2016 DFW Sports Optimism


I know I’ve spent most of my time on the Mavericks in this column, but I’m always interested in everything that’s happening around town, so here are some random thoughts about our three other major pro sports teams.

I’m completely taken by what the Stars are doing and can’t wait for April and the start of the best playoffs in all of sports. We love stars. And the Stars have stars. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are the greatest show in town regardless of who lines up alongside them. The chance for them to show it on the biggest stage is irresistible. While Mike Modano was a star (and the greatest player in Stars history), even he never dominated the ice the way Benn and Seguin do now.

GM Jim Nill has provided necessary playoff grit in bringing in Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya. Lindy Ruff seems to be pushing all the right buttons, as he drives this team. He’s not allowing them to settle for anything other than their best. His comments following the Columbus win on Tuesday told you everything you need to know about his belief that not only are the Stars good, but they have a chance to be special. You never know when your time will come. You have to strike while the iron is hot, and right now there’s no hotter team in the NHL.

I know Rangers fans are upset about the lack of big name activity by Jon Daniels at the winter meetings in Nashville. There certainly is the case to be made that this team won the A.L. West last year with smoke and mirrors, and that the obvious needs of a right handed starter and a right handed power bat have not been met. While Yu Darvish may be provide a right-handed arm when he returns around June 1, he can’t be the only answer. Mike Napoli would’ve looked really nice in the lineup except that he duplicates Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland, so he’s moved on to Cleveland. And yet if we know anything about Daniels, he’s resourceful and creative, and prepared to strike when opportunity calls. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt. The likelihood of the roster as it stands today versus the roster that will take the field on Opening Day seems less than zero. In the A.L. West, The Astros figure to continue maturing, Seattle has improved. The Angles are going to be hanging around as long as Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are around. The A’s? OK, not so much, but there are enough good people around to keep the train rolling like it did the entire post All-Star period.

There is no joy in Mudville (or Jerry World) as it’s 20 straight seasons without a Super Bowl appearance for the Cowboys and counting. A lot of wrong decisions, injuries and again some questionable game day work by the head coach, have this team 180 degrees from where they were last year at this time. And now in 2016 Tony Romo will be 2 years older and have had two more injuries to a cranky collarbone. Can the front office provide him with the running game necessary to protect him? Granted, you have to throw effectively to win in the NFL, but if you can’t run consistently your chances of winning decrease dramatically, And now in Romo’s case, the fact he’s become somewhat Sam Bradford fragile over the last couple of years makes every drop-back a scary proposition…let alone when he actually HAS to throw.

The Cowboys have spent a lot of effort trying to improve their pass rush, which would, in turn, help force turnovers. But as we’ve seen this season those efforts have been futile. They are incredibly thin at cornerback and their edge pass rushers have struggled almost all year long (although DeMarcus Lawrence is finally showing a pulse late in the season). The middle of the line has been a major disappointment in failing to get up field, or at least, hold its ground. Sean Lee is a great player who can’t stay healthy, and he doesn’t have much reliable help either behind or alongside him.

There doesn’t seem to be an area, outside of the offensive line, where the Cowboys can’t use a real upgrade. Now that’s not to say it can’t be done by next year, and indeed the NFL is more volatile than any other league in a team’s ability to go from penthouse to outhouse and back. The present state of the NFC East makes that even more realistic.

So as the holidays approach, our local teams all have challenges ahead and issues to solve. The good news is that they’re solvable. Which should make for exciting times in 2016. Championships aren’t promised, but intrigue should be. And we have it here in DFW…in spades.

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Chuck Cooperstein is in his tenth season as the radio play-by-play voice of the Dallas Mavericks. Cooperstein has been a regular on the Dallas/Fort Worth sports scene since 1984 and has been an anchor on ESPN 103.3 FM since the station’s inception in 2001. “Coop’s” extensive sports broadcasting background includes play-by-play stints with TCU and the University of Texas football, as well as TCU, Texas A&M and SMU basketball. He has broadcast NCAA Basketball for Westwood One since 1991, Westwood One college football since 1995, and is in his second season broadcasting NFL games for Westwood One. The New York City native has a bachelor of science in broadcasting from the University of Florida.