. Louis so soon, but injuries and him being so unhittable in the minors changed the plan . . . Baseball players are notorious for getting sidelined by goofy injuries but it’s doubtful anybody can match the freak mishap, or the price paid, by Carl Pavano. The Minnesota Twins opening day pitcher in 2012 was clearing snow at  his home in Vermont in January  when he fell onto the handle of the shovel. The fall led to a collapsed lung and a ruptured spleen that had to be removed. Before surgery could be done to take out the spleen, doctors had to remove 6 1/2 liters of blood from Pavano’s chest cavity. Doctors told him he was dangerously close to cardiac arrest. Pavano hopes to pitch again next season . . . PN-G ex Lew Ford, who was one of baseball’s most amazing stories when he made it back to the major leagues with Baltimore last year at age 36, isn’t enjoying 2013 nearly as much. Despite his torrid spring with the Orioles, a glut of outfielders prompted them to send Ford to their AA team in Bowie, Md. He was recently promoted to AAA Norfolk, but was battling only .170 through 13 games when sidelined by a sports hernia. Even for the never-say-die Lew, it doesn’t look good.

    Few would question that Miami Heat start LeBron James, at 6-8, 270 pounds, is one of the most freakishly amazing athletes in professional sports. Former Washington Redskins QB Joe Theismann is so impressed, he wants James at some point to pull a career switch and give playing QB in the NFL a shot. Michael Jordan, you may remember, took a break from the NBA to play one-year of minor league baseball at age 31. Inability to hit the curve ball sent him back to the NBA. Theismann’s interest in James is wanting to be his QB coach and agent. King James, who played receiver and QB in high school, is intrigued and has the ego to believe he could make it in the NFL, but don’t expect it to ever get past the talking stage . . . Now that Jerry Jones has taken away Tony Romo’s golf clubs, it sounds like Peyton Manning may be the best golfer among NFL quarterbacks. Manning, in a recent round with John Elway and Denver head coach John Fox, shot a 77 at Augusta National. A couple of weeks prior to that, he joined up with a threesome at Castle Pines outside Denver and aced the 166-yard, 7th hole with an 8 iron . . . About the only thing former Houston Oilers head coach Jerry Glanville — aka the Macho Midget — ever said that made sense is that NFL stands for “not for long.” Average length of an NFL career is four years. Plus, consider these numbers. When Jake Long departed the Miami Dolphins for the St. Louis Rams during the winter,  it meant that 42 of the top 64 players taken in the 2008 NFL draft were no longer with their original team. Nineteen of the 42 from a draft only four playing seasons ago were first-round selections. Cowboys fans will remember that 2008 draft as the one in which Jerry Jones whiffed twice in the first round on Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins. Only Jethro could blow two first-round picks in the same draft. But it was probably Romo’s fault for not spending more time at Valley Ranch.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at