SPOTLIGHT: This lefty is all right

NEVER LOSE FOCUS: At one time the biggest player on the First Baptist Shreveport Patriots machine pitch team, Jonathan Fincher has become a bigger reason for Tech’s baseball success.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

He’s studying to be a surgeon, so Louisiana Tech scholar-athlete Jonathan Fincher will be in a life-or-death situation or two one day.

Baseball’s far from that. Even though, sometimes …

“In that moment of competition,” said Louisiana Tech’s junior lefthander, a nervous smile on his face, “it sure feels like life and death.”

Like for instance a couple of Sundays ago at Old Dominion when Fincher left the mound with two on and one out, in the deciding game of a three-game series, and his buddy Landon Tomkins came in and got a 6-4-3 double play on a 2-1 pitch to end the threat in a game Tech would win, 8-4, to move into second place in the Conference USA race. Biggest play of the game.

“I jumped about 18 feet high,” Fincher said, now all smiles in the players’ lounge of the Love Shack before a practice for this weekend’s crucial three-game set in Ruston against Western Kentucky. “I’m a big guy (6-3, 240), so 18 feet, that’s pretty high.”

Baseball life.

And then there’s baseball death, like Tech dropping two of three last weekend at home against Florida Atlantic to fall into a tie for third, a game behind UTSA, three behind league-leading Southern Miss, a team that took 2 of 3 from the visiting Bulldogs at the start of April.

And there’s Fincher, who, if you didn’t know him, might have been figured for life support a month ago.

Last spring he was first-team All C-USA. Led the Bulldog staff in strikeouts (85, walked only 23), innings pitched (100.1) and lowest opposing batting average against him (.219). Finished 8-3 for the West Division champs on a 42-20 Tech team that hosted an NCAA Regional, a first in program history.

But last month, Fincher found himself in the bullpen. His fastball wasn’t Fincher-fast and was finding too much of the plate, and his home runs allowed count was suspiciously high (six last year, nine in a little more than half as many innings this spring).

Teammate, close friend and lefty Cade Gibson was “putting together better innings,” Fincher said. The two swapped spots. Fincher’s heart didn’t even skip a beat.

“It was the logical move,” Fincher said. “Whatever the team needs. That’s the same attitude I’ve always had.”

He and pitching coach Cooper Fouts fixed a couple of mechanical things that have allowed him better command, and he’s gotten some velocity back by cutting his between-appearances workload.

Could be what the doctor ordered. If it’s not, it won’t be from lack of confidence or preparation. He’s book smart — Thursday he and teammate and Byrd High bestie Steele Netterville were named 2021-22 Baseball First Team Academic All-District — but he’s baseball smart too.

“Being able to deal with the pressure a situation puts on you,” he said, “whether it’s trying to save a person’s life or get a ground ball to second base … I think that’s the main thing baseball teaches you in life, to build that confidence in yourself to perform whatever task you’re trying to do at that point and time.

“Move on, pitch-to-pitch. Execute your plan. Lock in. Keep attacking.”

Those calling cards of focus and attack are the same reasons he feels no one should sleep on this year’s Bulldogs (33-17, 15-9), scheduled to play at 6 tonight, 2 Saturday (Senior Day) and 1 Sunday against WKU (17-30, 7-17).

“We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through the tornado and playing without a stadium and dealing with COVID,” Fincher said, “a bunch of grinders who go to work and don’t really care what the outside has to say about what the team is doing at that moment. We’re going to lock shields and rely on each other.

“We’ve got a great core group,” he said. “I can’t wait to get to the park every day, just to hang out. At this point, if you’re not having fun, you’re probably in the wrong place.”

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

A touch by the better angels of our nature

In the pre-GoogleMaps days, the late, great Paul Harvey liked to remind us that when people asked for directions, we’d often start by saying, “Well, go down two red lights and…”

“But that light is green,” he’d say in his lyrical, always optimistic voice, “as often as it is red…”

We have a way of coloring things dreary at first glance. Human nature. And while none of us would argue the world is not in dire straits — where to begin? — there is much more good news than bad.

All around and every day.

Each year at the annual springtime Volunteers of America North Louisiana “Cherish the Children” breakfast, I show up saying I won’t cry this year but … I do. A video from the after-school LightHouse program will usually do the trick. A talk from a homeless veteran who’s now employed and helping others in a circumstance similar to his when hope seemed lost. A newlywed couple with learning disabilities but a home and hope and friends who love them as they are and are helping them get to where they wish to be.

Also this spring was the VOA’s annual “thank you” luncheon, and I snuck in (sneaked in?) for selfish reasons: this is the kind of group you want to hang around if you want to feel better Right Then because …

Well, you meet members of the church congregation who’ve basically adopted an elementary school in their area and provide tutoring, books, supplies, and clothes to children with these insecurities;

Or old friends who pair up to help children after school by developing special reading projects for them or taking them to the library;

A group who takes children on an annual Christmas shopping trip;

An empty nester wife and mom who noticed early in the pandemic the increased vulnerability of senior citizens’ health and arranged for phone friends, grocery pickups, and a monthly surprise treat of a delivered meal or snack.

VOA serves more than 7,000 people in north and central Louisiana through 40 or so programs — but “programs” is just a word without volunteers.

I was lucky enough this spring to hit the Volunteer Trifecta since I snuck in (sneaked in?, again?) the United Way of Northeast Louisiana “Celebrating Excellence” breakfast too. More than 300 people, many of them volunteers, packed the Davison Athletics Complex on Louisiana Tech’s campus for inspiration from videos and testimonies, and to celebrate volunteers, another word for “servants.”

During the pandemic, which included a couple of storm disasters, the group realized its most donations ever. Compassion and forward thinking and responsive hearts are winning the day for neighbors who need help.

The light is green for each of us to do our part. No man is an island. And nothing can rob us of the joy of giving.

Today it’s “them” who need a hand. Tomorrow, it could be you and me. The bell tolls for us all.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

An A+ for Dr. B, Tech’s original Smooth Operator

His mind is cracker-jack sharp but the frame of our favorite orthopedic surgeon is failing him now, a casualty of hard work and 80-plus years, roughly a half century of that used to heal the wear and tear on his patients, including thousands of student athletes at Louisiana Tech when he was its team doctor from 1973-2013.

The University’s most recent recognition of Dr. Billy Bundrick was Saturday when a life-sized statue of “Dr. B” was unveiled and dedicated by the softball field named in his honor — Dr. Billy Bundrick Field.

The players affectionately call the field “The Billy,” a playful nickname its honoree heartedly approves of since Dr. B has always been about competition and winning and spreading the joy.

The University could dedicate 10 statues and probably still fall short of recognizing all Dr. B has done for the school. A three-time football letter winner and the team’s captain in 1959, Dr. B made a career of taking one for the team. Dr. B, his remarkable and imminently likeable assistant Spanky McCoy, and longtime Tech athletic trainer Sam Wilkinson formed a mortal but formidable holy trinity to combat frayed nerves, hurt feelings, busted ligaments, and broken bones for three decades.

“It’s unbelievable how good Dr. Bundrick was to Louisiana Tech and how much he’s meant to us,” Wilkinson said.

Former athletic director Jim Oakes, who, as Tech’s lead football manager in the mid-’70s had a front row seat to Dr. Bundrick’s influence, called his friend “the greatest sports medicine doctor to ever serve a university athletic program.”

Dr. B is a Tech Athletics Hall of Famer, a former Alumnus of the Year, and everything in between.

“The numerous honors he’s earned only scratch the surface of his significance to us,” University President Dr. Les Guice said. “His greatest contribution has been in the service of others.”

He did it one knee and one back and one foot at the time, each stitch a soft-spoken encouragement.

Dr. B’s biggest fan, physically and figuratively, is likely Karl Malone, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer; his family’s donation made the statue a reality. Bundrick has been an advisor to Malone, a quiet encourager and his most trusted confidant, since before Malone was the famous “Mailman.” In the flamboyant NBA, Karl always had a posse of one: Dr. B.

If that’s hard to understand, or if you’ve never seen a 6-foot-9 teardrop, you could have seen one Saturday as Malone’s emotion for his friend was evident.

“You,” Malone said to a smiling Dr. B, “are my hero.” He spoke for many in the crowd.

Walking to the soccer pitch next door or to The Billy, Tech’s student athletes would be wise to consider the statue and copy what it represents, a monument to caring and leaving it all on the field, the definition in bronze of a selfless and smooth operator.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

USFL: You can always pass

The USFL was resurrected last weekend to semi-fanfare in the innocent town of Birmingham, Alabama, where USFLers have been lurking for the past month, first practicing and now playing real games, at least sort of.

People who have a problem with spring football leagues might paraphrase my favorite immortal quote from the late and great Beano Cook: “Haven’t the people of Birmingham suffered enough?”

Understood. But only if you don’t understand.

