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Rangers Battle Reputation Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Wed, Dec 14, 2005, 06:38 PM

Can the Rangers do anything right? I’m wondering if it has gotten to the point where, no matter what the Rangers do, the Dallas sports fan simply will not give them credit. A history of failed moves and bad deals has conditioned Ranger fans to expect disappointment.

It reminds me of the Mavericks of the mid ‘90’s. After several miserable seasons, the Mavericks may have been the worst franchise in all of sports. Maverick fans got to the point where they just expected the Mavs to fail. Every move the team made was criticized. The substance of the move didn’t matter. The fans decided that if the Mavs made the move, the move must be bad.

I think back to the people that couldn’t believe that the Mavericks would draft a German. I spent nearly 6 months talking Mavs fans off the ledge after Dirk was selected in the draft. I think back to the fans at Reunion Arena that jeered a young Steve Nash. The organization had absolutely no credibility.

And that’s where the Rangers are right now. A trail of bad contracts, bad deals and bad PR decisions have left the Rangers with very little or no credibility with a large portion of their fan base.

Good decisions are being made now. The Rangers have apparently developed a decent plan and they are sticking to it. They’ve decided to focus on developing pitching rather than paying for it.

This is a good decision. It’s a decision that should have been made long long ago. But it is also a decision that will not pay off for at least a year or two (or maybe 3-4 years from now). It’s a good decision. But it is not a popular decision.

You see Rangers fans don’t want to hear about how great the farm system is. It’s not that they don’t care about the farm system, it’s just that years and years of being told about great minor league prospects have conditioned Ranger fans to be skeptical.

But, at some point, fans need to stop blaming a franchise for past failures and start looking forward with clear heads. I believe that, if the Rangers stick to the current plan, they will turn things around. It may take some time, but the product on the field will improve.

And improving on the field is the only way for the team to get its credibility back.

 

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KOBE: THE BLACK MAMBA Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Tue, Dec 13, 2005, 04:02 PM
Besides a supreme narcissist, a painful loner, an insecure pre-teen or a dorky “Seinfeld’’ character, who in the world gives themselves a nickname?
            Kobe Bryant, that’s who.
A Lakers visit to Dallas allows me to poke fun at one of my favorite “Love-to-Hate’’ jocks, Kobe Bryant. Of course, I don’t do anything to him that he doesn’t do to himself.
His latest oddball misstep?
He’s nicknamed himself “The Black Mamba.’’
Now, it doesn't take a Dr. Phil to mine some psychological gold in there. Kobe sees himself as a “black mamba,’’ a vicious and deadly snake? Ah, the subliminal depth of it all. ... a dark killer, a wild animal, a relentless predator, a phallic symbol.
     A snake.
     Yes, Kobe, you are The Black Mamba, alright.
Wanna try one more time to explain your actions, Mr. Snake, in that Colorado hotel room?
     Someone might argue that The Black Mamba is meant as a basketball metaphor. That Lakers star Bryant, a year ago dissed by and divorced from NBA powers Shaq and JackZen -- and now remarried to the crow-eating coach -- has simply created for himself an on-court persona that is "wild'' and "relentless.''
      Nice try, but I like the "egomaniacal, narcissistic, predatorial loner baby'' explanation better.
      It entertains me and irritates me to no end that Kobe blew through here on Monday and dismantled the Mavs, 109-106. That he scored 43 points with spectacular ease. That, during crunch time, he was blocking shots and swooping to the hoop and nailing a desperation 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired to seal the deal with 33 seconds remaining.
It was brilliant. It was skillful. It was lucky. It was “money.’’

      "For me, it was a good look,'' said The Black Mamba, playing it oh-so-irritatingly cool. "You know, I've done it before.''
 
Yes, Mr. Snake, we know.
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Devin Harris A Star is Born Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Tue, Dec 13, 2005, 03:37 PM

Devin Harris is a kid. You look at him and think that there is no way this kid could be of drinking age. Heck, you may have to card him for a rated R movie.

The progress of a young player is measured in short, sometimes zig zag steps. Harris was all over the place last year. His game was too fast for the league. His brain and his body would get out of whack. He would get caught up in the air. He would do stupid things. Nellie would take him out of the game and scream at him. Then put him back in the game and yell at him some more.

As I’ve been watching the Mavericks recently, I’ve been focusing on Harris. I believe that the progress of the Mavs to elite status is tied to the progress of Harris. Because Harris is the only pure point guard talent on the team.

Jason Terry is a terrific outside shooter and will make a terrific “morph” guard. He can play minutes at off guard and he can play minutes at the point.

But Harris is the most fearless driver of the basketball on this whole team. You take everybody on this club and the guy that will consistently throw his body into the mix master is Harris. And he is a kid!

I know that this is only a 3 game snapshot but consider the last 3 games of Devin Harris. He’s getting minutes. He’s playing the point. And, he’s playing well.

In the last 3 games (Memphis, Boston and LA), Devin Harris has played 91 minutes. He’s 11 for 27 from the field; that’s not good enough. But in the last 3 games he has shot 30 free throws. Let me repeat 30 free throws. He will attack the rim more than Dirk some nights. He will go down the lane with the basketball. He’ s gotten 8 rebounds and 13 assists…He could probably use more in those departments. He’s gotten 4 steals and 48 points.

But the one stat that jumps out at me…In 91 minutes…ONE TURNOVER. That is astounding. This is not a guy who plays it safe. With his type of game, one turnover is simply amazing.

Don’t get me wrong. Harris has a long way to go. But, when you get a young point guard who is making tremendous strives in not turning over the ball, you are ahead of the game. Harris right now is growing right into a good player right in front of our eyes.

