News Hostage

Pay No Attention to the Man on the Crutches
It took only two games of the truncated NBA season to show that Rockets Myopia is once again in full swing here in Houston. Our local sports experts, fresh from last year's disastrous predictions that an aging, whining group of fading superstars would challenge for the title (they didn't), predicted that the off-season acquisition of aging, whining, fading superstar Scottie Pippen would be the answer.

And, of course, there was the standard denial that any of the Rockets were, in fact, old. Usually covering themselves with a throwaway "injuries could always crop up" line, the local media has reverted right back to last year's laughingly optimistic early-season spiel of just how feisty the old tigers are.

The Chronicle's Fran Blinebury, on February 8, wrote glowingly of how Charles Barkley had spent an entire week at a fitness spa during the off-season and was now "reinvigorated."

In the first two games, Blinebury gushed, "Barkley exploded like a firecracker in a silverware drawer." (Note to Fran: Check the calibrations on your Random Metaphor Generator.)

He went on about last year's injury-prone Barkley and this year's model: "[T]he difference has been as apparent as a two-by-four between the eyes. Barkley is alive again, attacking, slithering.... 'It's simple,' Barkley said. 'I'm healthy. I played all of last year with a couple of hernias, and that limited what I could do.' "

Three games later, the Rockets announced Sir Charles would be out for a month after surgery on a knee that had been bothering him all season long. "Barkley wanted at first to play though the pain," Blinebury's fellow columnist Dale Robinson wrote after the announcement, "but that was never going to work."

Apocalypse Now, Maybe
The television news promo of the week belongs to Fox Channel 26, which offered Saturday-night viewers a snippet of a wizened old guy coughing as an announcer gravely asked a question that, frankly, had never occurred to us: "What if people started dying because their medicine stopped working?"

The answer was promised that night at 9, but somehow we never tuned in.

Boldly Going Nowhere In Particular
Treading into the dense, thought-suffocating thicket that is the Chronicle's editorial page is usually a mind-numbing experience.

Take their February 14 examination of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, headlined "Steamroller -- Beware the Heavy Hands of the Sports Authority." Hey, you think, maybe they're actually going to go after Authority chair Jack Rains's bullying threats to use eminent domain to condemn private property for his project's use.

Well, sort of. The Chronicle unflinchingly, courageously, called for ... "a full and open community debate on several issues."

Once they got out on that heady limb, apparently intoxicated with the freedom of finally throwing caution to the wind, they couldn't stop themselves.

Among the issues to be discussed, they said, is "[w]hether an effort in the Legislature to strip the Sports Authority of condemnation powers is a good idea. It seems, at first glance, to be a measure worth serious consideration, but it would be a shame if we let knee-jerk reaction to this controversy stampede us into changes without thinking them through thoroughly."

Translated into English, that sentence apparently means the Chronicle doesn't want to take away the Sports Authority's land-grabbing powers. But what it actually contains is the bold, decisive, line-in-the-sand declaration that while the idea may at first blush seem worthy of serious consideration, in reality it ... well ... needs to be Thought Through Thoroughly, by God!

Rest easy, Houston: Yes, there are those bomb-throwing radicals out there who might be tempted to give such an idea serious consideration; be assured, however, that the cooler heads at the Chronicle will instead insist on the completely opposite tack of thinking it through thoroughly.

Wayne's World
We realize that most media people in town would rather be forced to watch a 12-hour video of Lee Brown's Most Uplifting Speeches than give any credit to KTRK's Wayne Dolcefino, a man whose outsized ego is matched only by his propensity for blowing up trivialities into hidden-camera "exclusives" hyped as earth-shaking bombshells (Judge Takes Long Lunches!!! Tonight at 10!!!!).

But the dogged Dolcefino does break some good stuff occasionally; recently, he's even caused himself to be scooped.

The February 13 Chronicle had a brief article headlined "HISD's Paige seeks stricter rules concerning employee misconduct," an article that said Houston school superintendent Rod Paige "is demanding ... stricter procedures" regarding how officials deal with allegations of employee misconduct.

"Paige said a recent review of disciplinary actions has prompted him to tighten procedures," the story said, echoing the self-congratulatory theme sounded by school officials.

What the Chronicle and the district failed to mention, somehow, was that the "recent review of disciplinary actions" was actually based on records produced in response to an Open Records Act request filed by Dolcefino, a request that triggered a six-year fight between the district and the reporter.

You'd think such tenacity would earn a mention, but apparently not.

Care to share your pain? Call Richard Connelly at (713)280-2479, e-mail him at or write him at the Houston Press, 1621 Milam, Suite 100, Houston, Texas 77002.


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