WHITT'S END 10.7.22:
Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End …
*While the Dallas Mavericks are justifiably amped by the 21-point preseason debut of 20-year-old rookie Jaden Hardy, just wait until you get a load of Victor Wembanyama.
The 18-year-old Frenchman will undoubtedly be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. He can block shots. He can dribble coast-to-coast. He can finish at the rim. He made seven 3-pointers in a game this week. He’s unfathomably fluid.
And, oh by the way, he’s 7-foot-4. It’s like Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo had a son. Game. Changer.
*Memo to ESPN: Dallas Cowboys’ kicker Brett Maher is on pace to break a football record that’s stood for three decades!
It's time for him to be "Judge'd."
Maher, 10 of 11 this season, is averaging 2.5 made field goals per game. At this rate, he’ll smash the record for most makes … in a season … in the NFC … by a right-footed kicker.
That current – albeit extremely filtered – mark is 40, set by the Arizona Cardinals’ Neil Rackers in 2005. Maher is on pace for 42.
David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers holds the NFL record of 44 established in 2011 but, alas, he’s a lefty. Like ESPN disingenuously did with Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa during its breathless coverage of New York Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge, let’s all pretend his field-goal record somehow doesn’t count in an effort to make Maher’s chase seemingly more important.
While cramming down our throats the most home runs hit in the American League but only the seventh-most all-time in baseball, ESPN taught us that we should really, really, really care about records that fit a narrative, cater to a big market and serve as a promo for upcoming broadcasts.
Micro-categorization be damned.
Therefore, I’m absolutely expecting live break-ins of the network’s baseball playoff coverage this Sunday every time Maher lines up for a field goal on his magical pursuit of “history.”
Maher, by the way, is also on pace (with four already) to obliterate the NFL record of 10 50+yard field goals in a single season.
Get those split-screens ready.
*Remember that radio industry source that whispered to me that Mike Rhyner was coming out of retirement and then it … happened? Well, same source says the roster shuffling isn’t over. First of all, I’m told that long-time Ticket producer Danny Balis will join The Freak once his non-compete clause expires. Pretty common sensical to connect those dots. But, bigger and more surprising, Ticket midday Hang Zone hosts Jake Kemp and Dan McDowell are seriously considering bolting for The Freak in early 2023. Again, I won’t believe it until I hear it, but …
*Texas Rangers didn’t get any better after firing manager Chris Woodward in August. In fact they got worse, going 51-63 (.447) under him and only 17-31 (.354) with interim Tony Beasley. Their real problem, of course, was horrendous pitching. They began rectifying it this week.
*Rangers have so perfected the unenviable art of being celebration fodder that they should turn Globe Life Field into an Airbnb. Everyone uses their house to throw a party. While not winning diddly squat in GLF, the Rangers’ 2-year-old home has already hosted a World Series clincher (Los Angeles Dodgers), an AL Central Division championship (Cleveland Guardians), two no-hitters (Joe Musgrove of the San Diego Padres and the Yankees’ Corey Kluber) and Judge’s historic dinger. The Rangers are 64-75 in three seasons across the street from where they made back-to-back appearances in the World Series 11 years ago. Biggest crowd in GLF history: 38,832 for Judge’s No. 62.
*Not only is Texas-OU getting the dreaded downgrade (also semi-customary) 11 a.m. kickoff Saturday at the Cotton Bowl, the Red River Rivalry is also suffering the embarrassment of taking a back seat to … TCU vs. Kansas.
While ESPN’s College GameDay is in Lawrence this weekend for that battle of shocking Big 12 unbeatens, the Longhorns and Sooners will be an early-morning undercard featuring both teams unranked for the first time since 1998. OU has surrendered a whopping 96 points in two conference losses. SEC offenses are licking their chops.
*All together now, “We’re not a sports station!”
That’s the brand messaging coming out of The Freak after its launch this week. But it is, of course, radio rubbish.
Now, I don’t blame station hosts for trying to position their new endeavor as a “unique” format sans peers and, therefore, competitors. Any move to avoid a ratings war with The Ticket – in August the station’s head-to-head shows resulted in a 5.9-1.8 trouncing – is a shrewd move. But also a transparent one.
Just because you don’t talk sports 24/7 doesn’t make you not a sports station. On The Ticket, you can hear entertainment news from Corby Davidson. On The Fan, Shan Shariff often divulges grilling expertise. In Whitt’s End, I regularly veer off into social rants. Does any of that disqualify us as “sports” entities? Nope.
