Cousin Kevin: USA’s secret weapon in Presidents Cup win

He doesn’t talk about himself much, likes to keep quiet in his retirement from high school coaching, prefers to get on the mower at his home course, Royster Memorial at City Park, in his hometown, Shelby, N.C., and quietly work his part-time job with no more fanfare than a bump on a tee box.

So you didn’t read about what Kevin Allen did this weekend at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, an hour’s drive from Shelby and a golf universe or two removed from Royster Memorial — 9 holes, 2911 yards (from the tips!), par 35.

But for two crucial matches in last weekend’s Presidents Cup, he was a standard bearer, the guy who walks inside the ropes with that Big Huge Sign that the gallery can see, the sign denoting the players and scores of the match they are watching.

Cousin Kevin. My man. America’s Man, a man you didn’t read about for two reasons.

One, the Americans pretty much spanked the Internationals, 17.5 to 12.5, which is equivalent to you (the American) firing a light-running 68 and me (the foreign guy) turning in a bulky, bloated 89.

Not a tremendous amount of drama.

The other reason is Cousin Kevin’s humility. “I just wanted to help the team,” he told me Tuesday, when his knees had quit aching long enough for him to walk to his car and find his phone.

He’s a regular volunteer down in Greer, S.C. at the annual Korn Ferry event, the BMW Charity Pro-Am, so this was nothing new. He loves it. He’d be a professional standard bearer if there were such a thing.

But it was the Presidents Cup, at updated and lush Quail Hollow, (and all I heard about all summer).

So …

Thursday, the event began. Cousin Kevin had America’s Tony Finau and Max Homa against Foreign People Taylor Pendrith and Mito Pereira. Kevin and Finau and Homa won, 1 up.

America led, 4-1, when the day ended.

“3-2 makes it a longer night,” Cousin Kevin said. “Felt like I helped us push through there late. Big point.”

I’ll say.

His next shift was the biggie: Sunday. The US had a comfortable but not insurmountable lead. So Cousin Kevin drunk an extra Red Bull, grabbed his standard and headed out to seal the deal.

His singles group was Xander Schauffele (Us) against Corey Conners (Them). Schauffele closed out Conners with a putt on 17 that gave America all the points it needed; the rest was for show.

But here’s the story behind the story:

Earlier in the round — Schauffele was putting on 6, a challenging 249-yard par-3 — and Cousin Kevin and his standard are behind the green. He gets a tap on the arm.

It’s Davis Love III, the team captain.

Keep in mind that the volunteers like Cousin Kevin are told in no uncertain terms that they aren’t to speak to the competitors unless spoken too. Gentleman’s agreement.

But Davis Love III, captain of the whole team, for crying out loud, in the heat of the battle, the middle of competition, spoke to my cousin, who recreated for me their conversation, word for word.

Love: “Is Xander’s putt for birdie?”

Cousin Kevin: “Yessir, Captain.”

Swear to Arnold Palmer it’s true.

“Felt like that was another point right there,” Kevin said. “Look, he could have called Zach Johnson. He could have called Steve Stricker. He could have called — who’s the other co-captain?”

Me: “Webb Simpson?”

Kevin: “Webb Simpson! But he asked me. Felt I helped us get another point.”

Dang straight.

I almost forgot to ask: Did Schauffele make the putt?

“Not even close,” Kevin said. “Made his par.”

Not even close to Cousin Kevin’s double-eagle weekend. We thank him for his service.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Parkway vs. Haughton: Throw out the records — and the brothers

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton spent the evening before the Haughton-Parkway football game playing football with his 9-year-old son in the front yard. Then he camped out in his pickup at the end of his driveway to ward off toilet-paper rollers.

“Three years in a row they’ve got me,” he said. “It’s a rivalry game, so …”

Little brother Coy, the head coach at Parkway, was at a high school football game Thursday but he was “playing football” too. How can football not be on your mind when you’re stepping on the field against your rival in less than 24 hours?

“Their quarterback (Colin Rains) is so good,” Coy said. “We can’t let him extend plays. Got to keep him in the pocket.”

The brothers won’t catch a pass or make a tackle or score a touchdown tonight. But some of their players will, and each is hoping their guys play better than the other guys. Parkway beat Haughton, 13-0, in the preseason jamboree.

Brotherly love aside, the tale will be told tonight when Parkway (3-0) meets Haughton (2-1) Between the Pines at Harlon E. Harlon Stadium at 7.

“It’s a tough place to play,” Coy said. “It’s hard to go in there and win. A rival game like that, you’ve got to throw everything else out the window. We’ve got to stay focused and let our players do the talking.”

“We’ve got to run the ball better and create some turnovers,” Jason said. “Can’t let them make any explosive plays. And they can kill you on special teams. We’ve got to make two more big plays than they do to be able to win.” 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Parkway (3-0) at Haughton (2-1), Harold E. Harlan Stadium

Series: Haughton leads 35-15

Last year: Parkway won 17-3

Last week: Parkway beat Bossier 49-0; Haughton lost to Many 35-3

Rankings: Parkway is No. 2 in SBJ poll

Radio: none

Notable: It’s time for another version of the Bro Bowl — head coaches and brothers, Coy (Parkway) and Jason (Haughton) … The brothers have split the first two meetings … The Panthers were the only Bossier Parish school to win last week … Haughton and Parkway have split the past 10 meetings.

Evangel (1-2) at Bossier (0-3), Memorial Stadium

Series: Evangel 6-0

Last year: Did not play

Last week: Evangel lost to Westgate 37-21; Bossier lost to Parkway 49-0

Rankings: Evangel is No. 10 in SBJ poll

Radio: none

Notable: Bossier head coach DeAumante Johnson presented Parkway head coach Coy Brotherton with a plaque before last Friday night’s game. Brotherton was the head coach at Plain Dealing when Johnson was the quarterback for the Lions … Brotherton also attended Senior Day at Grambling State University to honor Johnson. Brotherton was the first to call Johnson and invite him to be a part of Bryant Sepulvado’s staff at Captain Shreve High School … The Bossier offense only managed to earn one first down against the Parkway defense last week. Two of Bossier’s first downs were attributed to Parkway penalties … Bossier’s Cristobal Cruz had a 60-yard punt in last week’s game against Parkway …. Kameron Manning provided the Bearkats with a bright spot in the first quarter with an interception. … The 0-3 start for the Bearkats marks the first time since 2018 that Bossier has lost three games in a row. The Bearcats were 1-9 in 2018. 

Evangel boasts the top three positions on Shreveport-Bossier City’s tackles leaders. Jacob Wilson leads the way with 43 while teammates Gabriel Reliford and Jamal Jordan have posted 42 apiece. Four other Eagles are listed with 20-plus tackles. Those seven Evangel players have combined for 212 tackles and own seven of the top 18 spots.

Peabody (2-1) vs. Green Oaks (1-2), Jerry Burton Memorial Stadium

Series: Green Oaks 4-0

Last year: Did not play

Last week: Peabody lost to Logansport 46-13; Green Oaks beat BTW 28-6

Rankings: none

Radio: none

Notable: The good news from last week’s Soul Bowl was Green Oaks getting the 28-6 victory for the Giants’ first victory on the field since Nov. 20, 2022. The bad news is their star defensive lineman, Kashaun Green, was injured in the first quarter and will be out for a couple of weeks … “We told Kashaun, ‘We want you to play, but we need you for district,’” said Green Oaks coach Chadwick Lewis. “It’s no big deal if he has to sit out a couple of games” … The Giants are working hard to get the offense going. “We will have to be able to get some points on the board to help the defense,” said Lewis … The defense was the star of the game last week, recovering a fumble in the BTW endzone, coming up with a 14-yard scoop-and-score, and a 35-yard interception return for a score … “This is Military and First Responders Appreciation Night,” said Lewis, “so we want to acknowledge and thank them for their hard work and dedication to serving and protecting” … After breaking the losing streak, the Giants “want to be and remain hungry for more,” according to Lewis.