The USFL is in its re-inaugural season. The original league played from 1983-85 before folding up like a one-egg pudding.

But that league was spread over America from the get-go. Makes perfect sense that Philadelphia should play in Philly, New Orleans in New Orleans, and on like that. Makes sense, but lots of travel expense.

This season’s second try has all eight teams in one town. Four games a week played in two local stadiums. If I own a Birmingham grocery store, I might be the happiest person alive.

In the ’80s, some players made huge sums of money. (Somewhere, Herschel Walker is smiling.)

All today’s guys are paid the same, roughly $45,000 for a season if you make it through all 10 games; you can make more if you win that week’s game ($850 a win) and an extra $10,000 if you are on the USFL’s title team. That’s a lot of money to me, but it’s not money that will “break” the investors in the current USFL.

Plus there are more TV options and gadgets now than in the mid-1980s, which had big hair and shoulder pads but not drones and the ability to mic-up so many players and coaches, which is what fans watching on TV heard this weekend. Seems everyone was wearing a mic except the concessions guy.

This is a TV league. Birmingham supports its local D-League hoops team and its soccer team, but no reasonable person can expect the town to support eight pro teams for three months. The good people of Birmingham love their football, but they love food and shelter too.

The league is counting on TV viewers. Weekend 1’s ratings were most acceptable. The question is, what will Weekends 3, 4, and 5 be like?

We’ll see, but some of us (me) will see by checking the scores, not by watching.

But bravo for the people who want to watch and for players and coaches who want to be in the arena. Good for them. People who are mad at the USFL just for being are wasting time. Like me, they probably don’t watch soap operas either, but they don’t waste time worrying that soaps are on. To each his own.

I love college bowl games — it’s a character flaw — and shrug my shoulders at people who don’t.

You don’t like the USFL? Watch one of the other 300 stations. Read a book. Learn to knit. Start your own league.

If you want to watch football, you’ve got it, 10 weeks until the league’s title game. In the meantime, spring football is like fruitcake and deviled eggs and most everything else: some people like it and some don’t. So eat and enjoy, or pass and keep your mouth shut — and know college football will be back before you know it.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

The old-fashioned way of ‘getting online’

Maybe springtime made me think of it. Could have been the smell of fresh cotton on Easter.

Or my neck just hurt.

But in an instant, it was boyhood again, and with it the hazy memory of a red streak on your sweaty little neck, a sign of a rite of passage, long gone now thanks to all the modern conveniences.

In sports, getting “clotheslined” means getting knocked down by a guy’s outstretched arm at neck level. Your neck is just running along minding its own business when suddenly an angry arm hits it and stops it; the bottom part of your non-neck body keeps going, but obviously not for long.

This happens often in TV wrestling. Standard move. It is the cousin of the “lariat,” which is the classic clothesline, only with the offending arm moving forward like a hatchet.

Crowd pleaser.

But in unrehearsed arenas, most often on the football field and daily ‘way back when’ on the school playground, the clothesline was Standard Operating Procedure. Everyone’s neck knew this going in and, if you were a victim, you held no hard feelings … at least not at once you’d caught your breath and felt your neck pipe would live to breathe again.

But the saying itself — clotheslined — would be lost on the youth of today. We knew exactly what it meant and why it fit perfectly. We knew because our moms had clotheslines.

They are rare as an honest soul these days, the clotheslines of our youth. We all have inside clothes dryers now. Even in the 1960s, some people had electric clothes dryers inside their actual homes. Awesome.

But the rest of us had dryers, too. They were just non-electric and hung in the backyard.

The most basic of rural clotheslines were a pair of cross pipes about 20 feet apart, maybe 30, and three or four rows of heavy twine or light wire connected the two. On those were clothes pins holding up various blouses and socks and jeans and underwear.

Very few secrets in rural life concerning haberdashery.

The ends of the cross pipes were hollow, so we’d stick 6-ounce Dr Pepper bottles in the ends to keep the wasps from homesteading. There was a step stool, in case little sis had to help “hurry and get in the wash” before a brewing rain.

You didn’t want the clothesline right in the middle of the backyard because that would mess up playing, but you couldn’t hem it in; the wind needed a fair shot to dry the clothes. Our backyard was big enough so that our clothesline was pushed to the back third. Sweet. It just made the run to the back door a little longer if you were hurrying in under a sprinkle with a quickly gathered load.

The only problem with clotheslines came if you were playing around one you weren’t familiar with. You were the visiting team in another kid’s yard. The lines were high enough so we wouldn’t run into them unless … unless you were on your bike. If you hit a clothesline, it was like being whipped off your bike by an invisible and unforgiving, very healthy and surprisingly strong string.

What the…?!

The days you saw a buddy get clotheslined while on his bike — the bike would keep going and your friend would half somersault in the air before landing on his back — those days were the jewels of childhood.

It was always funny — when it happened to somebody else.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

SPOTLIGHT:  Merry Marathon! Slack finally makes it to Boston

MARATHON MAN SUPPORT GROUP: Shreveport’s Hayden Slack (in tank) finished the Boston Marathon Monday with support from (L to R) dad Terry, wife Hailey, and mom Peggy.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Halfway through running his first Boston Marathon Monday, Shreveport’s Hayden Slack saw a familiar face.

Santa Claus.

“Hey, you’re one of my favorite people!” Slack shouted.

“You’re on the nice list!” shouted back his new friend, one of thousands who lined the 126-year-old route of America’s most famous long-distance race to encourage the approximately 30,000 athletes of all shapes, sizes, abilities and nationalities who ran, walked and stumbled in clear mid-50s weather toward most any runner’s most anticipated finish line.

Slack’s main support group — parents Terry and Peggy and wife Hailey — were there to meet him, although, in the sweaty mob, it took a while to find him.

“And he was ready to be found,” Terry said. All he needed was a ride to the hotel — the rental car was parked in a lot “reasonably close to the finish line, praise the Lord,” Terry said — and a protein drink.

Except Hailey had forgotten it.

Whoa. An ugly hydration situation?

Hardly. Hey, they’re newlyweds. First Boston Marathon. A tiny error. Besides, Slack was not far away from relaxing in a hotel bed, eating a giant pizza, and enjoying the Marathon Party at Fenway Park.

One at-large drink could hardly compare to what Slack, 31, a former tri-sport star at Calvary Baptist and walk-on football player at Louisiana Tech, had overcome to get here.

Monday was, as Santa’s appearance illustrates, an early Christmas present for what was the end of a long road for Slack. It took him just under four years or just over three hours to run Monday’s race, depending on how you look at it.

In summary, really just to see if he could, just to test himself, he ran his first marathon in early 2018 in Lafayette and ended up 10 minutes away from the three-hour qualifying time for his age group for Boston, a race he “didn’t know much about,” he said. “I was told, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the Granddaddy of Them All.’ So I thought, ‘OK, I’ll see if I can make it.’ ”

He started training seriously and qualified that fall with a sub-three-hour time in Fort Worth — but the Boston field was already full. He was pushed back to 2020. Then the whole world was pushed back.  Pandemic and all.

“There was a little bit of determination involved in all this,” Terry said.

But it was all worth it, an experience to share with his parents, with his newlywed wife, and with his other family, the “Shreveport running community that’s so great to be a part of,” Slack said. Several were in Boston to run Monday.

Slack’s day started with breakfast around 5 a.m., getting on the bus to ride the 26-miles-plus to the starting point, waiting in the “Athletes’ Village,” which was basically a big field with Port-o-Lets and tables with food and drinks, for the race to start.

Then, after the professionals had taken off, he got those size-10 Nikes moving toward Boston.

“It’s really unbelievable,” he said, “to see how it works.”

Practically shoulder-to-shoulder running much of the way. Every couple of miles, the tables lined for 100 yards alongside the route with water and Gatorade and banana slices and energy gels. People encouraging and throwing runners bags of pretzels, handing out orange slices. All these thousands of heads in front and behind, bobbing, running, all toward the same goal.

“The race today, the hills were a bit tough,” Slack said. “I had in mind a goal of under three hours, maybe even 2:50. But it was one of those days when your legs don’t quite have it. I learned to enjoy the experience, to soak it all in. Finished around 3:20. Just … really amazing, a really, really neat experience, just to understand all it takes to put it on. You meet people from all over the world who’ve worked really hard to qualify and get in.”

And at the finish line, “they put the medal on you,” he said, reliving the moment. “I’ve had so much support and help along the way … maybe I’ll do it again. Or maybe this is a bucket list thing. You never know. But what an experience. Something I could never forget.”


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

A test of talent and time

It’s a long way to October, baseball people like to say. What happened on Opening Day this week will seem like a long time ago come autumn.

But it will still matter. Such is life: You win some, you lose some and some get rained out, but you dress out for all of them. And all of them count.

