Thirty days of crazy

My 44th year of existence ended three days after the LSU-Missouri football game in Columbia.

Now that I’ve seen LSU and Mizzou play since, the result—a 45-41 victory for the Tigers in Black—was not surprising in the least. The Bayou Bengals’ defense has struggled mightily, and Mizzou has shown enough on both sides of the ball to stay competitive in its first season under Eli Drinkwitz.

LSU was beyond dreadful in losing 48-11 at Auburn two weeks ago. It was Auburn’s largest margin against LSU since the series began over a century ago. The Bayou Bengals were supposed to host Alabama Saturday, but an outbreak of COVID-19 at LSU forced the game to be postponed.

Alabama was favored by 28 points just before the game went off the board at the sports books. This means the “sharps” think Alabama would have won by 31, since the home team gets three points for home field.

How the mighty have fallen. But that’s college football.

Mizzou is also idle this week. The Tigers were slated to host Georgia, but Columbia has been hit hard again by COVID. CoMo and Boone County have been hot spots in the Show-Me State, and it’s not hard to see why: large population, small geographical footprint, flagship university.

Texas A&M-Tennessee and Auburn-Mississippi State were also victims of COVID in the SEC, while Ohio State at Maryland was cancelled and will not be made up. Nothing surprises me anymore.

The first month of my 45th year has been quite crazy. An incident in the last 24 hours demonstrates why.

Last night at 23:15, I went to the garage, hoping to load some things into my car so I could leave early for Kansas City.

Much to my shock, the Buick was locked.

I never lock my car when I’m parked in the garage, but my mother locked it for some reason when she came home from the American Legion post last night.

I have two sets of keys, but I carry both sets. This is for hot weather, so I can dart inside somewhere and leave the A/C running. It also comes in handy when it’s bitterly cold, although I haven’t had to start the Buick on a day when the temperature was below minus-15 Celsius (10 Fahrenheit).

There was nothing I could do late last night (or in the first hour of this morning), so I tried to sleep as best I could—not well—before getting AAA on the horn to unlock the car.

I put in the service call through the app at 8:45.

Ten minutes later, my car was unlocked, but not because AAA arrived in record time.

My dad found a gray key to a GM vehicle in a desk drawer in the kitchen. I thought it was to my old Impala, but I figured it would not hurt to try.

Turn the key…OPEN! Phew.

The trouble with my Buick has been a recurring theme of the last month.

The “Service Engine Light” had been on constantly since mid-September, even though I thought I had it fixed then. Three other notices kept coming on “gas cap loose”, “engine oil low” and “low tire pressure”.

Before I could get any of that taken care of, I had another emergency with my grandfather’s old ride.

The latch to the trunk broke in the parking lot of the Schnucks in Lake St. Louis. What was stunning about this is I went to Dierberg’s in Wentzville less than an hour before that, and the trunk closed just fine.

Since it’s me, the latch would have to break while the trunk was stuffed. I somehow got everything inside the car then had to drive 30 minutes through St. Charles County with the trunk flapping before reaching Lou Fusz Buick on Page Avenue in Maryland Heights.

The latch was not available from GM, so I had to leave the Buick in St. Louis that weekend and drive a rental back to Russell. The rental was a Toyota Corolla, a fine car, but too small for yours truly. I hit my head every time I entered and exited, and could not use my seat cushion, since my scalp was butting up against the roof.

I made an intemperate remark while driving around St. Louis about how I felt people who drive small cars are clueless. I should have said people who can afford large cars yet drive small ones are clueless. Sometimes, a person can only afford a small one. Also, most Americans are not grossly overweight like me.

The good thing about the second trip to St. Louis was discovering Imo’s Pizza.

Imo’s Pizza has been a St. Louis institution since Lou Brock and Bob Gibson were starring for the baseball Cardinals. I can see why.

The pizza is served on a crispy cracker-style crust. Topping go all the way to the edge. And the slices are small enough to where intake is easily managed.

I devoured three Imo’s pizzas in the space of a week during my travels to St. Louis—two after the trunk latch broke, and a third to return the rental after the Buick was fixed.

I also had a lot of White Castle. Good stuff, but I may need a break. Lot of indigestion.

The next to last day of October was mostly spent at Cable Dahmer Buick. I waited seven and a half hours to see if the engine light and other warnings could be fixed.

After less than 500 km of driving, the service engine and loose gas cap warnings were back in full force. I made another trip to Kansas City last week. So far, the lights are staying off.

I also have discovered Springfield. More on that in another post.

I love you Caitlyn!

Missouri redux

My 44th birthday Tuesday was uneventful. That’s good some of the things which have happened on birthdays past, notably first quarter exams my junior year of high school (1992) and the quarter I was attending a “special” school for children with outlandish behavioral problems and/or juvenile criminal records, simply because my parents thought I couldn’t handle a regular school (1987). THANK GOD I was enrolled at Arabi Park Middle on 26 October 1987. Public school wasn’t my favorite thing, but given where I was in September and October 1987, it was heaven. And I met some wonderful people at APM, including my first crush, Stacie Dauterive (Seube). Stacie is gorgeous, but I now realize I crushed on her because she is so kind and intelligent.

I’ve been at Saints games (1996) and high school football games (2000). I bounced between tennis and football in 2006. There were a few years in Kansas City, with Robb and Dawn in 2015, and with Robb, Dawn and some others two years later. I was at Ottawa University with the Cox family in 2018, then rushed home late at night to beat forecast snow. Last year I left KC early to make it home for lunch.

This year, since my birthday was on a Tuesday, I had work to finish up. I stayed up past 02:00 to get it all done, got a little sleep, then did a little more work. I didn’t eat anything special, even though I still have four USDA Prime strip steaks in my freezer. I think we’ll have those for my dad’s birthday next month.