North Caddo (3-0) at Neville (2-1)

Series: Neville 2-0

Last year: Did not play

Last week: North Caddo beat Bolton 44-20; Neville beat Huntington 49-12

Rankings: North Caddo No. 5 in LSWA 2A poll, No. 7 in SBJ poll; Neville No. 4 in LSWA 4A poll

Radio: North Caddo (KNCB 1320 AM, K104FM)

Notable: Last time the schools played was in 1958 won by Neville 20-7 … North Caddo running back K.J. Black did not play in the 44-20 road win against Bolton last week … North Caddo has scored no fewer than 40 points in the first three games of the 2022 season … North Caddo’s University of Nebraska commit, Omarion Miller, only had two catches in last week’s win, but still managed to get over 100 yards receiving (116 to be exact). Both catches went for touchdowns. To finish things off, Miller caught the two successful two-point conversions on both touchdowns to finish the night with 16 points. 


Airline at Benton: ‘Do whatever it takes’

ON THE RUN – Greg Manning (3) has rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns for Benton, which plays host to Airline in a big rivalry game tonight. (Photo by JOHN PENROD, Journal Sports)

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Airline was 1-9 last year. Airline is much better this year—but 0-3.

The Vikings know that. Not easy to swallow. Too many turnovers. Poor tackling.

Do that better and who knows?

Benton? 1-2. Special teams mistakes. Gave up two kickoff returns for touchdown in back-to-back games. Pass coverage problems. Like Airline, poor tackling. Fix that and who knows?

Some answers will come tonight when Airline and Benton meet at Mason-Newman Field in Tiger Stadium. An argument could be made that this is the best matchup tonight in the state of teams with a combined 1-5 record.

Benton’s Tigers are coming off a heartbreaking loss in New Orleans in a game they led by 18 points to Newman, 54-52. Yes, that many points.

“Mentally, I think we’re in a good place (after the loss),” Benton coach Reynolds Moore said. “Still some fatigue. We’re not the freshest we’ve ever been. We have a lot of guys who played a lot of snaps.”

Cramping was usually a problem for the other team, not for Benton. Friday night in New Orleans was a different story. But a match with Airline suddenly clears the cramping air.

“It’s a big rivalry game,” Moore said. “We have to do whatever it takes to win this game. Airline is not a typical 0-3 team. If it were a team that nobody thought was good, our kids would be in a different mindset. But this is Airline. It’s a lot easier to be focused.”

“If we eliminate turnovers and if we tackle, we’ll be fine; I don’t worry that much about intensity if we do that,” Airline head coach Justin Scogin said. “We’re 0-3, but the good thing is they understand what they’re doing wrong. They’ve stayed true to who I thought they were. I know they’ve never gotten to the point where they’ve said, ‘Man, we’re giving up.’ They’ve continued to compete.

“We’re tired of people telling us how good of an 0-3 team we are,” he said. “Our kids understand; they get it. This has been the best part—nobody’s giving up. It’s never fun to lose, but the process of the whole thing, learning how to win, is fun.” 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Airline (0-3) at Benton (1-2), Mason-Newman Field at Tiger Stadium

Series: Airline 2-1

Last year: Benton 28, Airline 7

Last week: Airline lost to Northwood 35-28; Benton lost to Newman 54-52

Rankings: Benton is No. 5 in SBJ poll

Radio: Benton (The Light, 92.1 FM)

Notable: Tigers receiver Pearce Russell ranks third Caddo-Bossier with 18 receptions and 351 receiving yards … Benton is coming off a wild 54-52 loss to quarterback Arch Manning and Newman in Week 3 … Benton defeated Airline 28-7 last season and lost 31-28 in 2020.

Natchitoches Central (1-2) at Southwood (2-1), Lee Hedges Stadium

Series: Natchitoches 22-9

Last year: Natchitoches 37-6

Last week: Natchitoches lost to ASH 54-6; Southwood lost to Carroll 40-12

Rankings: none

Radio: Natchitoches (95.9 Kix Classic Country; http://69.64.65.171:8192/kixstl)

Notable: After starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 2006, the Cowboys fell to Carroll 40-12 in Week 3 … They hope to get back in the win column when they open District I-5A play against the Chiefs … Southwood coach Jesse Esters said the Cowboys will regroup and get back to the basics … “We had become distracted with the two wins that we didn’t perform well,” Esters said of last week’s loss … The Cowboys will be without three players tonight – workhorse running back Melvin Coleman, safety Jathon Skinner, and left guard Jayden Stevenson.

Calvary (1-2) at Wossman (2-1)

Series: First meeting

Last year: Did not play

Last week: Calvary lost to Byrd 14-7; Wossman beat Mentorship 67-0

Rankings: Calvary is No. 8 in LSWA 2A poll, No. 4 in SBJ poll

Radio: Calvary (Promise 90.7 FM)

Notable: So much for that quarterback competition. This week, Calvary Baptist Academy quarterback Bryce Carpenter, who had shared time with Abram Wardell, withdrew from the school and enrolled at Loyola College Prep … on the season, Carpenter has completed 39 percent of his passes (11-for-28) for one touchdown and one interception. He also added 29 rushing yards and a score. Wardell is 11-for-16 passing for three touchdowns and an interception … Barring a special reprieve, Carpenter won’t be eligible to play until Week 4 of his senior season.

 


Death Valley comes alive — again

My adopted state is wildly cherished Louisiana, but I’m from South Carolina.

Once dismissed from the East Coast, Louisiana was the only other state that would take me.

Deeply appreciate it.

That being said, we just want to make sure we’re all squared up and understand that while Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge is often called Death Valley, the original Death Valley by a decade or so is in Clemson, S.C., in Pickens County, hard by the Seneca River.

Tiger Stadium’s pregame is awesome. Chills and all that. But it’s batting second behind the original Death Valley in Clemson, the best of the best.

The stadium opened in 1942 with 20,000 seats. In the late 1940s, the Presbyterian College coach, Lonnie McMillian, said it was so hot in Clemson that it was like playing in Death Valley, California. The Clemson coach, Frank Howard, who’d helped lay the sod for the new stadium, liked that. So he kept repeating it.

It caught on. It didn’t hurt that a huge cemetery was less than a fly pattern from the west sideline. And still is.

“Death Valley” caught on.

For a couple of reasons, it is hallowed ground to me.

The first college game I ever went to was South Carolina at Clemson, November, 1970. I clocked in at 10 years old. We stood on the north hill — the stadium wasn’t enclosed then — and watched Tommy Suggs lead the Gamecocks to victory, 38-32, in front of a sold-out crowd of 51,000, which included me.

Why those old teenagers and young men of 20 or so took me, I don’t know.

Lyn Moody, who taught me how to milk a cow and catch a grounder.

Hayes Barfield, the town mechanic who had a calendar in his garage of women in shorts holding carburetors; he taught me how to love … carburetors. And cylinders. Brake pads.

Rudy Huggins, the best left fielder I have ever seen; can still see him robbing a dude of a home run, flipping over the waist-high chain link fence that, during football season, was what separated fans from the field at about the 20-yard line.

And Wayne Baxley. We left from his house. I sat between him and Lyn up front, back when you could do that. With no seat belt.

Anyway, they let me go with them. How it felt, riding to a Big Game with guys I thought were actual grownups, I can’t describe because I’m no poet. We stopped for RC Colas and peanuts. We listened to Tammy Wynette on the AM radio. A four-hour trip today, longer back then. For me, heaven in an LTD.

I slept all the way home.

But I woke up to all those colors. All those people. My town was 750 people and I knew them all. I knew their dogs and cats. But back then before the Clemson-South Carolina game in 1970, I didn’t know there were that many people in the world.

The biggest thing was the roar of the crowd. Again, the roar of the crowd. Intoxicating. That was the thing. That was what hooked me. The roar. All those colors and all those people.

There were maybe two weeks when I was a teenager that I wanted to be the centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles. But that passed, and all I ever wanted to be was a sportswriter. I just wanted to figure out some way to be in the roar of the crowd.

A lot of times I wonder what I’d be doing today if those guys hadn’t taken me to that game. Other things like the Bookmobile and some priceless teachers and encouraging parents were a part of it, but that afternoon was the main thing that, in the back of my little-boy brain, made me want to be a sportswriter.

Saturday night, I went back to Death Valley again, for the first time in 52 years. Priceless. A lot has changed in a half century.

This time I was in the press box and radio booth. A 34-point underdog, Louisiana Tech trailed 13-6 at the half, but penalties and turnovers and Clemson happened, and the Bulldogs fell, 48-20. (But they covered the spread. So who’s the real winner?)

But during pregame, something happened that had never happened before. Clemson is in the middle of a $70 million stadium “enhancement” process. And if you’ve got $70 million to spare, it was worth it.

