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MURRELL COLUMN: Triangle owns Big Game

To an outsider, why Houston isn’t considered Southeast Texas is a mystery.

On the map, the United States’ fourth-largest city clearly points to the southeast corner of the state. But it’s exactly that posture which tends to draw the outsider’s attention to the locales a little further to the east.

Exactly what is life like in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Orange? If it’s anything like in Houston, it revolves around football, right?

It’s hard to imagine this metropolis went five seasons without an NFL team.

But during the heyday of the Astrodome and the present-day NRG Stadium, the Oilers and the Texans weren’t the only favorite teams starring there.

The area most commonly referred to as Southeast Texas — any part of the region other than greater Houston — has played a big part in the stadiums’ history. Port Neches-Groves students of the 1970s and Port Arthur Memorial faithful in this decade have witnessed it.

West Orange-Stark owned NRG Stadium for a day in December 2015. And a quarterback named Dallas earned a new last name — Houston.

As Super Bowl activities cranked up Monday, Houston was rightfully considered Southeast Texas. All of the region’s high school football heroes who got to step foot on a Super Bowl field met at the Marriott South to share memories of past glory and anticipate the new ones to be made tonight at NRG.

But out of the mouths of local media repeated two buzzwords — Golden Triangle.

Word is, Jerry LeVias brought national attention to it during an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, calling his hometown the “pro football capital of the world.” It’s reported former Beaumont Mayor Ken Ritter capitalized on it while in office and gave his city that designation.

Port Arthur is often called the Super Bowl capital of the world. Without formal declaration, the city backed it up last year when Memorial received eight golden footballs, representing the seven players and one head coach from its school district who played in the game, from the NFL. No other high school had more, although none of the players had graduated from Memorial.

That is, until now.

Tonight, the eighth and ninth players from this city will do battle — Lincoln’s Jonathan Babineaux vs. Memorial’s Elandon Roberts.

And — just maybe — someone from Bridge City named Matt Bryant will get to kick the winning field goal — and give Orange County its third world champion, following WOS greats Kevin Smith and Earl Thomas.

The national media, dotted with analysts who played and excelled at the game, know about the Golden Triangle’s impact. The cameras have been all over the Triangle trio.

Even former Thomas Jefferson quarterback Todd Dodge is getting some national love.

ESPN, according to reports, will air an interview sometime between 11 and 11:30 a.m. on Bryant about the death of his infant son in 2008. Fox (KBTV-4), which is airing the Super Bowl, will feature Wade Phillips between 1 and 1:30 in a piece about football in Houston.

Between 2 and 2:30, TJ alumnus Jimmy Johnson will do a live shot from the Johnson Space Center, and he’ll have an interview with Patriots coach Bill Belichick airing within 60 to 90 minutes before the 5:30 kickoff.

Dodge talked to Fox about the history of high school football in Texas, but the time slot for that piece’s airing has not been announced.

The Super Bowl will kick off in Houston tonight, but the Golden Triangle has made an impact on the game — then and now — only an area the size of Houston is supposed to make.

Bryant could increase that impact with a clutch field goal. But look for Roberts to earn his Super Bowl stripes with a big defensive stop.

Prediction: New England 32, Atlanta 29, in the first overtime Super Bowl.

I.C. Murrell can be reached at 721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com. On Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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