The Art of Sports Talking: Preseason

In the Introduction to ‘Sports Talking,’ we determined that The World of Sports has a language all its own, and that each individual sport has an even more specialized lingo.

A field goal is different in football than in basketball. “Pin” is one thing in bowling and another in wrestling. A skater spins lots and lands; a second baseman spins once and throws.

It’s like in America, where we all speak the English language but someone in the Northeast calls a Coke a “soda pop” or “bottle of pop” and we in the South call the same thing a “soft drink” or a “drank,” or even a “Coke” when we don’t really want a Coke. How many times have you heard this in the fast-food place or outside a convenience store:

“Get me a Coke.”

“What kind?”

“Uhh, Dr Pepper. NO! No. Pepsi. Mountain Dew if they don’t have it.”

Language is one big, beautiful mess.

Later down the sports talk road, we’ll talk individual sports. But today we deal in something universal: preseason sports talk.

While each sport has its own tongue, the overall feel and sound of any preseason sports talk is the same. And the word of the day in preseasons is, no question, “excitement,” or some form thereof. Whether the volleyball or stock car racing season is beginning, “excitement” wins the day.

“We’re excited about who we’ve got coming back.”

“We’re excited about our schedule, excited for our fans, excited for these seniors.”

“We’re just excited to be together again, to get out on the (field, court, pitch, ice, lanes) and see what we can get done as a team.”

 You’d give a 50-dollar bill and I would too if just once a coach would say, “We went 0-10 last year and have everybody back and I gotta tell you, I’d be more excited if the doctor told me I had to have both my ears and one knee cut off.”

So, if anyone asks you about your team, you are “excited.” Company line.

Also, you have heard that the players are “flyin’ around out there,” that they look to have a “high energy level,” that they are “just having fun.”

Sure, “focusing on fundamentals” and “attention to detail” is a “grind,” but to win we’ll have to “do the little things right.”

Tiffany has worked on her serve all offseason and you look for her to “figure it out” this year. The second-line bowling athletes are going to have to “step up” because the “nucleus” looks solid and we just need some “new blood” to “contribute” and help us “piece this thing together” and we’re “excited” to have a chance to do that, which, “hopefully,” we can do.

(File this away: the word “hopefully” is a biggie at ANY time in ANY sport. “Hopefully” is a golden preseason word, a parachute before the bullets start flying that can be used as a “backtrack” word later and cover a multitude of shortcomings if “things don’t go our way/(we screw up).”

Of course, Timmy or Sally are stars but “they can’t do it alone” so we’ll need “everyone pulling the rope the same direction.” That’s our “brand” and “who we are,” and we’re trying to “establish” that by our “focus on the little things.”

Look for the coach to assure you they are having “a good camp” and that although stuff is “constantly being installed,” the players are “catching on” and “working hard” and they’d better because “we’ll have to earn it.”

And maybe they will. If everyone keeps flying around and stepping up. And sticking to fundamentals. If everyone keeps contributing and having fun. Because if they don’t, it’ll be hard to be excited, which most teams are at first and most teams aren’t at last.

What you want is for the excitement to last. And it can. Maybe it even will.

“Well, I mean … hopefully…”   

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Lake Yucatan: Go east, not south to Mexico, for fishing fun

It was probably 20 years ago when I made my first and only visit to a Louisiana lake that has its ups and downs. I’m talking about Lake Yucatan, one of the many oxbow lakes in close proximity to the Mississippi River.

My friend Mike Gammill from Oak Grove took me to the lake to give the crappie a try. We didn’t catch many but I was impressed by the size of the slabs we caught.

Looking at a map of Yucatan, it resembles a long and narrow question mark and what sets the lake apart from other oxbow lakes along the big river is the fact it is an “active” oxbow. This means that when the river rises or falls, the same thing happens to Yucatan because at the lower end of the lake, there is a two-mile long chute that connects the lake to the Mississippi River.

This rise of water levels in Yucatan produced when the river is high creates several situations for the lake. First, when the lake is very high, you can forget about fishing because access to the lake is next to impossible.

While anglers wait for the water to fall, however, the mighty Mississippi is improving the quality of fish in the lake by pushing a boat load of nutrients into the lake which has the capacity to improve the size and quality of the fish along with replenishing the lake’s fish population. 

For years, I have written and broadcast fishing reports from lakes around north Louisiana with Yucatan on my list of lakes I call each week. James Lachney from Gilbert owned Yucatan Landing and was my contact. He was always on the ball about keeping me abreast of what was happening on the lake.

Because of a health condition that curtailed his ability to see after the property, Lachney sold the business to his nephew, Gene Lachney, who is set to retire from the National Guard in a couple of years. Gene’s parents, Terry and Juanita Lachney, are running the landing until he retires.

Today, my contact is Gene’s mom, Juanita, who keeps me up to date on what is going on at the lake.

“The water level is low and on a slow fall right now and we had a wonderful weekend recently with all the campers filled and people from all over catching fish. The lake has been producing fine catches of not only big crappie but lots of bass, catfish and barfish,” she said.

“The lake is on a slow fall and this seems to be the absolute best time to catch fish. The water levels totally depend on what the Mississippi River is doing. When they get heavy rains up north to swell the river, we get high water here and sometimes we have to shut everything down and move out until the river and the lake levels start receding,” she said.

To keep up with the conditions for Yucatan Lake, all one needs to do is go on Facebook and search for Yucatan Landing to find not only photos of proud anglers showing off their catches, but also a graphic showing the stages of the Mississippi River. When it reveals that the river is falling, so is the lake. However, when the line on the graph zooms upward, you can forget about fishing until water levels drop.

Although you can’t fish the lake then, just know that the waters of Lake Yucatan are being replenished by fish and nutrients that are destined to keep the fishing up and going.

Yucatan Landing is located some five miles from the village of Newellton in Tensas Parish. For information on fishing conditions, camping sites available and other amenities, visit the Yucatan Landing page on Facebook or call the landing at 318.467.2259.

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Tennis tournament ‘serving it up for kids with cancer’

It’s a date he keeps on his calendar every year — for a number of reasons.

“Oh, man, for at least the last 10 years,” Todd Walker says about his participation in the annual Northwest Louisiana St. Jude Classic.

Yes, the event — with teams competing as mixed doubles pairs in levels 5.5 through 9.0+ — is one of the most popular tennis tournaments in the area.

“It’s a fun weekend, and it’s highly competitive tennis,” says Walker, a fixture on the tennis courts at Pierremont Oaks since his retirement from Major League Baseball.

That’s just one of the reasons the former LSU star, a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, is a regular in the event. But that’s not the main reason.

“We (Todd and wife Katie) have friends with a daughter who was going up to St. Jude’s for spinal treatments,” he explains. “Now, their child goes up there every six months to a year for check-ups.”

All proceeds from the tournament, which will be held Sept. 9-11 at Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club and Southern Trace Country Club, go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

“This is just a small, small way we can support that cause,” says Walker.

Tournament co-chair Edmund Brown says the money raised from the tournament is “kind of a drop in the bucket. But if it wasn’t for all the buckets . . .”

Actually, all those buckets from this particular tournament have added up to over half a million dollars donated to St. Jude since the event’s inception in 2008.

“As of a couple of years ago, Louisiana had the second highest number of referrals to St. Jude, behind only Tennessee,” says Brown. “That tells you how important it is in Louisiana to have this resource.”

It is an invaluable resource, especially considering that families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food. Approximately 8,600 patients are seen at the children’s research hospital annually, with most treated on a continual outpatient basis.

Brown says around 150 players have already signed up for the tennis tournament, which usually has a field of about 300. Registration begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9 at POTC and STCC with play beginning at 5 p.m. Play begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday with matches scheduled all day both days.

Your entry fee ($100 per person before Aug. 27 and $125 between Aug. 27 and Sept. 2) includes lunch on Saturday and Sunday and dinner on Friday and Saturday.

There is plenty of time to sign up to play, but that is not the only way you can donate to this worthy cause. The non-playing social guest fee of $60 allows you to watch some incredible tennis and participate in all the meals (and free beer) and the silent auction.

Whether you’re playing, watching, volunteering, or simply making a monetary donation, you can make a difference in the lives of children with cancer by participating in the Northwest Louisiana St. Jude Classic. In the 14 years of the tournament, 2,571 players have participated, 9,839 tennis balls have been hit, and $512,935 has been raised.

Those are some pretty incredible numbers. With your help, those numbers can get larger.

Eight thousand, six hundred patients a year at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. With your help, those numbers can get smaller.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com


Miles later, Brennan makes his last audible the right call

Nobody’s mad, or admitting to it, regarding Myles Brennan’s semi-surprising decision to end his football career, leaving the LSU quarterback room without its security blanket.

All the nice things were said Monday. There was plenty of feel good. It’s textbook PR, to get out in front of a negative story with (apparent) transparency and (seemingly sincere) respect and mutual admiration. Perhaps the hierarchy at Louisiana Downs takes note of that approach.

But no horsin’ around here. Myles Brennan is unhappy. He feels betrayed by new LSU coach Brian Kelly. As a descendent of one of New Orleans’ great restaurant families, he surely understands business decisions. Doesn’t have to like Kelly’s depth chart, but it is what it is.

So he, and Kelly, took the high road out of Baton Rouge, elevation 56 feet above sea level.

Brennan was the Tigers’ only SEC-tested quarterback, and his credentials were at the very least, solid.  In three games as the 2020 starter, he threw 11 touchdown passes and only three interceptions, going 79 of 131 and becoming the first Tiger to throw for 300-plus in his first three starts.

