Friday, June 30, 2006

East Texas Swimmer Continues To Make Waves

We did a story in May about swimmer Jennifer Steele, a 13-year-old Chapel Hill 8th grader who the only girl from North Texas invited to the elite USA Swimming Zone Select Camp in Tennessee.

Her mother, Kittie sent me this update today:

Just wanted to keep you abreast of what is going on with my little fish. She went to a meet last weekend and swam the 1500 freestyle faster than any girl of any age on the Metro/Tyler Swim Team has ever swam it. This will probably place her in the top eight in the state when we go to the Woodlands in July for Texas Age Group Championships. She is in Mexico right now doing altitude training and will return and go the the "A" Champs meet in Southlake next weekend. We will be trying to get a time cut to put her in the top eight for the 800 freestyle - she sits at #10 right now.

Keep an eye on this gal. Jennifer's ultimate goal is qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.

Holyfield: Let Him Fight

He's too old. He's only going to get hurt. Trying to make a comeback in his 40's is an embarrassment to boxing and himself.

Does anyone remember hearing those statements said about Marshall native George Foreman back in the 1990's, BEFORE he captured the world heavyweight title?

So, if we were so wrong then, why can't we give Evander Holyfield the benefit of the doubt now? Holyfield has announced he plans to make a comeback to boxing at the age of 43. Foreman was 42. Here's a couple of reasons why I think this could be successful. His contract with promoter Don King just ran out, which means he's free of his influences. Holyfield has also given his shoulders proper time to heal. He has had several surgeries over the years and always seemed to rush back before they were ready.

Quick, name three active boxers vying for the heavyweight title? Heck, name one! You can't. That's why boxing needs Holyfield back and needs him winning. He can do as much for the sport now as Foreman did 10 years ago.

His comeback begins August 18 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas against journeyman Jeremy Bates.

He doesn't need the money. Holyfield wants to see if he can become the first person in history to win the heavyweight title five times. Here's one fan who hopes he does it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Need For Speed

Tim Powers made a name for himself with his Texas SAQ (Speed, Agility, Quickness) programs. He's now one of the top trainers in the world based in Hawaii. It's not hard to figure out, that speed, agility and quickness are essential components of being a good athlete. Strength is also important.

UT-Tyler is set to host a summer camp that focuses on these atributes. Here is their press release:

The University of Texas at Tyler Louise Herrington Patriot Center will offer its Patriot Speed and Strength Summer Camp 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. July 17 – 22 and July 24 – 28, Bob Hepler, UT Tyler director of recreational facilities, announced.

The camp is open to all levels of athletes 12 years and older. Camp fee is $50 for HPC members and $75 for non-members. To attend both sessions, the camp fee is $80 for HPC members and $125 for non-members. The camp will focus on speed, strength, plyometrics, agility, flexibility, explosive training, core strength, balance, resistance training and nutrition.

“Every sport requires some level of speed or strength,” said Wes Davis, UT Tyler recreation program assistant. “This camp will help all levels of athletes, even adults, become stronger and faster, and reach the next level in that sport.”

For more information or to sign-up, call 903-565-5602.

How Others See Us

I'm back! My family and I vacationed out of state this past week and gained an interesting perspective on Texas and sports. I watched the NBA Finals with various groups of fans who had no allegiance to either team. Yet, I found a majority of them were rooting for the Miami Heat. There were several reasons why these fans were rooting against the Mavericks.

1. They think Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is a "crazy eccentric"
2. They hate the Cowboys
3. They have allegiances to teams of various sports who are big rivals with Texas teams
4. I was rooting FOR the Mavericks (that's an entirely different story)
5. They like Shaquille O'Neal or Dwayne Wade
6. There isn't a player on the Mavericks they could rally around
7. They don't like Texans

I had a hard time understanding the dislike of Cuban. The guy is a passionate supporter of his team who will do anything in his power to help them win. How is that negative? Yes, his behavior can be a bit out of the norm for an NBA owner (i.e. running onto the court, venting on a blog, or Heaven for bid spending money!). But, apply that behavior to a fan. Fans rush the court, vent on a blog and spend an awful lot of money to go to the games. Wouldn't you do that if you somehow came into a billion dollars and became owner of your favorite team? I know I would.

