Wednesday Morning Scattershooting: Sports Heartache During Quarantine

Starting every Wednesday I’m going to “quick hit” what’s going on in the sports scene and I’d like to begin with taking my frustrations out on whoever thought it would be a good idea to replay Game 6 of the 2011 World Series…kind of.

The worldwide leader took me and Texas Rangers fans down what was, collectively, the most heartbreaking moment in our teams’ history. Nelson Cruz. That’s all that needs to be said.

Nelson Cruz can’t catch this fly ball in the bottom of the 9th in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. (Courtesy: Dallas News)

This coming after being up 2 runs and the St Louis Cardinals down to their last strike. The entire outfield is playing to limit the double, however David Freese got it over Cruz’s head. In fact, the Rangers right fielder wasn’t even close. “I thought Cruzy (Nelson Cruz) was going to grab it,” Freese said during a FOX postgame interview. Well, he didn’t.

Josh Hamilton was in a bit of a drought as he stepped to the plate in the top of the 10th. And then, just like that, bang! His first homer in 82 at-bats. A two-run job to put the Rangers up 9-7. We couldn’t lose. Welp. The Cardinals would tie it up in the bottom of the frame after again, being down to their last strike for the SECOND time. And then, the dagger.

After a series of questionable managerial decisions in the 10th inning, David Freese hit the first walk-off homer in Cardinals World Series history. They were the first time in World Series history to score in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings. AYFKM? And yes, the Cardinals would win the the following night despite the Rangers getting out to another early lead. Sports heartbreak.

Reporting for KDAF in Dallas following a Game 7 Cardinals victory

I remember these two nights like they were just yesterday. Josh Hamilton and David Murphy were so gracious with their time in the clubhouse following the game as both gave me a 1-on-1 for my sportscast. Thankfully I had to work. Otherwise I would let of been able to keep it together. Amazing game. Crap outcome. But sports happen. And they’re still great.

Moving on…

Sports are on their way back. The MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL are all taking positive steps to have protocol in place to maneuver their way through the coronavirus pandemic. I’m not even going to try and lay each plan out because it’ll be outdated by the time i’m done writing. Meanwhile, over the weekend, the Bundesliga resumed league play, while so too did Nascar and there was a charity golf match between Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolfe. Only catch is, they were all played without fans.

Mannequins are placed in spectator seats to cheer South Korea’s football club FC Seoul team during a match against Gwangju FC, which is held without fans due to the COVID-19 outbreak, in Seoul, South Korea, May 17, 2020.Yonhap/via REUTERS

The only sporting event that had fans, kind of, was at South Korea’s FC Seoul league match. They were slapped with a fine of 100 million won (US $81,410) for using sex dolls instead of mannequins to fill empty seats during a league match after the K-League said its disciplinary committee is to look into the incident, Yonhap news agency reported. I know we’re all trying to figure out what the “new normal” is for everything, but, sex dolls? Really?

He’s baaaaacccckkkkk! Steelers fans have to be absolutely beside themselves after seeing this video posted on Ben Roethlisberger’s twitter page Monday. The video was only 38 seconds, but it appears the 38-year-old has recovered from September elbow surgery, clearly a major milestone for the QB. I don’t think the Steelers win the AFC North in 2020, however they’ll have much more of a fighting shot with Big Ben back and not floating between Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges for another season.

After a gut shot by ESPN, I’d like to speak for every sports fan out there, THANK YOU for moving up ‘The Last Dance’ for us all to enjoy over the last five weeks.

Of all the things we learned throughout the Ten part documentary, reliving this sequence in Game 6 of the NBA Finals is, in my opinion, the absolute very best we saw of Michael Jordan. Every aspect of his talent, relentlessness, basketball IQ and will to win was on display. Just beautiful. Sure, Jordan was a bit of a drama mama when it came to his “list” but if that’s what it took for him to conjure up the motivation for greatness we saw every game, so be it. There were a few instances in the documentary I’m not so sure are 100% true, but it was absolutely tremendous.

I love sports. I miss sports. And I’ll continue to scatter shoot every Wednesday.

The early 90’s Cowboys are on same level as Jordan’s Bulls, my conversation with Tony Casillas

Sports fans have been captivated by “The Last Dance” on ESPN over the past five weeks and while I enjoyed every minute of the documentary, another team, in another sport was on my mind the entire time. The early 90’s Dallas Cowboys.

That group won Super Bowls in 1992, 1993 & 1995, plus if they weren’t broken up, much like the Chicago Bulls were, who knows how many Lombardi’s they could’ve won.

“We were so damn good,” Tony Casillas told me on a zoom conversation this week. It’s hard to argue as he and I go down memory lane to discuss him being part of that dynasty and why they are on the same level of Michael Jordan’s Bulls.

Two-time Super Bowl Champion Tony Casillas

Casillas was drafted 2nd overall in 1986 and after spending five uneventful years with the Atlanta Falcons, the defensive lineman was traded to the Cowboys where he says his life completely changed.

1992 NFC Championship vs San Francisco 49ers (Courtesy: Getty Images)

Known primarily as a “run stopper” over his career, Casillas recalls his performance in the 1992 NFC Championship at Candlestick Park where he sacked Steve Young three times to help lead the Cowboys to Super Bowl XXVII.

1985 National Champions (Courtesy: Bleacher Report)

But his dominance among the defensive line really garnered respect from his time in college where he played for the Oklahoma Sooners. After two injury riddled years to begin his career in Norma, Casillas became a starter in 1984, receiving consensus All-American and first-time All-Conference honors. In 1985, he helped the Sooners to the national championship after a 25-10 victory over Penn State in the Orange Bowl. Casillas became only the second Sooner to win the Lombardi Award, given to the nation’s top lineman, named the UPI Lineman of the Year, the Big Eight Conference defensive player of the year, a consensus first time All-American and first team All-Conference to finish out his college career.

After his football career, Casillas has spent time as an actor and currently a broadcaster for several outlets. This was he and I working a postgame show for the Dallas Cowboys Network in 2015.

“Cowboys OT” in October of 2015

After catching up with Casillas this week, it was evident how much he believed in that Dallas Cowboys team of the early 90’s and just how dominant they were. The defense he was part of forced NINE Buffalo Bills turnovers in the Super Bowl. Let that sink in. Yea, they were that damn good.

Mike Tomlin’s biggest fight isn’t on the football field

He owns the second best winning percentage (.642) among active NFL coaches behind only Bill Belichick. In fact, he hasn’t had a losing season in 13 years as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mike Tomlin is highly regarded across the country as one of the very best to do what he does, but coaching is only scratching the surface as to what kind of a person he is.

When he isn’t scheming up defenses and preparing for what will no doubt be another tough season in the AFC North, Tomlin uses his platform to shine light on one of the most problematic issues in our world, child trafficking. And he does so as an advocate for Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit founded by Tim Ballard and Mark Stott which assists governments around the world in the rescue of human trafficking and sex trafficking victims, with a special focus on children.

Coach Tomlin detailed the issue in my exclusive interview with him in 2018.

Courtesy WPXI-TV

The issues in our world are vast, but as Mike Tomlin told me, “I think we can all get behind this” and do our part to bring human trafficking to a halt.

Rick Arnett’s questionable ‘Quarantine Cuisine’ and why he believes the PGA Tour returning at Colonial isn’t certain

Six of the PGA Tour’s Top Ten players have committed but it’s far from guaranteed the Charles Schwab Challenge will take place next month at Colonial Country Club in Ft. Worth, Texas. It all depends if anything drastically changes with Covid-19 pandemic between now and June 8th when the tournament is slated to begin.

Avid Golfer Magazine‘s Rick Arnett and I discuss what the event could look like, his suggestions for the PGA Tour, why the made-for-tv challenges over the next couple weeks are boring and his defense of highly unusual eats during quarantine.

IF the Charles Schwab Challenge does indeed go on as planned in June, the fact of the matter is the trophy presentation won’t look like this when Kevin Na won in 2019 as media members are expected to be drastically limited. As selfishly as it may be, I’m highly intrigued how the media will be handled as sports are re-entered into our lives.

Courtesy Charles Schwab Invitational

Outside of the logistics of the tournament and adjusting to the “new normal” as we’ve all thrown out into the world a million times here recently, could this event be what Jordan Spieth needs to return to relevance? He won on this course in 2016 where he beat out Harris English by three strokes. Ever since, Spieth has sputtered and fallen out of the Top 50 in the world and missed the last two Tour Championships. Perhaps returning to familiar grounds could shake him from his funk.

Jordan Spieth at 2016 Charles Schwab Invitational

Two things are true. If the PGA Tour is allowed to play next month, they have an incredible opportunity to capture more eyes than usual with a stacked field at the Charles Schwab Challenge and Rick Arnett has a questionable ‘Quarantine Quisine.’

What will it take for the MLB to return? Texas Rangers Field Reporter Emily Jones would do this to make it happen

She accepts my Zoom invitation, pops up on my laptop screen and she’s on the phone clearly trying to solve a problem. She says, “well that’s incredibly odd” only to hang up and tell her 8-year-old son not to give out her phone number while playing video games over the internet. It was a solicitor of some sort trying to offer her son insurance. Ha! Always cool, no matter the situation, it’s like she’s been there a thousand times and that’s exactly how she’s handling the first global pandemic of her life.

Emily Jones is not only surviving quarantine, but thriving thanks to early morning runs, a glass of wine or two and just being an all-around badass.

Her day job as Field Reporter for the Texas Rangers is on hold at the moment, but while she waits, as we all are for the return of sports, she’s got her hands full with her two hilarious kids (Henry and Hattie) and a handful of side gigs she’s completely crushing. She sells wine for a company named ‘Scout and Cellar’ hosts two podcasts, ‘The Mom Game’ and ‘The Hit Show,’ plus has written two children’s books and helps with the charity, ‘Do It For Durrett.’ She’s unreal.

Emily Jones With Adrian Beltre

Her Twitter bio says, “I’m an s show, but I mean well. Love my family. Dig my job. Couldn’t care less about my bad hair. Please don’t take me too seriously.” While, I love her humility, if you don’t take Emily Jones seriously, you’re doing it all wrong. She’s an incredible person, first and foremost, and the perfect example to just “go for it” whatever “it” is.

She has an incredible story to tell and I’m grateful to have been able to spend a few minutes with her today.

Texas Rangers Field Reporter Emily Jones

There you have it, folks. Emily Jones will take the Gatorade bath after every game to get baseball back in our lives.

I know she isn’t a fan of the Gatorade bath after a Rangers victory, but I sure hope we see it soon. If we do that means we’re watching our favorite baseball team play and our favorite TV reporter badass do her thing again.

In the meantime support her side gigs. There’s something for everyone.

How Josh Yohe always gets the story and why he won’t cuss at grandmas

He’s a hell of a hockey writer. He’s an even better person. And the stories about his grandmother are hilarious. But that’s not why Josh Yohe of The Athletic is one of my favorite people in Pittsburgh.

I moved to the ‘Steel City’ in March of 2017 and the Pittsburgh Penguins were in the stretch run of the regular season and by all accounts were primed at a run to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Coming from Dallas, hockey wasn’t exactly my strong suit, and I had questions. Oh, so many questions. What the hell is icing? What’s with all the nicknames? Horny? Really? But to his credit, Josh answered every single one despite, me, being the “outsider” from Dallas coming into this tight knit community.

Josh Pictured Top Left

The more time we spent doing TV shows together, attending Penguins practices and games, Josh continued to answer my questions and make me feel like part of the group and I can’t thank him enough for that.

We had a chance to catch up today and I wanted to go “behind the scenes” of what Josh experiences at NHL arenas if he’s superstitious (he is) and the biggest life lesson he’s learned from his grandmother. Watch til the end, you won’t be disappointed about the story he tells about her.

Chase Williams & Josh Yohe – May 12, 2020

And he’s not kidding about the things Phil Bourque talks about in their book, “If These Walls Could Talk.” I can attest, it’s a phenomenal read. Plus, it’s not like you don’t have time on your hands these days.

Josh is a hell of a hockey writer. Can grow a seriously mean beard. And just an all-around good dude.

Mike Doocy Changed My Life In 7th Grade

It was the Spring of 1996, I was in the 7th Grade and faced with deciding what to pursue in a “career research” project in Mrs. Kelemen’s English class. I had absolutely no clue so my teacher asked me what I like to do outside of school and I responded with, “sports.” I played absolutely everything under the sun at that time. It consumed me, much like it does to this very day. Thankfully Mrs. Kelemen had a business card in the top drawer of her desk. Mike Doocy from KDFW FOX 4 in Dallas.

FOX 4 Sports Director Mike Doocy

Mike Doocy changed my life and couldn’t be more grateful for him taking time out for a 7th grader just trying to do a career research project.

Happy Mother’s Day, From Your Little Sh*t

Show up. Try your best. Tell the truth. And be kind.

While I’ve failed miserably at all of those things, at times, that’s what I’ve found are the most important traits I’ve learned from my mom. If you think about it, that’s everything you need to be a decent person and be successful.

That’s all my mom has wanted for me and my three brothers. Yes, I’m one of four boys and the youngest. And yes, I was tortured by them constantly. Ha! But there’s no way around how much my mom has done for our family.

Bell/Williams Family circa 1988

Our family got together back in 1986 and off we went. Mom, Carl, Aron, Nick, Matt and Me. There isn’t a blog long enough to discuss all the stories we’ve all been through, but I will say it’s been one hell of a ride, to say the least.

Back to Barb and me. She’s been my biggest fan since Day 1 and done literally anything and everything she could possibly do to help me achieve everything I’ve wanted through school, clubs, sports, relationships…You name it. She’s done it. I always remember her being a “home room” mom in elementary or helping with my Boy Scout stuff or taking me to all my sports stuff or taking me shopping to make sure I matched my dates outfit in high school. Ha! Or simply making sure our house was available and welcoming for my friends. That probably meant the most to me. Our house was the gathering spot throughout the years and gave all of us a ton of memories.

One of the things I love most about my mom is how much she gives of herself to others. Always thinking of how she can make others feel welcome or loved. She’s always been involved in church and over the last handful of years has really found a “home” with a couple charities called “Kairos” and “Helping Hands” that are supported through my parents church. Her Kairos group would to go a prison in Texas, every few months, just to talk to those imprisoned. She would organize the food her group would take down to cook for the inmates and developed a few lasting relationships with inmates she met. Helping Hands is a mission in Ft. Worth for homeless to get food, clothing and fellowship. As my mom told me on the phone the other day, “I need people” and everywhere she goes, it seems she’s trying to help those people.

But it hasn’t all been roses and butterflies. Especially because I know I’m not the easiest to deal with. We’ve been at each other’s throats and both said some pretty crappy things to each other throughout the years too. While those times have sucked and I don’t always understand her reasoning for everything, we’ve figured it out and came out stronger and hopefully learned from each other as well.

As much as I love my mom, it’s hard for me to tell her as much as I would like to and I know this blog won’t do it justice, but I can’t thank her enough for everything she’s done for me and our family. So, there’s only one tried and true way to show her…Get her the card of her dreams, of course. I love you, mom.

The Tom-pa Bay Bucs Are Everything

Dear Sports Gods,

Please let the 2020 NFL season happen without interruption.

Signed,

Everyone

Courtesy: SI.com

For the first time in nearly two decades the NFL appears to be WIDE open and that’s because of the Tom Brady-Patriots divorce. How many Super Bowls did Brady and Belichick play in? A lot. But now the “usual suspects” come playoff time might not be what we’re used to because Tom taking his talents and $50 million to Tampa Bay.

Brady will begin his post-Patriots era with the Buccaneers, hopefully, on Sept. 13th in New Orleans in a nationally televised contest against now conference foe Drew Brees and the Saints. I mean, how good is that?!

Brady will be 43-years-old, while Drew Brees will be 41. They rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions. AYFKM? It’ll also be the first time in 75 starts that Tom Brady will NOT be favored in a game as the Bucs are 6 1/2 dogs to the Saints in the season opener. My inner sports dork is going crazy eyeing those numbers.

The Buccaneers have been the NFL laughing stock for decades. Enter Tom Brady. They’ll play a franchise-record five primetime games in 2020, despite only finishing 7-9 in 2019. The Bucs had a league-low 17 primetime games from 2005-2019. NOBODY brings the interest like Tom Brady, especially when he did the unthinkable leaving New England. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The new darlings of the NFL. Who would’ve thought?

Courtesy: NBC Sports

One of the other games of intrigue, to me, comes Week 3 on Monday Night Football in Baltimore as the Ravens host the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. This one features the last two MVP’s of the league and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a combined 100 burger. One can only hope.

Courtesy: WKBN

Another one of I’ll be interested in comes Week 1 in the Meadowlands as the Giants host Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. I’m eager to see how the 38-year-old quarterback looks coming off the elbow injury that limited him to six quarters last season. I respect Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, but I think he’s making a mistake not pursuing Cam Newton who reportedly is OK with a backup role with the “right team.” IF Roethlisberger isn’t “right” the season wouldn’t be lost, much like it was last year with the offense unable to score with Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges under center. IF Big Ben returns to the guy that led the NFL in passing (5,129 yards) in 2018, watch out for Pittsburgh.

Week 6 features a special one for me as the Cardinals, Coach Bro and Kyler will be in Dallas, er Arlington, to face the Cowboys, Mike McCarthy and Dak in primetime, on Monday Night Football. Both teams have upgraded their respective rosters this off-season, but will the Cardinals build on the momentum built late in 2019 and take a jump in Year 2 of Kliff and Kyler? It’s also a homecoming for Murray. He grew up in Allen, a Dallas suburb and has played in AT&T Stadium four times and won all four. Three came in state championships with Allen and the other was a Big 12 Championship victory for Oklahoma over Texas. But when it comes to the Cowboys much will Mike McCarthy impact this team? After 10 years of mediocrity under Jason Garrett, us Cowboys fans can’t wait to see what happens.

I’m frothing at the mouth for what could be the most exciting NFL season in decades. Now we just have to take care of this pandemic thing to see how it all unfolds.

Squint and you just might see sports

Today is a good day. Quarantine is about to pay off. And sports are trending in the right direction for a return to the United States.

Major League Baseball is expected to give a return-to-play proposal to the MLBPA within a week and teams have encouraged players to gear up for a second dose of “spring” training that should commence in the middle of June.

The NBA is reportedly going to hold a call with its players tomorrow to discuss a potential return, the same day the same day the league has permitted teams to reopen practice facilities for voluntary, social-distanced workouts.

And the NFL will release it’s league schedule tonight, the day after the commissioner sent a league-wide memo that laid out the protocol for a potential phase 1 reopening of all 32 teams facilities as early as May 15.

Plus, there WILL be real, live sports this weekend when UFC 249 will take place at  VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

But here’s the catch. There won’t be moments like this when sports do return.

2016 ALDS: Texas Rangers vs Toronto Blue Jays

Or, perhaps even more important, moments like this I had in 2015 at a Houston Astros game with my grandmother.

2015: Minute Maid Park

You see, there are many layers as to why I love sports. The actual games, the competition, the stories of players and fans, but it’s also an opportunity to simply be with the people you love. I’ll never forget that day with my grandmother. I had driven to Houston from Dallas, where I was living at the time, and we had ourselves a nice night enjoying something we both love. But is greater than that. It’s also a communal experience shared with thousands of people that, to me, brings nothing but gratitude.

So, while there are still hurdles to be cleared, sports are nearing a return albeit without us fans in the stands. In the meantime, warm up your giant foam finger and favorite jersey because we can officially see light at the end of the tunnel.

Today is a good day.