His leadership ability and toughness were unquestioned after he played through a muscle-mangled outing at Missouri, when he completed 29 passes for 430 yards and four TDs.

That turned out to be the last game of his life. In basketball, there’s a credo among shooters, when practicing, that you always leave on a make. Wasn’t planned that way, but Brennan has left on a make.

Degree in hand, fiancée on arm, future away from football very bright, Brennan is no dummy. As for football, he can live as a fondly-regarded, much-admired Tiger who can enjoy reunions of the 2019 National Championship team forever, and whatever business field awaits, he will have LSU goodwill always at his back.

He probably realizes due to his pair of injuries (remember, he broke his left arm slipping on the deck during a July fishing trip, costing him the 2021 season) that his skills may have diminished.

Kelly and staff concluded that was the case.

Brennan was stepping into the transfer portal while LSU was in limbo at the end of the Ed Orgeron era, but when Kelly came in from Notre Dame, he persuaded Brennan to backtrack to Baton Rouge, for what seemed to be a senior season do-over that had all the potential for a big finish.

Then Kelly created more competition, or chaos – take your pick. He landed Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels, who entered the portal with 6,025 yards and 32 TDs in three seasons starting in Tempe as a dual-threat QB.

It was “one of the more difficult decisions that I made in the offseason,” said Kelly, “but it was about … upgrading the competition on this roster across the board.”

That couldn’t have been well received by Brennan. At least Kelly didn’t string him along. The LSU QB pecking order was outlined in last Thursday’s scrimmage and none of it favored Brennan. It was apparent Daniels was in front and redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier was in the race. Kelly said if he had been healthy enough, Nussmeier would have gotten snaps with the first team. Brennan was clearly on the outside.

He didn’t mind the competition, he said in spring and during the summer. He wasn’t bad at all, but he wasn’t mobile, and if you recall LSU’s offensive line the past couple of years, that’s a volatile combination.

His quality of life got better Monday. He departs with dignity, instead of carrying a clipboard this fall. And he gets to keep that NIL money – from five businesses, including Raisin’ Canes and Smoothie King.

Leaving was a bittersweet call but, undeniably, the right one for a guy who gave it every chance to work at LSU.

Contact Doug at SBJDoug@gmail.com


Too many questions surround Louisiana Downs’ approach to 2022 Super Derby

More than a month before Louisiana Downs began its 2022 thoroughbred meet, new owner Kevin Preston made an attention-grabbing revelation that provided a shot in the arm for horse racing fans – especially locals.

The Super Derby was back.

“It puts us back on the map,” said Preston, the President of Rubico Acquisition Corporation — the company that purchased Louisiana Downs Casino and Racetrack from Caesars Entertainment and VICI Properties for $22 million in November. “It shows that this new ownership group is serious about racing, and about bringing this track back to life.”

The Super Derby, established in 1980 and a former gem on the national scene, hasn’t left the gate since 2019.

Preston’s assertion was a smart move, but appears to be irresponsible at best, likely hollow and possibly deceitful.

Wednesday, just one month prior to the supposed Super Derby Day, Louisiana Downs sent a press release to selected people and organizations stating the 2022 Super Derby was off.

In the release, obtained from other outlets, Preston said, “While we were excited to potentially bring the Super Derby back …”

Potentially?

So, if we’re to believe the original statement, this shows Louisiana Downs fans and horsemen the new ownership is not “serious about racing.”

I’m not sure what to believe.

Was there ever a plan to run the Super Derby this year, or did Preston attempt to leverage the track’s calling card to cheaply drum up interest and goodwill prior to his first meet?

Other than Preston saying the Super Derby was back, there’s not much proof. For starters, the race is not listed on The National Stakes Conditions Book, the stakes schedule at Bloodhorse.com or the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA).

Plus, there was never a Super Derby Prelude on the books. In the past, the Prelude Stakes offered horsemen loyal to Louisiana Downs entry into the Super Derby. The race, roughly a month prior to the Super Derby, featured many local horses and trainers and offered the top few finishers a stakes purse and a free ticket into the track’s signature event.

Al Stall Jr. parlayed Apart’s Prelude win and a fees-paid berth for the big race into a Super Derby romp in 2010.

The only stakes events listed at Louisiana Downs in racing publications were the six races ($50,000 each) held on Louisiana Cup Day (Aug. 6).

So, a month before the race there were no details available. The track then spun the disappearance of the Super Derby as, “The race will return in 2023!” Again, no details, just a general statement and a smokescreen about Historical Horse Racing machines, pending off-track betting locations, and sportsbook revenue. Plus, a plan to place another 100 new slot machines on the casino floor, which will “increase slot revenue and further enhance the purse structure.”

Those HHRs are cool, I’m a huge fan of the sportsbook and OTBs (by the way, the Mound location was supposed to open long ago), but there is good reason to be leery.

I wonder if Downs officials realize the ramifications of the not-so-super Derby confusion. According to TOBA, the group that initiated the graded stakes process in 1973, the race was ineligible to be a graded event in 2022 and – even with a COVID exemption from 2020 — is likely ineligible to be a graded event (your chance to attract elite talent) in 2023.

“If a race is not run for two or more years or has not run in two of the last three years, it is ineligible for grading,” FOBA rules state. “Stakes races that are eligible for grading must appear in the track’s published (electronic and/or print) stakes book before the beginning of the meet with their run date and full conditions.”

Naturally, we’d love details straight from the horse’s mouth on why the Super Derby was void of full conditions and wasn’t on any calendar for 2022 despite a pledge otherwise. However, the folks in charge have repeatedly denied requests for basic information.

“We wanted to make sure people knew that we were serious, and that’s why we wanted to bring back the Super Derby,” Preston said in April. “We want to make sure it’s on people’s minds for years to come.”

What else has been promised and not delivered to local fans and horsemen?

Another freezing-cold take made by Preston early this season: “We may not be able to get (the track) back to its heyday in the ’80s, but we sure want to give it a shot.”

May not be able to? There is ZERO chance the 1980s are coming back to the Downs or any other horse track in the nation.

As the horse racing industry ran into tough times in the early 2000s, Louisiana Downs felt the squeeze.

For so many reasons, certainly not only because of the folks running the track, the crowds, purses and interest waned. One of the few things the Bossier City facility kept was the Super Derby.

Sure, it lost its Grade I status (the highest in the sport), and then its Grade II status, and then its Grade III status – now that was the track’s fault (a short-sighted move to the grass in 2017, under prior ownership). The purse tumbled from $1 million to $200,000.

But Louisiana Downs still had the Super Derby – the track’s undisputed calling card. Now, there is no chance the modern-day Alysheba is rolling into Bossier City.

The ’80s? Let’s start with a goal to get the track back among the top in the state of Louisiana.

Currently, a place like the Fair Grounds is Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont and LaDowns is aptly-named Sham.

 Contact Roy at RoyLangIII@yahoo.com


A day that (still) lives in infamy

By the time you read this, I will already have received at least two or three texts.

How do I know? Because this is August 12. I always receive texts from a certain group of people on August 12.

We share the same memories of this day, which is inexorably etched in our minds (and, all these years later, perhaps still in our bodies).

The texts will begin with “Remember when …” or “I still …” or “It’s hard to believe …” and will go from there.

We all know August 12 because we can’t forget August 12.

Way back when, August 12 was the day that high school football practice started. And not just one practice – it was the start of two-a-days.

Our group of former team members will text each other on special days during the year – Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter … and August 12. And while the old “war stories” are fun, the bigger part is the bond that still exists all these decades later. It’s not just the former players; a couple of our coaches also join in. (Thankfully none of them are yelling at us to “do it again until we get it right!”)

To be honest, what we went through at the start of summer practice really didn’t resemble football. There was a lot of rolling around in the dew-filled grass, jumping jacks, sprints, getting hit by hand-held padded dummies and more sprints. Every once in a while, an actual football would appear.

Then we’d come back and do it again in the afternoon. Fun times!

You can’t do two-a-days anymore because school has started by now. But even if you could, the authorities would probably be slapping the cuffs on high school coaches for mistreatment of minors.

It was around August 11 when we all realized that maybe we should have gotten in better shape in the previous three months instead of hanging out at the lake or working on our suntan.

Every year on the morning of August 12 in my high school football years, I would walk into the locker room with the same thought college basketball teams have during March Madness — survive and advance. Get through this practice and get one step closer to the finish line.

You could forget about any kind of break from the weather. I actually looked it up — between August 12 and the 29th in my senior year, it rained exactly .04 inches — total.

It was always a tough call whether morning or afternoon practice was more miserable. Morning was sticky and humid; afternoon was Equator Hot. I would stand on the practice field and calculate how long it would take the sun to get behind the nearby nine-story United Gas building. That might drop the temperature from 100 degrees all the way down to 97, huh?

Even worse, if possible, was the smell of mesh practice shirts with dried sweat on them in the locker room. That is an odor I can still smell to this day.

Unless you lived through it, you can’t possibly imagine the dread of waking up on the morning of August 12. There are a lot of things I have feared going through in my lifetime and I can promise you that August 12 is still at the top of the list.

But the dread was only temporary. We didn’t realize it at the time, but those two weeks of hell did so much more than just get us in condition for the upcoming high school football season.

I know that, because I just got another text.

Contact J.J. at JohnJamesMarshall@yahoo.com


O.J.’s local roots bring him back for golf, family

JUICE BREAK: After a round of golf at Huntington, O.J. Simpson shared his thoughts on football, the presidency, and his family.

