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$50 Million Isn't Worth the Cotton Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Thu, Feb 9, 2006, 07:05 PM

The City of Dallas is hoping to put a $50 million project to renovate the Cotton Bowl on the ballot in November.

The City of Dallas desperately wants to keep the annual Texas/OU game in the Cotton Bowl. OU has jumped on board and said that they’d like to stay. But the city is still awaiting word from UT.

Meanwhile, the UT Board of Regents have approved an expansion and improvement of Royal War Memorial Stadium worth about $150 million. This renovation will make the stadium a 90,000 seat stadium. It will be ready in 2008. This is going to make it much harder to keep the game in Dallas. UT will not be as willing to give up a home game every other year when it means turning down all that revenue that a 90,000 seat stadium will bring.

As you well know, I have been frustrated with the City of Dallas for years. I’m leery of anything they do. So many things have been absolutely bungled by this CAN’T DO city. It’s not that some haven’t tried. Thank goodness that the AAC has been built. In 3 years the Victory Development will be a massive development that Dallas can be proud of.

But I don’t have any idea why this city is now going to ask you for $50 million to spruce up the Cotton Bowl. Especially when they just turned down a golden opportunity to completely revitalize Fair Park with the Dallas Cowboys.

Yes the Cowboys would have required a much larger investment. But, they would have also brought a much much much bigger return. The Cowboys project would have secured not only the Texas/OU game, it would have also brought Final Fours, Super Bowl(s), All-Star Games, NFL Playoff Games, BCS Bowl Games and possibly a National Championship. $50 million in improvements to the Cotton Bowl may bring Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

I’m sorry, I understand that public funding of stadiums is a very controversial issue. Heck, Friedo has argued with me for years that the City of Dallas could have gotten a much better deal in the AAC negotiations.

But, let’s be real…$50 million to the Cotton Bowl is a bad investment. If you are going to do anything, do it right. That’s a lesson that the City of Dallas has apparently not learned.
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Dr. Phil Has Mavs Hot Sports Opinions Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Wed, Feb 8, 2006, 06:34 PM

The Lakers were in town last night. And that means the return of Dr. Phil (Jackson). Dr. Phil was not a happy man. He was not happy that he lost. And he was not happy about the officiating. He also had some not so nice things to say about your Dallas Mavericks. He is not really impressed with the Mavs current winning streak. He was very quick to point out that the streak has come against some rather weak teams. He also made it clear that the Mavs have not shown him that they are physical enough to go far in the playoffs. At first glance, any Maverick fan would look at these comments and get a bad taste in their mouth. But, when you think about it, who cares what Phil Jackson thinks. As a matter of fact, you can’t really blame him for his thoughts. Until the Mavs prove themselves in the playoffs, people will continue to think that they are a soft team that can’t win in the playoffs. Dr. Phil is correct. The Mavs have not played Detroit or San Antonio during this current win streak. But they have won 6 road games during this streak. And they have won most of the games convincingly. Dr. Phil may also be correct that the Mavs are soft. But I don’t think so. They may be non-physical but that does not mean that they can’t win in the playoffs. If you need evidence that non-physical teams can win in the playoffs just look at the Spurs. There is a difference between being soft and being non-physical. You don’t have to constantly bang on people to be effective on offense. Phil is a psychological guy. He measures his words and knows exactly what he is saying at all times. I think that his words last night may be aimed at the first round of the playoffs. If things stay as they are now, his Lakers will be meeting the Mavs in the first round. He wants the Mavs to have as many doubts about their game as possible. I just don’t think that will work this season on this Maverick team. They are the best I’ve seen in Dallas.

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CUTTING OFF THE HEAD OF 'THE BLACK MAMBA' by The Fish Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Wed, Feb 8, 2006, 03:19 PM

