And yet again we find ourselves within the gravitational pull of one of the most memorable yet misremembered dates in “the storied athletic history” of Louisiana Tech.
If things go gray upstairs in a second, all is forgiven. It’s been a minute.
But any Tech fan old enough to have seen episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show live will likely have some brain cells reserved for December 4, 1982, the much-anticipated opening day of the Thomas Assembly Center. Nearly every year as we close in on December 4, someone will mention that day to me.
It was that big of a deal.
“The Lady Techsters played USC and Cheryl Miller and the guys played USL (now ULL),” my friend called to say; The Date and The Day had just happened to come up in a basketball-related conversation as the 2023-24 Bulldogs have won five straight and get a test at 5-1 New Mexico, a regular participant in postseason tournaments, Wednesday at 8 CST.
Then — and this is the part that gets confusing because, well, Father Time — he said, “And that was after Delaware had beaten Tech in the 1-AA semifinals that afternoon, I think 17-0, in the rain,” he said. “What a day. All in Ruston.”
And he’s right. That’s what happened. Almost.
Here is what actually happened that December 4 afternoon before the TAC opened with a doubleheader that night. This from Shreveport Bossier Journal writer Ron Higgins, who then was writing sports for The Times in Shreveport:
“RUSTON—By land, or rather by mud, and through the air, Louisiana Tech quarterback Matt Dunigan tippy-toed through the swampland of Aillet Stadium for two touchdowns and threw for two more scores as Tech slipped past South Carolina State 38-3 Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division I-AA South Regional final.”
It was South Carolina State that Tech played in football that day in the national quarterfinals. Then that night, USC beat the Techsters, 64-58, and the Dunkin’ Dogs lost to USL, 46-45. The crowd was 8,700; the place has 8,000 seats. More than jam packed. And it was: as a rookie graduate assistant in sports information, I was there.
The next Saturday, December 11, was also cold and rainy, and more than the week before. Miserable. That gray afternoon, Tech football lost in the semifinals of the I-AA playoffs to Delaware, 17-0. It was the final Tech game for both Dunigan — he was off to his career as a Hall of Famer in the Canadian Football League — and head coach Billy Brewer, off to a few seasons of success at his alma mater, Ole Miss.
Why so many of us often confuse the two dates might be because there was basketball at the TAC that December 11 Saturday, as there had been the Saturday before. After the football loss to Delaware, the Techsters thumped Cheyney State that night, 60-45, to win the Dial Classic. Yes, the good ol’ Dial Classic.
On December 4, Tech won in football and lost in basketball. The next weekend was the other way around.
Some other notes from those two weekends 41 years ago, as all three Tech programs were poised to make more immediate memories:
The Techsters’ loss to USC meant the end of their 59-game home winning streak. They beat USC on a neutral court in California, 58-56, later during the regular season and then, as two-time defending national champs, lost to USC in the title game, 69-67, in The Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. Big doings;
The Dunkin’ Dogs finished 19-9 and second in the Southland Conference that season but Shreveport’s Wayne Smith, Summerfield’s Karl Malone and a host of talented friends found themselves in the NCAA Tournament the next two seasons;
Many of the 1982 Football Bulldogs thawed out enough over the next two seasons to make it to the I-AA finals against Montana State at The Citadel in 1984; and,
Delaware. The Fightin’ Blue Hens haven’t been back to Ruston for football since that sleety Saturday when a dude named “Delaware Dan” Reeder slogged his way to a ball-controlling 114 yards on 22 carries and two of his less-workmanlike teammates got to score the TDs. But that seems poised to change: an announcement that the Blue Hens will become the 11th member of Conference USA is expected this week.
No news from the Dial Classic though. All quiet on the Dial Classic front …
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Wrote this in 2010 to help get you and me and our digestive systems through the holidays safely. The Worldwide Chocolate Shortage predicted back then did not, thank goodness, come to pass. So … pass the chocolate.)
These are the times that try men’s … colons?
Even the most casual eater, wandering aimlessly through The Land of the Leftover, has got to be heads-up in these post-Thanksgiving days. Cheese dip here. Sausage ball there. Week-old giblets, ripe for the taking.
For some reason, we are robotically drawn to seasonal foods, even though there are plenty of holiday experiences available that should cause us to lose our appetites. If you can’t relate, then you’ve never been hugged right before a holiday meal by a great aunt. With a goatee. Who’s dipping snuff.
Welcome to my world.
(I have a friend who once lost 15 pounds during December. She didn’t mean to. But right before one Thanksgiving dinner, her uncle said to her, table-side, “Honey, I wonder why God took all the hair off my head and put it on my back?” She was able to eat solid food again, but not until somewhere around Valentine’s Day.)
Another dietary issue this time of year: stadium food. Close to Football Bowl season. Pressure’s on. So we eat either to relieve the stress of a stretch run or to keep from being bored stiff because our team IS a stiff. I have yet another friend who shared with me his digestive system misgivings after Saturday’s joyous time in a football stadium occupied by a team that’s more up and down than a prairie dog. “My most painful lesson from the weekend,” he said, “was that pre-prandial and post-prandial reflections on a stadium corn dog are two very different realities.”
Prandial means “of or relating to a meal.” It’s from the rural Latin “prandium,” meaning, “I should not have ate that.” As you have surmised, to use those kinds of high-dollar words, my friend is pretty smart – but not smart enough to call time out in the corn dog line. You do not toy with a mass-produced corn dog in a competitive atmosphere far, far from your home locker room. You don’t do it.
Let this be a lesson to us all: your digestive system doesn’t know you have a high IQ. Faulty plumbing due to pilot error puts us all — the prince and the pauper, the duke (excuse my French) and the serf — right there on the same page.
The corn dog on a stick I ate was more than just inviting. Too bad I didn’t think that later it would do the biting. 1. FromFourth and Long, a work in progress
If our own lack of self-control and the overpowering temptations of the season weren’t enough, the food world and Mother Nature herself might be conspiring against us. My own personal mother, of all people, alerted me to this tragedy.
The Nature Conservation Research Council, which sounds like an important thing, forecasts a chocolate shortage. Because African farmers are ditching their cocoa farms for other easier-to-grow crops, chocolate might either disappear or increase drastically in price. This means that in 20 years, a Baby Ruth could well be out of my price range. My mother’s grandchildren call her “Sweeter,” so you can imagine how this is affecting my family. Let’s hold hands and …
No Twix? No Bliss? No Hershey’s Kiss, No chocolate dip fondue? The question we must pray is “What would Willie Wonka do?”
The sense of irony was sick, but Monday was World Kindness Day, and on that autumn morning, four people were stabbed outside Lambright Sports and Wellness Center on the Louisiana Tech campus, a random act of violence by a young man quickly taken into custody.
Outside of a big gym and workout center. A place where people swim and play.
And the night before in Shreveport, there was a shooting in the parking lot of the YMCA that left one victim dead and another in the hospital.
Not exactly our kind of Kindness Day.
Kindness Day was established in 1998 with the obvious intent of highlighting the good and the positive, of bridging the gap between all our sorts of differences, and to recognize how much we are alike, to encourage unity.
Some of us aren’t getting the picture.
For lots of reasons, the Lambright Center is a special place to me. I remember it being built. I lived in one of the little houses where its parking lot is now. No telling how many hours we were having fun in there, 40 years ago.
The Shreveport YMCA on the parkway is 100 yards from the Little League fields, holy ground to me for about a decade 25 years ago. Sweaty boys and girls running around, eye black smeared, learning the game, making friends. Unbridled joy. Who pulls a gun 100 yards from a bag of baseballs and a concession stand filled with Frito Pies?
I know the people who run the Lambright. The gang who runs the YMCA are friends of mine, and for a long time. Good-hearted people. None of us are naïve enough to think that violence happens only in back alleys, but goodness gracious… Instead of shooting or stabbing someone, why don’t these people just go work out?
Few if any habitual offenders will read this. So I’m preaching to the choir. But the rest of us are going to have to double-up on the kindness beat, it looks like, and cover for the ones who get their kicks by ruining the lives of people minding their own business. Have these people never held a baby? Played catch with a child? Petted a dog or provided a lap for a cat’s nap? Have they never laughed? Never lived?
We don’t get a pass from trying to make things better just because a fraction of the population is intent on making things worse. Mark Twain is credited with saying that kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Maybe some hate-filled soul will see your kindness and it will make a difference.
He passed away several years ago, but Leo Buscaglia was a professor at USC who in the 1980s was called “Dr. Love” because of his popular books and talks on how and why we should connect. This was after a student’s suicide moved him to start a noncredit class he called “Love 1A.” Not a perfect class or a perfect man, I’m sure, but it started a conversation worth contemplating.
“Too often,” he said, “we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
An anonymous quote that has stuck with me is that “what you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
So welcome to Kindness WEEK. Maybe we can pull some of the slack and get this turned around a bit. Keep plugging and not growing weary in doing good, that kind of thing, even though lately, the lunatic fringe seems to be winning more than their fair share of games.
Meanwhile at Tech, the University’s Counseling Services are available to students individually and in a group setting at no charge. Appointments can be made by visiting Keeny Hall 310, calling 318.257.2488, or visiting the website at latech.edu/counseling-services/
A campus blood drive is scheduled for Thursday outside Tolliver Hall from 9 until 3.
Though always in the middle of nearly constant chaos for 40 years, she maintained such an efficient and graceful purpose that you wondered if Flo was a real person or something you plugged in at dawn and turned off at midnight.
Born June 1, 1936, in Ruston to Evelyn Mabel and Lonnie Lee, Ms. Florine Davis “Flo” Miskelley passed away Friday in Ruston due to complications from a stroke.
She was 87.
But in Flo Years, who knows how old she was? In the four decades she worked for (ran?) Louisiana Tech’s athletic department until her retirement in 2005, the University got at least 120 working years from her.
A graduate of both Ruston High (1953) and Tech (1955), she worked eight years in Mississippi before she was hired by Tech football coach and athletic director Joe Aillet in August of 1965 as the ticket manager and the only secretary in the entire athletic department.
She had asked to work anywhere on campus but in athletics. And then she told Aillet she didn’t know anything about football.
“That’s OK,” he told her. “You won’t be playing.”
And she didn’t. But she did most everything else.
She was the last of the old-school athletic business managers and ticket chiefs, doing it all with no technology outside of her brain and ingenuity. Pencil. Pad. Memory. Smiles.
No one knows how she did it. I was 18 and she was 42 and in her prime when I met her in 1978; saw her at the field house most every day for the next six years and heard each of these phrases daily, hundreds of times through the years:
“You’d better talk to Flo.”
“Flo will know.”
Every day of the world.
She was either structured and systematic or the luckiest person ever because whatever needed doing got done, and with a refined and stylish air only she seemed to manage.
She defines Unsung Hero, and there’s one in every athletic department. (We are thinking Roxanne Freeman before her retirement from Northwestern State, as a for instance.) They exude a goodness you can feel on top of a productivity you can see and a competence you can bank on.