Hating the Mavericks because they hated the Cowboys was a little easier to understand. Being "America's Team" doesn't always mean everyone in America loves you. It means everyone in America has an opinion about you. The Cowboys have established such a presence, that allegiances for or against them have spilled over to include other teams in the same city and state as the Cowboys.

Shaq is no surprise. He is larger than life. His popularity rivals that of the top athletes in any sport. Wade is a rising star who has benefited from Shaq's presence.

For whatever reason, Dirk Nowitzki isn't getting the exposure or support he deserves. Granted, he didn't step up in the NBA Finals, but he is one of the best in the game. I know he doesn't offer as much entertainment value as Shaq when it comes to interviews, but why should that be held against him? Does he need to call himself the OTHER, other son of Jor-El (Superman's father)?

There are a lot of people who don't get the Texas pride. They don't understand the Alamo or Lone Star stuff. They view Texans as arrogant. I usually get the same answer when I ask those people, "Have you ever BEEN to Texas?" The answer is almost always NO.

I think it's a combination of jealousy and ignorance. Their team usually doesn't win, their owner usually doesn't spend money, and their state doesn't have a strong identity.

And, if you've never been here, then "Don't Mess with Texas!"

Oh yeah, and "Remember the Alamo!"

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hawaiian Teeanger In US Open Field After All

There are few people in the world more happy to shoot an 11-over par 81 today than 15-year-old Tadd Fujikawa of Hawaii. Fujikawa shot the 81 in the opening round of the US Open. Yes, THE US Open. We made such a big deal about 16-year-old Michelle Wie of Hawaii ALMOST qualifying for the US Open that we failed to see another Hawaiian teenager slip into the field. Ironically, Fujikawa finished two strokes behind Wie in a local qualifier in Hawaii (Fujikawa had to sink a 65-foot birdie putt in a playoff to advance). Fujikawa didn't have to face Wie in the regional qualifier because Wie decided to try to qualify in New Jersey to be closer to the LPGA Championship, which she played in that same week in Maryland. As a result, Wie came up short in New Jersey, and Fujikawa captured the one qualifying spot available back in Hawaii, becoming the youngest golfer to qualify for the US Open in 65 years.

If the story ended there, it would be a great one. But Fujikawa's goes much deeper. You see, he's just happy to be alive. Doctors gave him just a 50/50 chance of survival after he was born three and-a-half months premature. He weighed just 1 pound, 15 ounces! He weighs 135 pounds now, standing a whopping 5'1", yet he can still drive his tee shots over 285 yards!

He's also a former national junior Judo Champion who just completed his freshman year of high school.

Pardon me while I go run some laps or something. I feel like such a slacker!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

All I Want For Christmas Is A Healthy Quarterback

As a St. Louis native, I went eight seasons without an NFL team. So, you can imagine how ecstatic I was, when the Rams, in their first season in St. Louis in 1995, won their first four games behind the outstanding play of quarterback Chris Miller. But Miller was knocked silly in the Bears game and was never the same again. The Rams would go on to win just three of their final 12 games that season to finish 7-9. It would prove to be Miller's last season with the Rams. St. Louis wouldn't produce another standout quarterback until former stockboy Kurt Warner emerged during the 1999 season, but that's a different story.

The point being, I was devastated when Miller got hurt. The collective hearts of St. Louisans broke, even though we knew it wasn't Miller's fault. He got hurt playing in a game, for us. I couldn't imagine how irate I would have been if Miller's injury would have come off the field as the result of a motorcycle accident.

I won't even begin to understand Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger's thought process. He just signed a 6-year, $40 Million contract in 2004. His health on the field could spell the difference between a Super Bowl Season, and a 6-10 season. What a selfish act to put the hopes of the entire city of Pittsburgh, as well as Millions of dollars of someone else's money on the line, just because it makes you "more free" to not wear a protective helmet while riding one of the most dangerous machines on the road. Of the 323 people in Texas who died in motorcycle crashes, 207 were not wearing a helmet. That's nearly 65%!

