, Port Arthur, Texas

April 5, 2014

West column: Jethro’s got Lacewell, doesn’t need Jimmy

Bob West
The Port Arthur News


Touché to Jimmy Johnson, who has to be getting fed up with all the calls he’s gotten from Dallas-area media types asking about the 20th anniversary of his breakup with Jerry Jones. In response to a question from Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News, Jimmy was typically evasive but worked in a couple of absolute zingers. “What anniversary is this one?” he asked Cowlishaw with a laugh. “They’re always having some kind of anniversaries down there. I guess they don’t go to Super Bowls any more.” Ouch! Then, to twist the dagger, he said to Cowlishaw: “Do you want to know how many times Jerry or Stephen (Jones) have called me in 20 years for advice or to ask about a player? Zero. And yet they call Larry Lacewell.” So much for the Ring of Honor . . . Good stuff from the two Lamar guys in the Shell Houston Open Saturday, especially Shawn Stefani. Fighting to salvage his PGA Tour card in a last-chance opportunity, Stefani rebounded from what could have been disastrous back-to-back double bogeys on holes 5 and 6 with eagles at 8 and 13, managed to get in with a 73 and is all alone in 7th place. He needs  a top 20 finish. Stroud, meanwhile, shot 71, despite taking 29 more putts, and is T12 after needing 92 putts in 54 holes. Switching to a shorter putter helped, and he knocked in an 18-foot birdie at 18, but this could have been the week. Lamar, by the way, is winning the SHO’s two-man team championship. Well, it would be if they had one. With threatening weather in the forecast again Sunday, tee times start at 7:30 a.m. Stroud is out at 8:50 a.m. off No. 1, with Stefani following at 9:10.

Remember Mattress Mack, aka Jim McIngvale, the Gallery Furniture impresario in Houston who made national news with a Super Bowl offer to customers that wound up allegedly costing him $7 million when Seattle beat Denver. McIngvale is at it again in an offer tied to the Astros snapping their string of three consecutive 100-plus loss seasons. Through today, the first 500 customers buying at least $6,300 worth of furniture — there is no top-end limit — will get a full refund if the Astros win 63 games. There must have been a rush to Gallery Furniture after the Astros won their first two against the Yankees . . . With the PGA Tour in Houston this week, Astros owner Jim Crane worked a golf angle into the team’s farewell gifts to retiring New York Yankee great Derek Jeter. After former Yankee teammates Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte presented Jeter with a pair of custom-made Luchese boots, adorned by the Yankees logo and Jeter’s No. 2, as well as a white felt Stetson, out came the golf swag. Past and present PGA stars Mark O’Meara, Lucas Glover and Johnson Wagner gave Jeter a full set of Titleist clubs, a tournament bag from Crain’s swanky Floridian resort, a four-day stay at the Floridian and lessons from Butch Harmon. Jeter must be really happy MLB commissioner Bud Selig moved the Astros to the American League . . . ESPN’s business reporter Darren Rovell put an interesting slant on Miguel Cabrera’s blockbuster $292 million contract with the Detroit Tigers that makes it easy for the average working stiff to comprehend and resent. Rovell pointed out that Cabrera will earn $49,423 per at bat for the next decade, then noted that the average annual income of a Michigan household is $48,471.

