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Dallas Mavs Relief: Luka Doncic Summer Not Successful, But Safe

A Dallas Mavs bittersweet ending for Luka Doncic, Cooper Rush's unlikely Cowboys record, Rangers prospect paying off and radical radio re-programming, all in this week's DFW sports notebook.

WHITT'S END 9.16.22

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …

*Luka Doncic is distraught that he played poorly in Slovenia’s upset loss to Poland in EuroBasket. But, selfishly, we’re happy. Hurt feelings he can get over; an injury could've been franchise-transforming. 

Next time he makes a shot it will be for the Dallas Mavericks. They open the 2023 season in just over a month (Oct. 19) in Phoenix. Whew.

*Roger Staubach didn’t do it. Nor Troy Aikman or Tony Romo or Dak Prescott or, for that matter, anyone else except for three NFL quarterbacks. But something weird tells me Cooper Rush is about to do it to join Cam Newton, Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert. That is, throw for 300+ yards in each of his first two starts. 

In his only previous start, Rush filled in for the injured Prescott and threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Vikings in Minnesota last Halloween. Not saying the Cowboys are going to beat the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday in Arlington, just predicting Rush gets to 300. More hunch than head.

*Remember way back when Prescott’s biggest asset was his durability? After making 69 consecutive starts to begin his career, he’s played in only 18 of 30 games since his gruesome ankle injury in October of 2020. Could be 18 of 36 by the time his thumb is healed.

*I keep squinting for positives in this blindingly disastrous Texas Rangers season and … into focus comes Josh Jung. Their 2019 draft pick from Texas Tech works his way up through the minors and makes a smashing debut in Arlington with a team-record five extra-base hits in his first six games. Until further notice, he’s the Rangers’ third baseman of the future – and the present.

*Speaking of the Mavs, their flagship radio station is undergoing a dramatic facelift. 97.1 The Eagle parted with its long-time brass this week and will, according to industry sources, switch formats from hard rock to hard-core talk in the coming week. The holdovers from the old Russ Martin Show – including my ol’ pal Dan O’Malley – were also let go

Given the ratings challenges of the Ben and Skin Show, it’s an interesting strategy to lean full into even more of what I consider to be "goofy guy talk.'' But there has been an audience for it in DFW, to be sure.

Anyway, apparently the plan is to attempt to duplicate the old format of Live 105.3, which had success early in the 2000s before flipping to sports in the form of (my former employer) 105.3 The Fan in 2008.

*With the passing of SMU superfan Paul Layne this week, one of DFW’s most impressive streaks finally came to an end. Layne, who I profiled in the Dallas Observer in 2020, attended – yes, in person – 542 consecutive SMU football games before a blood clot sent him to ICU recently and ultimately led to his death. He began his streak in 1972 as a freshman cheerleader at SMU. Layne was 68.

*Not to besmirch her reputation while the body is still warm, but I’ve been scratching my head all week trying to figure out what Queen Elizabeth II actually accomplished during her life. I get it, she “led with class” and met tons of American Presidents and lived to be 96, but … Maybe I need to watch The Crown on Netflix. 

Instead, I texted my long-time buddy Paul, who grew up in Wales. 

His answer: “It’s puzzling to us all. Best I can surmise, she was put on Earth by Jesus to lead the Commonwealth in good manners amidst a dysfunctional family. But it’s quite confusing because the monarchy is a wretched institution.” 

Yeah, what he said.

*Even with a drab loss the Cowboys remain a TV ratings bonanza, earning the biggest Sunday Night Football audience since 2015 when, of course, they also played. But the University of Texas one-upped them, losing to Alabama in the most-streamed football game … ever.

*Hot.

*Not.

*If all the critics were right about Jerry Jones prioritizing style over substance and vavoom over victories, we’d be reading this headline in the wake of Prescott’s injury: “Cowboys sign Colin Kaepernick”. But we’re not. So, again, he doesn’t.

*Took a friend to get a colonoscopy this week. Afterward – exactly as I experienced when I had one at 50 – she had zero pain, discomfort or any trace that something was, ya know, up there. Got us to wondering: Are colonoscopies a scam? The docs knock you out for 20 seconds, then tell you it was two hours, show you photos of the inside of some random colon – like you could pick yours out of a lineup?! – and charged you $3,000. 

Next!

*Dak’s absence – even if just for a month – offers coach Mike McCarthy a mulligan this season. How can a coach, for crying out loud, be held accountable for results without his star quarterback? (Answer: He won’t.)

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*Rangers’ season in a nutshell: This week star slugger Marcus Semien didn’t realize it was his turn to bat. More embarrassing: None of his teammates were paying close enough attention to know it, either. 

