Whitt's End: Luka's 5 Vs. History's 5

Richie Whitt

Whether you’re at the end of your coffee, your day, your week or even your rope, welcome to Whitt’s End 9.18.20 …

*Two satisfying sights to help diminish our Dallas Mavericks’ playoff pain: 1. The Cocky Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead, a 16-point halftime lead in Game 5 and an 11-point lead in Game 7 in getting eliminated by Denver Nuggets. Delicious. Now malevolent Marcus Morris is free to go home and step on the back of his dog’s paw. 

READ MORE: Mavs Luka Doncic Makes 1st-Team All-NBA - Sports Illustrated

2. Luka Doncic was voted All-NBA First Team, validating him as one of the league’s five best players. Doncic is the first player to earn the honor in his first or second season since Tim Duncan in 1999, joining Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash as the only Mavs to make any All-NBA teams in the franchise’s 40-year history.

READ MORE: Two Mavs Lessons To Learn From Nuggets Over Clippers

Luka, James Harden, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo make a pretty stout starting five, but they’d get swept by the All-NBA first team from 30 years ago: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing.

*A pinch of perspective that keeps my “the refs screwed us!” emotions in check: Drew Pearson pushed off more catching the Hail Mary than Michael Gallup did in catching the potential game-winning bomb in Los Angeles. 

READ MORE: Cowboys McCarthy On Call Against Gallup: 'It Made Me Sick'

Result of the missed pass interference calls? The 1975 Dallas Cowboys went to the Super Bowl. The 2020 Cowboys merely started 0-1.

*Because what else could go wrong for the Texas Rangers in 2020, TV analyst C.J. Nitkowski has tested positive for COVID-19. Fox Sports Southwest broadcast Thursday night’s game against the Houston Astros using the simulcast of the team’s radio call. 

Looking for a silver lining? One of the worst seasons in Rangers’ history will also be their shortest. Their current .360 winning percentage is the third-lowest in franchise history, better than only their first two years in Arlington in 1972-73.

*Give me Luka’s 35-foot buzzer beater over Denis Gurianov’s one-time series winner. 

Why? Because I love basketball, am only mildly amused by hockey, and despise bandwagoners. 

Troy Aikman and I attended the Dallas Stars’ inaugural game together in 1993 and I’ve written about their players and performances countless times through the years. But just because they advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, I’m not going to suddenly pretend to know/love the sport and flood my social media with “GO STARS!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely happy for the legit, long-invested DFW hockey fans that are sincerely happy. But while Luka’s rainbow to beat the Clippers in Game 4 propelled me off the couch with a fist-pumping “YES!”, Gurianov’s laser prompted only an underwhelming “cool.” (Still not sure how Las Vegas’ goalie, wielding an oversized first-baseman’s mitt, totally whiffed on that puck.) 

That said, I’ll tune in to the Stanley Cup Final. Probably. Maybe.

*I’ve long maintained that when Nielsen – the radio industry’s gold-standard scorekeeper – finally starts combining over-the-air ratings with internet stream ratings that I would follow suit. Come October, game on. 

Until then, The Fan continues healthy leads on The Ticket across the board when it comes to listeners actually tuned in to radios in the DFW listening area. 

Sans stream, The Fan leads The Ticket in every daypart, including a huge gap opened by Shan & R.J. over Dunham & Miller. Even lame-duck 103.3 ESPN is beating The Ticket’s heritage morning show, 3.3-2.2. Here are the ratings for August (July 6-August 12). 

Just to prep us for October, I included – in parentheses – the unofficial ratings that include streaming.

Overall Fan 3.7 (4.4) Ticket 2.4 (4.8) ESPN 2.0 (2.0)

Morning Fan 4.4 (5.5) ESPN 3.3 (3.3) Ticket 2.2 (3.9)

Midday Fan 4.8 (4.9) Ticket 2.7 (6.2) ESPN 2.5 (2.5)

Afternoon Fan 3.9 (3.9) Ticket 3.2 (6.4) ESPN 2.2 (2.2)

*DFW teams’ appearances in championship series the last 24 years:

Dallas Stars 3

Dallas Mavericks 2

Texas Rangers 2

Dallas Cowboys 0

*Lily from AT&T > Flo from Progressive.

*Fun game-within-the-game: Next time you’re watching Fox’s national NFL broadcast. Take a shot of your preferred tequila every time Aikman says the word “job.” You’ll be hammered by the second quarter. 

Seriously, in last week’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints game, he used “job” in making a point at least 20 times. There are – “ya know” – worse verbal crutches.

*I thought moving my mom into an assisted living community was traumatic. That is, until I received a text about the place’s planned activities this week. 

Surely it’s some sort of typo. Much too afraid to ask.

*Hot.

*Not.

*Cowboys’ season opener was a disaster. Loss. Play-calling gaffes. Kicking questions. And, ouch, serious injuries to playmakers Leighton Vander Esch and Blake Jarwin. 

But, upon further review, Mike McCarthy is sounding like the Jerry Jones broken record of the last quarter-century. “I think,” says the head coach, “we’re closer than people may think.”

*A podcast? A documentary? Turns out 70-year-old DFW radio icon Mike Rhyner is terrible at retirement.

*What happened to the knuckleball? In an era saturated with 4-seam fastballs but void of finesse and nuance, baseball pitchers no longer throw the game’s most un-hittable pitch. 

Guile has been phased out by gas. 

