Thank You, Tony Romo

Thank you, Tony Romo: for your passion, drive, intelligence, skill, work ethic, thrilling plays, toughness, and overall excellence for the Cowboys over the years. If football foremost is an entertainment medium, you’re one of the best there ever was — for the right reasons. From your leadership and professionalism to your high-quality play on the field, you went far beyond anyone’s wildest expectations as an undrafted free agent, to become one of the top few quarterbacks in team history, a multiple Pro Bowler, the all-time Blue Star leader in both yards and passer rating, and the fourth-highest passer rating ever in the NFL. All that has been despite inconsistent, often inferior talent and a coaching carousel around you up until the last few years. That’s saying something.

I hurt for you that you never won a Super Bowl. You were more than good enough, and better than many QBs who did. Dan Marino may be the only comparably skilled QB in that boat, and he’s a Hall of Famer. Unlike Marino, you were grotesquely under-appreciated, disrespected and underrated nationally for many years, perhaps still today, even by many Cowboys fans — but not this one. I’m under no illusion regarding the capriciousness of Hall of Fame voters, but the way you carried and led this team so superbly for so long, with such drive and skill, with so many different players coming and going, there’s no doubt in my mind you deserve every honor the team and league can bestow.

No less authorities than Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach have called you a great quarterback. Their word should end the discussion. I’ll take it over any others’ because they — more than anyone else — know how it is to lead America’s Team under that withering spotlight, and to do so with skill, class, and excitement. And they had far better surrounding talent and coaching then you did for most of your career.

Then, just when that surrounding talent and coaching caught up to your own abilities, and you finally got an offensive line worthy of your talent: major injuries took their toll for a few years, then an unbelievable rookie (also a QB of uncommon smarts, athleticism, class, and poise) took your job.

What could you do? There was nobody to blame, nothing at which to direct rage, except perhaps just the bad luck of timing against an unexpectedly great development for the team. Ultimately, to you, it was about the team. So what did you do? You handled it with the most grace and class of any sports speech in decades.

Speaking of class — that’s Jerry Jones’ gesture to cut you and let you keep your signing-bonus money uncontested, and even leaves the door open to play again. Still, please don’t break any more bones. Take good care of that beautiful family of yours and enjoy the relative safety of the broadcast booth, and enlighten us all on football insight for decades to come.

Now for the memories…so many…so I’ll just share a few of the very best — some of the great plays that will go down in lore (YouTube links work as of this writing, even if embed play may not):

* 2006: I was in Texas Stadium, watching the game in person with Rich Thompson (Houston fan), when Bill Parcells inserted Romo late in the fourth quarter of a domination of the Toxins. We witnessed the first two NFL passes of Tony’s career: a long completion on 3rd down, then a touchdown.

* 2006: One of the first of many “Houdini” plays, fourth down against the Eagles, escapes one pass rusher and throws a first-down strike while being dragged down by another:

* 2012: Eagles blitz? Cowboys 3rd-down completion! Another “Houdini” play for Tony (link to video).

* 2007: Game-winning drive with no time outs, against Detroit and future Cowboys Jon Kitna and Rod Marinelli, overcoming his own fumble and completing a fourth-down toss. This drive might have convinced those guys to join Dallas and Romo…

* 2013: Romo throws a game-winning touchdown on fourth down to beat those awful, nasty, detested Redskins 24-23 (link, no embed enabled).

* 2009: Against the Falcons, six seconds left in the half, perhaps the greatest Romo “Houdini” play until the next one on the list (link only, no embed).

* 2014: J.J. Watt was going to crush Tony Romo…was. Touchdown Dallas.

* 2007: Snap sails way over your head on third and three? No problemo, mi amigo. Go back and get it, then run 37 yards for a 4-yard first down…utterly unforgettable! As the announcers said, it “puts him in the hearts and minds of Cowboys fans forever”. Yet folks forget that was a 2-minute-drill drive and Tony ran in the leading TD himself on third and 10 with 11 seconds left. The play is at 4:40, but fans really should watch this whole drive. Wow…

Finally, the NFL’s “Top 10” Romo moments, including a couple of the above, the “broken back” game and the “punctured lung” game (link only).

