New skipper named, old refs return make headlines
The last couple of days in September provided the breaking of some long-awaited sports news as the Houston Astros’ hierarchy finally sent puffs of white smoke over Minute Maid Park and named Marquis Donnell “Bo” Porter as their new manager while the National Football League invited (begged) its locked out game officials to return as soon as possible.
In Porter, the Astros are getting a man who had a difficult time while growing up deciding whether he’d rather be a baseball or football player. He solved that dilemma by playing and starring in both sports in high school and in college.
He brings to the Astros the mentality of a hard-nosed defensive back plus the overall knowledge of baseball from the high school, collegiate and professional levels. The Newark, N.J. native who has made his home in Fort Bend County Texas for the past 15 years, Bo was all-state in football, baseball and even basketball.
He was an outfielder and a defensive back at Iowa University where he was All-Big-10 in both sports and was named defensive MVP as a senior for the Hawkeyes. He picked up his nickname “Bo” in tribute to two-sport standout Bo Jackson, from his skill in both baseball and football.
Porter was a three-year football letterman for Lone Star State legend Hayden Fry before embarking on an 18-year career in professional baseball that included parts of three years in the major leagues as a player and six seasons as a big-league coach.
After college Bo played five years in the Chicago Cubs organization with a brief 24-game stint in the majors in 1999. In 2000 he was the final player cut from the Oakland Athletics’ roster after spring training and was assigned to Class AAA Sacramento.
He had a 15-game stay with the A’s in 2000 and in 2001 spent 48 games with the Texas Rangers, according to last Friday’s edition of The Houston Chronicle.
Off the field Bo developed a side career as a motivational speaker, accompanying Sharon Robinson—the daughter of Jackie Robinson—to elementary schools promoting her father’s values and to discuss his own difficulties in learning to overcome a speech impediment.
“His style is his biggest asset,” explained Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow. “He’s a natural-born leader, very charismatic. He can get the best out of people, and that is what we found most compelling. He generates energy, and when he comes into a room, people are drawn to him.”
The 40-year-old Porter will be the 17th manager in Astros’ history and only the franchise’s second black manager. And he will become the youngest manager in the major leagues next season.
The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back in the lockout of NFL game officials was the touchdown call on the last play of last week’s Monday Night Football game at Seattle between the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers that turned what looked like a 12-7 Green Bay victory into a 14-12 Packer loss to the delight of the overflowing crowd of Seahawks’ fans.
Many thought the ruling of a Seattle touchdown instead of a Green Bay interception was botched, and the airways were a-buzz with replays and comments and pleading for the two sides to come together and get the real refs back on the field.
The arbitration began early Tuesday morning between the NFL and the referees’ representatives to end the labor dispute that created three weeks of increasingly chaotic games run by replacement game officials.
The action was swift and by Wednesday, word was out that the replacement refs were being replaced by the real ones starting with last Thursday night’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns.
By late Wednesday both sides had a contract calling for refs’ salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013 and rising to $205,000 by 2019.
Beginning with 2013 season, the NFL will have the option to hire a number of officials to work year-round. The NFL also can retain additional officials for training and development and assign those officials to work games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the league, according to The Associated Press.
The referees met for about 90 minutes Friday night to go over the contract and then gathered for another 30 minutes Saturday morning before approving the contract.
Because they were aware of the financial stipulations, most of the discussion by referees involved non-economic issues such as year-round work and developmental squads.
The NFL will allow current refs to keep their pensions through 2016, after which they will be dumped into a 401(k) plan. For newly-hired refs, a pension is no longer an option.
The league approved a new eight-year contract with the referees with a 112-5 vote Saturday and the refs then scrambled to the various airports to get to the location of their assigned games Sunday and Monday.
KWICKIES…Bridge City native and 10-year NFL veteran Matt Bryant was one of four kickers to win games for their respective teams Sunday. The former Baylor star booter put a 40-yarder through the uprights as time expired keeping his Atlanta Falcons undefeated with a 30-28 come-from-behind victory over the gritty Carolina Panthers. Bryant also kicked one from 33 yards with 4:57 remaining in the game to reduce the Falcons’ deficit to 28-27. Also coming through with the crucial game-winning kicks were Jay Feely from 46 yards to give Arizona a 24-21 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins and remain undefeated. Washington’s Billy Cundiff booted a 41-yarder with three seconds left to give the Redskins a 24-22 win over Tampa Bay and Philadelphia’s Alex Henery kicked a 26-yard field goal with less than two minutes left to give the Eagles a hard-fought 19-17 win over the New York Giants. The Giants’ Lawrence Tynes missed two tries from 54-yards with 15 seconds left that would have given New York the upset win.
And while on the subject of undefeated NFL teams, we must mention the Houston Texans, who annihilated the former Houston Oiler franchise now operating under Bud Adams in Tennessee 38-14 at Reliant Stadium in Houston Sunday. This marks the first time a franchise in Houston has started the season 4-0, including the Oilers back in the AFL days.
One of the biggest disappointments in the world of golf occurred last weekend when the United States entered the final day of the Ryder Cup Sunday enjoying a comfortable 10-6 lead, with the Europeans coming back to win 14 ½ to 13 1/2 –matching the largest Sunday comeback in Ryder Cup history.
Not winning big over a no-name football school cost the LSU Tigers for the second week in a row as they won 38-22 at home over Towson Saturday but dropped one slot again this week to No. 4 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll. Alabama and Oregon retained their respective top two positions, Florida State moved up one spot to No. 3, while No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 7 Kansas State all remained unchanged. West Virginia moved up one spot to No. 8 and Notre Dame and Florida each moved up one notch to round out the Top 10. Texas moved up one spot to No. 11 while TCU remained at No. 15.
JUST BETWEEN US…It’s hard not to brag about my 15-year-old grandson, Logan Smith of Lufkin, who pitched a no-hit, no-run baseball game last Sunday in Baytown while playing in a weekend fall tournament for the 16-years-and-under East Texas Select Baseball Team. His team won 9-0 over a team from the Dallas area which was called after five innings due to the time limit on tourney games. He struck out eight batters and walked only one and attributes his mound success to using an assortment of fast balls, sliders and change-ups. Ironically, he plays third base when he’s not pitching just like his grandfather did and even wears No. 10 on his uniform, the number I wore on my New York State uniform when we won the 1954 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. I also wore No. 10 all four years at McNeese State.