Weatherford Democrat


August 29, 2011

‘Big 12’ and numbers game

WEATHERFORD — Jokes requiring explanation should be avoided, and so should athletic conferences with numbers in their names. Too many members are here today and someplace else tomorrow.

For example, the “Big Ten” now has 12 member schools, and the “Big 12,” ten. Texas A&M University’s continuance in the “Big 12” is tenuous at best. Aggies, typically humming, singing or whistling their War Hymn, now are alternating it with another musical number.

It’s the one about boll weevils, “just looking for a home, just looking for a home.”

My Uncle Mort, now two months past age 99, has spoken out on athletics.

“We are headed toward four super conferences of 16 teams each,” he maintains, “And they’ll slug it out for national championships. When this occurs, the slipping and sliding between conferences should come to a halt, or very nearly. And the other 100 or so ‘wannabe’ universities then will have golden opportunities to scale sports back down to perspective.”

I shied away from the conversation, because the thicket’s resident philosopher was just getting warmed up, and/or overcome by excessive heat. He claimed that Rick Perry,  “deciding to run for president instead of the border,” will be a key player in deciding whether his alma mater joins the Southeastern Conference, if and when the Aggies are invited.

All I know is that I don’t know.

With so many major institutions changing conference allegiances, I feel sorry for sportswriters. Previously, they were expected to predict finishes in football standings.

Now, they must predict beginnings as well.

With severe drought and three-digit temperatures tormenting so many, writers will have “field” days finding new expressions to replace “home field advantages.” In most stadia where grass once grew, thatch, gopher holes and plain old dirt remain. And all this when so many voices yell, “Go green!”

One coach said it well: “We may have home dirt advantage, or home rut advantage or home dust advantage,” he kidded. “Then, after a good rain, we may have home bog advantage or home pool advantage.”

All this puts one in mind of Andy Griffith’s recitation that catapulted him into national stardom. His What It Was, Was Football hit in 1953 was his description of a game played in a “pretty little green cow pasture.” Clueless about football, Griffith drawled about the goings-on of gangs that wanted the same punkin’, with “convicts” blowing whistles trying to maintain order, etc.

At TCU, where a $105 million stadium renovation project is under way, an obstacle course of construction equipment, detours and assorted hazards may challenge fans.

In fact, two early-season night games have been changed to afternoon, giving fans a better chance to remain safe, both coming and going. I guess one might say the Horned Frogs have a “home crane” advantage. The TCU facility is only a few miles from now defunct Masonic Home and School. The football program there was at the other end of the spectrum. That’s where late legendary Coach Rusty Russell led a dozen scrawny kids to football prowess over Texas’ major schools and recognition throughout the state. (Twelve Mighty Orphans, Jim Dent’s book about the “Mighty Mites,” is a great read. Dent said that when Russell arrived, they had no place to play, and didn’t even have a football.)

This is the time of year, of course, when athletes in all fall sports — as well as members of bands, drill teams and cheer groups — sweat greatly in preparation.

Coaches wear sweat-stained garb as well, but their perspiration will continue — whatever the weather — as losses sully their teams’ records. No wonder they’re already developing clever lines for media personnel and their athletes.

I like the story of the high school coach who was pumping up his charges in the locker room minutes before facing a mighty foe. Winning the coin toss was the only likely exciting prospect for his out-classed youngsters. Realizing a blood bath was probable, the coach dusted off the old line about the opponents putting on their pants one leg at a time — “just like we do.” A scrawny sophomore, his 130 pounds already in quake-mode, whimpered, “But Coach — have you seen the size of their legs?” (The same coach has standing instructions: “If we kick off, try to block the extra point, and if we receive, try to recover the fumble.)

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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