The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Big time props to my good friend Dale Hansen, the sports anchor at WFAA-TV in Dallas who was the emcee for the Port Arthur News Homecoming Roast of Jimmy Johnson. Hansen, in a Monday commentary that immediately went viral and earned him an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres TV show, an invitation from CNN’s Piers Morgan and even grudging acknowledgment from Rush Limbaugh, really nailed the NFL’s hypocrisy about being ready for an openly gay player like Missouri linebacker Michael Sam in the locker room. Here’s a shortened version of what Hansen said. “You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they’re welcome. Player accused of rape. Pay the woman to go away? You lie to police trying to cover up a murder? We’re comfortable with that. You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone to far.” To hear the entire commentary, which ties in how “uncomfortable” pro sports were with black athletes for too long, Google Dale Hansen. It’s worth your time, no matter your point of view. Dale, incidentally, says the response was immediate, massive and surprisingly supportive. “It’s been 95 percent positive, but those on the other side are pretty scary,” he said. . . . Next best take I’ve seen on Michael Sam, what he’s up against and why all the public show of support from NFL front offices may be nothing more than posturing, came from former Houston Texans No 1. draft pick Travis Johnson, who is not gay. “They’re old right-wing Republicans,” said Johnson of NFL owners. “They’re almost tea party Republicans. Most of them I’ve met have been great guys. But they come from a different time. So if you ask them to accept this and give this guy $10 million of their hard-earned money, then you’re alienating yourself.”
Former TJ football coach Mike Owens, a Port Arthur native, is receiving a nice and well-deserved honor next Saturday night in Texarkana. Owens, after coaching Tyler Lee to the 2004 5A Division 1 state championship on the way to compiling a sparkling 109-62 record in 15 years, is being inducted into the East Texas Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Mike, who was just as good a coach at TJ but on the wrong side of PAISD politics, as well as the numbers game, was 80-64-2 as head coach of the Yellow Jackets. He took six TJ teams into the playoffs in the era when you had to earn your spot, rather than being third or fourth place team . . . After years of voting down 7 o’clock kickoffs, with distant member Livingston their excuse, District 20-5A (formerly 20-4A) has finally approved the 7 p.m. kickoffs neighboring 3A and 5A districts went to years ago. Newspapers and TV stations are jumping with joy because that extra 30 minutes provides invaluable additional time to spend with coaches and players after games. It’s a win-win deal for the teams and for the media. Many thanks to Nederland’s Larry Neumann for being the point man on this year after year. Neumann, who is not only the best football coach in Southeast Texas but the most cooperative with the media, was quick to grasp the benefits for his players.
Here’s hoping some of those in the Beaumont Independent School District who are not under siege find their way to the Willie Ray Smith Awards Dinner Wednesday night. At a time when the BISD could use some favorable publicity, it would do its officials good to hear what guest speaker Jerry LeVias has to say, then take steps to honor him. LeVias, of course, is the former Hebert High School star who went on to blaze a heroic trail integrating the Southwest Conference and has been basically ignored in his home town ever since. Anybody with half a brain should understand Jerry was the biggest difference maker to come out of a Beaumont school and needs to be celebrated in a manner that will constantly remind students who he is and what he did. Either rename the football stadium or put a statue of him on prominent display. In the meantime, the eight Smith finalist are in for a rare treat by hearing and seeing his story up close. The introductory video alone will make it a memorable night for all who attend . . . Next to LeVias, the person in Beaumont most deserving of a hug is KBMT (Channel 12) sports director Dave Hofferth. Night after night, loss after loss, Dave, who is one of the best play-by-play announcers you will ever hear, delivers an upbeat and professional broadcast of Lamar basketball games. He’s sat through a 15-game Montagne Center losing streak, more bad basketball than anybody should ever be forced to endure and watched Pat Knight serve up the two worst back-to-back seasons in school history. You’re a better man than me, Dave. I won’t be back until there’s a coaching change, and I’m guessing that’s going to come sooner rather than later. Maybe real soon.
If I were going to pick out one Houston Astros game to attend this year, it would be Saturday, April 5 against the Los Angles Angels. That’s the night two of the team’s all-time greats — Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman — will be saluted, after signing one-day Houston contracts so they can officially retire as Astros. Oswalt’s arm and Berkman’s bat were major factors during a period from 2001 through 2005 when the Astros never won fewer than 84 games, never finished lower than second in the NL Central and finally reached the World Series. One is in the conversation as the franchise’s all-time best pitcher, the other as its best-ever hitter. It will be neat seeing them go out together. The idea was Oswalt’s and Berkman jumped on it . . . No surprise that Houston owner Jim Crane made Nolan Ryan an offer he couldn’t refuse to rejoin the team as a special advisor to Crane, team president Reid Ryan and GM Jeff Luhnow. You could see this one coming from the day Nolan felt it was time to walk away from the Texas Rangers. Meanwhile, some in Houston are already questioning whether Ryan’s massive shadow and enormous respect will have GM Luhnow looking over his shoulder. Luhnow is a big sabermetrics guy while Ryan is about as old school as it gets. In Luhnow’s favor is the fact he’s elevated the Astros farm system from the worst in baseball to the best in a mere two years. He and Astros manager Bo Porter, however, need to listen to the message that Ryan got through to the Rangers about pitchers. Quit babying pitchers. Ditch the damn pitch counts.
After suffering through a 2013 that saw the Astros lose more games than any team in MLB and the Texans go 2-14 to claim the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick, Houston sports fans can take some solace in what the Rockets have accomplished in taking a 36-17 record into the NBA All-Star break. While they aren’t yet ready to challenge for a championship, these Rockets look good enough to win a series or two in the playoffs. Provided, of course, they can get healthy and stay healthy. They got to 35 wins in 52 games, which was the fastest that’s happened since the Hakeem Olajuwon Rockets did it in 47 on the way to the 1993-94 title. A big part of that is Dwight Howard getting back to being a dominant player. Howard has 34 double-doubles going into the All-Star break. That’s the most since Olajuwon’s 38 in ‘93-94 . . . Is this poetic justice or what? Over-the-hill future NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed, who legally made off with $5 million from the Texans, then bashed Wade Phillips’ system for not being able to make a has-been look good, had $50,000 in cash stolen out of his car in Houston a few days ago. Why Reed had that kind of money stashed in a paper bag in his car is unknown. Presumably Texans owner Bob McNair has an alibi for his whereabouts that day . . . And how about the extravagance of the New York Yankees latest Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka? Owner of a seven-year, $155 million contract, the heralded pitcher chartered a Boeing 787 jetliner for a reported $195,000 to transport five people and a puppy from Tokyo to New York. The plane touched down with 181 empty seats. Looks like Tanaka will be the perfect symbol of why so many detest the Yankees.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.