Bamboozled by a grebe

The pied-billed grebe is a rather nondescript water bird most of us have never heard of. However, when you mention “di-dipper,” heads nod in recognition. They’re one and the same.

Just about every country boy who spent any time around a lake while growing up has encountered these shy little critters that are there on the surface one minute; gone the next.

I see the little brown birds frequently on the surface of the lake at Lincoln Parish Park and they only let you see them for a short while. Try to get closer and they dive, popping up a few seconds later 10 feet from where they dived. 

According to George Lowery’s Louisiana Birds the most remarkable feature of these birds is their ability to submerge instantaneously, thus their French name of sac-a-plomb, which means “sack of lead”. Lowery also noted that it is virtually impossible to shoot a grebe because “at the flash from the muzzle, the bird submerges and is gone before the pellets arrive.” With all due respect, George, I beg to differ. Read on …

My first encounter with a grebe was down on Chee Chee Bay in Natchitoches Parish. I was in my early teens when I went to spend the night with a friend from school with the idea of going duck hunting the next morning. My friend, Arthur, lived near the lake, which made it convenient for us to be at the lakeside at first light, hoping to get some pass-shooting at a duck or two.

Arthur went one way; I went another as I waited in the cold dampness for a crack at a duck. While hunkering down behind some button willows next to the shoreline, I waited for what seemed an hour without a single duck flying my way. Then I spotted something moving on the water just up the lake from where I was. In my mind’s eye, it was a duck.

I formulated a plan to outsmart that duck and at least have something to show for my efforts that morning. By using the row of button willows as a shield, I belly-crawled through the cold mud for 100 yards until I had sneaked within shotgun range of the little brown “duck.”

When I’d gotten close enough, I eased to one knee, raised my gun, took aim, and fired. The “duck” rolled over, dead as a…..well, you know. Then I encountered a problem. The wind was blowing out and my prize was floating away toward the big lake.

Luck was on my side, though, because I spotted an old wooden boat somebody had beached just up from where I was. There was no paddle in the boat but I found a plank nearby that would serve as my paddle.

The boat was made of wood, it was big and very heavy. It took all the strength I could muster but I finally pushed and pulled; grunted and strained until I had the boat in the water. As you might expect, a boat such as this would never have been abandoned if it were still sea-worthy. It leaked; not too bad but enough that I figured I had to paddle fast to reach my duck and then get back to shore before it sank.

Flailing the water with the one-by-six plank, I was finally able to catch up with my “duck.” It was not until I had lifted it from the water that I realized my mistake. It was no duck; it was a di-dipper.

I had little time to browbeat myself because the boat was sinking. I had to fight the wind and paddle with all my might to get the boat back to shore. I just barely made it before the creaky old craft filled with water. I left it in the shallows and walked ashore, wet and muddy, with my di-dipper.

For the uninformed, the pied-billed grebe is described as a “ducklike water bird closely related to LOONS.”

After this hunt, I felt I may have been that grebe’s cousin.

Contact Glynn at

Blue about the loss of Mansfield’s legendary MLB pitcher

Vida Blue.

Baseball brings us the best names, and in big league history, that’s one that ranks at the top.

Grant Balfour, an Australian and a journeyman MLB pitcher. Bud Weiser, an outfielder before World War I for the Phillies. Montreal first baseman Razor Shines. Yankees’ pitcher Urban Shocker, a teammate of Babe Ruth on the Yankees’ powerhouse 1927 championship team.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of others. But only a handful of MLB players, ever, wore just his first name on his jersey.

The most prominent was Vida Blue, not only Mansfield’s finest, but undoubtedly one of the greatest baseball players this state has ever produced.

Blue gave one of those unique Number 14 Oakland Athletics’ jerseys to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame when he was enshrined in 1990. It’s going to return to the display area this summer at the $23 million museum on Front Street in Natchitoches, as the shrine marks its 10th anniversary.

Vida Blue died Saturday night, age 73, in the Bay Area of California, where he was something of a cultural and sports icon. His baseball credentials carried him to the outskirts of Cooperstown.

A six-time All-Star, Blue won 209 games in the bigs, and was an integral part of Oakland’s early ‘70s dynasty. That’s a term which fits when a team wins three straight World Series (1972-74).

Not only did he win the 1971 Cy Young Award in the American League, but he was also the AL Most Valuable Player that season. All he did was lead the AL with a 1.82 ERA while going 24-8, also topping the league in complete games (24) and shutouts (8). Blue was the starting pitcher for the AL in his first All-Star Game. He made the covers of Sports Illustrated and Time magazine.

All that at the ripe age of 22. He already had a no-hitter to his credit, thrown in his first full MLB season, 1970. He combined on another no-no in 1975. He made his final big league appearance Oct. 2, 1986, for the other team in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Giants.

Blue is in the Athletics’ Hall of Fame and included on the Giants’ Wall of Honor. He isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but he is unquestionably one of the remarkable figures in the game in his lifetime.

His colorful personality, and his tendency to make brash statements, made him a team and fan favorite in Oakland. At times, he was also in the good graces of A’s owner Charlie Finley, who also had more than a little flair for showmanship and supreme confidence. It was Finley who decided putting “Vida” on the back of the Number 14 jersey was a distinctive touch for a spectacular talent.

Later, it was Finley who tried to trade Blue to the Reds and the Yankees. Both deals, which would have tipped the balance of power almost absurdly to those two teams of the late ‘70s, were vetoed by everybody’s least-favorite baseball commissioner, Bowie Kuhn.

Nobody in Oakland, Cincinnati or New York named their kid “Bowie.” Anyone who did elsewhere was doubtlessly thinking of Jim Bowie, hero of the Alamo.

Few players last 17 years in the big leagues. Fewer still overcome personal problems, tied to drug use, a short (suspended) prison sentence, and a full year (1984) in MLB’s purgatory. There’s that word, suspended, again.

But Blue’s MLB story, with such a spectacular first act, also has a redemption theme. At the height of his career, he accompanied Bob Hope on a USO tour of Vietnam. He became noted for his steady involvement with a wide range of charitable activities for good causes, and that never stopped.

He worked for the Giants in community service for a while, notably being involved in administration of a little league system that served 28,000 kids in the Bay Area.

Former Oakland All-Star pitcher Dave Stewart, who made it to the big leagues in 1978, offered a powerful tribute.

“If you’ve ever spent one minute with him, you’d think that you’ve known him for a lifetime. He’s a giving man, very, very genuine, very, very heartwarming. Vida never met a stranger. He really, really poured himself into people and that’s what you love about him and that’s the impact that he had on me,” Stewart said on MLB Network’s High Heat show.

Vida Blue wasn’t perfect. He never threw a perfect game in the big leagues, either. But throughout his life, he brought joy almost every step of the way, including in an Arizona barber shop.

The owner was excited that Blue was coming by, and let it slip to a kid visiting the shop, then made him promise not to share the news. It was an impossible request, leading to a predictable response.

Kids in Scottsdale, parents and fans lined up down the block to meet the great Vida Blue.

It was just 20 years after he threw his last pitch. Now, that’s adoration.

Contact Doug at

Forensic science catches cheating anglers

Since bass tournaments began, there have always been anglers looking to bend the rules and push the envelope. Some get caught while there are others who have succeeded in cheating.

When it comes to getting caught, it’s only a matter of time because when they get away with it once, they think they can do it again and again. One day their luck runs out and someone catches them. A cheater has to be someone without a conscience because a normal person would feel guilt and shame. But cheaters fall into the same category as a criminal. They have no conscience. 

This leads me back to a cheating scandal in October 2018 when two anglers fishing in a derby on Lake Powell in Utah thought they had mastered the art of cheating. Little did they know that forensic science would play a huge role in their conviction. 

These two anglers thought they had the perfect plan by going to another body of water the day before their tournament on Lake Powell. The evening before their event, they went into a shallow area of Quail Creek Reservoir and were observed doing “something suspicious” just before dark. But like any cheating scandal or criminal activity, there’s always a trail. The trail started at Quail Creek Reservoir where you must sign in and sign out for this body of water. Of course, these guys didn’t think to use fictitious names — they gave their real names! Duh! 

Quail Creek is 140 miles from Lake Powell, so these fish had to be kept alive in a live well for at least 20 hours. While today’s live wells are high tech and do a great job of keeping fish alive, it puts a lot of stress on the bass trying to stay alive for that length of time. As these fish were being weighed in, the tournament director noticed a couple of things that just didn’t seem right. First, all the fish had red tails and fins (first indication that the fish have been stressed). Second, he noticed that these fish looked nothing like all the other fish being weighed in. These fish had little heads and fatter bodies, indicating a different diet than the fish from Lake Powell. 

Here’s where things get really scientific. Turns out these suspicious indicators prompted investigators to work with the University of Utah and do what’s called a stable isotope analysis. To simplify, it’s basically a calcium test that can determine what body of water a fish has come from, based off the food eaten by the fish. Every body of water has what is called its own stable isotope ratio. When they compared fish from Lake Powell to the fish from Quail Creek, they knew immediately that the fish weighed in by the anglers were not from Lake Powell but came from Quail Creek Reservoir.  

And there you have it — forensic science catches the cheaters just like an episode of CSI Vegas!  This story amazed me with the length the investigators went to try and convict these two Bozo’s. Persistence and hard work paid off in making sure these two anglers didn’t get away with fraud!  

If you’re wondering how they were sentenced: they were fined $2,500 each in restitution to “help stop poaching.” They paid $500 in a plea fee, drew 48 hours community service, two years of no hunting and the Division of Wildlife Resources sought a five-year fishing ban.  

So, I guess in this case, cheaters never win! From this angler’s perspective, there will always be anglers who think they can get away with cheating and will go to extreme lengths to do so. I am hopeful in the future that judges come down harder on these people who choose to go this route and attempt to commit fraud on unsuspecting anglers.

Until next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to wear your sunscreen. 