Far as I can tell, there are no knuckleball pitchers in the MLB in 2020. Steven Wright, an All-Star in 2016 with the Boston Red Sox, was the last pitcher to throw a dancing offering in 2019. Phil Niekro knuckled his way to the Hall of Fame. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young. Tim Wakefield earned two World Series rings. And Charlie Hough, who threw his last pitch in Arlington in 1990, still dominates the Rangers’ all-time pitching categories including most wins with 139 (closest active is Lance Lynn with only 22). 

Inexplicably, the knuckleball is going … going … gone.

*People who refuse to wear a mask at public indoor gatherings should be forced to help dig the graves of COVID-19 victims.

*2020 just keeps on 2020ing. The World Series is coming to Arlington Oct. 20-28, without the Rangers. The Stars are in the Stanley Cup Final, without winning a game in Dallas since Feb. 23. The U.S. Open (golf) is taking place the week after the U.S. Open (tennis). The Los Angeles Lakers can win the NBA championship without leaving Orlando and without having to face the Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors. Baseball games are seven innings. The Big Ten Conference is starting its football season in mid-October. And last week, Dallas runners finished the Boston Marathon by completing a route around White Rock Lake. Same in November for the virtual Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. 

Times are tricky. We’re calling audibles. Resorting to Plan Q. But, in the end, 2020’s Year in Sports is flatly inauthentic. It’s a knock-off, like those Oaxley sunglasses I bought in Times Square. Close, but … nope.

*You can no more be a “member” of Antifa than you can of Redneck. It’s an ideology, not an organization.

*When my stepdad passed away recently, my family looked into running an obit in the newspaper. I was shocked to learn that – in the age of Facebook, social media, etc. – the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wanted $500. Five hundred dollars?! We are constantly reminded why newspapers are edge-of-extinction dinosaurs.

*The sickest man in Dallas just up and moved to St. Louis. The Stars were 17-11-3 with a roster talented enough to win a championship when management finally got fed up with head coach Jim Montgomery’s “unprofessional conduct.” Drinking. Inappropriate interaction with women. More drinking. 

On Dec. 10, Montgomery was fired. 

“It was deserved,” Montgomery said in May. “I wasn’t doing the right things. I needed to get help.” 

While their former coach was in an addiction treatment program, the Stars – under interim coach Rick Bowness – became one of the best teams in the NHL. Two days after the Stars clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, Montgomery accepted a two-year contract to be an assistant coach for the St. Louis Blues.

*Golfers love to say “driver off the deck!” when choosing to hit their longest club from the fairway. But … why? You never hear “7-iron off the deck!” How is it that the choice of club changes the name of the surface?

*Cowboys expecting about 20,000 in attendance Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. On Thursday afternoon, they were still advertising available tickets. Hmm.

*If they were walking down a street in Deep Ellum, would you recognize Stars’ playoff heroes Joe Pavelski or Anton Khudobin? Me neither. Khudobin, playing only because of a lingering injury to No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop, is the only man in DFW that’s more recognizable wearing a mask.

*Is it just me or did Fox shove its NFL score box to the middle of the screen, solely to show updated quarterback statistics? Annoying as that may be, it’s inconceivable how I grew up watching games without real-time knowledge of the score, time, inning, etc. 

Most important “TV” upgrades in my lifetime: 1. Remote control. 2. Cable/Satellite. 3. DVR. 4. Fox Box. 5. HD.

*My new idea for a TV reality show: Families that fight – physically and/or legally – over material possessions in the wake of loved one’s death. Working title: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way.

*Unfathomable now, but the Stars were in the midst of a six-game losing streak when COVID-19 stopped the NHL on March 10. Considering their drastic restart turnaround, does coronavirus get the “hockey assist”?

*Was attempting to explain to my roommate how the Redskins became the Washington Football Team. “Bizarre,” she said. Wait until we dive into how the Cleveland Browns wear orange and their fans root from a “Dawg Pound.”

*We’ve all been duped by a placebo cure. No? You’re telling me your mom didn’t kiss the booboo on your knee to make it feel better?

*The Stars’ run to the championship series is impressive, but let’s downshift from all this “against all odds!” narrative. The core group won a playoff series last year and took the eventual champion Blues to a Game 7. This year’s team reeled off a 14-1-1 stretch. And they entered the playoffs as the West’s No. 3 seed. Cool story. But not a Cinderella story.

*COVID-19 is especially difficult for us extraverts. I like people. OK, like may be too strong. But fascinated. I love acquiring new friends and expanding my social circle. 

But in 2019? Stagnant. 

Haven’t met many new people and the ones I know I’ve seen much less than usual. This is bad for me and horrible for society. Diversity of thought is crucial. Without it, thinking outside the box becomes more challenging, and divisiveness more easily seeps in.

*Surprise! The Stars’ leading scorer and best player (Miro Heiskanen) is five months younger than Doncic.

*Some that criticize athletes for kneeling during the national anthem are fueled by a warped perspective: “America has been great to me, so why aren’t you more thankful?”

*Stat that confirms why I’ve never embraced hockey: To win their series against Las Vegas, the Stars had to score only nine goals.

*Was about to rail against drivers who park their pickups backward into spots, until I remembered that – for no particular reason – I often wear my caps backward. Only difference? I never make other hat wearers wait while I adjust mine.

*This Weekend? Saturday is for tennis, then toasting an old friend at Truck Yard in The Colony. Sunday is for the strangest home opener in Cowboys history. As always, don’t be a stranger.

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