(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
The Thanksgiving holiday usually means the end of a lot of diets and the official beginning of the most hectic shopping month of the year. This year was no exception (at least in my house), but this extended weekend in sports also had its own beginnings and endings.
Two area icons ended their careers this weekend, Matt Jones of the Razorbacks and Hubie Brown of the Memphis Grizzlies. Jones’ college playing days came to an end on Friday with a loss to LSU. Had the Hogs won, Jones would be prepping for his fourth straight bowl appearance; instead, his last game was a one-sided defeat ending a season of ups and downs.
Many Arkansas fans had a love-hate relationship with Jones. Some didn’t believe in his arm strength, and many though he would have been better suited as a wide-out this year, in order to improve his NFL stock and make way for the pen of young Hog QB’s in waiting.
I never understood why so many fans were down on him. All he did was average seven wins per season and shatter the SEC record for quarterback rushing yards. As an Auburn fan, I’m glad to see him go. As a fan of the SEC, I’ll miss seeing him play.
True fans of the NBA will miss seeing Hubie on the sidelines. Although he was only in Memphis for just over two seasons, the work he did will always be remembered in the River City. He led the Grizz to a 50-win season for the first time in franchise history, by selling his players on the value of teamwork and selflessness.
His 10-man rotation proved that you could still win at hoops by playing together and without the benefit of a household name selling you sneakers.
The fact that some of the players were grumbling about playing time this year is proof that basketball really is turning a corner onto a dead-end street. If winning 50 games and making the playoffs isn’t impetus enough to be unselfish, nothing is.
Another thing that came to an end this weekend were my hopes for the Memphis Tigers to be a player on the national college hoops scene. After being blown out on a neutral court Friday against Maryland, it looks to me like they might not win another game.
I promise you that on at least four straight possessions, the Tigers couldn’t make a pass without a Terp stealing it and throwing it down on the other end. It was quite possibly the worst game I’ve ever seen them play, and I’ve seen some bad ones. Seems like selfishness must be in the Gatorade down there.
While Memphis b-ball fans had a rough weekend, it was tempered with the Tiger football team finishing the regular season at 8-3. Nebraska Cornhusker fans are wishing they could say that. (That was as weird for me to type as it was for you to read.)
That thud you heard Saturday was Husker nation crashing back to Earth after their streak of 35 straight years of making a bowl game came to an end. Nebraska suffered its first losing season in 43 years under first year coach Bill Callahan.
The Brainiacs in Lincoln fired Frank Solich last year after he finished 9-3. I guess they wanted to ruin their program by hiring ex-Raider coach Callahan, an offensive “genius” who alienated players by calling them stupid and turned a Super Bowl team into a ‘worst of the league’ contender.
Gordon Gund and the Cavaliers did their team a favor by drafting LeBron James last year. James, who should be into his sophomore year in college, became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points.
For those who weren’t sure, this weekend put a stamp on the beginning of the LeBron James era. While he’s not Magic or Michael yet, he’s on his way to possibly becoming a stunning combination of the two and a member of the ‘Greatest Ever’ debate.
Brett Favre has been a topic of that discussion in the NFL for years. Whenever best quarterbacks are mentioned, you can bet someone is there making fun of his name.
Weird spelling aside, Favre is a player’s player. Monday night, he made his 200th consecutive start in the No Fun League, which is mind-boggling considering how much abuse a quarterback takes.
That should be the end of that record. Just lock that one up, because no signal caller in today’s league can last a full season, much less 200 straight starts.
Finally, local hoop teams ended the first third of the high school hoops season. I was able to see every team at least once, and I can’t wait until the Greers Ferry Lake Classic.
With the quality basketball I’m seeing at our area schools, it almost makes me forget the problems facing the state of hoops in the college and pro ranks.
Actually, now that I think about it, the end of team basketball isn’t near at all. You can see it on display every Tuesday and Friday at the gym of your choice.
Now that my exposition on beginnings and endings has ended, I’m beginning to get hungry, so I think I’ll go put an end to the chocolate and peanut butter pie my wife made for Thanksgiving.