That was Flo. A motion perpetual but unhurried, a spirit undefeated.
Flo made her customers feel special; athletic message boards from other schools mentioned how nice “the ticket lady at Tech” was. She made us boys feel cared for, made us feel we mattered.
And she loved her dogs. You could do a lot worse if you were a stray in Lincoln Parish than to wander up to Flo’s house.
Everybody loved her, is the deal. When she stepped down as Associate Athletic Director, 600 people showed up for her reception and, though she was a bit embarrassed by it all, gave her a standing ovation.
Her obituary was three paragraphs, six sentences, just 129 words. She probably wanted it that way. That’s so Flo.
The brutally sad and tragic death news of writer and extremely talented actor Matthew Perry this weekend brought to mind happier times when reality, an acquired taste for sure, was moved to the back burner every Thursday night for “Must See TV.”
In the post-Cheers, post-The Cosby Show landscape of NBC Thursday night programming, Perry and the gang took over the TV comedy series world with Friends, and the addition of Seinfeld made it a one-two punch lethal for other networks. Icing on the cake was ER, a drama like spicey forerunners Falcon Crest or Dynasty or Dallas, only set in an emergency room where George Clooney was breaking hearts and mending wounds, all at the same time. (Mostly everyone on ER wore scrubs: what a break for Wardrobe.)
Hard to believe it’s been — 30 years ago? Seinfeld moved to Thursdays in the fall of 1993-94, then Friends came along to join it and ER. An NBC TV exec dubbed it “Must See TV,” and for millions, it was.
My spousal unit, a Friends disciple, says she never missed it. I will never forget getting the cold vocal cord shoulder in a late-’90s Thursday night call to Ramz, as close to a brother as anyone I have. The chillingly brief conversation went something like, “Must See TV night. Thursday. Call you tomorrow.”
Long distance and everything. And not a big TV watcher, I had no idea. Completely out of touch with TV-watching America, was I.
I love Seinfeld, but I’ve caught them all on reruns. Any Friends or ER episode I’ve seen has been by accident. (Chandler was Matthew Perry and Joey was that other guy and Ross was The Guy Who Was Briefly In Band of Brothers and one of the girls was Monica and I don’t know the other two. Blissfully ignorant.)
I was way in the minority because America was NBC’s best friend on Thursday nights in the 1990s. Friends at 7. Then something to get you to Seinfeld at 8—might be The Single Guy or Boston Common or Suddenly Susan, just some sort of half-hour bridge—then something else to get you from 8:30 to 9 when ER aired.
Remember: not everyone had a VCR then. Most did, but many didn’t, and if you had one it was expensive and the size of an ice chest. And often didn’t work well.
No one had a DVR.
(I knew the 1980s monster hit L.A. Law was in trouble when David Spade, during a Saturday Night Live! skit (back when SNL was must-see TV), said, “L.A. Law. Didn’t watch it. Didn’t tape it.” Tons and tons of water cooler talk involved whether or not you “saw” a show or at least “taped” it. “You mean you forgot to TAPE it?!”)
No one under 35 or so will grasp this, but if you didn’t see or tape a show in the fall, it was gone until spring reruns. So, you HAD to see it. Must See TV.
Those days are gone forever, of course. No comedy shows anymore, much less comedy nights. No variety shows. Those days gave way to the DVD and to the glorious option of streaming (which I’ve fully embraced) and to what is falsely billed as “reality TV.” The only real reality TV is sports, and I’m not so sure even THAT’S true when it comes to the NBA playoffs — but that’s another story. And definitely not Must See TV.
Just once I’d like to see the tables turned in a sports interview.
I’d like to hear a sportswriter sort of look down and, not defeated but definitely dejected, mumble into the microphone after a poorly written game story, “I just didn’t have my good verbs today. No movement with my action verbs at all. I was missing early in the story with my helping verbs so I couldn’t really set up what’s been my bread-and-butter action verbs like ‘pitched’ and ‘hit.’ It is what it is, I guess…”
Part of sports is that familiar give-and-take between players/managers and writers/broadcasters before and after games, familiar and routine as batting practice or pregame warmups.
Monday night after a Game 7 rout by Texas in the American League Championship Series, baseball’s and Houston’s much beloved Dusty Baker, manager of the defending World Series champs but losers in Monday night’s series-deciding game, deftly dodged questions about some of his in-game decisions, decisions that landed somewhere between strange and bizarre, especially for a future Hall-of-Famer who played 19 seasons and has since managed teams to more than 2,000 wins.
Dusty said something about fans having been “spoiled around here, as far as winning,” how the Astros have “nothing to be ashamed of,” how they were beaten “by a better team tonight.” And on like that. Which is fine. No excuses, but no real explanations either.
Just to keep things even, writers should have to do the same now and then. Instead of hanging around the batting cage—let’s say we’re talking baseball here—maybe now and then the manager comes to the press box and says to the writer, “Your game story this morning, it seemed flat. Sally’s story in The Tribune, it was like reading music. Felt like I was at the game. What’s your evaluation of what happened?”
Writer: “Look, Sally’s a good writer and she was the better typist last night,” the writer says, studying his shoes. “I had some opportunities in my lead and didn’t take advantage of those. As the story went on, I had decent command of my nouns, even the Proper Nouns, but my verbs were all over the place. I let that one adjective get away from me in — I think it was the third graph — and after that it seemed I couldn’t find my rhythm or my butt with both hands.
“It’s like I told the staff after the paper came out, I’ve got to do my job, sure, but we’ve got to have good layout too, maybe a few graphics … it takes a team. This isn’t a one-man show. But the bottom line is I’ve got to do better. I can’t just throw my laptop out there and expect to win.”
Coach: “Any thoughts on how home press box proved to be no advantage at all this series?”
Writer: “That’s writing. That’s just writing. My splitting an infinitive and giving a clause away when I hung that preposition late didn’t help, but I think the fight was there: we just didn’t execute at the level we’re capable of.”
Coach: “Your pronoun use has been a strong suit all year. Do you think you landed those today?”
Writer: “My subjective pronouns were as good as they’ve been all year. But somewhere around the eighth sentence, my objective pronouns were flat as a crewcut and the one time I used a possessive case and then a nominative clause, well, those weren’t worth donating to the homeless. Anything else guys?”
Coach: “Thanks, Writer. Good luck tomorrow.”
Writer: “Thanks guys. I appreciate y’all. Just wasn’t our day. But we don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Outside of getting the final score wrong … Sorry about that. Wish I had that one back.”
It was the heart of baseball’s dog days, mid-August 1995, summertime in the bottom of the seventh, when broadcaster Bob Costas in his eulogy for New York Yankee great Mickey Mantle, gone at only 63, reminded us of something said by baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, way, way back in a time very different than today:
“Every boy builds a shrine to some baseball hero, and before that shrine, a candle always burns.”
When you’re a boy and you choose a baseball hero and light a candle, it pays to choose wisely. I did. My guy was Brooks Robinson.
As Mickey Mantle, a hero so grand and flawed he bordered on myth to boys of the 1950s, was leaving the game, Brooks Robinson was just settling in at third base for the Baltimore Orioles and I was settling in to boyhood. Brooks was from Arkansas and my baseball-loving granddaddy was from Louisiana. The Braves had just arrived in Atlanta from Milwaukee, but the Orioles were the closest established big-league team to my Carolina hometown and Brooks had been picking it for the O’s since I was born.
So Brooks Robinson was my guy.
And when he passed away three weeks ago in late September at 86, just days before the Orioles won their 100th game of the 2023 season, a lot of guys my age took a double knee and more than a moment of silence for the joy he gave us, for the dreams he inspired in us kids wearing Husky jeans and pedaling to the ballparks and the chain-link-fenced outfields of our youth.
Sure, he was good at baseball. Best defensive third baseman ever. The Human Vacuum Cleaner. Hit it to Brooks and you were out.
MVP in 1964. World Series MVP in 1970. An All-Star 18 times. A Gold Glover for 16 straight seasons. Two times a World Champion. For 23 seasons, a Baltimore Oriole.
Often in my head and for no reason, the tape will play and he’s robbing the Cincinnati Reds of extra bases, time and again, in the 1970 World Series on the black-and-white Sylvania in our little den in South Carolina. How in the world … ?
I’m not sure boys my age wanted to be Brooks Robinson like guys 10 years older than me wanted to be Mickey Mantle. The Mick was movie-star good-looking and played center field and was in New York City and slugged like a house afire. Brooks Robinson wore a goofy batting helmet with a too-short bill and was constantly in the middle of an electrical storm at third base in blue-collar Baltimore and had some great offensive seasons but was, for two decades, steady as the sun rising.
We didn’t really want to be him. But we sure wanted to be like him. He was dependable. Kind. Approachable. And really good at what he did. Unassuming. He was Mr. Oriole.
I have never asked for an autograph from a big-league player. I have autographed baseballs from Little Leaguers and their parents and some friends, and treasure those and the memories behind them. But I do have two Brooks Robinson autographed baseballs, each a gift. They are in the shrine I still have today. There’s my Brooks Robinson poster, a Boys’ Life magazine with him on the cover, a 5×7 framed head shot, a few action figures, a bobblehead Oriole … it just makes me feel good to know it’s there.
I never met him and never tried. Just knowing he was there was enough.
It hurt me that he died, but especially that he died on the eve of the postseason, Baltimore’s first October appearance in a couple of decades. I didn’t understand it. But the Orioles were swept last week, so maybe it’s best that he wasn’t here to see it.
But it sure is comforting to know he was here, and to know what he meant to so many, and to know that he’ll remain a cool and refreshing memory, just like the autumn wind at the end of a long season, when the leaves turn Baltimore Oriole orange and the weathered tan of a baseball glove.
But I do eat food, and even I know that if God had depended on the McRib as a starter-kit for the first female, women would have never been created.
Had he winged it and made Eve from a McRib, we’d be staring down the barrel of McWomen, hardly a suitable substitute for God’s greatest creation — dogs being a solid second, bacon cheeseburgers on soft fresh buns a-huggin’ third.
Instead, God gave us the real thing.
Not so on the McDonald’s front. No offense to millions of Americans’ favorite fast food burger joint. But don’t even think about calling something a Rib when it is McNot.
Our dogged reporter and longtime friend Donnie Golfgame has been on this story since 2020 when the McRib, not a menu staple, made a brief holiday-season return to the menu. And here we go again.
Early last week Donnie was reading “America’s newspaper, USAToday,” and ran across this headline:
“McRib is back at McDonald’s this November.”
“I almost spewed yogurt out of my nose,” Donnie told me. “This was published and delivered on doorsteps all over the country as a legitimate news story under a reporter’s byline. I spent 30 years in the newspaper business – all three decades with the parent company of USAToday, Gannett News Corp. I can only imagine the reporter’s reaction when the editor called him or her over and said, ‘I have an important assignment for you.’”
