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Lovie Smith: the star of Big Sandy

Posted by mcorcoran on December 20, 2013

Originally published in 2006.

by Michael Corcoran

BIG SANDY. Nakia Derrick couldn’t believe what he was seeing on his TV one afternoon a couple of months ago. The lifelong resident of this one-stoplight East Texas town 100 miles east of Dallas was watching ESPN when his faded yellow mobile home appeared on the screen.

He leapt out of his chair and called for his brothers to come see. As the camera panned to show his neighbor’s weather-beaten house, the Lyles Street Church of Christ, two more mobile homes and a lot where a house used to be, a voiceover described the small-town upbringing of Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.

Smith's senior high school pic.

Smith’s senior high school pic.

The camera tilted up to reveal a sparkling new sign for Lovie Smith Drive. Then it showed a slender country road that went only about 100 yards.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and this is where the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, whose 10-2 Bears have already clinched the NFC Central title, first drew plays in the dirt with his finger.

” Lovie Smith put Big Sandy on the map,” said Derrick, a former Dallas Cowboys fan who now roots for “the Burrs,” which is “the Bears” brushed with an East Texas twang. The streets of the predominantly black neighborhood on the north side of the railroad tracks are practically empty when Lovie’s team is on the tube.

Derrick and his friends love to watch Lovie’s swarming, opportunistic defense, which has restored the “Monsters of the Midway” tag to the Bears, who will play Smith’s previous employer, the St. Louis Rams, on Monday night.

A self-proclaimed “country hick from East Texas,” the 48-year-old, third-year head coach has become a big sports story for the results he has gotten without ever raising his voice, except to occasionally blurt “Jiminy Christmas.” The opposite of volcanic-tempered former Bears coach Mike Ditka, Smith is a leader, his players say, who says as much with a glare as other coaches can with a tirade.

Lovie Lee, as he is called back home, has long been a hero in Big Sandy, where he starred on three consecutive Class B state championship football teams from 1973 to 1975. The townsfolk are tickled to see the rest of the country catching up.

“I grew up a Cowboys fan; we all did — Lovie, too,” said Smith’s former neighbor Willie Strickland, 50, who wears a Cowboys T-shirt and a Bears cap on Sundays. “But I gotta go with Lovie in a faceoff. He’s family, man. He’s representin’ Big Sandy!” Read the rest of this entry »

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Horns plummet back to Earth with 38-13 loss to Okla. State

Posted by mcorcoran on November 17, 2013

Being ranked is Kryptonite to the No. 24 Texas Longhorns, who won’t have that weakness next game, when they’ll drop off the charts like the Dixie Chicks after losing 38-13 to Oklahoma State at home. UT’s six-game winning streak ended just before halftime Saturday, when Case McCoy threw his only touchdown pass of the day, to Justin Gilbert of the Cowboys. When the Horns tried to claw their way back into the game, they shot themselves in the ass over and over, like a blooper reel for The Plaxico Burress Story.

It was Mack Brown’s worst home loss in 16 seasons and rekindled talk of his post-season ouster, when just last week we were calling him a Big 12 Coach of the Year candidate.

Texas had won six straight conference games going back to Sept. 21, but now the Horns won’t take the conference crown unless they win the last two games- against Texas Tech at home on Thanksgiving and vs. the fourth-ranked Baylor Bears on Dec. 7- and Oklahoma State loses to Baylor. It isn’t so bad that Texas was defeated by the No. 12-ranked OSU, who were favored by three points, but in the way they stuck to a conservative gameplan even when they were 25 points behind in the fourth quarter. There was about as much urgency in the UT offense as a minimum wage earning fast food crew reacting to a tour bus pulling up at closing time. They just wanted to go home. The Horns played with such a lack of balls, they couldn’t make a pause pregnant. They packed it in with the clock still running and Tyrone Swoopes’ redshirt smoldering unneccessarily.

Rare Texas highlight: Mykkele Thompson intercepts OK St. in the first quarter, when Texas trailed 7-3.

Rare Texas highlight: Mykkele Thompson intercepts OK St. in the first quarter, when Texas trailed 7-3.