To give you something to ponder either today or between games of a lazy summer doubleheader, here are some baseball questions and observations. (The answers are at the bottom. Don’t peak. That’s like stealing signals illegally. Bad form.)

A couple of the questions are taken from George Will’s annual Baseball Quiz in Newsweek, a column I was alerted to by Big C, a Fair Park All-State first sacker in the 1950s and former Shreveport Sports bat boy. Big C likes to remind me that baseball is a very humbling game, and that life is much the same way. It pays in both to keep your eye on the ball, lest you get caught leaning. Just when you get cocky, the ball has a funny way of finding you…

Questions

1.     How did a team hit into a triple play without any fielder touching the ball?

2.     Who’s on first?

3.     Name the Hall of Famer who, when asked if he had ever felt more pressure than when he pitched in the World Series, said, “Well, there was the Battle of the Bulge.”

4. What event in the life of what player provoked old-school wisecracking actor/composer Oscar Levant to say, “It proves that no man can be a success at two national pastimes”?

5.  To what was Cesar Geronimo referring when he said he was just “in the right place at the right time”? (This is my favorite.)

6. What do most Little Leaguers do when, around age 8, they are told they have to wear protective cups, that it’s a league rule?

7. When do most Little Leaguers decide that a protective cup is actually a good thing?

8. When one team with a big lead kept stealing bases, two major league managers got in a fight at home plate in a game in July of 1985. (I saw it live and it was one of the great nights of my life.) Which manager said afterward, “If he promises to stop hitting home runs, I promise to stop stealing bases,” and which opposing manager was he talking about?

9. Who wins the 2010 World Series?

Answers
1.     With runners on first and second, the batter hit a pop-up and was out under the infield fly rule. The runner on first passed the runner on second and was out; the falling pop hit the runner on second.

2. Yes. (What’s on second.)

3. The Braves’ Warren Spahn.

4. Joe DiMaggio’s divorce from Marilyn Monroe.

5. He was both Bob Gibson’s and Nolan Ryan’s 3,000th strikeout victim.

6. The ones that don’t cry just look at you like you are Satan, Satan with a banana growing out of his ear.

7. Right after they recover from getting hit ‘on home plate’ that first time.

8. St. Louis manager Whitey Herzog about San Francisco’s Roger Craig, who was managing several former Shreveport Captains at the time.

9. In an all-wild card Series, Atlanta beats Boston.

(Editor’s Note: Wrong on the World Series. San Francisco beat Texas in five; Edgar Renteria was the Series MVP. Not at all hard to believe I was wrong but it is hard to think that was 12 years ago.)

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

 
A Teddy Classic from 2010 


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

SPOTLIGHT: Of Masters I have known

DIRTY DOZEN: The gorgeous par-3 No. 12 at Augusta National has turned some pretty rounds pretty ugly in more than one Masters Tournament.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Former Calvary and LSU star Sam Burns, 25, is scheduled to tee off this afternoon at 12:19 and Friday morning at 9:01, his rookie appearance at the Masters. Odds of his winning are a most reasonable 40-1, same as the odds for Louis Oosthuizen, runner-up in the 2021 U.S. Open (and also in the 2012 Masters).

Viktor Hovland, Brooks Keopka and two-time major champ Collin Morikawa, not yet 25, are each 20-1. Rory McIlroy is 18-1, Scottie Scheffler is 16-1, and Tiger Woods, another semi-familiar name, is 50-1.

Generous odds for Woods, who almost lost his leg in a car wreck 17 months ago. But Woods has been known to surprise at Augusta, as we note in the first lesson of this refresher course titled “Masters I Have Known.”

April 14, 2019: WHAT A TIGER TALE

AUGUSTA, Ga.—The man with the best shot at beating Tiger Woods in the final round of the 83rd Masters Tournament wore the sorrowful, caged look of a guy caught at an opera he didn’t want to attend, much less be in.

And against this much history and this much Masters experience, against this tidal wave of Fate, Francesco Molinari did just about as much good Sunday as his home country of Italy did in World War II.

There would be no denying Woods, who would turn the afternoon into 2005 again—the year of his most recent Masters championship—and win his fifth green jacket by a single stroke with a 2-under 70 amid chants of “Tiger! Tiger!,” wearing the familiar Sunday red and black he wore before all the personal problems and surgeries, back when he was young and the most feared golfer on the planet.

April 8, 2018: CAPTAIN AUGUSTA

AUGUSTA, Ga. — He’s called Captain America for the emotion and passion he’s brought to both his team and game in his young and very successful Ryder Cup career.

Now Patrick Reed is Captain Augusta.

Polarizing and brash, the won’t-back-down 27-year-old won a horn-honking, move over 2018 Masters by keeping two hands on the wheel as Augusta National turned into Formula One Golf, exploding with birdies and pedal-to-the-metal charges and sudden starts and stops from some familiar faces — but in some unfamiliar ways.

When his three-foot putt fell for par at the 18th, Reed had beaten Rickie Fowler by a stroke and Jordan Speith by two with a 15-under 273 performance that started with a blistering 69-66-67 and ended with a battling one-under 71. Once he got the lead Friday, he just wouldn’t get out of the way.

April 10, 2016: SPIETH COLLAPSES, WILLETT WINS

AUGUSTA, Ga.—Turns out that at Augusta National, Jordan Spieth can’t walk on water. Sometimes, he can’t even hit golf balls over it.

In a terrifically quick-turn flip-flop, Spieth saw a seemingly safe lead and his hopes of defending his Masters title drown late Sunday in the amount of time it takes to say “quadruple bogey.” He walked to the back nine winning by five—and lost by three. (To a Danny Willett?)

April 12, 2015: ONE-MAN-GANG SPIETH WINS BY 4

AUGUSTA, Ga.—Got a problem? Squeaky door? Fitful allergies? Gear slipping in the family SUV?

The suggestion from this bureau is to give Jordan Spieth a call. After the way he won the 79th Masters Tournament this weekend, there seem to be few problems the 21-year-old couldn’t solve. He could probably fix this global warming question if he can just get a decent gauge on the slope of the Earth, maybe figure out which way the grain of grass is cut.

April 13, 2014: THE BUBBA-IZATION OF AMERICA

AUGUSTA, Ga.—In a world where redneck reality shows are popular as drive-thru lanes, it’s only fitting a guy named Bubba wins The Masters. The South is taking over. Soon kudzu will eat Idaho.

Bubbas don’t win golf tournaments at Augusta, as former University of Georgia golfer Bubba Watson did this bright Easter. Bubbas win the city am in Laurel, Miss., or Smackover, Ark., but not at Augusta National. “Bubba Wins in Georgia” is the headline after the Atlanta Firecracker 500, not after they play The Masters.

April 14, 2013: SCOTT. CABRERA. WOW.

AUGUSTA, Ga.—The 77th Masters was drowning in a sea of fine print, paperwork, and the somewhat stupefying Rules of Golf Sunday when an unscripted finish rode in from, of all places, the Southern Hemisphere.

A Chippendale from Australia and a pit bull from Argentina cursed both the light rain and the north Georgia gloaming to put on a show they’ll talk about here as long as azaleas bloom and ladies drink mint juleps on the veranda.

April 10, 2022: DO TELL …

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

 

Georgia on everybody’s mind

 


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Georgia on everybody’s mind

Barring a pandemic or World War — and you know how people can be — it happens every year around this time, when Augusta National Golf Club opens its verdant doors to the world.

Geezers show up giddy at Augusta National, grizzled veterans of the golf racket still mesmerized by the azalea and the tall pines and the greenest greens and pinkest pinks.

And then there are the rookies wondering if they’ve wandered into a giant golf painting, half expecting a Bobby Jones or a Ben Hogan to stroll out around the next corner or a flowering crabapple.

Most everyone is reduced to Toddler Level, and doubtful things will be different this week for The 2022 Masters at Augusta National, the official name of the 86th Tournament for those of you keeping score at home, secretly wishing you had a scratch ’n‘ sniff TV set.

Augusta National does this — puts the emotions and senses on high-alert — to anyone who has a pulse plus any level of appreciation for what God is able to graciously furnish and what forward-thinking mortals are able to get as close to perfection as human hands allow.

Shreveport businessman Todd Burns, weekend golfer and dad of PGA Tour pro and local favorite Sam, took the youngest of his three children to The Masters in 2011. This was not long after the just-turned-teen Sam and his family discovered that Sam might have a knack for playing serious golf, ‘knack’ being a word for, “Oh goodness, this kid is some sort of prodigy or genius or glorious mistake of golf nature.”

A couple of Todd’s memories from that trip include how green everything was — “Even the sandwich wrappers were green so when they hit the ground, you couldn’t tell,” he said — and how he sat down on the ground being No. 9 green “and one of the green jackets told me real politely, ‘You can’t sit there, sir. Not on the ground, you can’t.’”