Deion Sanders did what he does best this past week — stir the pot with an over-the-top statement that contained more truth that a lot of folks will care to admit. Prime Time, professing how much he loves Johnny Manziel as a quarterback on the Tom Joyner TV show, said Manziel has “ghetto tendencies” and plays more like a black quarterback, while Louisville’s highly regarded black QB Teddy Bridgewater plays like a white QB. So, Deion, what did you mean by ghetto tendencies? “Because he was successful, he made it, and he let you all know he made it, and he was cocky, he was flamboyant and he let you know.” Sanders especially liked the fact Manziel had rap music from Drake blaring during his pro day workout . . . Given today’s inflated salaries for administrators, made possible by athletic revenue, it’s no big deal that the University of Texas paid search firm Korn/Ferry over $200,000, plus expenses, to locate and recommend Steve Patterson as its new AD. What does seem a little bit off the rails, however, is that after paying Patterson $1.4 million as its AD, Texas didn’t rely on him to find a replacement for Mack Brown. According to USA Today, Texas shelled out  another $266,990 to Korn/Ferry to find and recommend Charlie Strong as Brown’s successor. Yes, I know Texas can afford it, and search firms have become commonplace in big-time sports, but why pay an AD a million bucks if he can’t find his own coach . . . Patterson, by the way, made headlines this past week with talk about there being more benefit to scheduling games for Longhorn teams in the Middle East than rekindling the school’s rivalry with Texas A&M. Texas is already scheduled to play Washington in a basketball game in China in 2015, a matchup certain to create Longhorns frenzy in Hong Kong. I really have a hard time believing that working on international branding is more important to the UT masses, and the school’s athletes, than playing Texas A&M. Especially now that Johnny Manziel won’t be around to embarrass the Texas defense.

Here’s some interesting numbers to ponder on the teams playing in the Final Four at JerryWorld. The gap between what a scholarship covers and the actual cost to attend school for one year at Florida, Kentucky, Wisconsin and UConn  ranges from $2,300 to $4,500. Meanwhile, the average salary for the four coaches — Billy Donovan, John Calipari, Bo Ryan and Kevin Ollie — is $3.1 million and they’ve already earned $850,000 in bonuses by getting this far. So the only ones out any money, while everybody else gets rich, are the players. You can’t get much more American than that ? ? ?  What a farce the overused term student-athlete really is. We’ve got one team at the Final Four, Kentucky, with several players who will spend less than one full year in the classroom. We’ve got another team at the Final Four, UConn, which wasn’t even eligible for the NCAA tournament last year because it didn’t meet minimum academic progress rates for its basketball players. Those same Huskies are one of eight schools in this year’s NCAA, a list that includes Oklahoma State, Providence and Oregon, that are apparently in danger of future APR sanctions . . .  If you watched ESPN’s special after the NCAA tournament pairings were announced, you saw virtually every one of the network’s alleged experts slobbering over Tom Izzo and Michigan State. No less than five members of ESPN’s panel of wise guys — Jay Bilas, Seth Greenburg, Digger Phelps, Dick Vitale and Jay Williams — picked the No. 4 seeded Spartans to win the tournament. It was hard not to laugh when Michigan State didn’t reach the Final Four.

When the Astros brought Nolan Ryan on board as a consultant, the deal apparently extended beyond adding the baseball expertise of one of the game’s all-time greats. No doubt as a business concession to Ryan, Minute Maid Park concession stands have changed meat providers. All hot dogs, hamburgers and steaks are being purchased through Nolan Ryan Beef. There’s also a Ryan presence in the gift shops, where rainbow-colored Nolan Ryan throwback jerseys are expected to be best sellers. Owner Jim Crane may not be able to get the Astros out to a widespread TV audience, but he’s certainly no fool . . . Team Marketing Report has delivered its annual report on the cost of attending a baseball game at all MLB parks, with a figure that accounts for the price of four average tickets, two small beers, four small soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two adult-sized caps. The Houston baseball experience comes in No. 13 out of 30 at $215.90. That’s roughly $3 more than the average, but well below No. 1 Boston’s $350.78 and the No. 2 NY Yankees at $337.20. It, however, is below the No. 17 Texas Rangers at $203.14. Cheapest place to watch a game? Arizona, where the Fan Cost Index for four is $126.89 . . . Not that there was any doubt Tiger Woods is far-and-away golf’s biggest attraction, but falling prices on the secondary ticket market for the Masters underscores his value. Last year, with Tiger on a roll and heavily favored to win, a four-day Masters badge on the secondary market averaged $9,276. This year, with no Tiger in the field, the same badge is selling for $4,477.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at