      Athletes need arrogance. Some demonstrate it differently than others, but you don't achieve the way a pro basketball player achieves without a little (or big) voice inside of you that tells you "I can.'' That rule applies to people who score 81 in a game as well as a pro basketball player who even scores 1 in a game.
      That person, fueled by self-confidence, is an achiever.
     Nevertheless, Kobe "The Black Mamba'' Bryant has made himself into one of America's most hateable jocks in large part due, I think, to something that extends far beyond confidence, far beyond arrogance. There is a stench around The Black Mamba because of his unprecedented air of smug entitlement.
      This quote is so telling: "They made a concerted effort to run two, three, four guys at me," said The Black Mamba, in an attempt to explain his laughable 5-of-22 night in Tuesday's 102-87 loss at Dallas.
      Really, Kobe? You were covered by four guys?
      There was in fact one Lakers possession when Kobe found himself on the perimeter and double-teamed, and when the ball popped loose (a Kobe turnover) a third Mav collapsed on him and stole the ball. There was no "three people guarding him'' and there certainly were not "four people guarding him.''
      Let The Legend of Kobe grow. ... and the fact that the Mavs (having been embarrassed twice already this year by Kobe and the .500 Lakers) held Bryant to 24 points, 12 under his average, on 22-percent shooting. ... well, that fact will get lost.
      Because if Kobe doesn't score 41 points or 62 points or 81 points, it's because he was being guarded by four or five or six guys, right?
      (I heard that one time last night, Kobe drove to the basket and he was stopped only because Paul Bunyan was in the lane. ... and then Babe The Blue Ox brought weakside help and undercut him!)
      Dirk Nowitzki said this time, the Mavs used "a different game plan than the first two times.'' And indeed, there were really three simple keys to controlling The Drama Queen/The Black Mamba/Kobe Bryant on this night:
      Key No. 1: Deny the ball: Adrian Griffin started on Kobe. Josh Howard later took effective turns. But the strategy that really got into Kobe's head, and really took him out of his game, was to assign the lightning-quick Devin Harris to him. Harris is slight of build, but he's long. And he can run all day. And he's fearless. So in the second quarter especially, Devin took Kobe and simply denied him the ball. Kobe would go down low and call for it, but Harris fronted him and denied. Eventually, LA adjusted by having the ball in Kobe's hands at it was brought across the timeline. ... and Harris stayed with Kobe the whole way, making him labor just to bring the ball upcourt.
      Said Harris: "We just tried to make other guys beat us. We tried to take away a lot of his penetration and his splits on the pick and roll and just trap him and see if he could find other people.''
      "Finding other people''? More on that in a moment. Here, we'll note that while Harris' breakdown is obviously accurate, he humbly skips over his individual work. In the second quarter, Kobe didn't score. In the second quarter, he managed only one desparation show. In the second quarter, it was Harris denying him the opportunity to do either.
      You can stop Kobe Bryant with a baby-faced 6-2 point guard who barely casts a shadow? Who knew?
      Key No. 2: Take away his left hand: This ain't exactly brain surgery; it's always part of the gameplan. But a defender's tendency is to want to play Kobe straight up, inasmuch as he's still strong going to his right. Here, Griffin especially pushed Kobe right. Most times, Bryant ended up spinning back to his left, into Griffin and into the teeth of the defense. On one notable play, Kobe tried to go baseline right. ... and dribbled the ball off his foot. On another, he tried to go right and was met by Dirk Nowitzki, who denied the layup. "Kobe to his right'' isn't a weakness. But it is his "least strength.''
      Key No. 3: Make it a matter of Pride vs. Pride: Much is being made and written about the Mavs' "pride'' and the concept is valid. To a man, players said they were embarrassed by having allowed The Black Mamba to score 62 points in Los Angeles on Dec. 20 (and for that matter, embarrassed to have allowed him 43 points in an LA win a week before that.)
      "I wouldn't say it was personal," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson fibbed. "We were all just kind of embarrassed. ...''
      It WAS personal. And it was personal for Kobe, too. Kobe's greatest talent is his one-on-one brilliance. The "one'' thing, though. ... his Oneness, is also his greatest flaw.
      "Their problem," Jerry Stackhouse said, is that "they rely so much on one guy."
      Remember what Devin said about Kobe "finding other people''?
     When Harris denied him the ball, Kobe squealed at teammates. When he didn't get calls, he berated officials. (Sometimes, he berated/stared down officials even when he DID get the call.) And when it was over -- ending the game on the bench, not even LA's leading scorer -- he went into a pout. He mockingly applauded along with the Dallas crowd. He maintained eye contact with the refs who had "wronged'' him. He reeked of that unprecedented air of smug entitlement.
      It WAS personal for Kobe, and in that sense, Dallas found his Achilles heel: If Bryant really was "guarded by four defenders,'' or five or six or seven. ... shouldn't he have generously passed the ball elsewhere?   

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When Super Bowl Ads Go Bad Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Tue, Feb 7, 2006, 06:37 PM

The Super Bowl is over and now it’s time to rehash the game, the game broadcast, the halftime show and, of course, the ads.

By all accounts, Ameriquest Mortgage was the clear winner in the competition for most entertaining Super Bowl Ads. But, my producer, Friedo thinks that these ads may do Ameriquest more harm than good.

If you don’t remember, Ameriquest Mortgage ran two different installments in their “Don’t Judge Too Quickly” campaign. One of the spots featured a female passenger sitting in the window seat on an airplane. Well, the plane hits some rough turbulence as she is climbing over the other two sleeping passengers in her row in an attempt to get to the plane’s bathroom. The turbulence bounces right into the lap of a male passenger sitting next to her. They end up in quite a compromising position and then comes the message…”Don’t be too quick to judge…We won’t”.