New video board. LED lights. Sound system. Ribbon boards. Saturday was the first night game in Death Valley with the new configuration.

The stadium went dark. (You can do that with LED lights, and turn them right back on. I know, right?!) Queen sang We Will Rock You. The new ribbon boards flashed between orange and white, the Clemson colors. The video board showed the players making their way to The Hill, where they’d run down (think of the old Joe Aillet Stadium hill) to the field. Fans lit their flashlights. The end zone video board, almost as long as the end zone, showed the players getting ready to touch “Howard’s Rock” and run into the stadium.

It was a thing. Chills and all that. And the first time for everybody, everybody being around 80,000 people.

But if you were 10, and you were standing on the hill behind the north end zone with some of your heroes, and it was your first college game, 1970 was better.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Expect a football party when Haughton visits Many

RHODES RUNNER: Haughton’s Tyler Rhodes runs after getting the handoff from quarterback Colin Rains.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Tonight in Many, Haughton has a home game on the road.

“Heard it’s an experience,” said Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton, whose 5A team known for its own interesting gameday experience is expecting a playoff atmosphere when the Bucs visit John W. Curtis Tiger Stadium at 7 o’clock.

“Heard about the Harley-Davidsons, the fireworks, the tailgating,” Brotherton, a Many gameday rookie, said. “We’re excited about that. Heard if you want to steal anything in Many, do it during a home football game. Sounds familiar; sounds like my kinda place.”

While Brotherton and the Bucs haven’t been there, they’ve “been there.”

“We have a unique (home) atmosphere too,” he said. “Many might even be a step up from us. But our guys are used to playing in big-game atmospheres.”

Both teams have playoff pedigrees. Many has won two Class 2A state titles in five title game appearances since 2013 and finished as runner-up last year. Haughton’s been a playoff regular for the last 25 years, including in every season since the Bucs have been in 5A.

“Our kids know Many’s good; they know Many’s not your typical 2A team,” Brotherton said. “Shoot, they’re gonna have more guys get scholarship offers for college on their team than we’ll have on ours, so we’re not gonna overlook them.

“There’s a lot of interest in the state in this game — how will the top team in Class 2A play against a 5A team. Our guys know that, and we always hope to represent 5A well.”

Many is fast and furious; the Tigers outscored their first two opponents, each in a higher classification, by a combined 88-10.

“We like playing in big games like this,” Brotherton said. “If you don’t find yourself playing in a big game, you must not be very good. Parkway is our biggest rival, and we’ve got them next week — another big game. So Friday night’s not going to be anything too out of the ordinary.”

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Haughton (2-0) at Many (2-0), John W. Curtis Tiger Stadium

Series: Haughton leads 6-2

Last year: Did not play

Last week: Haughton beat LaGrange 44-14; Many beat DeRidder 50-7

Rankings: Haughton is ranked 4th in the Journal Top 10; Many is No. 1 in LSWA 2A Top 10

Radio: none locally; 99.9 KTEZ FM, Many (BDCRadio.com)

Notable: Last time they played was in 1969, won by Haughton 35-0 … Haughton Athletics’ Twitter, @HbucsAthletics, has named senior DL Hayden Ramey, 3.75 GPA, as its Scholar Athlete of the Week … Haughton QB Colin Rains is No. 5 in SBJ passing yardage: 358, 23-29-0, 5 TDs … Many QB Tackett Curtis is not much of a passer but is a special runner/safety/linebacker/return man; returned two punts for TDs this season and a third was wiped out by penalty … RB Jeremiah James is Many’s primary back, but look out for Jamarlyn Garner too, and others … defense returns 10 of 11 starters, including LB Keaton Montgomery and DB Tylen Singleton, from last year’s very good unit … Many coach Jess Curtis: “Playing some spread offenses earlier this season definitely helped us prepare and showed us some things we need to clean up. Third down on defense is a down we want to win. And then we want to control the time of possession on offense because Haughton likes to go up-tempo; we want to hang on to the ball.”

Loyola (0-2) at North DeSoto (2-0)

Series: Loyola leads 12-7

Last year: Did not play

Last week: Loyola lost to Logansport 44-42; North DeSoto beat Center, Texas 71-42

Rankings: None

Radio: none

Notable: Loyola has recovered more onside kicks (2) than it has fumble recoveries and interceptions combined (1) … Loyola will be trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 2006 … Last week’s game against Logansport is the first time the Flyers have scored 42 points and lost since a 2007 playoff game against St. John’s-Plaquemine (46-44) … This is the first meeting between the Flyers and Griffins since 2014 … The previous 19 meetings were all as a district or playoff game.

Magnolia (0-2) at East Iberville (0-2)

Series: First meeting

Last year: First meeting

Last week: Magnolia lost to General Trass 49-18; East Iberville lost to East Feliciana 33-0

Rankings: none

Radio: none

Notable: Magnolia is looking for its first win since a 30-26 victory over Ringgold on Sept. 24, 2021 … despite scoring only one touchdown in their Week 1 loss to Lake Charles College Prep, the Mariners were able to get into the endzone three times last week … Magnolia quarterback Mark McCray – who ran for the Mariners’ only TD in Week 1 – threw two TDs last week (to DeAndre and DeVondre Johnson) … East Iberville is trying to break a three-game losing streak that started with last season’s final game.


Carpet not yet magic for Vikings

Airline’s M.D. Ray Field was pretty as a prep football picture last Friday night.

The morning started off with a hint of fall and while it was warm by nighttime, it was far from Louisiana Summertime warm.

And there were the Union Farmers, one of the state’s best 3A teams, and the homestanding 5A Vikings, ready to erase the memory of a 1-9 season after three playoff seasons in the previous four, ready to erase the memory of a 46-21 road loss to North Desoto the week before, a semi-miraculous score since Airline turned the ball over eight times, had one punt blocked and another muffed.

And there were the year-old LED lights and the turf, an investment looking every bit worth the $1.2 million, the carpet green as new money, and the giant Viking blue logo, and even a full moon looking down on a clear night.

The only problem was the Vikings kept dropping the ball on the new floor. And losing it.

Three lost fumbles, one interception, one turnover too many on a back-and-forth game with seven lead changes that Union won, 26-22, with a late drive and a later defensive stop.

The Farmers didn’t turn any of the Airline turnovers into scores, but the Vikings didn’t finish any of those drives, either. Who knows what might have happened … if they’d just kept the ball.

“The frustration level for me personally might be a little high,” Airline’s new head coach Justin Scogin said. “Gosh, starting the season with two losses … I can’t remember the last time I’ve been on a team that started 0-2. I’m ready to win one.

“But for the kids, they’re seeing improvement,” he said. “Some of these things just take time. No one thinks we’re heading in the same direction as last year. I think the frustration level for the players is pretty low.”

One thing that should help would be the return of Cameron Jefferson, a senior and “probably our best athlete,” Scogin said. “We’ve planned on moving him around (he’s listed as a wide receiver) and playing him in a lot of different positions.”

Jefferson’s ankle was hurt for the opener, he didn’t suit up against Union, and his availability for Friday night’s 7 o’clock kick at Northwood in Jerry Burton Memorial Stadium will be a gametime decision.

There’s also the problem of the Falcons, who have an SEC-type defensive end in Taderius Collins and maybe the best defensive back in the state, Mar’Javious Moss.

“They’ve got a couple of D1 guys; we’ll have to weather the storm,” Scogin said. “But we have to do our best to do what we do; before I watch anyone else’s film, I watch ours. Our kids know we have to get better at what we do, execute the offense, and hold onto the ball.”

No doubt the Vikings are better than last year. Lot of good players out there. “Lots of heart,” running back Tre Jackson said.

The lights and new carpet alone are worth the price of admission. But even a new rug won’t recover the ball for you.

And on this turf, the Vikings haven’t won yet; their lone win last fall was on the road against Southwood.

At Northwood Friday and at Benton next week, Airline won’t get another chance to win on it until Sept. 30 when Natchitoches-Central visits.

Between now and then, maybe it would help if the Vikings pretend every football field is like that new white carpet in your great aunt’s “living room,” the room none of the kids ever get to go into because “you might stain the carpet!”

Dropping stuff too often can leave a stain on your record, the kind that won’t ever come out.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Coming up ro$e$ 

Clean livin’, that’s what it is. 