God’s speed, Tony. Now go excel in the broadcast booth like you did on the field, and you’ll be more than respected. Then when the time comes that the Boys need a new quarterback coach, another offensive coordinator…Jerry had better at least give you that call.

Guest Column on Tuesday’s Deadly Chase Wreck

by Steve Miller (TX)

[The following is reposted by Steve’s permission from a private discussion. It follows my post yesterday emphasizing the more general live-streaming angle. Our thoughts correspond strongly on this event and Steve states the issues well.]

I am not going to sugar coat anything. I understand that Kelley and Randall are nice, friendly guys. It is tragic they lost their lives and that I am posting this less than 24 hours after the wreck. I understand that I will come across as a cold-hearted asshole. I also understand I may not have “all of the facts”. Yes, I am not perfect and have made mistakes too. So please spare me these types of comments and responses. For if you feign outrage over that rather than the circumstances surrounding this event, then you are part of the problem.

Based on numerous conversations I have had with others, reviewing video from yesterday and prior instances, all combined with known behavior of some chasers in the past some of which I have personally witnessed, yesterday’s event was bound to happen sooner or later. I am not calling this an “accident” for a good reason.

First, the video of their live stream leading up the split second before impact. There were THREE roadway signs indicating a stop sign and intersection ahead. A “JCT” sign indicating a junction ahead. A yellow triangular sign with a red octagon indicating a stop sign ahead. And a green directional sign showing left/right turn destination towns. And the fourth sign of course was a stop sign.

It was quite clear that neither the driver, Kelley, nor Randall acknowledged the stop sign and pending intersection. There was no mention of it and no change in driver action such as slowing down. You can clearly see all of the signs as they go by them. How do two people miss those signs…particularly the driver? How can that be? At that point, I was still considering major distraction factors such as looking at laptops for radar, streaming feed, navigation, looking at the storm. Certainly they didn’t intentionally blow through that stop sign without even slowing down to keep up with the storm, did they? After all, I have seen it done before both on feeds and in person.

A few conversations and posts I’ve seen elsewhere state that Kelley has flagrantly blown through stop signs and intersections before as witnessed on their streaming feeds and personally. They aren’t alone however as I’ve seen this happen with other chasers, particularly a certain big orange/red “tornado chaser” pickup truck whom I have also had nearly run me off the road as they passed in a no-passing zone approaching a blind hill…in rain. There are LOTS of incidents of stupid and extremely dangerous behavior by chasers out there. Sure, the vast majority of chaser do NOT do this. And to be clear, I have been on chases and seen nothing but perfectly safe behavior. I am talking about a small minority.

The “justification” for blowing through stop signs and intersections are probably related to being out in a rural area and little to no traffic and a quick look to see if the coast is clear. A regular habit of that easily lulls one into complacency.

So, in my opinion, it is probable they blew through it intentionally. Is it also possible they simply did not notice the signs and the stop sign itself because of various factors such as driver fatigue and inattention? Sure. We won’t ever know for sure. At the very least, this was negligent and possible grossly negligent. The truly innocent victim here is Corbin Jaeger driving the vehicle which was struck. He could have been ANY one of us who chases storms. Let that sink in deeply for a moment.

How many of you out there witness reckless and dangerous behavior by other chasers (and the “locals” who are even more dangerous) and yet never do anything about it? How many look the other way when it is a “popular” chaser or a “nice guy”? How about if it is a friend of yours? Who has witnessed Kelley’s prior driving behavior and remained quiet?

Granted, it is a very dangerous thing in the “storm-chasing community” to speak up and call others out on bad behavior. Such “whistleblowers” can be savagely attacked, maligned, destroyed and even threatened in the “storm-chasing community”. Make no mistake about that. The intimidation factor is high when trying to speak out. Believe me, I know. It is also why I carry for self defense. There are some true psychopaths in our “community”.