Contact Steve at

 LHSAA needs to halt baseball schedule manipulation

In the summer of 1975 in American Legion baseball, Ricou-Brewster won 15 straight games and was running away with it in the standings as the North Louisiana playoffs approached. But by the end of July, things started to go south for the Jesuit (now Loyola)-based team.

Night after night, Ricou-Brewster piled up one-run losses – including two on the same night. Once 16-2, the team was now 16-7 and battling to stay alive for the post-season.

A series of rainouts had forced the team to play these games on consecutive nights, so they were rapidly running out of pitching.

Now, this is where the story gets a little fuzzy, so you can believe what you like. One of the remaining games had to be postponed because of poor field conditions. It seemed as though someone had gone out to Cherokee Park field in the middle of the night and put tire tracks all throughout the infield.

Therefore, the game had to be postponed, giving the team a much-needed day of rest.

The young coach of the team is alleged to have said to his players upon giving them the news of the day off, “If one of y’all did this, I don’t want to know about it.” And then he looked at one of his star players. “But if it was you, Jones, good job.”

These days, a few high school baseball coaches across the state are basically doing the same thing, only they are far less obvious in their methods.

What they are doing is not against the rules, but it should be. What has been happening – and it will get worse unless the LHSAA does something about it – is the manipulating of the schedule in order to try to either get their team into the playoffs or move into a better seeding position.

A quick primer: Baseball uses the power-point system, based on 20 points for a win, one point for each of your opponents’ wins and two points for each classification you play up. Without getting into too much detail, you could actually improve your position by losing to a team in a higher classification with a bunch of wins.

One local coach says he got a call last Friday night about 10 o’clock from a Division IV coach in South Louisiana wanting to know if he wanted to play a double-header the next day. The local coach, whose team is one of the top seeds in its division, told the caller that he already had a game scheduled. Undeterred, he was asked about the possibility of working something out with that third team so that everyone could get in two games on Saturday.

Spurned by the local coach Friday night, it should come as no surprise that the Division IV coach found games on Sunday and Monday – both against Class 5A schools — that weren’t previously scheduled.

And that was from a coach whose team already had a playoff spot locked up, just trying to move up a spot in order to get a potential home quarterfinal series. He did win both of the “add-on” games, but failed to move up.


A Division III team in the New Orleans area posted a schedule in the pre-season that showed the final game of the season would be played on April 13. But when that school found itself on the outside looking in when it came to making the playoffs, suddenly a game against a Class 5A school with more than 20 wins appeared on the schedule for the final day of the season. Not just one game — a double-header. They lost both games, but didn’t move up enough to make the playoffs.

One local coach had a game cancelled on him during the last week of the season as his team was fighting to make it into the playoffs. No reason given. Unspoken was that the cancelling team didn’t want to take a chance on a loss and dropping out of a potential first-round home game.

Didn’t work out and, by the way, the team that had its game called off made the playoffs anyway.

There’s a simple solution to all of this: there should be a date, certainly before the end of March, in which no games can be added or cancelled. Right now, it is allowed until two days before the end of the regular season.

That’s ridiculous.

If a game gets rained out, you can make it up, but that game has to be on your original schedule. But only as many games as were previously scheduled.

And you can’t leave the water hose on all night and call it a rain out. If that’s the case, then the opponent gets to be the home team.

If you want to cancel a game, it’s a forfeit. Because that’s basically what happens if you do that during football season. (This also happens in basketball on occasion, but not to the degree that it does in baseball.)

And so what eventually happened to that Ricou-Brewster American Legion team in 1975? They lost that postponed last game. Of course, it was by one run.

You might say they had tire tracks all over them when the season was over.

Contact JJ at

The controversy over forward-facing sonar continues

Technology is awesome today as cell phones, smart TV’s and computers are just a few of the things advanced into mind-blowing devices. We have instant access to an information highway that mankind has never seen before. We can play video games on our cell phones and compete against individuals around the globe. No longer do we have to wait until the 6 o’clock news to get the weather forecast or to hear the latest trades our favorite sports teams have made. Information today is instantaneous!

Today we’ll look at the latest technology that has affected the fishing world and what some anglers are calling a controversial topic: forward facing sonar. What is forward facing sonar? It’s a sonar unit that allows you to see fish swimming up to 100 feet away in real time. These sonars reveal extreme details as you watch fish swim up and actually eat the bait you’re throwing. Basically, it’s a real time fishing video game!

So many anglers were against it but a lot were excited to have it. Opinions varied even among the top-level professional anglers when it first came on the scene. It was not well received by many tournament anglers as they felt it made fishing too easy and any angler could now start winning tournaments. Skills and instincts were no longer required to win an event. If you could read and understand what your screen was showing, you had a distinct advantage over other anglers.

The younger generation of anglers today have adapted very quickly to this new technology. Today’s youth have grown up with cell phones, an iPad or laptop or desktop computers and are not intimidated by technology like so many older anglers who learned to fish by instinct or by using what they’ve learned over many years of fishing.

But here’s the problem with technology. These new sonar units by Garmin, Lowrance and Humminbird are great but like all technology, they can go on the blink occasionally. The older generation anglers have an advantage when this happens as the younger anglers of today don’t have the instincts or the experience to fall back on.

Watching some of today’s top professional anglers, not all are fans of the forward-facing sonar. Anglers like Elite Series Pro John Cox (a shallow-water angler) don’t even own one of these types of units because they’re not very effective in shallow water condition of five feet or less. The general consensus of tournament anglers across the country is that if you don’t have forward-facing sonar, you can’t compete or win a tournament. This is not true as some of the best fishing pros today don’t use them, and many anglers are having tremendous success without it.

So don’t feel like you must go out and spend $5,000 for one of these high-tech sonar units. While they’re great if you know how to use and read one, it’s not the end-all, be-all answer for winning tournaments or catching fish. Time of year is also a factor in when these forward-facing sonar units are more effective. Some anglers that I compete against are still winning and do not have one of these expensive sonar units. They are like any other tool in your fishing arsenal. It’s just a tool that’s only as good as the person using it.

Until next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to wear sunscreen and good protective outerwear when spending the day on a lake.

Contact Steve at

Our Independence Bowl is built around the ‘dugout people’

CALL IT:  2022 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl chairman Rob Rubel did the honors in the pregame coin toss as Houston’s Cougars and the UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns prepared to collide on a wintry Friday, Dec. 23. (Photo courtesy Independence Bowl)

Dear Editor, 

I’m not even sure if you’re technically the editor, or if the “letter to the editor” is still even a thing anymore, but I got your email address so…. 

In 2022 I was lucky enough to be chairman of the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl. The experience started for me as a volunteer for the Mike and Judy McCarthy Team Announcement Party in 2012. Immediately upon getting involved with this organization I was fortunate enough to meet some awesome individuals (did I mention Mike McCarthy?) who are all committed to one common goal, the Independence Bowl. 

Let me be honest, at first, I was somewhat skeptical. Surely this was all part of the “front” put on by those that are “playing the role” of community diplomat. I can assure you; this is not the case with these people. These folks started this thing selling tickets out of their garages, putting up their homes as collateral for loans, contributing their own money, traveling all over the country to further the cause, and don’t get me started on the long-time community partners that have stuck with us over this 46-year history: the cities of Shreveport and Bossier City.

These are, as I like to call it, my “dugout people.” They are the type of folks that, together, grind it out every year to make the Independence Bowl a success. I could not have asked for a better group of people for me to associate with and I absolutely love the fact that my kids can occasionally be around these wonderful individuals. 

And let me tell you, it takes everyone. It starts with a staff that’s led by who I will call SBC’s “Mamma Bear” (executive director Missy Setters) and the team culture that exists in that office (currently temporarily relocated to the 9th floor of the American Tower, due to flood damage). My experience with the staff at the Independence Bowl is difficult for me to even put into words, so I’ll just file it under “things that make life worth livin.’” 

But it doesn’t stop there. Our foundation, Board of Directors, our committees, all volunteers, put forth an effort that has truly connected me to the community in which I live and work. 

So, when you find yourself on gameday at 4:45 a.m. for local news interviews with the temperature at 8 degrees Fahrenheit; or your director of communications gets stuck in the press box elevator for an hour; or your primary target doesn’t qualify; or…. Well, you might not realize the challenges this group gets thrown in any given year. Regardless, you’re in good hands. These are, after all, your dugout people. They got you. 

SBC has been home for the Independence Bowl since 1976. The effort it took to start the Bowl continues to be honored by the continued work being done every year as the biggest major sporting event in Northwest Louisiana. But please let me point out one more tidbit that I think is worth mentioning. The Independence Bowl continues to provide for us in the SBC something we all can be a part of that we all can also be very proud of. 

And I mean all of us. This is not an exclusive club. If I can make it to Chairman, it’s accessible. One just needs to be willing to put in the work and want to be a part of something bigger than yourself.  I needed some of that in my life. On top of that I was rewarded with a “once in a lifetime” type of experience. I am truly grateful for it, and the people I have met along the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 


Rob Rubel

Second thoughts about the first pitch

It’s something that has baffled me for years, yet it continues to happen and I continue to not get it.

It has to do with the ceremonial first pitch before a major league baseball game.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for it as a nice way to honor someone in front of a large group of people.

Run ’em out there, wave to the crowd, throw one reasonably close to the plate, take a couple of pictures and exit stage right.

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

No one is expecting a 98-mph heater on the black to come firing in there, but it seems like there are more and more examples of these going wrong every year.

It’s one thing for Miss America or some random politician to lob one up there that won’t make anyone forget Nolan Ryan. Not Nolan Ryan, the pitcher who threw seven no-hitters. I mean the retired version of Nolan Ryan, who threw an 85-mph ceremonial first pitch in 2010.

He was 63 years old.

There are two standards here: One is the standard set by 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), who threw one before a Mets game that is probably more famous than any rap song he ever produced. Plenty of others have fallen into this category, highlighted by Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory missing home plate by so much that he hit an umpire standing 20 feet away. The ump tossed him.

Amazingly, Mallory was re-elected two years later.

No, the real problem here is the standard being set by pro athletes who throw out a first pitch. Don’t we expect a little bit more out of them than we do out of Miss Texas?