The aroused reporter whips out a notepad, pulls a ballpoint from behind their eager ear, only to hear his editor say, “Just in time for the holiday season, McDonald’s is making a menu change of epic proportions.”
And before the reporter can say, “You mean McDonald’s is going full-fledged Kato?!” the editor says, “The McRib: It’s BACK, babeeeee!”
Sigh … THAT’S the Big Story.
As Donnie is quick to point out, “a McRib is really nothing more than a perpetuated big fat McFib — ground pork shoulder shaped to look like a miniature rack of ribs, which it is not. ‘Meat restructuring’ is how the military classified it when it became an MRE for the U.S. Army,” he said. “It didn’t show up on the menu at McDonald’s until 1981, when I was a sophomore at Louisiana Tech University. It was the same year I ordered my first and only ever McRib.
“The fact I haven’t ordered another McRib since 1981 is all the firsthand food review from me you’d ever want, but I have taken note over the years that the McRib has become like your favorite rock band that goes into retirement only to come back for a ‘Last Hoorah Tour,’ then back again for a ‘Farewell Tour,’ followed by a ‘No, Seriously, We Mean It This Time Tour.’”
Since it’s a fake rib, can we pay for it with fake money? Maybe McMoney?
“I think McDonald’s saw the Rolling Stones released a new album and thought, “Why not?” my guy Donnie suggested. Which sounds entirely plausible.
I have friends who own McDonald’s franchises. Tip of the hat. They get along, let’s just say, really well. And McDonald’s breakfast has always been top shelf. But how they stay in the burger business is a mystery to me.
As is America’s fascination with the McRib, to which this bureau says, “McNeg.”
As a concession to age, about five days out of seven for the past 10 years I’ve eaten, for breakfast, cottage cheese and yogurt mixed up together.
It’s starting to get on my nerves. Not happening for me.
It is not cottage cheese’s fault and it is not yogurt’s fault, though they are each be easy targets. Cottage cheese is good for you but it couldn’t run out of sight in a day and a half. So much for it being “healthy.”
Cottage cheese is supposed to be just about the most perfect man-made (no offense to cows) food there is. A fistful of it is packed full of protein. It is low in fat and has carbs, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron ore and tin, and a four-ounce serving contains more than 12 percent the daily recommended helping of cottage.
When I am eating it I try not to think of the word “curd.” Curd does not sound good but, well, there is no getting around that those are the little things half floating around in the other stuff, which is, I suppose, curd runoff.
It is not an especially ugly food – it is lumpy and white, like good homemade mashed potatoes – but it will win no beauty contest for you either.
Never until I started eating cottage cheese and yogurt together had I eaten cottage cheese alone. It doesn’t taste like anything really, but if you had to say it DID taste like something, you would think of something bad.
That is just my opinion.
But mix cottage cheese and yogurt together – say a vanilla or strawberry yogurt, whatever you prefer – and bingo!, you have a healthy combo that does not taste bad at all. Drop some blueberries or bananas and/or granola in there and you’ve got a most decent leadoff hitter.
Good, and good for you.
There are only two drawbacks.
One, after a while, curds and yogurt lose that sensual BAM!, you know, the one they never really had in the first place. After a decade, you have an excuse for waking each morning and crying over spoiled (spoilt?) milk.
The second drawback: cottage cheese and yogurt is no bacon and eggs. And bacon and eggs is the flagship of the breakfast armada.
You’ve got your French toast. Your waffle. Even your morning pork chop or sausage, patty or link. Outstanding all.
But if the go-to breakfast foods were lined up and we’re choosing team captains, bacon and eggs would be my first selection. Cottage cheese is the kid who does not get picked.
The multi-talented egg needs no introduction, and just smelling a home where bacon fries makes you feel like you can make it one more day, no matter how tough the sledding.
Bacon is to meats what brown sugar is to sweets: it just makes everything better.
Bacon makes people smile. Bacon beats cottage cheese in a footrace 10 times out of 10. I wish my name were Sir Teddy Bacon.
My second draft pick: biscuit. The chef is key, but even a buttered canned biscuit will at least look at you in the eye.
Third draft pick: grits. But only if someone who knows how to make them are in charge. Bad grits might as well be cottage cheese.
Now you can come in with all your fillers, your pastries, Stuff With Syrup On It, fruit and hash browns. (I love hash browns.)
Chocolate milk. Orange juice. Coffee. Eat all that and your day is made and you haven’t even left the house yet.
(Originally ran February 2013. I’m still eating yogurt and cottage cheese, and it’s still good for you. AND it’s still not bacon.)
NOTE — This is part of a series of stories profiling the 12-person Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2023, who will be inducted to culminate three days of festivities in Natchitoches July 27-29. For tickets and more information, visit LaSportsHall.com or call 318-238-4255.
By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports/Written for the LSWA
A two-time All-America receiver and the SEC Player of the Year as a senior in 1987, former LSU Tiger Wendell Davis is so unassuming, so under the radar and in the moment, that how good he was can somewhat escape a lot of folks, including, of all people, Wendell Davis.
“It’s beautiful to see how the game’s evolved, especially at the receiver position,” he said from Chicago, where he’s lived and worked and raised a family since his NFL career ended after a devastating injury five games into his sixth season with the Bears in 1993. “These guys today are a lot taller, a lot faster, a lot stronger … they make such a big difference out there.”
In his LSU-loving mind are pictures of Kayshon Boutte, Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, Jarvis Landry, Josh Reed, Odell Beckham Jr., dude after dude from the past 20 years, guys who, if you saw them walking in Baton Rouge, you’d know where they were going and why: to Tiger Stadium, to catch a bunch of footballs.
“To me,” Davis said, “as a receiver, it’s beautiful to see … the way they’re built, the way they move. They possess it all.”
He smiles — it’s a sideline-to-sideline smile, always — and he shakes his head, almost in disbelief. And then with a hint of shy amazement, one of the most prolific receivers in school history says, “I couldn’t do what they do.”
Which is fine except … well, he did.
He did what they’re doing.
And he did it before many of them were born.
While it’s been 30 years since he retired as a player and a quarter century since he finished his college career with three touchdown catches and the Most Valuable Player award in the 1987 Gator Bowl, and while the world and the game has changed plenty, the LSU record book hasn’t changed as much as you’d think.
The record shows that even the passing of time makes it impossible to overlook the accomplishments of Wendell Davis, a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s outstanding Class of 2023.
“We sort of changed the SEC in the mid-’80s, the way teams had to defend; Wendell was a big part of that,” said Tommy Hodson, also a Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer and the triggerman for all those passes to Davis those final two fabulous years of Davis’s college career in 1986-87. “When you look back now, what he did still stacks up.”
Davis still holds the school record for career receptions with 183, and outside of Eric Martin — his Hall of Fame immediate predecessor at LSU — and a Todd Kinchen, Andy Hamilton and Carlos Carson dotted here and there, each an outstanding player, Davis is the only guy who played pre-2000 whose name still litters the receiving Top 10 lists, most of which he was at the top of when he left LSU as a first-round pick to Chicago.
Davis left LSU as the leader in receptions in a game (14) and in a single season (80), in single-season receiving yardage (1,244), in receiving TDs (11) in yards per game (113.1) and in career receiving yards (2,708).
Dude from Shreveport-Fair Park could play.
And remember: until the 2002-03 season, statistics in bowl games and playoff games didn’t count. Plus teams played 11 game regular seasons then, and maybe a bowl. Now a team can play as many as 15 in a season.
Take the Top 50 receivers in either catches or yardage last year in the NCAA and compare them to Davis’s junior season: only six had more yardage, only 13 had more catches, and all but two had the advantage of playing more games. Insane when considering we’re comparing today’s throw-it-everywhere game to what LSU and Davis and Hodson did 37 years ago.
The problem for defenses and the advantage for Davis and his teammates was so simple it’s elusive: nobody could cover him.
“What he did was amazing back then,” Hodson said. “It’s even more amazing today. He had a great final game in the Gator Bowl (nine catches for 132 yards and three TDs) and that doesn’t even count.
“Funny to think about it, but it started out with eight catches here, seven there, another eight or 10 …,” Hodson said. “Then the story started to grow.”
“The best thing I can say about Wendell is that as a safety, I was playing against all kinds of great receivers every week in the SEC,” said former teammate Jamie Bice. “But we knew we’d never see a better receiver on Saturday than we’d seen every day in practice in Wendell; that receiver just didn’t exist.”
The Davis Story started innocently enough when he showed up in Baton Rouge largely unannounced. He’d been recruited lightly and late by the staff of head coach Jerry Stovall, who signed Davis — right before the whole staff was fired.
Davis thought, “Uh-oh.”
“They listed me at 6-1; I’m about 5-11, really,” Davis said. “Most of my career I played at 185 to 187. Speed’s average. But the thing that stood out was that I could run routes. And I loved football and the whole team concept and I worked hard at everything I did. I was sure if I worked hard, I could be successful.
“It’s just that, with a new staff, they didn’t know what they were getting with me,” Davis said.
No. They did not. Who could have figured this average-looking mildly recruited freshman would, as a junior and senior, win so much hardware and help lead his team to a pair of Top 10 finishes.
But he did. New coach Bill Arnsparger kept the signed recruits. A defensive whiz, he bolstered the Tiger line on both sides. And in 1986, after Davis had averaged about a catch-and-a-half a game his first two seasons and Eric Martin had left for the NFL, a freshman quarterback named Hodson from Central Lafourche met Davis.
“He was highly recruited and was going to get the chance to play,” Davis said. “My thinking was I need to get to know him, and the way to do that was to really work out with him.”
Summer meant throwing and catching and talking. Understanding. And then, “the second or third game,” Hodson said, “it just kind of clicked.”
The hash marks were wider then, and Davis usually lined up as the split end to the short side. Teams blitzed a lot and played man almost exclusively.
“On the short side, Wendell’s the easier throw, the shorter throw,” Hodson said. “It just started out as a hook, an out, a fade, a go … it was easier. And his route running as so precise. And to be honest, the corners weren’t as good back then. And that’s really it. That’s how it happened.”
Eight catches here, seven there … Then the story started to grow …
“Just a lot of work,” Davis said. “At practice, getting to become comfortable with each other and trying to understand one another. But the trick was, ‘Can we transfer that to the game field?’ We were able to do that.”
“We were both precise; we both had a lot of discipline,” Hodson said. “In practice if things weren’t lining up, I might ask him to put a hitch step in his route. Or he’d ask me to make it a quick five (step drop) instead of regular speed. The smallest things so we could time it all perfectly.”
If three or four QBs were in a rotation throwing to receivers at practice, Hodson might do some quick math and step out of line.
“I’m skipping,” he said, “until I get to Wendell.”
The out route and the skinny post were the duo’s “go to” throws. “You’ve got the same footwork, the same break,” Hodson said. “Wendell would give you the same look off the ball, but you didn’t know if he was going in or out.
“Or we’d run a corner from the inside slot. The defense would be in man and the guy was always running behind Wendell,” Hodson said. “All the time. I just lob it over the top and he catches it. I bet he scored 10 TDs on that one route.”
He scored the final two on that route in the Gator Bowl when he made South Carolina’s self-named “Black Death” defense look more like they were playing dead. Men against Chickens. The win was LSU’s first bowl victory since 1979 and gave the Tigers their first 10-win season in a quarter century.
(For the record, the first TD was on an out route Davis caught on the hash at the 39. Easily left his defender, juked another, raced down the sideline.)
“Everything just clicked that day,” Davis said. “We went out the way we wanted.”
The end wasn’t as wonderful with the Bears. Averaging 40-plus catches a season in his first five years in the NFL, Davis seemed heading toward a pro career similar to that of his friend Martin, who played 10 years in the league. That changed in October of 1993 at a game in Philadelphia against the Eagles when Davis tried to jump for a pass — and never left the ground. His cleats stuck in the god-forsaken AstroTurf in Veterans Stadium, and the result was a tear of both patellar tendons, the rope that keeps the kneecaps in place.
“They found my kneecaps,” Davis said, “up in my thighs.”
He tried a comeback the next fall with Indianapolis. Didn’t work.
He also got a call from Philadelphia in 2004 right before the Vet was demolished.
“They asked me if I’d like to press the button (to start the implosion),” Davis said. “I just said, ‘No thanks. I’m done. I’m good.’”
And Davis is good these days. Better than good. He says the injury helped him understand more fully that “you’re really not in control of those things, that there’s a purpose for your life,” he said. “And I also learned that it’s not about me; it’s about serving Him and serving others.”
Besides, he says now, the end of playing football was “the end of something great but the start of something awesome.”
The NFL experience, he said, “was wonderful, to be able to have some success at that level. But more important was getting married to the girl of my dreams (Trish, from Illinois) and for us to have kids and be married for the last 32 years. That’s the awesome part. Just transitioning from being a player to being able to coach, then to be a part of corporate America in business, which I love. I’m just so grateful for my opportunities.”
NATCHITOCHES — Louisiana Tech used 13 position players and Northwestern State used 16. Each team used seven pitchers. It took 3:56 to play it. The score was tied four times, the lead changed hands five times…
… and on the final time, Northwestern scored twice in the 13th to win it, 8-7, on a cloudy and windy but comfortable Tuesday night in front of 1,027 fans who got their money’s-worth at Brown-Stroud Field.
Trailing 7-6 going into the bottom of the 13th, NSU’s designated hitter Broch Holmes ripped a leadoff double, and pinch runner Reese Lipoma scored to tie the game, 7-7, when the next hitter, Gabe Colaianni, tripled. Then with one out, backup catcher Bo Willis pinch-hit and singled off the wall in left center to score Colaianni and win it.
“It’s one of the harder things in baseball to do, stay locked in when you’re on the bench … but a couple of innings earlier Bob (NSU coach Bobby Barbier) came by and told me to get loose,” said Willis. “I was imagining the AB and I knew it was going to happen. It worked out well.”
To lead off the top of the tell-tale 13th, Tech’s Colton Hegwood, who came in to play shortstop in the eighth, walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ethan Bates, who started the game at second base and ended up on the mound.
Philip Matulia singled to shallow center and Hegwood, who had to wait to see if the ball would drop, moved to third. With one out, Dalton Davis sent an 0-2 pitch to the warning track in left for a sacrifice fly that gave Tech a 7-6 lead.
But it didn’t last long.
It was close, and why not? Tech won two games from the Demons by a total of three runs last year, and the Demons had won seven of their last eight games at home and were 10-3 at the BStro going into the game.
Northwestern climbed to 16-12 while Tech slipped to 14-15 near the middle of the season.
Get your tickets now: these two teams meet again May 2 in Ruston.
Tech took a 2-0 lead in the second when Brody Drost walked, was doubled to third by Adarius Myers, and scored on a groundout to shortstop by Walker Burchfield. Myers stole third and scored when Logan McLeod bounced a 3-1 pitch over the bag at second.
But the Demons answered in the bottom half when Holmes hit his third homer of the season to halve the Tech lead to 2-1. Colaianni doubled and scored when Bailyn Sorensen slammed a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left center for the 3-2 lead.
Tech tied it 3-3 in the fourth on an RBI single from Matulia that scored Will Safford, who’d doubled with two outs.
NSU surged ahead in the fifth when Jacob Farrell singled with two out and Jeffrey Elkins lifted a fly to right in the twilight that dropped for a single; Elkins ended up at second when the ball got loose in right and Farrell, running on contact, scored to give the Demons a 4-3 lead.
The Demons doubled-up the Dogs, 6-3, in the sixth when Holmes and Colaianni caused more trouble. Holmes singled with two outs and Colaianni followed with a home run.
In the seventh, Drost and Myers walked, and Burchfield made it 6-4 when he hit a rocket past the shortstop to score Drost for his 16th RBI of the spring. Thaxton Berch pinch ran for Burchfield at first base, and McLeod sacrificed Myers to third and Berch to second. After pinch hitter Karson Evans popped out, Bates hit an 0-2 pitch up the middle to tie things at 6-6.
Tech threatened in the 10th when, with one out, Berch singled sharply to right — his first hit of the year in six at-bats — and McLeod singled to left. Hegwood reached on a fielder’s choice when he grounded to second to force the hard-sliding McLeod at second as Tech stayed out of the double play, but Bates flied out to right to end the inning.
And on it went, the teams trading punches until the fateful 13th.
“You could dissect this any way you want, but those dudes played their tails off,” Tech coach Lane Burroughs said of the Bulldogs. “They deserved to win; we didn’t, but that’s the way life is. You don’t always win, even if you deserve to. I told the guys they played their tails off and I’m so proud of them.
“All that matters now is to come out and play Thursday (at Rice) the way we played today. Everybody was pulling for each other as hard as they could. It was a great dugout to be in. We played well and we played loose.”
“In a game like this, it’s good to see other guys step up,” said NSU’s Barbier, noting both sides got quality efforts from the bullpen and dugout. None had more impact than Willis’ pinch-hit appearance.
That swing was as cathartic for him as it was for the Demons, who improved to 6-0 in mid-week games while playing their final mid-week home game of 2023.
“For him to keep working at it and not complain in a day where complaining’s cool, sticking with it and coming through when he got the opportunity is special,” Barbier said.
A week from today and the day after that might be the best back-to-back days of the sports year, not counting Saturday-Sunday at The Masters.
We are talking about the beginning of March Madness. Games from Can ’til Cain’t.
Actually, the Women’s March Madness begins Wednesday, so you can add a day to the fun. Men’s starts Thursday.
And actually AGAIN, you can go back to Tuesday, March 14, because that is the first day of the “First Four” play-in games in the men’s bracket: the winners of those four games will make it to the Field of 64.
And you can go back two MORE days to Sunday, because not only is that the day of some Power 5 tournament finals, it’s also Selection Sunday.
Let’s break it down quickly:
Selection Sunday, March 12: Men’s Selection Show is at 5 on CBS, Women’s at 7 on ESPN.
Tuesday and Wednesday, March 14-15: Men’s First Four.
Wednesday-Thursday, March 15-16: Women’s First Round, wall-to-wall games.
Thursday-Friday, March 16-17: Men’s First Round, more games than you can shake a peach basket at. And no, I won’t be at work those two days.
And the fun continues right on through the first few days of April. Because …
Women’s Final Four: Friday, March 31 and Sunday, April 2, Dallas, American Airlines Center.
Men’s Final Four: Saturday, April 1, and Monday, April 3, Houston, NRG Stadium.
True. It’s a lot to absorb. But we can do it. We just have to stick together.
And this after we just got through wrapping up Marsh Madness. Almost. (We’re looking at you, Calvary Cavaliers and Bossier Bearkats, who each play for state titles Friday, Calvary at 2 and Bossier at 6. Go Cavs and Kats!).
So to get us ready for the madness that is March NCAA basketball, a quick primer.
Back in the summertime, we had an Introduction to ‘Sports Talking’ and 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.
And on like that.
Briefly, so you can talk the talk this month, know that a basketball is also a roundball or b-ball or the rock.
String music, coined by Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Joe Dean of LSU, is a jump shot that goes through the hoop and touches nothing but net. It’s the opposite of an air ball, that touches neither net nor goal but instead just, well, air. Not a good look.
Foul trouble is when a player or team is in danger of reaching the limit of fouls allowed without disqualification or penalty. Foul trouble is also what you are in when you sit next to a fan who smells like an old sneaker. Fowl trouble is when the concession stand runs out of chicken tenders.
The bank is open if a player banks a shot in off the backboard. A double dribble occurs when a player is bouncing the ball, touches it with both hands, then touches it again. You’re in danger of a double dribble if you drink too much and the bathroom line is long. Don’t want that, sports fans.
A technical or T is a penalty for poor conduct, in which case the player or coach might get T’ed up by the official. If you’re dropping dimes, you’re dishing out a lot of assists, or passing to other players who immediately score, maybe with a step back, off a strong post move to the rack (which is the basket), on an alley-oop or a fadeaway or layup or slam dunk, all different sorts of shots. If a person scores enough, they are said to be putting on a clinic, in which case they are probably schooling defenders.
It was my pleasure to drop some dimes for your basketball benefit. Enjoy the show. And stay out of foul trouble.
OXFORD, Miss. – Exactly zero part of it was easy, but Louisiana Tech ended a 17-inning scoreless streak that started Saturday with five runs in the fifth and added the winning run in the seventh for a comeback 6-5 victory over defending national champion and No. 4- ranked Ole Miss before 10,098 on a cool Tuesday evening at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
Tech (5-3) turned its second double play of the game in the ninth and right-handed third baseman/reliever Ethan Bates got a check-swing strikeout of Peyton Chatagnier on a high slider to end it and earn the ‘Dogs both a win in their 2023 road opener and the program’s first road win over a Top 5 ranked opponent since 2004.
Game Two of the two-game series against Ole Miss (6-2) is scheduled to start at 3 today, one hour earlier than originally set in hopes of dodging rain that’s forecast.
Tech starter Greg Martinez and junior Isaac Crabb, a pair of right-handers, combined to pitch the first four innings as Ole Miss built a 4-0 lead with single runs each inning. Martinez gave up six hits in three innings, struck out seven, walked two and hit a batter. Crabb faced six batters, gave up three hits and made an error in his one inning of work. But … both kept the damage minimal and, most importantly, kept the Rebels, with 18 homers in their first seven games, in the park.
In all, five Tech pitchers stranded 13 Rebels.
Trailing 4-0, Tech opened the tell-tale fifth. Ole Miss starter J.T. Quinn retired the first 13 batters he’d faced before walking Jorge Corona and Adarius Myers with one out. Then designated hitter Jonathan Hogart had a grind-it-out, don’t-give-up at-bat that illustrated the game up until that point: the junior from Wabash Valley JC fouled off seven pitches before, on a full count, knocking a ground ball over the bag at second, good for an infield hit that loaded the bases.
Bulldogs were in business.
Then a couple of LSU transfers did work. Second baseman Will Safford doubled off the wall in right center for his first hit as a Bulldog to cut the lead in half and chase Quinn.
“That got us going, injected a little life into our ball club,” Tech coach Lane Burroughs said.
That was only the start. With two outs and two on, Brody Drost, the centerfielder from Lake Charles (and LSU), pulled a 2-2 pitch over the right-field fence and Tech led, 5-4.
Just as big was the bottom of the inning: lefty Jonathan Fincher, the winner Friday night after giving up just one run in seven innings against Nicholls State, set the tone on the mound for the rest of the game with a shutdown fifth. The senior and captain gave up a two-out walk and single before striking out center fielder Ethan Groff on three pitches.
Ole Miss tied it at 5-5 in the sixth on a couple of walks and a base hit off Landon Tomkins, voted Reliever of the Year in the Pioneer League this summer. But Tech immediately answered. Logan McLeod singled, Drost walked, and with one out, Dalton Davis got the big hit to left-center to score McLeod for a 6-5 lead.
Tomkins pitched a scoreless seventh and eighth to pick up his second win of the season, and Bates got his second save with the dramatic ninth.
“What a team win,” Burroughs said, and went on to mention the big hits in the fifth and seventh, the shutdown bottom of the fifth, Tomkins and Bates on the mound late, Martinez and Crabb limiting the damage early.
“I’m proud of how they responded after not playing well at all Sunday (in a shutout loss to Nicholls),” he said. “Today was one of those team things. Once we kind of woke up, we showed if we play like that, we can play with anyone in the country.”
(Editor’s Note: Original run date of this effort was October 2010 to coincide with the opening of the movie, Secretariat, which starred people but also several horses who portrayed the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years; it was impossible for any of them to look as majestic as the stud folks affectionally and respectfully called “Big Red.” Seabiscuit in 2003, another horse movie based on a true story, this one captured by author Laura Hillenbrand in her magnificent 1999 book Seabiscuit:An American Legend, was better. Both are good. And you can read them between races at Louisiana Downs, which has Quarter Horse racing through April 1; the 84-day Thoroughbred meet is May 6-September 26, with live racing each Saturday through Tuesday. But first … some lessons from Secretariat, one of the best and most dominating athletes any of us has ever seen.)
“Just before noon the horse was led haltingly into a van next to the stallion barn, and there a concentrated barbiturate was injected into his jugular. Forty-five seconds later there was a crash as the stallion collapsed. His body was trucked immediately to Lexington, Ky., where Dr. Thomas Swerczek, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky, performed the necropsy. All of the horse’s vital organs were normal in size except for the heart.
‘We were all shocked,’ Swerczek said. ‘I’ve seen and done thousands of autopsies on horses, and nothing I’d ever seen compared to it. The heart of the average horse weighs about nine pounds. This was almost twice the average size, and a third larger than any equine heart I’d ever seen. And it wasn’t pathologically enlarged. All the chambers and the valves were normal. It was just larger. I think it told us why he was able to do what he did.’”
So begins the classic piece from Sports Illustrated’s William Nack, whose 1990 tale of 1973 Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing winner Secretariat is worth reading over and over again.
I hope the movie is as good. I hear it is. Can’t see it fast enough. (And not just because it stars Diane Lane. Hello!)
Secretariat opened Friday. Columnist Cal Thomas calls it “The Blind Side meets Chariots of Fire meets National Velvet. It is Annie on four legs.”
“The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun…”
Like Annie, we all run on hope. It’s trite and hints at sentimentality, but a healthy optimism and focused hope sure makes the day brighter. Like the story of Depression Era underdog Seabiscuit, another horse who became a national celebrity, a story like Secretariat’s reminds you of the possibilities, of all the good that, with heart, can happen. You gotta have heart …
In beautiful blue and white checkered colors, Secretariat won the final leg of the Triple Crown by an absurd record of 31 lengths. In the Belmont Stakes, Nack wrote that the thoroughbred ran “rhythmic as a rocking horse.” Secretariat started sprinting from the gate – and never stopped. One of the most magnificent photographs in all of sports is the jockey Ron Turcotte looking over his shoulder down the stretch – and being all alone. Just the horse and the rider, and Belmont Park rocking.
Secretariat was euthanized 21 years ago this very week, victim of a painful hoof disease that in this case was incurable. But in retirement, tens of thousands had come to see him, a chestnut colt who, in 1973, had given the nation a break from the confusion and discontent of the Vietnam War and Watergate. When he died, millions mourned him, including Nack, a rookie turf writer for Sports Illustrated in 1973 but a longtime friend of Secretariat’s by the time the famous horse died.
Nack wrote about the time Secretariat had snatched his notebook away and refused to give it back. He wrote about the time Secretariat picked up a rake in his teeth and began cleaning his own stall. And “I told about that magical, unforgettable instant,” Nack wrote, “frozen now in time, when he turned for home, appearing out of a dark drizzle at Woodbine, near Toronto, in the last race of his career, 12 lengths in front and steam puffing from his nostrils as from a factory whistle, bounding like some mythical beast of Greek lore.”
Heart makes the difference. In stories like Seabiscuit’s. In stories like Secretariat’s. In stories like yours and mine.
If you are 50 or older and grew up in North Louisiana loving sports, the light and lyrical name of Lanny James likely brings back some happy memories for you.
Lanny was a sports reporter for KNOE-TV in Monroe and, from 1974 to 1989, the CBS-affiliate’s Sports Director. His career included his Sportscope TV show and coaches shows and lots of play-by-play for high schools like Neville and Ouachita but also for Grambling, Louisiana Tech, now the University of Louisiana-Monroe (NLU then), LSU, and even the old Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League.
But what’s had me thinking about him since the day he passed away — February 2, age 82, and fittingly I was at a basketball game when I heard — was that Lanny James, with the simple and playful name and flamboyant, welcoming personality, so perfectly captured for me such an important time in my little life. I think of it, and I have to think of him.
We’d just moved to West Monroe from a tiny town in South Carolina in 1974. I’d just become a teenager, knew my cousins and that was it, and this was the biggest town I could ever imagine besides Atlanta, where we’d gone a few times to Six Flags. For a kid who grew up 43 miles from an interstate, it was overwhelming.
And there was Lanny James, in his mid-30s, young but naturally I thought he was old, anchoring the sports on television, which was at a TV station just across the river. My god!; this man was within my gravitational pull! He was like right there. I might even see him one day.
And I did. Down there on the court at NLU basketball games with Mike Rose and Calvin Natt and Jerry Jingles and other players, probably in the annual Pacemaker Classic at (then) Ewing Coliseum.
How did I know it was him? You’ve got to be kidding. A small and well-proportioned guy, filled out, tanned, full head of hair perfectly parted, open collar, a necklace or two — guess you’d call them chains? He was beautiful, is what he was. Smooth talking. “The TV Sports Guy.”
I could count on him. He entertained me. And he lived in my town. Covered my teams.
I would meet him later. He did not disappoint. Never did. He was always the same Lanny James. (It was hard to call him just “Lanny” when “Lanny James” rolls off the tongue. Seemed to fit him better. Just perfect.)
Once at Louisiana Tech after a media basketball game before a real game, he sent one of us to the store to get him some hair spray while he showered. True story. Wasn’t the least bit ashamed to ask for it either.
Not a big guy, but bigger than life to me back then.
Once I saw some TV guys hauling a big case up to a football press box. They were struggling. “What’s in the box?” I said. “Need help?”
“No,” one of them said. “It’s just Lanny.”
There is a street in Monroe called Lamy Lane. Once Lanny was picking up his daughter at elementary school and another student saw him and pointed and screamed, “Look! It’s Lamy Lane! It’s Lamy Lane!”
Honest mistake, but I love that kid. Ever since I’ve heard that story, Lanny’s been “Lamy Lane” to me.
He’s gone now and I won’t get to call him that anymore. He’d moved to Florida — loved the sun and golf — and then to Texas around Spring near Houston, and we hadn’t seen him in maybe 20 years. Which hurts me. He was a legend and fun to be around, just because he was Lamy Lane. I wish I could tell him that, and thank him for being my friend before he knew I even existed.
He’d probably thank me for the hair spray.
It’s an interesting coincidence that another local legend, Bob Griffin, passed away at age 85 on February 3, 2020, in Shreveport, almost three years to the day before his Northeast Louisiana sports counterpart. Bob’s career lasted more than 60 years and we all felt we knew him, he was on television and at the ballparks so much. And of course, the world went crazy and closed, you might remember, a month after he died, another interesting coincidence but hardly a surprise.
Lanny and Bob made their living in life’s toy department, but they didn’t take it for granted. If they were going somewhere, they took you with them, and made sure you learned something and laughed along the way. You can’t help but miss guys like that.
Courtesy of recently retired NFL stud J.J. Watt and USAA, Sgt. Jackson Bond will leave Fort Bragg in North Carolina tomorrow for Glendale, Ariz. and Super Bowl LVII weekend, including Sunday’s game that kicks off at 5:30 p.m. between Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Bond, 26 and a Dallas native, is getting the first-class treatment because he was recently named Paratrooper of the Year for the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne.
That’s Paratrooper of the Year out of 30,000 service members in that group.
Not sure … but I think that’s pretty good. Right?
His daddy, John, is a friend of mine from Claiborne Parish. John went to Louisiana Tech from 1981 to 1984, moved to Dallas, met Jackson’s mom while getting his degree at Baylor College of Dentistry, and there you go.
“Jackson bounced around in college, chasing baseball” as a left-handed knuckleballer, his dad said. He ended up graduating from Cal State in Los Angeles and, when the pandemic slowed down the application process for him to pursue a career in the U.S. Secret Service, Jackson decided on Plan B: enlist in the Army — he did in July 2020 — with the goal of serving in Special Forces.
So for the past couple of years while I have been taking out the trash and filling up the car and going to the grocery store, Jackson and his friends have been completing Ranger School.
Following that accomplishment last March, Bond and his brothers in (hang with me for a second here) Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team duked it out in the 82nd Airborne Division’s Best Squad competition last summer.
Mission Accomplished. Charlie Troop was named the division’s best brigade and squad, and after some interviews and input from senior leaders, Bond had earned the 82nd’s equivalent of the Lombardi Trophy.
In interviews with some national outlets last week, Jackson thanked his Army brothers who “worked their hearts out” during the competition, and he applauded the “fantastic leadership” in his unit.
“Everyone’s been so supportive,” he said. And he added that finding out a Super Bowl trip came with the honor was “probably one of the coolest moments in my life,” one that “caught him off guard.”
Catching an Army Ranger off guard isn’t easy to do, but finding out you’ll be attending your first ever Super Bowl will do that to a guy. His Dallas Cowboys won’t be there, but Jackson will be — and his brother Jared, 16 months younger, will be his guest, also compliments of Watt and USAA.