You can sit on the ground at Augusta — just not behind a green. Especially 9 or 18. And while you can sit in some places, you can’t lie flat. You can sunbathe, but only vertically.

Not that Todd will be sitting a lot this week. He was due in Augusta Tuesday with most of the family, although some of the brood will stay back with the newest grandchild who’s not feeling great. (Sam’s a three-time uncle, not a dad yet.) As a dad, Todd is “excited for Sam, and nervous at the same time.” In other words, he’s a parent and a grandparent.

Three weeks ago, he walked Augusta’s fairways — something he didn’t do in 2011 — while Sam played a practice round. He found out something that’s hard to tell on television.

“No even lies,” he said. “Everything is sidehill, downhill…constantly changing.”

But the topography overall, he remembered well from 2011 outside the ropes. “Way more uphill and downhill stuff than you can see on TV,” he said. “Way, way more.” (Well, except for behind 9 green, where there’s this one little flat spot, good for sitting. Until you’re caught.)

Funny, but that course Todd’s talking about sounds a lot like the one Sam practices on all the time. Squire Creek in Choudrant is fairly open off the tee, doesn’t have rough anything close to a U.S. Open setup, and your work is hardly done once you reach the greens, more complex than calculus.

With a game that’s lately shown more improvement around the greens than anywhere else, he’s got everything it takes to win at Augusta but experience — and Fuzzy Zoeller didn’t need that when he won in 1979 as a Masters rookie. 

 Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

SPOTLIGHT: Tom Burnett trades Chair for … something softer

FINAL FOUR FOREMAN: NCAA Tournament Selection Committee Chair Tom Burnett, who has watched more basketball than you over the past five years, talks with the CBS audience on Selection Sunday.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Meet a Chair who needs a couch.

Outgoing Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett, a West Monroe High and Class of ’88 Louisiana Tech graduate, has watched more than 1,000 college basketball games during the past five years as a member of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee.

But Monday night after he hands the national championship trophy to the Final Four survivor in the Caesars Superdome, the Houston native’s final job as a five-year member of the committee — and as its Chair this year — Burnett will watch “definitely less” hoops next season.

“Maybe tremendously less,” he said, the exclamation obvious. And understood.

A lifelong lover of sports, Burnett is one of those guys who’s nearing 60 and has left it all on the field. But even a guy this easy-going, efficient and dependable as sunrise, knows when it’s too much of a good thing.

Commissioner of the Southland for the past 19 years after working on communication staffs at Tech and with the old American South Conference (which later merged with the Sun Belt), Burnett felt it was time to step away after hoops season. He’ll be in a consulting role for the league for a bit, then will decide what he and wife Tracy will do.

Going to a basketball game or committee meeting might not be at the top of the list.

“I’ve learned,” he said, “that the Tournament never stops.”

Burnett’s first job on the committee — service and responsibilities change as you advance through a five-year term — included meeting with other members five times a year, being co-monitor with another member of five-to-seven conferences, and watching as many games as possible on TV or through a database of coaches’ films the committee has access to. The first year, 2017-18, he counted watching all or parts of 170 games.

“After that,” he said, “I quit counting.”

The committee is also charged with the full oversight of the men’s tournament: the business operations, television negotiations/relations, officiating, site selection including future Final Fours, planning for next year and the year after, and … it’s always something.

Plus, each member has, well, a regular job. So think about playing for the run-happy Kansas Jayhawks all year. While wearing a tie. Or, if you’re a committee member and Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade, sensible pumps.

It’s a challenge. And for Burnett, a big jump from his first job at Tech for sports information and its director, the now-retired Keith Prince.

“Baseball P.A. announcer in the spring of ’85,” Burnett said. “Didn’t realize that also included keeping the scorebook, running the scoreboard and serving as the ballpark deejay. But, whatever — I was hooked.”

The exclamation obvious. Again.

And that figures, because to do something right in the public sphere takes enthusiasm — and a thick skin. Burnett has heard it all concerning the committee, and it often seems many well-meaning fans tend to miss the boat on at least one sticky point.

“If there is one thing that people either don’t believe or simply don’t want to accept, it’s that there is unimpeachable integrity among the committee members, and throughout the selection process,” he said. “There are no games played or deals made, as we are simply focused on getting it right. Not perfect – but right.

“And some speculate that the bracketing process is gamed, that the committee plans for certain matchups to reunite coaches with certain teams, or that certain travel is arranged to reward or penalize teams,” he said. “Couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the bracketing process is mostly automated based on longstanding principles and procedures, often reviewed and approved by the committee and the national coaches’ association.”

Chris Reynolds, the 2022-23 committee chair and director of athletics at Bradley, will inherit the same questions. But he’ll also inherit being a key part in what many feel is sport’s finest event.

Consider the March Madness so far: powerhouses hanging around, some traditional powers punched out early, Saint Peter’s and Cinderella, a legend retiring, more nail-biting first- and second-round games than ever before … and full gyms.

That’s right, fans. As Burnett prepares to leave, something else is back to stay.

“I’m most proud that the committee, primarily through the great work of the NCAA staff, the local hosts and our medical officials, could get the tournament back on its traditional course,” Burnett said. “A national tournament at the 14 sites, from Dayton through the Final Four in New Orleans. The basketball is going to get played and take care of itself, but to get the tournament back on track was always our focus after the unfortunate shutdown in 2020 — a tough, tough day — and the controlled-environment tournament played in Indianapolis in 2021, which is what we had to do.

“There are great storylines this year, such as upsets, a tremendous group of bluebloods descending on New Orleans this week, Coach K’s retirement, some other things,” he said. “But the return of March Madness as we’ve always known it ranks at the top.”


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Remember 1982? The first-ever NCAA champion Lady Techsters do

SHOOTING FOR TWO: On March 28, 1982, Tournament MVP Janice Lawrence (5) and Tech beat Cheyney State (in white) for the sport’s first NCAA title; the Lady Techsters won the AIAW title the year before and finished the back-to-back seasons 69-1.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Columnist

Talking to Louisiana Tech’s Lady Techsters of today is not much different than talking to them 40 years ago, back when they were future Hall of Fame coaches or Kodak All-Americans or practice players or Wade Trophy winners, and the thing each of them had the most of was fun.

Today they might put you on hold to talk to a recruit or tell a husband they’ll be right back or quiet a grandbaby, but then it’s March 28, 1982 again, a Sunday afternoon in The Scope in Norfolk, Va., and they are crisp and cool and full of the energy they had at 18 or 21, happy and young and suited up, maybe even a little smugly satisfied with the assurance of the timelessness of both an unbreakable record and the bond forged from what they became, a bit giddy with the memories of what they did best — win games, and win championships.

One of four teams in the NCAA Women’s Final Four Tournament will do this weekend what they did in 1982’s first week of spring, something no team had ever been done before, something no team can ever do again.

They won the NCAA title.

And they did it before anyone else.

They’d gone 34-0 and won the AIAW championship the year before, beating Tennessee 79-59 in Eugene, Oregon. In ’82 it was 34-1 and a 76-62 win over Cheyney State in what had now become the NCAA Women’s Championship.

“A record that will never be broken: it was exciting from that standpoint,” said shooting guard Angela Turner, who that day scored in double figures for the 125th time in her Kodak All-America career. “There were so many people there…it was televised all over the country … And so many of our fans had traveled to be with us. No matter where we went, there was always somebody from Ruston there.”

“Anything that has the word ‘first’ and ‘national’ in it had to be special,” said Debbie Primeaux Williamson, a back-up guard and now a known-by-everyone, quietly efficient bigwig in administration in the women’s game. “Winning big games and winning a lot was special, but knowing it was the first ever NCAA Championship seemed extra special.”

“I was glad we were playing Cheyney because they loved to press and I knew I’d get in the game early,” said Kim Mulkey, who finished with six points and seven assists — one more than the whole Cheyney team — was voted the game’s outstanding player by the CBS-TV crew, and, while remembering that day, sounded like the game was about to start and she already knew how it would end. “They were gonna press and I knew we could run and I could get an assist or score on the other end of the floor.”

“I still watch a good bit of the game; there’s no question that team could play today,” said Leon Barmore, then associate head coach along with Sonja Hogg, today a Naismith and, as several on that ’82 team members are, a Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer. “You’ve got some great teams and players out there, sure. But Angela, Janice (Lawrence), Pam (Kelly) … they’re all in the Hall of Fame and they didn’t get there by not being good.”

Lawrence had 20 points and was named the tournament’s MVP that day, and Kelly, who rewrote the program’s young record book for points, rebounds, and field goal percentage, would days later be named the season’s Wade Trophy Winner; Lawrence earned it two years later.

(A quick word about Hogg: In the March 29 editions of a local paper, the forward-thinking original Lady Techsters head coach was quoted as saying, “We won’t ever replace Turner and Kelly, but we have to get somebody in a uniform, hopefully somebody with a lot of talent.” This was in the middle of a run of 10 Final Fours and two Elite Eight appearances in 12 years. How’d that work out?)