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports

I don’t know what it was that made me drive the golf cart across the fairway and introduce myself. Curiosity, I imagine. It’s not like I put a lot of thought into it. In fact, I had no idea what I was going to say when I got to his golf cart.

There I was, in the middle of the 17th fairway at Huntington Park golf course, introducing myself. “Hi. I’m Harriet Prothro Penrod. I’m with the Shreveport-Bossier Journal, and I was wondering if I could do a short Q&A with you after your round.”

He looked me right in the eyes, held out his hand, smiled, and said, “Are you related to (College Football Hall of Fame coach) Tommy Prothro?”

“No,” I said, “but it is spelled the same way.”

He said sure, he’d be happy to sit down and visit after the round. “Well, okay,” I replied. “I’ll meet you in the clubhouse.”

It was on this same course two years ago – playing in the Ebony Golf Tournament – that I saw O.J. Simpson. Actually, I heard him first and recognized that voice. There was no doubt about the identity of the large man bending over to find his golf ball in the high grass on the other side of the 15th green.

He hung around the clubhouse after the tournament, but I had no desire to go up and talk to him. Perhaps now – two years later — that I was writing for the SBJ (which didn’t exist then), I felt the journalistic urge to interview the (in)famous individual. Maybe people would be interested to know what he was doing in Shreveport.

Think what you may about him.

Growing up, my favorite sport was football. I spent endless days in the front yard – in pads and helmet – playing with my cousin, younger brother, and any of the boys from the neighborhood who wanted to play. When my cousin, who was “all-time QB,” wasn’t playing, that meant I got to be quarterback. When Jeff was there, I’d play wide receiver.

More than once, there would be a knock on our front door and my mom would answer to hear a young boy say, “Can Harriet come out and play quarterback?”

Believe me, that’s not what my mom wanted to hear. But I digress.

I say all that to say this: I loved football – playing it and watching it. And I grew up watching O.J. Simpson play football – at USC and for the Buffalo Bills, where his quarterback was Shreveport’s own Joe Ferguson.

Maybe that’s what made me want to talk to him. Whatever the reason, last Sunday I cut my own round short and waited in the clubhouse at Huntington, wondering if he was actually going to come in and sit down to talk.

If he did, what would I ask him? I hadn’t prepared a “Q&A” or anything else to ask him. I’d just wing it – bring up some topics and see what he had to say.

And in he walked . . .

And so I said . . .

“I saw you at the Ebony tournament here a couple of years ago. How often do you get to Shreveport?”

 Every two to three years, I come for a family reunion. We’re having our reunion this weekend. We own property in Greenwood – it was deeded down to our family. My kids didn’t make it this year. My two younger kids both have kids under one (year old).

“How are you spending your time these days?”

Between golf and fantasy football, I stay pretty busy. Golf has kept me sane through the years. It gets me up, keeps me moving. I just turned 75. I’ll usually play Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday (in Las Vegas). Sometimes people in town want to play, so I’ll play more. We’ve got a golf group in Vegas called “In the Cup.” There are about 12-13 guys from the Shreveport area who come play. Eventually, we’re all going to come down here and have a tournament – maybe at Squire Creek (outside of Ruston in Choudrant).

“What do you do when you’re not playing golf?”

I’m on Twitter. I’ve had over 900,000 followers. I try to stay out of politics, but that’s almost impossible. I try to keep it in sports and history.

“Who do you think are the best running backs in the NFL today?”

King (Derrick) Henry (Tennessee Titans) and Jonathan Taylor (Indianapolis Colts). And Saquon Barkley (New York Giants) is definitely in the top 5 – he just can’t stay healthy.

O.J. talked some more about football – how he and (Pro Football Hall of Famer) Eric Dickerson would be attending, and had a bet on, this year’s opening NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. He talked some more about politics – how he thought either California Governor Gavin Newsom or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would be the next President of the United States.

Before leaving, I told O.J. I had one last question: “So, generally, how do people treat you out in public?”

Generally, very well. Rarely do people say something out-of-line.

It was then that a gentleman walked across the clubhouse and asked O.J. if he could have his picture taken with him. You see, as a 10-year-old, he had watched Simpson play in Buffalo and had even gotten O.J.’s autograph after the game.

A football fan . . . like me.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

Photo by GINA WOODWARD


Orphan Train to Hall of Fame

In north Louisiana, you know the story or you don’t, the book on Joe Aillet, the one that reads like legend.

In a hint of foreshadowing, a young orphan is born during football season, 1904, and later rides the Orphan Train (yes, there once was such a thing) from New York City to Louisiana, where he was raised by the housekeeper of the priest of a small Catholic church in Cajun country.

In schools operated by the Congregation of Holy Cross, the boy Joe Aillet developed into a young scholar, and a student-athlete, and finally into a gentleman unmatched, a master of English, an educator for all seasons and in all sorts of classrooms, and an iconic coach.

Who could have known how the trip would end when some kind soul placed him on the train in New York City, now more than a century ago…?

His induction in the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame are just a few of the honors that testify to the impact of the orphan who became a father figure to so many, especially to the young men he coached to a dozen football and golf championships.

There’s another way he was honored. That was in 1972, the year after he died. Today, Joe Aillet Stadium is where Tech has played football for the past half century, and where a little kid named Chris Kennedy ran around and watched games and rolled down the hills that used to be in the south end zone.

“I can never remember not knowing the name ‘Joe Aillet,’” Kennedy, now 25 and a Tech graduate, said. “But I didn’t really know anything about him.”

He does now. The son of Tech faculty, a boy who grew up in the shadow of the stadium, a library guy who loves words and reading, Kennedy began chasing the “legendary mystique,” a journey that’s ended with the recent publishing of Louisiana Tech’s Joe Aillet, a sort of love letter, both to Kennedy’s hometown and to one of its legends.

Kennedy (Class of 2018, 20), currently studying for a second graduate degree and working at the Louisiana State Archives in Baton Rouge, used his personal history, plus information from nearly 1,000 articles and 50 interviews to illustrate the full picture of what he calls “an uncommon coach and reserved scholar” whose “off-field biography rivals his sideline career.”

“He was — is — the most brilliant man in my lifetime in the sports world,” Nico Van Thyn, former executive sports editor of the Shreveport Journal and a student at Tech at the end of Aillet’s career, said. “He was … a teacher who chose athletics as his field, but he would have been super in any endeavor. Those of us who were at Tech during his three decades of leadership were so blessed. He was ‘The Smooth Man.’”

The book is released Monday, but Kennedy will take part in a special pre-release book signing Saturday as the Tech football, soccer, and volleyball teams host Fall Fan Fest from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Thomas Assembly Center. Admission is free, all ages are welcome, and everyone from Kennedy to student-athletes to Champ to the spirit squads will be available for photos and autographs. 

The 176-page paperback, $26.50, is published by The History Press and available from most online and in-store booksellers.

Quick note in closing: While Aillet’s legend bloomed at Tech, it was born at Haynesville and Northwestern State where he got his start, where he was as likely at football practice to be overheard quoting Shakespeare as he was to be teaching the finer points of the power sweep. As Kennedy’s book illustrates, Aillet was a passenger no rails could hold, a runaway train, well-groomed and well-mannered, Fate’s good gift that stopped at our station.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Give lightning some distance, because a bolt packs quite a jolt

The folks at the TV station had cautioned everyone about the possibility of thunderstorms in our area. OK, so we had been warned, so while we kept our eyes on the skies, life around our house was continuing as normal, one morning about a year ago.

As rain began falling, I made sure our garage door was closed and I settled down with my morning coffee inside rather than taking my usual treasured spot on the back porch. Kay was folding laundry as we watched the rain fall, the sky darken and periodic flashes of lightning and accompanying thunder draw closer.

Without warning, it sounded as if a bomb had detonated inside our house. The explosion was ear-splitting and with all the tall pines around our house, we knew that a bolt struck one of them.

Recovering from the blast, I cautiously stepped into the garage to begin assessing the damage. Strangely, the garage door I had closed only moments ago had opened by itself. Hitting the switch to close it, nothing happened; the bolt had knocked out the remote control.

Next, I checked our alarm system; it was also dead. The biggie, though, was when we activated the central air system and it was inoperative.

The sum total of damages resulted in replacement and repair costs approaching $2,000. Fortunately, homeowners insurance paid a portion but we had to pay the difference.

I began a search later that day for the tree that lightning had struck to cause such damages to our home. It was not until several weeks later that I noticed the tell-tale results of a dying tree, the little white globs of resin that begin showing up once a tree begins its demise. Bugs had started working on the tree that lightning had struck, a tall pine that stood within 10 steps of our garage.

Lightning is something that can be deadly. A typical lightning flash is about 300 million volts and about 30,000 amps. In comparison, household current is 120 volts and 15 amps. Wow, no wonder we experienced damage when it hit a tree so close to our house.

When lightning strikes a tree, water in the cells instantly begins to boil, creating steam and the expanding steam can explode, cracking or stripping off bark.

Another source said that lightning is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the U.S. Did you know you can be struck by lightning when the center of the thunderstorm is 10 miles away?

Several years ago, I witnessed the aftermath of a lightning strike on a big oak at Lincoln Parish Park. The tree was virtually blown apart with strips of bark catapulted several yards from the trunk.

On another occasion, hay was being baled in the pasture across the road from our home with round bales on the ground waiting for pick-up. A bolt of lightning struck one of the bales and I watched in amazement during a heavy rainstorm as the bale had caught fire and was burning. 