It happened again this year with Travis Kelce, famed tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was throwing out the first pitch before the Royals’ opening game and got it maybe halfway there.

How does this continue to happen? How are there professional athletes – and I don’t care what sport – who are not able to simply throw something that resembles a pitch? Throwing a ball is not that much of a specialty.

Carl Lewis is one of the greatest athletes this country has ever produced. Ever seen his first pitch? Makes 50 Cent look like a Cy Young winner.

NBA star John Wall’s first pitch had all the trajectory of a dunk when he threw one out before a Nationals game a few years ago. He’s made millions of dollars, by the way, throwing basketballs to people. But he can’t throw a baseball 60 feet?

MMA star Conor McGregor can throw a punch, but he can’t throw a baseball. Last year, he threw one into the backstop.

That’s only a little bit worse than Michael Jordan – a former professional baseball player – who one-hopped the backstop before a 1998 playoff game.

They could all take a lesson from George W. Bush.

Presidents have been throwing out first pitches since portly right-hander Billy Taft in 1910, but nobody delivered like “W.”

It was at Yankee Stadium for the World Series after 9/11 and rather than just walk out there and lob one, Bush actually warmed up in the batting cages. This was no time to make a fool of himself.

“Don’t bounce it,” Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter told the President while he warmed up. “They’ll boo you.”

Not a chance.

Properly warmed up and wearing a bulletproof vest, the 55-year-old leader of the free world went to the top of the pitcher’s mound – both symbolic and proper – and fired a literal strike. The look on his face when he walked off the mound on that emotion-filled night said many things, including this: When it comes to a first pitch, everyone is now playing for second. 

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LSU’s Reese, Iowa’s Clark give us much to consider

The spotlight on women’s basketball is far bigger than ever before. That’s good.

But in that One Shining Moment Sunday afternoon, when ABC and ESPN2 combined for 9.9 million viewers, LSU’s awesome 102-85 national championship victory over Iowa has become almost secondary to the sharp debate on social issues raised by taunting from the superstar players, LSU’s Angel Reese and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark.

That’s bad. And it’s good. Not ideal, but necessary.

As for the 9.9 million, college football writer Stewart Mandel of The Athletic provided context that we can understand. He wrote,

“That’s more than last season’s:

  • Sugar, Orange and Cotton Bowls
  • Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC title games
  • Notre Dame-USC
  • LSU-Alabama
  • Ohio State-Penn State
  • Bama-Texas A&M primetime on CBS”

If you want to venture outside college football ratings, there’s this:

“Sunday’s audience exceeded every game of last year’s NBA Playoffs except for the NBA Finals, every game of last year’s Major League Baseball Postseason except for the World Series, every NASCAR race since 2017 (including the Daytona 500), and every NHL game in more than 50 years (including the Stanley Cup Final),” reported Sports Media Watch, which noted it nearly matched the 10.2 million who watched January’s Rose Bowl.

Take that and blend in social media and the 24-hour news cycle, and the inconvenient truth is that the biggest story in the history of women’s college basketball is not anything that happened while the ball was in play.

Why? A lot of it comes back to gender and race, or traditional vs. contemporary culture. Discussing those topics isn’t easy.

Trash talk in sports has been around forever, whether or not it was noticed. Now there are cameras and microphones around not only pro and college sports, but high school and youth competition. If it doesn’t rear up on mainstream media, it’s there on social accounts.

It hasn’t flared up to very noticeable levels in women’s sports although it’s forever been typical fare for male competitors. Many basketball fans know Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were not only among the game’s all-time greats but they were equally good at talking trash.

Women have always done the same, but with those games getting a fraction of media attention, it wasn’t apparent to anyone other than the closest observers. That has changed, and if you hadn’t noticed, you probably have in the last day or two.

It’s absurd to celebrate Bird, Magic and MJ’s “competitive” behavior while criticizing today’s female stars for doing much the same thing.

Sadly, since Reese is black and Clark is white, there are racial overtones for too many observers. Charles Barkley noted that harsh reality on CBS before the men’s national championship game last night, while he and colleagues bemoaned how Reese taunting Clark overshadowed a tremendous showcase for the women’s game and slighted an incredible performance by the Tigers.

The mere fact that the LSU-Iowa game got a block of coverage in Monday’s CBS pregame show reflected the surging interest in the women’s game — and its sudden controversy.

“I don’t fit in the box that you all want me to be in. I’m too hood, I’m too ghetto. You told me that all year. But when other people do it, y’all don’t say nothing,” Reese said Sunday night in the postgame press conference. “So this is for the girls that look like me, that want to speak up on what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you. It was bigger than me tonight.”

Point taken, and well made.

“If you celebrated Clark for doing this but not Angel Reese you gotta take a long, long look in the mirror,” tweeted The Athletic writer Meg Linehan.

Yet, while Reese stood firmly behind her taunts, nobody asked Clark about hers against South Carolina, Louisville and others. They did ask for her reaction to Reese’s antics. Clark said she didn’t notice. By now, she has. 

Lots of the more old-school people decried all of the taunting by Reese, especially when she pointedly sought out Clark in the final seconds and immediate aftermath of the game. Some said her in-game activity was tolerable, but pressing it seconds past 40 minutes was “classless.” I’d say overzealous, and over-emotional. Did not like it one bit. But I think I understand it, and I’m willing to give her a pass.

I think Clark is, too. There was mutual respect expressed in postgame comments by the 20-year-old Tiger and the 21-year-old Hawkeye.

Both stars will be back next season. We will probably enjoy the closest thing college hoops has seen since Bird was at Indiana State and Magic at Michigan State. Big difference? There’s NIL now.

Incredibly, Clark’s NIL valuation is under $200,000, half of Reese’s. But there’s no denying that Clark’s spectacular season and sensational NCAA performances have made her the game’s focal figure, and drew fans to the game like nobody else has.

Reese earned the “Bayou Barbie” nickname this year, her first at LSU after transferring from Maryland. Her sense of style extends to the court, blending there with her often-dominating brand of basketball.

They have forced us to contemplate some tough issues, producing some uncomfortable discussion. No question, their NIL values are soaring, and they’ll be better off for it.

Hopefully we will, too.

Contact Doug at

Today’s youth face daily temptations; how the outdoors can help

Once again, we’re going to venture away from the world of fishing and talk about what our youth of today need the most. A few weeks ago, while listening to a Sunday morning sermon on “life’s temptations” at the Natchitoches First United Methodist Church, our pastor, Gary Willis, asked the congregation a question. “If you knew you could get away with it and no one would find out, what would you do?”

Now this question really intrigued me for some odd reason, and of course my mind immediately went to something sinister like stealing, cheating in a tournament, or — even worse — causing physical harm to someone who’s given me grief in the past. We all have enemies that we might want to inflict pain upon at some point in our lives, but 95 percent of us never act on any of these sinful ideas. 

Then my mind went in another direction. What if I could do something good for someone and not reveal to them it was me who did the good deed? Nothing says more about a person who does good things for others and never wants the credit.

Examples of a good deed could be something simple like buying someone’s lunch or dinner, paying for another person’s gas or groceries, or maybe assisting the elderly. But then it hit me — the best thing you can do for anyone is give of your time.

For anglers, this could be taking a kid fishing and teaching them the tricks of the trade and helping them to become a better angler, or doing fishing seminars for high school and college youngsters by educating them on the unwritten rules of tournament bass fishing. 

So many youngsters today are growing up without the guidance of both parents. Boys and girls today are missing the male leadership necessary for them to grow into strong productive citizens. While I have nothing but admiration for the single moms and dads who are doing their best to raise this generation, the lack of having both parents’ influence and perspective has affected the devolvement of our young people.

Nothing has a bigger impact on a young boy than a relationship with his dad. In the 1990s the divorce rate started to skyrocket and so many men walked away from their families, leaving young boys looking for a path on their own on how to become a man. This trend has only gotten worse over the last 20 years. We’ve basically lost a whole generation of men who no longer understand their role as a father and how important it is for the self-esteem and development of a boy or girl.  

Temptations for today’s youth are staggering and totally different than my generation. When I was growing up in the 70s, we  had landlines, not cell phones, and although alcohol was available, most just drank beer. Hard alcohol was not the choice of the majority. The hardest drug that was prevalent was marijuana, with speed and cocaine use on the rise by the end of the decade. Today’s drugs are so potent that one small pill might kill you! Drugs like crystal meth, cocaine, and opioids (specifically fentanyl), along with hard alcohol, social media, cell phones and peer pressure are just a few of the temptations this generation is facing.

Kids today are addicted to their phones and are constantly waiting for the “ding” to alert them about the latest incident or derogatory statement that was made about someone. Nothing has been worse for the youth of today than the invention of the cell phone, and no one is to blame but parents themselves.

From this angler’s perspective, no child should be allowed to have a cell phone until they reach high school, and even then, they do not need access to social media until the drinking age of 21. I’ve seen that a bill has been proposed in a few states requiring that a person be 16 years of age to be on social media. This is a good start, but the age should be higher. 

In today’s world, the temptations our youth face are tremendous. It’s important that we expose this generation to God’s great outdoors. There’s an old saying, “Kids that hunt and fish, don’t deal and steal.”

What a profound statement! Whoever said it, deserves a medal. So many of life’s lessons can be learned through the outdoors — like hard work, dedication, and commitment. Other lessons they’ll learn are conservation, wildlife management, survival skills and how to provide for themselves if times get tough.

Whether it’s hunting or fishing, it gives youngsters something to focus on besides all the negative temptations they face daily. Whether it’s related to the outdoors or a particular sport, kids today need hobbies to occupy their time. They need goals that are attainable that will encourage them to pursue their dreams. Bottom line, take the time to introduce a kid to the great outdoors. It just might save their life!  

Until next week, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to wear sunscreen and good protective clothing. Don’t be that guy who thinks they will never get Melanoma, because I was that guy. 

Contact Steve at

You just have to believe

Because people ask ….

