Four Easy Pieces

I'm not a Lute Olson fan. To me, any Sunday his University of Arizona team loses a basketball game on national TV is a fine one.

I've nothing against the Wildcat players. Actually, they appear quite likable. They play very well, too.

It's Olson who gives me difficulty. He coaches like a man who senses he's on a national stage.

Olson comes to the game with his jacket and pants freshly pressed. His tie is always just so. His silver hair is blow-dried. He looks more like a game-show host than a basketball coach.

Olson moves to the sidelines, looking like a man about to give a speech to the American Medical Association.

Television makes coaches like Olson seem more important than they are. TV distorts reality. Watch the game on TV, and the camera keeps switching back to record Olson's reactions. After a while, you start to think that Olson can control the game merely by waving his arms at the referee.

If you were to watch the same game from a seat in the stands, you'd see something entirely different.

Basketball games are won by the players on the floor--not by any coach shouting from the sidelines.

The only time one of Olson's players did hear him Sunday, the kid called time-out at precisely the wrong moment.

Olson's grandstand signal took away Arizona's last chance to win the game.
I haven't seen such an obvious coaching blunder since the time Al McGuire cost his Marquette team a national title by getting two technical fouls in the final minutes.

At least McGuire had the decency to show the pain. He walked off the court with his collar pulled open and his tie askew.

Lute Olson walked off looking like a man above reproach . . . and above the crowd.

Thank God Lonesome Dove finally ended. Television life has returned to normal. Pat Sajak, Dan Rather, and Johnny Carson reign once more.

The endless lines of mooing cows have passed us by. The hostile Injuns have been shot or run off, leaving only Peter MacDonald for us to deal with.

The colorful parade of big-hearted whores is just a memory. Old Gus lost his leg to an Indian arrow . . . then he died. Jake Spoon got himself hanged as an outlaw. And Captain Call kept his promise to drag Gus' body 3,000 miles to a burial place in Texas.

Millions of us were a captive audience. Every day we kept telling each other that Lonesome Dove was the greatest TV Western of all times.

We kept marveling at Robert Duvall's performance as Gus, the middle-aged and philosophical former Texas Ranger with the eye for the ladies. But for four nights I kept wondering what the point of it all was. In each episode there was a shooting or a hanging. There was a surprise switch in love interests. There was a battle with the Indians and a meeting with outlaws.

In short, Lonesome Dove turned out to contain precisely the same elements as Falcon Crest or Dallas.

I remember something the unforgettable Bill Veeck once told me. The White Sox owner had just finished reading Lonesome Dove in the hardcover version.

Veeck loved the book. He told me the only trouble with Lonesome Dove was that it ended.

Well, now I know. The only good thing about the television version of Lonesome Dove is that it finally did end, too.

I've come to realize that Terry Goddard really doesn't run the City of Phoenix.

Goddard has two things going for him. He has some natural skills as a public speaker, and he's better than six-feet tall.

Outside of charm and height, however, Goddard doesn't bring much to the party. He's a political eunuch.

Look at what Phoenix has become since Goddard became mayor.
Every single move made by the city during Goddard's tenure has been a disaster to the people who live in it. Each move has served to erode what little charm the city ever possessed.

Goddard and his men closed the charming Encanto Park for two years. They squandered millions of tax dollars redoing it. When Encanto Park reopened, we discovered they'd installed cold concrete walks and little else.

The changes were an engineer's dream of rustic charm. It is as though Encanto Park had been thought up on the drawing board of Robocop.

Goddard and his men closed down Patriots Park for another two years. They promised an architectural breakthrough. We were going to have something that would dazzle and delight us all.

Instead, we got a full square block of forbidding red brick. Patriots Park used to be a place to sit and daydream. Now, it's a place to be shunned at all costs.

Goddardites closed down Central Avenue for two years. They promised they'd turn the avenue into something as remarkable as the widest boulevard in Paris.

What they have done to Central Avenue would be laughable if it weren't tragic. Not only have businesses almost been destroyed, but all the charm has disappeared.

And it's not over on Central Avenue. Now they say they will come back and tear out the palm trees.

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