It's tough to describe exactly what it's been like to be a Dallas sports fan this past week. It's certainly been a rollercoaster of emotions, after the Rangers struggled in Anaheim (Los Angeles?) and then seemed on the verge of falling apart out in Seattle. Yet one of the most remarkable turnarounds I've ever experienced took place, both on the field and in the courtroom and suddenly spirits are soaring.
Here's some thoughts on what transpired over the past week in Dallas.
You couldn't write it better in Hollywood.
Perhaps the saying is overused, when described an even in sports that seemingly comes right out of the movies. Yet what happened on Wednesday night and into Thursday morning with the Texas Rangers is something I doubt even the best screenwriters could have come up with.
The saga of the Texas Rangers sale is going to make for one very interesting book sometime in the future, for what was at first a fairly straightforward sale instantly turned into a drama filled with backroom deals, heated arguments or more legal adventures in the courtroom than you can imagine. Even the people involved -- the lawyers, judges and financial experts -- say that what happened with this sale is something they've never experienced before.
It all came to a head on Wednesday. The bankruptcy court ruled that the Rangers needed to put up for auction to be fair to the lenders, threatening the chances that the ownership group of Chuck Greenberg and Nolan had of purchasing the team. While there's certainly some debate as to what would have happened if Mark Cuban became the owner, I doubt he would have been as bad as many think.
So, in this case, you had the hero and the villain: Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan vs. Mark Cuban and Jim Crane. Fair or not, that's how this situation was interpreted by fans and that's how it was portrayed in the media. Personally, I don't think those with knowledge of the entire situation thought that ill of Cuban in all this, other than the fact that Cuban winning the auction meant there was the likelihood of the sale dragging on for three or more months. With Greenberg and Ryan, they would be able to purchase the team immediately. Plus, it's Nolan Ryan -- everyone loves him.
Throughout the day, it certainly appeared that Cuban had the upper hand. While Greenberg's group tried desperately to discredit the initial bid high bid, Cuban and Crane aggressively bid each time their turn came, without hardly any time to review. They were confident in their funding.
Meanwhile, the Rangers are struggling in Seattle and facing the possibility of losing four out of five games. Things weren't looking too good.
Then the big money men walked in. The men behind the cash in Greenberg's group showed up at the courthouse late in the night, instantly turning the tide of the proceedings. Greenberg and Ryan put forth a surprisingly high bid that caught the court off guard, and instantly they had the upper hand.
That this bid came down just minutes before Michael Young's grand slam that put the Rangers ahead 11-7 late in the game was more than just coincidence. It was a sign.
After Cuban's group raised the bid once more -- this time to $390 million cash -- Greenberg and his group once more took a lengthy break to review. They countered with $385 million, which at first seemed to be a give-up bid; this was Greenberg conceding the auction and hoping the judge would pick the second-highest bid anyway.
The courtroom was tense -- quiet, as the attorneys for Crane and Cuban conferred. Then Jim Crane turned to Nolan Ryan, shook his hand and told him congratulations on purchasing the Texas Rangers.
As the Rangers on the field were celebrating a comeback victory over the Seattle Mariners, their new owners had enjoyed a comeback win of their own. Chuck Greenberg was confident in his group from the very beginning and while things looked tough, in the end they prevailed.
I can just hear the soaring and rousing theme to Rudy right now, playing over the scene of the celebration in the courtroom and in the clubhouse at the same time.
That's a movie I'd go see.
Goodbye Mike and Marty.
I've covered this extensively over at Defending Big D (read my thoughts here) but this was a very hard week for Dallas Stars fans. While we knew all this was coming eventually, fans have to deal with Mike Modano and Marty Turco playing elsewhere this season.
The popular -- and easiest -- thing to do is to blame GM Joe Nieuwendyk, especially for "letting" Modano walk away to join the hated Red Wings. Yet he's had the hard task of trying to improve the team not just for now but for the future as well. Unfortunately, as hard as it is to admit, Modano just wasn't a fit anymore. He is far from the player he once was and he would be holding back the development of younger players. Not to mention those younger players are more effective than Modano.
Modano heading to Detroit makes sense, and while it's going to be painful to see him in that red jersey it makes much more sense than Modano trying to play once last season in Atlanta or Nashville. Detroit is his hometown, they have a great team and they know how to use him to his strengths. The Red Wings aren't in rebuilding mode and they'll be able to put Modano is the perfect situations that play to his strengths. I wish him nothing but the best.
As for Turco, we all knew he'd be playing somewhere new. For Stars fans, we just hoped it wouldn't be for San Jose -- anywhere else is perfectly acceptable. That he'd be signing with Chicago for just $1.35 million was certainly not expected, however, as the market for aging goaltenders suddenly dried up. That Turco was adamant on finding a starting job made things much tougher, as it seemed there were only two spots really available and those were with the two teams close to being in salary cap hell.
I bet Turco is wishing he took that three-year deal with Philadelphia now. That's the gamble you make when you opt to head onto the open market, and Turco lost the chance to get a nice payday and play behind the deepest defensive corps in the NHL. Now, while the Blackhawks are certainly talented, he's in a much more pressure-filled situation as the Hawks try to repeat their success with a team that is going to look much different next season. It will be interesting to see how Turco handles that pressure.
Gearing up for Canton.
The Dallas Cowboys head to Canton this weekend, taking on the Cincinnati Bengals in the Hall of Fame game in their preseason opener. A day after Emmitt Smith gives his speech and inducted into the Football Hall of Fame, the Cowboys will take the field and give us our first taste of what many think can be a truly special season. We'll finally get to see these players try and prove themselves on the field, and I'm certain the players are ready to hit someone other than their teammates.
While we won't get to see Dez Bryant -- who is out until at least the final preseason game -- there are a number of young players to watch as they get plenty of time on the field to prove they have what it takes to not only make the team, but show they deserve to make an impact this season as well.
Here's who I'm paying close attention to:
Herb Donaldson -- We'll get a taste of Marion Barber and Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice will see extended time as well, but Herb Donaldson is going to get a lot of time on the field over the next few weeks. The reports are that if the Cowboys weren't already so deep at running back he'd be close to a lock to make the team. He's fast, shifty and relatively stocky and apparently has the potential to truly be an impact player somewhere down the line.
Titus Ryan -- The fastest man on the team will get his chance to show his stuff as he takes Bryant's place in punt returns and on kickoffs. I'm also interested to just how polished he might be as a receiver and if he can be the playmaker he was touted as being coming out of the CFL. I doubt there's any way he makes the team, but a strong performance in these preseason games could force a tough decision on the coaches.
Sean Lee -- There's doubt he even plays, but if he does -- this is who I'm most looking forward to seeing. According to those there at camp he's been just as good as the Cowboys said he would be. He's picked up on the defense in a hurry, he's extremely smart and fast to diagnose plays and he's explosive when going after the ball. He's also not to shabby in coverage either. Yet that's camp -- I want to see what he does when he can actually hit somebody.