Sixteen years ago, a young man had an idea for an outdoors program. At the time, he was doing Natchitoches Central football as color analyst with Chris Boyd, who did the play-by-play. Chris was an outstanding sports broadcaster and a great mentor to this young man, who learned a lot under his tutelage.

During this time, NCHS football was not successful and, on this night, they were at West Monroe (Louisiana’s top high school football program those days). It was 42-0 at the half, and during a commercial break the young man pitched his outdoors show idea to Chris, who thought it was a great idea and encouraged him to pursue it.

After getting a full endorsement from Chris, the enthusiastic young man decided to move forward. Several people tried to discourage him and said it would never work. Their point was, no one wants to listen to hunting and fishing. But he disagreed and asked himself, ‘What do people in our region like to do?’ The answer: they hunt and fish!

Bound and determined to make this work, he immediately started reaching out to businesses that he felt would benefit from such a program. Any business related to the hunting or fishing world was on his radar, and in most cases, there was a personal connection.

One reason the young man believed he could make such a program work was due to the great list of contacts he had related to the bass fishing world, both from a business standpoint and personal relationships he had with professional anglers. He made these connections due to the level of tournament fishing he was competing on in the FLW Tour and B.A.S.S. Opens.

Formatting a show would be the easy part. Gaining sponsors would be more difficult since only a handful of people had tried producing this type of program. A few had tried, but all had failed.    

Two weeks later the Hook’N Up & Track’N Down Show was born in February 2007. With sponsors on board and an broadcast agreement reached, the HUTD Show was now a go. That’s right, the young outdoorsman with dreams of a good outdoors show was yours truly.

Over the course of sixteen years, the show as gained a national following. We’ve interviewed the greatest names in the bass fishing world — Kevin Van Dam, Skeet Reese, Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Ray Scott, Mark Zona, and Rick Clunn, to name a few. By having the top professional anglers in the country appear, the HUTD Show obtained instant credibility. 

Today, the Hook’N Up & Track’N Down Show continues to set the bar for great outdoors entertainment as we talk hunting and fishing on a weekly basis. But the success of the program would not have been possible without two other guys — my co-hosts, radio legend Gary McCoy and H&W Team Trail Tournament Director and duck hunting guide Mike Echols.

They say successful people surround themselves with people better than themselves. This is definitely true in my case, as these two guys brought not only a wealth of knowledge of the outdoors but offered great personalities as well. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed going down the path of the HUTD Show and how the program got started. You can catch the program on our web site: It’s proof that if you believe in something strong enough, you can make it happen.

Until next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Contact Steve at

Ahhhh, spring: There’s nothing like it

Are we about to have the wool pulled over our eyes? Have we been bamboozled by Mother Nature? Are these dogwood and wisteria blossoms figments of my imagination?

I mean it’s mid-March and already we’re seeing things we should be seeing a month from now. Even so, I’ll take what I can get and enjoy it while I can even if it all gets blistered by a cold snap a few days or weeks down the road.

Spring is the time of year I have always loved. Even as a lad, when green started showing up in the yard and flowers started showing, it was time to do something my mama frowned on. I’d slip off my shoes and socks and let the tender green grass tickle my yet tender toes.

Later in the year, I could walk down the gravel road in front of the house barefoot and never feel the rocks beneath my feet. I’ve even done the macho thing of striking a match on the bottom of my leather-tough bare foot in July but it’s the first shedding of shoes in spring I remember most.

Growing up, spring meant watching daddy plow up the garden spot behind the house. I can now close my eyes and smell the aroma of freshly turned earth where later peas, corn and potatoes would grow. If you grew up in the country like I did, I’ll bet you remember what that smelled like. The plow exposed the dark damp soil beneath the surface that gave up an aroma that’s hard to describe.

Spring also meant it was time to go out to the cowbarn with a shovel and tin can. You didn’t have to dig deep. It was a simple task to flip over the dried cow patties there to expose the hiding place of earthworms and it didn’t take long to uncover enough to handle the task that lay ahead.

Half a mile through the woods behind our home lay twin ribbons of steel where the old L&A steam locomotive pulling a string of box cars as it struggled and chugged up Oskosh Hill. Crossing the tracks and stepping down through a thicket to an enchanted place where beeches and oaks shaded Molido, a clear winding stream invited me, my brother and cousins to dangle hooks skewered with red wigglers to entice the interest of what lurked beneath these cool dark waters.

We didn’t catch bluegills or chinquapins or crappie in Molido’s dark holes. We caught goggle eyes, red perch, jackfish and an occasional mud cat. Bluegills and chinquapins lived in the lake but Molido was reserved for the “creek” fish we caught.

Once the weather warmed enough for us, but not for our mamas, we’d sneak off, strip down to bare skin and go swimming in one particular deep hole in the little creek. After a swim, it was necessary before we made the walk back home where we would feign innocence so our mamas wouldn’t know we had broken their rules about swimming too early, we made sure our hair had time to dry out. Otherwise, we knew we had been caught and a stern lecture, sometimes accompanied by a thin limber switch from the hedge outside the door, would be waiting.

That was yesterday. No more cow patties to overturn, cane fishing poles and earthworms and the aroma of freshly turned garden earth. Sneaking off to go barefoot on fresh green grass or swimming in the creek are obviously no longer part of my life but I would take absolutely nothing for the memories of these special things I experienced while growing up out on the rural route decades ago. 

Well darn — it looks like Mother Nature is sneaking another cold spell in on us. Thirties next week? C’mon now! We don’t need that.

Contact Glynn at

It’s galling to be grumbling for Grambling

I’ve got a case of March Madness. I’ll treat it today with a load of boiled crawfish and total immersion in the NCAA Tournament. That’s worked every year except when I rode Mike McConathy’s Northwestern State bus into the Big Dance in 2001, 2006 and 2013, along with the time four years ago when my gall bladder entered the transfer portal.

That Friday night, I was on Oxycodone hours after surgery and so it had to be a hallucination when 16th-seeded Maryland-Baltimore County blasted No. 1 Virginia 74-54. Just like later in the evening when my bed was vertical and I could see Paul McCartney’s guitar and jacket below my feet, laid out neatly on the floor.

Four years to the day, I find myself grumbling for Grambling. 

Last night as I watched Texas Southern getting cracked in the First Four, I was sick for the Grambling Tigers, who would have been a much more accomplished Southwestern Athletic Conference representative.

Our Tigers were not only a SWAC regular-season co-champion, with a 24-9 record that included wins over a bad Colorado team and a Vanderbilt squad that finished tied for fourth in the SEC, but their brand would have added luster to the NCAA Tournament field.

For that matter, the Tigers would have added luster to the NCAA-run NIT and they should have been included there. That was discretionary and that was a bad blunder by that selection committee.

Grambling had every chance to be in the Big Dance. But the Tigers stumbled at the worst time, in the SWAC Tournament finals, losing for the first time in 12 games, 61-58 to Texas Southern. Coach Donte’ Jackson’s G-Men hit a painful 25 percent of their first-half shots, falling behind 22-5 in the first 10 minutes. Although they rallied back to a 43-all tie, they just couldn’t get control over a TSU squad they had beaten by 19 in Grambling on Feb. 11 and by 13 in Houston on Jan. 4.

Texas Southern entered the SWAC Tournament on a three-game skid. The Texas Tigers stunned regular-season co-champ Alcorn State to start a three-game winning streak – equaling two others during the SWAC slate as their best this season under coach Johnny Jones (yes, the former LSU point guard and head coach).

By getting hot at the right time, TSU gave Jones his sixth NCAA Tournament berth as a coach, and his third straight in five seasons in the SWAC. That should make the DeRidder native upwardly mobile in the job market in the coming days, if he wants a big raise and a step up on the mid-major pecking order.

Grambling was beaten fair and square. But it didn’t help that the SWAC’s postseason tournament format, with the eight qualifiers paired in four quarterfinal games, doesn’t reward the top teams over nine weeks of conference play.

For a one-bid league, the Southland Conference is superior with its bracket, which protects the top two teams until the semifinals. The four lowest seeds meet in an opening round, then the survivors meet the Nos. 3-4 seeds in quarterfinals, with the winners moving on to the semis.

Two more one-bid leagues of local interest, Conference USA and the Sun Belt, along with the SEC and the Big XII, also use tournament formats that place a premium on regular-season conference performance. Why doesn’t the SWAC? 

Instead, an eighth-place team got equal SWAC Tournament status with the co-champions, beat both, and surged into March Madness – where it got drubbed 84-61. 

Meanwhile, the SWAC’s best representative watched and winced last night in Lincoln Parish. I hope they had some crawfish.

Contact Doug at

‘No Plan B’: Local star drops everything to pursue pro pickleball dream

Judit Castillo is no stranger to a leap of faith. 

In 2017, she left her native Spain to pursue a college education and a tennis career in Natchitoches. 

Seven years later, the Northwestern State Demons product has made a “not-in-a-million-years” decision. 

Last month, Castillo, who has served in a couple of different roles at Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club and East Ridge Country Club since her days as an intern, dropped everything to pursue a career in professional pickleball. 

“There is no plan B,” the 24-year-old told the Journal. “I’m giving my best and everything I have.” 

Six months ago, Castillo had never touched a paddle and didn’t know the rules of pickleball. 

Ready for a remarkable twist? She’s backed – financially and emotionally – by a group of local members. One of the keys to Castillo’s rise in the sport is a member of that group, former major leaguer Todd Walker. 

“It’s crazy,” Castillo said. “Pickleball and baseball are two different sports, but they require a competitive mind-set that only professional athletes have. He’s been guiding me with mental training. Any time I have a question, technical and mental, he’s the first person I call.” 

Not only is Walker a mentor, he’s often her teammate in mixed doubles. 

“Anytime someone has the talent and the desire to do well, it doesn’t matter what it is, badminton, pickleball, chess, it gets pretty cool,” said Walker, who coached Calvary baseball for three years following a 12-year professional baseball career. “Judit has the ability. Everyone knew that very quickly.” 

Castillo won her first local pickleball tournament at Pierremont Oaks one day after her first practice. 