The motorcycle Roethlisberger was driving was a 2005 Suzuki Hayabusa, which has a top speed in excess of 200 miles per hour! Why it's legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet in the first place is beyond me. But, CHOOSING to not wear a helmet while riding on something that moves faster then a Nextel Cup stock car, is just stupid. Dale Earnhardt, may he rest in peace, died while moving at 200 miles per hour, and he was not only wearing a helmet, but he was strapped into a roll cage designed specifically to save his life!

Miraculously, Roethlisberger's doctors say he will not only survive his injuries, but he will most likely play professional football again this fall. Here's one person who believes that if he even THINKS about riding on a motorcycle again until his career is over, then he should have to give back every penny he makes on the football field. We'll see how many motorcycles he can afford then...

Monday, June 12, 2006

East Texas Is King In Dave Campbell's Texas Football

It's one of the most anticipated magazines every year. I'm talking about Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine. It features coverage of 1,300 high schools from across the state of Texas. And, of the five athletes featured on the cover, three of them are from East Texas. The most obvious East Texan on the cover is the Tyler Rose himself, Earl Campbell. What is surprising, is that this is the first time Campbell has EVER been featured on the cover! Also on the cover are four blue chip quarterbacks, including Texas High's Ryan Mallett and Gilmer's G.J. Kinne.

There are 22 East Texas teams in the five, Top-25 classification rankings. Four of the five number one ranked teams are from East Texas. Lufkin is number one in 5A, Texas High is number one in 4A, Gilmer is number one in 3A (Liberty-Eylau is #3), Tatum is number one in 2A (Jefferson is #2), and Alto is number two in 1A.

The magazine hits newstands around the state on Tuesday, June 13.

You Can Vote For Texas Sports Hall of Fame

Does Cowboys owner Jerry Jones deserve to be in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame? What about Hooks native Billy Sims?

For the first time in the 55-year history of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, YOU will be able to help the selection committee pick the Class of 2006.

You can go to the museum's website to sign up for the Official Voting Member Program (OVM). The deadline to vote for the upcoming class is July 15.


SHAWN ANDAYA - Softball – Texas A&M
LETA ANDREWS - Basketball Coach - Granbury High School girls
BILL BRADLEY - Football – University of Texas
CYNTHIA COOPER – Basketball – Houston Comets
DELOSS DODDS - Athletic Director – University of Texas
SPIKE DYKES. Football Coach – Texas Tech
MIA HAMM – Soccer – Wichita Falls
JERRY JONES – Owner – Dallas Cowboys
TOMMY KRAMER – Football - Rice
ROOSEVELT LEAKS – Football – University of Texas
ABE LEMONS – Basketball Coach – University of Texas
BRUCE LIETZKE – Golf - University of Houston
DONNA LOPIANO – Women’s Athletic Director – University of Texas
DAVE MARR - Golf – Houston native
JACK MILDREN – Football – Abilene native
WARREN MOON – Football – Houston Oilers
BILLY SIMS – Football – Hooks native
TAL SMITH – Baseball – Houston Astros
CLARISSA DAVIS-WRIGHTSIL. – Basketball – University of Texas


GOOSE GONSOULIN – Football - Port Arthur native
ABNER HAYNES – Football – Dallas Texans
RAFER JOHNSON – Track & Field – Hillsboro native
SHORTY LAWSON – Football Official – Abilene native
JACK LUMMUS (dec.) – Football – Ennis native
BIZ MACKEY (dec.) – Baseball, Negro Leagues – Eagle Pass native
WALLY MOON – Baseball – Texas A&M
DON PERKINS – Football – Dallas Cowboys
JOHNNY ROLAND – Football – Corpus Christi native
JIM RAY SMITH – Football – Baylor
MARILYNN SMITH – Golf – Richardson resident
WILLIE WELLS (dec.) – Baseball, Negro Leagues – Austin native

Top 5 For Wie

How does 16-year-old golfer Michelle Wie react to failing to qualify at the men's US Open? She went out this past weekend and almost won an LPGA major! Wie was within one shot of the lead with two holes to play, but missed out because of an erratic putter.

Her comment afterwards was classic!

"I feel like I'm getting closer and closer," Wie said. "It shows a lot that I played my 'B' game and I'm still in the top five."

That's scary!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Viva World Cup!