During a time out as his team huddled with less than two minutes left in the title game, team trainer Sam Wilkinson, now retired in the Ruston area, displayed a T-shirt proclaiming Tech as the 1982 national champs.

“I’d been carrying that thing around in my trainer’s bag for two weeks,” Wilkinson said, laughing at the thought of something he hadn’t recalled in years. “Leon almost fell out.”

“Ol’ Sam, he got on TV pretty quick with that,” Barmore remembered.

Barmore gave lots of credit to “Ol’ Sam” for the championship; he got the team’s other star reserve besides Mulkey, forward Debra Rodman, ready to play in four of the five playoff games after Rodman had sprained an ankle in the regular-season finale. Good thing: Rodman came off the bench against Cheyney to get 14 points and a team-best 11 rebounds in just 24 minutes.

But there was one problem even Sam couldn’t solve. In pregame warmups, Rodman broke a bra strap. Nothing a female friend and a safety pin couldn’t fix, proof that even when the Lady Techsters didn’t let it all hang out, they sort of still did.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu

Photo courtesy LOUISIANA TECH


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Byrd girls bowling team rolls into today’s state semis

GOING ON STRIKE?: C.E. Byrd’s girls No. 13-ranked bowling team state semifinalists are (Front, L-R) seniors Lola Carlisle, Madilyn McCrary (captain), Olivia Osbon and (Back, L-R) juniors Cathleen Stevens, Jadyn Martin, Kaci Green, Maddisen Rook, Erin Hanson, and Cicely Dawson, pictured at Acadiana Lanes after a 16-11 quarterfinals victory over No. 5 Central Lafourche.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Momma won’t allow throwing the ball inside.

But if you roll it, that’s OK.

And some female student-athletes at C.E. Byrd High have figured out how to do that awfully well.

Trying to score a “first” for north Louisiana in the LHSAA bowling world, the No. 13-ranked Byrd girls team faces No. 1 Ponchatoula in the state semifinals of the Ochsner LHSAA Bowling Championship at 10:30 a.m. this morning at All Star Lanes in Baton Rouge.

At 1:30 p.m., the winner will face the survivor of the other semifinal between No. 2 Dutchtown and No. 6 Denham Springs.

If Byrd can make it happen, the Lady Jackets will become north Louisiana’s first bowling team champion since the sport became LHSAA-sanctioned in 2005. They are the first north Louisiana team in the semis since Parkway’s boys team in 2010.

“The Lady Jackets are a good team because they are a united team who remain focused, positive, and encouraging each match,” said Paula Rowe, their coach and a teacher of history and government at Byrd. “The girls fiercely protect their team dynamic. No negativity allowed. Of course, they put a lot of work in at practice and on their own time.”

Rowe said the leadership of Madilyn McCrary, four-year varsity bowler and the team’s captain, “has been a fundamental part of our team’s success. At the beginning of the season, we were impacted by COVID-19 and a few injuries. But as the season went on, the girls recovered, and our new bowlers further developed their skills in the game.”

In a Shreveport-Bossier area that proved well balanced, Byrd finished 7-5 and second in district to Loyola College Prep, who lost in Round 2 of the playoffs to St. Amant. Captain Shreve was 5-7 and Airline 4-8; the semi-logjam could have been a reason for Byrd’s lower seed.

Regardless, the Lady Jackets seem to have gotten hot at the right time, mainly because of the back-end of the lineup. Teams get the same amount of points for its No. 1-spot (sixth-best bowler) winning as it does for its No. 6, or best, bowler. It’s a format that favors depth.

“The strength in our playoff victories came from our 1-3 bowlers as much as from our 4-6,” Rowe said.

“McCrary and Kaci Green consistently performed each game in the 2 and 3 spots and won critical points. Erin Hanson came back in game 3 of both (playoff) matches to help secure the win against (No. 4) H.L. Bourgeois (in Round 2) and (No. 5) Central Lafourche (in the quarterfinals). Jadyn Martin, Maddisen Rook, and Cathleen Stevens continued to provide strong pinfall (the number of pins toppled during a match) and impressive scores against strong bowlers from the other teams.”

Stevens and Rook also qualified for Singles State Finals, which will be Friday. Other female student-athletes competing Friday are Paris Mendones and LaBresha Lars (Airline) and Ysabella Griego (Loyola). In the Boys Singles State Finals Friday, area competitors include Chris Kouba (Airline), Caden Hutchinson (Byrd) and Jack Perrett (Benton).

Crescent City Sports of New Orleans is partnering with the LHSAA to live stream the semifinals and finals. The link is http://crescentcitysports.com/live-game-streams/

Coverage begins just prior to the 10:30 a.m. start of the four semifinals, with whip-around coverage of those matches, and continues with the girls championship at 1:30 p.m. and the boys final at 3:30 p.m. CCS’ Ken Trahan and Lenny Vangilder will be joined by Kent Lowe on the broadcast.


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Kansas basketball: A psychiatrist’s dream

Kansas is a 4.5-points favorite against Villanova Saturday in the first of two NCAA Tournament semifinal games. Duke and North Carolina will follow at approximately 7:49; the Blue Devils are a 4-points favorite.

Hello, Awesome Saturday Night. Except …

If you see a Kansas fan between now and then, and if he or she is gnawing on tree bark and unable to mumble a complete sentence, move along. Yes, the Jayhawks are favorites. Yes, Kansas has a basketball tradition as rich as anyone’s.

But yes, Kansas come Tournament time is a heartache waiting to happen.

East Coast. West Coast. Midwest. Deep South. Historically, the Kansas basketball program has arguably left more hoop-loving hearts broken all over this great land and on the Final Four Road than any other program that’s ever dared nail up a peach basket.

They’ve got the awesome old-school gym. The simple, bright, cheerful uniforms you could probably wear to church and get away with. That happy-go-lucky Jayhawk mascot.

It’s a program that’s strung together a ridiculous 31 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, the most ever. All the Jayhawks do is win.

Until it’s time to finish. Kansas has only three NCAA Tournament titles in its illustrious history.

Which is three more than lots of programs, for sure. Most anyone would trade for what Kansas has been able to do, generation after generation.

And still, their reputation is that of a Bracket Buster. Kansas giveth, and Kansas taketh away. Saturday will mark the program’s 16th trip to the Final Four, which means that for all their trips to the mountaintop, the Jayhawks have left as King of the Hill only once every five times.

They’ve been runners-up six times, college basketball’s equivalent of baseball’s 1950s’ Brooklyn Dodgers and 1990s’ Atlanta Braves.

Bridesmaids City.

Recent history:

In 2010, Northern Iowa, historically one of the finest programs in all of the great state of Iowa, bounced them out.

In 2011 as the Tournament’s No.1-seed, Kansas was dismissed by VCU in the Elite Eight. (Time flies; Shaka Smart seems like last week.)

2014, they got Stanford-ed, although it’s important to remember that Kansas was Joel Embiid-less thanks to an unfortunate injury.

2016 and 2018, well, we’ll come back to that in a sec.

In 2020, the Jayhawks were ranked No. 1 in some polls and … The Ultimate Indignity … the Tournament was pandemically cancelled.

So here they are again with head-scratching Kansas, never ranked No. 1 this season, yet champions of the Midwest Regional and the only No.1 Regional seed left in the ballgame. If you are a Kansas fan, you are probably preparing for a dagger where it hurts.

But who knows? Bill Self could become just the 16th guy in the college game to win multiple national titles. Kansas could do what the 1952 and Self’s 2008 team did and win it all.

Very un-Kansas-like, they’ve even won it when they weren’t supposed to. I happened to be there hanging around in Kemper Arena in Kansas City in 1988 when “Danny Manning and the Miracles,” a 6-seed, upset No.1 Oklahoma, 34-3 and winners of 21 of its last 22 games, 83-79. The game was tied 50-50 at the half, the small (for a Final Four) arena was an explosion of cheers and colors and gasps and drama, and the whole thing was more fun than a little bit.

And maybe the same will be true this weekend. Maybe. With Kansas being a favorite over Villanova in the Saturday semis, that’s a step in the right direction.

Except … remember we mentioned 2016 and 2018? Kansas played Villanova in the tournament both those years. And lost. First, in 2016 when the Jayhawks were the top-seeded team in the tournament.

And then in 2018, when Kansas lost to the underdog Wildcats … in the semifinals.