Knowledge of the game came quickly, through daily three-hour practice sessions and watching videos of the sport’s top stars. 

Last week, Castillo was rubbing shoulders and beating some of those very people. 

“I often think, ‘I’m hanging out with people I watched on TV. How did this happen?’” Castillo said. 

She recorded a fifth-place finish in the Professional Pickleball Association’s (PPA) Florida Open. The Spaniard’s only loss in six matches came against Salome Devidze, currently No. 2 in the World Pickleball Rankings. 

Castillo is the No. 44-ranked singles player in the world as she heads to the PPA Tour event in Austin, Texas. 

“It’s opened up a whole new world for her,” Walker said. “She has that unique ability to play against the best in the world.” 

Said Castillo: “In tennis I had the ability, but I had limitations. In pickleball, for whatever reason, I picked it up quickly.” 

Castillo’s family hasn’t seen her play tournament pickleball in person, but they have been able to follow the events via live streams. 

“When I told them about pursing pickleball full-time, they asked, ‘How are you going to fund everything?’ 

“I said, ‘I will figure out the way.’ 

“I knew I couldn’t work full-time and play pickleball full-time. Even if it’s crazy, I know they’ll be supportive.” 

Pickleball’s rise is evident by the emergence of Major League Pickleball (MLP) and the list of its investors – former quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady have purchased portions of MLP franchises. 

Just six months into this process, the MLP is a focus for Castillo. 

“I want to win,” Castillo said. “By July I want to be in the top 15 of the singles rankings and drafted by MLP. I think I can make it happen.” 

Fueled by a fire seen in some of her native country’s most famous athletes, like her favorite, Rafael Nadal, it’s hard to doubt Castillo. In college, she was a fierce competitor and fan favorite who finished her Lady Demons’ career with 54 singles wins, tied for eighth all-time at NSU. 

“I have a lot of Spanish in me,” she said. “I don’t give up. If you’re going to beat me, you’re going to have to beat me, I’m not going to give you anything.” 

Said Walker: “She’s one of the best in the world and a lot of us around Shreveport are excited to see where she’s at a year from now.”

Contact Roy at or on Twitter at @roylangiii

Good for Gipson, who gave NSU his best in his short stay

Don’t blame Corey Gipson one bit. Thank him for his remarkable season — no, that’s not plural — as Northwestern State’s men’s basketball coach.

Accept the new paradigm in college sports. You may detest the transfer portal, not to mention Name, Image and Likeness payments to athletes. But those are defining standards these days.

Coaching moves after brief stays were happening before the portal or NIL. They felt like the portal, and resulted from the motivation behind the NIL. There’s lots of money in reach climbing the ladder in college sports. Now the players can access it, too.

Sources indicate by moving to Austin Peay, Gipson will nearly double his $160,000 base salary at NSU as the Governors open a new arena. Those are undeniable and understandable incentives. It’s his alma mater, where he played in Austin Peay’s glory days. Can’t deny that appeal, although it’s a nice sidebar, not the primary motivation.

Also nice for Northwestern: a contract buyout, said to be at least $100,000 and maybe almost twice that,  a tab his new employer will have to pay the Demons. APSU’s $178 million university budget would rank third in Louisiana higher education, behind only LSU and UL Lafayette, nearly $100 million higher than Northwestern’s, so the Govs can do such things.

Speculation that has swirled for weeks about Gipson’s upward mobility crystalized over the weekend, with reputable national basketball observers and others reporting he was heading to Austin Peay after one 22-win season in Natchitoches. APSU made it official with a Tweet posting its announcement Sunday night.

Gipson spent 356 days as the Demons’ coach. Don’t let that upset you.

He accomplished a bunch, built around a core of three outstanding players – DeMarcus Sharp, Ja’Monta Black and Isaac Haney – who loyally followed him to Natchitoches from Missouri State, where Gipson was an assistant coach for seven seasons. He boldly signed Hansel Enmanuel, whose journey from the amputation of his left arm when he was six had already earned global notice and a huge social media following.

The patient development of Enmanuel into a player able to start and play some significant minutes as the season ended is a fabulous achievement for all involved, especially Gipson. The mind-blowing exposure Northwestern got in conventional and social media pathways was justifiably phenomenal, and the young man proved he was not a “dog and pony show,” Gipson said after the Southland Conference Tournament championship loss on Wednesday.

Gipson continued the long tradition of community service established by his predecessor, Mike McConathy, who received a prestigious National Association of Basketball Coaches’ “Guardians of the Game” award in 2012 for community outreach through educational initiatives off campus.  Gipson, staff and coaches did a wonderful job coming in blind and quickly getting involved across the community with good causes, and making new inroads. They were quite justified in talking about it, although the impression of some that it was beyond comparison to anything prior with the program was way off-base.

Northwestern president Dr. Marcus Jones and athletics director Kevin Bostian surely knew Gipson’s departure became inevitable in the last 2-4 days as the coach visited Austin Peay and contract terms were wrapping. There were plenty of rumors floating about a hefty pay hike Jones supposedly proposed for Gipson, but it seemed implausible. Adding tens of thousands of dollars would have shattered the salary structure not only in the athletic department, but across campus, at a time when the university is laying off employees and making brutal budget decisions in the wake of an enrollment free-fall hardly unique to NSU – although it’s not just because of COVID, despite what the party line has been.

You can bank on it that Bostian and Kyle Bowlsby, who is the one-man search firm that identified both Bostian and Gipson for NSU last year, already have a list of potential successors and those are being vetted, at least.

There probably have been some conditional conversations with a handful of candidates in case the job opened. Don’t expect there to be much of a gap in hiring the new guy. It’s the way the business gets done nowadays, and that’s necessary, because every competitor is already building next year’s team.

Speaking of that – don’t be surprised if there’s a total roster rebuild. It’s as likely as the Academy Awards running way too long that Black, Enmanuel, Haney, Sharp and some other 2022-23 Demons will be at Austin Peay in the fall.

Fair, and feasible with the portal. The mindset that players choose a school primarily because of the institution and its community is secondary to recruits or transfers being totally invested in their coach – and available dollars from scholarships and financial aid and if any exists (there’s only a trickle at NSU), NIL money.

Bottom line: the landscape is very different than what St. Denis saw in 1714. It’s not much like what Demon fans enjoyed under McConathy when north Louisiana prep stars Chris Thompson, Clifton Lee and Jermaine Wallace, then Will Mosley, James Hulbin, Jalan West and Zeek Woodley wowed with their feats in the best of times for modern-day Demon basketball, featuring three trips and two wins in March Madness .

Perhaps Bostian, Bowlsby and Jones can pick another winner, and this time, he’ll stay a little longer — not 23 years, but maybe 3-4? It’s happened before at Northwestern.

After five years at his alma mater in Natchitoches, baseball coach Jim Wells got the Alabama job in 1994. Athletic director Tynes Hildbrand hired Dave Van Horn, who has become one of the game’s icons at Arkansas. When Van Horn left in December 1997, young NSU AD Greg Burke picked John Cohen, who is now Auburn’s AD after a long, highly successful coaching career at Mississippi State and Kentucky. Cohen left NSU in 2001, and Burke brought back Wells’ assistant Mitch Gaspard, who also became head coach at Alabama.

Demon fans are hoping for some of that magic.

Contact Doug at

Victory sends reminders: Toms is really good at golf, great at giving

David Toms’ resume is extensive. For starters, 13 PGA Tour victories (including a major championship, the 2001 PGA), a long list of appearances in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups and a major title on the PGA Tour Champions (2018 U.S. Senior Open). 

Off the course, the 2017 inductee in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame has raised millions of dollars to help the less fortunate through the David Toms Foundation. 

Sunday, the 56-year-old Toms secured his third victory on the Tour’s 50-and-over circuit when he holed a 6-foot bogey putt on the final hole of the Cologuard Classic in Tucson, Arizona. The victory ended a three-year drought for the Shreveporter and former LSU star. 

“It’s a monkey off my back,” said Toms, who edged Robert Karlsson by one stroke. “I’ve had a bunch of close calls. It’s been a while.” 

As his post-victory interview carried on, Toms was overcome with emotion. It wasn’t so much the drought. It wasn’t the $330,000 first prize. It wasn’t the fortitude he showed after he hit his tee shot in the water on the final hole – just like he had done the first two times he played that hole during the event. 

Toms was thinking of a couple of special guests he played for – one got a first-hand, inside-the-ropes view of the final-round. The other’s seat was even better. 

Toms’ wore an “in memory” ribbon on his hat during the tournament in honor of the late Gloria Borges – the founder of WunderGlo Foundation who died at 32 from colon cancer in 2014. Gloria’s mother, Becky Borges, was an honorary observer Sunday and watched Toms up close. 

“She was right there with me,” Toms said of Becky Borges. 

Well, her daughter Gloria was, too. 

In addition to showcasing a tournament stacked with golf’s prior generation of superstars, the tournament’s title sponsor, Cologuard, has a mission to use the event to garner awareness for early screening for colon cancer. 

“It’s great to raise awareness,” Toms said. “We’re just here playing a game.” 

It was obvious the emotion began to boil for Toms. Should we have expected anything else? 

Giving has always been a passion for the Airline High product. For the better part of three decades, Toms has parlayed his success on the course to helping others. Sunday, he helped Gloria Borges’ mother in more ways than one. He elevated Gloria’s name and the WunderGlo cause – to cure colon cancer using “creative, forward-thinking and aggressive methods.”   

Toms also scored another victory in Gloria’s name. Those are priceless. 

“I was crying on the green when they talked about Gloria,” Toms’ right-hand man, longtime caddie Scott Gneiser, told the Journal. 

Toms has always enjoyed flying under the radar when it comes to fame, but he’s always found a way to use his name to help many, especially in Louisiana. 

On the course, it’s been more of the same. He’s an unassuming assassin, whose ball-striking has often been unmatched. The key this week: rekindling the magic in his putter. 

“(My putting) is why I haven’t won (a lot on PGA Tour Champions),” Toms admitted. “The stroke felt good. I gave a little tip to myself and it worked all week.” 

