, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

June 14, 2014

West column: Charles to be featured on ESPN's E:60


    In addition to the scores of kids who flocked to Jamaal Charles’ football camp, and the  NFL players who showed up to work with them, a film crew from ESPN’s E:60 Newsmagazine show was on hand to gather footage for a special on Jamaal scheduled to air in the fall. As ESPN’s Jeff Chadia told me, Charles is one of the best players in the NFL and a lot of people don’t know much about him. The E:60 piece definitely should change the awareness level on the guy who still averages more yards per carry than the NFL’s  previous all-time leader Jim Brown. Chadia and E:60 were doing interviews in Port Arthur for background on Charles’ formative years and his football days at Memorial, then moving on to gather more information in Austin and Kansas City. As one who Chadia interviewed, I was very impressed with the preparation he’d done. He even wanted a Joe Washington comparison and thoughts on how good Jamaal’s brother ShanDerrick was. I can’t wait to see the final product . . . Here’s something about Charles I didn’t know until visiting with him on Friday. He’s a huge fan of the San Antonio Spurs and has attended a couple of their playoff games. His interest level, in fact, is such that he’s seriously thinking about buying season tickets for next year. If Kansas City sees fit to rework a contract that makes him by far the most underpaid great player in the NFL, he might even opt for a suite at the Spurs games. Good work on the part of our Gabe Pruett, by the way, to dig up numbers for a Saturday story that shows Charles’ salary puts him 12th among running backs. That, of course, goes back to not being taken until the third round of the draft.

    Speaking of the Spurs, I’d think every high school basketball coach in America would want to show his/her players a steady diet of tape footage on how Gregg Popovich’s selfless stars run their offense. The Spurs are a great teaching tool not only for the good things that happen when you move the ball and make the extra pass, but for the definition of team. Forget the Dallas Cowboys. The Spurs should be America’s Team for the way they have been built, what they stand for and how successful they’ve been over a long period of time . . . Here’s a terrific note to underscore that the Spurs are so much more about team than individuals. Whenever they wrap up the NBA title, most likely tonight, they will become the first NBA team since the 1994 Detroit Pistons to win a championship without a player who finished in the top six of MVP voting. They will also become the first team since the 1961 Boston Celtics some 53 years ago  to win a title without a player averaging 20 points during the playoffs. Tom Heinsohn, with 19.7 ppg, was the Celtics leading playoff scorer that year . . . Best wishes to a speedy recovery to Lincoln High School coaching legend James Gamble. Gamble, 79, is currently in the rehab process after undergoing a full hip replacement.  The hip had been bothering him for some time, but really became a problem in the last year. Gamble, by the way, early on picked San Antonio to win the NBA title. “They do so many things well with so many different people,” he said. In other words, the Spurs play a lot like his Lincoln teams did.

    Good friend and noted author Jim Dent, who did a book signing in Southeast Texas with Jerry Levias last summer on his latest great read — The Kids Got It Right — is seriously ticked off at the folks using his book on Texas’ Freddie Steinmark as the roadmap for a movie on Steinmark currently being filmed in Austin. “I think that it is both childish and foolish that the producers and the investor putting together the movie 'My All-American' will not give me credit for writing the book that the movie is based on,” Dent told me earlier this week.  “The book is titled ‘Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story.’  They are basing 90 percent of their movie on my book. I will get a full credit at the start of the movie. So the moviegoers are eventually going to learn the truth. I think it is also foolish that they have forced screenwriter/director Angelo Pizzo to add fiction to the story when none is needed. I wish them the best in the production of my story. But the producers and the investor are truly acting like a bunch of amateurs.” It’s easy to see why Dent is so upset over the title change . . . Among the players on Texas’ 1969 team being portrayed in the movie about Steinmark is Port Arthur’s Cotton Speyrer, a big-play wide receiver for the Longhorns. In the movie, Speyrer is being played by Jordan Shipley, who wrapped up a stellar career with UT in 2009. In another interesting bit of casting, quarterback James Street, who passed away last year, is being  played by his son, Justin. Actor Aaron Eckhart, as mentioned in this space a couple of weeks ago, is cast in the Darrell Royal role.  

    One of the many things to like about an Astros team that is no longer MLB’s whipping boy is the team’s penchant for hitting home runs. Entering the current weekend series against Tampa, Houston ranked No. 4 overall with 74 homers. Only Toronto (91), Colorado (84) and Oakland (77) had more. Cris Carter (13) and George Springer (12) are the obvious big boppers numbers wise, but Jon Singleton may wind up surpassing them both. And there appears to be another slugger on the way. Remember the name Preston Tucker. The Texas League home run leader with 17,  he was just promoted to AAA Oklahoma City. Big things are expected in the not too distant future . . .  When both Carter and Singleton hit grand slams for the Astros against Minnesota last Sunday, it led to a couple of really interesting notes in the Houston Chronicle. The last time an Astros team hit two grand slams in the same game, Jimmy Wynn and Denis Menke connected in an 11-run ninth inning against the Mets in 1969. What was just as interesting was that in the second game of a doubleheader that day, Astros pitcher Larry Dierker doubled and homered off some guy named Nolan Ryan . . . Here’s how much respect the Dallas Cowboys defense gets. A Fantasy Football site was deliberating over whether Jamaal Charles or Philadelphia’s LeSean (Shady) McCoy should be the No. 1 pick. Here was the tiebreaker: “What it should come down to is the schedule. Unfortunately, it’s too early to predict which back will have an easier road. Shady does play the Dallas Cowboys in Week 13 and Week 15. Those should be a pair of monster games.”

    If you are ready for some football, the 2014 edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine is due on newstands Friday. In well-deserved recognition of what’s been going on at Baylor in recent years, the cover features Bears head coach Art Briles, quarterback Bryce Petty and wide receiver Antwan Goodley in front of the school’s beautiful new McLane Stadium. “It was a slam-dunk pick for the cover this year,” said managing editor Greg Tepper. “Each annual edition of Texas Football aspires to reflect the biggest story in the state that year, and there’s little doubt the Bears are the biggest story in Texas football.” . . . My favorite owner/GM is making stupid statements again. At a recent event honoring his former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, Jerry Jones offered up the following dubious statement about the Razorbacks playing Texas A&M at JerryWorld in September. “Nothing has made me prouder with the Cowboys than to know Arkansas is playing in that stadium.” Jones declared. Come on, Jethro. Nothing with the Cowboys has made you prouder than having Arkansas play at your stadium? Having the Razorbacks at JerryWorld takes precedent over winning three Super Bowls? Oh, well, that explains a lot, including wasting a first-round draft pick on Arkansas’ Felix Jones in 2008 . . . HBO’s choice of the Atlanta Falcons as the team to be featured on Hard Knocks later this summer probably drew yawns in a lot of places, but not in Southeast Texas. Lincoln ex Jonathan Babineaux, in his 10th season as a stalwart on the Falcons defensive line, and Bridge City’s Matt Bryant, in his sixth year as Atlanta’s field goal specialist, and 12th overall in the NFL, are unheralded but vital pieces in Atlanta. Both should get some air time.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at


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Bob West