This is the time of year when folks are out on the lake fishing, boating or skiing and it’s also the time when thunderstorms can crop up quickly. If skies darken and the rumble of thunder is heard, it’s time to leave the water and seek shelter until the storm passes.

Lightning can be deadly and can do strange things, like causing a garage door to open by itself or setting a hay bale on fire.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Congratulations to our outdoors columnist, Glynn Harris, for adding to his legendary awards stash in the recently-announced Louisiana Outdoors Writers Association writing contest.

LOWA celebrated its 75th anniversary last weekend with its annual convention in Thibodaux. Excellence in Craft awards were presented and Mr. Harris collected three for articles he wrote for various publications before joining the Shreveport-Bossier Journal this spring.

He won first and third-place awards for his syndicated articles, and a first in the “magazine short story” category. He is one of the most acclaimed outdoors writers in LOWA history.

Harris is a weekly contributor to the SBJ, appearing every Thursday.

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Back-to-school supply inventory speaks a harsh reality

It’s “go time” for high school students as they return today to their respective campuses in Caddo and Bossier. Elementary school and middle school students in Caddo got a head start by beginning their school year last week. 

For the past 12 years, part of the Byrd Family tradition on the opening day of school has been to end our day by wading through the mass of late back-to-school shopping humanity at Target, Office Max, and Office Depot along Youree Drive in South Shreveport. 

It’s not for the faint of heart. 

Last year, while hunting for the perfect three-ring binder for my daughter, I saw a backpack which included a new feature for 2021-2022 … bulletproof backing at Office Max. Usually, backpacks will advertise stain resistance or liners in the pockets. I guess we have moved away from those bells and whistles to advertise how well it can hold up to a bullet.

Strange and sad times, indeed.

While I had heard that these were a thing, there was a different feeling seeing it in person hanging in the store and parents checking it out. 

My initial thought: manufacturers playing to the fears of the public – perpetuated by mainstream media. 

Then May 24, 2022 happened. 

Nineteen children and two adults were killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, the third deadliest school shooting in United States history.

There are no words in the dictionary to adequately describe what that community experienced on that day or has experienced in the 78 days since.

On June 21-22, my school year ended. As an assistant principal at C.E. Byrd High School, my last assignment was to attend the Louisiana’s Safe Schools Conference held by the Louisiana School Resource Officers, at the Shreveport Convention Center.

The keynote speaker, Phil Chalmers, talked to a room full of school administrators, school resource officers, sheriffs from around the state, and district level security personnel. 

As he talked to the attendees, calls came in over the sound system. These calls were from prisoners who had committed school shootings.

After Chalmers would briefly interview the school shooter, asking them what was going through their mind when they carried out the violence, and what–if anything–would have prevented them from doing it in the first place, he asked the convention attendees if they had any questions for the school shooter. 

Some law enforcement in the audience did, in fact, ask questions. I did not. 

This happened two or three times.

Chalmers interviewed these cold-blooded killers like a sleep-deprived sportswriter interviewing the quarterback after a high school football game. 

Later, Chalmers showed actual video footage of school shootings.

I’ve been an educator of 27 years, and it made me physically ill to watch the reactions of the bodies of students and teachers going limp from bullets received inside the classroom — to the point that I almost got up and walked out. 

Why am I watching this? What is the point?

I’ve thought about that convention and those questions in the seven weeks since. I’ve also thought about the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, in Uvalde, Texas who are starting the school year without a child. Without a parent. Without a classmate.

Again, no words.

There is no back-to-school shopping excitement this year in that Southwest Texas town. Only horrific memories, anxiety, and emptiness left from the innocence lost on that day in Uvalde. 

While the mainstream media and politicians continue the blame game from a procedural standpoint, educators and school leaders across the country begin this school year adding emergency management protocols, lock down procedures, and active shooter trainings to their 2022-2023 lesson plans.

Sadly, it’s the new normal. Like loading up new back-to-school supplies in a bulletproof backpack.

Contact Jerry Byrd at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


Former Parkway star Eric Brown Jr. moves quickly to Low-A

Eric Brown Jr.’s whirlwind summer continued Sunday with a near-cross-country flight from Arizona to North Carolina. After just a week at the Arizona Complex League, the Milwaukee Brewers bumped the former Parkway baseball star to their Low-A minor league club in Zebulon, North Carolina.

“It’s all happened pretty fast,” Brown told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal as he waited in baggage claim Sunday night.

Brown was the 27th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft on July 17 and the 21-year-old shortstop hasn’t had a lot of time to reflect on his dream come true.

Brown, his parents, his girlfriend and his hitting coach were whisked to Milwaukee to visit the big club.

“I got to walk around (American Family Field), signed my contract and I met Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen — guys I’ve looked up to since high school,” said Brown, who has attempted to replicate parts of Yelich’s swing.

His first on-the-field stop came in Phoenix at the ACL, where he found a somewhat rude introduction to pro ball.

“I was up against a Double- or Triple-A pitcher, and after not seeing live pitching for about two-and-a-half months, it took a second to adjust,” Brown said.

Brown recovered from the 0-for-3 debut to post a .308 batting average and a 1.009 OPS during his first week.

“The Brewers have a great video crew,” Brown said. “They send the at-bats to your phone through an app and you can watch it whenever. Once I saw those first at-bats I was able to get back into the swing of things. When I got the first (hit) out of the way, everything started to click. It was pretty awesome.”

The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder also scored seven runs and swiped four bases in 17 plate appearances.

“It’s fun to steal bases,” Brown said. “I recently added that to my game. (Cape Cod League) coach (Mike) Roberts showed me a trick to steal bases. It’s made the games 10 times more fun. Basically, I feel that when I have a single I can make it into a double.”

The Brewers wasted no time moving him to the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, located less than three hours from where Brown exceled for Coastal Carolina University.

The Mudcats enjoy an off-day today before game action resumes Tuesday against the Delmarva Shorebirds in Salisbury, Maryland.

“The coach texted me and said, ‘For your first minor-league game you have to travel six hours on a bus.’”

The Mudcats have barely more than a month left in the regular-season, but Brown will soak in every second, including the final series of the year, set for Sept. 6-11 at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – where his draft stock rose while with the Chanticleers.

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/07/18/first-round-mlb-pick-brown-to-carry-memories-of-20-into-pros/


Our favorite Corner this summer

Quite often when I go to a local restaurant I will see Larry Toms, a long-since retired basketball coach at Bossier High and a man who knows how to tell a good story. It was early summer and I had been thinking about upcoming stories for the Shreveport- Bossier Journal when I realized there was a potential feature two tables over.

So I sat down, turned on my voice recorder and told Larry “go.”

That’s how the summer series called “Coaches Corner” began. I knew there were plenty more out there like Larry Toms who had great memories of their coaching days.

As anybody can tell you who ever played a sport, you don’t forget your coach. So I knew this would be a fun weekly adventure and that readers would enjoying hearing from people who had influenced their lives.

There was no well-organized roadmap – the only loosely defined requirement was that they were all at least 70 years old – and in some way or another, I had a relationship with them.

Almost all I had covered in my first incarnation as a sportswriter. One had been my high school football coach. Another I would see at a local fitness facility. I’ve played golf with a couple of others.

In typically unplanned fashion, I just went from one to the next. Almost all were easy to track down – if I didn’t, I figured somebody knew how to get in touch with them – and after Toms, it was Clay Bohanan, Anthony Catanese, Alden Reeves, Doug Robinson, Gerald Kimble, Billy Don McHalffey, Will Marston and Ron Worthen.

This was among the easiest and most satisfying series of stories I’ve ever done. Easy, because it wasn’t like I had to come up with a long list of questions. These were just conversations that we had. All I had to do was throw in some adjectives and verbs when it was over and piece it all together.

Satisfying, because the reaction these stories got was far more than I expected.

Most of them were football coaches, but they had a wide range of backgrounds. Some stayed at one school, others moved around. Some were head coaches in multiple sports.

Amazingly, four of them are still working (though none as a coach).

It wasn’t a surprise to hear some universal answers. “The relationship with the kids” was the basic automatic response I got whenever I’d ask about the best part of coaching.

But the best part was how excited they would get when I’d get them into “coach” mode, as if they were still on the sideline or in the dugout and trying to find a way to win one more game. There were games from 40 years that they still haven’t forgotten. Not coincidentally, most of those were losses that still sting.

Some missed coaching, some didn’t, but I got the feeling that all of them would relish a crack at winning one more game.

But not all of the nostalgia was pleasant. The final story in the series was with Worthen, who was a long-time coach at Southwood. When I asked him what he remembered about coaching, he didn’t waste any time.

“I remember how horrible the conditions were as far as the practice area and facilities were,” he said. “We had to go out every day and pick up rocks and broken glass off the field. We’d go out with buckets and walk down and pick up everything that had come up from the ground.”

When Southwood was built in 1970, the topsoil that made the school grounds was sold, so when the Cowboys’ practice field was subsequently built “they brought stuff in but it wasn’t good soil. It was rubbish,” he said.

And then he paused for a moment before bringing up a subject that I knew about but, shame on me, never actually thought about.

There were three linebackers in succession at Southwood in the 1970s — Ken Serpas, Danny Huffstickler and David Adams — who were all outstanding players.

Adams died in 2007.

Huffstickler died in 2013.

Serpas died in 2015.

All three had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

There are many suspected causes of ALS. One of them is environmental toxin exposure.