Jared will drive over from San Diego where he is an entrepreneur, same as his dad is now. John left dentistry and moved back to Claiborne Parish in 2020 where he leads two companies, Total Health Heroes Foundation — a health/fitness community— along with the “cartoon” part of the brand, which focuses on children’s health.
A former Haynesville High quarterback under legendary Tors coach Red Franklin should have no trouble running two companies, right? Especially after being a part of raising two boys.
“I was always conscious of raising them to be country boys, whether it was going to the lake, camping, riding four-wheelers … Jackson really took a liking to shooting, not so much hunting but more target shooting, which he really excelled at. He’s just always loved the outdoors; I feel all those experiences really help teach you how to be a man.
“Dallas is a great city,” he said, “but at least for me and the boys, that north Louisiana country boy stuff has its perks too.”
One more thing about Jackson: he loves studying the past, impressed his officers with the ease he felt in talking to them about military history, was an A-plus student in college, and even speaks German, something he did NOT learn in Claiborne Parish. (Felt I should add that as ‘Full Disclosure,’ since I’m a former resident of the place; we’re good, but not ‘We speak German’ good.)
So, without the Cowboys but with his little brother, Jackson will enjoy Sunday’s Super Bowl, a well-deserved, definitely earned trip.
I think I’ll root for the Eagles Sunday. I know I’ll root for Jackson forever.
Every now and then, I wish the NCAA Transfer Portal worked in real life, and I could put somebody in it and send them to another place.
Or I could get in it and send me to another place.
If only life were that simple.
If only the two-year-old transfer portal were that simple.
Until April 2021, the NCAA allowed student-athletes to transfer and be eligible to play at their new chosen institution after sitting out a year. But that was eliminated that Spring of ’21, nearly two years ago, when the NCAA granted its student-athletes a one-time waiver to transfer with no penalty. And with immediate eligibility.
And it has been a musical chairs stemwinder since.
Throw in the NIL stuff, and what we’ve witnessed since is a Saturday night barn dance in fast forward.
Coaches move around. College professors and administrators move around. Even writers. Great. Players should be allowed to do the same thing.
But … there is a not-so-great side. The NCAA data, at least so far, reveals that only half of the student-athletes entering the transfer portal enroll in a different school. The other half goes to a non-NCAA school, plays another sport, quits ball, withdraws from the portal, or drops out of school.
No team. No degree.
There are students with scholarships who get into the portal, sacrifice their scholarship, and then … can’t get on a team.
There is always going to be a spot for the elite athlete. There are some players who are going to play, a lot, at any school they wish. They aren’t gambling when they enter the portal. And you’d think that most of the time, they are moving to a program that they’ll enjoy more, for any amount of reasons.
But that’s not a big number of athletes. Only a handful from the tens of thousands can play anywhere.
And some athletes made the wrong decision out of high school, again, for any number of reasons. That’s why there was a transfer rule to begin with.
Warning: a person would be dumb as a bag of ankle tape to take any advice I might have. I can share experience, but never advice. So this is just an observation.
This current bunch of college students has never really had to wait. Most of them have never heard a dial tone. Never had to wait for the newspaper to get thrown into the yard. They’ve had microwaves and most always a drive-thru. Automatic banking, one of the great inventions of modern man. Pay at the pump. Cell phone. Audio books and books online.
And all that stuff is awesome. Wonderful. I’d cry if I couldn’t fast-forward through commercials.
But we were trained to wait, just because a lot of smart people hadn’t come along yet to invent things that would allow us to wait less, (and thank you for that, Mr. or Mrs. Online Music Inventor So I Can Listen To Tom. T. Hall Whenever I Want To Person).
We knew there was such a thing as waiting. Today’s gang, not so much. Waiting your turn can be a drag, but it’s not a death sentence.
A suggestion might be to think about why you chose State U. in the first place. Revisit those feelings. Maybe school could be about more than playing time. And players get hurt. And players get better. You never know what the next wave will bring in …
What a lot of Transfer Portal People will miss is relationships you build with a coach, your teammate, the managers and trainers, your academic advisor. You don’t build any history with your professors, the custodians, the staff, the grounds crew …
For most of us, it might be worth the waiting. Sometimes it’s wise to wait. And see.
Again, only half of student-athletes who’ve entered the transfer portal have enrolled in a different school. Of all the student-athletes who signed Wednesday and in December to play football for whatever schools, you wonder where they’ll be, or be heading to, next year at this time.
When Kansas City backup quarterback Chad Henne came into Sunday’s NFL Divisional Round game to replace injured Patrick Mahomes, named Wednesday NFL MVP by the Professional Football Writers Association, I thought the same thing as you.
“Chad Henne’s still in the league?”
Luke McCown, who started 10 games at quarterback during his 13-year NFL career from 2004-2016, those last four seasons backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans, was watching too. His thoughts were more along the lines of, “Lord, have mercy.”
The Chiefs led Jacksonville, 10-7, at the time. But Mahomes was headed to the locker room to get an X-ray of his ankle and Henne was taking a first-down snap from his own end zone.
On first down, Henne threw his first completion. Of the season.
The 37-year-old Henne and the Chiefs put together the longest touchdown drive in the team’s postseason history — 98 yards — increased the lead to 17-7 with 3:54 to go in the half, and ultimately won the game, 27-20.
Mahomes played the second half, hobbling a bit, and is expected to play when the Chiefs host Cincinnati Sunday night at 5:30; the winner plays the winner of Sunday’s 2 p.m. San Francisco at Philadelphia game in Glendale, Arizona in Super Bowl LVII Feb. 12.
Mahomes finished 22-of-30 for 195 yards and two TDs. Henne, who starred for Michigan in 2007 (seems like 1987, I swear) and has four starts in the past seven seasons, was 5-of-7 for 23 yards and a touchdown.
But it’s timing, man. If you ain’t got timing — and a really good tight end like Travis Kelce — you ain’t got nothing.
Henne, in a pinch, was gold when it counted under circumstances only guys like McCown and others in the fraternity can fully appreciate.
“You ARE the insurance in case something happens,” McCown said about the backup’s role. “You understand that. Now, can you handle the horse when it’s time to climb on?”
McCown never had to finish a game “at a moment’s notice” when the starter went down, but with Tampa Bay he did have to sub for the injured Jeff Garcia in 2007 in New Orleans and, in a game that decided the division title, threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, the last one in the final minute, in a 27-23 win.
“That was early in my career,” he said, “so I was dumb enough not to know how much pressure I was under. Like they say, ignorance is bliss.”
And in 2015 he found out on a Friday he’d start for an injured Brees Sunday against Carolina, the league’s best defense that year, when the Saints were already 0-2. McCown finished an efficient 31-of-38 for 310 yards, but it was in a 27-22 loss; too much Cam Newton and Greg Olsen that day, if memory serves.
So McCown knows about being No. 1 and about being No. 2.
“What (Henne) did is extraordinarily hard for a couple of reasons,” he said Wednesday afternoon while picking up kids after school in his hometown of Jacksonville, Tex., where he and wife Katy, former Shreveporter and Louisiana Tech cheerleader, are raising six children. It takes a minute to round all those young ones up, so the Tech Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2017 inductee had plenty of time to talk — and about one of his favorite subjects.
“First, you’re not getting any reps,” he said of backups. “Henne might have gotten a series with the starters Friday. But mostly you’re running scout team, so you’re running the other team’s plays, not even your own. And if they’re developing a guy — if you’re the old guy like Chad or like I was in New Orleans — that young guy might get the extra practice series with the starters.
“The second thing’s not the reads: you know that. You’ve played for years, you’ve watched film, you’ve done all that,” he said. “It’s the unknown, the emotion of the game at that moment. You can’t be shaken when they say, ‘OK, go get your helmet.’ The crowd is coming to see Mahomes or Joe Burrow, not the backup. So you want to live up to that standard. And to the standard you’ve set for yourself.”
Sunday, McCown was rooting for Henne and for backup QBs everywhere, for guys who McCown says are “worth every penny” when the football gods and fate conspire and suddenly … It’s Time.
“Maybe I’m saying it because now I’m an old backup, but the disparity in pay between the starters and backups in football, or the starting pitchers and the bullpen in baseball, it’s hard to believe,” he said. “You’ve got to have those guys. In moments like Sunday’s, what Henne did proves why you should pay to keep a good, experienced backup.”
Because once the moment is gone, you can’t get it back. You’ve got to make it happen. Right then. Henne, the latest Banner Waver and bellcow for the Backup QB Fraternity, did.
“It’s fun to see him get his due, to see anytime a backup gets his due,” McCown said. “Take any backup playing today: any one of them can out-throw any guy in college. There are what, four billion guys in the world?, and only about 64 of them can throw a goofy brown oblong ball like those guys. You’ve got to remember that these are the best football players in the world.”
The Chiefs had the right one at the right time against the hot Jags. And while he doesn’t have the paychecks Mahomes does, Henne was money Sunday.
Monday morning before his team trounced Tampa Bay, 31-14, in the NFL wild-card playoff game, Dallas kicker Brett Maher heard his alarm clock go off two hours late, hit his non-kicking toe on a Tampa Bay Hilton Garden Inn chair, got a past-due bill notice in his email, then spilled all the coffee when he opened the door on his knee.
But he really started living a sad country song once he got to the stadium. Once his team scored a touchdown.
And once he missed the extra point.
Then his team scored another touchdown.
And he missed the extra point.
Then his team scored another touchdown.
And he missed the extra point.
Then his team scored another touchdown.
And he missed the extra point.
Four in a row. For a professional kicker.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter — although don’t try to tell that to a guy who bet the over. (More on that in a minute.) But it mattered to Maher, who finally made one on his fifth try after the Cowboys’ final TD.
It mattered to everyone watching, because you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy. If anyone ever needed a hug …
And it mattered to kickers, who are people too, at least sort of.
“It was tough to watch,” said Jonathan Barnes, a former All-Louisiana place kicker for Louisiana Tech from 2014-17, now living and working in Ruston, where he and his wife are expecting a little kicker or cheerleader come summertime. He was almost as nervous watching Maher try to kick Monday night as he will be when wife Lauren goes into labor.
It’s a kicking brotherhood kind of thing. They really can’t help it.
“You know when he’s going out there the second time, he’s still thinking about the first time,” said Barnes, who came to Tech from Baton Rouge and is pursuing a graduate degree while he works as a realtor. “And when he’s going out there the third time, he’s still thinking about the second time …”
Since the ball was moved from the two-yard-line to the 15 in 2015, an NFL extra point has been from 33 yards: 15 yards plus 10 yards of end zone plus eight yards to hike, place and kick.
In college, it’s hiked from the two (old NFL rules), making the kick about 20 yards. Barnes was 43-of-46 as a senior, and missed just once in 137 times as a sophomore and junior.
“We do miss a kick,” Barnes said, laughing, “every now and then.”
It’s hard. And tricky.