With that said, some of the responsibility of yesterday’s accident also rests on the shoulders of the “storm-chasing community”. Hopefully, this is a huge wake-up call to start holding each other accountable for reckless and dangerous behavior out in the field. It just might save YOUR life, the life of your friends and family, and help prevent such tragedies in the future. And there WILL be more if the status quo remains unchanged. Next time, it could be a van full of storm-chasing tourists. It could be innocent locals in a church van or a school bus…or a family with kids.

Think about it long and hard and commit do doing something serious about it.

Storm-chase Live Streaming and Fresh Tragedy

Bits and pieces of an entry solely about storm-chaser live streaming have been swirling in my head for some time now — partly inspired, ironically enough, by recent years’ viewing of live streams of one of the chasers (Kelley Williamson) who died in the crash near Spur, TX, two afternoons ago. I did not know he and his chase partner personally but had enjoyed the high-quality streams they often produced, other aspects aside (below). Please offer prayers for their families and for the family of Corbin Yeager, in this awful time for all of them.

I’m not an avid watcher of storm-chasing live streams, mainly because I’m out there observing supercells myself on just about every off-day when the occasion presents itself. In that scenario, usually being the driver, I’m watching the road, not a cell-phone feed of a live stream.

Live-streaming storm-chase video can be beneficial, done thoughtfully and with benevolent motivation, if performed by responsible storm observers who are experts in storm behavior and morphology (mostly, but not entirely, degreed meteorologists), and further, willing to educate their viewers on the features seen as safely possible (i.e., while parked with video pointed the right direction).

At work, as time has permitted, I have caught opportunistic glimpses of streams from several chasers whose electronically geolocated “beacon” icons appear in areas relative to a storm that offer insightful views of its appearance and behavior. This is when a storm tells its own story through the lens of a video-broadcasting spotter of sorts — offering insights about the atmospheric conditions around it, especially in snapshot intervals every so often to see how it has changed. In that sense, video streams have helped with forecast decisions, and have revealed the presence of a tornado or large hail before local storm reports or chat reports of ground truth arrive from warning offices. I’ve lost count, in fact, of the times I’ve seen a tornado on a live stream before the LSR or chat affirmation came out. In this regard, the vastly over-used canard about storm chasing “helping science” is true — just a little, for a very brief bit.

On a few occasions, I’ve called or chatted a forecast office to mention a tornado seen on streaming video, about which they did not know yet. [Why the chaser himself didn’t bother to report it, while in such good cell signal to support streaming, is a good question, one best asked of that chaser.] In observing chats at work and and listening to HAM radio broadcasts between spotters and offices while afield, I’ve heard several instances where live streams helped the warning process by either alerting directly to a tornado or other severe-weather phenomenon, or verifying an existing warning. Running streams also help to show home-bound folks, weather fanatics, or just the curious, what storm observing really is like: many miles and hours of rather mundane driving and clouds, punctuated by fleeting few moments here and there of amazing severe weather.

Granted, I do not live-stream video from the field, due to knowing my limits in terms of minimizing distractions and nuisances of multiple pieces of equipment and connections. Electronics and I generally do not get along well. Port this, codec that, this not “handshaking” with that, interferences, wires here and there and everywhere, error this, failure that, “Dammit this ain’t working!”…no. I experienced that mess for a couple springs in the early 2000s, and it’s not for me anymore. I observe storms for fascination, awe, learning, documentation, appreciation, and photography — not aggravation. My gear is very minimalist, consisting of paper maps, still cameras (not even video anymore), and a smart-phone (no texting or hand-held calls while driving!). Any more than that is too much.

Moreover, and most of all, the road demands top attentive priority while moving, and rightly so. I am absolutely not immune from error and have committed mistakes! The two times I have hydroplaned off the road, in 1999 and 2003, both in or near Lubbock, were results not of inattention, but driving too fast for conditions (regardless of being under posted speed limit). I have chosen not to add the distraction of monitoring a video feed due to thusly limited multitasking and technological ability. For those who can leave live streams running while driving, essentially autonomously and without direct intervention by the driver, I say: go for it. The practice has been a net positive, despite what I’ll type below.