What I thought was an email joke from the wealthy Amazon.com founder’s ex-wife was followed by a person wanting to give me a baby grand piano, followed by a couple of Powerball winners wanting to give me money and an elderly gentleman with maybe a bad conscious has turned into a miraculous reality for yours truly. 

Your writer buddy here is about to be rich, is the long and short of it.  

Years ago, a Nigerian prince emailed me to say he was “desperately” trying to smuggle his wealth out of his country. Bad guys were out to get it and all. 

He just needed my bank account number so he could send the dough to me, and I would hold it if I didn’t mind, and he’d show up and get it back and give me a nice gift for my troubles. A “nice gift” being some side-striped jackals, as many African elephants as I could stand, a herd of red river hogs and, don’t let me forget to mention, a couple million in United States dollars, which he could afford because two million Benjamins is couch change for your modern Nigerian prince. 

Figured it had to be a hoax. Moved on.  

But …  

A few months ago, I got another email explaining that a couple had “donated” $600,000 to me since they had just won the Powerball ticket of $316.3 million — that’s million with an ‘M’ — and all I had to do was reply to the mail. 

 Please, I was born at night, but not last night. 

 Hoax City. Moved on. 

 But y’all, things kept happening. Like a few weeks ago when my email box contained a “Yamaha baby grand” in the Subject Line and I discovered this, punctuation errors and all:  

 “How are you doing today? I am looking to give away my late husband’s Yamaha baby grand piano to a passionate instrument lover, Please let me know if you will take it or have someone who will care for it. 

“Regards, 

“Kate” 

Kate. One of my favorite female names. Plus, she’d started with wondering how I was doing, which was, I don’t know, kind. These are hard times. It was — what’s the word? — sweet. Thoughtful. 

I didn’t let the comma that was supposed to be a period confuse me; she’d lost her husband, for goodness sakes, was burdened by the baby grand that he used to play, probably singing Cole Porter to her, and she just needed help. And what could I get on today’s market for a baby grand? Probably a half-dozen car payments. 

I loved her immediately. 

But then Jerry wrote me. He was interested in “monthly donations.” While I appreciated Kate’s sentiment, the lure of a monthly stipend was hard to pass up. 

“I realize it takes money to run and operate the University and it costs money to help people every day. I get $1,060.21 in disability benefits direct deposit to my checking account on the third every month unless the third during the weekend deposit Friday. Please contact me if you feel my benefits would be useful. And thank you for your time.” 

I thought back to the email from MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire ex-wife of Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos. She’d given, at the time, $4.2 billion — that’s billion with a ‘B’ — of her fortune to more than 300 organizations. Food banks. Rescue shelters. Needy folk. Me, maybe… 

And that’s when it hit me. The rich Nigerian prince and MacKenzie and the Powerball winners and even the piano widow were just other people posing as them and trying to milk me for money I didn’t have. But ….  

I still wrote the Nigerian prince. I know … I know … But what if? 

The joke is that one day, a Nigerian prince is going to die and in his room they will find a bucketful of diamonds and jewels and money and a note that reads: “I tried to give most of this away by email but …” 

If it’s true, great. The next rounds on me. If it’s a hoax?, fine.  But just know …  

I folded up like a one-egg pudding and sent him my bank account number Monday. If he wants the 346 dollars and change, I have in there, hope he has at it. The best Nigerian buffet in Port Harcourt is on me, along with a car wash and a night at the Maiduguri Inn & Suites.  

If the rest of you need money, just come to me. Don’t fall for this stuff. If you do, there’s a price to pay. 

Contact Teddy for loans and personal gifts at teddy@latech.edu 


Bulldogs turn it around, cut down Lumberjacks

RUSTON — Everything Louisiana Tech’s Bulldogs did wrong in their September 1 season opener, a 52-24 loss at Missouri, they did right in the first half of Saturday’s 52-17 win over Stephen F. Austin.

Tech won it in that first half. The Dogs led 21-7 after a quarter and 38-7 at the break, and there was little for the Joe Aillet Stadium crowd of 16,094 not to like on a calm, 80-degrees September evening.

In that first half, fateful for the FCS Lumberjacks of the WAC, Tech had just one penalty, one turnover, and — here’s the biggie — rushed for 254 yards.

At Missouri, the Bulldogs had six penalties, several of them pre-snap or silly personal fouls. Tech turned it over three times and rushed for just 8 yards.

Also against Missouri, two Bulldogs punted a combined 7 times for a 34.9 yards-per-kick average. Against SFA, Austin McCready punted 5 times for a 43.8 yards-per-kick average. Almost 10 yards better, and it’s not because the air is thinner in Ruston than in Columbia, Missouri.

What a difference a week and an opponent make.

The biggest improvement between Week 1 and Week 2 was in run blocking and rushing. The season opener was a closed door for Tech runners. Not so against SFA, which fell to 1-2. Tech racked up 299 yards on the ground and won the battle up front all night long.

Center Abraham Delfin, guards Joshua Mote and Isaac Ellis, and tackles Dakota White and Carson Bruno did big-man work and Marquis Crosby, the 5-10, 201-pound redshirt freshman out of Presbyterian Christian in Hattiesburg, Miss., took advantage of it. He carried the ball 16 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half, including a blast up the middle that he broke to the left; the play was good for a 42-yard touchdown run that made it 35-7 with 4:37 to go in the first half.

“I think up front last week, we just got beat,” said Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie, who picked up his first win as a college head coach. “I thought we created a lot of space tonight and we played on their side of the line of scrimmage.

“(Crosby) ran extremely hard north and south, broke tackles … I think you saw all our backs do that tonight.”

After coming off the bench last week, quarterback Parker McNeil started and was 11-for-22 for 197 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception; Tech’s only turnover came at the Bulldogs’ 1-yard line and set up SFA’s lone first-half score.

“I’m proud of how he played,” Cumbie said of the senior from Austin and transfer from Texas Tech. “He did exactly what he needed to do, put the ball in the places where it needed to be and let those guys make plays. You know the interception wasn’t a great decision but he overcame it, and it didn’t rattle him.”

Tre Harris had eight catches, Smoke Harris had five, and Julien Lewis (who got on scholarship just this week) and Praise Okorie each had three. Senior Griffin Hebert had just one, but it was on a skinny post and was good for a 63-yard touchdown, the same play that resulted in a 75-yard score last week in Missouri.

“We just have to continue to do that at a higher level each week,” Cumbie said.

This week would be a good time to repeat Saturday night’s improvements. SFA was ranked as high as No. 10 in a preseason FCS poll, but the Lumberjacks aren’t Clemson, Tech’s opponent in South Carolina next Saturday night at 7 p.m. CST.

“Each week it’s about us and our improvement and our execution, about us taking a game plan and executing at a high level,” Cumbie said. “We did that tonight and it’ll be a greater challenge next week, but we’ll worry about that tomorrow.”

Now, tomorrow is today.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


A beautiful mess — Union outlasts Airline, 26-22

SEVEN FOR SIX: Airline wide receiver Joio Johnson glides into the end zone to finish a 7-yard TD pass from Ben Taylor and give the Vikings a 15-13 lead, one of seven lead changes in the game. 

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Union Parish and Airline High kept getting in each other’s way but mostly got in their own way before Union outlasted the Vikings, 26-22, in a game of back and forth and starts and stops, vicious effort but costly pre-snap penalties, seven lead changes and huge momentum shifts, until a big defensive play ended it on full-moon night that hinted, at least for north Louisiana in early September, of football and autumn.

It was at times ugly as peeling paint, slow as soda pop fiz, fast as a jackrabbit.  As long as you weren’t a coach, it was sloppy exciting.

“It was messy,” Union coach Joe Spatafora said. “Dumb penalties for both teams. At halftime, that’s what we talked about. If you just do your job and make sure you finish, we can win.”

And they did.

Airline (0-2) scored first to take a 6-0 lead. The point-after try was blocked, a tone-setter for the night; this could have been the Offsides/Encroachment/Personal Foul/Mental Mistake Bowl.

But Union answered with a 36-yard TD run by Trey Holly and an extra point from the Farmers’ 13-year-old eighth-grade kicker, Ryan Reeder, to take a 7-6 lead.

Another tone was set: run Holly. He rushed for three TDs of 30-plus yards in the first half—the Farmers led, 19-15 then—and finished with 4 TDs and 260 yards on 24 carries, 533 yards away from the all-time state record for career yards rushing.

