Whitt’s End: DFW’s Best Athlete ... Is NOT Luka Doncic?

Whitt’s End: Is DFW's Best Athlete NOT Luka Doncic? Plus Thoughts On Mark Cuban, LeBron's Lakers, And Cowboys Vs. Giants In DFW Sports Notebook
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Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 10.9.20 …

*Who is DFW’s best pro athlete these days? Maybe Luka Doncic, recently named to the All-NBA First Team? Maybe Bryson DeChambeau, if you think the U.S. Open golf champion’s time at SMU qualifies him as a local?

Correct answer is Errol Spence Jr., the unified welterweight boxing champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.

A year ago – Oct. 10, 2019 – he crashed his speeding Ferrari in downtown Dallas and was ejected while flipping. Amazingly, he wasn’t seriously injured. Not even hospitalized. He steps into the ring for the first time in 18 months Dec. 5 at AT&T Stadium against two-division champ Danny Garcia. 

Count me in.

Of course, count me in to either be in the gym or in front of my TV every time Luka is ready to compete for the title of "DFW's best pro athlete.'' ... and surely "DFW's next champion.''

*In the wake of the worst defensive start to a season in the Dallas Cowboys’ 60-year history, fans are understandably clamoring for a solution. Even a redo, perhaps.

I’ve heard the name Wade Phillips.

Now, admittedly, Wade is one of the best defensive minds of a generation. With a southern drawl but a straight face, he used to refer to himself as “Mr. Fix It.”

But let’s not forget his final days in Dallas.

As the head coach/defensive coordinator in 2010, his team surrendered consecutive point totals of 34, 24, 41, 35 and 45. He was fired after a 38-point loss in Green Bay in which several players – most visibly cornerback Mike Jenkins – undeniably quit.

While Wade is unemployed these days and is on social media campaigning for yet another go-round, Cowboys’ fans should direct their lament another direction.

READ MORE: Wade Phillips - 'Son of Bum' - Wants Back In NFL

Matt Eberflus was on the defensive staff for seven seasons. He is now the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. The Cowboys coughed up a franchise-record 307 rushing yards last week.

The No. 1-ranked defense of the Colts has allowed 308 … all season.

*Say what you want about him, Jason Garrett never started 1-3.

*Dallas Mavericks certainly could’ve used Dwight Powell’s energy, athleticism and versatility in The Bubble. Here’s hoping DFW knows how fortunate it his to have him in the community.

*Nobody wishes for sickness and/or death. But if Tyron Smith joins La’el Collins as offensive tackles out for the season – along with sidelined center Joe Looney – I suspect a bunch of Cowboys fans will suddenly be rooting for COVID to wipe out a season that has sucked as soon as it started.

READ MORE: Ailing Tyron Smith Considering Season-Long Cowboys Shutdown

*Safety Xavier Woods might have already etched the Cowboys’ 2020 tombstone. “The effort’s been good. On certain plays, some guys – I mean, me included – there may be a lack. But overall, the effort is there. We’re in the NFL. You don’t expect guys to go full-speed for 70 plays. That’s not possible.”

READ MORE: Xavier Woods Explains - And Admits - Cowboys 'Lack Of Effort'

Execution is a variable. Effort is non-negotiable. Can only imagine at how proud Cowboys from Bill Bates to Michael Irvin feel reading this quote.

*TV ratings for the NBA Finals are down. Same for the NFL. A biased narrative pins the decrease on all the “kneeling” and “politics.” Nonsense.

If that theory contained a smidge of validity, stands to reason that the very apolitical NHL would enjoy boffo ratings. Instead, the recently concluded Stanley Cup Finals were the least-watched since 2007. (Even moreso, why are the ratings for the profusely patriotic Country Music Awards down 33 percent?)

My two cents? We love sports, but we’re stuffed.

Look, I love a good buffet. But there always comes a point where the thought of one more trip to the dessert table is nauseating. For months we were forced to go on a cold-turkey sports cleanse and now, suddenly, we’re expected to gorge from 0 to 60?

This week on TV is a tennis major (French Open), NFL, college football and two sports’ playoffs (NBA and MLB). What we thought would be binge heaven in reality is overload hell. Throw in the lack of fans/atmosphere. The looming dread that seasons could be canceled at any minute because of COVID. And the unfamiliar settings. (The French Open, which usually ushers in Memorial Day, is a precursor to Halloween. NBA is crowning a champ when teams are usually opening training camp.)

As I’ve said before, 2020’s sports year deserves an asterisk that denotes caveat champions and, yes, refuted ratings.

*Remember that historically horrible Texas Rangers’ season? They finished with a better winning percentage (.367) than the one currently owned by the Cowboys (.250). Ouch.

*Absolutely shocked this week when a 17-year-old told me how she took this year’s SAT: With a No. 2 pencil, and a Scantron. Turns out the same system I used in the 1980s wasn’t archaic, but instead perfectly evolved.

*Myriad reasons for the Cowboys’ defensive indignity. Sure they miss injured contributors Chidobe Awuzie, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee. But it’s deeper, and much more troubling.

Among the NFL’s Top 20 highest-paid defensive linemen, DeMarcus Lawrence is the only one without a sack or quarterback pressure.

According to Pro Football Focus, Trysten Hill is the league’s lowest-graded interior lineman. (Those sting even more when you see ol’ friend Taco Charlton produce a key strip-sack for the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.)

And then there is Jaylon Smith, the superhuman story that’s deteriorating into a pedestrian player. Film don’t lie: Smith momentarily jogged in pseudo pursuit of Odell Beckham on the 50-yard reverse touchdown that sealed last week’s loss.

His speed and athleticism and passion – all trumpeted during his comeback from a gruesome leg injury – rarely combine to make game-changing plays. Worst of all, in the 2016 draft Smith was selected two spots ahead of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Myles Jack.

*Because COVID is still a thing, on Monday Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered only one ballot drop-off location per county. Because COVID is no longer a thing, on Wednesday Abbott allowed the state to reopen bars. Something doesn’t jive.

*Third-quarter numbers are in from Nielsen and The Ticket maintains its slim lead on The Fan. The latest ratings – which cover July-August-September – now officially include streaming stats. In short, The Fan is beating The Ticket in the morning but getting bludgeoned in the afternoon. Now that ESPN is sans local programming, it will be interesting to see if either station can gobble up the morsel of nomadic listeners. From here on out, it’s a two-horse race.

Q3 Ratings:

Fan Ticket ESPN

Morning 4.7 4.2 2.8

Midday 5.0 5.7 2.0

Afternoon 3.9 6.1 2.1

Overall 4.6 5.5 2.1

*Great, now during Presidential Debates America needs lie swatters and fly swatters.

*Hot.

*Not.

*The Cowboys should – I say should – right most of their wrongs over the next month. Three of their next four games are against the NFC Least, where they are 18-6 with Dak Prescott at quarterback.

*In a week in which local programming vanished from 103.3 ESPN, it was a mixed bag of news for some of the station’s on-air alumni.

Mark Elfenbein is remaining in radio, returning to his roots and moving his popular Sunday morning 7-9 show back to The Ticket.

Meanwhile, Mark “Friedo” Friedman continues to struggle in a Collin County hospital with a still-unspecified illness. He’s been sick – on and off of ventilators, in and out of ICU – for 50+ days with something other than COVID. His vital organs continue to function erratically but, thankfully, not his sense of humor.

“On the positive side,” he says, “spending much of August and September in an induced coma freed me of the burden of having to play Fantasy Football this year!”

And long-time ESPN host Matt Mosley was released from the hospital this week after a serious cycling accident at White Rock Lake. He suffered several fractures in his back and neck, and underwent surgery for severe facial lacerations.

Via text, Mosley tells me he was riding and decided to veer off the pavement onto grass near the Lawther Road where the popular White Rock Trail begins. Problem. It wasn’t just grass, it was grass camouflaging a ravine.

“It was too late,” he writes. “Bike went straight in, throwing me over the handlebars and I face-planted on the other side.”

Though the main cut literally exposed his jaw bone, surgeons were able to save his lips. (Punch lines aplenty here, one of these days.)

Mosley, who is on a liquid diet and will wear a neck brace for 6-8 weeks, was fortunate to be wearing a helmet, and to have an ER doctor, riding close by, be one of the first to attend to him after the wreck. He hopes to be back on the air for his ESPN Central Texas radio show “in another week or so.”