So yes, these coaches still have great stories to tell. But some of those stories have a lot more impact than just who won or lost.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/08/02/coaches-corner-once-a-cowboy-worthen-was-always-a-cowboy/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/07/19/coaches-corner-taking-fatherly-advice-never-a-problem-for-mchalffey/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/07/12/coaches-corner-kimble-kept-at-it-built-green-oaks-powerhouse/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/07/05/coaches-corner-reeves-left-the-nfl-to-become-a-captain-shreve-gator/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/06/28/coaches-corner-robinson-made-widespread-impact-in-various-roles/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/06/21/coaches-corner-forty-years-later-coaching-still-hasnt-left-catanese/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/06/14/coaches-corner-no-longer-in-dugout-bohanan-remains-vital-to-baseball/

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/06/07/coaches-corner-uncle-larry-knew-when-it-was-time-to-go/ 


A knuckle sandwich and a home run ‘hello’

Two things happened that made a certain two-week stretch one of the best of my feeble and pitiful life.

I knew neither could ever happen again, and they haven’t and they won’t.

One was that St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog and San Francisco Giants manager Roger Craig got in a fistfight during the fourth inning of an otherwise-nothing Tuesday night game at old Busch Stadium.

I know what you’re thinking and you’re correct: it was awesome. Awesome on steroids.

It was old Busch Stadium in St. Louis, July 17-27, 1986, a Thursday through the next Sunday, the stretch immediately after the All-Star break. The Los Angeles Dodgers were there for four, then San Francisco for three, an off-day, then San Diego for three.

I was there for all 10 games in 11 days. It was my sixth year as a sportswriter but only my second as a sportswriter with a real paycheck and dental. This trip was vacation, but I was able to write some stories about Mansfield’s Vida Blue and the Giants, the big-league club of Shreveport’s Captains, to help cover my gas, which I put in my truck and drove to the condo of my friend Rammer, a St. Louis homeboy and broadcaster.

I’d been there for five games when the second game of the three-game set with the Giants rolled around. Spent most of those games keeping score in the press box, cracking jokes with Ramz, and posting up by the chocolate milk machine, the best ever in my deep chocolate-milk-machine experience. (This piece of equipment did not make it into the new Busch Stadium press box, an oversight I still find hard to comprehend.)

St. Louis would finish 28.5 games back of the Mets that season, San Francisco 13 back of Houston. But on this hot weeknight in mid-July, neither team knew that.

With the Cardinals, built on speed and line drives, on their way to a 10-2 lead thanks to the eight runs they’d scored in this, the Cardinals half of the fourth, the Cards’ speedy outfielder, Vince Coleman, stole second off the Giants’ always unkempt-looking righty Juan Berenguer.

And then he stole third.

Craig started walking toward home plate, upset the home team was stealing with a 10-2 lead, and then Herzog strutted quickly to meet him, and then home plate umpire Bob Davidson saw what was about to happen and got between them, and then both dugouts emptied and it looked like two giant arrowheads pointed at each other at home plate, with Davidson and the suddenly swinging Craig and Herzog going at like they were on the playground at Warren G. Harding Middle School.

I nearly wept, overcome with joy.

After the game Herzog, his sock feet on his desk and a Busch Light in his hand — zero chance of them running out of those in Busch Stadium — said to us writers, “I told him we’d quit stealing bases if he promised not to hit any more home runs.”

The Giants, built on power, had done just that in the second (Bob Brenly) and the eighth (Joel Youngblood), but it wasn’t enough: the Cards won, 10-7, and would sweep both the series and the Padres over the weekend.

“Does he (Craig) think he invented the game?” a sipping Herzog was saying. (You will have to add the cursing, and trust me, you can’t add too much of it.)

And I could have headed back home then because that was the icing on the baseball cake of what had happened during the weekend.

Vin Scully, who as every American knows passed away this week at 94 and was a Dodgers broadcaster for 67 years, had done the Dodgers-Cardinals Game of the Week for TV Saturday. Ramz introduced me to him in the press box after the game. Scully’s partner, Joe Garagiola, was sweating like a hog with typhoid — it was so hot that Saturday that the steel cleats worn by St. Louis’ Willie McGee melted and bent on the centerfield turf (true story) — but Scully looked entirely refreshed, as always, cool and ready to attend Mass, as he did each Sunday, home or away.

Which I’m sure he did the next morning before going to Busch, this time to call the game for his team’s network on radio. And it was during the seventh-inning stretch when I turned to see if I could see him and I did and his eyes caught mine — I’d gone into the stands to sit with some of Rammer’s friends for a couple of innings — and during Take Me Out To The Ballgame, he smiled and waved, not in a TV suit now but in a short-sleeved button-up, and semi-loudly said, “Hey, Teddy!” Like you’d holler at a buddy at, of course, a ballgame.

Can see it now. It was only a moment.

But how did he remember that, “that” being me?

And then it was over and he kept smiling and waving at people looking up at him and then the bottom of the seventh started and he was back sitting, calling the game, telling stories, entertaining and informing and working another half-inning in a life and career unmatched, one filled with humility and grace and kindness, the cherry on the top of all that talent and work ethic and love of life and love of the game.

Contact Teddy at Teddy@LaTech.edu


Thoughts on bass fishing, by a novice

With photos of big double-digit bass constantly showing up on social media, I began thinking about fishing for bass from the perspective of a novice, a non-pro — in other words, from me.

I love to fish for bass. Something about the explosion on top of the water when a bass smacks a topwater plug gives me the jitters. Ditto for when I feel the tap-tap on the line when fishing a plastic worm and seeing the line begin moving to the side. Catching a glimpse of white beneath the surface when a bass smacks my spinner bait is something else that gets me worked up.

I don’t fish bass tournaments; never have. I fish for bass simply because I love the sport.

It all started for me when as a kid, my dad gave me one of his old hand-me-down reels, a Pfleuger Akron casting reel without any of the fancy stuff reels come equipped with today. My reel was spooled with black line strong enough to pull a mule out of a bog; this was before monofilament line came on the market. The reel was fastened to a Tru-Temper steel rod.

I carried the lures he gave me in a brown paper bag and they included some that would likely be collector’s items today. When is the last time you went to the tackle shop and saw a Shakespeare Dopey; a River Runt; Dalton Special or Hawaiian Wiggler on the shelf? Those were the lures with which I learned to fish for bass. You could spend a couple of bucks and be pretty well outfitted with fishing lures. However, they were treasured products you didn’t want to chance hanging up and losing.

I remember fishing for bass in Molido Creek behind the house, a creek that was home to not only bass but sharp-toothed chain pickerel. We called them “jack fish.” I made a cast with my much-loved River Runt and the lure plunked down next to a fallen log, a perfect hidey hole for a bass.

I began my retrieve when I got a solid hit. Raring back on my rod, I was set to fight what felt like a really nice bass when the fish I had hooked sprang from the water with my River Runt dangling from its toothy jaw. I panicked when I realized this was no bass, but a jack fish which promptly severed my line taking the only River Runt I had with him. I have felt resentment and dislike for jack fish ever since.

I remember the first squirrel I ever shot; the first deer I brought down; the first gobbler I called in and downed, the first duck I ever shot and I remember the first bass I ever caught.

I was a little bitty shaver and was fishing the same little creek behind our house. Casting a Hawaiian Wiggler next to a stump, I promptly got a strike, set the hook and six inches of bass was catapulted out of the creek and over my head. I grabbed the squirming fish and hot-footed it through the woods to the house to show my mama what I had caught.

Recently while headed back home for our high school reunion, I paused when crossing the bridge over Saline Bayou and looked toward the railroad bridge just on the other side. This was a spot when as kids, we could seine crawfish, head for the sandy banks with cane poles and toss a hook baited with a crawfish into the current.

If things went as I hoped, the line would straighten, quiver and I’d be setting the hook in a bass that used that sandy stretch of water for spawning. We called them smallmouth bass when in reality they were spotted or Kentucky bass.

I never dreamed of becoming a bass fishing pro nor did I ever want that lifestyle. Having the chance to see the swirl, feel the tug and know I’m connected to a bass has given me a lifetime of fishing pleasure, and the opportunity to share it with friends and readers.

Contact Glynn at GlynnHarris37@gmail.com


Paperboys are gone — (except yours…)

A young Smithsonian Magazine staffer named Chris who is working on a piece about the history of bicycle newspaper carriers contacted me by email this week. Being a paperboy was his first job, back in the late 1980s, he told me. 

If you lived in town big enough for access to a newspaper, being a paperboy or papergirl was almost a rite of passage, definitely a job coveted by your classmates and friends. At daybreak in towns across America, the paperboys were the modern-day Pony Express, saddling up their bicycles and throwing papers onto porches of their dentists and teachers and Little League coaches. 

As American as Paul Harvey, apple pie and Easter bonnets. 

“No one seems to be able to tell me if this profession still exists,” Chris wrote. “So, I’m writing you to Ask the Paperboy… about paperboys. Or girls.” 

For years now, this column has been a spot where you could send your questions to the Paperboy, who I know personally. I have a few of your requests stored and will try to crank out an ‘Ask the Paperboy’ in the next couple of weeks — if I can get Paperboy to answer his phone. 

We’ve written more than a year’s-worth of these in the past three decades, and they usually go something like this. 

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

I’m all fired up about this weekend’s release of Water For Elephants at the picture show. Tell me, when was the first Bearded Lady? I love the circus! 

Hairy in Homer 

Dear Hairy, 

Short answer: too soon. By the way, did I ever tell you about my toughest interview? Ever? It was with the Headless Woman. She’s a tough quote. I said “Huh?” a lot. 

Or …  

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

If you see a turtle outside his shell, is he homeless or nekkid? 