I’m back in Missouri, this time at the far end of the state—at least from Kansas’ perspective.

I planned to go to Columbia to retrieve my iPod from the Springhill Suites. Then it dawned upon me to go to the Broadway Oyster Bar in St. Louis since I had the time. Besides, I was halfway across the Show-Me State, so why not?

I haven’t had fresh oysters since Acme Oyster House in Baton Rouge when my dad and I went two and a half years ago. I seriously looked into ordering oysters online and frying them at home, but the cost and hassle were both too much.

I wanted to go to Broadway Oyster in May, but it was closed due to COVID-19. No takeout even. I could have come last Friday, but my main focus was the game in Columbia, not cuisine, even though I made the two trips to Wentzville for White Castle.

I like my oysters cooked—fried, chargrilled, baked. I have never eaten them raw. I probably would like them, but why take the health risk? I don’t know if Dr. Custer would approve with my diabetes and high blood pressure.

I fell in love with chargrilled oysters when I lived in Louisiana. It was at Zeke’s, a seafood restaurant and bar on Metairie Road in the oldest section of the Jefferson Parish community (it is not an incorporated city, but it if it was, it would be larger than every Louisiana city except New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette). The last time I was there, a little less than five months before Hurricane Katrina, I ate two dozen. A few of my older friends were stunned. They knew I could eat, but didn’t know I had the stomach for that many oysters. I ended up with the largest bill, naturally.

I had Oysters Rockefeller, the dish made famous by Antoine’s in the French Quarter, at Ruth’s Chris in Kansas City in 2008. It’s now closed, as is Morton’s. Bunch of snobbish pricks who frequent the Country Club Plaza turned their nose up at both steakhouses, since Ruth’s Chris is from New Orleans and Morton’s is from Chicago. They thought the out-of-town people couldn’t do it as well as the locals at Plaza III. Ironically, Plaza III is gone, too, so the only decent steakhouse in Kansas City—not counting Outback—is Hereford House, which I found not up to par compared to Ruth’s Chris.

I am very happy to report the Oysters Rockefeller and Oysters Bienville at Broadway Oyster were outstanding. I was an oyster junkie needing my fix, and I got it. I’m getting 12 chargrilled oysters to enjoy back at my hotel. I am seriously considering 12 on the half shell before leaving.

I had some more White Castle in Columbia on the way over. Ironically, there’s a White Castle across the street, and it does a bang-up business. I’ve had my White Castle fix for October and probably November.

Let them (LSU and Mizzou) play! MORE!

LSU and Missouri have been together in the Southeastern Conference since 2012.

Yesterday was the first time the Bayou Bengals visited Columbia, and only the second time the purple Tigers and black Tigers faced off as conference opponents.

Blame one man. He resides in Tuscaloosa.

Nicholas Lou Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, believes the world would stop spinning on its axis if the Crimson Tide did not play Tennessee every year.

Alabama and Tennessee have a rivalry which dates to 1901, less than two months after President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo. The Tide and Volunteers have played every year since 1930 except 1943, when neither school fielded a team during the height of World War II.

General Robert Neyland wanted Tennessee to play Alabama every year, knowing if the Volunteers defeated the Tide, Tennessee would be the undisputed king of southern football.

Bear Bryant, who played on a broken leg when Alabama won 25-0 in 1935 at Birmingham, considered Tennessee a bigger rival than Auburn. It was his trainer, Jim Goostree, who began the tradition of handing out victory cigars to players and coaches following victory in the series. Tennessee soon copied the tradition.

It is a vile and disgusting tradition. The Birmingham News’ website, AL.com, posts hundreds of photos of players and fans smoking cigars after a Crimson Tide victory over the Volunteers. They are glorifying a product which has killed tens of millions of Americans (although cigars have killed fewer than cigarettes). Memo to the women who smoke cigars: it doesn’t make you prettier. It makes you repulsive.

Nick Saban loves the cigars, given he once chain-smoked cigarettes. Unlike Bryant, he had the guts to give them up, but he still chews Red Man.

Alabama fans shouldn’t be lighting up cigars anyway. Tennessee is as impotent against Alabama these days as I am with the disgusting little thing between my legs. No reason to bother.

No wonder Saban wants to keep Tennessee on Alabama’s schedule permanently. He beats them all the time.

On the other hand, the world will not end if the Crimson Tide and Volunteers don’t play every year.

Conference realignment has cost us Maryland-Virginia, Maryland-North Carolina, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Nebraska-Colorado, Nebraska-Missouri, Missouri-Kansas, Missouri-Oklahoma, Colorado-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Baylor, Texas A&M-TCU, Texas A&M-Texas Tech, Arkansas-Texas, and the biggest of all, Texas-Texas A&M.

LSU and Tulane haven’t played since 2009. That sucks. Tulane bears some of the blame for demanding every other game be played in New Orleans, but LSU has a point by not wanting to give up a home game and play in a stadium which seats 30,000. Tulane blundered massively by leaving the SEC in 1966, but it could make up somewhat for it by playing every year in Baton Rouge and accepting a generous check from LSU. It really angers me LSU will play McNeese, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and now Southern and Grambling, but not Tulane.

Even within conferences, some rivalries aren’t played every year.

When the SEC split into divisions in 1992, it ended the yearly battle between Auburn and Tennessee. In 2002, Auburn’s yearly rivalry with Florida ended. LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001, but now don’t see each other but once every five or six years. Alabama and Georgia once played every year, but haven’t since Vince Dooley’s early days in Athens. LSU and Alabama was NOT a yearly rivalry until 1964. LSU and Auburn rarely played until they were thrown into the SEC West together. Same with Tennessee vs. Florida and Georgia in the East; Tennessee played Ole Miss every year before divisions.