And so it went. Back and forth and back and forth until the fourth quarter, when Airline scored on a 14-yard run from junior Tre’ Jackson to give Airline a 22-19 lead with 11:43 left.

“We got the big head; I felt it on the sideline,” Jackson, who rushed for more than 100 yards, said. “There was a lot of game left. “

There was enough game left for Union to put together its drive of the night — 72 yards in 15 plays, almost seven minutes of clock used and a 1-yard TD rush by Holly that gave the Farmers the 26-22 advantage after the kick by Reeder.

Airline had one last chance, and almost made the most of it.

The Vikings started their final drive at their own 40 and worked their way to a fourth-and-1 at the Farmers’ 26 with :53 left. After time outs by both teams, the Farmers were looking for a quick out route and dropped their defensive ends. Good for Union’s Jordan Jones, who tipped the pass and almost intercepted it.

Union’s ball on downs. Union’s game.

“We’ve been telling our guys we have to finish,” Spatafora said. “We have to make sure we do. The past two weeks, they have.”

The Vikings haven’t. Eight turnovers in a Week 1 loss and four turnovers against the Farmers — though none were turned into points — have crippled the Vikings, who finished 1-9 last season. But ….

“We are way better than last year,” Jackson, Airline’s workhorse running back, said. “We have more heart, more fight … we’re more intense. We love our new coach (Justin Scogin). If we get the penalties down, and fight, we win. Winning is about who has the most heart.”

And the least penalties. And turnovers.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Union Parish 26, Airline 22

Score by quarters

Union Parish | 7 | 12 | 0 | 7 | – 26

Airline | 6 | 9 | 0 | 7 | – 22

Scoring summary

Airline – Ben Taylor 1 run (kick blocked)

Union – Trey Holly 36 run (Ryan Reeder kick)

Airline – Ben Jump 20 FG

Union – Holly 34 run (kick missed)

Airline – Joio Johnson 7 pass from Taylor (kick blocked)

Union – Holly 32 run (2 pt try failed)

Airline – Tre’ Jackson 14 run (Jump kick)

Union – Holly 2 run (Reeder kick)

Photo by ADAM WILLIAMS, Airline High


Can’t win the pennant on Opening Day

Your favorite college football team lost on opening weekend.

This is more than just “your dreamboat struck a snag” or “the sun will never again shine” or “my golden moon has turned all blue again.”

For some of you, this is in the category of Life Is No Longer Worth Living.

I hope that’s not the case, but for some of you—and you know who you are—that’s the deal. A few clouds appear on your horizon and you just go all to pieces.

Let us offer good news here.

Tap the breaks. Take a few deep breaths. And remember it’s only the first weekend in September.

If you are Power 5 school—we see you, LSU, a one-point loser to Florida State—you can still win the national championship. Get to your conference championship game, win it, and you are in the College Football Playoff.

If you are a non-Power 5 school like Louisiana Tech, you can still win your conference and go to a bowl. Or if you’re an FCS team like Grambling or Northwestern State (those two play each other Saturday at 6 at Independence Stadium, by the way), you can still win your conference and the FCS title.

Now, none of those things are likely to happen. But …

Don’t overreact, one way or the other. If your team won big last weekend, don’t get too excited either. (Unless maybe you’re Georgia. Wow.)

Talk yourself out of being a prisoner of the moment. At least try to.

Each of the four state schools of great interest in our parts have new coaches, except NSU, which has new coordinators. Before Sunday’s 24-23 loss, LSU had played most recently in a bowl with less than 40 players on the roster and a wide receiver at quarterback. That’s as far from 2019’s Dream Season as Caddo Lake is from the Pacific Ocean.

Tech had 30 players in the Bulldogs’ opener Thursday night at Missouri, which drew a surprising 50,000-plus fans, who’d never been on the field as Bulldogs. Pre-snap penalties and punting problems and some bad luck figured in a 52-24 loss, but so did a whole bunch of “new,” something NSU, GSU and LSU can relate to.

And sometimes, other teams show up and look as if they’re in mid-season form. Gotta remember that the other teams are trying too. They have players on scholarships and good coaches and everything. Missouri hardly missed a tackle. FSU’s quarterback Jordan Travis looked as if he’d been the Seminoles’ quarterback the past two seasons.

It’s easy to blame players when your team looks sloppy in the first game, but a lot of these guys were in high school math class this time last year. And what they’re being asked to do is hard. And most of us wouldn’t know the pulling guard or the free safety if they walked up and put a kicking tee on our heads.

The coaches, we see them often and they’re the highest paid and the easiest targets. We’ve read plenty this offseason about Brian Kelly because of his salary and because he’s said he’s finally at a place where he can win it all — and because he has long left an impression that he’s the smartest guy in the room, the best dancer on the ballroom floor.

Brian Kelly isn’t going to win a national championship at LSU anytime soon or ever, which is no sin at all. Those things are hard hard hard hard to win; you’ve got to be really good and a little lucky.

But I understand what LSU higher-ups saw in him. I’m more surprised at what they chose to ignore. And what they paid.

Regardless, dial back your expectations a bit after just one week. It’s a long season.

The saying is, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”

Now, if the Saints or Cowboys stink in their openers this weekend, that’s a different ballgame. They’re pros. You want to waste your time getting mad at them, let ’er rip, tater chip.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Pick games and pick up your free money

Turns out some things in life really are free. At the Shreveport-Bossier Journal, it’s laid out like that.

It’s how we roll.

Not only is a subscription free, forever, but for the next 10 weeks starting now, you can win free money. Every week.

You — yes YOU, and whether you like football or not, although surely you do, or you should after reading this — can win $250 every week throughout the prep pigskin season by picking the winning teams.

No, you don’t have to know much about high school football. You think we do? Please…

You have until Thursday at 4 — that’s today — to enter the Week One Shreveport-Bossier Journal High School Football Pick ’Em Contest. Again, $250! Each week.

Have you ever seen a $250 bill on the ground and not reached over to pick it up? Me either.

And check this: there’s no cost to enter the contest and no cost to subscribe to the Shreveport-Bossier Journal.

You think it’s your lucky day? You are correct sir!

Just click on the banner on this site that touts the contest and a link will take you to the picks, which you select from a drop-down menu. Easy. All set up for you. You also pick the total points in two games: that’s the tie-breaker.

One person will win each week’s $250 prize, to be announced in the Journal early the following week as the subsequent Pick ’Em Contest launches. Just keep picking each Thursday or earlier.

You will compete against these Journal writers listed in alphabetical order (or by height, I can’t remember):

Jerry Byrd Jr., who we used to call “Little Jerry” but we haven’t been able to do that since he topped 200 back in junior high;

Lee Hiller, who didn’t invent the forward place kick with the toe of the high-top square-toed shoe tied back with a shoestring, but he did perfect it;

Doug Ireland, based in Natchitoches, The City of (High)Lights, he is the Nub of Pub, a loyal ol’ ex-Jonesboro-Hodge wingback who touched the ball on fumble recoveries only;

Roy Lang III, who we call TripleSticks and who knows a lot more about golf and a lot more about odds than you do;

John James Marshall, who quarterbacked a state championship football team back in the day and must have liked seeing his name in the paper because here he is again;

Me, more commonly known as the player to be named later;

Harriet Prothro Penrod, who we call “F8” because she catches everything we mess up; and,

Tony Taglavore, erstwhile sideline reporter for your Northwestern State Demon Sports Network, still the Voice of Captain Shreve Gators, former sidekick to Bob Griffin at KSLA and, in general, man about town.

That’s our starting lineup. Formidable.

You will also be picking against these gracious celebs:

Entertainer extraordinaire Betty Lewis, who loves ball;

Downtown Development Authority Executive Director and longtime local favorite Liz Swaine;

Former Evangel/LSU QB and MLB infielder Josh Booty; and,

Louisiana native and Barstool personality Ben Mintz.

I know. We’re bringing the heat. BUT —

The writers and celebrities will not be eligible for prizes but we will still be trying to beat you; it’s a pride thing. We will be trying hard as we can to whip you while you are on your way to winning — how much? — that’s right: $250.

Go to the banner, fill out the info, make your picks, plan how to spend your free money.

Also be aware: the Journal is shifting to publishing all seven days of each week during the football season so you can read about your favorite local high schools and colleges of local interest (LSU, Grambling, Northwestern and Louisiana Tech) and the NFL.

That’s a lot of days, especially since this is not our fulltime job. But as we said, it’s a pride thing. Happy to do it.