Toms’ victory came in the tournament’s final visit to Omni Tucson National. His clutch putt on 18 prevented a playoff on that devil of a hole. 

“We’re not the best of friends,” Toms said about No. 18. 

After the winning putt, Toms whispered to Gneiser: “At least we don’t have to see that hole again.”

Toms showed his true colors once again Sunday. He proved his golf game is elite, but it doesn’t hold a candle to his heart. 

Contact Roy at or on Twitter at @RoyLangIII

Mulkey’s state tournament experience was infinitely better than this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Doug at

Love story that began in the 1950s produces big boost for Bossier football in 2023

Bobby “Hurricane” Howell was a giving man. He was one heck of a multi-sport athlete at Bossier High in the 1950s and was asked to walk on by the LSU Tigers. The Plain Dealing native’s most important work came after his success on the field. Not only did he build an impressive business empire, Howell Environmental Companies, he was always happy to share the wealth.   

Thanks to his wife, Flora Howell, the generosity of the Bossier High Hall of Famer didn’t cease when he died at the age of 76 in 2015. 

Flora was pretty sure her next philanthropic move was to establish a scholarship in Howell’s name. 

Then the phone rang. 

Sometimes timing really is everything. 

At Howell’s alma mater, another passionate Bossier High product, Gary Smith, is on a mission to make the Bearkats great again. Smith is just a few weeks into his stint as the head football coach and he hit the ground running. 

“I put out a letter on social media,” Smith said. “We needed to raise $35,000 to revamp our weight room, for starters. 

“There are a lot of other things we need, but the weight room has to happen now.” 

Word traveled all the way to Flora Howell in Lafayette. Before he could blink, Smith was headed south on I-49 to meet with Flora on Saturday. 

“I was so excited,” Flora told The Journal. “I thought about how much (Bobby) loved Bossier High. The timing was perfect. He was a Bossier High School man, let me tell you. He went to all the reunions.” 

Smith and Howell met for more than an hour Saturday. 

The Bearkats are going to get that weight room. 

“You can tell how much Bossier High means to Coach Smith,” Howell said. “He’s very passionate. He feels he’s the right guy for the job.   

“Bobby used to pay for people’s funerals, weddings and college. If he could, he helped. He felt very blessed and wanted to return all that.” 

It may be easier for private schools and those in higher classifications to fundraise, but it can be done. There’s always someone willing to help. 

Bossier isn’t the only winner in this instance. Flora Howell was full of pride and love when describing her late husband and his desire to help others. But she’s still a little mad “Hurricane” played hard to get. 

Flora recalls meeting Bobby at the “Bossier pool” during their senior year of high school, however nothing came of the encounter. A short time later, the two ran across each other at Northwestern State College’s freshman dance. 

“He asked one of my friends to get introduced to me,” Flora said. “I said, ‘I just met you.’ 

“He said, ‘I don’t remember.’ I said, ‘I had my white bathing suit on, how can you forget?’” 

Although Hurricane was off to a rocky start, the soon-to-be lovebirds enjoyed their first date that night. The rest is history. 

From that moment on, Bobby Howell made sure Flora knew she was unforgettable. They were married for 53 years. 

A knee injury during the first week of practice in Baton Rouge sent Howell to NSC, but that didn’t prevent him from becoming a big man on the Demons’ campus, revered as an undefeated Golden Gloves and Tri-State AAU heavyweight boxing champion. 

And, of course, it paved the way for a love story seven decades strong. 

Smith has been encouraged about the outpouring of support for his Bearkats. In addition to the Howells’, he’s received several other contributions that will help with the weight room and cosmetic improvements around campus. 

“I want to make this a place players, coaches and teachers drive up to and say, ‘Wow,’” Smith said. “I could have probably mixed and matched weight racks, but these kids deserve better than that. We’re going to get the top-notch equipment and do it right.” 

Smith has already garnered a big fan in Flora Howell and will certainly add many others with his determination. 

“The other night, I was on the field and saw the skylines of Bossier and Shreveport,” Smith said. “I love the view. This is a great place for high school football.

“I want to end my career at Bossier.” 

It’s clear the Bearkats are in good hands.

Contact Roy at

Lighten up! It’s just a golf thing

Far be it from me to be considered a defender of Tiger Woods, but sometimes you have to stand up for a guy when he’s catching grief from people who are in serious need of getting a life.

Just so you know where I stand, I was no fan of Woods when he started scorching the golf world in his 20s and 30s. It wasn’t so much him as it was the world around him. He seemed more like a corporate creation and even more bothersome, at least to me, was the media’s fawning of him.

Now in his 40s, Woods seems much more Regular Dude and I’ve found that to be somewhat appealing. You got to admit, the guy has had a lot to deal with.

But this is something he shouldn’t have to deal with.

Last week at the Genesis Open – his first PGA event back after a prolonged absence – Woods was playing with Justin Thomas, a good friend on the Tour, in the first round.

When Woods, 47, outdrove the 29-year-old Thomas on a hole, he casually walked down the fairway with Thomas and slipped something into his hands. Thomas looked down to see what it was, gave it a smirk, and continued on. (Almost) nobody noticed it.

But a photographer got a picture of the exchange, zoomed in on the photo and discovered – gasp! – it was a tampon.

Look, I don’t need to translate it for you. It’s pretty obvious what was at play here and, I might add, somewhat creative. I mean, it’s not like Woods just happened to have said item in his golf bag. The pre-meditation of it is part of the beauty.

Social media blew up over it and people who just don’t get it lined up to take their shots. Woods was forced coached coerced into giving an apology “to anyone who was offended.” (Which is very much code for, “I really don’t mean it, but it’s what I’m supposed to say to get you morons off my back.”)

Say whatever you want about the whole thing, but there is one indisputable fact at play here – it’s what guys do. And particularly in golf, which is fertile ground.

Christine Brennan of USA Today predictably weighed in. (“He employed basic misogyny to insult his good friend Thomas, a knee-slapper of a dig against female athletes: You hit the ball like a girl!”)

The Athletic found Sarina Wiegman, a female English soccer coach who nobody has ever heard of, and did an entire story on how she was offended. (“Very inappropriate.”)

So let me speak for an entire gender when I say this: You’re offended? Well how about this – I’m offended that you’re offended.

So there.

But, hey, maybe I’m missing something here. So I checked in with two golfers who might not think the same way I do. You know, just in case my inner misogynist was taking over.

Shreveport’s Meredith Duncan has played on the LPGA Tour and is a former winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Sandra Smith is the former president of the Louisiana Women’s Golf Association, a two-time winner of the LWGA Fourball tournament and a recent board member of the Louisiana Golf Association.

Let’s hear from them!

Duncan: “I thought it was really funny. As a woman I wasn’t offended at all. I don’t understand the big deal, really. It was a funny ribbing between two friends.”

Smith: “Although I thought Tiger’s passing off a tampon to JT was kinda dumb, I certainly wasn’t offended by it. I took it for what it was … a prank gone bad and caught on video. I shudder to think of all the dumb things my girlfriends and I have done through the years … fortunately most of them happened before social media reared its oft-times ugly head.”

So it’s not just what guys do. It’s what golfers do.

“We need to lighten up,” Smith said, “and quit being so damn sensitive.”

Contact JJ at

Never trust an angler

One thing I’ve learned over my many years of fishing bass tournaments — never trust another angler! Now why would someone say such a thing? Because it’s a fact! Today we’ll look at a situation and you’ll understand why this is a true statement. 

No group of people on planet Earth are less trustworthy than bass fishermen. They will lie in a heartbeat to keep other anglers at bay when it comes to where and how they are catching bass. They will sell their first born for crucial information if it will help them win a tournament.

That’s why it’s so important to bond with a couple of guys who are your true friends that you can discuss what you’re doing and how you’re catching bass without the threat of one of them revealing your secrets. Trust is a word very few anglers use because the pool of people you can trust is small and almost non-existent.

A good friend of mine, who is a legendary angler from East Texas, told me one time that he was done with fishing Pro/Am events. Pro/Am events are tournaments where you have a Boater/Pro who runs the boat and the trolling motor while he’s paired up with an Amateur/Co-Angler for the day. The biggest problem in these types of events is that the Pro/Boater spends all his hard-earned money and time finding fish for an event while the Am/Co-Angler benefits from all that hard work without ever wetting a hook in practice or burning any gas.

When you take a Co-Angler to your best spots, you hope and pray that he won’t go tell all his buddies where these spots are and how you’re catching them. 

So many times, I’ve asked Co-Anglers nicely to please not tell anyone where and how we caught our fish for that day. But no matter how much they promise they will keep everything a secret, they’re lying!

This happened to me last year on Sam Rayburn. I had a good crankbait bite early off one spot. We both had our limits in the first 30 minutes of the tournament. I had over 16 pounds in the live well and my Co-Angler had his three-fish limit of almost 10 pounds.

I specifically asked the young man to please not share this spot with anyone else as I had another tournament coming up the next weekend. He reassured me that he does not share other anglers’ spots or information with anyone. 

So, feeling good about the rapport and connection we had made, I thought this guy was trustworthy. Guess what? Once again, my faith in humanity and trusting another angler was lost when I returned the following Thursday to scout for my next event on Rayburn.

Just after daylight I ran to my starting spot from the week before, where I had caught 16 pounds in 30 minutes. As I approached the spot, I noticed a boat was fishing almost directly on the same location. So, I pulled up and lowered my trolling motor trolling in his direction. Once within speaking range, I asked the angler if he had caught anything off this spot. He said “yes” with enthusiasm as he set the hook on a four-pounder!

While smoke and blood began to ooze from my ears, he commented that the area was loaded with some really good quality fish that his son had caught with a guy last weekend. I told him, “Yeah, I’m that guy!”

I could see the look on his face when he said, “Uh oh!”  He knew immediately that his son was not supposed to have told him about the spot. Once again, I politely asked the dad if he would lay off these fish until after my tournament on Saturday. He obliged and apologetically pulled up his trolling motor and left. 