The ACC stupidly divided the four North Carolina schools. This means North Carolina and Wake Forest don’t play every year, nor do Duke and North Carolina State. Last year, the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons played a game which didn’t count in the ACC standings just to play. Clemson also doesn’t play Duke, North Carolina and Virginia every year, while NC State and Wake Forest don’t see Virginia every year.

Before Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12, it stranded Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with the Texas schools, and refused to have even one cross-division rivalry which was played every year.

In the Big Ten, the Little Brown Jug isn’t contested between Minnesota and Michigan every year. Same with Illibuck, the turtle contested by Ohio State and Illinois. Fortunately, Iowa and Minnesota still battle every year for Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig which is bar none the best trophy in college sports.

Anyone who can read a map knows Missouri is farther west than 11 of the other 13 SEC schools. Only Arkansas and Texas A&M are west of Columbia.

Yet the SEC refused to consider moving one team out of the West to let the Big 12 expatriates join the same division.

Then-Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs repeatedly said he would gladly move to the East to allow Mizzou into the West, yet then-SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and league presidents refused.

The biggest reason was Saban’s bellyaching about the cherished Alabama-Tennessee rivalry. Such bellyaching was not as loud from Knoxville, although I’m certain some Volunteer fans want their team to play the Crimson Tide, even with the yearly slaughter.

If Auburn was moved to the East, the Tigers of the Plains would become the Crimson Tide’s permanent cross-division football opponent, meaning they couldn’t play the Volunteers every year. Tennessee probably would have picked up Mizzou or A&M as its permanent West rival.

There is no rule stating Alabama and Tennessee cannot play a game which wouldn’t count in the SEC standings. Bear Bryant did this vs. Ole Miss near the end of his tenure. Has nobody thought of this? I’m not just talking about the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. Everyone in the SEC could do this. It would be an easy way to schedule the required non-conference game vs. a Power Five team.

The above ideas are good, but definitely not the best.

I realize Tuscaloosa is farther west than Nashville, home to Vanderbilt. However, the SEC could fudge its geography just a little bit and make it all right.

Swap Mizzou and Vandy for Alabama and Auburn. There, problem solved. Alabama would have Auburn and Tennessee as division opponents, and playing Georgia and Florida would more than make up for not playing LSU every year.

Tennessee-Vanderbilt would become the lone cross-division game to be played every year, the same way Indiana-Purdue is the only one in the Big Ten. This would get teams into each stadium more frequently.

Your blogger would be pumped to see LSU and Mizzou play every year in football, baseball and softball, meaning the Bayou Bengals would be in Columbia every other year for those sports instead of once in a blue moon.

It just makes too much damned sense, so it will never happen.

Then again, Missouri sports teams have a history of being geographically misaligned.

The Cardinals played in the National League EAST from 1969-93, even though it was farther west than Atlanta and Cincinnati, which were in the West.

The Cardinals and Cubs raised holy hell when the National League wanted to align geographically when the two-divisiion format was approved for 1969. Both were afraid of (a) 27 games per year in California, which meant late start times for television, and (b) not playing in New York. NL president Bill Giles gave the Cardinals and Cubs what they wanted, giving the big “F YOU” to the Braves and Reds, which faced longer trips to California and later start times for their fans, since Atlanta and Cincinnati are on Eastern time.

Giles didn’t have the balls AL president Joe Cronin did. He told the White Sox flat out they were going into the West, and if they didn’t like it, tough shit. The Sox’ owners at the time wanted to be in the East, citing tradition, as five of the other six old-line AL teams were in that division (the exception was the second Senators franchise, the one which became the Rangers in 1972). The White Sox tried again to move to the East when the Senators’ relocation was approved, but the Brewers, who were originally the Seattle Pilots, were moved from West to East, trading places with the Senators/Rangers.

The AL should not have moved the Brewers. It short-circuited rivalries with the White Sox and Twins, and since the Cowboys were in the NFC East, and the Cardinals and Cubs were in the NL East, it wouldn’t have been too bad to keep the Rangers in the AL East.

Speaking of teams from Dallas and St. Louis, it was totally asinine the Cowboys and football Cardinals were in the NFC East. Those cities aren’t east of anything, except San Francisco and Los Angeles in the NFC.

Pete Rozelle wimped out when the AFL and NFL merged. Rather than unilaterally imposing an alignment on NFC owners, he allowed secretary Thelma Ekjer to blindly pick an alignment out of a vase. And wouldn’t you know, the only one with the Cowboys and Cardinals in the NFC East was picked.

Let’s see..the Cowboys in the East and the Falcons in the West. Brilliant.

Rozelle should have put the Cowboys in the West, then added either the Cardinals or Saints (probably the latter, since it would have preserved a Dallas-New Orleans rivalry, one Cowboys’ president Tex Schramm loved). The other should have gone into the Central with the Vikings, Bears and Packers, and the Lions would go into the East with the Falcons, Redskins, Eagles and Giants.

When the Rams moved to St. Louis, there was no problem for me with them staying in the West, although it would have been an ideal time to realign the NFC, with the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and Saints in the West; the Falcons, Panthers, Redskins, Giants and Eagles in the East; and the Central staying the way it was. At the time, the AFC was too convoluted to try to redo the East and Central (the West was great the way it was).

I’m not giving up my hope LSU and Mizzou are more than occasional rivals. Sometimes the world actually works the way it should.

Until then, I’ll start saving up for tickets when the Bayou Bengals return to Columbia in 2023. And for LSU’s trip to Lexington next year.

LSU lost. I didn’t.

My first college football game as a fan in 25 years was unlike any college or professional sporting event I’ve attended.