Slowly, Kurt in Fordyce 

Dear Kurt, 

At that moment, both. And probably cold. And wondering where he’s going to keep his keys and wallet. 

Or … 

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

It is the 50th anniversary of the Ken doll. Do you have a favorite?  

Gated Community Barbie 

Dear Barb, 

Probably the Talladega Ken, who comes in blue jean cutoffs, a straw cowboy hat, is tattooed by Office Depot and smells like 30-weight. Pull his string and he says “Nice viscosity!” and “My trailer, or yours?” 

As I told Chris, readers often ask me things and I don’t know the answer, but Paperboy does.  

And he knows enough to answer Chris’, who asks, again… 

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

No one seems to be able to tell me if this profession still exists. So, I’m writing to Ask the Paperboy. Some of my friends say there is no Paperboy, that you can’t see him so he’s not real. Please tell me the truth: Is there a Paperboy? 

Chris at Smithsonian Magazine 

Dear Chris, 

Most papers these days are delivered by what are called ‘newspaper carriers,’ adults in cars. And more and more newspapers are now being delivered digitally. But …  

CHRIS, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Chris, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little in this great universe of ours. 

Yes, CHRIS, there is a Paperboy. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Paperboy. It would be as dreary as if there were no Chrises. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. Only those things, only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain of the unseen world to view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. 

No Paperboy? There is! He lives, continuing to make glad the heart of reader hood. Oh Chris, there IS a Paperboy — and you owe him $43.18, counting the leftover balance you forgot to pay last month. See you on collection day Saturday. 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu 


SPAR drops ball on Battle on the Border

The Five P’s are important.

“Prior planning prevents poor performance.”

This week, local high school football coaches are talking to their teams about the Five P’s as most have begun practice for the 2022 season.

Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation would do well to go out to some of the practices and take notes on the subject as the 11th annual Battle on the Border will be held Sept. 2-3 (Friday/Saturday) — with next to no representation from Caddo-Bossier teams.

The reason? A lack of attention to detail on the part of SPAR.

C.E. Byrd head coach Stacy Ballew likes the BOTB, but when he was contacted in early spring about participating, the details were lacking.

“They couldn’t tell me who I would be playing, when I would be playing, the compensation I would receive, or even a list of teams involved in the event,” Ballew said. “The way it was presented, I didn’t trust that it would be an event that we wanted to be a part of.”

Even last week, SPAR representatives told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal they had recently reached out to local coaches in hopes of getting teams in the event this year — just over a month away. Yet nobody from SPAR has contacted Ballew since early spring.

“Four years ago, it was a great event,” Ballew said. “It was well run, and we always enjoyed participating.”

That is obviously no longer the case.

Even if SPAR were to have its footballs in a row and be able to give Ballew and other local head coaches more details, early spring is already too late to ask high school football coaches to participate. The schedules are already set.

“Those conversations take place in December,” Ballew said. “I’ll pick up the phone in December and call Rodney (Guin) at Calvary and say ‘Hey, you want to play?’” Ballew said. 

This is not the first year where there have been signs of mismanagement by SPAR’s BOTB event management crew.

Instead of BOTB officials telling Ballew who his opponent would be in last year’s BOTB, he had to go out on his own and find a foe.

“I had to call and get Tioga,” Ballew said. “Then Coach (Mike) Suggs called Tioga and had to help us talk them into participating.” 

A conversation with Parkway head coach Coy Brotherton suggests more evidence that SPAR has simply dropped the ball.

“Didn’t even know that was still a thing,” Brotherton replied when asked if he had been contacted by SPAR to participate in the BOTB. “I haven’t talked to anyone.”

“We would have probably considered it since our turf wasn’t done,” Brotherton said. “Instead, we had to move our game to Bossier High.”

Brotherton said it looks like the turf will be finished in time for the Panthers to play Minden at home on Week No. 1. 

SPAR assistant director Joe Mero told the Journal last week that “once we moved to the first weekend, a lot of teams already had their schedules in place. I’m wishing and hoping.”

It’s early August. It’s more than a little late in the game for Mero and his staff to be “wishing and hoping” for local teams to participate. What they should have been doing last December was picking up a phone and calling. 

The last-minute push wasn’t completely futile. Mansfield was persuaded to give up its home opener and will play Huntington at Independence Stadium in the BOTB’s final game at 7:30 on September’s first Saturday night.

But I have yet to see a full list of teams participating. Why? Because the Battle on the Border website, with the first game less than 30 days away, had not been updated Wednesday afternoon.

SPAR does many good things — especially for the young people in our community — but as it relates to the mismanagement of the Battle on the Border and providing local high school football fans with a true showcase … C’mon man!

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com


We’re lucky to relive our good old days of covering football – and soon

We’ve been preparing for this for a couple of months now.

Actually, we’ve been talking about it and planning for it longer than that. Almost everything we have been doing the past eight weeks has been in preparation for it – timely features by Lee Brecheen of Louisiana Football Magazine on local players; John James Marshall’s excellent summer series on prominent retired local coaches; team-by-team schedules by Lee Hiller.

It’s almost here, and we can hardly wait.

It’s not unusual to be excited about the start of high school football – not in north Louisiana. But, here at the Journal, the anticipation is exceptionally high for a number of reasons:

  • Since Shreveport-Bossier Journal has been in existence for only six months (it became the 10th Parish Journal to go into publication in January 2022), this will be our first coverage of high school football season
  • While some of our writers have been in the broadcast booth for football games over the years, this will mark the first time in almost 30 years that this group will be back together again actually covering high school football games in print
  • It’s high school football. Enough said.

The past two Thursday nights have been special as Origin Bank hosted appreciation suppers at its downtown Shreveport location for high school football coaches and related personnel from Bossier and Caddo Parishes. These events, coordinated by SBJ, provided an excellent atmosphere for our online publication to let the schools know about our plans for comprehensive coverage of local high school football. First and foremost, we’ll be expanding to daily editions seven days a week in the fall.

As I walked around the meeting room at Origin Bank during those events, I recognized a few faces in the crowd. Then it hit me: the last time I covered high school football, some of these people hadn’t even been born yet.

They have no idea how different it will be for us this time. With smart phones, we can now sit in the press box and get real-time scores. We can hook into the school’s wifi to send our stories over the internet to our publication.

No more Radio Shack computers (I use that term loosely) or land-line hookups to try to send in your story (I can still remember that sound of dial-up – if it worked).

There weren’t many females covering football back then – whether it was at the high school, college, or professional level. I’ve been fortunate to write about many sports, but nothing compares to covering football.

My fondest memories include:

  • High school: getting in the car on Friday evening, driving east on I-20, cutting off into the woods and driving in the pitch dark – looking for the stadium lights through the trees and following them to the dirt parking lot, parking and walking up the stadium steps to the tiny press box, and keeping play-by-play stats before heading down to the field and chasing down the head coaches to get a quick quote.
  • College: on Dec. 16, 1989, Oregon defeated Tulsa 27-24 in the Independence Bowl. It’s not the score I remember, that it was the final I-Bowl without sponsorship, or that quarterback Bill Musgrave (Oregon) and defensive back Chris Oldham (Oregon) were the MVP’s. No, what I remember is that it was bitter cold (29 degrees) and the press box was open at our feet. My legs got so cold that, at halftime, I informed the other sports writers that I was going home to get my electric blanket and return for the rest of the game. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when I actually returned to the game deep into the third quarter. I think they had a bet going as to whether I would return. It never occurred to me to stay home once I got there.
  • Professional: the first step I took into the New Orleans Saints locker room after covering a game and a team employee yells, “Female in the locker room.” That was a loooong time ago, but I can still feel a little embarrassed when I think about it.

Yep, those were the good old days. I can’t believe we get to live them all over again. And soon.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com


COACHES’ CORNER: Once a Cowboy, Worthen was always a Cowboy

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

Last in a series

If you didn’t know any better, you’d swear that when they opened the doors of Southwood High School in 1970, Ron Worthen fell in.

Not exactly, but close.

He has a 36-year career as a coach and teacher at the school. It wasn’t unusual then (as well as now) for coaches to change schools during their careers, but not Worthen. He was head football coach at Southwood for 12 years (1983-94) as well as coaching the offensive line as an assistant.

His career could have taken a different turn before he ended up on Walker Road. After a career at Arkansas State, he was chosen as a center by Super Bowl champion Green Bay in the 1968 NFL Draft.  But a herniated disk put him on what was known as the “taxi squad” for the Packers and after a playing for a season in minor league football, he took a job with Liberty Mutual Insurance in Shreveport.

“I spent a lot of time on death cases and putting a value on that,” Worthen says. “That didn’t appeal to me too much.”

Because he had a teaching certificate, he decided to try a new career and took a job at Southwood. (Strangely enough, the school started before the building was ready, so some Southwood students actually took classes at Woodlawn for a few months.)

The new school quickly grew in population and the Cowboys didn’t waste any time becoming one of the top football programs in the city. The battles with neighboring Woodlawn routinely drew crowds of 15,000 or more.

When Ken Ivy left after the 1982 season, Worthen was one of five finalists to become head coach. This was a time in which Southwood had what was described in a newspaper story as “the largest – and most – active group of followers among Shreveport schools.”

During the spring of 1983, that became evident in the hiring process (as well as being an example of how times have changed). A screening committee recommended another candidate, but Southwood boosters made their voices heard and the School Board overruled the committee and named Worthen.

If there were any lingering problems, Worthen put them quickly to rest. The Cowboys were 8-2 and co-district champions during his first year but – get this – didn’t make the playoffs due to the tie-breaker system at the time. (See how times have changed?)