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Cowboys Capitalize Print E-mail
by Norm Hitzges    Mon, Dec 12, 2005, 03:03 PM

Were the Cowboys fortunate to win yesterday. Yes, they were definitely fortunate to win yesterday. But in this league, there are fortunate winners every weekend. Look at the schedule yesterday.

How lucky was Denver? How about Cincinnati? How about the Giants? They all had fortunate wins yesterday. And they are not alone!

Yes, the Cowboys were fortunate. There were several plays that could have changed the result of yesterday’s game. But, there is nothing wrong with being fortunate in the NFL. As a matter of fact, in the NFL winners win the fortunate games.

The Chiefs are a strong AFC team. And the Cowboys reached into their bag of tricks on more than one occasion. Parcells knew that they would have to score some points to beat the Chiefs and that’s what he did.

Sure the Cowboys caught a couple big breaks.

KC running back Larry Johnson misses a key block late in the first half and instead of going into the locker room down by more than a TD the Cowboys force a fumble end up taking the lead into halftime.

Late in the second half KC cornerback Patrick Surtain drops an interception that he would have surely returned for a TD and the Cowboys end up scoring a TD of their own.

At the end of the game KC kicker Lawrence Tynes misses a 41 yarder that would have sent the game into overtime.

Yes, the Cowboys were fortunate. But, the Cowboys also created their opportunities and capitalized on the Chiefs misfortune. This happens in the NFL every week.

Fortune has gone against the Cowboys several times already this season…Look at the game against the Seahawks, look at the game against the Redskins, look at the game against the Broncos, etc…

NFL teams pour their hearts and souls into each individual game.. The scouts spend weeks analyzing upcoming opponents. Coaches spend weeks coming up with gameplans. Players spend 60 minutes battling it out on the field. And, sometimes it all comes down to fortune and misfortune.
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COWBOYS: 'I WON'T LET YOU FAIL' Print E-mail
by Mike Fisher    Mon, Dec 12, 2005, 10:53 AM

This happened during a spring practice-field moment at Valley Ranch, long before most of us could put Cowboys jersey numbers with Cowboys faces. Coach Bill Parcells approached a newcomer, wrapped an arm around him, and whispered a sweet something into his ear.

"I'll die before I let you fail,'' the usually hard-ass coach told rookie sixth-round pick Rob Petitti.

To Parcells' credit, he saw something in the silo-sized offensive-line kid that others did not. Next thing you know, training camp in Oxnard arrives. And two offensive-line draftees from '04, Jacob Rogers and Stephen Peterman, slip into obscurity while Petitti gets better. And better. And better, to the point where he's now established as this team's right tackle of the present and future.

Peterman still gets a uniform; he's just never allowed to get it dirty. Rogers fell down in camp and, amid snide insinuations from within the organization that he's a "wussy,'' was never invited to get up.

Rob Petitti today represents a lot of what the Cowboys are.

Good news: He's a heckuva quality guy, a diamond in the rough, getting valuable experience now that will pay off in the future. And for the present, he's part of an offensive line that is beleaguered in part because of the fat salaries paid to Larry Allen, Marco Rivera and the injured Flozell Adams -- but one that deserves acclaim for awaking Dallas out of a playoff-run slumber.

Cowboys 31, Chiefs 28 on Sunday was large enough to provide heroic elbow room to many of the usual suspects, like Drew Bledsoe, who threw for 332 yards and three TDs, including the game-winner with 22 seconds left. And receivers Jason Witten and Terry Glenn, who combined for 13 catches, 231 yards and two scores. And rookie back Marion Barber, whose downhill running will almost certainly have Cowboys fans this week wondering again whatever happened to Julius Jones.

And then there are the "unusual'' suspects. Backup tight end Dan Campbell, the team captain, who caught that last TD pass. And linebacker Scott Fujita, the former Chief, who forced a key Chiefs fumble.

But in avoiding a third straight loss, a costly home defeat, and a possible ouster from playoff contention, the Cowboys largely rode their allegedly suspect offensive line. Petitti and Company. They did allow four sacks. But they also plowed KC for 129 yards, an accomplishment against a Chiefs defense that was ficth-ranked against the run. They maintained lengthy drives throughout: 15 plays, 73 yards, 9:16; 11 plays, 84 yards, 4:50; and the clincher, a 14-play drive that moved 68 yards in 3:33.

And yes, Rob Petitti was a key. The Chiefs threw a grab bag at him: sometimes they'd line up opposite him speedy rookie playmaker Derrick Johnson, the University of Texas linebacker. Sometimes it would be the other end, hard-working vet Eric Hicks. Lots of times it would be Jared Allen, his motor always running.

Petitti won way more than he lost.

"I took all that stuff everybody was saying personally,'' Petitti said of the criticism that had focused on him, left tackle Torrin Tucker and the rest of the line. "So I felt pretty good about what I was able to do.''

Not to overstate it, but if Rob Petitti wasn't able to survive these moments, wasn't able to hold his own, it would serve as a condemnation of sorts of this organization's foundation, it's base belief. He was designated privately by the coach as a pet project. The coach cannot be wrong about too many of these things.

The defense is in place. It is championship-caliber. And it's not enough.

The receiving corps is, by reputation, Pro Bowl-level. And it's not enough.

The quarterback is a blue-chip talent and was hand-picked for this situation. And it's not enough.

The running back was the focal point of an entire draft strategy. And it's not enough.

And we damn sure know this isn't the head coach's fault, right?

"I'll die before I let you fail,'' Parcells told that kid. It was a commitment to the kid. It was a commitment to the offensive line. It was a commitment to the promise Parcells believes this team has -- and believed it had way back in the spring.

"I like my team,'' Parcells said, summarizing the win, and doing so more emotionally that he was letting on. "I like the players on it.''

He should. Because right now, from the offensive line on down, where are the Cowboys?

They are not dying.

They are not failing.

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