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Friday, December 1, 2017

WHITT'S END: 12.1.17


   Whether you're at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt's end:

   *From the Dept. of Too-Little-Too-Late, the Cowboys last night were ... lucky to be playing the hapless Redskins. Washington committed four turnovers, Dez Bryant crawled out of his grave and even a flimsy rookie draft class looked like Pro Bowl players in a 38-14 victory. Ryan Switzer, Taco Charlton and Chidobe Awuzie all produced positive plays. One win won't turn around a season, but it will temporarily warp expectations. With the awful Giants and reeling Raiders next on the schedule and then Zeke Elliott comes back and if they can only ... Stop it. No. Even 10-6 doesn't guarantee a Wild Card berth in this year's NFC, but it is a guarantee that the Cowboys won't win out.

   *Dez may have lost a step in speed, but his leaping touchdown catch proved he hasn't lost an inch on his vertical.

   *It was only 10 months ago that national NBA pundits were applauding the Mavs for "stealing" center Nerlens Noel from the Sixers in a trade for Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut and a first-round pick. Noel, the 6th overall pick in '13, is young and wiry and athletic. He was acquired to both protect the rim defensively and attack it on offense, giving Dallas an aggressive alley-oop option it hasn't had since forever. Noel produced 16 points and 11 rebounds in the season opener. Now? Buried deep in Rick Carlisle's doghouse. Noel, who turned down a $70 million contract offer in the offseason, didn't play in Wednesday's loss to the Nets. That's right, the Mavs' center of the future is now behind Maximilian Kleber, Salah Mejri and Jeff Withey in the rotation. This season is officially all about saying goodbye to Dirk Nowitzki, hello to Dennis Smith Jr., and somehow salvaging Noel.

   *The Mavericks will make the postseason in 2018. My Mavericks, that is. UTA has two legit stars in Erick Neal and Kevin Hervey and will punch its own ticket March Madness.

   *These days I'm semi-retired and - I'll admit - getting real bored, real quick. I mean, I can only play so much golf and tennis. I'm ghostwriting a book. I'm a Senior Consultant at On-Air Media, helping companies launch podcasts with our old radio friend Jagger. But if you have something sorta interesting, then sorta let me know.

   *After a horrible three games and an ugly first quarter, No. 4 suddenly found his Dakuracy.

   *Why Whitt's End now? I dunno (see above?). Maybe it's only because Mike Fisher drew me a fancy logo. Is it back for good, on a regular basis? Probably not. Have I missed writing it? Um, ask me again after about 20 bullet points.

   *If you're wondering about Wally Lynn and missed my update, it's right here. Be warned, though, it may not be the Christmas-spirit pick-me-up you're looking for.

   *Hang in there DFW sports fans, this nightmare year only has one month left. What did the StarsRangersMavsCowboys bring us in 2017? How about a combined record of 151-177 and one - count 'em, 1 - playoff game. And, boy, was it a doozy. On January 15th the Cowboys fell behind 21-3 to the Packers, rallied, but eventually lost 34-31 when Green Bay nailed field goals of 56 and 51 yards in the final 1:33. Otherwise ... hurry 2018.

   *Some days you're on top of the world. Some days you can't open your car door without a bloody incident.

   *To get an idea of where America is and where it's headed, watch the movie Idiocracy. I know, it's horrible. But also telling. We've forgotten how to reason, while perfecting the art of reaction. Rational decisions have replaced by blind tribal loyalty. And where does the decline start? Lack of reading. With Twitter and Facebook and audio books and Netflix and satellite radio and ... everything, our society has simply run out of time to have time. Our attention spans have shrunk as our options have expanded. The 24-hour news cycle has deteriorated into 24 seconds. Where once writers had a couple paragraphs to hook readers, now they have a couple of characters. I still love long-form, in-depth writing. But I also realize that literary foreplay is about as trendy as head lice. Reading is learning. And learning helps us reason, not merely react. Do it. For the good of our future. Otherwise, we'll someday elect a President that doesn't know the nuance between your and you're. Wait ... oops.

   *Hot.

   *Not.

   *It is Dec. 1. The Cowboys+Mavs have 11 wins. The Eagles+Sixers have 22.

   *I'm all for equality for females and it's justice that all these women are now coming forward with their tales of being sexually harassed. I hope it is indeed a tipping point, and that the women with momentum help the men in charge to re-draw the lines of acceptable, civil behavior. The bottom line will be less unwanted touching and decreased penis flashes. But - you knew that was coming didn't you? - I fear the reverse chill. The unintended consequence. The sex drives in male CEOs, politicians, Hollywood stars and lower-level employers will not decrease, but their releases will be re-directed. Don't get me wrong. It's a good thing. A great thing. But somewhere soon, if it hasn't already happened, an attractive female will be denied a promotion - or perhaps even an internship - because of her looks. Because of what will be perceived as her danger factor. Attractive females are now Kryptonite to lazy men still in power. To the men, it'll be easier to remove the temptation rather than refuse it. In other words, buy stock in companies that provide escort services. Business will soon be booming.