I parked to the southeast of the stadium behind the Hearnes Center, Mizzou’s former basketball arena and current home for wrestling, gymnastics and many volleyball matches. The walk was not bad. My dad and I had longer walks when we went to LSU games in the 1990s.

Mobile ticketing has made life so much easier. I no longer have to worry about misplacing tickets. It also is much easier to guard against counterfeits tickets. I didn’t carry a bag, even though I bought a clear bag just in case. No metal detectors, which was surprising; they have been a way of life at big sporting events since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.

I made the mistake of attempting to walk up stairs to the upper deck. Of course, a fat ass like me is in no shape to be walking all those stairs. I needed to sit down for a few minutes near the top. Once I ascended the last flight and into the seating area, I was fine.

I had no trouble with my seats being at the very top of the upper deck. I had a little shade because of a light canopy which arched over the back row, although I could feel the sun on my neck starting late in the first half.

I hated sitting in upper levels of outdoor stadiums when I was younger. My dad bought tickets in the upper deck for a 1992 Cardinals game at the old Busch Stadium, and it scared me. I couldn’t sit in the stands. I just wandered the concourse the whole game while my brother sat in the seats. That fear of heights left my dad and brother sitting in the ridiculously hot bleachers for two games at the Rangers’ home stadium instead of the upper deck behind home plate.

I was okay in domed stadiums, sitting near the top of the Astrodome and Superdome. I also recall a 2003 Pelicans (then known as the Hornets) game where my dad and I were at the very top of what is now the Smoothie King Center. Talk about a steep climb. But with a roof over my head, I was okay.

I have been to the top of Kauffman Stadium a couple of times, although my seats were in the lower level. I might try sitting up there for a game if fans are allowed in 2021.

In the row and section where my seats were, there were blocks of two seats which were labeled “allowed”, with four empty seats between. Previously, 22 people could be seated on that row; now, it was eight.

As it turned out, row 16 of section of 305 had one occupant. That’s right, your blogger. It was a weird experience being alone in a large stadium, but I didn’t mind. Nobody walking in front of me trying to get to the stairs. No conversation distracting me. No crying babies. No drunks. I could get used to this.

I remembered all the Royals games I’ve been to by myself. I should not have worried about going alone today. I enjoyed it. I kept myself busy by taking photos and texting my dad, Bill and Larry, with occasional shoutouts to Frank, Gordy Rush and Brenda. I also did the most posting on social media I have in awhile.

The game itself was quite exciting, although I would have preferred to see more defense. Those who made it to Faurot Field won’t soon forget this one.

LSU fans might WANT to forget it.

Mizzou, which was a 14 1/2-point underdog when the game kicked off at 11:07, won 45-41. That line was over 20 points when the game was scheduled for Baton Rouge, which tells me LSU would have been a 17 or 18 point favorite on a neutral field, as the home team usually has a three-point advantage in the sports books.

It turned into the coming out party for Mizzou quarterback Connor Bazelak. Making his second start, the redshirt freshman completed 29 of 34 for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Mizzou gained 586 yards two weeks after Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello, a Stanford expatriate, threw for an SEC-record 623 in Baton Rouge.

LSU’s Myles Brennan had to carry his team with 430 yards passing. The Bayou Bengals gained a meager 49 yards rushing on 20 carries. The yardage was bad, but to attempt to run only 20 times is unacceptable. LSU would never have dared to run that little under Nick Saban and Les Miles, or even the earlier years of Ed Orgeron’s tenure.

Frankly, Mizzou was the better team today. LSU was only this close because Mizzou lost three fumbles, one on a punt and another at its own 5-yard line. Those led to 17 points. Take those out, and LSU fans would have been out of Columbia much earlier.

It was Eli Drinkwitz’ first victory as Mizzou coach. Drinkwitz has gone from Appalachian State assistant to Appalachian State head coach to Mizzou coach in three seasons. Drinkwitz succeeded Scott Satterfield after he went to Louisville in early 2019. Some thought Mizzou should hire Tulane’s Willie Fritz, but athletic director Jim Sterk went fishing in Boone, N.C., figuring if it worked for Louisville it would for Mizzou.

Drinkwitz faces an uphill climb having to play Georgia and Florida every year, but the SEC is no cakewalk, even for Nick Saban. He’s got to have some coaching chops to be one of the elite 14 leading SEC programs. Unless something catastrophic happens, I would expect him to be leading Mizzou when LSU returns to Faurot Field in three years.

That’s right, LSU isn’t back in CoMo for three years. That sucks. I’ll explain in another post very soon, but let me get back to Russell first.

This had to be the first sporting event where I did not leave the seating area. I admit I moved down a few seats on the row to get out of the sun on my back, but once I arrived at my seat at 10:10, did not leave the area until the game ended at 14:45. No concession run, no restroom run. Two 900 ml bottles of water was enough hydration.

I’m overjoyed the game started at 11:00, not at 20:00 as originally planned. If it had started at 20:00, it would have ended at 23:45, and I wouldn’t have been back at the hotel until after midnight. I would have had little chance to make it back to Russell before late afternoon.

I hate to disagree with most LSU fans, but I prefer morning kickoffs. Get the game done and have time to either enjoy the evening or get a good night’s sleep.

Other than the result, it was an enjoyable day. In less than 16 hours, I’ll be back in Russell barring something unforeseen.

Going out of town today allowed my parents to be alone for their 50th anniversary. They weren’t able to do much due to the pandemic. They married only three months after their first (blind) date.

Time to get ready for bed. 0500 will come quickly. I’ve got salmon waiting for me in Russell.

The infrequent spectator

I said I would be back in less than 24 hours after my last post. I kept my promise, although it’s because I’ve had a stream of consciousness moment, not anything dealing with LSU and Mizzou.

My memory is failing me.

