Renaissance Man

A cop learns the pain of piercing

When Egos Collide

Unless you're the type of person who believes that Rush Limbaugh makes a lot of sense, chances are you don't listen to KSEV-AM 700. Which means you missed out on one of the greatest political debates since Lincoln-Douglas.

In one corner on April 8 was Battlin' Billy Burge, the diminutive head of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. In the other corner was Jabbin' Jack Rains, the rotund former head of that organization. Refereeing the bout was radio host Dan Patrick, temporarily taking time off from full-spittle Clinton-bashing.

The authority, of course, is the agency that shepherded through the creation of a billion dollars' worth of new sports facilities in town. Now that they've been built, Rains and others say the organization -- which has a $3 million annual budget -- should disband.

Naturally, Rains took his arguments to KSEV, which hates any government bureaucracy not involved in bombing or maiming people. They soon took a call from listener "Billy," who turned out to be Burge calling from San Francisco.

If you ever wondered whether Rains and Burge have two of the biggest egos in town, the next 20 minutes -- a blur of name-calling, outright derision and great radio -- erased any doubts.

The highlights -- keep in mind, Rains is a former Texas secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate and Burge has long been a behind-the-scenes political power:

Opening jabs: Burge asked why Rains "enjoyed the shortest reign ever as chairman of the sports authority." Rains eventually came back with "If you've heard me trashing the sports authority, you've been listening with your bad ear, pal."

But the jokes about physical imperfections didn't stop there. "Other than you being vertically challenged, I can't think of a lot about you I don't like," said Rains, temporarily trying to smooth the waters.

It didn't take. "I'll take the circumference, then, if you've got [to talk about] the vertical," Burge said.

[Advantage: Rains]

Middle rounds: Rains asked Burge who cut the deal that has the sports authority paying $100,000 to maintain the ice for the Aeros hockey team. "About five board members with more real estate experience than you've got," Burge shot back, adding that Rains and Patrick "are so small in your outlook."

That roused Patrick, who called the remark "typical political BS" and told listeners, "Folks, this is Billy Burge making an ass of himself." To which Burge replied, "Well, you do it every day when you get on the tube," referring to Patrick's TV gig.

[Advantage:Burge, for aggressiveness]

Final round: Amazingly, by this point no one had yet mentioned whether anyone's mother wore army boots or invoked the time-honored "I'm rubber, you're glue" rule. On the other hand, the discussion veered into the subject of Burge not having a computer.

"Stop making fun of someone who doesn't have a computer," Burge whined. He then mentioned how he did have a cell phone, and was using it to check on his dinner reservations.

[Advantage: radio listener, sitting slack-jawed at the pettiness]

The whole thing can be downloaded at www.lonestartimes.com. Give it a whirl to listen to public officials at their finest.

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