Mulkey’s state tournament experience was infinitely better than this

If you’re trying to follow the LHSAA’s 2023 Oschner Girls Marsh Madness event – formerly known as the Sweet 16 when my hair was dark – this week in Hammond, here’s wishing you patience and good luck.

The information flow was infinitely better when Kim Mulkey was playing for Hammond High, way before coaching the country’s No. 4 college women’s basketball team 40 miles west of her hometown.

In those days (1977-80), Mulkey was known as “The Hammond Honey” (that wouldn’t fly today, would it?), averaging 35 points in her trademark pigtails as she led her school to four straight state championships. Daily newspapers (remember those?) from every city in the state had writers courtside, some reporting on every game whether or not local teams were involved. There was no streaming video (suddenly we are caught in a Bayou State Back to the Future episode; details to follow), but plenty of radio broadcasts, and crowds included people from around the state, a considerable number who came just to watch, not necessarily to cheer their own teams.

Now nobody, not the Associated Press, not the state’s “paper of record” in Baton Rouge, and certainly not any of the Gannett products, covers every game, even with a cursory 4-5 paragraph story and box score. That’s not progress. Not ripping the people who cover sports, just wincing at those whose budget decisions have decimated so much of what the sports fans took for granted when Mulkey was in uniform, instead of in wardrobe.

Not to criticize the LHSAA. So many of the shortcomings are beyond its control, starting with the train wreck that ensues in the year of our Lord 2023 when the internet service collapses.

That happened at the end of last week across the internet platform at Southeastern Louisiana University, which includes the University Center arena where Marsh Madness is being staged. The public was alerted quickly that ticket sales would revert back to cash only – no cards. Admission for adults, $18, is cash.

Word is that the internet problems may be rooted in a malware attack that has forced a shutdown of SLU’s access to the worldwide web. There’s also some shaky service over at LSU, but not a total collapse there, yet.

Looking at the smaller picture, no internet at Southeastern meant at least erratic, if not non-existent, live streaming game coverage of state semifinal games Monday through the provider. You couldn’t see Oakdale winning its battle with Arcadia 47-46 on a buzzer-beating, banked-in 3-pointer. You couldn’t watch the final game in the incredible coaching career of Florien’s Dewain Strother, who finished with well over 1,200 wins, but not one more with his granddaughter on the team. It ended with a 46-41 loss to another perennial small-school girls’ powerhouse, Hathaway (whose five starters all played every second, all 32 minutes). Woulda been fun to watch.

Parkway fans, be warned. If you want to watch the Lady Panthers (seeded No. 2, but, c’mon) in their Thursday 4:45 semifinal against No. 3 Barbe, you very likely need to be in the gym in Hammond. We’ll have postgame coverage in the Journal, of course, and when the Lady Panthers play at 8 Saturday night for the state championship (and they will), you’ll get that story right here – but maybe not via, through no fault of its own.

Don’t expect to follow scores via Twitter. There’s no special provision of internet access for media at the University Center. Even using their own hot spots has proven fruitless more often than not so far. Give the LSHAA credit for finding a way to post halftime and final box scores on its @LHSAASports Twitter account.

I’m not being sentimental when I suggest the good ole days were better. I am being prudent giving Parkway people a heads up.

BTW, next week the boys’ version of Marsh Madness moves to Lake Charles, where presumably there will be internet. But the Southland Conference Tournament runs through Wednesday night at McNeese’s Legacy Center, so the support staff from the hometown university’s athletic department (absent entirely at Southeastern, oddly, which used to not be the case) won’t be involved in staging the event at aging Burton Coliseum.

This is progress, 40-plus years later? Whatever it is, the teams that win won’t mind, even if the experience won’t be what it once was.

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