When I went to Wentzville and Lake St. Louis earlier today, I forgot how bad traffic on Interstate 64 west is from Lake St. Louis to I-70. I witnessed it in May when I drove into Chesterfield for my week-long stay.

I shouldn’t be too worried. After all that’s happened between 11 May and 9 October, I should forgive myself for forgetting traffic patterns in western St. Charles County. It was my third trip that way in 13 months, more than I’ve been most places, but still not enough to rise to the status between tourist and resident.

Now if I had forgotten the traffic patterns on the other side of Missouri, I’d have to worry about the old brain.

I haven’t seen an LSU football game in person in almost 17 years.

Tomorrow will be the first time I will be observing an LSU football game as a regular spectator in 25 years.

Every LSU football game I witnessed from 1996 through 2003 was in a press box. Most of them were in the old press box of Tiger Stadium (Death Valley), which was torn down after the 2004 season to make way for a new upper deck on the west side of the stadium, as well as a new press box.

The old press box at LSU was an oven. No air conditioning, and worse, no circulation, period. Breezes barely blow in Louisiana on most nights, and even if it did, there was no way to get the air circulating in the press box, at least on the second level (print media) and third level (private booths). The first level, where the radio and television broadcasters worked, as did public address announcer Dan Borne, had air conditioning. I loved lingering in Dan’s booth as much as I could, because he turned the thermostat WAY down, the way I like it.

I also watched LSU play in the Sugar Bowl twice, defeating Illinois after the 2001 season, as well as the aforementioned game vs. Oklahoma two years later.

The last LSU football game I went to strictly as a fan was with my dad on 16 September 1995, when the Bayou Bengals defeated Auburn 12-6.

Our seats were terrible—ground level boxes at the southwest corner of the stadium. Naturally, most of the big plays occurred at the north end of the stadium, including James Gillyard’s sack of Patrick Nix for a safety and Troy Twillie’s interception on the game’s last play.

On the drive back to New Orleans, my dad remarked he could not hear LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland because of the crowd noise. LSU’s band at the time was at the northwest corner of the stadium (now it’s near the top of the north end zone), but with so many members, the sound carried well across campus. Not that night.

Tiger Stadium was sold out (80,559), and the crowd had a big part in throwing Auburn off its game. That, and the revenge LSU sought after giving away the 1994 game in Auburn, made the Plainsmen’s task that much more difficult.

I’ve seen five games from the stands at Tiger Stadium—two in 1992 (Tennessee 20, LSU 0; LSU 24, Tulane 12), two in ‘93 (LSU 24, Tulane 10; Arkansas 42, LSU 24) and the aforementioned 1995 game. I also was in the Superdome stands for LSU’s wins vs. Tulane in 1991 (39-20) and ‘94 (49-25).

This will not be my first LSU road game.

That came 26 years ago, when I watched the Bayou Bengals get embarrassed 34-21 by a mediocre Ole Miss squad in Oxford. The game was nowhere near as close as the score; the Rebels led 31-0 before they relaxed and let the Tigers score a couple of cheap touchdowns.

I bought a ticket for $18 through LSU’s ticket office. I had a good seat, 40-yard line behind LSU’s bench about 15 rows up.

I had no idea how to get there and where I was going to stay. I had a car, but there was no way I was going to find a hotel room in Oxford. My dad’s original plan was for me to stay in Jackson, 360 km (170 miles) south of Oxford the night before the game, drive to the game, go back to Jackson, then return to Baton Rouge Sunday.

At this time, Baton Rouge was the farthest I had driven. I could drive back and forth on I-10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but I had no confidence going out of state.

Lucky for me, LSU’s athletic photographer, Brad Messina, was going to drive to the game instead of flying with the team like he usually did. He and Steve Franz, who later became LSU’s athletic photographer, let me ride in the back seat of Brad’s Volvo and crash in their hotel room in Memphis where the team was staying.

The game was forgettable, but two incidents in the stands which stood out.

One was where I berated Adam Young, who I worked with in LSU’s sports information office. Adam told me at halftime the game was over, and I denounced him for not having faith in his school.

To be fair, Adam had to suffer through the first three seasons of Curley Hallman’s coaching tenure while working as a student in the sports information office. That, combined with the sudden freefall of LSU’s volleyball program (Adam was the volleyball team’s media relations director from 1992-94) had worn him thin.

Two female student assistants from the sports information office, Nikki Sontheimer (now Amberg) and Rebecca Borne (yes, that one) (now Brennan) found the exchange funny. Rebecca teased me about it quite a bit through the years before things went terribly south between us.

Adam and I patched things up. His wedding to former LSU volleyball standout Luciana Santana in July 1997 was the first I attended.

I had a crush on Nikki, who was four years older. I annoyed the hell out of her during the 1994-95 athletic season, but when I saw her again after the 1996 football season opener, she forgave me too.

Now if only Rebecca will…

The second incident in Oxford came after LSU scored its second touchdown on a blocked punt.

An inebriated Rebel rouser turned to the LSU fans cheering behind him and shot the finger. Lovely.

Oxford is my least favorite SEC location. If it isn’t, it’s in a dead heat with Gainesville and Tuscaloosa. I don’t have any desire to go back.

That’s it for tonight. No, really, it is.

Time to scratch the 17-year itch

In 16 hours, your lazy blogger will be in attendance at his first LSU football game in almost 17 years.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

LSU and Missouri were not originally scheduled to play each other in 2020. The schools are in opposite divisions of the Southeastern Conference (which is stupid; I’ll get into that in another post), which means they play once every five years, as is the case with every school in the opposite division except one.

LSU’s designated permanent Eastern opponent is Florida, something which has pissed off every LSU coach and administrator since the SEC expanded in 1992 and split into divisions. LSU played Kentucky every year from 1992 through 2001, but in 2002, the SEC elected to cut the number of permanent cross-division rivalries from two to one. That meant Florida and Auburn had to end their yearly series which had been played every year since the 1940s, while LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001.

Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 from the Big 12. At first, the Tigers and Aggies were paired as permanent foes, but in 2014, the SEC saw the opportunity for a border war, and made Arkansas Mizzou’s permanent opponent from the West. South Carolina, which played the Razorbacks every year since the two joined the SEC, got Texas A&M.

LSU and Mizzou first played 1 October 2016 in Baton Rouge. It turned out to be Ed Orgeron’s first game as Bayou Bengal coach after Les Miles was fired six days earlier, four games into Miles’ 12th season. Mizzou also had a new coach, Barry Odom, who succeeded Gary Pinkel, who resigned after the 2015 season due to a cancer diagnosis. Pinkel coached Mizzou for 15 years, rebuilding the Tigers from a bottom feeder in the Big 12 back into a respectable program, not quite what it was under Dan Devine in the 1960s, but certainly not as wretched as it was under Woody Wiedenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith from the mid-1980s through 2000.

The Bayou Bengals won 42-7 in a game most notable for a melee as the teams were leaving the field for halftime. Every person in uniform was charged wtih a fighting penalty, meaning if they received another unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalty, they would be ejected and suspended for the next game.

The new rotation began in 2017 with LSU playing Tennessee in Knoxville, followed by Georgia at home, at Vanderbilt, and this year, vs. South Carolina in Baton Rouge. It was scheduled to be Kentucky in Lexington, Tennessee at home, and then Mizzou in Columbia in 2023.

Mizzou’s scheduled Western road game this year was Mississippi State; the Tigers were going to move their home game vs. Arkansas from Columbia to Kansas City. The game is back in Columbia due to COVID.

In August, the SEC decided to have its team play a 10-game, conference-only schedule. Most believed the league would simply take the next two cross-division opponents in rotation and place them on the schedule. For LSU, that would have meant Kentucky in Lexington and Tennessee in Baton Rouge; for Mizzou, it would have been Ole Miss in Columbia and Texas A&M in College Station.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and his administrative team, which includes my mentor, Herb Vincent, didn’t take that route, instead trying to balance out the schedules.

LSU, which obviously won the national championship in 2019, thus got the sixth- and seventh-placed teams from the SEC, Mizzou and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Mizzou, sixth in the East, got the #1 and #3 (Alabama) from the West (Auburn was second).

Mizzou lost its opener to Alabama at home, 38-19. LSU won 41-7 at Vanderbilt last week.

When LSU’s plane landed in Baton Rouge after midnight Sunday, plans were already in place for Mizzou’s second visit to Death Valley in five seasons. It was going to kick off at 20:00, which was the regular start time for LSU home games from the late 1940s through 1965.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature had a cauldron brewing in the far southern Gulf of Mexico which would throw everything into chaos.

Tropical Storm Delta formed Sunday, and havenby Monday afternoon, the storm was upgraded to a hurricane.

Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center in Miami released a sobering forecast for Louisiana.

The “cone of error” for Delta encompassed the entire Louisiana, with landfall between Morgan City and Grand Isle.

On that track, it would be next to impossible to fly into Baton Rouge after Thursday evening, and by Friday morning, LSU’s campus would be facing winds of upwards of 170 km/h and flooding rain. Mizzou might be able to get into town Thursday, but would they be stranded until Sunday and not be able to play?

Wednesday morning, the game was moved to Columbia. I decided I would go.

I made it to Columbia yesterday. Yet i’ve spent a lot of time burning up Interstate 70 between here and western St. Charles County.

I was dismayed to discover Columbia’s White Castle was closed yesterday and today. I would have to find something else to eat.

No way Jose.

I blew past Columbia and kept on trucking 130 km (80 miles) to Wentzville, the western edge of the St. Louis metro, to get my White Castle fix. It wasn’t until 20:30 that I got to the hotel.

Today, more of the same. Not only did I get my White Castle fixes, but I found a lot of goodies I haven’t been able to find in Russell, Hays, Salina or Kansas City.

I have not witnessed LSU play football since the evening of 4 January 2004. On that ridiculously warm and humid Sunday, the Bayou Bengals defeated Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl, giving LSU the Bowl Championship Series national championship, its first since 1958. The Bayou Bengals had to share the title with Southern California, which won the AP poll, but finished third in the final BCS poll after the regular season behind Oklahoma, which was destroyed by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, and LSU.

Since moving to Kansas, I’ve attended two forgettable college football games: Kansas 62, Southeastern Louisiana in Lawrence (8 September 2007) and Kansas State 45, North Texas 6 in Manhattan (30 August 2008). My dad and I went to the Jayhawk game; I was on assignment at the Wildcat game for the Smith County Pioneer, since former K-State All-American Mark Simoneau, a Smith Center native, was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

It will be a very interesting experience attending a college football game during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no more than 17,000 fans allowed into Memorial Stadium aka Faurot Field, masks must be worn, social distancing will be enforced, and LSU will not have its band, cheerleaders or radio broadcasters in attendance.

Lucky for me, I have plenty of yellow in my closet. I can wear something good and be completely neutral. It will be warm tomorrow, with an expected high of 29 Celsius (84 F), which will be close to the record for Columbia on 10 October.

I’ll report from CoMo in less than 24 hours. I promise. Have a good night and a better tomorrow.

Being lonely sucks as if you didn’t know already

Today points out one of the biggest problems of being single.

I have been at the Buick dealership over SEVEN HOURS now. Since I don’t have a girlfriend/fiance/wife like most normal men over the age of 25, I have to wait it out. I could have called an Uber, but that would have cost a pretty penny.

