DALLAS — The winds of change have been blowing strong over the North Texas pro sports landscape.
Rewind just two years ago:
- The region hosted a Super Bowl
- The Mavericks won an NBA title
- The Rangers made back-to-back World Series trips
"We may look back at that period and think that's the golden years in this city for sports," said Norm Hitzges, sports talk host on SportsRadio 1310 The Ticket.
But now, storm clouds are gathering. So — with the help of a trio of veteran media members — we've put together a forecast for the calendar year.
- A dense pea-soup type fog; a fog so thick, it makes you wonder if you're going in the right direction.
"With Jerry involved there's always a recipe for potential bad weather," said longtime Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Jim Reeves.
The Cowboys have salary cap issues. The power structure at Valley Ranch has come in question (again). And with an aging group of core players, Cowboys Nation can only wonder where their team is headed.
"You know the old Texas line about 'If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes and it'll change?'" Hitzges asked. "Well if you don't like what's going on at Valley Ranch this season, wait five minutes... it'll change. Who's running this club?"
Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin is sticking with the weather theme.
"Its been a fairly dense fog for the last 17 years," he said. "You have to draft. In a salary cap world, you have to draft well. You can't have flat tires like the Cowboys have had on draft day."
- There is dark cloud cover for the Rangers, thanks to performance-enhancing drug allegations surrounding Nelson Cruz.
But this team has dealt with off-field issues before, so there's a possibility for a clearing trend.
"I do think we've got some fair weather coming for the Rangers still," Reeves said.
Instead trying to fill the power void after losing Josh Hamilton, the Rangers will have to embrace a different way to win. More pitching and defense will be required.
Even so, with what the Rangers brain trust has built, they provide the area's best chance for post-season success.
"That's what Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan have been trying to do, is build that farm system so they can bring players in when necessary, and plug 'em into those spots and those roles, and they've got some winning caliber players they can bring up," Reeves said.
- It's stormy weather for the Mavericks.
Channel 8 meteorologist Steve McCauley likes to talk about "breaking through the cap" to allow for rain. Well, the Mavericks' attempt to manage the salary cap has forced them to have to weather the storm.
"This club does not have any basic youth to build on," Hitzges said. "The stars are getting old."
The Mavs are six games below .500 with 30 to go, and it will take a miracle finish to make the post-season.
And as Dirk Nowitzki continues to age, getting a "big fish" free agent will only get tougher.
"If you can't get the home town kid to come home, you're going to have a tough time getting a free agent to come in here with a descending Dirk," Gosselin said. "I just don't see where [Mavericks owner Mark] Cuban's going to go with this blueprint."
- We're forecasting partly cloudy skies for the Stars.
They've got some young talent with vets mixed in, and there's at least some hope here for a warming trend.
"If we can hang on through the winter here, there appear to be enough good kids coming here and new management that's really good, so there could be some sunny days ahead for the Stars," Hitzges said.
That's the hope across the local sportscape, because there's a significant streak in play here: At least one of the the Big Four North Texas pro teams has made the playoffs every year since 1990.
"I wonder if we're not in for a year in which we don't have anybody in the playoffs in this city," Hitzges mused.
So, with that as a backdrop, the silver lining in this mostly cloudy and gloomy forecast is this: The winds of change will blow.
It is North Texas, after all.