, Port Arthur, Texas

November 24, 2012

West column: Gonsoulin fights back after quadruple bypass

Bob West
The Port Arthur News


    If you weren’t already saying an occasional prayer for Goose Gonsoulin, please do it now. The former TJ, Baylor and Denver Broncos standout, who was already battling a recurrence of prostate cancer that’s spread to his bones, is recovering from quadruple bypass surgery last Monday at Herman Memorial Baptist Hospital in Beaumont. Following a heart attack, there was debate between Goose’s doctors about whether to even attempt the surgery. The decision was green-lighted because one of the doctors said, “This is a Southeast Texas sports hero and he needs the opportunity to fight, whether it’s for three months, three years or more.” After the surgery was successful, the doctor told Nikki Gonsoulin, “He has the heart of a champion.” . . . Nederland’s Brian Sanches, after a disappointing 2012 season that ended in Oklahoma City, didn’t expect to field any offers from major league teams until early December at the soonest. Instead, the Kansas City Royals made an aggressive pitch to him a week ago to sign a minor league contract and go to spring training as a non-roster invitee. Sanches jumped at the chance, primarily because his 2009 pitching coach with the Florida Marlins, Steve Foster, is KC’s pitching coordinator and special assistant to the GM. “It’s a good fit for me,” said Sanches, who was drafted out of Lamar by the Royals and pitched  in their system from 1999-2003. “Foster tried to get me over there last year after the Phillies released me, but it didn’t work out. I like my chances with them. They got 2-3 spots open in their bullpen.”

    Kudos to the Babineaux brothers — Jonathan and Jordan — and Jamaal Charles, and their families, for stepping up to help needy families enjoy Thanksgiving. As you may have read in Wednesday’s Port Arthur News, over 200 turkeys with all the trimmings were handed out at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on behalf of the Babineaux Family Foundation and the Jamaal Charles Youth Matters Family Foundation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Port Arthur is blessed to have professional athletes who give back so much to their hometown . . . Jonathan Babineaux, incidentally, probably took a lot of kidding from his Atlanta Falcons teammates during the week, after scooping up a fumble and returning it 15 yards for a touchdown last Sunday against Arizona. The 6-2, 300 pound Babineaux, who is having another solid season, attempted to dunk the ball over the goal post cross bar, but came up well short. That inspired a good-natured Internet video titled “White men (and Jonathan Babineaux) can’t jump.” . . . Charles, meanwhile, got some nice publicity from Sports Illustrated’s Charles Burke in a piece rating the NFL’s 10 best runs of the 2012 season. Jamaal’s 37-yard touchdown run against San Diego, after being pinned on one sideline, then reversing his field and outrunning all the Chargers would-be tacklers, was rated No. 1. Charles, for one of the few times, can be seen on local TV today when Channel 6 carries the noon Denver-Kansas City game.

    If the Texans’ J.J. Watt didn’t already have NFL Defensive Player of the Year locked up before Thanksgiving Day, he should have nailed it down with that incredible performance against Detroit. Three sacks to break Mario Williams’  team record of 14, three more passes batted down to tie Reggie White’s NFL record of 13 for a defensive lineman and a couple of stops behind the line to take the Lions out of field goal range with the game on the line was a mind-boggling day for a guy constantly getting double and triple teamed. My only question is where’s the rest of Houston’s pass rush? Even with all the attention Watt gets, rarely does anybody else get to the QB . . . After watching Robert Griffin III shred Dallas’ defense, which team looks better for the next five to 10 years or more? The Redskins, with a rising star at quarterback and a veteran coach who knows how to use him, or the Cowboys, with an aging Tony Romo and a coach who gets exposed on a weekly basis? One clear edge the Redskins don’t have, however, is at owner. Washington’s Dan Snyder is every bit the blocked punt that Jethro is. On the other hand, Snyder at least seems to be staying more and more out of the spotlight. Jones’ ego will never allow that to happen to him . . . What quarterback would have the most impact on an NFL betting line, if he couldn’t play? R.J. Bell of Las Vegas betting service says its Denver’s Peyton Manning. Bell says Manning means 6.5 points to the Broncos. New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers are worth 6 points each. Then come Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, the NY Giants’ Eli Manning and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan at 4 points.

    Is it possible to win by losing? Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle indirectly raised the issue, in conjunction with Texas nipping Texas A&M, 27-25, on Justin Tucker’s final play, 40-yard field goal last Thanksgiving. Had the kick missed, Mike Sherman would probably still be A&M’s head coach, Johnny Manziel might not even be the Aggies QB and it’s highly doubtful A&M would have entered the final week of the regular seaosn with a shot at a BCS bowl. Both Longhorn and Cowboy fans, rather than agonize over their teams’ latest losses, should take the A&M example to heart and rejoice. You’re one step closer to getting much-needed coaching changes  . . . Manziel, by the way, would get my Heisman Trophy vote, if I had one. It’s hardly even arguable that another player anywhere has made as much difference on a winning team as Johnny Football has made for Texas A&M. So what if he’s a freshman? The only serious threat for Manziel is probably Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and he wouldn’t be if he didn’t play for the Fighting Irish. Te’o is a terrific player, but he doesn’t make near the impact on games that Manziel does . . . Saw some really interesting recruiting numbers on Texas in the Dallas Morning News a couple of weeks ago. UT’s 2009 football recruiting class ranked No. 5 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big 12. Its 2010 class was No. 3 in the nation and No. 1 in the Big 12. All total,  30 of 45 signees were four or five-star prospects. In 2012, those players should have been the nucleus of a national championship contender. Instead, 19 of the 45 are no longer at Texas, the Longhorns get embarrassed by Oklahoma, struggle to beat the likes of winless Kansas, lose to a TCU team playing with a backup QB and are an also ran for the third consecutive year. Totally indefensible.

    USA Today is conducting an online poll to determine America’s best high school football rivalry and will give each of the winning schools $10,000. There are three nominees from each state and, unfortunately, Nederland’s 89 games worth of Mid-County Madness battles with Port Neches-Groves wasn’t included in Texas’ final three. That list includes Longview vs. Marshall, Odessa Permian against Midland Lee and Sherman vs. Denison. All three are storied rivalries but I’m having a hard time believing any of them top Nederland-PNG . . . Could Lance Berkman be back in an Astros uniform next season? Latest word is that he’s considering Houston, Boston and Philadelphia. Unless Berkman, who missed most of the 2012 season with injuries, is making unreasonable financial demands, the Astros should make every effort to sign him and plug him in as their DH. On a team of no-names and players trying to prove themselves, he’d give Houston a true professional hitter capable of putting butts in seats . . . If you’re my age, you were heavily into baseball as a kid and you grew up in Missouri, one of your boyhood heroes was Stan Musial. That’s a way of explaining why I’m wishing a belated happy birthday to the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer. Stan the Man turned 92 on Wednesday. I can still vividly recall No. 6 uncoiling out of his distinctive crouch to slap another line drive into the gap. My favorite memory was the Sunday afternoon at Sportsman’s Park when he unloaded five home runs on the Giants. Sadly, he may not remember. Stan’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at