It would have been at least $80 to make the round trip to my hair removal appointment at Shoal Creek. I figured I could wait until Monday.

Now this young boy is annoying the hell out of me being rambunctious like most young boys (certainly like I was at his age). I just put in my earplugs, but the sound of his plastic dolls hitting plastic is so loud it doesn’t filter it out.

I am going to go back to the hotel when this is done and collapse if I don’t cry first. This is another stark reminder of how much my life sucks and how much worse it will be when my parents die and I’m really alone.

I blew my chance at happiness when I screwed up with Renetta. Caitlyn is too young. Brenda and Peggy are married. No other women would be caught dead with me. I tried Match.com briefly again, but I’m not paying an exorbitant amount to get nothing out of it.

I bet the car will not be ready when the dealership closes at 18:00. What the hell will I do then?

If you want to laugh at me, please do. You need to laugh. I’m wretched and deserve it.

Madness in KC

For the THIRD time in the last 43 days, I am sitting in Cable-Dahmer Buick/GMC. Service Engine Light has been on since last Friday. No problems, but that’s something that has to be checked out. Other things have popped up, including.irreperable damage to a sidewall of a tire, meaning it needs to be replaced.

Yesterday started well enough. Andy Gibb’s “An Everlasting Love” woke me up at precisely 05:30, the first time an alarm has worked for me in at least a month. Work done on time.

Then it got strange.

I drove to Brew Top in hopes of seeing Dana, but when I parked, I realized my Gateway Arch keychain was not in my pocket (I drove using the spare key). It wasn’t on the passenger seat or floorboards. Not in the trunk or my bag.

I immediately drove back to my hotel. This time, I’m staying at the new Springill Suites next to Interstate 435 across from Worlds of Fun, which is between the river and Liberty. It’s got a few more conveniences than Briarcliff—QuikTrip, Wendy’s, Burger King and Taco Bell are right down the street—but construction on I-435 south of the river is terrible, and there’s no freezer in the room, which I knew going in. The room is nicely sized, but I’m not able to freeze anything for the trip home. Not a big deal as long as.I remember to shop before leaving.

Keys were not on the ground in the parking lot. It finally dawned on me to check the cupholders.

Eureka.

Now it was too late to eat, because I had to go to Leawood for my monthly haircut and shave with Heather at The Gent’s Place.

Parking was a bitch. The city of Leawood closed all streets surrounding Park Place, the development where The Gent’s Place is located. I had to park in the garage, where nearly every non-reserved space faced the sun and was far away from the elevator and stairwell. I found a covered place on the fourth floor, but became disoriented trying to find my destination.

I said I would never go back to The Gent’s Place because of the streets, but I quickly backed off. They told me they didn’t know until the last minute, either. Good to see government still bungles royally during a pandemic.

Heather was great as usual. I won’t see her again until January because she’s going on maternity leave. She was barely showing. The only person who showed less that late into pregnancy was Courtney Cox Otto (Peggy’s daughter/Caitlyn’s sister, not Monica). At their suggestion, Camille will take care of me in October and November.

Heather has tattoos all over, and I would never consider getting one. Yet we get along wonderfully. In the past I may have recoiled, but now, it’s okay. Honestly, I have no problem with tattoos on women, but they really bother me on men. My dad got two tattoos in the Navy, and he calls it his second biggest regret behind smoking for over 30 years (he has now been smoke-free for 35 years; I’m convinced he would have died before Katrina had he not quit). My dad often wears long-sleeved shirts even in hot weather to cover up the tattoos. The one on his right forearm is not big, but it is faded badly; the one on his upper left arm is grotesque. I try not to look at it.

When I got done with Heather, I went to Cable-Dahmer hoping to squeeze my car service in, but they told me they ddin’t have enough mechanics, so I had to return this morning.

I went back to the hotel and wasn’t in the mood for anything. Other than picking up Zaxby’s for the second straight night, I stayed in my room.

On the third Thursday of September last year, I was in St. Louis watching Caitlyn and Ottawa play Missouri Baptist in volleyball. Now, I’m doing all I can not to think about all of it—Caitlyn, volleyball, Peggy, everyone else. Volleyball crossed my mind, though, since Brenda’s birthday was yesterday.

I can’t stay in Kansas City past Tuesday. I don’t have any more meds, other than insulin and the antidepressants I refilled Tuesday. My blood pressure has been running high. I’m worried.

The Chiefs play the Chargers Sunday in Los Angeles. I know what I won’t be watching.

I’m back and not better

Again, I’m sorry I went dark after my first full day in Kansas City. The trip to Kansas City was the only thing worth writing about in the last 30 days, so it was probably best I stayed off.

The rest of August was horrible for the most part. Boredom at home, a swollen right foot that required four visits to Dr Custer’s office (plus another next week), no trivia for the past three weeks (by choice) and constant reminders of just how much I suck at life.

Facebook and Instagram are used by too many people as cyberbullying sites. They are used by people who have great lives to beat up those of us who don’t. I get so sick and tired of seeing people scream “I’M MARRYING MY BEST FRIEND!”.

First, if your spouse is your best friend, you’ve got problems. It means you never have had good friends to begin with, or you’re giving up everyone else because your spouse is the only person who matters.

Second, I don’t care. You should post it only to certain people, not your entire friends list, and certainly not publicly, especially if you allow non-friends to view your posts.

Third, I don’t need to be reminded at 44 that I’m hopeless. I blew my one and only chance when I let Renetta get away. Certainly it won’t happen in these parts, where 44-year olds are grandparents, or at least have all their kids out the house.

The 101st season of the National Football League starts tonight when the Chiefs host the Texans.

I will not watch. I have to leave early tomorrow for an appointment in Hutchinson, and one of the teams makes me sicker than coronavirus ever could.