Germany and Costa Rica...

Besides being of German descent and I've always wanted to visit Costa Rica, I have no serious investment or interest in either country. So, watching the two countries play against each other on the soccer field this morning in the opening match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, I should have been bored out of my mind. I mean, I'm American, and Americans don't like soccer, right? But, you know what's funny? I found myself yelling when the goals were scored, or almost scored, I voiced protests when hard fouls were made, and I realized I was doing it involuntarily. I was genuinely interested in the game. Then it hit me... I was watching REALLY GOOD soccer!
I grew up playing soccer, or football as it's called everywhere else in the world, which is logical, since you play the game with your feet. For eight years I ran around a field, as a defender, kicking a ball away from my team's goal every now and then. I didn't aim the kick, I just kicked it hard. We always had a couple of kids on our team who were pretty quick, so they would beat the other team to the ball, and race in and score. That's really what I thought soccer was, and I think that's what many Americans think soccer is.

I hear my American football fan friends say, "soccer is boring. They never score. Who wants to see a 3-1 game? Give me football where there's more action, and more scoring."

I played football about as long as I played soccer, so I started seriously thinking about the "action" in a football game. Now, don't get me wrong, I love football, but can you seriously say a hand off to a running back, who is tackled at the line of scrimmage, is action? And if you really break it down, a 21-7 football game, when you remove the scoring inflation, is equivalent to a 3-1 soccer game! We wait an entire half sometimes to see one touchdown. How is that different than soccer?

Back to that REALLY GOOD soccer thought... I love my son, but, like my Dad had to think watching my games, when Jake isn't in the action, I can't watch. It's brutal! Packs of kids running up and down the field, some not even realizing there is a ball on the field! That's not soccer, it's group running.

Watching the World Cup is like staring at Howard Stern all day, then Angelina Jolie walks into the room. You can't help but instantly snap to attention, sit up and take notice. Your heart races and your eyes follow every move.

That's what I felt watching Germany and Costa Rica play. It was beautiful! The control of the ball, the curling, precision passes, the aggressive defense, the power behind their shots... THAT was non-stop action. Almost like a chess match, you could see the strategy building, anticipating two or three moves ahead. It looked so effortless and graceful. I felt like I was watching a different game.

Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in the first of 64 world cup matches to be played over the next month, and this football fan finds himself anxiously awaiting the next one!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Lessons From A Pro

Hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in free golf lessons, right here on KLTV 7. That is the premise behind our summer series we kicked off this week called Lessons From A Pro. We will feature eight different PGA teaching professionals in the months of June and July, offering their favorite golf teaching tips. We began with The Cascades head golf professional Kenny Huff, who offers a different way to hit out of a greenside bunker.

I have to tell you, I was in awe of what Kenny was able to do. We shot several takes of the golf tip, so I could get different angles. That meant, Kenny had to hit that bunker shot dozens of times. Not once did he miss hit that shot! I couldn't believe it. Do you know how hard it is to hit a shot out of the sand? I do, and I'm here to say, I probably couldn't put two of ten shots within 20 feet of the pin. When we were finished shooting, I retrieved a large group of balls that all landed in the same spot, within five feet of the pin! It was amazing.

Anyway, keep an eye out for more tips, every Tuesday night at 10pm.

The Avery Bunch

The Dallas Mavericks have established themselves as perrenial NBA title contenders under the tutelage of coach Avery Johnson, and they've done so with a new-found defensive mentality.

Mavs fans are having a lot of fun right now with their team in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. You have to check out the parity of The Brady Bunch open, called The Avery Bunch at It's hilarious!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Michelle Wie Is A Star

I just watched Michelle Wie come oh so close to becoming the first woman to ever qualify for the men's U.S. Open. Halfway through the final round of qualifying, she was under the cut line. It was heartbreaking to see her come up short. I can't understand how anyone can say a negative word about her. The 16-year-old golfer from Hawaii has accomplished some amazing things in her young career. I know, the naysayers say, "what has she won?" Just playing in a PGA tournament is not enough for you? Consider this. What had you accomplished when you were 16? For me, passing my classes and making my high school sophomore football team seemed like a pretty big accomplishment. I couldn't imagine playing on the varsity at that age. I surely couldn't imagine playing in the NFL at 16! I know you can't compare football and golf in those terms, but you get my point. The aspirations of a normal 16-year-old boy or girl don't typically involve competing with people twice their age.