   *I like blondes. And curves. And fish. And calendars. But I do not want this for Christmas. Because it's weird AF.

   *My better half (Sybil Summers) is twice as good-looking as me and way more than half the writer I am. Add it all up and I win. By losing.

   *Tiger Woods shot a 3-under round. Roger Federer won two Grand Slam tournaments and is No. 2 in the world. Gregg Popovich and Tom Brady are at the top of their professions. 2017 sure looks a lot like 2007.

   *Feel like these days there's more traffic on the roads and less room for your elbows? Here's why: Every day on this planet there are 360,000 births ... and only 151,000 deaths. Every. Single. Day. Scooch a bit, will ya?

   *I babbled earlier about our shrinking free time, but is it just an excuse? If you have a typical 9-5 job you work 40 hours a week, or 2,080 hours a year. Add an hour commute and your "work" load increases to 2,340 hours annually. Sleep eight hours a night? You're up to 5,260 of committed time. Bewildering, right? But, there are 8,760 hours in a year. That leaves you 3,500 hours of totally free time per year. Sooo get to gettin'. By the way, you've wasted about six minutes reading down this far.

   *LaVar Ball deserves Donald Trump. And vice-versa. Watching them Twittfight is like watching the Eagles play the Redskins. You hope it ends in a scoreless tie with numerous injuries.

   *In six years since leaving the Big 12, Texas A&M is 25-23 in the SEC. It has had only one season with a winning conference record and has yet to play in a SEC title game, much less win a conference championship. My question is, therefore, where are all the riled-up Aggies that promised I'd eat crow for writing this?

   *We have a pussy grabber in the White House and we'll soon having a crotch grabber winning the Heisman Trophy. 2017 can't get outta here fast enough.

   *One of the paintings below cost $200 at Pier One. One was done by Sybil and hangs in our dining room. One recently sold for $46 million. Quick, tell me which is which. In a related story, we all chose the wrong profession.

                 


   *You can have one wreck and not be a bad driver. You can be momentarily reprehensible with a woman without being a predator. And you can blurt out a flippant racial comment without being a racist. It's habits and patterns, people. Not one-offs. America has totally lost the art of "context."

   *As I mentioned earlier, On-Air Media is our new media production company. Over by Love Field. 3 studios, complete with 4k cameras, state-of-the-art audio, green-screen backgrounds and A-to-Z podcasting/webcasting. If you or your company wants some attention, hit me up.

   *Recently moved from McKinney to the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. Best thing about it: Lack of traffic. You get accustomed - see: numb - to stop-and-go commutes. But once your 49-minute drive turns into a 9-minute drive, you realize how bad it sucked.

   *If the Tryptophan in your Thanksgiving turkey makes you sleepy, why don't we use turkey pills as sleeping aides? It's as though turkey is a healthy choice for a vibrant lifestyle ... every day of the year except for the third Thursday in November.

   *Similarly to how I feel about Jeff Heath and the Cowboys, I just don't think the Mavs will ever be a legit contender while giving quality playing time to Yogi Ferrell. Both are great guys and try-hard players, but ... no. Just no.

   *I'll never understand our your fascination with British royalty, in particular royal weddings. I think it's the female fantasy of An Officer and a Gentleman, on Molly.

   *Re: Artwork, Sybil's gem is on the left and the middle mishmash - "Ketchup on Canvas" - sold for almost $50 million.Without knowing the value, I wouldn't trade. You?

   *This weekend? Maybe a bike ride around the lake. Maybe put up a Christmas tree. Maybe I'll No way I'm going to pen another Whitt's End. Don't be a stranger.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

WHERE'S WALDO 2?

   The question - seemingly innocuous enough - was posed to me over Thanksgiving:
   "Hey ... how's ol' Wally doin'?"
   I mulled it over anew for three days - after mulling it over every day for three months - and have concluded that I cannot wrap my brain around a logical, sufficient, blanket answer to this Life & Death amalgamation with Lost & Found. So I'll offer this admittedly bipolar retort:

   Wally is irreparably and eternally lost.

   Wally has found exactly who and where he wants to be.

   I knnoooowww, right?
   This isn't black and white, but rather a complex conundrum colored with intertwined layers of gray, gloom and grossly distorted perspective.
   From what I know at this point, Wally is safe. Otherwise ...

   Wally is Lost
   More proof that sequels are never as good as the original, Wally Lynn is gone.
   Poof. Vanished. Dissolved and wholly camouflaged, into a faint world decorated with anonymity and devoid of addresses.
   I'd love for this to be a warm-'n-fuzzy Hallmark-for-the-holidays update on my long-time great friend turning life's corner. For it to be a Christmas miracle, starring me as Clarence the angel who showed Wally a glimpse of his goodness and switched on the light bulb of his do-over.
   Alas, this isn't "reality" TV. It's reality. Truth: We rescued a man that didn't want to be saved.
   After my story helped locate Wally in June 2016, the responses poured in. Emails. Twitter DMs. Facebook messages. Donations. Yes, money, to the tune of $5,000+ via a GoFundMe page aimed at helping him get back on his feet after a couple of life's nasty turns, two alcohol-induced comas and 40+ days homeless on the streets of Dallas.
   He moved in with his brother. I regularly drove him around. We bought him clothes, shoes, supplies, luggage, groceries, a cell phone and a laptop computer. We paid down debt, and lifted up his spirits.
   I printed every one of the responses from well-wishers, and assigned him the homework of reading them all. To refresh his memory on how good he was. To re-boot his belief that - despite bad decisions and worse consequences - a lot of people were still rooting for him to be the best he could be.
   But before I could get a feel on where he had truly been and where he might want to eventually go, he was in jail.
   Picked up on a warrant for numerous outstanding and varying transgressions, he spent a couple weeks behind bars. I visited him a few times, and - with his blessing - attempted to broker peace between him and his sons, and tried to help re-build the bridge of trust to his extended family that had been decimated during his previous drinking binges and accompanying disappearances.
   When he was released, there were flashes of the Wally I remembered. We laughed at a Christmas party. We drowned our sorrows in song with my family early into the morning after the Cowboys' crushing playoff loss to the Packers. We went to the movies. We got him a job, and a place to live.
   What I couldn't locate, was his motivation.
   We had long talks at El Fenix and Whataburger, but I soon discovered he wanted nothing to do with the past, or the future. He squirmed when I asked about life on the streets. He changed the subject when I brought up jail, old memories from better times, or a potential tip-toe back into the media world via podcast. He was comfortable talking about last night's Rangers' game or next week's Cowboys' game. His present. His moment. Anything else was a murky, mumbly mess.
   For most of last Spring he lived in a mutual friend's mansion in McKinney. Had his own room upstairs, complete with a giant-screen TV and private bathroom. Rent-free. His only responsibility was to check-in with his friend/boss before 9 a.m. each day to see if help was needed. Some days it might be to run errands. Some days it might be manual labor on a ranch. Some days it might be to sit in on a brainstorming meeting. And some days it might be absolutely nothing.
   Just check in. Be involved. Act interested.
   Over a 3-month period in that mansion, Wally met his check-in obligation less than five times.
   I reminded him in person. I reminded him over the phone, and via text. He listened. He agreed. He nodded. He ... rarely awakened before Noon. I have no reason to believe he resumed drinking alcohol, but one night the owner of the house caught him smoking cigarettes in his room. There weren't many rules in the mansion, but not smoking was one of them.
   In August the house was put up for sale, and the friend/boss had long ago grown weary of wasting energy and expenses on Wally's general aloofness. He didn't care about existing jobs. Or job leads. Or anything. One of his friends bought him a new bicycle to help him be mobile and search for new employment. It merely collected dust. I drove him to look for a new place to stay. He repeatedly re-coiled at un-mansion options, and I remember being taken aback that he refused to grasp his predicament, his plight. He had nothing. He offered nothing. But, somehow, he deserved something.
   Out of money, patience and time, his brothers and I decided to exchange enabling for tough love.
   On Aug. 26 I rode Wally's bike to a nearby motel in McKinney. We pre-paid for two weeks, and put enough money in his checking account for another two weeks plus necessities. I then drove him around and identified potential jobs. I counted seven, all within walking and/or riding distance.
   "Wally," I told him sternly, "a lot of people have tried a lot of ways to help you and you've turned your back on all of them. This is it. When this money runs out you're own your own. Your job is to find a job, and you've got about 30 days."
   As always, he said he understood. He nodded. But he didn't take notes. Didn't write down names of businesses, much less phone numbers.
   For a couple weeks we stayed in contact. I texted for an update on his job hunting. And on Sept. 16 he left me a voicemail, saying his cell phone was dead and that he was changing rooms in the hotel.
   When I went to visit a couple days later, the front-desk clerk informed that Wally Lynn had checked out.
   I haven't seen nor talked to him since.

   Wally is Found
   While this update is therapeutic for me and informative for all those inquiring, it is in no way a judgment.
   In retrospect, I suspect Wally resented me for "rescuing" him off the streets because, well, that's precisely where he wants to be. It's where he doesn't get recognized. Doesn't have to re-hash his glorious past. Doesn't have to explain his dramatic decline. Doesn't have to map out any semblance of a future.
   He prefers life lived second to second and served meal to meal. Who am I to say he's wrong?
   The only way I can write this chapter of his saga with a (semi) dry eye? Wally is where he is today because it's exactly where Wally wants to be. I tried. I failed. I've made peace about that. You can lead a friend to water but you can't ... you know. Faced with a computer problem, we can fiddle with the hard drive, run anti-virus software or try the old re-boot. But those fixes are all hapless without a power source, and Wally is voluntarily unplugged.
   I honestly don't know where he is. And that's exactly what I told the Collin County Adult Probation office when they called recently seeking his whereabouts and informing me that a warrant had been issued for his arrest for violation of his probation. (Seems he stopped checking in with his officer, too.)
   I can only assume he's in and out of a homeless shelter(s). He has sporadically commented on friends' Facebook posts, so I know he has some access to a computer. I know he has my phone number, but has chosen not to use it. And that's okay. Living up to my/our standards and expectations - as spartan and fundamental as they seem to us - were more than he was willing to handle.
   I have an open mind about Wally's warped mind. He's a broken guy that doesn't want to be repaired. I get it.
   In his comfortable uncomfortableness, he has zero obligations. No pressure. Nobody is counting on him. There are no bills arriving in the mailbox. No expectations to live up to. Personal hygiene is optional. Time is irrelevant. Every day is Netflix 'n chill, and somebody else is paying for the Netflix.
   It is, of course, a dead-end existence. But when you choose not to look down the road, you can convince yourself otherwise. Destitution, after all, can indeed be a decision.
   Who he wants to be and who we want him to be couldn't be farther apart. Miss him or not I, as his friend, have to painstakingly accept that.
   Some hypothesize that the drinking binges damaged his brain, somehow permanently clouding his cognitive reasoning. I'm obviously no doctor, but I disagree. Could he use some serious counseling/therapy? You betcha. But I don't think he's incapable of bettering himself. I think he's consciously unwilling to better himself. After enduring his fall from grace, his mindset is that it's better to stop trying altogether than to try again ... and fail again.
   I don't think he wants to go back to jail, but it seems clear he's willing to risk it for the luxury of living without an identity.
   I know Wally will read this, and I hope he's doing well. I hope he succeeds in his daily, relentless quest for basic necessities like shelter and food and help. If he shows up at my door today, I'll gladly answer it. But if you spot him and pinpoint his location, I wouldn't go running after him. Why?
   Because 18 months after we found him, Wally Lynn clearly wants to play hide-and-don't-seek.
   So how's ol' Wally doin'?
   Perpetually sad.
   Peculiarly satisfied.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

THE WRITE STUFF

   After 30+ years in this weird, wonderful industry, I’ve pinpointed an undeniable, common thread running through every professional writer:
   They all started out as amateur writers.
   The other day I was doing some mundane grocery shopping when a 20-something recognized me. "Hey, how do I get started?"
   Other than, "How in the heck do you land Sybil?!", it's the question I've been asked more than any other over my career. My answer, invariably, is simple:
   Start writing.
   You’ll likely need a couple breaks to become a professional writer – a friend of a friend already in the business or perhaps just being at the right place at the right time. But something you can’t short-cut is the act of writing. Again. Again. And some more again. If you don’t love it - and if you haven’t done a lot of it - you might as well attempt to open a Lemonade Stand without a single lemon.
   Yes, the demonstrated ability to consistently observe, opine and write is your currency. It's your product. Your main asset.
   So now that I’ve totally empowered you, go get ‘em! Good luck and never give up and … Oh, my story? Well, sure okay.
   Allow me to, um, write it for you.
   No way around it, I was born with the tools essential for writing – creativity, curiosity and a vivid imagination. Mom says I often stretch the truth yet I simply rebut that characterization, based on the fact that she herself has a vivid imagination. While my younger brother would merely dab some peanut butter between two slices and enjoy lunch, I’d get out a piece of paper and spin a yarn about how exactly it came to be that Mrs. Baird herself happened to deliver a loaf of bread to our house. I dunno, somehow it made my sandwich taste better.
   Meanwhile, Dad led me into sports as soon as I could walk. I was always fascinated by big words, which facilitated a decent vocabulary and, voila, my foundation as a writer. So when did I begin?
   When I was about 7 years old I’d go in the backyard with my baseball glove and a tennis ball (I initially used a real baseball, but one shattered window later I involuntarily downsized the danger). I’d throw that ball off the side of the house, off the roof, off the barbecue grill, off the neighbor’s latticework. All the while producing a running commentary in my head, as if watching real baseball players throwing, hitting and fielding.
   After an hour or so I’d go inside and write the story of the “game” I’d just played.
   Hello, amateur writer.
   In high school I idolized Isiah Thomas and Bjorn Borg. But despite my finely-tuned vivid imagination, I eventually realized my 5-foot-8 frame wouldn’t be garnering me millions of dollars playing sports. So, I reasoned, why not get paid instead to go to games writing sports?
   I grew up reading Blackie Sherrod in the Dallas Morning News, Skip Bayless in the Dallas Times Herald and Rick Reilly and Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated. I was the editor of my high-school newspaper in Duncanville, majored in Journalism at UT-Arlington and, upon graduating in 1986, landed an entry-level job at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. (My first assignment was to write a story about a sport I had barely heard of and never seen or attended - Dallas Sidekicks indoor soccer. Imagination, activate!) I’ve been writing – for newspapers, magazines, blogs, books and even radio and TV websites since.
   And, yes, I’m the dork who will still – in lieu of buying a gift – simply write a poem or a story for a friend’s, or my wife’s birthday or special occasion. (Trust me fellas, that trick will come in handy.)
   To me there’s nothing as rewarding as writing. The feeling after nailing a story is the equivalent of a runner’s high. The process of having a thought, processing and refining it in your brain and through your creative filters, bringing it to life through your fingertips, and then having a total stranger both read it and “get it”? Priceless.
   It’s the reason I write.
   So you’re willing to write. On your own time. With zero compensation, for now. But at some point you’ll want to advance your hobby into job, and hopefully a career. From my experience, here are a few things to consider:
   Be Your Own Boss – If you’re resourceful and organized and motivated, you can make a decent living as a freelance writer. Get on the Internet and search job posts. “Writing Jobs” is a simple, solid search to begin with. Spend an entire day doing it. Maybe two. Make a list of contacts. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many websites, blogs, magazines, etc. have a need for unique, original content. No matter fast and far our communication advances, content remains king. Every platform - whether it be cute 140-character takes to long-form 14,000-word exposes - needs fuel to run its engine. And that fuel is content, written by - tuh-dah! - writers.
   You can write about sports, food, electronics, concerts, the likelihood of a major earthquake taking down Dallas. Anything. And you should write about them all, as long as you don’t compromise your quality with too much quantity. Individually, each gig won’t make you rich. But cumulatively, you’ll be able to keep the lights on. The great thing about freelancing is that you’ll also be honing your skills, building your portfolio and making invaluable contacts in the literary world.
   Don’t Hire An Agent – Unless you are an accomplished writer looking to move to a new city (like say, ahem, Hollywood), my experience is that it’s not worth it. Nobody knows you better than you. And nobody will fight harder for you, than you.
   Pay Your Dues – If you’d rather wedge your foot into the door of a newspaper than try to go it alone, it’s doable as well. Most publications accept interns and there are certainly entry-level, fresh-outta-college jobs. Just be prepared to get coffee in the morning and to cover wacky, irrelevant assignments at night. At the Star-Telegram my rookie year included writing stories about a darts tournament, a high-school power-lifting meet and even a tractor pull. But within three years I was at Texas Stadium covering Cowboys games. Was it worth it? You know that answer. When initially commencing your career, nothing is more valuable than sweat equity.
   Degrees of Experience – I loved my college years and I wouldn’t trade my UTA education. Obviously I’d recommend working at your college newspaper and earning a degree in Journalism. A degree will open a lot of doors. But, honestly, you can trump that piece of paper with a quality portfolio of your writing. Most of my editors have cherished experience over education.
   Pad Your Portfolio – Blogs, websites, magazines, etc. are looking for versatility. You'll open more eyes - and doors - if you can write both copy (scripts, ads, marketing brochures, etc.) and content (blogs, stories, features, etc.). The more topics you can write about, the better your chance of landing a gig. So fill your portfolio with variety: Long-form stories. Short featurettes. Opinion pieces. Poems. Maybe even your favorite Tweet.
   Popularity Contest – If you’re a freelancer, it can be difficult to achieve a very important goal en route to becoming a successful writer: Building an audience. These days you can do this via Facebook with some intriguing posts and corresponding “Likes.” But I recommend starting your own blog. I know, but hear me out. It’s cheaper – and easier – than you think. It looks great on a resume. And it’s a way to earn a following of fans that dig what you’re delivering. Don’t go into with grandiose, irrational visions. Just write what you’re passionate about, shove it out via your social media and watch the saplings sprout into Redwoods. Yep, that’s how it starts. Who knows, maybe that blog – at first just a vehicle to tote your writing – will develop and mature into the career you were searching for in the first place.
   Dream Of Success, Prepare For Rejection – One of the most important arrows in your quiver is a thick skin. You will get rejected. You will write horrible stories. You will make embarrassing typos. Writing isn’t for the faint of heart or fragile of ego. Learn from your mistakes. Experiment with your style. Stay true to your passion.
   Because, after all, the best part about amateur writers?
   They grow up to be professional writers.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

UMPIRES SUCK. ESPECIALLY UMPIRES NAMED GERRY DAVIS.

Funnynotfunny?
   After an entertaining, bizarre, and really bad night in Arlington, there's no way to sugarcoat it:
   Umpire Gerry Davis needs a sense of humor. Because, yep, he's a major league asshole.
   On a sweltering July night at Globe Life Park in which Yu Darvish might have thrown his final pitch as a Ranger, it was the arrogant umpire who decided to inject his pall-bearer gravity into a laugher of a game by ejecting future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Beltre for - I kid you not - standing to the left on the on-deck circle.
   They say you can go to a baseball game and see something you've never seen. Man, are they right.
   Last night I witnessed:
   *A combined 32 runs
   *Yu surrendering 10 runs in 3.2 innings, the 2nd-shortest outing of his career.
   *3rd-string catcher Brett Nicholas mopping up on the mound in the 9th, and offering a 45mph slow-pitch softball.
   *And Beltre, one of the game's greatest and goofiest players, getting tossed for daring to exhibit a moment of levity at his doorstep of history.
   The score was 22-8 and it was approaching 11 p.m. on a Wednesday. The only reason there were a couple thousand of us fans left in the stands was Beltre. He already had 3 hits including a homer and a double off the wall, and was in his usual on-deck position preparing for what we all hoped would be career hit No. 2,997.
   Enter Gerald Sidney Davis, aka Baseball Buzz Killington.
   Earlier in the game my Dad and I had already taken note of Davis. He's been around forever. Crew chief since '99, umped 5 World Series and has the 2nd-longest tenure. He's obviously good at what he does. But he does it despite a surly, smug disposition that would make even our President cringe.
   Davis was the 2nd Base Umpire and on a couple of relatively close plays - a sliding double and a double-play pivot - we were amused, no, make it annoyed, that he made no call. None. Not as much as a shrug in reaction to the plays. Pretty clear to us that the runner hustling for a double was safe, but there was a tag. And similarly routine that the double-play pivot was executed without hiccup for an out.
At least I had a good view of a bad outing.
   But Davis' grandiose delusion caused him to deem neither play worthy of him even lifting a pinkie. He responded to each with ... nothing. He stared at the play and then walked away. The play, his warped ego reassured him, wasn't even close enough for him to stoop to making a hand gesture. "Even the peasants can figure that one out"? Guaranteed with a closer play - with perhaps the game on the line - Davis would get a running start and land the dismount with an exaggerated "Look at me!" out or safe call that would surely grip and enthrall the onlooking commoners.
   My guess is that throughout the stadium little boys and girls with their caps and their gloves and their baseball obsessions watched both plays and were left not impressed by Davis' visible indifference, but rather confused enough to ask "Dad, was he safe or out?"
   With nothing to justify him being a part of the proceedings, Davis decided to shove his sourness into the game in the bottom of the 8th. Beltre - as he has done for, oh, 20 years - was standing about 5 to the left of the on-deck circle. Out of nowhere - totally unprovoked - here comes the jerk of a judge.
   Inexplicably, he yells at Beltre to move to the right and stand on top of the on-deck circle mat adorned with the Rangers' logo. With comic reactions as fast and slick as his Gold Glove, Beltre instead drug the mat to where he was standing.
   To Davis, this was an unpardonable felony. He picked a fight, but when Beltre dared to "fight" back, he threw him out of the game. "Nobody disrespects me!" the giant ego in Davis' little brain was sure to be screaming. In Davis' scenario, Beltre should've moved, stood somewhere he was uncomfortable standing and saluted "Sir, yes sir!" in the process.
   Because, you see, Davis would like us to believe he is baseball royalty. An advanced, decorated professor of the sport. His inner monologue has him being such an expert of the game that we should all bow at his feet while he wows us with his judgments.
   But Davis is not a black-belt in baseball, merely a black eye on the sport.
One I won't soon forget. Thanks, Gerry.
   How are we certain that his 8th-inning temper tantrum was merely a grand personal publicity stunt to get him some needed attention? Because last night - and every night - 1st and 3rd-base coaches stand as much as 20 feet outside their designated box. Because after Beltre's ejection, Mike Napoli's customized on-deck circle was on the grass even closer to home plate than Beltre's. And Jonathan Lucroy stood to the left of the plastic circle. To the left of it, yep, even more left than it was after Beltre's relocation.
   From Davis? Not a peep.
   It's clear he wasn't enforcing any rules, he was merely making himself feel important.
   Never met Davis (nor do I ever want to), but my image is of him dining alone after a game. Sending back the soup because it's too soupy. Customizing his meal with 42 alterations. And then, you guessed it, leaving a $0 tip because such a mundane meal was beneath him.
   Davis was likely very satisfied with himself last night. He had reminded Beltre - and everyone in the stands - who was the real boss. In his world, remember, we paid our money to watch him umpire just as much as paid to see players.
   There will be a day - hopefully sooner than later - when baseball is flawlessly ruled by computers, GPS, laser technology and advanced gizmos equipped with no egos or agendas, and that mercifully will make umpires obsolete. Our kids' kids will laugh at the fact that we once upon a time relied on humans to judge our beloved outcomes.
   And they'll be right, because last night there was nothing funny about Gerry Davis' devoid sense of humor.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

HOME SWEET GONE

Last call indeed.
   Stepdad. Divorce. Engagement. Marriage. Stints at the Dallas Observer and CBS radio and NBC TV paving the way to media consulting. Ghosts (maybe). Squirrels (definitely). Pool parties (uh-huh). Tyron Smith breaking the bar. Armen Williams mysteriously losing his ring in the back yard. Girls jumping off the roof - topless. 40th and (yikes) 50th birthdays. And, yep, a championship by the Mavs, a nauseating flirtation by the Rangers and nary of whiff by the Cowboys.
   A lot has transpired since I moved into 2823 Roundrock in McKinney back in 2002. Other than the house I grew up in, I've lived here longer than any residence.
   But alas, nothing lasts forever. Especially addresses.
   So here Sybil and I go. Downsizing. Upgrading. You know the drill. You say you're never going to move and then - the commute gets longer and your patience gets shorter and the offers get bigger and ... Poof, just like that, we're dumping leisurely life in the 'burbs for shorter drives to longer nights down by the Dallas Arboretum.
   I'll always have McKinney. But I no longer need the McKrap.
   Bottom line: Estate Sale, courtesy of Attics to Basements. It begins - right now! - and runs through Saturday afternoon. Schedule: Thurs 10-4/ Fri 10-4/ Sat 10-2. (If you can't make it out but will be in the market for some sports memorabilia, an item or two that goes unsold will be donated to the Do It For Durrett and/or DFW Talk Of The Town charities.
   Come help us bid a fond (and fruitful) farewell to a house saturated with 15 years of excessive hunting and gathering in the form of ...