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

A wayward camel, the NCAA, and Dolly: Tupperware Tales, Chapter 5

Table scraps …

From the “You Really Aren’t Having A Bad Day” Files: It’s been nearly two weeks since several news services reported that two men at a Tennessee farm were killed by a “rampaging camel.” The farm housed several kinds of animals and no reason was given for the camel’s rampage. The bottom line is that, if you get attacked by a camel, and in Tennessee of all places, it ain’t your day…

A baseball team I follow has some long bus trips so I suspected it would be thoughtful and different to get them some playing cards along with some silly things, games children play with like Etch-A-Sketches and a magnetic checker set and some Wooly Willy drawing games, the ones where you put the “magic wand” against the plastic and it pulls little slivers of iron where you want them to go so you decorate the face of Willy. And then I thought how that was the stupidest idea I’d ever had—and it’s a long line—because all these dudes do is play on their phones and listen to music. Would have been a great idea—in the mid-80s…

Can’t give you the link here ’cause we don’t want you jumping to another site BUT in honor of these first days of spring, take 30 seconds and find “Welcome, Sweet Springtime: The Andy Griffith Show” on YouTube or the site of your choice and listen to Barney, very flatly, usher in the new season. Good ol’ 14A in your songbook. Never gets old …

To paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, my NCAA Tournament Bracket woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold its head that it didn’t hurt. Over the span of 48 hours, from the Opening Round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament through Saturday of the Second Round, my little black-and-blue bracket went from “tightness in the joints” to “full body cast.” …

BUT … to paraphrase singer-songwriter Travis Tritt, “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” Because no one cares about your NCAA bracket. No one but you cares that you had Kentucky and flamed out on ascent or that you pulled a rabbit out of the hat and picked St. Peter’s. No one even cares if your bracket is leading in any of the groups you have joined, because everyone knew SOMEbody was going to win—somebody besides them. Nobody knows the trouble your bracket has seen—but no gives the slightest rat’s rip either. If it makes you feel any better, anything your bracket can do, mine can do worse. We might be enjoying the first days of spring, but it remains a cold, cold world. (Just ask anyone who’s been attacked by a camel, hard by the Tennessee River)…

Speaking of hoops, one good thing that’s come from the pandemic is that very few men’s basketball coaches wear coats and ties on the sidelines anymore. They dress down. They used to look like they were going to call time out, then take up offering. Most women’s coaches still dress up for games, but for them, dressing down is still dressing up when compared to guys. We like to think we’re dressed up if we have our shoes tied…

Country Music Hall of Famer and perpetual wonder woman Dolly Parton has teamed with bestselling author James Patterson to write a climbing-the-charts mystery, “Run, Rose, Run,” a novel about a young female singer with hopes to make it big, but a secret from her past might destroy her. I’m good as long as the secret isn’t that she killed Porter Wagoner…

For all you Bracket Folk, good luck this weekend in the Sweet 16 (and no, do NOT tell us who you’ve picked; it’ll save us both the embarrassment).

And, if at all possible, stay away from camels: any one of them might have picked Kentucky or Wisconsin to win it all and be in a surly mood.

Welcome, Sweet Springtime.


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

Timmy B. had 4x the fun on March Madness, Day One

CRASH COURSE: Shreveporter Tim Brando (left) and his CBS crew met with coaches during practice sessions in his 18 years of NCAA Tournament coverage.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

For 18 straight years in mid-March, Tim Brando would answer the phone at his Shreveport home around 8 on the night of Selection Sunday, get his marching orders from CBS Sports, pack his bag, and head out to do play-by-play for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

For the broadcaster many locals know as Timmy B., March Madness was crammed into one opening-round Thursday or Friday: eight teams, four games, and one truly special, genuinely extraordinary, and undeniably long, long day.

“There’s no denying it’s the hardest day, the most challenging live event, in sports television,” said Brando, whose opening-round travels took him from Albuquerque to Columbus, from Austin to New York, and many points in between. “Even the guys who work the Olympics and things will tell you that in terms of preparation, of stamina, calling four games with eight different teams in one day is the most challenging live sports assignment a play-by-play guy can get.”

There’s the game preparation for teams you know nothing about but will need to learn everything about during the next 96 hours or so. Coaches and players and gotta-have-’em sports information people to talk to. Production crews to coordinate with. And it’s back to the hotel to watch a recording of each team’s most recent game, probably with your broadcast partner.

For various reasons, Brando had plenty of those. Derrek Dickey. George Raveling. Al McGuire. “Big Game” James Worthy. Rolando Blackman. Rick Pitino. Eddie Fogler. Bob Wenzel.

“For the first nine years,” Brando said, “it felt like I was the Grim Reaper for every analyst who worked with me.”

In 2004, former Duke great Mike Gminski became Brando’s partner. They stuck, all the way to the end of Brando’s time at CBS in 2013.

There were times he thought he’d lose his voice. Times the bladder was unkind and needed to be made of iron. Times long ago when the Tournament was on only one channel, regionalized, and the director and producer would be silent in his ear and Brando would know that the majority of the TV audience had been switched from his dud game to a nail-biter somewhere else.

“Then maybe our game would come alive again,” Brando said, laughing at the memory, “and they’d tell you in your ear that they were bringing in another audience and what you wanted to say was, ‘We welcome those of you who didn’t give a rat’s ass about our game a while ago but you do now.’”

On the opening day of this 2022 Tournament, Brando, fresh off calling the Big East Tournament with longtime beloved sidekick Bill Raftery for FOX, was like a lot of other lucky basketball junkies, contentedly on his couch at home wondering if Murray State could beat the Dons, if Marquette would cover against North Carolina, if the Catamounts could upset Arkansas.

“I might just throw something at the television,” he said.

After a long season of football and hoops, the winner of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s inaugural Ambassador Award in 2020 has earned some time off to be a fan — until football season, when his broadcast duties crank up again. But for the next three weekends, he’ll enjoy the Tournament with the same joy and anguish as the rest of us.

“I don’t miss doing it,” he said, “but I’m so glad I did. Had a great run. It’s funny, but those first games are just a lot of work and then it’s over. Just like that. And if you’re not doing the Sweet 16, suddenly you’re going home and it’s a little bit of an empty feeling unless you got one of those great moments, maybe a Round 2 buzzer beater and a team is punching its ticket to the Sweet 16. Then it’s awesome.

“You get some games that aren’t so good, not a lot of drama,” he said, “but over time, you get your fair share of those great ones.”

Some of those could come today … on arguably the second greatest weekday of the year in sports?

“To me, the opening Thursday of the NCAA Tournament is the greatest weekday of the year in sports,” he said. “Part of that is, at the end of the day you can say, ‘We get to do this again tomorrow.’”


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

They are NOT just mailing it in

Gus and Jezebel live next door, and sometimes Molly from a house over is there and sometimes even Duke from down the street. These are labs and herding dogs and mixes of athletic breeds, serious animals, and when the mailman or mailwoman come by each day, it is Armageddon, the Olympics of Barking.

And all these dogs are gold medal contenders.

No problem. Our mail carriers have more than once smiled at me and said, above the insane barking, “They love me.”

Maybe you don’t need a sense of humor to carry the mail, but I have to believe it helps. That, and spray repellant.

All this came to mind after a letter arrived alerting us that this is the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Postal System. The actual date that President George Washington created the modern-day post office is Feb. 20, 1792, so the letter was three weeks late but, hey, who’s counting?

I’m not, and here’s why:

The post office is a dart board for complaints. Stamps are too high. Service is slow. “Y’all make my dogs bark.”

Easy target.

But allow me to argue for my brothers and sisters at the USPS.

First of all, a “sort of” mail delivery had been in place since 1775, and Benjamin Franklin, you’ll remember from history class, was our first postmaster general. His salary was $1,000 annually. That’s a lot back then but … it would not have bought nearly as many stamps then as today.

Back then, a dollar equaled about 30 bucks in today’s dough. So a 12-cents stamp, the most fancy stamp you could get, one that would get a letter as far as you needed it to go—to one of the new states like, say, from Philly to Kentucky—would have cost between three and four bucks, if you’ll kindly do the math (because I can’t).

I just don’t understand why anyone would complain today that, for 50 cents, I can mail a check from my house to the insurance or electricity people instead of having to go to the actual address and hand it to the insurance or electricity people. It’s a bargain—and a lot better bargain than it was in 1792, when the “new” post office, in addition to other improvements, guaranteed lower mailing rates for newspapers, greatly advancing the idea of a free press.

Also back then the penalty for robbing a mail delivery person or stealing mail from the post office was death (see Sect. 17 of the Official Act). That’s right: The Big D. And you think 50 cents is a high price to pay.

Today the fine for such misguided tomfoolery is “only” five years in prison, which is no walk in the park but it beats having your mail and earthly address discontinued permanently.

So shut your pie hole!, you USPS bashers.

Finally, how do the mail sorters know how to do that? How can all this paperwork, all these envelopes of different sizes, come into One Building and people in there are fast enough, basically overnight, to get it into The Appropriate Piles?

And how do different carriers get My Mail to My House? Now and then I’ll get Jezebel or even Molly’s mail and will have to walk next door and trade, but still, even getting a letter from Fort Worth to within two doors of my house for half a dollar is cause for celebration, in my way of thinking.

