Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 12.4.20 …
*It’s not exactly the Sports Illustrated cover jinx (you kids that think it started with the Madden video game, try some Googling), but the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic being the favorite to win 2021 NBA Most Valuable Player has me more than a little nervous.
Allow Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott to explain.
Back in July, Prescott had the fourth-best odds of winning NFL MVP behind only Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson. Of course, he was indeed producing a record-setting, MVP-caliber season when he suffered a gruesome broken leg in the season’s fifth game.
Now comes Luka, given a better chance at being crowned the league’s best player than two-time defending award winner Giannis Antetokounmpo, four-time winner LeBron James and previous MVPs Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Lots to like about Luka’s chances. He’s the most ball-dominant, stat-stuffing player in the league. He’s only 21, which should give him an advantage over older competitors that might require “load management” in a quick-turnaround season. Unlike Durant and Curry, he’s not recovering from a major injury. And he gets an immediate chance to imprint his MVP case on voters’ brains against the defending champion Lakers on Christmas night.
I do worry, however, at how hard and how much Luka plays, and how his lofty MVP odds might affix a target on his back for previous winners feeling slighted. And don’t forget, winning an MVP in DFW is no easy feat. Despite our championships, Hall of Famers and “everything’s bigger” braggadocio, the Metroplex has enjoyed only eight true “MVP” seasons. Just one of those belongs to the Cowboys. No Dallas Star has ever won the NHL’s Hart Trophy (Joe Nieuwendyk won the Conn Smythe as playoffs MVP during their 1999 run to the Stanley Cup). Dirk Nowitzki’s magical 2011 NBA Playoffs triumphs over LaMarcus Aldridge, Kobe Bryant, Westbrook-Durant-Harden and LeBron-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh came after a regular season for the Mavs in which he finished only sixth in MVP voting.
The six MVPs belonging to the Texas Rangers are diluted, in that they were only an American League – and not overall baseball – award. DFW’s MVP winners:
Jeff Burroughs (Rangers) 1974
Emmitt Smith (Cowboys) 1993
Juan Gonzalez (Rangers) 1996, 1998
Pudge Rodriguez (Rangers) 1999
Alex Rodriguez (Rangers) 2003
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks) 2007
Josh Hamilton (Rangers) 2010
*Even if you squint, difficult to see a Cowboy making the Pro Bowl. Maybe Amari Cooper, who somehow is Top 15 in catches and yards but has only three touchdowns. Otherwise, it’s Aldon Smith in the mix for Comeback Player of the Year and CeeDee Lamb getting consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year. (By the way, COVID means no Pro Bowl game - just the voting.)
But, fitting of their dismal performance, this should be only the third season (joining 1986 and 1989) in the franchise’s 51-season history without a representative in the Pro Bowl. (Not counting the eventual replacement alternates.)
To think, in 2007 they sent 13 players.
*Luka says he used his offseason to work on “my shooting” and promises 2021 will “be way better than last season.” Let’s hold him to that.
To win MVP and lead the Mavs to their first playoff series victory in 10 years, he’s got to improve his free-throwing shooting. For a guy that gets to the line almost 10 times per game, 75 percent isn’t acceptable. In his MVP season, Dirk shot 90.4 percent. Luka’s too talented – too important – to leave free points on the court.
*If you’re like me, you no longer have Channel 8 on your DirecTV. And soon maybe no Channel 33. Because of … greed? My smart-aleck brother’s solution? “Rabbit ears!” If you have no idea what he means, consider yourself lucky.
*The once-proud NFC East – home to a record 21 Super Bowl appearances and 13 titles – is having one of the worst years for a division in NFL history. The East is 1-15 against teams with a winning record (the Eagles beat the 2-1 49ers in October). It’s also 5-20-1 outside its division, with that record certain to plummet this week when Washington plays the Steelers, Cowboys are at the Ravens, Giants play the Seahawks and Eagles lose to the Packers.
Bad is it is, the East should be thankful for the Bengals. The division is 2-0-1 against Cincy with Dallas yet to face it Dec. 13. Think of the Bengals as Botox, temporarily camouflaging the East’s old, wrinkled, decrepit forehead.
*At a time when we could all use some good news about a great guy … I talked to Mark Friedman on the phone last week. He’s alive, and his way to well.
Friedo, long-time DFW radio personality who launched his career as Norm Hitzges’ right-hand man at KLIF, has been through Hell. And back. Started when he contracted walking pneumonia in 2019. It went away but eventually, early last Summer, the persistent cough came back.
“I went to play golf in Oklahoma and never stopped coughing through the first seven holes,” Friedo told me. “Soon after I went to the hospital. I remember walking in and then … it’s all a blur.”
That was mid-August. Since then – for four long months – he’s spent his time between Collin County hospitals and physical therapy centers. He was in a coma. Multiple surgeries. Heart catheter. Organ failure. Ventilator. The works. Doctors ruled out COVID, but other than pneumonia sounds like they still aren’t quite sure what caused his catastrophic dive from independent, energetic man in his 50s that spent time doing countless charitable work to a bed-ridden soul that clung to life and is now re-learning how to use his body.
“I miss everything,” he says. “I miss everyone.”