It’s a very entertaining spot meant to let potential borrowers know that at Ameriquest they don’t just judge potential borrowers by their credit scores. They look beyond the first impression. As their website states, they know that sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Here’s the problem. As you may know, over the past year or so, Ameriquest has been accused of using improper lending practices and they’ve set aside $325 million to settle lawsuits in 49 of the 50 states.

Most of the people watching the Super Bowl may not have been aware of the accusations against Ameriquest. But, the commercials were so entertaining that plenty of people wanted to watch them again. So Monday morning if you typed “Ameriquest” into any search engine looking for the streaming version of the spot, you would have also found the following link: Ameriquest Settlement to Payoff in Florida

These spots may have been too entertaining for their own good. Or, I guess you could say that when Ameriquest was telling people not to judge too quickly, they were actually talking about themselves.

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EMMITT JOINS HALL OF FAME GOOF by Mike Fisher Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Mon, Feb 6, 2006, 03:00 PM
The Hall of Fame voters goofed. Again. That's not news. But this time, Emmitt Smith goofed along with them.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process has come and gone, and once again, a worthy Cowboy or two is on the outside looking in. Quarterback Troy Aikman? He's in. Offensive lineman Rayfield Wright? Finally deemed good enough. Wide receiver Michael Irvin? For the second straight season, the lightning rod Irvin is a finalist. ... but not an inductee.

Over the last decade, in the newspaper, on the radio and in this space, I've campaigned for exposure of the voters and the voting system that are driven by a secret agenda that seems designed to "exclude'' rather than "include'' deserving athletes. I've shouted about the bias and I've shouted about the incompetence, incompetence of the sort that would motivate Rick Gosselin, the Dallas Morning News writer and Cowboys "representative,'' to dismiss suspicions about a Cowboys bias by writing that every team has their version of a snubbed Drew Pearson, a snubbed Bob Hayes, a snubbed Lee Roy Jordan, a snubbed Cliff Harris, a snubbed Michael Irvin. He then uses as an example Detroit tight end Charlie Sanders.

Charlie Sanders is the equivalent of Bob Hayes? Really?

Who would think such a thing?

Well, maybe only somebody who grew up in Detroit. Maybe someone who was "coming of age'' as a football fan while attending high school in Detroit, and then college at Michigan State, all during the early '70's, while the "legendary'' Charlie Sanders was catching 33 passes and 3 TDs a year for a crummy team that during his 10 seasons was a stinkin' 70-64-6. Maybe somebody who, despite the fact that he was probably only the eight best tight end of his era (trailing Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Jackie Smith, Dave Casper, Kellen Winslow, Russ Francis and maybe Todd Christensen), doggone it, really liked to root for ol' Charlie.

Hey! Look here! Turns out Rick's hometown is. ... Detroit?! What a surprise!

Nah, there are no biases among HOF voters.

I suppose Gosselin and the voters deserve some credit today. They did vote in no-brainer Aikman and they did finally get Wright in. So "Cowboys bias'' doesn't fly as well today. Of course, I don't know that I buy that Goose somehow twisted arms for Wright, and he should not have had to twist Aikman-related arms, but here's credit nonetheless. Gosselin begs for exoneration in his Sunday column in the News, in which he calls the voters "conscientious'' and dismisses any talk of bias by noting how many Dallas players have, over the years, been "officially discussed'' by the committee.

"Discussed''? Y'all "discussed Hayes, Jordan, Harris and Irvin? Appreciate you throwin' us that bone, fellas.

Gosselin argues that Dallas and the Cowboys and their overlooked stars are no different from Detroit and the Lions and and Sanders, no different from Minnesota and the Vikings and Mick Tinglehoff, no different from Denver and the Broncos and Randy Gradishar, that every team has similar complaints about similarily snubbed stars. Is he serious? There's no difference between the Lions and the Cowboys? That every NFL team has employed an overlooked Irvin, Harris, Jordan, Hayes, Pearson, Chuck Howley, Charlie Waters, Too Tall Jones, Harvey Martin and more? Is he serious? The Falcons, the Seahawks, the Lions, the Bears, the Jets, the Chargers, the Cardinals, the EveryTeams, they all have six, seven, eight worthy bridesmaids from the last 30 years? C'mon. Now, I didn't grow up in Detroit with Charlie Sanders posters on my bedroom wall. But I feel uniquely qualified to comment on Gosselin's other two specific guinea pigs, Tinglehoff and Gradishar.

On Tinglehoff: I grew up a Vikings fan. I loved Mick Tinglehoff. For longevity alone he deserves acclaim. But on his own team, Tinglehoff was no better than the third best O-lineman, behind Ron Yary and Ed White. Is the Vikings' third-best blocker on par with Pearson, Harris and Irvin in terms of excellence and impact? No.