Some live-stream video for money’s or ego’s sake, to get paid to find the XTREME INSANE up-close footage, to revel in adulation or to soak merrily in the ego boost of getting a name on a far-away TV screen. These are manifestations not of technology, but personality disorders. Such behavior and misplaced priorities are but microcosms of society at large, brought to bear in a small subset of storm chasing. I’ve ranted about “yahoo” activity as far back as the 1990s and don’t care to regurgitate all that here. Yet I will say that motivation does matter — the rush to get here or there to capture the XTREME INSANE scene can lead to reckless behavior, especially when layered on ignorance of the storm, poor road conditions, driver inattention, and overconfidence on one’s own knowledge and abilities. Those I know who are motivated artistically or experientially (as opposed to monetarily or for recognition) almost never are the same ones acting like yahoos! My experiences with fellow scientists afield are mixed; most chase responsibly, while some have behaved like raving idiots. So yes, some motivations for chasing and video streaming are safer, better, more valuable, more beneficial to other people, and more worthy than others. Does that statement bother you? If so, deal with it: look squarely in the mirror and examine why.

Live-streaming reveals not only insightful aspects about storm behavior, but also, chaser behavior. Like it or not, when you live-stream, you are setting an example. Act accordingly. Sometimes the example is terrible, and it shows.

I’ve seen first-hand, on several occasions, and many more secondhand reports of, storm chasers of all experience levels running stop signs and red lights, passing uphill and in other no-passing zones, speeding at obviously over 100 mph, trespassing on private ranch roads, and other patently dangerous and reckless behavior. With mixed results, I’ve called out such actions privately to a few chasers, and will go to peers, law enforcement, and/or public if I notice a chronic problem. We storm observers don’t need our mostly good names tarnished by the idiocy of a small minority, nor our friends and colleagues injured or killed by others’ habitual recklessness. This isn’t about perfection, which none of us can claim honestly, but obvious and wanton recklessness.

[NOTE: This section largely was typed but not posted before the most recent incident.]

Back now to the latest deadly incident. Before anyone starts into it, the “too soon” tone trolls are not allowed to stifle my opinions, so don’t bother. I’ll decide when it’s “too soon” for me to write. After viewing the final live stream, it’s not. Though I didn’t know him, I wish I had said something to Kelley after catching one of his feeds at the right time to notice his or his driver’s running a stop sign on a couple of chases last year. My excuse: got distracted, forgot…moved on to other things. How much more did I not happen to see? Would making the time to say something while it was still fresh in mind have prevented tragedy? Maybe, maybe not. The worst that can happen is being ignored or told off (water off a ducks’ back for me). From what I’ve heard, he was a great guy, easy to get along with; maybe he would have taken seriously a note out of the blue from a well-known severe-storms meteorologist and decades-experienced storm observer, saying in effect: hey man, I saw that. I care. Somebody could get killed. Cut it out. For all of us…

The issue of dangerous chaser behavior is nothing new at all; in fact here’s a two-decade-old essay by Chuck Doswell and me. Not only will this tragedy cause me to rededicate to road safety, but whatever inhibition I had about calling out bad field behavior (first to the chaser, then to the public if reaction and results are not favorable) are hereby gone. If we don’t police ourselves, those with much less passion for and understanding of the hobby will take it upon themselves to police us. If that happens, guess what: I’ll exercise my American right to volunteer my “inside knowledge” to help the cops and legislators to do so. Read into that whatever you will. If it prevents more of this carnage, more deaths of innocents like young Mr. Jaeger (who was struck at that intersection and died instantly, as the above story notes), so be it, even at my own personal inconvenience.

The choice is yours, mine, ours…we act, we put a brake on this nonsense. Otherwise, some won’t like what will need to happen, and what I’ll support, with full focus and prime credibility to back it up.

Next will appear a guest column more focused that crash, by a friend who cares…

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