Consider that Maher has kicked a pair of 62-yard field goals. He has the franchise record with a 63-yarder. But four times Monday, dead on, he missed four straight kicks that NFL kickers make more than 94 percent of the time.
“Ninety percent of kicking is those few inches between your ears,” Barnes said. “It’s not an ability thing with this guy; he’s got all the ability in the world. Just all of a sudden, he got out of that groove — and trying to find it again, right then, can be tough.”
The Cowboys signed another kicker this week and might activate him for the division round when Dallas (13-5) plays at San Francisco (14-4) Sunday at 5:30.
Wish I could activate somebody to cover for me. I am in a harmless but meaningful 28-person family football league. We pick against the spread and no money changes hands but feelings are often hurt. Like mine, when I went 0-for-6 last weekend.
0-for-6. Two misses worse than Maher’s historic all-time league-worst four whiffs.
You can try hard for a long time and not go 0-for-6. I’ll tell you about it sometime, in hopes maybe I can help some poor, misguided soul.
Oh, and just because favored Dallas won and easily covered the 2.5-points spread, don’t think Maher’s missed kicks “didn’t matter.” The “total,” or the over-under, the number of points both teams were predicted to score, was 45.5. They scored 31 + 14, so 45 total. That means if you bet the “under,” you were the winner because the Cowboys professional kicker missed four extra points. FOUR! If he makes just one, the “over” wins.
Except he didn’t. So if you bet the over, what you wanted to kick … was Maher.
(Editor’s note: The annual National Cheerleaders Association’s High School National Championships are January 21-22 in the Dallas Convention Center, and some of you parents are going — and leaving behind a substantial amount of money. By substantial I mean “most every dollar you’ve ever earned.” If you’re a rookie, today’s throwback to January of 2011 is what you can expect. It’s dedicated to Lawrence Herkimer, a wonderful sort you’ll read about here who has since passed away — in 2015 at 89. And it’s dedicated, most definitely, to you. Go forth, make memories, and bring us victories.)
Logically, you’d think competitive sports would have been invented first. But cheerleading, in its most primitive form, was here long, long before the football, the game clock, or even Lou Holtz.
I imagine a little boy in animal hide shorts surveying the prehistoric prairie and yelling desperately, with a slight Jurassic lisp, “Run, Uncle Ugh! RUN!!!”
Final score? Saber-Toothed Tigers 1, Cavemen 0. (A good cheer can do only so much.)
Or maybe the cavemen played a game of Hides vs. Skins while cavewomen encouraged them with “a tisket, a tasket, put the rock in the basket,” back when “the rock” really was one.
Did you know that near Sydney, Australia, they’ve found fossils of pompoms made out of Wooly Mammoth hair? They haven’t, but maybe one day…Just sayin…
We do know that cheerleading was re-invented, big-time, with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who in 1972 eschewed the Eleanor Roosevelt quality of cheer for something a little racier. Like skin. And white go-go boots. And no “two bits, four bits” cheering.
For all practical purposes, cheer as our grandparents knew it died that fall years and years ago, thanks to white patent leather, mid-drifts, and the kinds of cowgirls Roy and Ritter and the Durango Kid sang about wistfully on those long, lonely nights on the prairie, down 10 late to the Redskins and facing third-and-long.
But that’s not the only kind of cheerleading done in Dallas today. Last weekend I was exposed to non-exposed cheerleaders, ages junior high to high school, in something called competitive cheering. This sort of thing has been going on since the 1950s or so but, like the World Football League and disc golf and the Raiders’ move out of and then back to Oakland, I missed the whole entire thing.
What I saw at the Dallas Convention Center over three days were more than 3,000 cheerleaders — 225 teams, give or take a ponytail — competing at the National Cheerleaders Association’s 30th annual championships. That’s substantial rah-rah.
My first impressions are that this is much harder than it looks, that toe-touching, basket-tossing and pike-kicking “as one” takes a lot of practice, and that estrogen as a force grows exponentially. If you are ever in the way, move, or there will not be enough of you left to scrape up and put in a shoebox.
The Ruston High team I supported (by watching, not by actually lifting anybody) won a national title and a third place. I suspect more North Louisiana schools will get in on the action; the “problem” is that it really is hard. But as with any challenge, if you give a child enough love, give them some hope and some instruction in something they really care about, kids will surprise you with what they can make happen.
Speaking of, let me offer props to the man who invented the whole competitive cheer concept. He is Lawrence Herkimer, inventor of the “Herkie” jump who, as an SMU cheerleader, organized and led a cheer camp in 1948, drawing 52 girls and one boy. The camp grew by seven times in one year. In 1986, he sold the NCA and his cheer supply company for $20 million.
With a patent on the pompom, Herkie is the man, the guy on top of the cheer pyramid.
Sunday, I saw people lined up 45-deep to buy T-shirts. Impressive.
If I were “Herkie,” I would “Rah!” my ownself. I would cheer me.
There is still a “t” or two to cross, but if Buc-ee’s comes to Ruston and Tarbutton Road as most hope, the next generation of Lincoln Parish children will be more spoiled than the generation who were on the good end of the transition from outhouses and Sears and Roebuck catalogs to indoor plumbing and toilet paper.
I can hear a kid 10 years from now: “Paris? Rome? Waikiki? Man, that don’t impress me much. My momma used to change my diaper in Buc-ee’s. BUC-EE’S, bro! I grew up there. I grew up in there.”
No way can you adequately convey what a Buc-ee’s is and isn’t. But one trip and you will never forget it.
The more I’ve heard about this newest enterprise, the more I’ve imagined the famous monologue by James Earl Jones in W.P. Kinsella’s brilliantly conceived Field of Dreams in 1989, the scene that shows his character convincing Ray, the owner of the baseball and corn fields and Kevin Costner’s character, not to sell his land, even though the bank plans to foreclose the next morning. In the Ruston re-make, the setting is Tarbutton Road’s northwest corner by I-20, Ray is Ruston and Jones is Jones and Mark is the brother-in-law representing the bank, in this case a Buc-ee’s non-believer.
JAMES EARL JONES: “Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Buc-ee’s in Ruston for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up into the store, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive to get a selfie made with the giant wooden buck-tooth beaver, innocent as children, longing for the past — and maybe for some Buc-ee’s Barbecue Rub or Steak Seasoning, gluten-free if needed.
“‘Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,’ you’ll say. ‘You just need to buy some gas, or maybe a smoker or a onesie pajama bear suit or a dozen shoe charms or icebox magnets.’ They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have, and peace they lack. Peace, and some Buc-ee’s Fruit Sours.”
MARK: “Ray, this is going to hurt the town more than help. We can’t waste this land. It’s obvious that … “
JONES: “And they’ll walk out to the Nut Wall, just gaze as they did when they were children when they cheered their heroes, which were either Planters salted or unsalted, except here they are overwhelmed by Beaver Nugget Sweet Corn Puff and Butter Toffee and Honey Toasted and Pina Colada Pecans and that’s only the tip of the nutberg — and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces …”
MARK: “Ray what Ruston needs is another Mexican restaurant. It’s as plain as that cup of Dippin’ Dots you’re holding … “
JONES: “People will come, Ray.”
MARK: “We need money, we have this tremendous asset of location and land, and we’re putting it on a joint that sells tie dye drink glasses and T-shirts that say stuff like ‘I Paused My Game to Be Here’ and ‘I’m Into Fitness. Fit’ness Taco In My Mouth’?”
JONES: “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. Well, that and consumerism. And free enterprise. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a brisket at a tailgate barbecue, rebuilt, and erased again. But it’s jerky that has marked the time — the Bohemian garlic flavor, mesquite, lemon pepper, Teriyaki … it’s salt water taffy in a resealable bag and a pink imitation leather cosmetic case that reads, ‘Just a Girl Who Loves Beavers,’ and mostly it’s that Buc-ee’s sign taller than Wyly Tower or Mount Driskill and that Giant Magnetic Beaver, whose Siren Song draws tourists to these clean bathrooms like tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches draw Protestant country folk. It’s consumerism that has marked the time, Ray. The hope of this store, this sort of Giant Jerky Wall joint, this heaven of dessert-in-a-plastic-case-to-go, this wellspring of emotion overload, this ‘game’ — it’s part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.
“Ohhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
We’re a lot more liable to hear cursing instead of a prayer during a televised sporting event these days.
But ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky surprised viewers and maybe himself during Tuesday’s edition of NFL Live on the sports network.
Orlovsky’s short prayer, 50 seconds and unrehearsed and sincere, was for Buffalo Bills defensive back Damar Hamlin, who went into cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football early in the Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game, which was postponed after Hamlin was taken to the hospital in Cincinnati.
A family member said Wednesday that Hamlin, 24, was still in critical condition but stable and improving.
He was injured while making a tackle, one that was not overly violent. Doctors have so far agreed that it seemed to be a perfect storm of where and when and how the collision occurred that caused the injury.
Players were crying. Coaches and announcers all shaken. And the phrase “thoughts and prayers” was used more than once.
Orlovsky, who quarterbacked at the University of Connecticut and was a backup for 12 NFL seasons and five teams from 2005-2015, took it a step farther. With host Laura Rutledge and former LSU All-American and Dallas Cowboy Marcus Spears joining him on the desk, Orlovsky offered what seemed like a humble, quiet explanation before praying as the three discussed the outpouring around the football world of well-wishes for Hamlin.
“Maybe this is not the right thing to do but it’s just on my heart that I want to pray for Damar Hamlin right now. I’m gonna do it out loud. I’m gonna close my eyes, I’m gonna bow my head and I’m just gonna pray for him.”
Spears said something, maybe “Amen” or “Go ahead,” and Orlovsky did.
“God, we come to you in these moments that we don’t understand, that are hard, because we believe that you’re God, and coming to you and praying to you has impact,” Orlovsky said.
“We’re sad, we’re angry, and we want answers, but some things are unanswerable. We just want to pray, truly come to you and pray for strength for Damar, for healing for Damar, for comfort for Damar, to be with his family, to give them peace. If we didn’t believe that prayer didn’t work, we wouldn’t ask this of you, God. I believe in prayer, we believe in prayer. We lift up Damar Hamlin’s name in your name. Amen.”
Often in the locker room or on the field after practice, teams will kneel in a circle and recite the Lord’s Prayer. And often there are prayers over the PA before games. But that was a first for me, seeing the replay of Orlovsky’s straightforward, precise prayer on a news show about sports.
That moment was refreshing in its sincerity and spontaneity, and because of the very exact reason for it. We say “thoughts and prayers,” but Orlovsky actually did it, right then, for one person in one particular situation, and maybe partly for some viewers who wanted to pray for the young player but didn’t quite know how.
It reminds you of when presidents used to pray and encourage prayer (think Washington and Lincoln) and generals used to pray (Patton and Eisenhower), when Martin Luther King prayed aloud and often and for us all, and when school kids used to pray or be led in prayer.
Hopefully, Hamlin will regain his health. And hopefully we’ll all keep praying, for Hamlin and his teammates and family, for Orlovsky, for each other. Not just when one of us is hurt. But all the time. We all need the prayers, and we all need the practice.