So pick the SBJ for local sports, then make your Week 1 picks now. Good luck. I’ll be waiting: it’ll be fun in 10 weeks to see which one of you finishes second.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


When you go up, your pets won’t wind up down 

The following is a Public Service Announcement from The Division of the Least of These Things to Worry About, Ever, My Brethren.  

A guy created a website and, for a while there, had people believing he’d recruited well-meaning and caring atheists who’d care for the pets of Christians after their rapture.  

In other words, “Send money. Rest easy.” 

I’ll hang on a second while you read that again because me my own self had to ponder it too, the first time I heard it; I had never had the thought either. Ever. And it’s not because I don’t love my pets. I do. But … while I’ve heard bizarre things, this might be at the top of the heap. 

Bizarro Mountain. 

Bizarro Mountain Range, even. 

NPR reported that a guy charged “hundreds of people more than $100 apiece, promising the business would care for their pets after the owners were carried up to Heaven. The self-described animal-loving atheist called his site Eternal Earth-Bound Pets. The New Hampshire Insurance Department thought some monkey business might be going on and decided to investigate”. 

Props to the New Hampshire Insurance Department, which seldom gets props. 

Life’s not fair. 

Anyway, the New Hampshire Insurance Department guy in charge of Pre-Rapture Pets, Etc. guy said it was a hoax. Which it was, same as the After the Rapture Pet Care site inventor admitted. 

I think they said this pre-rapture. Lord, I hope so. 

But I’ll give both guys points for creativity. 

For my pet’s future, I’d bet it on the After the Rapture Pet Care guy. He charged only a $10 registration fee, because those Left Behind were going to “care for the pets they rescue as their own, including being financially responsible for them,” the site claimed. 

Indulge me for a sec, and if you’ve read this far, you already have. The After the Rapture Pet Care guy, or (ATRPCG), also typed this on his site, under the ingenious “Frequently Asked Questions” part, (which I thought was a nice touch): 

Who are these Volunteer Pet Caretakers and how do I know they’ll take good care of my pets? 

Most Volunteer Pet Caretakers fit this description: 

  • They are atheists or another non-Christian religion; 
  • They love animals enough to register with us even though they do not believe there will be a Rapture (or are agnostic about it); 
  • (My words, because this bullet point was the part about how they’d treat your pets as their own — their still-alive-but-non-raptured own.)  

Another of the FAQ’s questions is, “Isn’t the world going to be totally collapsed after the Rapture?” It’s a long answer on the website, but the short answer from this bureau is, “Yes. That’s an affirmation. Bet your hat. If you have gift cards, use them ASAP. If you have one from After the Rapture Pet Care, well … ” 

Lord have mercy …  

We conclude with a sobering thought, I think from Mark Twain, and it’s one of my favorite thoughts, at least one of my favorite sobering ones, and should ease the mind of all us pet lovers who are worried about how things might end up for animals we loved, as if God who created them isn’t aware: 

“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” 

Amen. 

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu 


Tonight’s Kickoff Dinner another showcase staged by Setters, staff, volunteers

GAME DAY MODE:  Missy Setters makes the rounds on game day at the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl, as the event’s executive director connects with sponsors, fans, visiting team personnel, staff and volunteers, among others, to ensure a successful I-Bowl.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Missy Setters has been on the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl staff since 1996. She and her football-loving father made sure they didn’t miss the annual game once the family moved to Shreveport when she was a middle schooler, and she’s of course not missed one since she became the bowl’s executive director in 2006.

But she’s not really seen a game in recent years either. One year on her steps counter, it read she’d logged more than 10 miles on gameday.

“I’m usually all over the stadium and on the field; I spend very little time in the press box,” Setters said. “If anyone had looked for me at last year’s game, they’d have seen me under a poncho in the rain and not had a clue it was me — but I kind of like it that way.”

She can dodge the spotlight tonight too. That’ll be on Kim Mulkey, LSU women’s basketball head coach and guest speaker for tonight’s bowl-sponsored Kickoff Dinner, an annual event since 2010 and one to “get everybody ready for football season,” Setters said.

The Kickoff Dinner is at the Shreveport Convention Center. Doors open at 6; dinner will be served at 6:15; the program begins at 7. There are 20-25 tickets available while they last, each for $50, at the door for the packed event.

That’s not a surprise as the event’s first female keynote speaker is a six-time national champion as a player and coach. (Former Kickoff Dinner speakers Terry Bradshaw, Lou Holtz, Emmitt Smith and Marcus Spears can’t make such a claim.) She’ll speak for approximately 30 minutes, followed by a brief audience Q&A.

“We began making out our list of possible great speakers for this, and the discussion kept coming back to her,” Setters, a former member of LSU’s women’s golf team and sports information office, said. “She has an appeal that just transcends sports. And her appeal in this area, especially, you can’t really overstate it. Thank goodness her schedule and the Convention Center’s availability all worked out.”

Somehow, things have always “worked out” for the nation’s 11th oldest bowl, now 45 games old. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it, Setters said.

“I found out a while back that I had two stomach ulcers; I can’t imagine where those came from,” Setters said. “In this (bowl) world, everything changes so much from one year to the next. You can never settle in; it’s never the same. Especially with the way college football is changing so much.

“So we take a lot of pride in that, in our longevity,” she said. “To have seen the bowl start when I was a little girl, to see it go through ups and downs and still be here says a lot for our volunteers and our organization. The (Red River) Revel and the bowl started the same year (1976); I look at things like that and it instills a sense of pride in you and in our community.”

The bowl, she said, is still a non-profit and “belongs to the community. We’ve grown into an organization that does a lot of other events throughout the year, so we take a lot of pride in what we do year-’round and in the impact we have.”

One of the new events is the Radiance Technologies Innovation Bowl, an academic competition between schools and conferences affiliated with the bowl. Schools compete for a $25,000 grand prize by developing innovative approaches to a current research and development topic selected by Radiance Technologies. The vision was born last year, and Radiance Technologies “proved to be the perfect partner,” Setters said.

Speaking of partnering, if you want to become an I-Bowl volunteer, you can serve in one of five divisions and on one or more of the bowl’s 55 committees.

“Join the I-Bowl Foundation,” Setters said. “You’ll get your money’s-worth out of our fish fry and our crawfish boil alone. We have between 300 and 450 in the Foundation at any given time.

“I work with a great staff and with a great group of volunteers,” she said. “Everything we do, it’s all to try to put on the best bowl possible for this community, for our traveling fans and for our national audience.” 

Army West Point and a representative of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) are scheduled to meet in the 46th Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl on Friday, December 23 at 2 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN, which will be the 30th-consecutive year the I-Bowl will be televised on an ESPN network.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Photo courtesy Independence Bowl


Tough to lose a poster boy

He was born the seventh son of a seventh son, and his jersey number was 16, and if you add 1 and 6 it’s 7, the Biblical number for perfection, and maybe that’s a reach but still, I’m just sayin’.

Len Dawson wasn’t perfect, but he was close enough.

In the Pro Football Hall of Fame both as a quarterback and as a broadcaster, Dawson died in hospice care Wednesday at 87, but he lived as a poster boy for Mid-America Cool in his Ohio hometown and then at Purdue and finally in Kansas City, a poster boy for decency and graciousness, a fearless competitor and an “everyman” on HBO’s Inside the NFL for nearly a quarter-century, just a nice-looking man in a sports coat and mock turtleneck, no telestrator or frame-by-frame breakdown of a controversial play, just a guy you used to watch play, just a guy you watched win a Super Bowl when you were a boy, just a dude talking football.

Poster Boy for the kind of wavy-hair, eye-black cool that seemed a little reckless but still shaved every day, signed autographs, kissed babies, won championships.

He was literally a poster boy in my world. My little-boy room had on its walls four posters, each purposeful figure possessing what I thought was a Super Power: Brooks Robinson (glove), Bob Hayes (speed), Sonny Jurgensen (pot belly! and still getting it done) and Len Dawson (grace and calculated cool).

Thumb tacks held them up then; I got them framed when I got older even though I had no money but by-god they deserved framing. In Dawson’s picture, he’d taken maybe two steps back in his drop, left leg about to step behind his right leg, looking downfield.

Loved it.

But for 40 years, The Greatest Picture of All-Time — also of Len Dawson — wasn’t published. Life magazine took photos of Super Bowl I but didn’t publish a picture of Dawson, taken at halftime, until 15 or so years ago when the magazine published a photo slideshow of that momentous event.