*Twitter is worth it, if for nothing else other than Mark Cuban vs. Ted Cruz. Middle of the second quarter, Cuban leads 42-29.

*I’ll remember Eddie Van Halen for a couple of things: 1. Blaring “Panama” out the windows of my 1978 Camaro while driving back-and-forth to Mountain View College in the Summer of ’82. 2. Going to Van Halen’s make-good free concert that attracted 60,000 to Dallas’ West End (it used to be THE place) in 1991. Me and my mullet were appropriately rockin’.

*Pony Up > Mask up. Best story in college football this season? SMU, where the Mustangs are 4-0 and the highest-ranked team (18) in Texas for the first time since 1985.

Worst story in college football this season? SMU’s entire student section getting ejected last week for failing to adhere to safety guidelines.

*Three more local COVID casualties: 1. Alamo Drafthouse cinemas; 2. The Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park, which opened in 1936; 3. Cattle Baron’s Ball, the iconic American Cancer Society fundraising event that funded 47 Nobel Peace Prize scientists and helped 40,000 patients.

*DFW’s unemployment rate in September 2019: 3.6%. DFW’s unemployment rate in September 2020: 7.1%

*Some of the blame falls on Ezekiel Elliott, who has fumbled three times in 93 touches after losing the ball only three times in 355 touches last season. And the Cowboys being a league-worst minus-7 in turnover margin has as much to do with 1-3 as anything else. But, at some point, you have to question a coaching staff that last week against the Cleveland Browns allowed these one-on-one matchups to occur: Beckham vs. Daryl Worley; Myles Garrett vs. Terence Steele. Turnovers happen. Matchups are allowed to happen.

*I get the security features on new Texas Driver’s Licenses such as smoothness and that gold star in the upper right corner. What I don’t understand is why our photos have reverted to black-and-white.

*Wonder how Avery Bradley is gonna feel Friday night? Back in June, the Los Angeles Lakers’ gritty guard made the choice to skip the NBA re-start to be safe with his wife and three children. I get it. Risk-reward and all that. But after starting 44 games and being an integral part of L.A.’s blueprint for a championship, it will no doubt sting Bradley to see his team – after playing three months inside a Bubble with zero COVID cases – lift a championship trophy without him.

*There are some shady people out there. Who knows, one of them could be the woman shopping in the aisle next to you. For 19 years, a Dallas woman waltzed into stores and stole $4 million worth of merchandise she later re-sold on sites like eBay. Kim Richardson, 63, simply used a plastic tool to disable security devices on items, then stuffed the merchandise in a large black bag. She was finally caught and arrested by the FBI, and this week was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison.

*Sofia Kenin, meet Brooks Koepka. America’s best women’s tennis player is 16-1 in 2020’s three majors, won the Australian Open in January and is heavily favored to win the French on Saturday. But nobody will notice, because Kenin isn’t named Serena Williams.

Kenin’s anonymity matches the plight of Koepka, who won consecutive U.S. Opens but still isn’t a household name that golf fans can spell because of guy named Tiger Woods.

*Perhaps it’s just me, but I think America would be better off if we start treating COVID as a public health crisis rather than a public relations crisis.

*Because birds really do fly south for the winter, approximately two billion will soar through North Texas toward warmer weather this month. Wildlife advocates ask that residents turn off their porch lights to keep the birds from becoming disoriented during migration. But, no, that ain’t happening until they agree not to tenaciously poop on my car any time I park within 10 feet of a tree. Deal’s a deal. Lights ON!

*Something’s gotta give: For the first time since 1998 the Giants have gone two games without a touchdown.

READ MORE: Garrett Vs. Cowboys: 'Amazing' Talk From New Giants OC

Garrett’s offense has managed only 47 points all season; Cowboys’ defense surrendered 49 last week. Prediction: Cowboys 31, Giants 23.

*This Weekend? Friday is for watching French Open early and NBA Finals late. Saturday I’m hanging with Big Brother Big Sisters’ lil’ bro Ja Ja. Sunday, visits to dear ol’ Mom and Dad in Johnson County. As always, don’t be a stranger.