Nobody’s perfect, but in a dog-eat-dog world, the USPS is carrying its weight and then some. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night—nor barking dog—stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Hat tippage.

I should mail them a thank-you note. (Think they’ll get it?)

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

McConathy left his best to a game that said goodbye

When Mike McConathy announced his retirement Monday after 23 years as head basketball coach at Northwestern State, it wasn’t because he wanted to leave the game.

Instead, the game had already left him.

With the speed-of-light institution of the transfer portal and NIL deals, players can skip from one school for another in an instant, in theory for more playing time or more NIL incentives.

The college basketball game we grew up with has left. Gone as a wild goose in winter.

We’re not blaming players. We’re just sending up a flare that the rules are different, which means the reality involving college competition is different. Drastically.

If you’re a coach whose foundation, whose plan for success, is building relationships, is building teams, the odds have turned against you.

If you’re that coach at a lower-profile school — say, for instance, Mike McConathy — and you were already at just a bit of a budget disadvantage, what can you do when the green backs on the other side of the fence look all that much greener than before? How can you coach up a freshman or sophomore, knowing that he could be playing against you the very next year?

It’s hard for a coach to build a relationship with a player and build a team around players when the only guy who plans to stick around is … the coach.

For 23 years.

And so, like everything else, the game changes.

But McConathy hasn’t. And that’s a good thing.

You’ll read and hear and see a lot about his playing and coaching records in the next few news cycles. If you don’t know a lot about McConathy since the Demons have been down recently, you’ll be impressed.

And if you’ve been a fan all these years, you’ll be re-impressed. No one has won more college games in Louisiana than he has so … there’s that.

But no one coaches all the time. They have to leave the court or field or track at some point and be like the rest of us. They have to go to the grocery store or doctor or to church.

And that brings us to the beautiful thing about McConathy: he is as approachable today at 66 and as the winningest college basketball coach in state history as he was as a high school All-America player at Airline High in Bossier City and an All-America guard at Louisiana Tech.

Maybe a little shy and as unassuming as an athletic guy who stands 6-foot-3 can possibly be, McConathy has nonetheless always been about relationships.

He, a sister and two brothers were raised by servant-leader parents, a couple who gave themselves to educating young people, either in grade school or Sunday school. The reddish hair and boyish face and “Aw shucks” vibe — either implied or imagined — earned him the nickname “Opie,” the pure and innocent young star of The Andy Griffith Show he grew up with.

Whether he likes it or not, it fits. Which brings us up against what so much of life is, a sort of paradox, maybe an enigma. Either way, a semi-puzzle.

In the life of a McConathy/Opie fan, you understand that, with the retirement of “Coach Mike,” an era has ended. They’re flying the barber pole at half-staff down at Floyd’s, the courthouse door is locked, and the Snappy Lunch closed for the day right after snappy brunch.

Sort of like a Mayberry Moment of Silence.

But on the other hand, McConathy can sleep a winner’s sleep for the first time since 1980 or so. Not worry about what might have happened to a player or staff member. Not tossing and turning in a hotel bed. Not reading anything about the transfer Port-o-Let or the NIL. Instead, he and wife Connie and their family — plenty of family around for sure — can build even more relationships.

Maybe you’ll see him around. Good for you if you do.


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

‘What’s the good Wordle?’

Never say the Wordle Word of the Day if “a wordler,” someone who works the daily Wordle puzzle, is around.

I’ll explain.

First, Wordle is a five-letter word that can, if you’re aggravated enough, become a four-letter word.

Wait. We better explain some more…

If you are part of the Great Unwashed who don’t know Wordle, consider yourself both blessed and cursed. Same as the ones of us who DO know.

Wordle is the new pickleball of word games, pickleball being our country’s fastest growing sport, not counting Pin the Tail on the Fauci. Pickleball is a combination of tennis, badminton, ping pong, and, of course, cucumbers. Look it up, grab a racquet and a wiffleball and go play — IF you can find a free court.

Not kidding. It’s a 24/7 Pickleball Party out there.

Same with Wordle, except it’s right there on your laptop device, just waiting to either reward you or make you want to hit yourself upside your head with a pickleball racquet.

The game was created in October by an engineer in Brooklyn named Josh Wardle, who was obviously born to create a word game. (“You say Wardle, I say Wordle.”) The game starts with six rows of five blank boxes each, and you get six guesses to figure out the five-letter word that changes every day.

One day this week was “hoard.” Others were “cloth” and “brine” and “mourn.” March 1 was “rupee,” a unit of Indian money, which apparently a lot of people didn’t know, and we know this because It Was In All The Papers, stories about Wordle-ites who felt they’d been ripped off — an interesting take on the American mindset since Wordle is, after all, free.

(I got rupee; sixth and final try. Makes me think of another five-letter word: lucky.)

The Guardian reported that Wordle had 90 players in November, 300,000 by January, and now more than three million around the world. Mankind is caught in a Wordle vice of biblical proportions. The game’s traveling faster than gossip down a church pew.

Its charm is that it’s not overwhelmingly hard to solve — but it’s hard enough. Simple, but keeps you on your toes. Sort of like your colon does as you age.

Sign up through Google, or wherever you subscribe to your addictive, fun, time-wasting, sucking-the-life-out-of-you word games. Again, it’s free, and the rules are simple, which the Wordle site will explain.

The first day I played, a good friend — my “Wordle dealer/supplier” since he got me hooked — gave me a two-minute tutorial. One minute I’d only heard of Wordle and the next, I was a Wordle Junkie.

A Final Word to the Wordle Wise: Do not casually mention to anyone the Wordle Word of the Day unless they ask. My rookie day, I said, “Hey, took me four shots but I figured out ‘shake’ was the Worldle wor…”

“Nooooooooo!” That was the sound from a friend (now ex-friend) walking by; they had not Wordled yet on that day.

Wordle word for me at that moment? Idiot. Or loser. Either five-letter word would have worked.

Moral of story? Keep your Wordle to yourself. Otherwise … “YIKES”

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

BROOKE IT: Stoehr brings another title to Techsters

STOEHR-Y BOOK FINISH: Coach Brooke Stoehr has led Louisiana Tech from an 0-4 start in Conference USA to a West Division title.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Shreveport-Bossier Journal

They didn’t take the easiest path to their planned destination — think about scoring a successful moonSBJ spotlight shot from Earth by way of Mercury — but Louisiana Tech’s Lady Techsters are basketball champions of Conference USA’s West Division anyway.

Start to finish, there were some misfires:

An 0-4 hiccup to begin conference play;

A loss to 0-and-5-in-conference Rice in January;

A fourth-quarter collapse and mid-February loss at last-place UTSA after winning by 17 at UTEP two nights before.

But it’s not where you start or even how you get there — as long as you get there first. Tech did.

The regular season ended with Lady Techsters cutting down nets in Thomas Assembly Center after a convincing, division-clinching 82-56 victory over UAB Saturday afternoon, the program’s first championship since 2011.

“Winning a championship as a player is special because its validation of the work you put in with your teammates to achieve something together,” said head coach Brooke Stoehr, who made it to four NCAA Tournaments, two Elite Eights, and one Final Four as a Lady Techster student-athlete between 1998-2002. “You have a direct impact on the results because you are on the court competing. I cherish those memories with some amazing teammates.”

Saturday’s championship was a new taste to cherish for Stoehr, in her sixth year as coach at her alma mater.

“I have a whole different appreciation and feeling now that I’ve experienced it as a coach,” she said. “There is nothing like watching a team celebrate a championship together, especially for the first time …

“I’ve found great joy in watching them celebrate each other throughout the season,” she said. “Watching them celebrate after the game on the court with each other and their families (Saturday) is something I will never forget.”

The Lady Techsters began practice in the fall with nine new faces, five true freshmen, and a season-ending injury to projected starting guard and Division I transfer Gabbie Green — and didn’t win a C-USA game until January 17.

“It would have been a little less stressful had we gotten off to a better start,” Stoehr said, “but I do believe we needed to figure some things out about how this group needed to play in order to be successful. They never wavered and always believed in what we were doing.”

Doing what was asked of them and “competing hard for each other,” Stoehr said, was the reason Tech was able to win 8-of-10 and four straight — including a dramatic got-things-going 90-80 double-overtime win over Rice — to close out and smooth out the bumpy regular season.

Along the way since that long-ago first practice in October, her team “figured out how to win close games and found their identity as a group,” Stoehr said. “They became a tough-minded defensive team, figured out the types of shots we need to take and how to get balanced contributions on both ends of the floor.

“They’ve just had a sheer determination to accomplish something special,” she said. “They’ve played some really good basketball over the past three weeks at the most important time of the year.”