While I understand that I really don’t have the right to claim this or any spot as off limits to anyone, it’s just the ethical part among other tournament fishermen to honor another angler’s spot or area. Now if another angler had found those same fish as I did, then it’s a matter of who gets there first. This is all a part of the unwritten rules of tournament fishing that so many anglers today refuse to observe.

Ethics have been thrown out the window in today’s bass tournament world. It has now become every man for himself with little to no regard for anyone else. 

If the ethical part of tournament fishing does not return, there will be some bad consequences for anglers down the road, especially the up-and-coming high school and college anglers who are not being taught these unwritten rules.

Until next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to wear sunscreen. Melanoma is real and can be deadly if not caught early. Early detection is critical to overcoming this form of cancer. 

Contact Steve at

The poetry of a pure heart

(Editor’s Note: Original run date of this effort was October 2010 to coincide with the opening of the movie, Secretariat, which starred people but also several horses who portrayed the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years; it was impossible for any of them to look as majestic as the stud folks affectionally and respectfully called “Big Red.” Seabiscuit in 2003, another horse movie based on a true story, this one captured by author Laura Hillenbrand in her magnificent 1999 book Seabiscuit: An American Legend, was better. Both are good. And you can read them between races at Louisiana Downs, which has Quarter Horse racing through April 1; the 84-day Thoroughbred meet is May 6-September 26, with live racing each Saturday through Tuesday. But first … some lessons from Secretariat, one of the best and most dominating athletes any of us has ever seen.) 

“Just before noon the horse was led haltingly into a van next to the stallion barn, and there a concentrated barbiturate was injected into his jugular. Forty-five seconds later there was a crash as the stallion collapsed. His body was trucked immediately to Lexington, Ky., where Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky, performed the necropsy. All of the horse’s vital organs were normal in size except for the heart. 

‘We were all shocked,’ Swerczek said. ‘I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.’”

So begins the classic piece from Sports Illustrated’s William Nack, whose 1990 tale of 1973 Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing winner Secretariat is worth reading over and over again.

I hope the movie is as good. I hear it is. Can’t see it fast enough. (And not just because it stars Diane Lane. Hello!)

Secretariat opened Friday. Columnist Cal Thomas calls it “The Blind Side meets Chariots of Fire meets National Velvet. It is Annie on four legs.”

“The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun…”

Like Annie, we all run on hope. It’s trite and hints at sentimentality, but a healthy optimism and focused hope sure makes the day brighter. Like the story of Depression Era underdog Seabiscuit, another horse who became a national celebrity, a story like Secretariat’s reminds you of the possibilities, of all the good that, with heart, can happen. You gotta have heart …

In beautiful blue and white checkered colors, Secretariat won the final leg of the Triple Crown by an absurd record of 31 lengths. In the Belmont Stakes, Nack wrote that the thoroughbred ran “rhythmic as a rocking horse.” Secretariat started sprinting from the gate – and never stopped. One of the most magnificent photographs in all of sports is the jockey Ron Turcotte looking over his shoulder down the stretch – and being all alone. Just the horse and the rider, and Belmont Park rocking.


Secretariat was euthanized 21 years ago this very week, victim of a painful hoof disease that in this case was incurable. But in retirement, tens of thousands had come to see him, a chestnut colt who, in 1973, had given the nation a break from the confusion and discontent of the Vietnam War and Watergate. When he died, millions mourned him, including Nack, a rookie turf writer for Sports Illustrated in 1973 but a longtime friend of Secretariat’s by the time the famous horse died.

Nack wrote about the time Secretariat had snatched his notebook away and refused to give it back. He wrote about the time Secretariat picked up a rake in his teeth and began cleaning his own stall. And “I told about that magical, unforgettable instant,” Nack wrote, “frozen now in time, when he turned for home, appearing out of a dark drizzle at Woodbine, near Toronto, in the last race of his career, 12 lengths in front and steam puffing from his nostrils as from a factory whistle, bounding like some mythical beast of Greek lore.”

Heart makes the difference. In stories like Seabiscuit’s. In stories like Secretariat’s. In stories like yours and mine.

Contact Teddy at or on Twitter at @MamaLuvsManning

When talking deer hunting, opinions differ

Deer season for all practical purposes has come to an end, but opinions on deer hunting vary widely and run the gamut from “if it’s brown it’s down” to not shooting one unless it’s a trophy. 

For the past 10 years or so, I have had the privilege of writing about trophy bucks taken around the state for LA Sportsman magazine. I have come away with the firm belief that Louisiana rivals states like Kansas and Iowa where some genuine buster bucks are taken every season. 

For example, if a buck has antlers with measurements of at least 140 inches including number of points, tine length, overall mass and inside spread, it got written up as a trophy. As the season progressed, we had so many140-inch bucks it was necessary to move the cutoff point to 150 inches. Looking back over the bucks that earned a spot in the magazine, the top five bucks ranged from 177 inches to a whopping 192 inches. 

Some hunters work hard all year in providing nutritional feed for deer, scouting using trail cameras to locate and pin-point target bucks. Other hunters are not interested in what a buck scores but just want to put a deer or two in the freezer, buck or doe – it doesn’t matter. 

I ran across a page on Facebook that highlights just how far ranging opinions are on what is an acceptable deer to take. There has been some talk about wanting to change Louisiana’s deer hunting regulations say six, which currently includes three antlered and three antlerless deer. 

One respondent on the page I read wrote…”About changing Louisiana deer hunting regs, in my opinion, I say leave it like it is. I don’t care about horns; I’m a meat hunter and I would be happy with six doe tags.” 

This comment triggered the following rather heated response…”Meat hunter is what someone calls himself if he’s too lazy to scout and hunt for big deer, part of the ‘if it’s brown it’s down’ crowd. Ain’t a hunter in Louisiana would pass a good buck for a doe. Everyone wants to kill a good buck.” 

Deer hunting today is far different than it was back in the days when I began hunting. For the first few years I hunted, bucks were the only legal deer that could be taken. That included anything from two-inch spikes on up. I can remember when all I looked for was to see something sticking up on a deer’s head. Spike or four point; it didn’t matter because it was a buck. 

Later, there were mixed reactions when regulations allowed one “doe day.” Some were happy to see this happen while others had the belief that if you allowed hunters to shoot does, it would be the end of our deer herds in the state. This didn’t prove to be the case as a few years later more “doe days” were added until the current picture emerged where the tagging system was implemented allowing hunters to take deer of either sex up to the daily and season limit. 

Here is the response from another on the page I read that gives deer hunters something to think about…”I have no problem with anyone choosing to shoot any legal deer on their property. Sure, we let some deer go and our neighbors shoot them. So what…we don’t own the deer. If it makes them happy, so be it. People have different wants, needs and goals. Hope everyone can enjoy the hunt the way they see fit.” 

In this writer’s opinion, this respondent pretty much nailed it. 

Contact Glynn at

Demons’ assistant coach leans on NSU support in fight against lung cancer

VITAL SUPPORT:  First-year Northwestern State assistant coach Tony Holliday thrives on his basketball family as he battles cancer. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State)

By JASON PUGH, Special to the Journal

NATCHITOCHES – This past June, Tony Holliday was in a new job, far away from home, facing another in a long line of medical challenges for the longtime basketball coach and his family.

Less than two months after being hired as an assistant coach at Northwestern State, the Michigan native was diagnosed with lung cancer – an analysis that came two years to the month that Holliday had lost his wife, Sandra Ramsey Holliday, to a second occurrence of breast cancer on June 4, 2020.

In addition to his own fight and the two bouts his late wife had with the disease, Holliday’s brother, Charles, and uncle, Arthur Lee, battled cancer. There’s more. Two of Sandra Holliday’s four sisters and her mother each endured the trials of breast cancer.

What Holliday, 65, has faced in his personal life would lead many to understand if he was embittered or questioned his faith. Instead, the opposite is true.

“I never wavered in my faith, because I knew the type of mindset I had to have going in,” Holliday said. “My uncle is 20 years down the road and healthy and living a great life. My brother, Charles Holliday, is 10 years removed (from his diagnosis) and down the road.

“My brother told me, ‘You’re a Holliday. You’re going to be fine. You can get through this. If Uncle Arthur Lee can get through it – if I can get through it – you can get through it, too.’”

A longtime prep coach in Michigan, whose pupils include 2000 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player Mateen Cleaves, Holliday has spent the better part of four decades encouraging and guiding players in basketball and in life.

He did the same for his wife as she battled a disease she learned of early in life – one that was prevalent in the Gordon family.

“My wife was in her senior year at Michigan State and had to leave school early to be the caretaker for her mother,” Holliday said. “She has four sisters, and her two older sisters also had the same cancer, breast cancer in the left breast. (Sandra) beat it the first time around. We thought we did everything we could do, as far as we were concerned, to extend her life with chemo, radiation and surgery. That was the first time around. Two years later, it came back, and she had no chance.”

What Sandra Ramsey left for her husband was a blueprint – or a gameplan in coaching parlance – for how to handle what came to him two years later.

“For me,” Holliday said taking a deep breath before continuing, “the one thing her process taught me was just understanding what you and only you can do in terms of preparation, how to handle it in terms of diet and exercise, handling treatment, having to accept the reality of life.

“Life is a gift from God. His word is, ‘Every man and woman born by a woman shall surely die.’ I saw my brother go through it, saw my uncle go through it, a lot of my former players and their parents and family members went through it. I was encouraging them and my wife. Now, it’s my turn. It helped me make sure I got a clear understanding of what this whole journey is about.”

The journey led him to Natchitoches as part of a new staff that quickly became something more.

A longstanding relationship with first-year head coach Corey Gipson brought Holliday to Northwestern and gave him what turned out to be a much-needed support system.

“I had visited New Orleans numerous times before, but this was the first time I’d been to Natchitoches,” Holliday said. “Having no family here, our coaching staff, our players and the Northwestern State staff is my family. That’s where I get my support from.”

That support has manifested in ways seen and unseen.