In the picture, Dawson, in the Chiefs’ all-white uniform, is sitting in a folding chair on the concrete floor of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum locker room, helmet off, staring at the floor, a Fresca (they quit making them a couple years ago, dang it) in a bottle by his cleats, a cigarette between his lips while he stares at the concrete, surely contemplating the Green Bay Packers defense, and takes a hit off what looks like a menthol filtered.

I imagine a lot of quarterbacks did that back in the 1960s when they were playing Green Bay, as Dawson and the Chiefs were that day. Kansas City was trailing just 14-10 at the half; in the third quarter, some mean Packer hit Dawson’s arm and a pass fluttered to Willie Wood for an interception and KC lost 35-10.

Think Dawson might have smoked another one post-game? Or two. Or eight?

Of course, I have a copy of that iconic photo, not much bigger than wallet-sized, framed and on a bookshelf.

But I don’t have the poster. Maybe a dozen years ago, sober as a judge but short on space and logic, I had the feeling I needed to mature a bit and put Len Dawson and Sonny Jurgensen by a dumpster. Didn’t have the heart to put them in the dumpster; I was hopeful someone would take them, and maybe they did.

But who throws away Dawson and Jurgensen when they’ve already been with you for 40 years? A stupid person, that’s who. A stupid person named Me.

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

But I can see him still. Super Bowl IV and NFL Films made him eternally famous. Hank Stram calling him “Lenny” and Otis Taylor on the out route for a touchdown and 65 Toss Power Trap all day long, boys. And Lenny in front of the huddle, not a circle huddle but a Lenny Huddle, Lenny alone out front, hands on his hips, five backs and receivers in front of him, five offensive linemen with three-bar facemasks behind them, all looking at Lenny Cool.

Makes me want a cool Fresca.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Lions set to scratch and claw

LIONING UP: Plain Dealing is concentrating on competing and putting in the work to ‘keep getting better each and every day.’

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

 Plain Dealing returns more than half its starters and more than half its team from a two-win campaign last season.

That’s 12 players on a roster of 22. But those numbers aren’t the focus of first-year Lions head coach Clint Walker.

The number he’s most concerned with is 100, as in 100 percent.

“I tell the kids that I don’t measure success in wins and losses,” Walker said. “I measure it by competing and the players learning how to work. You do that and, in my experience, the wins will come. It’s a tough district for sure, but we’ll be fine if we compete and keep getting better each and every day.”

Walker said last weekend’s scrimmage against Magnolia Charter “went well. We saw a lot of good things on defense. On offense, we got a lot of things to fix. We made some first-year quarterback mistakes, but we’ll keep working at it.”

The Lions spent a lot of time this summer overhauling the defense, changing the scheme, and “the improvement showed” during the scrimmage, Walker said. The new look should keep the Lions in more of a base so weekly adjustments will be tweaks and not major new preparations.

“Offensively, we simplified things from what we did last year,” Walker said. “We’re trying to keep it simple and better utilize what we have. It’s still running the wing and the ‘I,’ we just simplified our way of doing it.”

Joshua Miller was a defensive back and backup QB last year; at 5-11, 175, he’ll call the signals in 2022. His main targets will be a pair of seniors in tight end Elijah James (6-4, 160) and Colby Curry (6-0, 165).

The Lions will throw to their backs a lot as well. That likely trio includes junior Aaron Reddix (5-10, 160), sophomore Tyrese Kimble (6-0, 172), who played last year as a freshman, and senior RB/LB Colton Davis (5-9, 165), who was hurt in Friday’s scrimmage but will be ready to go when the Lions play Bossier at approximately 7: 15 Friday night at Airline Stadium in the 69th Annual Bossier Lions Club Jamboree.

Senior players returning to do big-boy work as they did last year for Plain Dealing include senior OL/LB Jayden Gay (5-3, 166), two-way linemen Cole Modisette (6-3, 230) and Jamauriel Ray (6-1, 277), and center/linebacker Reagan Foster (5-8, 176).

The Lions open Sept. 2 at home against Delta Charter, then travel to Lincoln Prep and Lakeside before District 1-1A play opens at Plain Dealing against Ringgold.

“We’ve still got some good non-district teams to play,” Walker said, “but not a BTW or North Caddo like last year. These are teams better suited for us.

“Hey, it’s going to be a challenge, but it always is,” he said. “I didn’t go into this with blinders on. And these kids know what they’re up against, what obstacles they have to get over. But they worked hard this summer in the weight room and especially on defense; as long as they keep working, we’ll be OK.”

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


The Art of Sports Talking: Preseason

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

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

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

“Get me a Coke.”

“What kind?”

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

Language is one big, beautiful mess.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, I mean … hopefully…”   

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Airline: Good expectations on Viking Drive

REBOUND AND RAID: Airline’s Vikings flushed a dismal 2021 and have ‘plenty of potential to be pretty good this year.’ 

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Airline football coach Justin Scogin and wife Bonnie are expecting their second child, another boy, in January.

Oh, if predicting football seasons were only that “easy.” Precisely what to expect the Vikings to deliver this fall is a different ballgame.

A program that made the state quarterfinals in 2017 and 2019 saw everything go wrong last season on the way to a single win in 10 games. Injuries early. Couple of tough September losses.

“Then all of a sudden you’re playing in one of the best 5A districts in the state and you lose a couple early, morale is down and it’s hard to bounce back sometimes,” said Scogin. “I’ve been there.”

But not last year. Scogin was in Leesville for the past five seasons, and each year the Wampus Cats won at least one playoff game. Is that kind of ending too much to hope for this fall on Viking Drive?

“We have the right kind of kids, a good core nucleus that’s willing to push through and work hard,” Scogin said. “There’s no reason to harp on (last season). We can use it as a lesson to build off failures, to learn from them. But regardless of last year’s record, we have plenty of potential to be pretty good this year.”

The Vikings have the numbers: they’ll dress around 90 and have 110 on the roster, so “want-to” is not an issue.

Junior Preston Doerner and sophomore Ben Taylor remain locked in a battle to start at quarterback. Junior Ladarius Epps, in the QB mix in the spring, will be at safety.

Airline has “moved some guys around” on the offensive line, Scogin said, and have some “really good returners there,” led by senior guard Reid Hawsey, one of five projected senior starters along with guard Hunter Howard, tackles Jackson Warren and Artis James, and center Hunter Kendrick.

The 1-2 punch at receiver is Cameron Jefferson and Daxton Chavez, both projected as Division I players. Chavez, 6-4, 198, has “everything you look for in a D1 receiver,” Scogin said, “and Cam (6-0, 185) is a 4.5 slot or safety at the next level; he’s probably the best overall guy on the team.”

The Vikings also have what Scogin thinks are “two of the better corners in the area” in senior Chris Montgomery and junior Jeremiah Boudreaux.

A couple of other things Scogin feels he can safely predict? “Watch for kids playing hard for each other,” he said, “and doing the right things all the time.”

The Vikings will be tested early and often. Before beginning what’s always demanding district play, Airline will face two of the state’s better 4A teams in North Desoto and Northwood, and sandwiched between that pair of games is a matchup with arguably the best team in 3A, Union Parish — a testy trifecta for any team.

“That,” Scogin said, semi-laughing at the obvious understatement, “will get us ready to go.”  

 Contact Teddy at Teddy@LaTech.edu

Photo by TEDDY ALLEN


Orphan Train to Hall of Fame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


A knuckle sandwich and a home run ‘hello’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then he stole third.

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

I nearly wept, overcome with joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can see it now. It was only a moment.

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

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

Contact Teddy at Teddy@LaTech.edu


Paperboys are gone — (except yours…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

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

Hairy in Homer 

Dear Hairy, 

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

Or …  

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

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

Slowly, Kurt in Fordyce 

Dear Kurt, 

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

Or … 

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

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

Gated Community Barbie 

Dear Barb, 

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

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

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

Dear Ask the Paperboy, 

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

Chris at Smithsonian Magazine 

Dear Chris, 

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

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

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

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

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu 


T-Ball World Series? Uhhh … FOUL BALL!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercy.

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

And Evangeline beat us, 3-2.

I live with that every day of my life.

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


When Birds ruled baseball’s roost

No young people believe this but the Baltimore Orioles of my baseball-memory infancy were very good and the New York Yankees were god-awful bad.