                                                                       SPORTS
Rookie of the Year - 1995

                                                                       RADIO
Not Fake News

                                                                        SYBIL
Gently pre-owned

                                                                   VALUABLES
Some of these you'll have to fight me over

                                                               RIDICULOUSNESS
Before ... you know.

                                                    AND EVERYTHING BETWEEN
Garth. Michael. Toy. 52-17.

The Great Goodbye

(Not so) Gently pre-owned

He had/has my vote.

You'll have to outbid Ron Chapman.

Before ... you know.

Yes, it works.

2011 = Pins 'n tears.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE 20 MOST MEMORABLE SPORTING EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF ME

   “Be more positive!” she says.
   “Stick to sports!” he chides.
   “Too many Top 10 lists!” they decry.
   Fine, you win. Today: A warm-’n-fuzzy Top 20 list about sports.
   But first, a little background …

   I lied to get into the sports media business. Sorta.
   Went down like this:
   In 1986, a few months before I graduated UT-Arlington with a degree in journalism, I caught the eye and grabbed the ear of an editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
   “I’ll do anything, for any price,” I begged, attempting to jam the tip of my toe into what I perceived to be a sliver of an opening in the door.
   “Hmm, okay,” returned the editor. “Do you follow soccer?”
   “Are you kidding?!” I fibbed, having attended a Dallas Tornado game or two as a kid but not really knowing a goal from a goal kick. “One of my favorite sports!”
   Two nights later I was inside Reunion Arena covering a team called the Dallas Sidekicks and a sport called the Major Indoor Soccer League. Orange ball? Walls? A guy who takes his shirt off when he scores? I was clueless. And I was hooked.
Not necessarily on the MISL, but on getting paid to attend sporting events.
   What a scam brilliant career choice.
   I’ve covered sports in the Metroplex for 30+ years, writing/talking about everything from dart tournaments to The Olympics. Today, with a little prodding and a lot of reminiscing, I pieced together the most memorable events I’ve attended during 18 years at the Star-Telegram, seven more at the Dallas Observer, five at CBS Radio/105.3 The Fan, three more at NBC5 and, since the Summer of 2013, here in my own lil’ corner of the blogosphere.
   My initial brain dump birthed 44 memories. I painstakingly narrowed it to 20. Not necessarily the best moments. Merely the most memorable. (Leon Lett, Brett Hull and Bill Clinton's White House just barely missed the cut.)
   Hope you enjoy re-living them half as much as I delighted in covering them.


   20. February 16, 2001; Infield Circus – Assigned to capture the suds, speed and socializing of the Daytona 500, I drove through the tunnel at the Daytona International Speedway and immediately saw a woman. Walking. On her hands. Naked. With grinnin’ guys playing ring toss. Using her legs as the targets. Swear.



   19. April 6, 1997; Mav-Wrecks – Though the franchise had bottomed out a couple years earlier with head coach Quinn Buckner and consecutive 13- and 11-win seasons, the Mavs under the utterly forgettable Jim Cleamons managed only two points – on a pair of Derek Harper free throws – in the third quarter of a lowly loss to the Lakers in The Fabulous Forum.



   18. Nov 30, 2006; Anna Nirvana – Got to play three games of tennis at the T Bar M Racquet Club in North Dallas against one of the hottest females on the planet, Anna Kournikova. Nothing really spectacular about the tennis, other than the fact that it was against one of the hottest females on the planet, Anna Kournikova.




   17. June 20, 1987; Sidekicks Celebrate – Down 3-1 with less than two minutes to play in Game 7 of the MISL Championship Series, the Sidekicks pulled their goalie in desperation. After an improbable two goals to force overtime, Tatu drilled a shot that Mark Karpun re-directed for the goal that stunned the Tacoma Stars and 20,000 fans in the Tacoma Dome. Two days later I covered a championship parade through downtown and around Reunion Arena. Still pinching myself to this day.




   16. Dec. 10, 1989; Bounty Bowl II – After Cowboys’ head coach Jimmy Johnson had chastised the Eagles’ Buddy Ryan for putting out a bounty on kicker Luis Zendejas in a Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium, the payback at Veterans Stadium was gruesome. Philadelphia beat an infamously futile Cowboys team, 20-10, punctuated by batteries wrapped in iceballs hurled at the sideline and even inside CBS’ broadcast booth at Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw.




   15. June 29, 1998; Dirk’s Debut – He stepped off the plane from Wurzburg, Germany all of 19 years old. Chili-bowl, long haircut. Big, gold hoops dangling from his ear. But then Dirk Nowitzki dazzled us inside the Baylor-Tom Landry Center gym. 3-pointers with each hand. And a smooth, flowing stride leading to effortless dunks. The Flamingo Fadeway wasn’t yet born, but just days after the NBA Draft Nowitzki’s eventual Hall-of-Fame star was already rising.