I cannot tell you how much I despise the Chiefs right now. I am sick of hearing about Patrick Mahomes every eight seconds. I get it. He won the 2018 NFL MVP. He led the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl LIV (making the Chiefs NFL CHAMPIONS, not world champions). He signed a 10-year, $503 million contract. He got engaged to his squeeze who could appear in porn movies and make as much him.

Those are empirical facts.

However, I’m sick of hearing he’s already the greatest quarterback in Chiefs history and will be one of the four best, if not the best, by time he retires.

Yes, he’s probably one of the two greatest Chiefs quarterbacks with Len Dawson, which tells you how much the Chiefs stunk at quarterback from 1972 (Dawon’s last good year was ’71) through 2017. BIll Kenney, Joe Montana, Trent Green and Alex Smith were all good for a year or two, but a lot of others were just putrid.

To me, the greatest quarterbacks played before I was born: Sammy Baugh and Johnny Unitas. Baugh also played defense and punted. Unitas threw touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games in an era where defenders were allowed to push and grab receivers all over the field.

I’ll rank Montana as the best I watched. Four Super Bowls in nine years ends the argument.

The Chiefs hype train is non-stop. It’s a given they will be in Tampa for Super Bowl LV–provided the season gets there–against either Tampa Bay or Green Bay. Hopefully everyone is wrong and it’s the Saints (I’m not giving the Cardinals a shot no matter what the “experts” say) against anyone from the AFC but the Chiefs or Patriots.

I’m going to quit now. I promise my next post will be sooner, not later.

Normal for me? Somewhat. Nebraska? Not so much.

Even with the Big Ten and Pac-12 declaring life should not go back to normal, pushing back fall sports until at least the spring semester, if not to fall 2021, I’m trying to find normal in any way I can.

Normal for me in August is a few days in Kansas City and eating in a sit-down restaurant. That restaurant is Brewtop in Kansas City, North, where Dana Tenpenney, whom I met at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa seven years ago, works weekdays behind the bar.

This is the first time I’ve been in a sit-down restaurant with wait service since I ate at Old Chicago in Hays seven months ago. My last dine-in experience was with Peggy at McDonald’s in Russell in February.

Normal included a visit to Milan Laser to continue to eradicate the legacy of my late grandfather. I don’t get why my grandfather had bear hair, my father has next to none, yet my brother and I were bears. I hope my 4-year old nephew, Luke, doesn’t end up like his dad and uncle (at least before laser treatment).

Normal includes a visit tomorrow to the fancy men’s salon in Leawood, which, like Milan Laser, closed for almost three months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring. I’ve been cutting my own hair since the last time I visited The Gent’s Place, and fortunately for me, I can cut my own hair without it looking too terrible.

I’ll never forget swiping my mother’s sewing shears one evening in June 1987 and attempting to cut my own hair while watching a College World Series game between LSU and Arkansas.. I had longer hair—the short hair arrived on Memorial Day weekend 1989–and it was awful. My longtime barber in New Orleans, Roy LaCoste, almost died laughing at my foolishness.

Hopefully normal will be getting to see Robb and Larry, some of the people at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek (especially GM Rita Roberts, Tina, Nikki, Sherman and Ashley), and Lindsay and Bailey at Minsky’s Barry Road.

Maybe normal will include a side trip to Columbia for White Castle and Schnucks, but now that I’ve learned how to cook the frozen White Castle sliders properly, it’s not a higher priority. I did most of my grocery shopping last week after I had major repairs done to my car at Cable-Dahmer Buick.

Kansas City hopes normal will be the Chiefs kicking off on time vs. the Texans Sept. 10 in the NFL season opener.

Right now, normal must seem like another galaxy in Nebraska.

In case you don’t know by now, the Big Ten and Pac-12 opted to not play sports until at least January. The Pac-12 vote was supposedly unanimous, but Iowa and Nebraska vociferously protested in the Big Ten, wanting to play. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC are proceeding for now with reduced schedules, but most don’t think the season will be played to completion.

Nebraska’s administration and coach Scott Frost, who led the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 national championship in coach Tom Osborne’s last season, is attempting to go rogue and see if it can play elsewhere, including a return to the Big 12 for this year.

That probably can’t happen.

FIrst, the Big Ten would likely hold the threat of expulsion over Nebraska (and Iowa if it tried). Expulsion would mean a severe loss of revenue for at least a decade due to grant of rights the 14 Big Ten schools signed in its latest media contract.

In short, if a school departs the Big Ten, then the Big Ten, not the school, would receive all revenue generated by media for the length of the grant of rights, which in the Big Ten, runs into the 2030s

The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 also have them, leaving the SEC as the lone major conference without one. The last school to willingly leave the SEC was Tulane in 1966, so the SEC is justified in feeling secure in its membership. Any school which leaves the SEC, especially Vanderbilt and others at the low end of the revenue scale (Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina) would be cutting off its nose despite its face.

Second, if Nebraska and/or Iowa was ousted from the Big Ten, those schools would likely be blackballed by the Big 12 from joining, lest the Big Ten threaten the Big 12 with cutting off all interconference competition during the regular season.

Third, Iowa State might block Iowa from joining the Big 12. I’m certain the rest of the Big 12, save TCU and West Virginia, harbors ill will towards Nebraska for jumping ship the same way Baylor hates A&M and Kansas hates Mizzou for joining the SEC.

Nebraska already lost this year’s College World Series due to the pandemic. Now not only is it losing Cornhusker football, but Nebraska is also losing its superpower volleyball team, which has sold out the 12,000-seat Bob Devaney Center, the former basketball facility, on a season ticket basis since moving there a few years ago.

Lincoln and Omaha are fine places to live, albeit with the same problems of every big city. Right now, it doesn’t seem like it.