What's in a name?
by Dan Wetzel, Yahoo Sports
April 1, 2004
And yes, for the record, Brackettville really does exist, home to 1,876 souls, minus whoever lived in that double-wide they were moving out as we were driving in.
With the Final Four taking place just 123 miles east of here in San Antonio you would think NCAA tournament fever would be sweeping the few streets of Brackettville, which almost shares a name with the fictitious community featured in the Nike "Welcome to Bracketville" commercial campaign of 2000.
That is why we came expecting to find people praising Coach K at the post office, worrying about B.J. Elder's ankle outside the courthouse and recounting John Lucas' heroics over a chicken fried steak at Barbara's Back Porch restaurant. Basically hoops talk everywhere.
We were wrong.
"The Spurs," he said.
This is a small, remote ranching community. Maybe it is no surprise few even knew who was in the Final Four. We tried to get an official comment from the mayor pro tem of Brackettville, Francisca Garza. Someone around here has to have a favorite, right?
"I like them all," Garza said.
Typical politician. Anyway, here is what we know. Brackettville is a great place, but no matter what Nike claimed, it is not much of a college hoops town.
It is so bad that even though the town's name was the centerpiece of a huge and popular commercial campaign, no one we found here was aware of it.
"Really?" asked city manager Bonnie Wardlaw.
We'll forgive Garza for not paying attention. At 24 she is the acting mayor dealing with a major scandal. According to her, a former city official is accused of bilking Brackettville for $200,000 and darn near bankrupting the place.
"They were about to cut off the natural gas and electricity for the whole town," said Wardlaw, who was kicking around the humble city hall with Garza.
In a town of limited means and few growth opportunities – we are about 30 miles of empty fields from the Mexican border – repaying 200 large is no small feat. One of Garza's ideas seemed like a good one. Considering Brackettville has no police force of its own, but, for some reason, owned a police car, she authorized the cruiser to be auctioned off. It netted $7,000.
"It made a dent," Garza shrugged.
But some critics figure the car was worth more.
"It's a hoot around here," Wardlaw said. "Everyone thinks they know everything."
This is in part because that's how small towns, are and in part because of the comprehensive coverage of the Brackett News, the weekly newspaper that is religiously read.
One popular section is the letters to the editor – this week Wardlaw was being criticized for telling a man to leave city hall and "come back when you're not drunk." Another is the Sheriff's Log, where no crime is too small. Just this week a "woman reported someone was throwing rocks at her goats."
"You've got to read the Sheriff's Log," laughed Garza. "Here's one I'll never forget. A woman left a barbecue sandwich in the front seat of her car, went into a store and when she came back someone had taken a bite out of it.
"Not eaten the whole sandwich, just one bite."
Wardlaw said: "Remember when Matt Terrazas reported his truck was stolen? They looked all over for it until they realized it was just repossessed."
What, you think you would have time to worry about Emeka Okafor's back with all this going on?
"We're friendly people here," the mayor said. "But look, if you really want to know about Brackettville you need to talk to Plunker. He'll fill your ear."
So we went and talked to Plunker. He was right where everyone said he would be, seated in front of a cold can of beer at the perfectly classic El Paso Street Bar and Grill, whose only rule appears to be "No Dogs Allowed."
At 69, Plunker Sheedy is the town legend. Both his grandfather and father were local sheriffs. When Plunker was in his 20s they filmed the John Wayne movie about the Alamo nearby, so while he may not know much about Duke, he has all sorts of stories about partying with the Duke.
"He was a big drinker and he burnt up that road to Mexico," Plunker said of trips to some less-than-reputable south of the border spots.
Plunker is a Texas original. He once bought a plane and taught himself how to fly. He has held a million different jobs. And he is, for two weeks running, champ of the bar pool tournament.
See, a bracket in Brackettville. Maybe we can help turn this place into a college hoops haven after all.
So Plunker, who is your team?
"The Dallas Cowboys are popular around here."
Ah, forget it.
When in Brackettville don't talk basketball. Just order another Lone Star and blend in.
"Hey Plunker, did you hear about Matt Terrazas' truck. ..."
Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Friday, Apr 2, 2004 1:44 am, EST