With the championship, the Lady Techsters, 19-10 and 11-7, earned a double-bye in the 2022 Heritage Landscape Supply Group C-USA Women’s Basketball Championship that begins today. At 1:30 Thursday in the quarterfinals, Tech will play the winner of Wednesday afternoon’s WKU (4th in the East) – UAB (5th in the West) game.

Although her team is young, Stoehr is a mid-March Old Timer. Besides four times as a player, she’s experienced the Big Dance as a head coach twice: she led underdog teams at Northwestern State to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 and 2015. With three more postseason tournament bids to her credit (NSU in the 2016 Women’s Basketball Invitational, Tech in the 2017 and 2018 WNITs), Stoehr is plenty familiar with all-or-nothing March basketball.

A victory Thursday would be her 100th as Tech’s coach. More importantly, it would push the Lady Techsters one step closer to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana Tech Athletic Communications


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

The miracle of parking a phone while driving

Texting, texting all day long,
on my hand-held telephone.

Kitchen, den or patio,
I can text while on the go!

My favorite place to text outside
Is when I’m cruising in my ride.

The road belongs to me alone
When I want on my telephone.

 I drive, but still I answer rings
Since driving, I can do four things:

That’s texttalkdrive AND hit your car.
It takes some skill, but I’m a star!

This won’t make a dent in what my small brain perceives to be a big problem, but, as country crooner Lyle Lovett said, or perhaps texted while driving his horse, “A man has to try. What are you if you don’t try?”

I am not an extremely intelligent person. I’m probably in the same IQ category as the guy who took a laxative and a sleeping pill on the same night.

You’ll see a fish riding a bicycle before you see me accepting any academic awards.

I’m not a bright man.

But, I do have my moments. I married a smart person. I will stop and ask for directions. I know to come in out of the rain. I can change a flat. And I long ago retired from texting while driving.

Each of us knows by now, personally, of at least a dozen accidents caused by people reaching for their dropped cell phones or talking or texting while driving. A grandfather told me last week of his teenaged grandson who had recently wrecked while texting and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

A bigger goofball than me you’ll be hard-pressed to find, but this is serious business.

I am not a good driver to begin with. In fact, I’m probably the second worst driver in the world, and I will take over the top spot should my dad pass away. So I need all hands on deck while steering a vehicle.

It has not escaped my attention, though, that most people are circus acts while driving. I sat outside the house this week and counted the first 10 cars that came by. Seven drivers were on their phones.

I tried again later. Eight out of 10. Must be fires everywhere.

This week I was at a red light and the guy behind me was hit by the woman behind him. Both were on their phones. A conversation on my home phone with a friend two months ago ended with, “Oops, I’ve got to call you back. I just hit a car.”

What the…

I am probably more uneasy about this than most because I was on the front end of getting rear-ended back when cell phones were making their initial splash. A woman picked me off at a Dallas intersection. Just a dent, but a nice dent. She was very nice: she handed me her insurance information and her cell phone number and – this is the honest truth – she never got off her phone the whole time. She had to be the National Security Advisor or the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, is all I can figure. In 1999, was the head of national security blonde, female and mid-40s? Had to be…

On the wide open road, I can understand talking and driving. Otherwise, these are my rules, which my family knows: I can text or talk and drive if I am on fire, if I’m bleeding, or if I’m taking a call about a liver transplant. Short list. Otherwise, my phone’s in park, for my safety and for yours.

Originally ran April 3, 2011. Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

The MVPs of Mardi Gras

How we made it through Mardi Gras parades without them, only our excretory systems know for sure.

Those were archaic and tawdry times.

Today, we are more civilized out there on the parade highways and byways, all thanks to the upright and rectangular 3-D miracles of translucent roofs and vents, and the miraculous pairing of high-density aluminum and polyethylene.

They are no question the MVPs of the Mardi Gras parade season.

Most Valuable Potties.

Look at them, will you? Admire them. Lay flowers and rolls of toilet paper at their feet, which is probably a worn spot in the grass where quick-stepping, over-served revelers hurried to take advantage of their favors.

They are the figurative port in the storm. Or the literal Port-O-Let in the storm.

A mere few feet off the parade route, they stand there as silent sentries, loyal soldiers, dutiful and dependable, ready if called upon, available but not obvious.

On the streets and in our ’hood they go by names like “Honey Bucket” or “Porta-Loo” or “Johnny-on-the-Spot.” The business community that makes a living renting, servicing, and supplying these crucial devices to the Great Unwashed call them portable toilets or chemical toilets.

But the way most of us first came to appreciate them was when we heard the phrase “Port-o-Let” or “Port-a-Jon” or “Porta Potty.” It should come as no surprise that each starts with a “P.”

Poetic justice is served.

Hemingway said once that Paris is “a moveable feast.” Had the outhouse of his day been mobile, he’d have said the same thing of the Port-o-Let.

The street where I live is perpendicular to the four-lane that marks the end of the route of Shreveport-Bossier’s two largest parades. By largest, I mean a quarter-million of our closest friends turn out to enjoy what krewes have worked (and played) all year to assemble. There are smaller parades in town and in the area, but these two pulled in the most bladders.

Thus, the Potty Patrol is needed. Down that otherwise unassuming street that marks the parades’ end, these portable must-haves stand stately for a quarter mile, maybe a bit more. They are rented by people who have reserved “spots” along the route, and the envied contraptions will be picked up next week. But right now, they are assurance and insurance for the renters, who can sleep well, knowing that on The Big Day, help will be just one opening of a plastic door away.

If you didn’t rent one and you need to “go,” well, you’ll find out who your friends are come parade time. You think you’re No. 1 and might just find out that you’re No. 2.

Sad, but such is the human condition. There will come a time when relief is demanded for the laboring kidney, the anxious bladder, the suspect colon. Those who fail to prepare are prepared to fail, and this is the kind of failure that does not go quietly into that dark night.

When Mardi Gras in our area was new, in pre-Port-o-Let days of yore, the make-believe portable potty was a shrub, a shadowed tree, the side of an unassuming garage.

That was rural fare. Tacky. We’ve since come a long way.

Who could have known then that instead of going to the bathroom, the bathroom would one day come to us. And usually, not a second too soon.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE

SBJ Q&A w/… McDonald’s magnate Roy Griggs

The ever optimistic, energetic, encouraging CEO and President of Griggs Enterprise, Roy Griggs has been a philanthropist, volunteer, and solid neighbor for the past 40 years he’s lived in Shreveport. At 17, he began working at a McDonald’s in his Meridian, Miss., hometown. At 20, he was the restaurant’s first black manager. Now the owner of 17 McDonald’s restaurants in north Louisiana and east Texas, Griggs graciously and gladly took a few minutes to talk with SBJ about his life and loves, faith and motivation, and the two-sided coin called failure.

SBJ: How is Black History Month and what it signifies important to you? “We need to know our history so we don’t repeat some things of the past. It’s so important for me to remember the struggles of those who came before. I didn’t get where I am on my own effort; it was their effort that paved the way for me and others like me to own a McDonald’s restaurant. Some years ago, I couldn’t have even gone inside one. Kids need to know that, the history; it makes them appreciate of where we are today.”

SBJ: What’s your advice to young people who ask? “Find that one thing you really enjoy doing, what you’re passionate about. When you begin a career you don’t enjoy, and you’re going after what gives you a certain amount of cash, that’s not what’s driving your passion; it can eventually ‘break’ you. Work hard and follow what you do well and the money will come.”

SBJ: Was there the ‘moment’ you knew you could do this? “When I opened my first restaurant. You prepare but still all kinds of emotions are running through you. Fear of the unknown. I’d invested all I had. I had to hope and trust and believe in God, that he’d prepared me for this. Failure was not an option. Success is all about strategizing and planning. Nobody wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to fail today.’ But you can if you haven’t planned. And I you do fail, that doesn’t mean it’s over. Evaluate, don’t give up, and try again. The difference in winners and losers is winners don’t give up.”

SBJ: Your reaction when employees come back years later to say thanks? “It makes you feel good about yourself that you could put a couple of words into someone’s life and those words or encouragement made a difference, and that they’d thank you for the helping hand. That motivates me to try to ‘pull the next one up.’ Someone might get distracted and can’t see something in themselves — but someone else can see it and then remind them to believe in themselves, to have faith. To see them succeed is one huge thing that motivates me.”

SBJ: Any thoughts of retiring? “I’m still enjoying what I do. Business is a bit different now with the pandemic, but I’m still inspired and motivated to keep moving on. If I lost my passion, I’d quit. (Laughing) But I don’t see that in the foreseeable future.”

SBJ: Your favorite McDonald’s meal? “Quarter Pounder on a hamburger bun, mustard and ketchup, hot fries, strawberry shake … got to have the strawberry shake…”

SBJ: Do you get a discount? “Sometimes I do! Then again, there are times where they make me pay. And that’s all right too.”

— Teddy Allen, SBJ


To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE