Coach's Corner

Ex-jocks, the late Howard Cosell properly observed, more common on the airways than the cockroach, make the worst kind of announcers. Part of the sport's fraternity, they're quick to gloss over obvious mistakes by players, pontificate ad nauseam on the obvious, and are generally a few filaments shy of a lightbulb in their analysis. Sunday, I heard some ex-football jock, an "expert" on CBS radio, blathering on the importance of the season's first game. I could write a column on examples of what bullshit this is. It's one of 16 games. Period. End of discussion. Thus, you'll have to take my word for it. Yes, I saw week one and no, these "insights" are unchanged. (Or why would I still have Detroit in the Super Bowl?!?)

Notes on the AFC... The Pittsburgh Steelers are picked, by every publication I've seen, to win the Central, even though they have a free-agency ravaged roster and nothing resembling a quarterback. This reasoning I don't get. In an ironic adios from an unwanted team to a too-often spurned city, Houston Oilers will win the Central, with the Steelers a fading third or worse. A great QB is not required to get to or win the Super Bowl. The Kansas City Chiefs' Steve Bono is good enough. The L.A. Raiders, year in and year out, are the most consistently overrated team in sports. The New York Jets' Neil O'Donnell is in for a big surprise (if he lives!) thinking he'll still be the most turnover-free QB in the league. No longer the beneficiary of a great defense, watch those INT's balloon (exposing O'Donnell's ordinary talents), as N.Y. falls further and further behind. I'm sorry, I've seen too much of Jim Harbaugh. Last year's MVP was a fluke. Two years ago, I thought Bill Parcells and the New England Patriots would be in a Super Bowl by now. Parcells seems to typify the old-line coaches who haven't adjusted to the realities of modern free-agency. The Buffalo Bills are the most remarkable sports franchise of all time. Find me anyone who didn't think this team wasn't smushed roadkill years ago. Yet, with the same core personnel and a cagey front office, the small-market Bills are picked by many to go all the way. Right up front, I don't like Jimmy Johnson. I don't care what team he coaches. He's a Cowboy. That said, I'm appalled how relatively sound announcers like Paul Maguire and his gang of sycophants positively oozed self-serving gushing pabulum as the Miami Dolphins beat a bad Patriot team at home. On and on they went. Miami's running game was all Jimmy said it was. This was a new "power" team. Maybe so. Never mentioned: New England's ranking of 28th -- that's almost last, sportsfans -- in defense last year. Let's see how Miami runs the ball against Dallas or Buffalo, or, for that matter, the Pats up in Foxboro. I'll believe this is Cincinnati's "breakout year" when I see it. The Detroit Lions in the Super Bowl? Okay... it's a longshot pick. I don't think Dallas or San Francisco can make it and besides, I'm sick of seeing them. The Green Bay Packers? Easy, popular pick, but being right, along with ten thousand others, is no fun. Detroit has a great offense and a decent defense. In this day of watered-down teams, that's enough. Super Bowl? Detroit-Kansas City.

Like a teenage girl dressed for the prom -- new dress, new shoes, new 'do, corsage safely pinned on -- the University of Texas, on August 31, made her debut in the brand-new Big 12 Conference. Old Memorial Stadium has a new name now, the Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. Yeah, it bites, but it's only a name. In a year, no one will care. The hideous artificial turf, where the Horns toiled for 27 years, has been replaced by the flattest, hardest grass field I've ever seen. The south end zone has a new Sony Jumbotron scoreboard. Even the old, tinny sound system, the source of many a pre-game headache, is gone, replaced with one the athletic department somewhat hopefully refers to as "theatre quality."

The Horn's date for the big debut bash was, unfortunately, the homely Fightin' Tigers of Old Mizzou. Since the Longhorns enter this game with their highest pre-season ranking in many years and the Tigers are ranked somewhere below Rice, this is akin to the captain of the football team taking a mangy cocker spaniel as his prom date, but what the hell, a date is a date.

Observing the clean-cut students and elderly Republicans filing into the park, I'm reminded how much things seem to have changed in the 28 years since I myself graduated from Mizzou. In those days, it was not uncommon to witness -- up close -- inebriated but enthusiastic devotees of the Tigers, unable to relieve alcohol-saturated bladders in the traditional way, make creative use of the paper cup. Over-stimulated Tiger boosters vomiting upon their Tri-Delt dates in the oppressive September sun was not a rare occurrence. Those were the days. Ah well.

Soft-focus memories aside, the dressed-up stadium, in the gentle 6pm light, with a rare, blue August sky (for a while anyway, until a deluge and lightning storm of biblical proportions postponed the inaugural contest for 45 minutes) did look pretty. Coming from me, a closet Horn-hater from birth, that's a big compliment.n

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