United by Sport: Drayton McLane Jr. delivers folk tales at a talk at the museum | Region

BELTON — Folksy and story-filled, Drayton McLane Jr. received a warm response Friday night at the Bell County Museum.

McLane, chairman of the McLane Group and former owner of the Houston Astros, gave the museum’s third and final spring lecture: “Sports and Life: Lessons from the Playground.”

After being introduced by museum director Coleman Hampton, McLane said Hampton was his local hero.

“Out of all the chaos in the world today gave me sports to talk about,” the Temple businessman said. “Sport…brings us together.”

During an Astros game against the St. Louis Cardinals, a sportswriter asked McLane why people love sports. It’s the only thing in life where there’s a way to determine the winner and the loser, the sportswriter told him.

“Sport captivates everything we do,” said McLane.

Talking about numbers — as he did throughout his speech — McLane said 1,400 high schools in Texas have football teams. With just over 40 college players, that’s 60,000 young men playing football in Texas. Counting all non-college players, there are probably more than 100,000 young men each year playing football in this state, he said.

He told a story about the Canadian football team, Texas Class 2A who played for the 2015 UIL State Championship. The Canadian football players, band, cheerleaders and fans had to make a 598 mile trip to Houston.

“Can you imagine riding (that far) in a yellow school bus?” he said.

Their opponent, Refugio, only had to cover 170 miles. The Canadian population that year was less than 3,000, he said. Refugio’s was pretty much the same.

“There were 6,800 people at the game,” he said. “We love football in high school.”

Last year, UIL played 12 games at the Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, he said, and 240,000 people came. Enthusiasm for high school football continues to grow, he said.

“We don’t know anything about their academics, but we certainly know their football teams,” he said.

Considering everything, McLane said he sees this enthusiasm for football as a good thing. At the college level, he says he’s not so sure paying players is a good idea. And he said he didn’t like that players were allowed to move freely between colleges.

“For me, that goes against teamwork and the idea of ​​working where you are,” he said.

He mentioned the NFL, NBA and the French Open in Paris, and said everyone loves watching the Olympics, even the events they know nothing about.

The fascination with watching sports is both good and bad, he said.

“Watching a sporting event doesn’t cheer you up?” ” he said. “Sport brings us together in a unique way.”

However, we have to remember that it’s just a game, and sometimes we take it too seriously, he said.

In 1905, he said, when the building that now houses the museum was built, people spent 40 to 50 percent of their income buying food for their families, he said. Today in the United States, he says, that figure is 10%.

“But look around the world,” he said. “Maybe a third of them are starving or spending 90% of their income on food.”

Americans have a lot of free time, he said. If we’re not careful, he says, we can spend too much time watching sports on TV.

“Sometimes I think we make the wrong choices,” he said. “We could do something that benefits others.”

McLane then recounted how he – a Cameron country boy – became the owner of the Houston Astros. He acknowledged that he was raised by devout Christian parents.

On several occasions, he says, his mother told him and his two sisters, “The most important thing in our lives is our Christian faith and our love of family. The person you befriend will determine who you become.

He said his mother had “spies all over town” and that he was careful to surround himself with Christian friends.

One day in 1997, a banker friend of his asked him if he wanted to be the fifth partner in the purchase of the Houston Astros. After some deliberation, McLane agreed.

The partners met John McMillan, owner of the Astros. He was tough, McLane said, and they couldn’t make a deal. They dropped the idea, but as McLane returned to Temple, he called the partners and suggested he try negotiating on his own. They didn’t think too much about it, but he did and ended up buying the team.

“I’ve been to three professional games in my life,” he said.

McLane went to see his father.

“I was so proud of you,” her father told her. “Have you spoken to your mother?”

So he told his mother about it.

“Do they play on Sundays?” she asked. “Could you consider not playing on Sunday?

McLane went to talk to his former pastor.

“I think it’s a good idea, if you stick to your principles,” his pastor said.

When McLane told his mother about the pastor’s response, she said, “He’s retired.

During his first year with the team, McLane went to spring training with the idea that he was going to inspire the players. His manager, Art Howe, doubted it. But McLane persisted and went to give the 25 players a pep talk.

“I gave them ‘work together’ and ‘win together’,” he said. “None of them were looking at me.”

He tried again when the team returned to Houston, with the same result.

The coach invited him to his office.

“They’re not high school athletes,” Howe said. “Major League Baseball is not about teamwork. It’s an individual sport that is played as a team.

When you’re at third base, he said, and the baseball hits you at 300 mph, you’re on your own. A midfielder performing an over the shoulder grip is in the same position, he told McLane.

“It was my introduction to Major League Baseball,” McLane said.

Angela C. Hale