Although Texas lost by more than three touchdowns, the difference in the game was the final 1:33 of the first half. The Cowboys were leading 14-10 when UT’s Adrian Phillips bobbled a sure interception into the hands of the Oklahoma State receiver Tracy Moore for a touchdown. After Texas got the ball and made a couple first downs, McCoy threw a lazy out pass to Kendall Sanders that Gilbert stepped in front of and took back 43 yards for the TD. Just like that it was 28-10.

Yes, this was Choke State, but no, Case McCoy isn’t Vince Young. Number 6 has had a special season, beating OU and all, but he soiled the Sealy Saturday, averaging 5 yards per pass attempt (39-217) and three interceptions.

The coaches all blamed themselves. Give me a few million a year and I’ll take credit for I-35 traffic. But the Horns lost because the players didn’t make plays, while the guys in the other clothes did. “It’s on me,” Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite said after the game of his team’s lack of offense. But he showed a lack of remorse. He’s gotta go with Mack, right? Sitting next to him was McCoy, who said it was his fault “and everyone on the team knows it.” Just not your day, kid.

Texas was also atrocious on special teams, which is always an easy indication of whether or not a team was mentally prepared to go to war. An invisible turnover was roughing the punter in the 3rd quarter, when it looked like the Horns might be able to get the kind of momentum that makes McCoy’s passes zing instead of looking like the ball’s wrapped in foil. The Horns had bad field position all game, with Daje Johnson muffing a punt that he should’ve let bounce into the end zone for a touchback. Once UT’s best offensive threat, an ineffective Johnson was replaced as punt returner after that and sent to the Dajehouse.

Who played well? Anthony Fera. When a kicker gets the game ball, you’ve got a football contest on the excitement level of a Sting concert. Texas had the swagger of a lute.

We used to slap T. Boone’s farm boys around, but Oklahoma State has now beaten Texas three times in a row in Austin. It was new athletic director Steve Patterson’s first football game as the don of UT football and he’s already gotta be thinking about guys to whack. Mack Brown’s a good earner, but a possible 7-5 season is another disgrace in the high stakes world of amateur athletics. The only thing from keeping Mack Brown from getting fired is that there’s no one available who’s as good a head football coach. At the end of the year, maybe even that won’t be enough.

Not my day?!

Not my day?!

 

 

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Another Texas football honor for Johnny Manziel

Posted by mcorcoran on January 26, 2013

Who’s the greatest Texas football player of Middle Eastern descent? According to the reference book “Syrian and Lebanese Texans,” which I read today at the Austin History Center, that distinction goes to former Texas Longhorn running back Chris Gilbert (’66-’68), whose mother was Lebanese. But since that book was published in 1974, it’s not exactly up to date.Johnny Manziel

A Texan of Lebanese descent just won the Heisman trophy in December. Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M is the great grandson of Bobby Manziel, who was born in Lebanon in 1908. There’s a chapter on the oil wildcatter, whose strikes include East Texas’s Hawkins oil field,  in the 1974 book, published by the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. Johnny Manziel doesn’t need agents to buy him courtside tickets to NBA games- his family is incredibly wealthy.

That’s promising for the Aggies, as the 12th Man Towel-heads may be waving their white terry for Johnny F. for more than one more year.

Bobby Manziel grew up in Arkansas and was a sportswriter for the Fort Smith newspaper. He was also a boxer known as “the Syrian Kid” and sometimes sparred with an up-and-coming fighter named Jack Dempsey, who would become the heavyweight champ. It was Dempsey who lent Manziel $400 to complete one of his first drilling expeditions and the two remained partners. Based in Tyler, where Johnny grew up, Bobby Manziel ended up owning banks and newspapers, in addition to his oil and gas business. But he and Dempsey’s big dream was to build a 20,000-capacity venue- the country’s first air-conditioned coliseum- for rodeos, concerts, prize fights and other sporting events. Bobby Manziel died in 1956, before work began, but Bobby Jr., Johnny Football’s grand-uncle, took over his father’s dream and eventually opened the 65,000-square foot Oil Palace in Tyler with a Barbara Mandrell concert in 1983.

Chris Gilbert was the first player in NCAA history to record three 1,000-yard rushing seasons—rushing for 1,080 as a sophomore, 1,019 as a junior, 1,132 as a senior, but he’s no Johnny Football.

Ironically, Manziel’s hero growing up was Doug Flutie, also of Lebanese ancestry, who won a Heisman trophy with Boston College.

Given Manziel’s ethnic background, it’s even crazier than he’s not playing for the Longhorns. Fellow Lebanese-Texan, billionaire lawyer Joe Jamail, is one of the program’s greatest benefactors. The field at Royal-Memorial Stadium is named after Jamail.

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Hornucopia game-wraps 2012

Posted by mcorcoran on October 29, 2012

2012 Season Preview  “I propose Harsin and running back coach Major Applewhite devise some ground schemes with all three RBs in the backfield and Ash at the point. Call it “Wishbone Ash.”

9/1 Texas 37, Wyoming 17  “The play of the game was Kenny Vaccaro’s full-stride interception in the second half, with Wyoming leading 9-7 and headed into Texas territory again.”

9/8 Texas 45, New Mexico 0  “In 2015 and 2016, Texas opens the season against Notre Dame, but until then the idea is to keep spending more money on cupcakes than the governor of New Jersey. Remember, this is a regime that canceled an opener against Hawaii a few years back because it was afraid of an upset. Talk about your tiny bubbles.”

9/15 Texas 66, Ole Miss 31  “D.J. Monroe had a spectacular rushing TD for the third game in a row and Joe Bergeron was well on his way to 100 plus before he left with a shoulder injury that needs the upcoming bye week like Chris Brown’s neck needs laser surgery.”

9/29 Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36  “A sophomore from Belton, David Ash could be Bell County’s greatest gift to Austin since Spoon. Ash made the reads, made the throws and basically grew before our eyes, like Tootie from “Facts of Life.”

10/6 West Virginia 48, Texas 45  “Why chew clock in a shootout trying to establish the run against a team whose DBs couldn’t cover “Louie Louie?” And what the fock is Daje Johnson doing on the sidelines and not on crutches?”

10/13 Oklahoma 63, Texas 21  “Horns halftime motivational speaker Joel Osteen was seen slinking out of the Cotton Bowl late in the second quarter (“I got nothing”), when OU had already amassed more than 400 yards of offense to UT’s single first down. Mrs. John Wayne Gacy had a better half.”

10/20 Texas 56, Baylor 50  “The way the score was going back and forth in the first half, it was like watching a tennis match, but the Horns broke service at 28-28 when Josh Turner picked off Baylor QB Nick Florence, who looks like the ‘70s porn actor his name suggests.”

10/27 Texas 21, Kansas 17  “Quandre Diggs, meanwhile, will sleep tonight. The defensive back, whose brother is Quentin Grabber of the NFL, interfered with a Jayhawk receiver so badly on a 3rd and 9 that he left DNA evidence.”

UPDATE: Ash keeps starting job  “But even after such heroics in the face of what would’ve been a long flight home on Laughing Stock Airways (“plenty of room for the tail between your legs”), MCCoy’s name on the depth chart remains Justin Case.” 

11/3 Texas 31, Texas Tech 22  “Give Coach Brown credit for sticking with Ash after the QB played in Kansas like a senior citizen trying to figure out Skype.”

11/10 Texas 31, Iowa State 7  “Game ball also goes to the fearless drive extender Jaxon Shipley, who caught 8 passes, most in key situations, for 137 yards, That must’ve been some labor for Mama Shipley, giving birth to twins seven years apart.”

11/22 TCU, 20, Texas 13

12/1 Kansas State 42, Texas 24  “McCoy started shakily, tossing a Pick 5.99 to Nigel Malone on his second pass of the game, which had a hang time of 2.7 seconds. Malone, who probably wears a costume on Oct. 30, dropped the leather oval before crossing the goal line…”

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From the AAS archives

Posted by mcorcoran on July 29, 2011

Boredom is a bitch. Boredom made me start this web site, when I was just getting the hang of Facebook and Twitter. Eventually, I’ll be posting stuff here every day, including breaking music news, I hope, and reviews of concerts, DVDs, restaurants, TV shows and so on.

I’m also going to try to write more personal things.

But right now, I’m trying to figure it out, so please bear with me. And if you’ve traveled here and are looking for something to read, here are my ten favorite stories from my 16 years at the Statesman.

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Lovie Smith, “The Star of Big Sandy”

Posted by admin on July 27, 2011


Here’s one of the first stories about the humble East Texas upbringing of Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, “The Star of Big Sandy.”

http://www.austin360.com/arts/star-of-big-sandy-1554831.html

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