From 1986 to 1988, Worthen led the Cowboys to a 13-2 district record and won or shared the district title all three years. His ’87 team made it to the quarterfinals.

He would have another quarterfinal team in 1991 (going 10-3 overall) before stepping down as head coach after the 1994 season. He is still the winningest coach in Southwood history with a record of 81-53-1 (.604).

“I got out when I felt like it was time to go,” the 77-year-old Worthen says. “It was the right move at the right time.”

Among the list of teams that knocked his Southwood teams out of the playoffs are familiar stumbling blocks for local schools during the 1980s and ’90s – the Cowboys fell to Ruston, Ouachita and three times to Neville.

But playing Neville wasn’t anything new for Worthen’s teams.

“The great thing about coaching is the relationship you develop with the kids,” he says. “That’s the reason I stayed in it for 36 years. The bad thing is that in Louisiana, the boards of education really don’t support athletic programs as far as funding or anything else. I had to go get games against big-name schools.”

In each of Worthen’s 12 years, the Cowboys’ opening game was with either Texarkana (Ark.), Marshall (Texas), Neville or Barbe. Southwood only won two of those. “But you had to play them to get better,” he says.

When he retired from Southwood, Worthen took a job with the Shreveport Regional Arts Council and worked there until 2015. “That kind of took my mind off of coaching,” he says. “I really didn’t miss it.”

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

https://shreveportbossierjournal.com/2022/07/26/coaches-corner-the-buc-starts-here-at-will-marston/


Teachers answer some interesting questions as they prepare for new school year

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD

It’s that time of year . . . again. Teachers, parents, and students are getting ready to start a new school year. Caddo Parish gets an early start this week while Bossier Parish will get underway next week.

Today and tomorrow, teachers in Caddo Parish will undergo professional development and welcome elementary and middle school students on Wednesday. PD days for Caddo high school teachers is August 8-9 with students starting Wednesday, August 10.

All summer, we have been inundated with all the negatives regarding education these days – teacher shortages all around the country, violence taking place on school campuses, and underpaid teachers trying to make ends meet both at home and in the classroom.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Journal has focused on some of the important issues facing public school administrators by conducting Q&A’s with Bossier Parish Schools Superintendent Mitch Downey and Caddo Parish Schools Superintendent Dr. T. Lamar Goree.

Today, we are highlighting teachers by getting a little insight into how they spent their summer vacation (traveling/working), what supplies they seem to always need during the school year (teachers always run out of something – I know because I was a teacher for 18 years), and their favorite classroom memories (there are many).

For this fun Q&A, we talked to an elementary, a middle, and a high school teacher in Caddo Parish: Brittany Nelson, who teaches fifth grade math at Eden Gardens, is starting her 12th year in education; LaDon Gaines, a seventh grade ELA teacher at Youree Drive Middle School, is entering her 28th year; and Stephanie Springer, a 10th grade English teacher at Byrd High School, is going into her 20th year.

Thank you, teachers, for taking part in the Q&A. More importantly, thank you for your dedication to the teaching profession.


SBJ: How did you spend your summer?

BN: My summer was spent soaking up the sunshine and enjoying as much family time as possible! I went on a moms’ beach trip with a group of 10 teachers, which was very relaxing. My family and I also went camping, out on the lake, to the pool, had play dates with friends, and ended our summer with a trip to the beach.

LG: Working! My summer job is at a law office. I enjoy the work and love to stay busy. Also, I need the extra income!

SS: I began the summer by taking Byrd students to Iceland for an education tour. It was a fabulous trip and a welcomed escape from this Louisiana heat! I’ve spent the rest of the summer spending time with family and friends. I even got to enjoy seeing my former student Jordan Davis in concert when he opened for Brooks and Dunn.


SBJ: What’s the one thing you always run out of during the school year?

BN: As a fifth-grade math teacher, I run out of dry erase markers every year. During my lessons each day, my students use dry erase boards and markers to practice problems with me.

LG: It’s a tie between Kleenex and pencils!

SS: I always run out of the basics – pens, paper, and TISSUE! There is always a mad dash to the store for more tissues and germ-x.

 

SBJ: What is your favorite teaching memory?

BN: During my 11 years teaching math, my goal has been to foster a love for learning. My favorite teaching memories are watching students grow from starting the year with no confidence and not fans of math to loving and excelling in math by the end of the year. Seeing their lightbulbs go off throughout the year and smiles come across their faces as they start to comprehend the material during my class keeps me motivated as a teacher!

LG: When I was teaching fifth grade and a student presented his DARE paper telling drugs: “Forget you, Forgot you, Ain’t ever thought about you!” . . . with great passion. But there are so many memories for many different reasons.

SS: This is my 20th year in the classroom so naming a single “favorite moment” feels impossible. Though it can be daunting, teaching is an amazing job. More than a job – it’s a calling. I just love seeing my kids (they are always “my” kids) learn and grow.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

SBJ conducts Q & A with Bossier Schools Superintendent

SBJ conducts Q & A with Caddo Schools Superintendent


Shreveporter makes history with college commitment

Even before he knew anything about college hockey, Kason Muscutt heard stories about what it’s like to play inside the University of Maine’s Harold Alfond Sports Arena.

“Maine has been my dream school ever since my dad told me about the environment in that building,” said Muscutt, whose father, Scott, made trips to Orono, Maine, as a member of the University of New Brunswick hockey team from 1992-97. “He felt like the (opposing) players were watching the fans instead of the fans watching you. And then they would erupt when Maine would come out.”

Kason is looking forward to a little different perspective and likely created another piece of local history this weekend. The 17-year-old Shreveport native committed to play for the Maine Black Bears, a two-time national champion.

It’s not every day Louisiana born-and-breds commit to play college hockey. In fact, Scott Muscutt, who (since 1997) has served as a player, coach and now general manager of the Shreveport Mudbugs, believes his son could be the first.

In June, Kason Muscutt participated in the 2022 USA Hockey Boys Select 17 Camp, where the best 60 players in the country showcased their talents to the top junior hockey organizations and college programs.

Muscutt was believed to be the first Louisiana-born player selected for that camp – he was certainly the first from Northwest Louisiana, where there is just a single sheet of ice (George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum) and it’s not available 12 months a year.

“It feels nice to be committed to college, there’s no question, but the work is really just now starting,” said Kason, who visited the Maine campus last week. “I still have a lot of work to do.”

That work will continue at The George, where Muscutt will attempt to make the 2022-23 Shreveport Mudbugs roster when training camp begins Aug. 12.

“I don’t really have any expectations,” the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Muscutt said. “I’m going to do what’s given me success – I’m going to work my butt off.”

The Mudbugs have won two national championships in the North American Hockey League, which features 16-to-21-year-olds. Unlike many athletes, who enter college immediately following high school, hockey players often play in junior leagues past the age of 20 before they enter college.

Former Mudbugs captain David Breazeale, 22, is set to enter his sophomore season at Maine. When will Muscutt don a Black Bears sweater? That’s anyone’s guess.

“It’s not necessarily going to happen when I want it to happen, it’s a matter of when I’m ready,” Muscutt said. “(Maine) is not committing me now because they think I’m ready to play Division I hockey right now. They see the potential and I’m going to work harder than ever to get there.”

Contact Roy at roylangiii@yahoo.com


Don’t be so sure about a sure thing

It’s late summer and the vast wasteland of nothingness is upon the sports world. Unless you are geeked up for next Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game, one of the best exercises at this time of year is to project how many games your team will win.

And, if you are given toward that sort of thing, make a wager on it.

Let’s get something out of the way first: Betting over/under on the win totals of NFL teams is an exercise in futility. Try playing one of those knockout pools (where all you have to do is pick one winner every week) and see how long you last.

Jacksonville can beat Buffalo. It can happen. Oh wait … the Jaguars actually did make that happen last year. For that matter, they beat Indianapolis last year in the final game of the season when they weren’t even trying to win.

So give up on the NFL. Stick to college. But before you do, you might want to take off those team color-and-other-team-color glasses you have on.

I’m so stupid that I actually thought that I had sniffed out a sure thing last year. The number on Louisiana Tech last year was “only” 4.5 wins. Are you kidding me? I’ll have that check cashed by Homecoming!

Had Tech not blown a three-touchdown lead against Mississippi State and been able to defend a Hail Mary pass against SMU, I would have been one win away from glory by the end of September. The Bulldogs were 2-2 and could have easily been 4-0. So that hurt.

A one-possession loss to North Carolina State didn’t feel great, but UTEP was next, so that figured to be a W. Except Tech forgot to bring the offense and poured in a field goal. One. That’s it.

Next, former Tech coach Skip Holtz thought it might be a good idea to go for it on fourth down and long from near midfield in a tie game rather than just play for overtime and, of course, lost in regulation to Old Dominion.

Still stuck at two wins as we headed into November.

Even with all that, the math was still on my side. Three games left and none of the opponents were against teams with winning records. As Jim Carrey said to Lauren Holley in Dumb and Dumber — “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?!”

The Bulldogs did me a solid and beat Charlotte – hey, it’s a winning streak! – and the last two games were against conference bottom-feeders Southern Miss and Rice.

This was about to be the greatest ‘oh-by-the-way’ cover in betting history. Southern Miss literally didn’t have a quarterback and Rice hadn’t won a game in a month. After all of this misery — Tech could have easily been 7-3 at this point — all would be forgiven because the Bulldogs were getting two layups to close the season and cover the 4.5-win total.

Or so I thought.