Let's take a look at what Michelle Wie has accomplished at the tender young age of 16.

Age 4: Began playing golf
Age 7: Shot a 14-over par 18-hole round of golf
Age 10: Shot a 64. She also became the youngest player to qualify for a USGA amateur championship (USGA Women's Amateur Public Links)
Age 11: Won the Hawaii State Women's Stroke Play Championship. Reached 3rd round of stroke play at the USGA Women's Amateur Public Links.
Age 12: Won the Women's division of the Hawaii State Open. Reached semifinals of the USGA Women's Amateur Public Links (youngest to do that). Became youngest player ever to qualify for an LPGA tournament.
Age 13: Won the Women's U.S. Amateur Public Links (youngest to do that). Youngest player to make the cut in an LPGA tournament and major (Nabisco Championship in which she finished 9th!). Finished ahead of 50 men in attempting to qualify for the PGA's Sony Open.
Age 14: Youngest player to play in a PGA event, and first woman to score a sub-70 round in PGA history (68 in Sony Open in which she missed the cut by one stroke!) Finished 4th at LPGA's Nabisco Championship
Age 15: Finished 2nd in the LPGA Championship (she also finished second at the LPGA's SBS Open at Turlte Bay). Shot 1-under par at the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic (missed the cut by 2 strokes). She also turned pro!
Age 16: Debuted on the women's world golf rankings at #2! Finished 2nd at LPGA's Nabisco Championship. Made the cut in a men's Asian Tour event (SK Telecom Open).

I have a great way to put this into perspective. Anika Sorenstam is the number one ranked female golfer in the world, and future hall-of-famer. She has won 81 professional events, including nine majors. But, she didn't win her first professional tournament until she was 24!

Imagine what Michelle Wie will accomplish by the time she's 24?! She'll probably be playing on the PGA tour by then, for all we know. But, until then, why don't we cut her a little slack, sit back, and enjoy the ride. After all, Michelle's just now learning to drive!

Friday, June 02, 2006

True All-American

No matter how you look at it, LeTourneau centerfielder Damon Stokes has had one heck of a college career.

The senior from Anchorage, Alaska led the Jackets in 12 different statistical categories this season while batting .351 with 39 runs, 12 doubles and 22 stolen bases. He set school career records for outfield put outs (442), doubles (44), and walks (100) while setting single season records for outfield put outs (141) and most chances handled in a season without committing an error (146).

But, Stokes onfield statistics aren't his most impressive numbers. The Electrical Engineering major has kept a perfect 4.00 grade point average. As a result, he was named to the First Team ESPN The Magazine All-America baseball team for the second straight year.

Stokes is the only student-athlete in LeTourneau history to earn ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American honors since the school moved from NAIA to NCAA Division III.

Only Stokes and Adam Duerfeldt, the 2006 College Division Player of the Year, were repeat members to receive First Team distinction for two consecutive years.

The ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America teams are selected by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America. To be considered for the teams, one must maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.20 or better and be a starter or important reserve.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Red Raiders Are Back!

The Red Raiders are back! One year removed from the worst football season in 9 years, and two years removed from their best football season ever, Robert E. Lee looks to be back on track.

Texas 5A Football released it's 2006 Preseason Top 25 today. And low and behold, the Red Raiders were ranked 24th! That's quite impressive when you consider Lee was 4-6 last year. They are the only team in the top 25 that didn't make the playoffs last year.

According to Lee head coach Mike Owens, the Red Raiders are a young team with a bakers dozen worth of returning starters. He also has a defense that has a chance to be very good.

"We've got more speed defensively then we've had since I've been here," Owens said.

That defense should serve them well with a schedule that includes two other preseason top 25 teams in Abilene (#25) and defending state champion Euless Trinity (#9).

Former district rival Lufkin is ranked #1. The "Pack Attack" is featured on the cover of Texas 5A Football's 2006 Gridiron Guide. Too bad Lee and Lufkin don't play this year in the regular season.