Furthermore, the website "NFL Huskers'' conducted a survey of Nebraska fans, asking which Cornhusker belongs in the HOF next. Pat Fischer got 71 percent of the votes. Glenn Presnell got 29 percent of the votes. My man, Gosselin's man, Mick Tinglehoff, received. ... ahem. ... zero percent of the votes. FROM HIS OWN FELLOW 'HUSKERS!

On Gradishar: My first beat-writing job was in Colorado, where I covered Gradishar. A fine player. A fine man. Not, at the time, considered to be far-and-above superior to teammates Louis Wright, Tom Jackson, Lyle Alzado, Rubin Carter and Billy Thompson. Randy made seven Pro Bowls. Those guys all made two, three, five Pro Bowls. They were all similarily good. Heck, Thompson may have been the best of them. Was Thompson better than Cliff Harris? No. Was Gradishar better than Harris, Hayes, Irvin, Pearson, Howley? No.

(Goose, to top me in this debate you're going to have to throw out examples of players that I know less about that you do. You raise issues about Cowboys, 49ers, Vikings and Broncos -- teams I've followed passionately and/or professionally - I'll chew you to bits. So come up with some other excuse/example, OK?)

Anyway, along into this mucked-up pit trudges good ol' Emmitt Smith. On Friday, a day before the final voting of 39 all-powerful sportswriters, Emmitt tried to join Aikman in doing teammate Irvin a favor, dragging Michael out of the slop and up to the podium, where Troy will be this August and where Emmitt will undoubtedly be in August 2009, when he becomes a first-ballot selection. This same exercise was performed by the Cowboys themselves, who inducted the threesome into the team's Ring of Honor together -- a not-so-subtle attempt to inform the world that Michael is as deserving as the other two seemingly unblemished stars.

Emmitt tried to make that point before the Saturday vote. He told the media, in an angry tone, that all that matters is what Michael has done "on the field.'' "But you're going to try to bring this personal side of it?" Smith said. "This is what he's done off the field -- what has that got to do with what he's done on the football field? ... "There should be a set criteria in terms of understanding & what it takes to get to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you're an athlete and you've got credentials like Michael Irvin -- Pro Bowls, records, Super Bowls, all those things -- if you stack up against that, whoever the panel is, somebody needs to sign off on it."

And then came Emmitt's powerful catchphrase: "This is the Pro Football Hall of Fame, not the Life Hall of Fame. His stats are what they are. They are not going to change."

Not "The Life Hall of Fame.''

Emmitt, that's the wrong approach.

I'm not saying a twist of Emmitt's words had any influence on the voters. I am saying, though, that Emmitt makes for a campaign manager almost as lousy as Gosselin. Because you see, Irvin's raw numbers are NOT startlingly impressive. The 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns? Good stuff, but not unmatched. The three Super Bowls? Great stuff, but none of this is better than, say Art Monk.

See, Emmitt -- God bless him for trying to be the eloquent spokesman that he simply is not -- has it backwards.

Because what Michael Irvin did OFF THE FIELD was marvelous! In the Life Hall of Fame, as it relates to Irvin's life during his time with the Cowboys, he's a first-ballot guy! During the 1990's, there is not one Cowboy who didn't consider Irvin a friend. Not one. I would venture to say that if you surveyed those couple of hundreds guys today -- guys who came through Valley Ranch through the decade -- and asked them to name their five best friends on the team, virtually all of them would include Irvin on the list.

White guys. Black guys. Offense. Defense. Veterans. Rookies. Rich. Not so rich. Floridians. Californians. Didn't matter. If Kenny Gant needed to borrow $500 bucks, he knew where to go. If Jason Garrett needed someone to talk to, he knew where to go. If Emmitt Smith needed a big brother, he had one. If Joe Brodsky needed a son, he had one. If Jimmy Johnson needed a coach in the huddle. If Jimmy Smith needed a ride back to the hotel. Go ask 'em. Joe Avezzano and Russell Maryland and Kevin Gogan and Kevin Williams and Tommie Agee and Troy Aikman and James Washington and Jack Del Rio and Mark Stepnoski. Go ask 'em all which single teammate kept that club together, which single teammate was the leader, which single teammate -- OFF THE FIELD -- was the soul and the engine and the cement of a legendary football team.

They'll all say "Michael Irvin.''

And they'll say it for reasons that go way beyond 750 receptions for 11,904 yards and 65 touchdowns -- though those numbers and anyone in the know testify to the fact that Irvin was the second-best (behind Jerry Rice) receiver of his era. That, by the way, is something Charlie Sanders can never say about his place as an all-time tight end, something Randy Gradishar can never say about his place as an all-time linebacker.

Based on ANY way you want to judge it, Michael Irvin deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And in terms of OFF-the-field contributions to the Dallas Cowboys, he is a first-ballot "Life Hall-of-Famer,'' too.
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