Not exactly a perfect public service announcement for the edge-of-your excitement of baseball.

*Before you’re all woe-is-me thinking you’re having a spell of bad luck, sit a spell with my brother. In the last 16 months he’s seen his apartment building burn to the ground and had two cars totaled: one after being stolen, and one by last month’s torrential flooding. 

Bad things happen to good people. Over and over and over yet again.

*From Robert Sarver to Daniel Snyder to (sorta) Mark Cuban to Donald Sterling to Jerry Richardson, sports owners these days are a disgusting lot. Right? May I re-introduce you to Marge Schott?

*The most successful current athlete in DFW is about to be in the international spotlight. Boxer Errol Spence Jr. is reportedly going to fight Terence Crawford Nov. 19 in Las Vegas. At stake: The Undisputed Welterweight Championship and unofficial title of “best fighter on the planet.” Crawford is the No. 1-ranked pound-for-pound boxer; Spence No. 3. This won’t be one of those Pacquiao-Mayweather fights past their prime, or a silly Jake Paul fabricated “fight.” This will be a boxing match that star athletes from every sport will stop to watch.

*One of the coolest moments of my sportswriting career was being in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics and chronicling the domination of Dallas sprinter Michael Johnson. The world records. The gold shoes. The breath-taking ease of effort to achieve some difficult, so … fast. Crazy to learn that the former world’s fastest human almost died of a stroke in 2018. After a routine workout, he thought he was experiencing cramping before realizing he needed to go to the hospital. Just 50 at the time, he lives to tell his tale. And this weekend he’ll be a motivational speaker to some of America’s best athletes at the Professional Triathletes Organization U.S. Open in Las Colinas. Johnson ran the 200-meter dash in 1996 in 19.32 seconds. After his stroke – with the use of a walker – he began learning to walk again by covering the same distance in 10 minutes.

*Not a great weekend for Texas football: Longhorns gut-wrench to ’Bama. Baylor in overtime at BYU. Houston in overtime at Tech. Cowboys no-show vs. Buccaneers. Texans blew a 20-6 lead before settling for a tie against Colts. 

But nothing was worse – perhaps all year – than No. 6-ranked Texas A&M losing at home to Appalachian State

Even a top recruiting class won’t be enough perfume to camouflage that stench. But, speaking of upsets, I won’t be shocked if UT-San Antonio waltzes into Austin and beats Texas Saturday. The Longhorns are due for an emotional letdown, playing without their star quarterback and playing against an opponent amped up for its game of the century led by a do-it-all quarterback Frank Harris. Beware, orange bloods.

*Let me try to get this straight: There are people giddy that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is sending busloads of immigrants to different cities while also spiritedly defending Steve Bannon, even though he’s on trial for stealing their donations that were supposed to help build a border wall that Mexico was going to pay for and that was promised to keep out said immigrants in the first place. 

Bottom line: Folks are inexplicably mad about a guy being charged with charity fraud, even though he stole their money and didn’t build a product that didn’t work. Shouldn’t they be mad at him

What am I missing? Thankfully, everything. Every bit of it.

*If you dare re-visit my thoughts on Cowboys-Bucs they’re right here.

*Serena Williams. Roger Federer. Rafael Nadal. The sun is setting on the greatest era of tennis. But, despite Frances Tiafoe’s spirited run in last week’s U.S. Open, the next decade will be dominated by “Righty Rafa” – better known as Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz. In sorta related tennis news, the WTA is moving its prestigious year-end finals from China to a place where laws against abortion are leading to frightening health concerns for women: Texas, specifically Fort Worth. For one of the planet’s most successful and progressive women’s organizations, it’s a curious choice to say the least.

*You never expect “wrong place, wrong time” to be at a respected hospital, but if you went to Baylor Scott & White in North Dallas in the last couple years it certainly could have been. A doctor there who was recently arrested for his suspected role in the death of multiple patients has a disciplinary record with the Texas Medical Board, a criminal history for assault and cruelty to animals and the IRS said he owed more than $4 million in unpaid taxes. Another example of how life isn’t black and white. It happens in various hues and shades of gray. Put athletes on pedestals, blindly Back the Blue and make heroes of every doctor at your own peril.

*Remember when the biggest kerfuffle in town was when the two toughest fifth-graders agreed to fight behind the lunchroom after school? Somewhere along the way we’ve become an angry, violent, dangerous society. Seems every week there is another fight at a youth sporting event, and the FAA reported that in 2021 there were 6,000 incidents of unruly passengers on flights. 

Are there more fights? Or simply more cameras to record the fights?

*This Weekend? Friday is for tennis. Saturday is for an end-of-summer pool party. Sunday is for Cowboys-Bengals. As always, don’t be a stranger.

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