For reals.

Was reminded of the Glory Days when the Orioles won 10 straight and 11 of 13 right before the All-Star Break. This was cause for great joy—even though it left Baltimore at only 46-46 and last in the American League East, the best division in baseball and a serious problem for my team, the O’s, especially since “we” aren’t very good.

It should be noted that the Yankees, no more than late-60s and early-70s birdseed for Baltimore, are in these more modern times 13 games better than the second-best team in the AL East, currently Toronto.

So not only is my team bad, but the other team, the Evil Empire, is playing like everyone on the roster is a direct offspring of Zeus.

The ultimate indignity.

If you are loyal to a bad team—I smell what you’re stepping in, Texas Rangers fans—the summer can be over before it starts. We in Birdland, the modern day Mudville, have been bad so long that instead of “Wait ’til next year,” I like to say, “Wait ’til next decade.”

More appropriate.

We’ve had issues since the early 1990s when Peter Angelos became the team’s primary owner. Now all Baltimore fans would like to “disowner” him, trust me. Since he started writing the checks, it has been feast (playoffs in 1996 and 1997, 2012, 2014, and 2016) but mostly famine, and by famine I mean rotting carcasses (or carcaii if you prefer) across a dry and barren plain.

Consider that since 2018, the Orioles’ season-wins totals are 47, 54, 25 (COVID season, when we were 25-35 and had a respectable-for-us .417 winning percentage!), and 52 last year. Thank goodness the 2022 bunch should sweep past that mark in early August — I hope.

It’s easier to be a fan of typhoid.

It started going downhill October 9, 1996, Game 1 of the American League Championship Series for heaven’s sake, with Baltimore leading 4-3, bottom of the eighth, when that little kid Jeffrey Maier interfered with Derek Jeter’s fly ball to right that Tony Tarasco had a bead on against the wall until Maier’s chubby little gloved hand reached out and snatched it. Umpire Richie Garcia ruled it a homer; later Garcia said it should have been fan interference, and by “later” I mean after O’s manager Davey Johnson had been ejected and after Baltimore had lost, 5-4, in 11 on a Bernie Williams homer.

Of course New York would win the Series, and that began a quarter century of baseball’s version of Taps played on a regular basis around Camden Yards.

But I’m old enough to remember that Baltimore was the winningest team in the big leagues from 1960-1983. No one won more games.

Beat the Dodgers in 1966 for the World Series title, Cincinnati in 1970 (this is when I was old enough to start remembering), and dough-popped Philadelphia in 1983, when Cal Ripken Jr. was a rookie and stabbed the final liner to end it.

Joy! But …

Reagan was president then. Tootsie was a hit movie.

And Ripken’s now been retired for 21 seasons.

I’d say the new has worn off.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


The Subtle Art of Sports Talking: An Introduction

If you’re lucky, you’ve been to a ballgame and heard a fan or player yell toward a portly opposing pitcher:

 “Hey, is that your belt? Or the equator? Asking for a friend.”

That will sound crude to some. But to ears attuned to the beauty of The Language of Sports Talking, it is nothing less than music.

Involvement in sports require a verbal dexterity not easy to come by. At its worst, it is nothing more than mindless cursing and childish chiding.

But at its finest, it is a tapestry of wit and timing and charm. And purpose. Don’t forget purpose.

And spontaneity. It might not be spontaneous — you might have been biding your time, thinking of precisely what to say for two innings or three quarters or since last week — but it must seem spontaneous. That’s key.

To be good at it takes years and years of listening, repeating, working on phrasing and timing, understanding situations … and even then, it always requires your utmost attention or you’ll lay the proverbial verbal egg.

On top of that, it’s almost impossible to coach. You either have it, or you don’t. Now and then, at about the same regularity of an inside-the-park grand slam, someone with no real tools will work tremendously hard and bloom into a sports talk master.

Of course, the best are savants; they make sports talk seem easy as falling off a porch.

We’re talking the best of the best.

It starts at recess or Little League with “battah battah battah battah SWING!” Classic, is all that is.

You graduate to the sing-song “We want a pitcher, not a cement mixer!…” or “We want a batter, not a seafood platter!…”

You can carry none of that to high school, of course, much less to college or to the big leagues, not unless you want to get thrown at every single at-bat. But it is a good starting point, a Sports Talking kindergarten when subtle rhythms and nuances are learned, where good verbal habits are formed.

Before you know it, your 10-year-old teammate on the mound throws a seed past a helpless would-be hitter and you scream, “NOW you chunkin’!”

Sounds cool. Inspires your pitcher. Encourages your teammates. And fans think you are really “into the game,” although what you really want is for the game to be over so you can eat a Frito chili-cheese pie and go swimming with the rest of the outfielders at Randy’s house.

I still love a good “NOW you chunkin’!” Precious memories. It is quite possibly the bedrock of the Sports Talking universe.

And that’s just in baseball.

The Language of Sports Talking cannot be fully appreciated, much less taught or learned, in just one puny essay. There are universal phrases, singular-to-a-sport phrases, one-word bombs. There are funny phrases and witty phrases, phrases meant to encourage and phrases meant to destroy.

When in the hands of a seasoned vet, The Language of Sports Talking is a living, breathing part of the game, as much as part of the atmosphere as a backboard, a gutter, a racket, or a first-baseman’s mitt.

Now and then in this space, we’ll explore more. And by the time we’re finished, who knows? You might become fluent. You, too, could be chunkin’.

Better get loose…

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


Reunited and it feels so good

Cleveland County, North Carolina doesn’t get a lot of airplay nationwide. You might hear about it in August when they play the 95th American Legion World Series there at its permanent home, Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium, a gorgeous park and setting.

If you’re a member of the medical community, you can even get in free this year, the American Legion’s tribute to you for all your work during the pandemic.

So there’s that. (Oh … Shelby, the county seat and roughly 21,000 strong, also has a Bojangles. The biscuits are killer.)

But other than the mid-August baseball traffic, Cleveland County and Shelby keep a relatively low profile, just being cool and calm and living the good life at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the state’s southern line, there in the western Piedmont.

For a closer perspective, it’s 43 miles west, give or take a soybean field or two, from Charlotte. Just hop on Interstate 85 toward Spartanburg, take a right on Hwy. 74 at Kings Mountain, and pretty soon it’s paydirt.

To me it’s become a kind of home away from home because, for various reasons, it’s been the site of most of our family reunions, the most recent of which was last weekend and which also didn’t get much national attention because people sitting around telling stories no one else would care about and eating fried chicken from Food Lion and watching kids play isn’t big news — unless you’re an Allen or unless, in a weak moment, you married into such a magnificent mess.

I love this little town.

It started in 1990, one year after grandmamma died, so this was the 33rd annual gathering, although we skipped two years ago when the world shut down because of the you-know-what, which we are all literally paying for now. No telling how many chickens have died, how many eggs have been deviled, how many potatoes have been peeled over the past three-plus decades, each a martyr to the Allen Family Reunion cause.

Sometimes I take a baseball. I don’t ask anyone to sign a baseball unless it’s a Very Special Deal, (a “VSD”). Unless it’s been a Little Leaguer, I’ve never asked a ballplayer to sign a baseball. But I’ve asked my Aunt Virginia and my Aunt Sarah. And Amy, who drew a little heart by hers this year. (Extra points for cousin Amy.) And Dylan, who added a smiley face. And Terry and Matt and Austin and Robin and Judy No. 1, not to be confused with the irreplaceable Judy No. 2 or other Judys that fell by the matrimonial wayside. (I appreciate that the Judys always sign with a Roman numeral I or II. Keepers, that pair.)

I look at the baseball anytime I want during the year, see the names, and remember. It’s a selfish tradition, I know …

We’ve had the reunion, depending on where people were living and who was hosting — been some moving around in 30 years — at New Smyrna Beach, Fl. (looked down the beach and saw the space shuttle launch and felt the sonic boom a minute or so later, a reunion highlight, because nothing much happens at our reunions); at Bowdon, Ga.; at North Myrtle Beach/Cherry Grove, S.C.; even in Swartz, La., which got no points for Things To Do but which did retire the trophy for Hottest Reunion Ever. Seems liked it cooled off to 102 one day.

It’s at Cherry Grove next year around July 10 if you want to come. Love to have you. You might enjoy it since all the old stories we’ve heard time and again will be new to you. And since it’s your first time, we won’t make you peel eggs.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu