Like any other sports fan I have my favorites.
Favorite players, favorite teams, favorite sports, favorite announcers, favorite stadiums.
Here’s a list of some of my current and past favorites.
FAVORITE NFL TEAM — The Dallas Cowboys. I’m always partial to the closest pro team but I was a Cowboy fan growing up in South Texas where the Houston Oilers were closer but the Cowboys were No. 1 in my book. One reason was because the Cowboys’ first head coach Tom Landry was from Mission, Texas, my mother’s hometown.
FAVORITE DALLAS COWBOYS — Past favorites include quarterback Roger Staubach, defensive tackles Bob Lilly (he’s a photographer like I am) and Randy White (once owned a restaurant in Greenville), defensive end Harvey Martin (played at East Texas State) and wide receiver Drew Pearson. I spent several quality hours around Pearson one day in Greenville when he was promoting United Way.
My favorite current Cowboy is quarterback Dak Prescott. He once missed the trash can with his empty paper cup while on the sidelines during a game and got up from the bench, picked the cup off the turf and put it in the trash can. My kind of guy!
FAVORITE NFL ANNOUNCING TEAM — Pat Summerall and John Madden were the best ever. Summerall knew when to back off and let Madden do his thing. My favorite current crew are Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, the former Cowboy quarterback. Romo’s really good at predicting what a team is likely to do next in a situation. I also like Troy Aikman’s commentary.
FAVORITE TEXAS MALE BASKETBALL PLAYER — Shaquille O’Neal. I watched Shaq help San Antonio Cole win a Class 3A state basketball title in 1989. Shaq impressed me that day with not only his enormous size and skill but his smarts. O’Neal played the whole fourth quarter with four fouls without fouling out despite the efforts of the opposing team, Clarksville. I followed Shaq during his college career at LSU and in the NBA. Now you can’t miss him on TV.
FAVORITE TEXAS FEMALE BASKETBALL PLAYER — Shalonda Enis from Celeste. I loved watching her play at Celeste when she led the Blue Devils to back to back state titles in 1992-93 and then at Trinity Valley, where she led the Lady Cards to a national junior college championship.
Enis was also the leading scorer and rebounder at the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival in 1994 and averaged 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in two seasons at Alabama. She was the most valuable player in the American Basketball League’s first all-star game and then played five seasons in the WNBA. What I liked most about Shalonda was the bigger the game the better she played. She scored a career-high 56 points in the region high school finals against Zavalla, which was ranked No. 1 in state.
FAVORITE TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE — Henry Neal, Greenville. He set a national record in the 100-meter dash (10.15) that stood for more than 30 years but also won state in the 200-meter dash (20.46) and triple jump (48-8). He was also a district champion in the long jump and the high jump.
Henry won the district high jump title in his only time to compete in that event and off only one day of practice. That’s a real athlete!
Henry went on to win seven national junior college titles at Blinn, two Olympic Festival titles and eight Grand Prix indoor races.
My next favorite Texas track and field athlete is Matthew Boling from Houston Strake Jesuit. Boling broke Henry’s national record in the 100 (10.13) and has had a great college career in track and field at Georgia.
FAVORITE PRESS BOX — There’s some really nice press boxes in stadiums throughout Texas but my favorite is at Greenville Christian’s Eagle Field. No, it doesn’t have air conditioning or a refrigerator or plush seats. It’s a converted travel trailer. But what I like is the close proximity to the field. You’re right on top of the action. I can shoot good photos and videos up there while I’m keeping stats. But it does get a little crazy at times when somebody’s walking up the stadium steps and the press box begins to shake.
FAVORITE NASCAR DRIVERS — Terry and Bobby Labonte because they’re from my home region of Corpus Christi. The two brothers won series championships because they were consistent and easy on their cars. I saw Terry’s first pro stock car race when he moved up from go karts. It was at Corpus Christi Speedway.
FAVORITE GOLFERS — Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Two of the best to ever play the game. I’m rooting for Tiger’s comeback from his car accident. I just hope he can play golf for fun, Nevermind whether he can play competitively.
FAVORITE SOFTBALL PLAYERS — I liked watching Mariah Nichols when she played at Lone Oak. She pitched the Lady Buffs to their first and only appearance in the state softball tournament and then pitched four seasons at the University of Memphis. Such a strong arm! Mariah was also a solid hitter.
I also liked watching Alicia Pille at Royse City. I saw her pitch a perfect game in the playoffs. Pille pitched four seasons at the University of Kansas, where she ranks fourth all-time in career strikeouts with 673.
Those are some of my favorites.
David Claybourn is sports editor of the Herald-Banner.