Friday, May 25, 2012

Big 12 Orientation: Oklahoma State's famous alumni

In addition to the ex-Cowboy athletes mentioned earlier in the week and of course T. Boone Pickens, below are a few of the well-known OSU alumni you might see wearing that blinding, crossing-guard orange at a future meeting between the Pokes and Frogs:

Garth Brooks- Sometimes it's easy to forget just how huge this guy has been over the course of his career.  To date, he's sold about 128 million records...which is just a little bit more than U2 and Elton John...combined.  Before he became famous in country music and for looking oddly like Mavericks' GM Donnie Nelson, Brooks threw javelin for the OSU track team and earned a degree in advertising in 1984.

Ed Roberts- If you already knew who this guy was, you're probably a huge nerd.  Known as the "Father of the Personal Comptuer", Roberts is quite the legend in the technology world.  His Altair 8800 was one of the first home computers available for purchase by the general public, and the popularity of the product inspired Bill Gates and Paul Allen to develop software for it that became the first products of a little company called Microsoft. 

Gary Busey-  You always wondered what kind of environment could produce someone as batshit crazy as Busey, didn't you?  Turns out, it's Stillwater.  Before his acting career that has included roles in Point Break, Rookie of the Year, Under Siege and an oscar nominated performance in The Buddy Holly Story, Busey dropped out of Oklahoma State one class credit short of graduation. 

Hoyt Axton-  You might remember Axton as the Dad from Gremlins, but his acting career was always more of a side project to his work as a folk singer.  He put out 22 albums between 1962 and 1990, and you probably would recognize this little ditty he wrote that was made famous by Three Dog Night. 

Chester Gould- The longtime newspaper cartoonist and creator of Dick Tracy, the native of Pawnee, Oklahoma graduate from Northwestern after having spent his first two years at what was then called Oklahoma A&M.

James Marsden-  After dropping out of OSU after a year and a half to pursue a career in Hollywood, Marsden made his acting debut in a 1993 TV movie about the Branch Davidians' standoff with the ATF and Waco.  Since then he's become a bit more famous after landing a role in Zoolander, as Cyclops in the X Men movies and more recently as Liz Lemon's new boyfriend, Criss Chros, on 30 Rock.

Strange victory puts Frogs in winner's bracket

I'm not sure you could classify any 31-run baseball game as being "normal", but TCU's 16-15 win over San Diego State yesterday in the first round of the Mountain West Tournament was certainly one of the weirdest and wildest contests I've ever encountered on a diamond.

Through the first 8 innings, things looked to be going just as Jim Schlossnagle had drawn them up.  The offense, led by freshmen Kevin Cron (a home run and 5 RBI) and Derek Odell (extended his hit streak to 12 with a 4-for-4 performance), exploded for 14 runs on 13 base hits.  On the mound, the freshmen combination of Brandon Finnegan and Trey Teakell had held the Aztecs to just 5 hits and looked to be comfortably guiding the Frogs to an easy opening-round win as Teakell began the top of the 9th with a 14-4 lead.

And all fell apart.

SDSU catcher Jake Romanski led off with a double on an 0-2 pitch.  Jomel Torres then homered.  14-6.  OK, nothing to see here, just a garbage-time two-run bomb.  No biggie.  After getting pinch-hitter Dillon Bryant to weakly ground out, Teakell then gave up back to back singles...and then a three-run bomb to left fielder Chris Wilson.  14-9.  Alright guys, let's just chill out and get two outs and get out of here.  The next hitter reached base on a throwing error by Davy Wright, who was filling in at catcher after Elander had been lifted to rest with a 10-run lead.  Teakell then hit the next batter, which was finally enough for Schloss as he brought in Justin Scharf...who immediately gave up an RBI double to Matt Munoz.  14-10.  What the hell is going on?  Next batter: Romanski again, with an RBI single.  14-11.  Tying run coming to the plate with one out.  Holy shit.  Scharf gets pulled, Kevin Allen comes in.  Three batters, two wild pitches, a walk and a hit by pitch later, Allen left the game with a 14-13 lead, the bases loaded and still just one out.  Now Schlossnagle goes to Stefan Crichton to put out the fire.  The first batter he faced, Tim Zier, singled to left field, scoring two runs and giving the Aztecs a 15-14 lead.  Meltdown complete.  Oh my God.  Crichton eventually got Spencer Thornton to fly out to end the inning, but the damage was done.  11 runs, 8 hits and an error.  Defeat had escaped the jaws of victory and was now staring the Frogs right in the face.

Keaton Jones struck out to begin the bottom of the 9th, and the Frogs- who were leading by 10 runs just minutes earlier- were now down to their final two outs.  But then Kyle Von Tungeln deposited a 1-2 pitch over the right field fence for just his second home run of the year, and TCU had a new lease on life with a 15-15 tie.  I let out a big sigh of relief sitting at home, I can only imagine the weight lifted off of the collective chests in the TCU dugout as Von Tungeln rounded the bases.  Davy Wright followed with a single, and then pinch hitter Josh Gonzales ripped a double that put Wright- as the winning run- on third base with just one out.  Jantzen Witte was intentionally walked to load the bases, and then Brett Johnson looped a 1-1 pitch just over a drawn-in infield and Wright raced home to secure the wild and wacky 16-15 win.

The Frogs had gone from being the 1993 Houston Oilers to being the 1994 John Tyler Lions.  

So how do you digest this one?  Pessimists will dwell on the collapse and let doubt linger about the bullpen.  Optimists will point to the fact that, finally, it was the offense bailing out the pitching and that the Frogs found a way to win even when all seemed lost.

Either way- two more wins, and TCU will have the tournament hardware in their possession.  Next up, they face co-champion and #1 seed New Mexico, who pounded tournament host UNLV 13-0 last night.  First pitch is 9:00pm and MWC Pitcher and Freshman of the Year Preston Morrison is expected to take the hill for TCU.

WHAT A DICK! The Johnny Bright Incident Edition.

When you think of Oklahoma, what comes to mind?  For me it's "that place with a bunch of rednecks with an economy fueled by oil, the Winstar Casino and Toby Keith album residuals." Considering the state was established by a bunch of criminal, racist land thieves, my estimation of the joint shouldn't really come as much of a surprise.  Seriously, had the state not produced the Flaming Lips, I'd say let's call a redo on the Lousiana Purchase and give the thing back to the French.  But for now Oklahoma will eternally be that place teabagging the northern parts of Texas as well as our Big 12 ally, so we must acknowledge its existence.

But they're still a bunch of racists.

For those of you like me, the Johnny Bright Incident was not something I was intimately familiar with;  in fact, I'd never even heard of it until lyle passed the wikipedia entry along to me.  Considering today's college football landscape, it's pretty insane to imagine that once upon a time not too long ago, African Americans playing the game wasn't only rare, it was downright unsanctioned.  It was not uncommon for all white teams to refuse to play against a team with black athletes, even if they had as few as one.  Actually, come to think of it, maybe SMU should've employed the, "forfeit all games against teams with black players" tactic from Death Penalty - June Cometh.  They likely would've come off with a higher winning percentage.  I'll crunch the numbers later...

ANYHOO... the Johnny Bright Incident.  Back in 1951, college football was very different;  in direct correlation to this game, Oklahoma State was still referred to as Oklahoma aggy,  Drake University had a Heisman Trophy candidate on their roster and both teams played in the same Conference.  That Heisman candidate was named Johnny Bright, and he was kind of a badass.  Bright played halfback/quarterback for the Bulldogs and was essential Cam Newton/Vince Young before either of those boys were a glimmer in their daddy's balls.  (Interesting Bright fact:  Upon graduating high school, Bright initially accepted an offer to Michigan State, but later changed his commitment to Drake due to concerns about the MSU program's direction.  That'd be like spurning UT for San Marcos, or Notre Dame for Houston, which actually happened this year.  Actually, maybe that last one was a good call.)  During his time at Drake, Bright led the nation in total offense multiple times and pretty much was the Drake offense, scoring 70% of their points as a senior.  Bright likely would've won the Heisman his senior year, but he was limited during the final three games of the season due to injuries suffered against Okie aggy.

Football players are injured with relative frequency; no matter what Roger Goodell thinks, football is a violent game and will always be that way even with rule changes.  But the events of October 20th, 1951 go far beyond what can reasonably be expected on a football field in the way of injuries.  Consider:  In the first seven minutes of the game, Bright was knocked unconscious... THREE separate times.  That's an average of being concussed once every 2.33 minutes.  And each occurence was at the hands of the same player, an aggy by the miraculously dated name of Wilbanks Smith.  Make no mistake, these were not clean hits as Smith's final shot, an elbow to the chops, broke Bright's jaw.  No matter, Bright would come out a few plays later and complete a 61 yard TD pass.  See what I said about that "kind of a badass" thing?  Unfortunately, though, even the toughest of SOBs would have a difficult time overcoming THREE brain thumps, and Bright would be forced to leave the game later, marking the first time in his career at Drake that he had fewer than 100 yards of total offense.

It's possible that this incident could've gone unnoticed, an aberration in an otherwise normal college football season, were it not for a few minor details.  The most notable?  Okie aggy players later mentioned that coaches had preached in practice that they needed to, "get that (SO not going there, but you can probably fill in the blank)."  Worst of all, the OA scout team player filling Bright's spot was said to have shown another player a knot on his jaw after the final hit and said that Smith had given him the same injury in practice, clearly suggesting that this was all rehearsed well ahead of time.  Contrary to popular belief, Sean Payton was NOT the defensive line coach for the Pokes back then.  Drake and fellow Conference member Bradley would actually withdraw from the Missouri Valley Conference in protest of the incident once it became clear that no action was going to be taken against Wilbanks Smith. Poor form, MVC, which is probably why no one takes that league seriously to this day.

Since that day, the JBI has developed a bit of a legacy for itself, beginning with a Des Moines, Iowa cameraman's photoreel from the that day making the cover of Life magazine and won a Pulitzer Prize. The photos showed that Smith was CLEARLY taking shots at Bright either after plays were over, or when the ball was WELL away. The Incident would also inspire later rule changes related to illegal blocking and the implementation of safer helmets.  And, the story actually has a decent ending for Bright as he put together a nice little career in the Canadian Football League, retiring as the league's all-time leading rusher. (Counterpoint:  Bright was actually selected by the Eagles in the first round of the NFL Draft, but opted to play in Canada because he worried about being the first black player for Philly, a fear surely instilled in him after he was treated, so Smith ruined a Heisman Trophy bid and potential NFL career in one fell swoop.  We aren't officially at "What a dick" time yet, but seriously, Wilbanks, what a dick!")  But clearly there is something screamingly wrong when a black athlete from that era was treated like a Colorado Hotel worker with the misfortune of coming into contact with Kobe Bryant, by a white athlete, the coaching staff was overheard promoting it and not a thing was done to rectify the situation.  

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Incident?  Bright had actually played in Stillwater two years earlier, becoming the first black athlete to do so, and made it through the game without any injuries.  So why, two years later, would anything like this happen?  Could it be an isolated incident from a particularly racist player?  Could it have been one of the first noted instances of the bounty program and it was just coincidental that the target was black?  Was it just a bunch of Oklahoma rednecks doing Oklahoma redneck things?  When making your decision, consider this final piece of the puzzle:  Oklahoma State eventually recognized the injustice done that day by their player, formally apologizing to Drake University.  The only issue?  They didn't do so until 2005, 54 years after the game was played... and 22 years after Bright's death.  A tiger can't change it's stripes, I guess.  I'm going out on a limb and saying it was the third option.

Seriously, Okie aggy, what a bunch of dicks!

Morning Dump


TCU recovers from 11-run meltdown to scrape by with 9th inning win Star-Telegram

Frogs advance in MWC Tournament with wild 16-15 victory

TCU's epic meltdown-turned-comeback win brought out mixed emotions Star-Telegram

Cron's big day at the plate illustrates progress Star-Telegram


TCU's offensive line depth takes a hit with transfer of Wellington Star-Telegram

James Fry named to Rimington Trophy watch list

Track & Field:

TCU's Gipson & Ugen advance to finals at NCAA Championships