If it’s not careful The Freak will turn into papa Cleo in Coming to America: Sifting through the operations manual of the golden arches, cooking hamburgers, serving “Smiley Meals”, and then mixing in a salad in order to claim “McDowell’s” is nothing like McDonald’s. The Freak’s format feels like part Live 105.3, part Russ Martin Show and part sports.
Which merely makes it Ticket Jr.
In The Freak’s imaging are the voices and faces of local and national sports stars. The Freak's overnight 12 a.m.-7 a.m. network programming is all sports. The Freak’s original – since edited – Twitter bio boasted itself a “sports station” and its social media specifically targets another sports station. Surprise! The Ticket.
If the station is – as the hosts claim – reinventing the radio wheel to free-form talk shows about nothing, why didn’t they go out and hire Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer? Instead, its befuddling strategy brought together a couple of women and a bunch of bearded white dudes with like 100 years of combined experience on … sports stations.
If The Freak isn’t a sports station, on Monday it won’t be talking the "We're Nobody's Underdog!'' Cowboys vs. Rams. Spoiler alert: It will.
*It’s way early, but Cowboys are playing their best defense in 50 years. Doomsday 4.0? Last time they held their first four opponents under 20 points they were led by five players destined for the Ring of Honor; three for Canton.
*If it feels like the Mavs just lost Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals but you had to stew over the Cowboys’ Wild Card loss all dang year, you’re both right. When the Mavs tip-off their new season Oct. 19 at the Phoenix Suns, it will have been only 146 days since their May 26 elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, had to sit for a long, cold 238 days between the Jan. 16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and the Sept. 11 season opener.
The Dallas Stars’ offseason wait will end at 151 days when they drop the puck in their 2023 opener next week.
And next time we see the Rangers will be in 176 days, when they host the Philadelphia Phillies on Opening Day March 30, 2023.
*You could’ve gotten pretty inviting odds against somebody named Jesús Tinoco throwing the Rangers’ most important pitch of the season. The Sept. 1 call-up threw the hanging slider to Judge. Which was then caught by Dallas’ Cory Youmans, husband of our very own Bri Amaranthus. No kidding. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer couple The snag was sweet. The projected $2 million reward even sweeter.
*As if we needed confirmation, when you’re on the verge of baseball history mortal utensils like trash cans become optional.
*In case you’re avoiding the nauseating hype, the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 4-0 start behind the NFL’s best running game. Through four games they have 10 rushing touchdowns, second-most in the NFL in the last 50 years behind only the 1995 Cowboys. On its way to Super Bowl XXX that season Dallas started with 11 scores on the ground in its four games, nine by a running back named Emmitt Smith.
*Combined record of the Cowboys’ four opponents: 8-8. Combined record of the Eagles’ four opponents: 7-9.
*50 years of baseball for the Rangers: No prizes. No Pride. They remain baseball’s last homophobic holdout – the only team to have never hosted a “Pride Night” welcoming its LGBTQIA+ fans.
*Tyreek Hill gets the superlatives, but CeeDee Lamb gets the stats. The Cowboys’ receiver has just as many 15+yard catches as the Miami Dolphins’ speedster: 11. Lamb also leads the league with 16 catches on first down.
*What did the half-a-billion the Rangers spent on signing free agents Corey Seage and Marcus Semien get them? A combined 59 homers, 166 RBI, an average of .247 and, uh-oh, only eight more victories than in 2021. That’s almost zero bang for a lotta bucks.
*Hope the money is worth it to Seager, who had to endure losing – to the tune of 26 games under .500 – for the first time in his career. In seven seasons with the Dodgers, he never finished less than 20 games over .500. In line with the Rangers’ forever boom-or-bust DNA, Seager’s 33 homers are a career-high; his .245 batting average a career-low.
*Cowboys are 5.5-point underdogs to the Rams Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. But don’t tell that coach Mike McCarthy, who refuses to acknowledge any line in which his team isn’t favored. It’s not exactly “How ’Bout Them Cowboys?!”, but “Nobody’s Underdogs!” has a nice ring to it.
*Been called a lot of things during my 36 years in DFW sports media, but never a “level-7 Sith Lord with 56 hit points.” Thanks?
*This Weekend? Friday let’s try something different like, say, Shakespeare in the Park. Saturday let’s try something familiar like, say, Texas-OU in the Cotton Bowl. Sunday let’s stick with the same ol’ same ol’ like, say, Cowboys on the couch. As always, don’t be a stranger.
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