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.’”




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




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.




‘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




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




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




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




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




Ask the Paperboy, Chapter 59: Grammar Edition

Dear Ask the Paperboy,

My understanding is that collaborative is an adjective meaning “two or more parties working together,” i.e., “a collaborative effort.” This week I heard a similar word: “cobladderative.” During a particularly long sermon, the parishioner by me said they were in a “cobladderative situation.” They looked most uncomfortable? Being just a visitor, I nodded politely and didn’t pursue a line of questioning. Any help?

Asking for a Friend

Dear Asking for a Friend,

Paperboy has been there. No fun. It’s not a religious word at all; it’s actually about as human and secular as you can get. You find yourself in cobladderative peril when your personal bladder and a long movie or long sermon conspire to make you have to decide whether to go to the bathroom or hold it until the credits. Or until the “amens.” It’s one of those potentially violent and dicey deals. If you can avoid cobladderation, the day is worth as much celebration as you can offer.

 Dear Ask the Paperboy,

With Louisiana Tech and other programs about to start their baseball seasons, I read about Tech’s 2021 “historic” run last spring and in another article read of the Love Shack’s “historical moments.” Are these two adjectives interchangeable? Which is preferable?

History Fan in Ruston

Dear History,

Paperboy just dusted off his Grammar for Dummies, Junior Edition, turned to the “Things I Don’t Know” section and concluded that while both words describe the past — and everything that happens, like your reading of the question above, is now in the past — “historic” means something that’s really important. Tech hosted an NCAA Regional for the first time last spring, making it important/historic. “Historical” can be just about anything from the past that has to do with an event but isn’t necessarily the most important thing from that event: for instance, the box scores from the Regional are historical. If a batter had clobbered eight home runs in a single game, then the box score would be considered historic. (If a second-year home team batter had done it, the feat would be both historic and sophomoric, and the mood in Ruston that weekend would be as it was anyway: euphoric.) Whether or not these answers hold up, time will tell. Either way, just in case something historic happens this spring, get to a ballpark.

Dear Ask the Paperboy,

Speaking of the past, a now-seldom-used term is one of my favorites. I say term: it might even be an idiom. Oh, how I do love an idiom! Anyway, “hue and cry,” as in, “When taxes were raised, there was a great hue and cry.” My question is, Can you have one without the other?

An Idiot for Idioms

Dear Idiom Idiot,

Hue sure can.

Dear Paperboy,

I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.

Clever in Calhoun

Dear Clever,

We see what you did there. Why must you pun-ish us?

Until next time, feel free to submit your queries. This is a collaborative enterprise, after all, and Paperboy never sleeps.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




Love Story, Chapter 2

Married at 17, three babies by 24. But in her early 40’s she found herself divorced against her will, her house empty of a husband and children, nothing left of value but memories.

She moved to a West Monroe trailer park, bought it, kept teaching school, started over, a good soldier.

Her college-aged son called her practically every day. A male voice to hear, a familiar face to recall, a thread back to good times, maybe a hope for more.

Then one day, the son couldn’t find her. Nothing but dial tones.  

There was a reason: she was on the move again.

Seems one day she’d heard a knock on her trailer door. A high school friend she hadn’t seen in, what, 30 years? He, too, wore the outfit of a dude on the move, a man meaning business: blue jeans, windbreaker, Detroit Tigers ballcap. A West Monroe version of Tom Selleck. (Such were the ’80s: dial tones and Magnum P.I.)

They brewed a pot of coffee, started catching up. And apparently, started hanging out far from any landline.

I could not have been happier for our mother. Or for her guy in the ballcap.

That knock on the door led to 30-plus years of marriage and friendship, of travels all over the country and then some. From the press box in Omaha at the College World Series, I called her and Don in Carmel, California to wish them a happy wedding day. Through the years, my sisters and I got postcards from Montana and Maine and Canada, where momma was once ticketed for fishing without a license.

She’d gone international outlaw.

Don’s mother traveled with them often until she passed away. So did an ornery little Chihuahua named TJ, luckiest dog ever born. He passed too, God bless his loved-to-travel heart.

Mom and Don kept going.

It was a bum liver that slowed them, one Don had no part in damaging. Never smoked. Never drank. Ballplayer. A Marine and then a mail carrier for 33 years, he drew a bad card is all. No reason for it really. Nobody’s fault. They made the most of it, and that was a lot.

He adjusted. They adjusted. And most of the past 16 years were normal until they weren’t, until he died in August.

So proud of his grandsons and my nephews at his celebration service in November. They made us laugh, talking about Don and his camcorder at the grandkids’ ballgames, his photography and ham operator hobbies, Captain Drone, the weird flutes he played back in his room (these things were longer than bed slats), his fascination with the New England Patriots, his love of West Monroe’s Rebs and his love for Sweeter, the family’s affectionate name for our mom.

I appreciate the sentiment of Valentine’s Day, but when those Hallmark cards grow up and hit 80-plus, here’s what they want to be:

Part of a couple sitting in matching rocking recliners, splitting a chicken salad sandwich and Fritos, glasses of sweet tea on a shared end table, a ballgame or old movies on the big screen. Companionship forged by time and trust. Deep water.

The short story: the guy loved our mom.

For that and for many other things, a tip of the ballcap to a faithful old Tiger.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




Supe XVI cold-shoulders Bo and the Bengals

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: Despite being sandwiched by Cincinnati linebackers Bo Harris (left) and Jim LeClair, Charle Young hung onto this pass to keep San Fran’s first TD drive alive in SB XVI.

By TEDDY ALLEN, Journal Sports

Unless you were a penguin, a polar bear, or a San Francisco 49er, the week of January 24, 1982 was a miserable one in Pontiac, Michigan.

After 15 years in the warm weather climates of Miami, Southern California, and New Orleans, the Super Bowl was held in a cold weather town. A crowd of 81,270 enjoyed 72-degree comfort inside the 5-year-old Silverdome and saw the Niners take advantage of four Cincinnati turnovers, two in the red one and one inside the Bengals’ own 5, to win Super Bowl XVI, 26-21.

“Diana Ross sang the National Anthem, which was awesome,” said Bo Harris, the former Captain Shreve and LSU star linebacker who was 29 and in his seventh year with Cincinnati during 1981’s regular season. “Once you got to the Silverdome, it was pretty neat in there. Pretty cool. But outside …”

It was pretty cold. San Francisco coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana, who would win the game’s MVP, were stuck in a blizzard on a bus and got to the stadium an hour before kickoff. Stories were of fans having to walk miles through the snow, arriving teary-eyed and nearly frostbitten for the game.

“Hate to say it, but there was so much snow and ice everywhere,” said Harris last week as, coincidentally, snow fell outside his wealth management office in Shreveport, just a few days past LX years (that’s Super Bowl for “40”) since that start-and-stop, rhythmless game in Pontiac.

“We get there Tuesday and never saw the sun,” Harris said. “There were functions, which were fine, but no one knew where to go otherwise. Piles of ice and snow everywhere; it all looked the same. You couldn’t really tell where to go. Dark. Snowy…

“It was not,” he said, “a pleasurable time.”

The NFC West champ Niners, 13-3, were one-point favorites over 12-4 Cincinnati, AFC Central champs. Cincinnati had won its first two games by seven points total, both comebacks, then seven of its last eight.

“Got on a roll,” Harris said of the Bengals, 6-10 the season before. “All of a sudden, we were learning how to win.”

Like the weather outside, the game inside was wacky. Cincinnati turned it over twice in the red zone in the first half and fell behind, 20-0, a score that could have been much worse were it not for the Bengals defense, which surrendered an average of less than 20 points a game during the regular season and forced four Ray Wersching field goals, still tied for the Super Bowl record.

For the first time in the game’s 16-year history, the winners had less yardage than the losers, San Fran’s 275 to Cincinnati’s 356.

“1981 was my most complete season in the NFL, as a team and as a player, development-wise,” Harris said. “We could rock ‘n’ roll. On defense, we were smart. Not one great player but lots of good ones, guys who just did their jobs. We had a bend-but-don’t-break thing, did all kinds of crazy stuff.

“To their credit,” Harris said of San Francisco, “they had a good plan. They kept us off balance.”

Despite Cincinnati’s offensive troubles, Harris still feels the game hinged on a play less than six minutes into the game. After AFC MVP Ken Anderson had been intercepted at the Niners 11 on Cincinnati’s opening drive, the Niners faced a third-and-one at the Bengals 47. Joe Montana threw toward his tight end, Charle Young, at the 33. Harris and fellow linebacker Jim LeClair sandwiched Young’s rib cage.

“No way anybody holds onto that ball,” Harris said. “No way he catches it.

“But he did.”

It was Young’s only catch of the day — but it led to the Niners’ first TD. They never trailed.

“When you win the AFC title game, you become a champion,” Harris said. “We’d come a long way in a couple of years and had a really good team. A tough team. San Francisco was a little better that day.

“But to be a part of that, of that group that season, it’ll always be something special. Pretty neat deal …”

Similar paths, Super status for Rochell, Wilson

Team Trent: A football family affair




Let’s hear it for the girls

The tomboys of my rural youth came in all shapes and sizes, girls who could run barefoot on gravel or make riding a horse look effortless as riding a front porch rocker.

They could climb up and down the insides of tiered tobacco barns like spiders, play backyard ball as long as any boy, ride bikes and pop wheelies ’til sundown, get just as dirty as you and love every minute of it.

We knew girls could play.

But we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet.

In 1973, we watched a woman named Billie Jean King beat a man in tennis on primetime TV. A man! Then the 1976 Olympics and Nadia Comaneci came along and all us boys were wondering, “How can a 14-year-old female flip around that high off the ground and keep her balance on that little piece of wood?”

Tip of the iceberg.

Nancy Lieberman. Cheryl Miller. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Nancy Lopez. I went to school with and/or saw Louisiana Tech’s Pam Kelly and Janice Lawrence and Kim Mulkey and, at what was then Northeast Louisiana, Eun Jung Lee earn their Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame credentials on basketball courts all over the country.

More modern names are Venus and Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and the United States women’s national soccer team. The spotlight on female athletes has come a long since Wilma Rudolph.

We didn’t know it, but of course this sort of thing had been going on since Babe Didrikson Zaharias took to winning a couple of gold medals in track and field in the 1932 Olympics, then won 10 LPGA majors in her spare time. Legend has it she’d show up for exhibitions against men in this town or that, tee up a ball, back off and say, “So, who’s playing for second?”

Woman against boys.

All those trailblazers have made it easier for female athletes to have more opportunities, something celebrated today, February 2, the 36th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD), made possible by the Women’s Sports Foundation established in 1974 “to advance the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity.”

The Foundation’s mission is to enable all girls and women to reach their potential, both in sports and in life.

With a special assist from the WNBA and to recognize the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Caddo Parks and Recreation is celebrating the day with a “Her Time to Play” virtual event.

Girls ages 10-14 are invited to participate in the event, which will include a wellness check, education around Title IX, a panel discussion led by female athletes and trailblazers such as NY Liberty player Betnijah Laney, and interactive breakout rooms “to help inspire girls to play basketball, teach them to realize their full potential, as well reflect upon the importance of advancing gender equity.”

The time is Wednesday, February 2, 5:30 pm – 6:45pm. Register here, and you’ll receive a Zoom link after registration is completed.

Go ahead. Register. You’ve got next.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




Confessions of a ‘Jeopardy’ deadbeat

“And the answer is: What do you call a person who has no chance of correctly answering more than three questions, tops, on any single episode of Jeopardy!?”

“What is a Jeopardy! Deadbeat?”

“Correct! The judges would have also taken ‘What is Most any Normal Person?’”

No one is in jeopardy of me beating them on Jeopardy!, four decades old and the most-watched TV game show of all-time. The questions — or answers, if you prefer — are cast-iron tough. Harder than an acre of ash.

There is every reason to watch Jeopardy! and one big reason not to. What I hear most is, “It makes me feel stupid.” Legit response. Makes me feel more stupid. I passed feeling stupid a long time ago.

But … to those using that excuse, we offer this:

Consider an attitude adjustment. I know going in I’m not the most mature apple on the tree, so when I watch, it’s with low expectations. Extremely low. Barrel-bottom low. Again, me and millions of other stupid people have made it the most popular game show ever.

That anyone can ever actually win a match, even one, is what makes the current goings-on all that more confounding. The show’s reigning champ isn’t just beating people, she’s destroying them. Sherman through Georgia. She’s the game show equivalent of football’s 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers.

A historic champ is Amy Schneider, a 41-year-old engineering manager from Oakland, Calif., who after Monday’s just-another-day-at-the-office rout had won 39 consecutive matches and moved into second place all-time and all by her lonesome.

She’d also pocketed $1,319,800. Hello.

She’s still way behind all-time champ Ken Jennings and his 74 straight wins. If she were chasing Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak, she’d be around 30. Lot of pitchers left to face.

That said, Schneider’s got game. Monday alone, she answered questions from the categories of, among others, Government Agencies, Bodies of Water, The Crusades, Rhythm & Blues, Roman Life & Culture — quite the varied array.

As usual, she won by $10,000 — and that was after losing $25,000 in Final Jeopardy. LOST 25 large and still won by 10.

Some of Monday’s answers/questions, with the correct response in parentheses. Good luck:

“Moses’ mom put him in an ark made of this plant?” Me: “Reeds!” (Bulrush.) Dang! I KNEW I had that one …

“The mission of BLM, short for this, is ‘to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands.’” Me: “What is the Big Land Machine?” (Bureau of Land Management)

“Croatia’s border rivers, the Sava & Drava, are both tributaries of this one.” Me: “Uh ….” (The Gulf of Sidra)

“Pope Eugenius III launched the Second Crusade in 1145 with ‘Quantum Praedecessores,’ one of these documents named for its seal.” Me: “No WAY there was a whole other Crusade after the first one. No livin’ WAY!” (The Papal Bull.)

My guess would have been The Mama Bull. So close…

The show airs 4:30 weekdays on ABC. Sometimes I’ll record it and, if I’ve had a good day, I’ll watch maybe 10 minutes, just to be humbled, just to remind myself that while a contestant is winning on Jeopardy! each weekday, I barely know the difference between the Gulf of Sidra and the Gulf gas station down on the corner.

Always felt I had a fightin’-man’s chance back in the day with Match Game. The Price is Right. Even Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. But Jeopardy! is a different animal. It’s always the windshield; I’m always the bug.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




All washed up

 

We’ve all been there, up Mildew Creek without a paddle.

Such is life when your clothes-washing machine goes 10 toes up.

It didn’t really die as much as it went on strike or was just terrible at its job. If my old clothes-washing machine were a football team, it would be the Dallas Cowboys, a mind-numbing imposter.

We inherited a “water and energy efficient” washing machine; it came with the house, same as the den and kitchen sink. And it looked like a washing machine, a little white cube with knobs and buttons and a big bin.

True to its branding, it was very efficient with water — but only because it hardly used any. And if you really think about it, water is one of the main things you need to wash clothes properly. So, the trouble was, this “pretend washer” wasn’t efficient at all in getting clothes clean. You know you’re in trouble when the clothes smell worse after they’re washed than before.

You know how a wet dog smells? There’s a charm to that smell if it’s on your dog from time to time. The smell loses its sentimentality if it’s coming from your blouse or blue jeans.

Ode to a Dried-up Washer

When your washing machine
Is all washed up,
It’s a dirty shame.
You’re out of luck
And in deep poo.
(You smell bad too.)

Even your friends and family want little to do with you if it’s 9 a.m., you’re working a desk job, and you smell like old eggs or last week’s trash.

“Honey, something stinks in here.”

“Yeah, sorry; I just washed a load of clothes.”

Something’s rotten in Denmark. Not optimal.

People could never have had this type of problem before the invention of clothes. You wore leaves. They got dirty or smelly, you threw them in the compost pile and picked yourself some new leaves, either in the yard or off the rack at The Leaves Store — “Got something in a Fig or a Palm? Size 16? Petite?”

But then some nitwit invented the snap brim hat, which led to cottage industries of neckties, pants, dresses, ascots, two-tone shoes and, eventually, the clothes-washing machine.

Sigh … It was a simpler time.

It’s been a while since I’ve bought an appliance. Maybe a toaster 10 years ago. This was different. This was Big Game Hunting, a safari.

Yet it proved as easy as studying online, then showing the nice man at the store a picture. He hit F4 and maybe a Shift, typed in the model number, looked up and said, “There’s one on the truck that just pulled up outside.”

If you ain’t got timing, you ain’t got nothin’.

Quick as he could say “Twelve months same as cash,” the deal was done. The delivery guys showed up two days later, unhooked the old and hooked up the new, did it all in maybe eight minutes, could not have been nicer, and hauled my old “washer that wasn’t really a washer” away for just $30.

“You’ll take this heavy piece of junk away from my house for just 30 bucks? When otherwise I’d have to borrow a friend and a truck and lift it and haul it myself? Glory!”

Would have paid twice that. Even three times, and I’m broke as that machine was.

For another $10, he said I could buy a “nice” plot in the Appliance Cemetery, between a busted coffee pot and a Frigidaire, and he’d bury her there. I told him I was good, to dump it in a ditch if he wanted. I’m a sentimental softie, but not in this case.

We are so spoiled, all of us. Used to, clothes-washing machines never broke down. Back then they were called “our grandmothers,” have a wash tub and washboard will travel.

Laundromats took off after World War II — talk about a lot of laundry to do — and in-house washing machines became less bulky and more affordable and, thankfully, ran on electricity and not on steam. Now they’re common as a ketchup or coffee stain.

Thank goodness for that. Especially when they actually work. I don’t look any better since getting a new washer, but I smell fresh as $736.06, plus tax.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




The tricky languages of love (or something like it)

Five years or so ago, my spousal unit and I woke to a perfectly wonderful, cool and clear late-winter Saturday, a day full of hope and promise — then took a chance on ruining it all by going to a marriage workshop.

Going to workshops or seminars or couple-improvement things is OK if you’re alone. If you attend as a couple, it’s wise to wear camo. Could be combat.

Because humans are naturally defensive, there is potential, when confronting defects, for tense moments. By tense I mean something along the lines of disarming an explosive device or filling a cavity for a mountain lion.

Why do you think they sometimes call these things “retreats”?

This workshop/seminar/retreat was at the church in the sanctuary and lasted something like two hours in the morning and three in the afternoon. Cost maybe 20 bucks. A steal. Plus, free Chick-fil-a at lunchtime.

Glory!

Long story short is that it was actually really good. My spousal unit didn’t want to go as much as I did, but when it was over, we looked at what had been created during those five-ish hours and said, “It was good,” and the next day, the seventh day, we rested.

(I’m blatantly stealing material now.)

We got there 15 minutes early. They checked us for weapons — can’t be too careful at a marriage workshop — and we headed for the safety of the balcony.

It was understood that if either of us were asked to stand and say something (this is called “sharing” in the seminar game) or if we were asked to “break into small groups,” we would head for the door and try to salvage what was left of the day. I still get the shakes and shivers just thinking about being somewhere and the “facilitator” suggesting we “break into small groups.”

More like break into a fast trot.

And if I’m ever asked to say something on the spot in front of a big group, it would be “goodbye.” (At moments like this I always think of my precious granddaddy Teddy who, when the preacher asked him to pray one time, said, “I beg to be excused.” Then he bowed his head and waited for the preacher to bring in a pinch-hitter. Or pinch-prayer.)

Our leader that Saturday was a good one and an old pro, Gary Chapman, whose 1992 book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, has sold more than four million copies. He was funny and warm and the opposite of high-falutin’. He also used a couple of words (they had to do with sex) that I had never heard in a sanctuary, which made it worth the 20 bucks admission price right there.

He explained that the five love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. Find out your spouse’s main two languages and you become aware of how they wish to be loved, not how you think they wish to be loved or how you want to love them. At least that’s the way it works in theory.

Great concept once he helped us understand. Of course, we’re only human, so you can talk your spousal unit’s love language in sexy French and still be in trouble if you forget to pick up milk or diapers.

Ultimately, me writing about this is silly because I know more about how to fix a jet airplane engine than I do about most matters of the heart. But we have had no dustups around the house during the past 94 weeks of global madness, so maybe it’s luck but maybe we learned something that day.

If you’re interested at all, there is lots of info available online, plus Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, as if we needed something besides omicron and booster shots to worry about.

I can only wish you luck because while I could pretend to explain more, I don’t really know anything else so … I beg to be excused.

(P.S. My main love language turned out, Mr. Chapman said, to be a first: fried chicken. My backup was gravy. Two whole new love languages! Who knew?)

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




About those on-the-job incentives …

Last year began in bizarre fashion at the U.S. Capitol with a mass breaking-and-entering that included a guy dressed up like either Buffalo Bill or an elk that Buffalo Bill had bagged. Dude had paint on and everything, like he was going to a Buffalo Bills game.

Then it ended with the passing at age 99 of the priceless, charming, beautiful Betty White, our devilishly funny, loveable, television great-grandmomma.

So no, 2021 was not the greatest year, sort of like the maiden voyage of the Titanic wasn’t the greatest boat ride.

But there were some good things, especially if you were named new head football coach at LSU. Friends of the university paid the fired coach $17 million to leave and hired a new one — Brian Kelly of Notre Dame — for 10 years at $95 million, give or take.

That’s serious dough, but the incentives are what put this contract over the top.

For every full season Kelly lasts, he receives an extra $500,000 the next July;

If he wins a championship, he gets an extra $500,000;

If LSU is bowl eligible — and the Tigers have been every year since 1999 — he gets an extra $500,000. Because who couldn’t use an extra $500,000, right?

And all this time I’d thought your salary was your incentive, at least your main one.

Not so when it comes to corporate ’Murica. Then it’s all Monopoly money.

In addition to incentives, the LSU coach gets an allowance – 50 hours of travel each year on LSU’s planes and a loan of $1.2 million for a house and two cars, interest free (as if!).

Good for him.

Plus, if LSU wins a title and later fires him, the school owes him 100 percent of his remaining salary. If he’s fired without cause and hasn’t won a title, the school owes him 90 percent of his remaining salary, which he’ll have to figure out a way to squeak by on.

Gnaw on those numbers for a moment: this means that with no titles won — say by 2026 — the school could fire him, would have invested $50 million for nothing, and would still be on the hook for about $40 million more. Kelly’s agent must be descended from the people way back in the day who negotiated for Manhattan Island and the Louisiana Purchase.

We all know the money in college coaching has reached boggle-the-brain levels, but this amount of mostly guaranteed money for a decade is hard to conceive, especially with the new NIL and transfer portal phenomenon still working themselves out.

True, LSU has more than a few rich and loyal supporters, but that’s a lot of football money. So much is invested in the coach, it’s going to be nearly impossible to fire him. Is there any way you think this will turn out well?

(Yeah, me either.)

But good for people making as much money as others are willing to pay, and who am I to tell super-rich people how to spend their money? So … good luck.

Kelly’s giant payday inspired me to check my own contract to see if A) I had one and B) if there were any incentives in there. Like, turn in a story without typos and I get a box of Moon Pies. A small box, but a box just the same.

Or write something that makes at least a little sense, I get an oil change. Write something semi-poetic and BOOM!, Cracker Barrel gift card.

Tried. Didn’t happen for me. Kelly gets incentives; my salary — I’m a big food and shelter guy — is my incentive.

Kelly gets an interest-free car loan. If I do not pay my non-interest-free car note on time, I have to pay a late fee; there’s my incentive again — avoiding a late fee.

And I’m scared to ask the bosses about a buyout; they might cut my salary and give me more work to do, sort of a buyout in reverse.

So I have incentives. Just not the same as Kelly and a lot of other coaches.

But on the bright side in my world, sometimes I get a Saturday off. And, I’m not responsible for beating Alabama.

Contact Teddy at teddy@latech.edu




SBJ welcomes award-winning writer Teddy Allen

The Shreveport-Bossier Journal would like to welcome award-winning columnist Teddy Allen.

Starting this Wednesday, the weekly effort will run each hump day as the Shreveport-Bossier Parish Journal and all of its Journal Service sister outlets will be the exclusive provider of Teddy Allen’s column.

Teddy covered local sports for Shreveport, Monroe and New Orleans dailies from 1984 until 1990, then wrote metro columns for Louisiana Gannett papers for 30 years. For his sports writing, he has multiple times won the Associated Press Sports Editors national feature writing award and the Louisiana Sports Writers Association Story of the Year, Columnist of the Year, and Sportswriter of the Year awards.

For his metro columns, he has multiple times won both the Ernie Pyle Award as the top columnist in Mississippi and Louisiana and Columnist of the Year in the Louisiana Press Association.

Teddy’s work has been featured in the Poynter Institute’s annual “Best Newspaper Writing.” He is a 1982 and 1984 graduate of Louisiana Tech and currently works with the school’s University Communications team.

He is also in his 11th season serving as the color analyst for Bulldog football games on the LA Tech Sports Network broadcasts … mainly because he has the perfect face for radio and despite the fact that he has the perfect voice for newspapers.

TA is married to Linnea Fayard Allen. He has a son, Casey, and a daughter, Emily, who is married to Braden Hilton. His dog – and writing partner – is a Maltese named Gracie Lou.