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Dallas travelblog: Pickups, RC Cola & mascots

by Berry Tramel Published: July 23, 2014
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Big 12 spirit squad members and mascots pose on the main stage Tuesday at Media Days. (AP Photo)
Big 12 spirit squad members and mascots pose on the main stage Tuesday at Media Days. (AP Photo)

Big 12 Media Days are over. A few observations:

* Charlie Strong is boring. Maybe the new Texas coach is great on the recruiting trail and in the locker room. But he does not win in the court of public relations. Of course, Mack Brown did win in the latter, and it didn’t save his job.

* Big 12 Media Days have changed over the years. Much bigger. Different formats. Not even the same schools. But not evening the Mountaineer walking around is the biggest difference. The biggest difference is the number of females in the media throng. I’d guess there were 75 out of the 500 or so credentialed media. In the old days, there might be 10.

* Bill Snyder turns 75 in October. Funny, he doesn’t look a day over 73. Snyder looks older than usual. And I don’t mean he looks older because he’s a year older. But he’s starting to look like he could actually age. The guy can still coach up the Wildcats, though. No one will want a piece of K-State.

* Mascots who can’t talk are a problem. When you can’t speak, you need to make your presence known through other endeavors. Which generally means being a royal pain. The Kansas Jayhawk was the worst. The bird was a constant source of aggravation in the Big 12 lobby. When people get inside those big costumes, they feel some sort of invincibility for their actions.

* It’s wildly interesting to watch Walt Anderson present his new-rules seminar to the media, 10 days after I saw him present the exact same information, including same video, to college football officials. The officials are engaged and attentive. They ask good questions. They talk amongst themselves about nuances. They laugh at silly things they see. The media, not so much. Anderson could have been giving a seminar on mutual funds, for all the excitement in the room. Which is why come autumn, pressboxes around the nation will be all puzzled at a variety of calls. People gripe about officiating, but their idea of doing something about it is to curse the refs, rather than learn the rules.

* Meanwhile, Bill Hancock’s presentation on how the new football committee will distribute teams into the major bowls was incredibly helpful. I learned a lot. In fact, later this week, I’ll use the blog to do the same thing Hancock did. Take three generic seasons and use them to show how the bowl assignments are made. Should be fun.

* Dana Holgorsen seemed relaxed to me. I don’t know if he’s on the hot seat at West Virginia. Oh, that’s not what I meant. I know he’s on the hot seat. But does West Virginia have the money to make a change?

* Paul Rhoads always is impressive. I like that guy. I’m pulling for him at Iowa State.

* The idea that offensive assistants have better opportunities to be head coaches is probably valid. But the Big 12 has four head coaches who came up through the defensive ranks — Bob Stoops, Gary Patterson, Rhoads and Strong. The other six were offensive guys.

THE DRIVE HOME

I like Dallas, but I like Kansas City, too. Sometimes, I wish Big 12 Media Days were in KC. But at 6 p.m. Tuesday, I’m always glad I’m in Dallas, not KC. Three-hour drive home, not 51/2.

We headed out at 6:15, and that’s not much worse than 5:15, because of traffic. If you’re downtown Big D at 5 p.m., traffic is horrible, and there aren’t great ways to get to Oklahoma other than trudge through the belly of the beast, Stemmons Freeway (I-35). You could take the Dallas Toll Road North, but that’s bumper-to-bumper, too, I’m sure, and then you could double back on the LBJ (if you’re a masochist) or the Bush Turnpike (the wiser move). But might as well just go in a straight line.

Our traffic was not too bad. A little backup around the LBJ (635) and again in Denton (always), but that’s about it.

We saw a pickup with a couple of guys sitting in the back. Spawned a discussion with the Dish, Mike Sherman, Jackie O. and myself. Do you remember when people routinely rode in the back of the pickups. Happened all the time. Now you never see it. We’ve legisilated it out of society. I guess that’s a good thing.

We stopped for dinner in Sanger. Sanger is a small town between Gainesville and Denton, exit 477 off I-35, 47 miles north of downtown Dallas and 27 miles south of the Red River. It was founded in 1886 by the Santa Fe Raildroad on an old cattle trail.

Sanger had a population of 6,916 at the 2010 census, about double from the 1990 census. Wouldn’t surprise me if it doubles again rather soon. Dallas-Fort Worth sprawl moves swiftly.

Sanger is a bedroom community; its downtown is not much. When you think of a town of 6,916, you think Pauls Valley. Sanger is more Lexington.

I stop at Sanger often because it has a Sonic. And it also has a Babe’s.

Babe’s Chicken Dinner House is a DFW chain we discovered a few years ago. Reminds me of the old Frontier in Norman, or Stroud’s in Kansas City. Fried chicken, chicken fried steak, fried catfish, potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn, salad and biscuits. I think it’s $13 a head. Outstanding.

There are nine Babe’s in north Texas: Roanoke (established 1993), Garland (1994), Sanger (2003), Carrollton (2004), Burleson (2005), Granbury (2007), Frisco (2008), Cedar Hill (2009) and Arlington (2010). I’ve eaten at Carrollton and Frisco, and now Sanger.

All the Babe’s are in rustic settings. The Sanger Babe’s was built in 1898 as the O.M. Gentle Hardware Store. Over time, hyou could buy a Farmall Tractor on the spot, right next to the Ford dealership which is long gone.

The rounded parts of the cashier stand are actually real wagon wheel hubs. The hanging lights came from an old school house on Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. The tables and chairs have all come from other restaurants and homes. The boat in the dining room is a “made by Cruiser” model. Built in 1959, it spent most its life on Tablerock Lake in Missouri.

It’s a great atmosphere and great food, served family style, even the meats. You get all you want on everything except the meat, and you can’t all the meat anyway. The Dish, the Boss and Jackie O. ordered fried chicken, so I ordered a chicken fry, then we cut up the chicken fry for everyone to share and each had some chicken. That’s the way to go.

I love gravy on my fried chicken, so I was set.

Babe’s also served RC Cola. Royal Crown. You don’t find RC much anymore, but it was rather popular when I was a kid, back when people rode in the back of pickups.

More good news from Babe’s: they were out of all desserts except coconut pie. Any place that offers cobbler, it’s automatic. I have to get some, because so few places have the good sense to offer cobbler. Everyone wants to fancy up their desserts. Some kind of exotic cake. Tiramisu. Chocolate mousse. So I support all cobbler establishments. Alas, Babe’s had sold all its cobbler for the day. Good thing. I didn’t need to fill up too much with a two-hour drive home still awaiting.

 

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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