   14. Dec. 20, 2008; Farewell, Old Friend – It was freezing that night. Winter wind whipping through the tunnel at Texas Stadium. But with the Cowboys rallying and former players lined up to see the last game in Texas Stadium it would end up warm and cozy. Right? Nope. As Baltimore Ravens’ fullback LeRon McClain rumbled 82 yards right up Dallas’ gut it almost made us vomit. Then, about 17 months later, an 11-year-old from Tyler pushed a plunger that imploded my all-time favorite sports stadium.




   13. May 14, 2005; Tiger Prowls – Back when Tiger Woods was Tiger Goods, I followed his every move at the Byron Nelson golf tournament. On the 9th fairway he exited a Port-a-Pot … to a rousing ovation.




   12. July 4, 2004; Fantastic Federer – Only thing more amazing than sitting at Centre Court Wimbledon and watching Andy Roddick spank 140-mph serves was witnessing Roger Federer deftly return them for winners with merely a flick of his legendary wrist.




   11. June 17, 1994; The Day The World (Cup) Stopped – International media from the globe’s four corners descended upon Fair Park to cover the World Cup, but suddenly we all found ourselves not watching soccer inside the Cotton Bowl but instead huddled around a TV in the Hall of State’s makeshift media center gawking at another type of football player. It was O.J. Simpson, leading Los Angeles police on a low-speed chase.




   10. January 17, 1993; How ‘Bout Them Cowboys?! – Candlestick Park. The mud. Major underdogs. Up 24-20 with four minutes remaining, but backed up to their own 10. Get conservative and work on the clock? Nah. How about Troy Aikman to Alvin Harper for the most important 70-yard pass play in franchise history. Cowboys 30, 49ers 20. Hello, Super Bowl.




   9. February 28, 1989; Doomsday Indeed – Only days after he was fired by new owner Jerry Jones, Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry went to Valley Ranch and cleaned out his office. Unfortunately, I had to document every sad detail.




   8. June 14, 1998; The Joy of Six – With his Chicago Bulls on the brink of losing Game 6 and having to play a Game 7 in the Delta Center against the Utah Jazz, Michael Jordan scored, stole the ball from Karl Malone and then deftly shoved Bryon Russell out of the way before swishing an 18-foot jumper to seal his sixth title. We forget John Stockton front-rimmed an open 3-pointer at the buzzer.




   7. October 22, 2010; Hello, World Series! – When closer Neftali Feliz struck out Alex Rodriguez on a nasty curveball, our goose bumps had goose bumps. Yep, after 38 seasons the Texas Rangers were finally going to the World Series.




   6. February 8, 1986; Soaring Spud – On NBA All-Star Saturday at Reunion Arena it was 5-foot-7 Spud Webb who stole the show by winning the Slam Dunk title. But in the locker room it was Celtics’ legend Larry Bird who chugged a Lone Star beer, loudly burped and then offered “Excuse me, I’ve got a trophy to win.” He then went out and at one point made 12 straight 3-pointers en route to the Long Distance Shootout championship.




   5. July 27, 1996; Olympic Bombing – During The Summer Olympics in Atlanta I saw Michael Johnson’s double in the 200/400, the Dream Team cream everybody and Andre Agassi win gold. But it was 1:30 a.m. when our bus taking us to our dorms at Emory University abruptly stopped. Announced our driver, “A bomb went off in Centennial Park.” Still makes me queasy. I had been there 20 minutes before. And now I was headed back.



   4. August 22, 1989; 5,000 – I was assigned to paint the scene surrounding Nolan Ryan’s historic 5,000th strikeout. Not Nolan fanning the A’s Rickey Henderson or the ball caught by Chad Krueter, but more so the scalpers selling box seats for, get this, $150 a pop. Probably go for $1,500 today.



   3. October 27, 2011; Title Tease - One strike away. Twice. I was lined up with a gaggle of media underneath Busch Stadium, awaiting the Texas Rangers’ World Series celebration that would never happen. Plastic was hung from lockers. Boxes of championship hats and T-shirts were carted past. But after David Freese tripled off Neftali Feliz in the 9th, Lance Berkman singled off Scott Feldman in the 10th and Freese homered off Mark Lowe in the 11th to end a dramatic, gut-wrenching Game 6, it was instead our worst case of blue balls. Ever.




   2. January 31, 1993; 'Boys Are Back – From Garth Brooks’ National Anthem to Michael Jackson’s halftime show to Troy Aikman’s four touchdown passes to the nine turnovers, the Cowboys’ 52-17 romp over the Buffalo Bills in Super  Bowl XXVII will be eternally vivid.



   1. June 12, 2011; Finals, Finally – As Nowitzki made a lefty layup to give the Mavs a nine-point lead in the final minute, I found myself trying to do my job – blog and type and talk – amidst a stream of tears. Couldn't have been more perfect. In Miami, against the Heat team and villainous player (Dwyane Wade) that ruined the ’06 party. Favorite moment: Original owner Don Carter handing the Larry O’Brien trophy to Finals MVP Nowitzki. Sometimes, if you stick with it long enough, life turns out to be fair after all.