The Mississippi State loss was troubling. The SMU game was unlucky. Maybe UTEP can be written off as one of those things. Old Dominion was a poor decision in the heat of the moment.

But losing to a Southern Miss team that was hapless even before it literally used its leading rusher to play quarterback against Tech was simply inexcusable.

It would have been even worse if Tech had actually beaten Rice in the final week and I would have finished one win away. Instead, the Bulldogs did me a favor and sank to the occasion to finish with three wins.

In Week 1, I was watching Tech build up a 20-point lead on my iPhone while at a wedding ceremony (thankfully, not mine) and thinking I was the smartest bettor ever. How’d that turn out?

As a wise man once told me, that’s why they call it gambling. Not sure-thinging.

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com


T-Ball World Series? Uhhh … FOUL BALL!

Little boy baseball is a beautiful thing. Especially when grownups aren’t involved.

But … only a few days ago, this bureau learned there was a T-Ball World Series.

You could have knocked me over with a first-baseman’s mitt.

For the great unwashed, know that this is a 6U T-Ball league/organization. That means 6 years old and under.

That means that small people who were getting their diapers changed four years previous are now playing for a “world championship” in competitive sports.

Also, there are as many little boy “World Series” as there are hairs on your head. The Little League World Series for mostly small people 11-12 that you see on television is legit; the rest, well, it’s only the “World” series for whatever the grownups decide the “World” is. (Follow the money.)

Again, if you are not aware, T-Ball is a sport that involves putting a baseball on a stick, or “tee,” and the youngster attempts to hit it. The ball is not thrown; it is sitting there. No change-ups or sliders or heaters.

And the little person hits it, in theory, and runs, and that is when the basic rules of baseball come in.

So you will never hear a fan say, “I wonder how he’s going to pitch him next time?” And you don’t wonder how the pitcher might work the lineup the next time through because there IS no pitcher.

Also, you can’t blame the home plate umpire because there isn’t one, not calling balls and strikes, anyhow.

Never would I have believed this, but my friend Hooks, a Baseball Guy, told me that parents bring sound systems and blare ‘Walk Up” music as the guys come to the plate. The big leagues and most colleges now play Walk Up music when the hitter is coming to bat. It’s the hitter’s preferred song.

And it is one of the stupidest things ever in history. Personal opinion.

But for a guy who is less than 6? It is ever more stupider, which isn’t even a word but which describes the insanity of this phenomenon.

They are one step removed from Crawl Up music. These kids are literal Diaper Dandies.

What is Walk Up music for a 6-year-old. Old McDonald Had a FarmHow Much Is That Doggie In The WindowItsy Bitsy Spider?

Understand that these teams TRAVEL to other states to hit a ball off a tee and play something like baseball. There are real dollars involved in gas and meals and hotels. They have legit mascot names when they should be the Westside Toddlers or the Eastside Pants Wetters, the Southside Knee Scrapers or the Northside Trike Riders.

Mercy.

I understand how important little boy baseball is. Exactly 18 years and one week ago today when I was the ‘coach’ of my last Little League team, if I’d have walked out and talked to Scarf one batter earlier, just One Batter earlier, we’d have been playing for the state title. I’m sure of it. Instead, I didn’t. Kept sitting on the bucket and hoping. Thought I was doing the right thing.

And Evangeline beat us, 3-2.

I live with that every day of my life.

But the difference between Scarf and T-Ball is that my guys were 15.

About to start driving cars. Twice the age and then some of T-Ball “World Series” guys.

When you’re 6, shouldn’t you be just playing and running in the wrong direction, picking clover in the outfield, and looking to see what’s on the snack wagon?

Wouldn’t a guy or girl who’s 6 prefer a snow cone or a Frito Pie to a mythical base hit or a “World Series” title?

They would. I was 6 once. And I know.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


YMCA to host panel discussion for Shreveport mayoral candidates

By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD

All 10 candidates who have qualified to run for mayor of Shreveport are expected to be at the BHP Billiton YMCA of Northwest Louisiana for the Mayoral Forum this Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m.

The event, which will be held in the gymnasium at the BHP YMCA (3455 Knight Street), is free and open to the public.

“This is the third panel discussion we have had like this,” said Jeffrey Goodman, Director of Marketing and Development for the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana. “The last one, we had close to 100 people in attendance. We expect even more for this one – we could have anywhere from 100-500.”

The purpose of the event is to give the public the opportunity to meet and hear from the candidates. Qualifying candidates include incumbent Mayor Adrian Perkins (Democrat), local attorney and former Shreveport City Councilman Tom Arceneaux (Republican), District 10 Caddo Parish Commissioner Mario Chavez (Independent), Louisiana state Sen. Greg Tarver (Democrat), Shreveport City Councilwoman LeVette Fuller (Democrat), Darryl Ware II (Democrat), Tracy Mendels (Democrat), Melvin Slack (Republican), Julius Romano (Independent), and Lauren Ray Anderson (Libertarian).

The primary elections will be held Nov. 8 while the general elections will take place Dec. 10.

This is not a debate. The format includes two-minute introductions by each candidate followed by seven questions from the moderators (each will respond to the same question and have one minute to respond; order in which each answers will change with each question). The forum will conclude with each candidate being given one minute to talk about why they should be mayor.

Once the forum ends, each candidate will have a table where they can speak with attendees and answer any further questions.

Questions will not be accepted from the audience. If anyone has a question they would like the YMCA to consider as one of the questions for the candidates, email the question to jgoodman@ymcanwla.org.

While the panel discussion is a new initiative for the YMCA of Northwest Louisiana, it follows in the tradition of YMCAs around the world that – since the late 1800s – have sponsored lecture series similar to those of the lyceum.

“The YMCA of Northwest Louisiana plans to organize a number of community-focused discussions over the next year,” said Goodman.

In its new initiative called “Shreveport-Bossier: My City, My Community, My Home,” the YMCA is conducting weekly interviews with a wide cross-section of individuals in the community. The goal is to highlight the positive aspects of Shreveport-Bossier to foster more engaged and hopeful thinking in the community.

New episodes of the podcast interviews are published every Thursday. This week’s episode will be the 19th in the series. To locate the interviews that have been published to date, visit the YMCA’s YouTube channel, YMCA of Northwest Louisiana.

Contact Harriet at sbjharriet@gmail.com

Photo by HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD


With only one arm, new NSU recruit has stirred up plenty of attention

New Northwestern State basketball coach Corey Gipson has created a unique buzz around his first recruiting class.

There’s a blend of transfers from four-year schools and junior colleges, eight in all. One, Missouri transfer Jordan Wilmore, is 7-foot-3.

There are two prep school signees, a year removed from high school.

And there’s the most famous recruit in NSU athletic history.

The one-armed kid.

Seriously.

Hansel Enmanuel is not a name that resonates, but his story is incredibly compelling, and it’s not exaggeration to say that people around the WORLD have taken notice.

His left arm was amputated just below the shoulder when a cinder block wall fell on him at age 6 in his native Dominican Republic. It did not deter his joy of playing sports, although it ultimately redirected his focus from baseball to hoops. That may have happened anyway; his dad was a pro basketball player on the island.

He was an ESPY Award finalist for “Best Play.” He is the subject of a Gatorade commercial. He has four million followers on Twitter and Instagram, not counting the reach of that Gatorade advertisement that debuted on ABC during the NBA Finals and continues in rotation across networks and on the company’s social media a month later.

Monday, ESPN’s Jalen & Jacoby show hosts told the audience they were bringing their show to NSU at some point this season to track the story.

Toss in the fact that 247Sports.com ranks him as a three-star recruit. Enmanuel posted averages of 25.9 points, 11 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 3.4 blocks as a senior at Life Christian Academy in Kissimmee, Fla.

But is he the product of high-caliber editing, a phenom who has a mind-blowing highlight reel, but due to obvious limitations, has shortcomings that cast doubt on his potential to play at the NCAA Division I level?

Perhaps.

His stats say otherwise. And clearly, the Demons believe otherwise. So did the coaching staff at Bethune-Cookman, a SWAC program based in Daytona Beach., a 78-mile drive from Kissimmee. So did coaches at Tennessee State, and if you can accept it, coaches at Memphis, a national program said to be among his final four choices.

But those stats were compiled against lower-level Florida high school competition, along with a few intersectional games for the Lions of Life Christian.

He has amazed and impressed observers for two summers while on the summer ball circuit. He was invited to play in the pro-am Drew League in Los Angeles last weekend, which is where he announced his college decision, although it turns out he had signed his letter of intent with the Demons a month earlier.

Smart move to make the announcement on a big stage. It immediately splattered across the internet and social media on outlets like Sports Illustrated and Apple News, gaining millions of impressions.

Whether engineered by Enmanuel’s camp or Gipson, breaking the news then and there got the desired result.

This guard, whose size has been reported from 6-4 to 6-6, is a media sensation.

Will he be solid enough to play at Northwestern, in the Southland Conference? There apparently were not offers from nearby programs like Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida A&M, North Florida, Stetson — all within easy driving distance of Kissimmee — let alone Florida, Miami or Florida State.

Who was right? It will be interesting to see as his days with the Demons unfold.

The mere fact that he’s gotten this far, and earned such widespread attention and respect, is mind-blowing. Enmanuel undeniably is worthy of all the praise he gets.

For Gipson and the Demons, there’s minimal risk, and already, great rewards. People will be keeping an eye on Northwestern State basketball this winter, and maybe if things go well, more Gatorade commercials will follow, along with wins.

Contact Doug at SBJDoug@gmail.com