Gipson was there in the hospital when Holliday had his initial surgery following his diagnosis. The Demons’ Oct. 21 Roundball Madness event where this year’s Demon team faced an alumni group, including players from the 2005-06 Demons of Destiny, saw a portion of ticket sales donated to Holliday’s recovery.

“Coach Tony Holliday is a warrior,” Gipson said. “He’s never had a bad day in the program. In the early stages of the cancer, internally he had some rough days. One time, I had a person close to me tell me, ‘I don’t feel as good as I look.’ I’m sure coach Holliday has had some days like that. Sometimes we can see a person who looks like they feel good, but internally they may be having some rough days. He’s a breath of fresh air to be around.

“He’s an inspiration to the program. What he’s had to go through and sacrifice to be a Demon, we’re so grateful for that. Keep him in your prayers. He’s had some really good days here recently, and he’s on the up and up.”

While Holliday has spent the better part of his life encouraging – and correcting as needed – his players and their families, Tony Holliday the patient learned to lean on Tony Holliday the coach early in his fight.

“We’re always quick in life to encourage someone or give someone advice,” Holliday said. “Oftentimes, we don’t give ourselves that same advice. Even though I have a great support system, sometimes you’re your best support system by what you tell and feed your mind. Even though I had to endure a lot of pain the first six weeks, that coaching instinct kicked in. You have to see yourself down the road. You have to visualize where it is you want to go and where you want to be.

“With God’s grace, you know at some point, you’ll get there, but you have to be patient and positive in the process. To God be the glory, I’m feeling good, and I’m excited about what the future holds.”

That includes inspiring a Demon team bidding for its 20th win Thursday night at Incarnate Word, very much in contention for the Southland Conference title and on a two-win track in the conference tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in program history and first since 2013.

“The biggest compliment you can give coach Holliday in his battle is you would never know (he was fighting cancer),” sophomore guard Isaac Haney said. “The way he shows up every day and gives it his all. Just because he’s battling something inside doesn’t mean he’s not in here getting onto us for simply not rebounding or not boxing out. He’s really good at exploiting the fundamentals and the little things. He knows they add up and they mean a lot. To see him come in here and give us everything he has, who are we not to give everything we’ve got in good health?”

Contact Jason at

How Bayou State basketball is bouncing toward March Madness

ICYMI, around Division I college basketball in the piney woods and bayous, as March Madness approaches, here is my version of Cliff’s Notes. Let’s call this Duggie Nuggets. On second thought, let’s don’t. How about Bayou Basketball Bites?

Just like most of our state’s basketball teams, we can do better.

Now that college baseball and softball is underway, with spring football right behind, it’s fair to say the generally tepid interest level in college hoops is fading fast in all but a few locales. But the Big Dance and its brackets are inevitably captivating, and you may find yourself with a rooting (or at least betting) interest.

At LSU, the extremes are mind-blowing. Nobody saw Kim Mulkey’s (Lady) Tigers with only one loss this season, but it’s likely they’ll sail into the SEC Tournament with just that. Nobody saw Matt McMahon’s men with no wins since the opener in conference competition, although anyone who expected close to a .500 SEC record was also holding out hope for a Saints playoff run.

Going anything less than unbeaten against a cupcake non-conference schedule would have been disappointing for Mulkey’s squad. They did not disappoint. They haven’t since, either. They’re not quite Final Four caliber, but that will change when Parkway’s Mikayla Williams and her signing class saddle up in Baton Rouge.

As for the LSU men, they’re a recruiting class away, in the new age of the transfer portal, from merely treading water in the SEC. McMahon is a good human and a solid coach, but can he recruit on a Power 5 level? That was the question when he was brought in to clean up the Will Wade cesspool. He’s done that much. Now, to upgrade the talent level and begin notching some Dale Brown-style upsets to make his program relevant.

From off the 318 radar, Tulane requires attention. It’s not just a football school (insert chortle). Be advised, the following may shock you. The men are 17-7, second behind Houston in the American Athletic Conference, and NCAA Tournament-bound. On the women’s side, Greenies coach Lisa Stockton just surpassed legendary Leon Barmore, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Lady Techsters’ coach, as the state’s winningest women’s college coach.

In her 29th Tulane campaign, Stockton has averaged 20 wins and at 16-11 this winter, is near that pace. She notched her 577th victory last Saturday, is trending toward her 21st postseason appearance and hoping for a 12th NCAA Tournament trip. None of that or her commendable career winning percentage scratches the surface of Barmore’s resume’, but it’s pretty salty in its own right. I’m not tuned into Tulane, but while the court-naming talk is still buzzing ….

Speaking of under the radar, UL-Lafayette’s men are 21-7, tied for third in the Sun Belt, headed to unscheduled action in March.

Wish it was a Bayou Blast Tournament. That would be fun and moderately interesting. Tulane, ULL, Grambling (18-8) and Northwestern State (19-9) all have postseason legs, but lack statewide appeal. Any of them could win their conference tournaments. All may have consolation opportunities if they don’t.

There’s the NIT, fit for regular-season champs that don’t cash in at conference tourneys (Grambling and NSU still might fit that description). Then trickle down to the pay-to-play alternatives, the College Basketball Invitational and (maybe) The Basketball Classic (it’s hard to tell online if it survived to 2023).

On the women’s side, there’s a slim chance of extra play for anyone other than LSU and Tulane. Best longshot: Louisiana Tech (16-10), which has battled injuries and inconsistencies, but Brooke Stoehr has an excellent conference tournament track record. Give her the squad that started the season and the Lady Techsters could threaten in the Conference USA Tournament.

That’s Bayou Bracketology, hopefully more useful than beads on Ash Wednesday.

Contact Doug at

Fatherhood, coaching dreams lead OC Sewell back to Haughton

The product of two doctor parents, Matthew Sewell determined his career path early in life. 

“I’ve never really wanted to do anything else,” he told The Journal. 

The road to Sewell’s professional life began at 17 years old, but it didn’t travel through medical school and he’s not Doogie Howser. The journey began – and now continues – on the gridiron at Harold E. Harlan Stadium in Haughton. 

Buccaneers’ head football coach Jason Brotherton recently announced he lured the now-26-year-old Sewell back between the pines to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator. 

There have been more significant hires during a busy 2023 offseason in the world of Northwest Louisiana high school football, but you could argue none are more meaningful. 

“Haughton football has been one of the most important things in my life,” said Sewell, who fills a void left by Kyle Wilkerson, a 27-year veteran at Haughton who remains on staff in a different capacity. 

The move wasn’t easy for Sewell, who left the same post at Parkway High after three years under head coach Coy Brotherton – Sewell’s best friend and Jason’s younger brother. 

“Coy has been my best friend since I was 18,” Sewell said. “He took a chance on me as an offensive coordinator when I was 22 years old, when he got his first head coaching job in 5A – that’s pretty crazy. That meant a lot to me. That made leaving even harder.” 

Two other factors, named (wife) Morgan and (7-week-old daughter) Olivia, made it a no-brainer. 

“Having a baby changed the way I thought about everything,” Sewell said. “Parkway is way out of the way of where I live and my family lives. Everything in our life is out (near Haughton). Mom (Leslie Barnes Sewell), Dad (Mike Sewell), Morgan’s parents, my brothers. It would be a strain (caring for the baby) working at Parkway.” 

In addition to the laundry list of family-related reasons, another major factor in Sewell’s decision is the future with the Buccaneers. Sewell dreams of leading the Bucs out of the tunnel on Friday nights in the fall. Not that he couldn’t get the job while at Parkway should Jason Brotherton ever decide to step down at Haughton, but Sewell believes it would be best to be as close as possible. 

“The guys at Haughton are my mentors and they are like family,” Sewell said. “The guys at Parkway are like my best friends.” 

Sewell, who began attending games at Haughton in 2000 to watch older brother Chris Barnes play, has played either baseball or football under 10 current Buccaneers coaches. 

“Any time you have former players that want to come back to your program it speaks well of the program,” Jason Brotherton said. “To get Matthew back at Haughton means a lot for our program, school, community, and to me personally. 

“Matthew is a bright young mind with lots of energy and also a man of high character. I told him the day he left for Parkway that I was going to try to get him back to Haughton one day, and we couldn’t be more excited to have finally made that happen.” 

Jason Brotherton will begin the 2023 season with two new, but familiar faces as coordinators (longtime Haughton assistant Josh O’Nishea was recently named the defensive coordinator). 

Sewell’s claim to fame as a Haughton football player is being a freshman teammate to senior Dak Prescott. His high school days were plagued by injuries – a torn ACL, a broken collarbone and ripped up shoulder. 

“That didn’t have anything to do with me not playing a whole lot,” Sewell joked. “I wasn’t good.” 

However, the injuries forced Sewell to spend a lot of time with Haughton’s football and baseball coaching staffs. That sparked a drive to become a coach. 

Following an injury-plagued football career at Haughton, Sewell caught on as a volunteer for Ruston football in 2014 while he attended Louisiana Tech. Rodney Guin, then Haughton’s head coach, welcomed his former player as a volunteer for the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. 

After he graduated from Louisiana Tech, Sewell took a paid position at Haughton under Jason Brotherton until Coy Brotherton “took a chance” on a 22-year-old coach. 

“I’m only 26, but this will be my 10th football season as a coach. I’ve coached in the Class 5A semifinals once and the quarterfinals twice,” Sewell said, “and we play in one of the toughest districts in Louisiana.” 

And Sewell’s parents? 

“Coaching is a very different lifestyle, but they never pressured me — they pushed me to do whatever I wanted to,” Matthew Sewell said. “However, I still didn’t tell my parents I wanted to be a coach until I was a senior in high school. They were very supportive, so that helped.” 

It didn’t take Sewell long to learn how to succeed in the game. 

“Make sure you’re surrounded by good football coaches,” Sewell said. “I’ve been fortunate with that. I’ve had that at Parkway. You need good people you can lean on and work together with. 

“And you also have to believe in what you believe in and do what you do.” 

Although he’s just in his mid-20s, it’s clear plenty of people believe in Matthew Sewell. 

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