PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

July 27, 2013

West column: Buckshot's players turning out strong for THSCA salute

PORT ARTHUR —

    Clarence “Buckshot” Underwood’s lasting impact on the football players he coached in Port Arthur will be in-your-face evident when they show up in large numbers for his induction into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor Wednesday in Fort Worth. According to Dr. Jesse DeLee of San Antonio, one of those former Underwood players who helped organize a Yellow Jacket reunion of sorts for Tuesday night, some 40 ex players have confirmed their attendance. Included are three first team all staters — Ronnie Stanley, Mickey Walker and Jay Hebert — from Underwood’s 1957 state finalists and others whose names resonate in Yellow Jacket history like Ragan Gennusa, Kyle Haines and Charlie Wilson.  Add in members of Underwood’s family, player wives and friends, and even former Baylor coach Grant Teaff, and the Buckshot contingent is expected to be close to 100. That’s quite a statement on behalf of a guy whose last season in Port Arthur was 48 years ago and who passed away in 1985. Underwood, a one-time Bear Bryant assistant at Kentucky, posted a 73-33-6 record as head coach of the Yellow Jackets, won six district championships and took three teams as far as the state semifinals. His most famous former player was Jimmy Johnson, who earlier this year credited the work ethic instilled by his dad and by Underwood for his success in life. While Underwood is certainly deserving of induction into the TSHSA Hall of Honor, it’s only happening because of a massive lobbying and letter-writing campaign by his former players, the likes of which THSCA committee members say they’ve never seen.  

    Though it’s true that pre-season predictions often are nowhere close to what ultimately becomes reality, it has to be alarming to Lamar football coach Ray Woodard that his peers in the Southland Conference have picked the Cardinals to finish seventh out of eight teams. Both Woodard and Lamar fans had every reason to expect a little more respect in year four of the program’s restart. The seventh-place prediction, of course, won’t make any difference if LU can at least manage a middle-of-the-pack season. If the opposing coaches prove to be right, however, Woodard should brace for considerable grumbling from the school’s fan base . . . Another LU coach facing what could be a make-or-break season, Pat Knight, has added an interesting player to the Cardinal mix. Knight, whose biggest need is players able to contribute immediately after last year’s 3-28 disaster, signed the soon-to-be 26-years-old son of LA Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Preston Mattingly, 6-3, was a three-sport schoolboy star in Indiana, and averaged 21 points a game his senior season at Evansville Central High School. But that was in 2006. He was the 31st pick in the baseball draft that year and has since bounced around the Dodger and New York Yankee farm systems . . . Figure this one out. Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, whose college career wound up in scorn and ridicule over the infamous fake girlfriend, is the most popular incoming rookie in the NFL in terms of jersey sale. NFLShop.com says sales of Te’o’s San Diego Chargers’ No.  50 rank ahead of  the sales of St. Louis’ Tavon Austin, Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel, Minnesota’s Cordarrele Patterson and Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy.

    Nice to see the world’s wealthiest snake-oil salesman was in mid-season form for the opening press conference at Dallas Cowboys training camp last week. Good old Jerry Jones, apparently without fear his nose was going to grow, professed full confidence in head coach Jason Garrett and acted like it was ludicrous for anybody to suggest his job might be on the line after back-to-back 8-8 seasons. P.T. Barnum, who once noted “there’s a sucker born every minute,” must have been smiling. Dallas’ record since 1995, by the way, is 140-141, so maybe Garrett is the right guy for the job . . . I haven’t seen an advance copy yet, but I don’t think it’s a reach to predict the upcoming biography on Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III — RG3: The Promise — is going to be exceptional. Washington Post writer Dave Shenin, who authored the book, said after spending considerable time with the former Baylor star: “Well, he sort of reminds me of a modern Bill Bradley.” That’s not Bill Bradley,  the former UT great and current Lamar assistant, but Bill Bradley, the Rhodes Scholar and one-time Princeton and New York Knicks star who spent three terms as a United States senator representing New Jersey. Says Shenin of Griffin, “What Griffin seemed to share with Bradley, beyond interest in law and politics, was the sense that their chosen sport was not their destination, but rather the vehicle to something bigger.”    

    At first glance, it might appear the Milwaukee Brewers suspended slugger, Ryan Braun, is paying a steep price for his role in baseball’s latest drug scandal. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While Braun forfeits $3.1 million in salary for sitting down the final 65 games of the 2013 season, he still has $127 million coming over the next seven years on a fully guaranteed contract. Until baseball can figure out a way to insert clauses that void high-dollar contracts when players get busted for PEDs, there’s not much of a fear factor at work . . . That, by the way, is pretty much the sentiment of Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who took one of the harshest public stances I’ve seen on baseball’s cheaters and liars. Here’s what Sandberg had to say: “The bottom line is that the players are still comfortable with the penalties involved. Guys have failed tests and sat out two months and got big multi-year contracts the next year. And they don’t seem to worry about it. They’re still in the game. I’d like the penalties really stiffened up.” . . . Could anything be scarier for MLB than to have its two TV ratings darlings — the Yankees and the Red Sox — get blown away in the ratings by the final round of the British Open? That’s exactly what happened last Sunday when Phil Mickelson’s come-from-behind win drew a 3.6 rating (2.8 million households) to a 2.1 (1.6 million) for Boston-New York. Making it worse, Yankees-Red Sox aired in prime time, while the British Open was on from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. That’s enough to make Bud Selig stutter.

    For once, Charles Barkley created a buzz without opening his mouth and saying something controversial. Playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe last weekend, Barkley had one of the members of his posse start handing out $100 bills to chosen ones in the gallery around the 7th green. A day later on a Philadelphia sports talk show, the man with the world’s worst golf swing denied the largesse. But there were numerous twitter posting from folks who walked away $100 richer . . . Phil Mickelson will be sending the equivalent of thousands of $100 bills to the United Kingdom, after back-to-back victories in the Scottish Open and British Open. Mickelson won the U.S. equivalent of $2,167,000 but, according to Forbes magazine, will be keeping only $842,700 after taxes he must pay to the United Kingdom, California and Uncle Sam. Phil’s tax hit to the British government is  pegged at a whopping 45 percent of the winnings, and the Brits will also get a percentage of any endorsements he receives from hoisting two championship trophies in Scotland. For Mickelson, who infamously whined about California’s 13.9 percent state tax rate this past winter, there’s some serious irony at work in all this . . . Terrific piece recently by a writer named Will Leitch of sportsonearth.com. Writing about how some of the hallowed franchises in sports — the Cowboys, Yankees and  Lakers — are losing their relevance through ongoing mediocrity, Leitch’s effort went from good to great with the following thought. “The Cowboys might be nearing Notre Dame status: Old people understand and remember why they’re important, young people don’t really care.” How profound!

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net

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Bob West