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Wednesday, January 13, 2010 • Posted January 13, 2010

Uncle Mort and First Things First…

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

With a new calendar still thick with pages, it is tempting to extend more patience to my Uncle Mort, stopping just short of taking as gospel whatever falls from his lips. He is famous down in the thicket for yapping away in his shadow-box sparring with silence and even long pauses. Only his appointments with sleep make possible snippets of silence for which the region is otherwise known.

Now he’s claiming to be "full of fix-up analysis" concerning the turmoil in the Texas Tech football program, and the "tragic death of the University of Arkansas hog mascot."

If his intent was to pique my interest, it worked. "I’ve moved these issues to the top of my list," Mort sputtered. "To give both of them due consideration, I’ve put aside plans to organize a torch-light march on Washington. Me and a few other East Texas toughies have a single demand: That all members of Congress take a page from the Nascar handbook, the one requiring drivers to wear decals of sponsoring corporations. If they’d do that, we’d at least know who our D.C. leaders are driving for."…

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He expressed sadness about the brouhaha at Tech. Mort thinks there are few winners, with all parties significantly diminished.

"We’re suffering from information overload, hearing way too much stuff from every direction," he moaned, "and some of it is probably true." He contends that the ugly scenario in Lubbock could be the springboard for "national reconsideration of higher education priorities by ‘big-school, backboned presidents’." Mort, with one more brand to burn, made another strong statement: "When I hear the words ‘coach’ and ‘agent’ linked together, I wince." Continuing his ramble, he said that "all the ‘coach hiring/firing news’ these days reminds him of the musty line about how people who enjoy obeying laws and eating sausage had best not watch either of them being made. He thinks big-time coaches’ contract sagas should be added to the list….

* * * * *

The phone cracked; maybe a swarm of mosquitoes buzzed through the signal.

Talking faster than ever, he lamented the "untimely death of Tusk II," Arkansas Razorbacks’ 500-pound Russian boar mascot. The porcine seemingly "gave his all" for the team in its 20-17 conquest of East Carolina in the Memphis, TN, Liberty Bowl.

The remainder of his conversation came through in bits and pieces, but here is what I deduced, subject to possible correction later….

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Mort thinks that the Pirates’ ace field goal kicker, Ben Hartman, was victim of a "hog hex." The team’s all-time leading scorer, he kicked game-winning field goals in six previous games, including four as time expired. Against the Hogs, however, he missed on four, including three of 39 yards or less in the late going. He had booted a school record 77 straight extra points, and in the 2008 season was voted "best under pressure" by opponents in Conference USA. Hecklers may have chanted "shanks a lot" to this nationally-recognized kicker who’ll have nightmarish memories of his final collegiate game.

Mort mentioned the word "tuckered" as he re-thought his "hog-hexing" theory. "Why he probably over-worked his heart," my uncle analyzed. (Tusk II was pronounced, hmmmmm, "un-alive" just two days after the game. Though there was no autopsy, swine flu has been ruled out. Some Arkansas hecklers noted that the mascot had served four years, so technically, his eligibility expired at the same time he did.)

Razorback rooters are heartened that his little brother, Tusk III, is ready to assume the mascot role. (Detailed info at A final thought on the subject is that maybe we’ve been using the "old South" expression wrong for decades. Should it be "root hog AND die?"…

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Quarterbacks and field goal kickers get closest scrutiny. Hard-nosed fans want perfection, their piercing critical spotlights on these players’ every move.

Years ago, an eastern sportswriter covered a game in which a vaunted field goal kicker muffed three chip shots in his team’s one-point loss.

Hecklers claimed that the kicker attempted suicide. He supposedly measured a rope carefully before securing one end in a stout oak tree. Standing on a stool, he slipped the noose around his neck. All that remained was kicking the stool away, but he missed….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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