His voice was strained, but I could tell the lights were still on and ready to shine bright again. This week, for the first time, he walked without the use of a walker.
“It’s ugly,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “But it’s progress.” Amen.
*Not sure what the Rangers are trying to accomplish by giving Elvis Andrus’ shortstop job to Isiah Kiner-Falefa. To many fans, the popular Elvis is the last link to the glory days of 2010-11. At 31, he had an abysmal, injury-shortened season in 2020 (hitting only .194). But he’s still a plus-defender. Not only does the move create a problem of where to play Andrus, it moves Kiner-Falefa out of a position (third base) from which he just won a Gold Glove.
*Gotta admit, this Dale Hansen unplugged about America’s Team stubbornly not accepting the results of its season made me giggle. When he’s right, he’s spot-on.
*At this point, isn’t Jerry Jones kind of like your wise old uncle who isn’t quite as sharp as he once was so when he spews something irrational you tend to downplay it? Yeah, I think so, too.
Saying the Cowboys faced the same challenges with seventh-round draft choice Ben DiNucci at quarterback as the Broncos did last week with practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton is borderline insane. And to DiNucci, likely insulting.
*Props to 2020 for its creativity over productivity.
Globe Life Field is transformed into a rodeo arena and AT&T Stadium is apparently a monolith docking station.
*I know it’s waaaaay too early for definitive proclamations, but at this point the stats say that the Cowboys’ former head coach was a better – quality over quantity - fourth-down gambler than their current one.
*Former winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest honor for a civilian) include: Helen Keller. T.S. Eliot. Neil Armstrong. Jesse Owens. Martin Luther King Jr. Walter Cronkite. Billy Graham. Mother Teresa. Muhammad Ali. Stephen Hawking. Bill Gates.
Ya know, people who made a huge, positive difference on our planet.
The award is reserved “for especially meritorious contribution to (1) the security or national interests of the United States, or (2) world peace, or (3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” No way around it, the award was cheapened this week when it was hung around the neck of a football coach who won one national championship and went 3-10 in the NFL.
Lou Friggin’ Holtz? Seriously?!
*Remember back when we undervalued Dak? Not anymore. Not after a 2020 season in which you can flip through your NFL Sunday Ticket menu and watch guys like Robert Griffin III, Jarrett Stidham, Jake Luton, Drew Lock and DiNucci throwing passes.
Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder.
*We lost 2,977 Americans on 9/11. We are losing more than 3,000 Americans per day due to COVID. A 9/11 every damn day and, still, no uniformed national response to the crisis.
*In Jason Garrett’s last three seasons, the Cowboys lost three divisional games. Under Mike McCarthy this year, they lost three in 33 days.
*Screens. Our whole lives have been reduced to screens. Small screens on our phones. Medium-sized screens on our laptops and tablets. Bigger screens on our TVs. Sometimes, even bigger screens at the movie theater. It’s as though we toil away on the mediums and take breaks on the small, all hoping to end the night with some free time to watch the bigs.
*Speaking of screens, these days my iPhone automatically shifts to black-background “night mode” at 4:46 in the afternoon. Eff you, non-daylight savings time. Eff you where, um, the sun don’t shine.
*With Minor League Baseball shelved in 2020, places like AirHogs Stadium in Grand Prairie are desperate for business and tenants. To that end, the city just signed a 15-year lease with USA Cricket to play games in the 6,000-seat stadium.
In the event low-level baseball bores you, may I present high-level cricket?
*For what it’s worth, before the season McCarthy was the No. 3 betting favorite for NFL Coach of the Year behind Bill Belichick and Bruce Arians. Which means, of course, it’s worth zilch.
*If you drive in DFW, you’re agitated. No judging. A new study by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M ranks Woodall Rogers, I-35 Stemmons and 75 Central Expressway as three of Texas’ Top 10 congested freeways.
*Oh, I’m with ya. Right about now Oscar Mayer seems like a good hire to replace Tom Herman as Texas’ football coach, much less Urban Meyer. (See Fish's "buzz'' below.)
But, financial speaking, what would it take to make that transaction happen? How about a $15 million buyout of Herman’s contract. Approximately $12 million per year for Meyer, including $10 million for an entirely new coaching staff. So, yeah, just find $37 million and you can do the deal. For one year, anyway.
*For Cowboys and Longhorns fans, who’da thunk Garrett and Mack Brown were the golden years?
*If I was really smart, I’d invent a pillow that somehow blocks Wi-Fi signals. That way, I’d actually go to sleep instead of lying in bed playing on my phone all night. It would be a really cool Christmas gift. Just have to invent it.
*Last Winter, Dallas boxing champ Errol Spence Jr. flipped his speeding $300,000 Ferrari and – miraculously – walked away without a single broken bone. But will the spectacular crash dent his seeming invincibility inside the ring? In one of the more intriguing sports comebacks of 2020, Spence puts his 26-0 record on the line Saturday night against Danny Garcia at AT&T Stadium. I’m interested.
*Difficult to determine which date I’m more excited about: Dec. 25 (Luka vs. LeBron) or Jan. 20 (You know).
*This Weekend? With tennis and golf shelved by dropping temps, I guess we’ll take Big Brothers Big Sisters lil’ bro Ja Ja bowling. As always, don’t be a stranger.