After sharing what we expect to see in ’23 in Wednesday’s edition, your Shreveport-Bossier Journal team is back today with what we’d like to see this year. Before Christmas, ideally.
LOCALLY,ladies tees at Querbes, please. It would be easy – just get the red balls out of the equipment shack and put them back out on the golf course. Just think, the ladies’ leagues may start playing there again.
In PREP sports, NO high school football games affected by bad weather (as in delayed, postponed or cancelled). Oh, and I’d love to see them start at 6:30.
In COLLEGE sports, a full stadium at the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl. The staff does such an amazing job putting on a great event year-in and year-out that the stands should be full (and I’d like to see more stadiums full during all college bowl games).
In the PROS, see the NFL change its overtime rules (it’s ridiculous that a team can win the game in OT without the other team having a possession) and NO games end in a tie (this is football, not futbol).
Harriet Prothro Penrod
In HIGH SCHOOLS, football players wearing regular pants not cut off above the knee.
In COLLEGES,Bossier Parish Community College’s softball team make it to the NJCAA national tournament and win.
In the PROS,MLB batters that don’t step out of the box after EVERY pitch.
In PREPS, the football hydration rule during games adjusted to go by temperature, not time. If it’s a rare cool September night, keep playing; no break.
In COLLEGE, baseball teams stop using walk-up music. Please please please make it stop. Think about what homeboy is about to throw you and not about whether or not fans like your song. Walk-up music is embarrassing for everybody. Hit a home run? Drive in a run? Stand-up triple? Take an extra base? OK — NOW you can have music. But not just for making it from the dugout to the plate.
In PROS, every team in the NFL to finish the regular season 8-8-1. Yay for parity! So awesome. (Yawn … )
In COLLEGES, Northwestern State football returning to its winning ways — which hasn’t happened since 2008. Good, hard-working people who deserve success.
LOCALLY, Shreveport hosting more mainstream sporting events to enhance our quality of life. Cornhole and dart-throwing tournaments don’t do it for me.
In the PROS, Louisiana Downs promote more horse racing and less bounce houses and outdoor concerts in 100-degree heat.
In PREPS, an All-District team that actually has some merit to it.
In COLLEGE, coaches to stop putting up the stupid screens on the sidelines so they can act like the second coming of Bear Bryant who, by the way, never put up a screen and hardly ever wore a headset.
LOCALLY, something actually comes from the bizarre minor league baseball stadium announcement that was made in October. Just throw us a bone.
In the PROS, the Saints hire Sean Payton back and bring Tom Brady with him.
John James Marshall
I covered many wishes in my Tuesday Journal column, but let’s get greedy and ask for more.
In PREPS, recognizing the big-time calls for a big box. Northwood provides one of the best game-day atmospheres in the area and the Falcons are dang good, too – they had one of the best post-season runs of any team. The press box screams Class 1A, and it’s not the school’s fault. It’s time for Caddo Parish to give the school and that program a press box it deserves.
In PROS, “Musky” to get Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame love. Scott Muscutt was the first player the Shreveport Mudbugs signed 25 years ago. He’s since won multiple championships as a player, a coach and a general manager. He’s a major reason why hockey has thrived in Northwest Louisiana — the Mudbugs perennially lead their league in attendance — and no job is too small. You are as likely to see a unicorn as to spot “Musky” somewhere other than George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum.
He cuts the ice, replaces glass, cleans the aisles – and does whatever it takes to make this community a better place. He’s also helped establish healthy youth hockey and high school hockey programs.
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame honors the best of the best. It’s time to bring this man into the discussion for future, but hopefully not way-down-the-road enshrinement. Hockey in Louisiana’s Hall may sound strange, but this is a no-brainer.
Roy Lang III
In PREPS,more high school coaches organizing clinics on their own — like Green Oaks’ Chad Lewis, with the help of his friend, North DeSoto’s Christopher Wilson, did over the holidays. It started with a post on Facebook and ended up with a full-fledged clinic at the Hamilton Branch of the Shreve Memorial Library. Kudos to Lewis and Wilson for spearheading that effort.
I’d like to see our school districts in Northwest Louisiana catch up to school systems in Northeast Louisiana. Strength and conditioning coaches working at every school, tasked with the athletic development of all teams. It’s overdue to see certified athletic trainers on each campus, who teach in the classroom and look for young people who want to go into that vital field.
I’d like to see us identify high school athletes who demonstrate an ambition of going into the coaching profession. Lewis and Wilson were once student-athletes at Byrd High School. Why can’t we “grow our own” next generation of outstanding coaches in this area? Let’s give them a head start by mentoring them right now.
Jerry Byrd Jr.
In PREPS, at the coin flip before kickoff, along with the team captains, bring out a couple seniors from the band, cheerleaders, dance line, and National Honor Society, and a teacher. Efficiently and sufficiently recognize all of them on the PA system, not as an afterthought at halftime, but when the energy level in the stadium is peaking. Celebrate their efforts and realize they are representative of their peers.
In COLLEGES, home-and-home competition in every sport between our four nearby Division I schools. I’ll grant that Tech and ULM aren’t playing football at Grambling or NSU, or against them at the I-Bowl. It’s absurd the Bulldogs and Warhawks don’t square off annually, and also host the Tigers or Demons. Common sense. Uncommon gate receipts.
LOCALLY, more neighborhood pick-up games. Less travel ball. Didn’t we find ways to play, no charge, instead of adults organizing everything – and then soiling too much of it with egos and selfishness? The best homefield is at home, somebody’s home, in a yard or driveway or even the street. Somebody’s mom will make lemonade after the game.
Your Shreveport-Bossier Journal crew humbly offers our predictions for the 2023 sports year. Ladies first.
In PREPS, the Calvary Lady Cavs softball team goes BACK2BACK2BACK (winning a third straight Division IV state championship).
In COLLEGES, the Louisiana Tech baseball team makes the College World Series.
In the PROS, Sam Burns wins his first major (after his 2022 season, this is bound to happen sooner than later).
Harriet Prothro Penrod
In PREPS, improvements to continue at Lee Hedges Stadium with the construction of new locker rooms and training rooms along with a new press box.
In COLLEGES, another successful year for LSU and Tulane in football.
In the PROS,new rules making a difference in how we watch MLB games.
In PREPS, a student-athlete makes more than his working parents off an NIL deal.
In COLLEGE, I’ll be keeping up with Centenary Football and caring about recruiting news for the first and only time in my feeble life. In the autumn of 2024, Centenary takes the football field for the first time since 1941. Ninety years ago this past fall, Centenary was 8-0-1. 1932. You could look it up. Nationally, the Gents were in the top 25 in per-game scoring average at 20 a game and had the fifth-stingiest defense in ’Murica; Centenary gave up just 26 points all season. Centenary was 8-0-4 in 1933, when playing for the tie must have been an “in” thing. In 1934, which will be 90 years removed from Centenary’s 2024 re-boot, Centenary was a salty 10-2.
In the PROS, Jake from State Farm will be on every commercial of every NFL, NBA, and MLB game. (Thankfully, I like Jake from State Farm.)
In COLLEGES, LSU once again will contend for the SEC Championship — and will knock on the door of the College Football Playoff. They will do so without QB Garrett Nussmeier, who surely will transfer.
In the PROS, the Saints and Cowboys replace their head coaches. Dennis Allen is in over his head, and Mike McCarthy has the talent to get to the NFC Championship Game — but won’t.
LOCALLY, Louisiana Downs will continue to promote less horse racing and more bounce houses and outdoor concerts in 100-degree heat.
In PREPS, sadly, the quality of high school athletics continues to drop. Football coaches almost have to beg kids to play and if you watch any other sport, you quickly realize that the talent level simply isn’t as good as it was 5 or 10 years ago.
In COLLEGES, we’ll see a slight move toward normalcy in NIL. It’s not going away, but it’s also a two-way street. Somebody has to finance that and these people aren’t in it to watch Jimmy SuperStud (a.) think about transferring, because he can (b.) complain that his deal isn’t as good as the guy playing next to him (c.) start mailing it in around if he’s not getting the ball enough.
In PROS/LOCAL, what’s left of Fair Grounds Field will still be standing. The Independence Bowl will be played on a sunny, 55-degree day. The laws of probability HAVE to even out at some point.
John James Marshall
In PREPS, some local high school football offenses will “struggle” early. The 2022 season offered ridiculous offensive numbers, or bad defense depending on your view. Expect the defenses to fight back – at least early — in the 2023 campaign.
No fewer than five 1-5A teams will have new quarterbacks, not to mention the expected changes at other local schools. In theory this would lead to gray hair on the top of some OC’s heads, at least while the new signal-callers get their feet wet.
Also in PREPS, here’s a “stat nerd” alert. A change could be coming to one of the dumbest rules in high school football. Unlike the NFL and college football, a holding penalty behind the line of scrimmage in high school is marked from the spot of the foul. Currently a first-and-10 could turn into first-and-28 simply with a holding call.
The National Federation of State High School Associations has surveyed coaches regarding a change to move in line with the next levels of football. Bravo.
Roy Lang III
In PREPS, I expect to see more high-scoring games. The passing offenses were ahead of the passing defenses in 2022, and it wasn’t even close. Northwest Louisiana has had a good run of defensive backs who have made their way to the league. See Tre’Davious White, Morris Claiborne, “Greedy” Williams, and Israel Mukuamu. But there were simply too many great quarterbacks … and too few defensive backs.
While 2022 seemed to be the year of the quarterback, I expect to see 2023 to be the year of the kicker with Byrd’s Abram Murray, who committed last summer to the University of Miami, and Parkway’s Aeron Burrell being two of the best locals to ever put toe to leather.
In COLLEGE,unfortunately, I see local colleges and universities continuing to struggle in the transfer portal/NIL era. I think Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Cumbie and Grambling’s Hue Jackson are the men for the job and great coaches, I just think it’s the most difficult time in history to be a college football coach. There is one exception to this. I expect to see Centenary College — under the direction of former Evangel and LSU standout defensive lineman Byron Dawson — thrive locally, with home-grown talent familiar to local football fans.
In the PROS,in light of Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest on Monday Night Football, I expect to see all professional contact sports double down on player safety. For all of those attracted to the violence and entertainment football provides, I expect them to be in for a rude awakening.
Jerry Byrd Jr.
In PREPS, scheduling tough intersectional games pays off for the Parkway Lady Panthers, who leave no doubt as they win the girls basketball state championship. Mikaylah Williams IMMEDIATELY joins the LSU roster for March Madness and starts for Kim Mulkey.
In COLLEGES, the men’s basketball rules committee shifts from playing 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters, mirroring the women and the pros. Mostly, providing more TV commercial breaks for Teddy’s pal Jake, that guy from State Farm.
LOCALLY, Shreveport’s Tim Brando adds another sport to his vast broadcast resume when he becomes the lead announcer for USA Pickleball on FOX.