Category Archives: College Football

The missing legend—and great guard play

When I last posted Tuesday evening, I mentioned about my first meeting with three LSU athletics legends, none of whom took the field for the Bayou Bengals. All three–Kent Lowe, Bill Franques and Dan Borne–are still alive and well in Baton Rouge, still proudly representing the purple and gold.

The man I knew prior to the 1994 football media day, Herb Vincent, has gone on to bigger and better things as an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. I was sadly disappointed he didn’t become LSU’s athletic director when Skip Bertman retired in 2008, but Herb, Jamey and Kennedy are very happy in Birmingham.

There was someone else I should have met at the 1994 football media day.

Instead, Michael Bonnette was at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, recuperating after knee surgery.

Michael suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in a recreational softball game earlier in August. He had just been hired full-time by Herb after five years as a student assistant and graduate assistant in the sports information (now sports communications) office. Michael had the unenviable task of promoting the LSU women’s basketball team during its darkest period, one which saw the Lady Tigers suffer three consecutive losing season, bottoming out at 7-20 in 1994-95 and nearly causing coach Sue Gunter to lose her job. Fortunately, LSU turned it around beginning in 1995-96 and Gunter eventually was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Sadly, she died in August 2005 of cancer as LSU was in the midst of five consecutive trips to the Final Four.

Michael’s bloodlines destined him for a job in the sports media business. His father, Louis, became McNeese State’s sports information director in 1966, and it was assumed Michael would replace him. Michael made his way 125 miles east and stayed there, but the Cowboys’ post is still in the family, since younger brother Matthew assumed it upon Louis’ retirement in 2011. Louis’ legacy at McNeese is secure, as the playing surface at Cowboy Stadium is named for him.

I met Michael the week before classes started. There were plenty of times I wanted to be far away from him, but the times he bailed me out of trouble and supported me far, far, far outnumbered the bad ones.

In 2000, Michael succeeded Herb as leader of the LSU sports information office and enters his 20th football season at the helm. Michael has lived through the full tenures of three football coaches, worked under four athletic directors, and has witnessed the women’s basketball coaching position pass from Gunter to Pokey Chatman to (temporarily) Bob Starkey to Van Chancellor and now to Nikki Caldwell-Fargas.

Just like the late, great Paul Manasseh groomed Herb for the job, just as Herb groomed Michael for the job, Michael has groomed his students for other jobs, most notably Bill Martin, who’s now in charge at Mississippi State. Michael and Bill are both from Lake Charles, although they went to rival high schools (Michael to LaGrange, Bill to Barbe).

Herb, Kent, Bill, Dan and Michael all deserve sainthood for putting up with me all those year. Unlike the others, Michael isn’t Catholic, so I’d have to see if the Vatican will give him an exemption.

Herb’s adroit handling of Curley Hallman’s four years of misery also deserves him sainthood. I would have gone nuts trying to deal with both sides.

##########################################################################

With this being the National Football League’s 100th season, I’m trying to compile a list of the greatest player at each uniform number.

I can already tell you two of the winners on my list. I never saw either play live, but thanks to NFL Films, I could tell they were legends by time I was 11.

Number 64 is Jerry Kramer, the author and Packers guard who was the brawn behind Vince Lombardi’s famed “power sweep”. Teaming with Fuzzy Thurston and later Gale Gillingham, Jimmy Taylor, Paul Hornung, Elijah Pitts and Donny Anderson all found plenty of green grass in front of them after defenders had been wiped out by the green and gold marauders.

It was a damn shame Kramer had to wait 44 years to get into the Hall of Fame. He should have been a first ballot inductee in 1974, or at worst, inducted by 1988, his last year of eligibility on the writer’s ballot. Thank God this was rectified in 2018, and even better, Kramer was able to give his induction speech on stage in Canton despite being 82 years old. Several men his age were unable to give a live induction speech (Hank Stram, Mick Tinglehoff, Johnny Robinson), or worse, passed away before their enshrinement. With the passing of Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr earlier this year, and Jimmy Taylor’s passing last October, Kramer, Willie Davis, Dave Robinson, Herb Adderley and Willie Wood are the last of the living greats who played for Lombardi.

Old Jerry was also a fine placekicker. In the 1962 NFL championship game, Kramer sliced three field goals and a extra point through vicious winds at Yankee Stadium, providing the margin of victory in Green Bay’s 16-7 triumph over the Giants.

Kramer, drafted in 1958 in the third round out of Idaho, missed the entire 1964 season when he needed to have slivers of wood removed from his abdomen, an operation which nearly killed him. He recovered to play four more seasons, helping the Packers win three consecutive NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. He retired following the 1968 season.

Runners-up: Dave Wilcox (49ers LB, 1964-74); Randall McDaniel (Vikings G, 1989-2001)

Number 73 was slightly more challenging. Very slightly.

Like Kramer, this man also was a great offensive guard.

John Hannah toiled for 13 seasons for the Patriots and is, in my opinion, still the greatest to play for the franchise. Sorry (not sorry), Tom Brady.

Hannah was a two-time consensus All-American for Bear Bryant at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to unprecedented offensive success in the Wishbone, which Bryant adopted in 1971 after seasons of 6-5 and 6-5-1 in 1969 and ’70. He is still regarded by many as the greatest offensive lineman to ever play college football.

Chuck Fairbanks, who took the Patriots job in January 1973 after six seasons at Oklahoma, wasted no time in selecting Hannah in the first round. By 1976, the Patriots reached the playoffs for the first time since 1963, and Hannah was a big reason, opening huge holes for Sam “Bam” Cunningham while giving Steve Grogan more than enough time to spot Russ Francis, and later, Stanley Morgan.

Hannah reached the Super Bowl with the Patriots in 1985, his final season. The Bears’ 46 defense, led by Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, proved to be too much for New England, which lost 46-10.

The Patriots won the AFC East in 1986, but starting in 1987, they went into a steep decline, bottoming out in 1990 when they went 1-15 and were outscored 446-181.

That wasn’t the worst thing which happened to New England in 1990.

Four players were charged with sexually harassing Boston Globe sportswriter Lisa Olson, and owner Victor Kiam doubled down by calling Olson a “classic b***h”. Two years later, the Patriots very nearly moved to St. Louis, but the hiring of Bill Parcells in 1993 and Robert Kraft’s purchase of the franchise in 1994 kept the team in Massachusetts.

Sadly, the good feelings about Kraft would evaporate a few years later.

Runners-up: Ron Yary (Vikings OT, 1968-82); Joe Klecko (Jets DL, 1977-87); Leo Nomellini (49ers DT/OT, 1950-63)

Severely tarnished silver anniversary

I was hoping to be headed east on Interstate 70 back to Russell by now.

Instead, I’m marooned at the Golden Q. Cassidy and Jocelyn are lovely to look at and there are a couple of pretty ladies at a table to my right, so it’s not bad.

Three inches of rain drenched Hays between 1830 and 2030. Ash Street, which runs in front of the Golden Q, is under ankle-deep water. The water is above the bottom of my Buick’s tires. I could use a pirogue. I would say New Orleans’ pumps would come in handy right now, but given the problems my native city has had with its pumping stations, I doubt it would help.

I was hoping to leave early tomorrow for Wichita. I have to pick up an Amazon order at the locker in front of QuikTrip at Central and Oliver, buy some more bleu cheese from Dillon’s on Central at Rock, and get my car cleaned of the bugs on the windshield. Since this isn’t time sensitive, I can sleep in and leave later. I’ll probably stay overnight now, either in Wichita or Hutchinson.

I have not watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High today. It was released 13 August 1982 and launched the careers of three of Hollywood’s most recognizable names: Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), Judge Reinhold (Brad Hamilton) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton). Phoebe Cates, who played the promiscuous Linda Barrett, has largely withdrawn from the public eye since marrying Kevin Kline in 1989 to raise her children.

Bravo Phoebe. As much as I’d love to see you on the screen, you’re doing much better without the limelight.

As for Ms. Lehigh (born Jennifer Leigh Morrow), she’ll be returning for season 3 of Atypcial on Netflix next month, the comedy-drama about the struggles of raising a son on the autistic spectrum. Leigh (Elsa Gardner), Keir Gilchrist (Sam Gardner, the “Atypical” young man), Michael Rapaport (Doug Gardner), Brigette Lundy-Payne (Casey Gardner), Amy Okuda (Dr. Jennifer Sasaki) and Jenna Boyd (Paige Haradway, Sam’s first girlfriend) are all first-rate. The one character I cannot stand is Sam’s best friend, the lecherous Zahid, portrayed by Nik Dodani. Along with Last Chance U, it’s my favorite show on Netflix.

##########################################################################

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of one of sports’ blackest days, as well as the day my life was altered for better or worse.

The black day was the beginning of the Major League Baseball players’ strike. The players walked out due to constant threats by owners to implement a salary cap. The NBA adopted a salary cap for the 1983-84 season, the NFL adopted one starting in 1994, and the NHL would follow suit a decade later after it cancelled the entire 2004-05 season with a lockout.

Thirty-three days after the strike began, Brewers owner Bud Selig, the chairman of the owner’s council and acting commissioner (Fay Vincent was fired by the owners in September 1992 for appearing to be too friendly towards the players), announced the entire 1994 postseason would be cancelled. It was the first time since 1904 there would be no Fall Classic.

The strike finally ended on 2 April 1995 when U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor–the same Sonia Sotomayor who now sits on the Supreme Court of the United States–ordered the players back to work under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which expired 31 December 1993.

Baseball after the strike was disastrous.

Hundreds of players became addicted to steroids. Home run totals went through the roof, with Mark McGwire hitting 70 in 1998, four more than Sammy Sosa. Both later admitted to taking steroids. Barry Bonds, who hit 73 home runs in 2001, also cheated, but he lied about it and would not be man enough to admit it. To me, Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 is still the legitimate record.

It took the new CBA in August 2002 to finally bring the juicers under control. Sadly, it looks like steroids are back, given another round of ridiculous home run numbers.

%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

A few hours after the last out of the 1994 MLB season was recorded in Oakland, my life changed, thanks to the introduction of three new people into my sphere.

12 August 1994 was LSU football media day. The media covering the Bayou Bengals at the time were looking forward to it as much as they would an IRS audit or a trip to the dentist to fill a cavity.

Hudson “Curley” Hallman was entering his fourth season as the leader of the woebegone LSU football program. In his three previous seasons, Hallman compiled a dreadful 12-21 record, including a 2-9 mark in 1992, the worst ever by an LSU team.

It appeared to get worse in 1993, when LSU started 2-5, including a 58-3 embarrassment by Florida in Tiger Stadium, a game also witnessed by millions on ESPN in an era when having a game televised at 1830 was an honor, not a routine occurrence.

Had a sane man been in charge of the LSU athletic department, Hallman would have been fired within 48 hours of the Bayou Bengals’ 35-17 loss at Kentucky one week after the Florida debacle.

Sadly, Robert Joseph (Joe) Dean was LSU’s athletic director.

Joe Dean was a great basketball player for LSU, where he teamed with Bob Pettit to help the Bayou Bengals reach the Final Four in 1953, LSU’s last trip to the NCAA tournament until 1979. In case you don’t know, Pete Maravich had only one winning season in three years on the LSU varsity, and since the NCAA took only one school per conference to the big dance prior to 1975, the Bayou Bengals had to content themselves with a trip to the 1970 NIT.

Dean was also a tremendous color analyst on basketball broadcasts for over two decades. His trademark phrase “strrrrinnnng music” was repeated by tens of thousands of teenaged boys who one day dreamed of playing for Kentucky, LSU or any other SEC school.

In 1987, Dean was hired to clean up the mess in LSU’s athletic department. LSU hemorrhaged red ink in the early 1980s under the mismanagement of Paul Dietzel, the man who coached LSU to the football national championship in 1958 and groomed his successor, Charles McClendon (Cholly Mac), who led the Bayou Bengals to a 137-59-7 record from 1962-79.

Dietzel was fired by the LSU Board of Supervisors in February 1982 and succeeded by Bob Brodhead, the one-time general manager of the Houston Oilers, and later the business manager of the Miami Dolphins. Brodhead got LSU back on sound financial footing and made several tremendous coaching hires, including Skip Bertman, Sue Gunter and Bill Arnsparger.

Brodhead, however, ran afoul of the NCAA and men’s basketball coach Dale Brown, who led LSU to the Final Four in 1981 and ’86. Brodhead was convicted in April 1986 of wiretapping and sent to federal prison.

Dean inherited new football coach Mike Archer, who went 10-1-1 in 1987 and 8-4 in ’88 , largely with players he inherited from Arnsparger, who was 26-8-2 from 1984-86. When Archer had to play with his own recruits, LSU went down the toilet, going 4-7 in 1989 and 5-6 in ’90.

Dean fired Archer with two games remaining in the 1990 season. His coaching search began and ended in Hattiesburg, where Hallman led Southern Mississippi to a 23-11 record over three seasons and several huge upsets (Florida State, Alabama, Auburn), all away from Hattiesburg.

Actually, Hallman would never haver sniffed 23-11 had not been left a present by his predecessor, Jim Carmody.

That present was an unknown kid from Kiln, 70 miles south of Hattiesburg.

His name: Brett Favre. If you don’t know Favre’s story, stop living like a hermit crab.

Hallman was clearly out of his league in the SEC in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Not only did he come up woefully short against Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M, his LSU teams lost twice each to mediocre teams from Kentucky and Arkansas, was shut out 32-0 by middling Ole Miss, and was humiliated 17-14 at home by a Colorado State team which went 3-9, leading to the firing of Earle Bruce and the hiring of Sonny Lubick.

Nobody should have felt sorry for Hallman, because many of his problems were self-inflicted.

First, he completely closed practice to all media. However, people who provided players with summer jobs were provided unfettered access to practice. Watching football practice bores me to tears sometimes, but the good men who were covering LSU regularly in 1994–Scott Rabalais, Dave Moormann and Sam King (The Advocate), John Reid (Times-Picayune) and Scooter Hobbs (Lake Charles American-Press), not to mention television and radio stations–deserved to have more access than a locked gate. If he had opened practice, maybe those covering the team would have been in his corner and been able to report credibly the team was improving despite the record. With no practice access, the reporters could only go off of what they saw on Saturdays.

Second, his brutally physical practices left the team drained. He basically took the model he was subject to when he played for Bear Bryant disciple Gene Stallings at Texas A&M in the late 1960s and copied it to the letter. Hallman held two-a-days from the start of camp until the start of classes. Actually, he didn’t; sometimes Hallman used THREE-A-DAYS. Yikes. And many of those two-a-days were in full pads. It took LSU firing Hallman and Gerry DiNardo to find a coach who knew having all of those practices in full gear was silly. I wonder how that Nick Saban fellow is doing.

Third, Hallman hired the worst assistants. Period. Of all of his assistants, I would rate only Phil Bennett, George Haffner and Larry Zierlein worthy of being part of a Power Five staff. Maybe Lynn Amedee had been at one time or another, but his two years under Hallman were a complete waste.

Bennett was the only reason Hallman wasn’t totally screwed. The Texas A&M alum was articulate. He could relate to players. He wasn’t afraid to try new things. He always said the right thing to the media. Today, most head coaches don’t allow assistants to talk to the media. Hallman would have been better off shutting up and letting Bennett do all the talking.

Bennett was the defensive coordinator in 1994 when LSU led the SEC in total defense. It’s too bad his only head coaching gig at SMU didn’t turn out well. He certainly deserved much better.

Haffner was Georgia’s offensive coordinator when Herschel Walker ran roughshod over the SEC, but he had zero talent at LSU. Hallman made Haffner the scapegoat for the 1992 season by firing him and hiring Amedee.

Zierlein was a solid offensive line coach and had professional experience in the World League of American Football. His arrival in 1993 helped Kevin Mawae immeasurably before he embarked on a Hall of Fame NFL Career.

As for Hallman’s other assistants.:

  • Thielen Smith was a standout for McClendon in the mid-1970s. Too bad Hallman scapegoated him, too, after 1992.
  • Mike Bugar was not cut out to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. He may have done a fine job in Hattiesburg, but matching wits with Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer was a recipe for disaster in Baton Rouge. Bugar mercifully left for Baylor after the 1993 season.
  • Pete Fredenburg, who was basically traded for Bugar for 1994 and coached the defensive tackles, was the victim of timing. He came one year too early, because Anthony “Booger” McFarland came along in 1995.
  • Lee Fobbs, who coached the defensive ends in 1994, was hired by Hallman to help with recruiting New Orleans, specifically the Catholic League, where his son, Jamaal, was a standout running back for St. Augustine. One year wasn’t enough to evaluate.
  • Buddy King, who was Zierlein’s predecessor, had Mawae and little else on the offensive line. He jumped at the chance to join Danny Ford in Arkansas in early 1993.
  • Then we have the three stooges. In what universe did Larry Edmonson, Rick Villareal and Steve Buckley qualify to coach in the SEC, other than being with Hallman in Hattiesburg? Buckley never even played college football. He was a cheerleader at USM! At least Edmonson played at Texas A&M.
  • The strength and conditioning program was a flat-out joke under Chris Seroka. I wish Seroka could come back to LSU so Tommy Moffitt could kick him in the nuts and show him what real strength and conditioning is.
  • &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
  • Back to 12 August 1994.
  • I was asked by Herb Vincent, LSU’s associate athletic director for media relations, to come to Baton Rouge that day to help with football media day. I had yet to attend classes, and I could not move into the dorm until 21 August (more on that next Wednesday).
  • I met Herb in July 1993 on a visit to campus. I hoped he would have a position available as a student worker in his office, and in June 1994, he gave me the good news.
  • My dad and I drove to Baton Rouge on a Friday morning. I drove up in casual clothes, but I brought dress clothes just in case. I needed them.

    Shortly after arriving in the office, I met the other student assistants: Corey Walsh, Adam Young and Shelby Holmes. Walsh, a Texan, and Young, an Alexandria native, had worked in the sports information office as students for three years, while Holms, who went to McKinley High, less than two miles north of the campus, was entering his second year working with Herb.

    Next up, I met Kent Lowe, whom I knew as LSU’s men’s basketball publicity director, having seen his name in Bruce Hunter’s book about the 1988-89 team, Don’t Count Me Out. I also recognized his face, since he was the statistician for LSU football radio broadcasts in 1992 and ’93; his picture was in the game programs with Jim Hawthorne, Doug Moreau, spotter Patrick Wright (also the voice of LSU women’s basketball) and Tom Stevens, the network engineer who tragically passed away in the Tiger Stadium press box prior to LSU’s 2000 game vs. Kentucky.

    About 20 minutes after meeting Kent, Bill Franques came into the office. I heard Bill’s voice plenty from LSU baseball broadcasts, both as the public address announcer for home games and Hawthorne’s color analyst for road games.

    Little did I know William Paul Franques would hold such a position of importance in my life. There are days I wish I could go back to that morning and call Herb to tell him I would be turning down his offer to work in the athletic department. Lord knows what I’ve done to Bill over the years. I wake up some nights in a very cold sweat thinking about it.

    After Hallman, Amedee and Bennett met the media in LSU’s athletic administration building, the media moved to the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse for player interviews.

    It was there I met another man who became entangled in my weird world.

    It took three-tenths of a second after shaking hands with Dan Borne to realize I had heard his voice plenty as the public address announcer for LSU football and men’s basketball games.

    Standing next to Dan was one of my new colleagues in Herb’s office.

    Rebecca Borne was three months removed from graduating as the valedictorian of the St. Joseph’s Academy Class of 1994. She scored 34 out of a possible 36 on the ACT test. The only reason she was at LSU and not Yale or Harvard was because of her dad.

    I don’t know why the hell Dan still wants to call me a friend. Lord knows I hurt Rebecca, his wife Lisette, his other daughter Elizabeth, and (to a lesser extent), sons Jason and David, more than one human should be allowed to hurt another human.

    Rebecca hasn’t talked to me since 2002. She hates me. And I hate myself even more for the hurt I caused her. She made it to New Haven, graduating from Yale Law School in 2006 and starting a family in Connecticut.

    **********************************************************************************

    LSU was 2-7 when Dean fired Hallman on 15 November 1994. Hallman had the class to finish the season, and the Bayou Bengals defeated Tulane and Arkansas.

    I’m sorry, but I’m about to cry. This is painful.

    No love for the Hawkeyes. Sorry (not) sorry.

    I haven’t posted for eight days. Sorry. Last week was pretty bad–well, one night was pretty bad.

    It was Thursday. My favorite trivia game comes on at 1930 on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Wednesday was typical for Golden Q, as I was the only person playing trivia.

    Thursday came hell for me. Some know it all from the Quad Cities (Davenport to be exact) who loves traveling across the country and playing at different locations happened to be in Hays.

    This person had my blood pressure through the roof. I felt like I was going to have a stroke.

    I lost the game in the last round after leading most of the way. I lost it. I was so angry at myself. I also asked the person why he had to come into Hays to piss me off.

    It was horrible. I don’t know why I was triggered but I was. Severely triggered. I exploded so bad I was asked to leave, and they should have asked me to leave. Cassie came out and tried to calm me down; she asked if I had a ride, then wondered if I were emotionally stable enough to drive back to Russell. Fortunately I was.

    I went back there Friday and Sunday. I kept to myself. Cassie wasn’t there.

    I don’t like pressure. Had it been Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday or Saturday, I would have sped back to Russell as soon as I saw the person. If I could have found another place in Hays to play, I would have. Sadly, there is no other place to play in Hays unless you’re a student or employee at Fort Hays State, where you can play in the student union. Also, the Buzztime trivia app does not support SIX, so you have to physically be somewhere with a tablet or blue box to play.

    ##########################################################################

    The invading trivia force wore an Iowa Hawkeyes hat. He reminded me of how much there is to hate about the school in Iowa City.

    The Hawkeyes’ football coach since 1999, Kirk Ferentz, is a huge douchebag. Hateful of the media, always scowling, always answering in coach-speak, always changing the subject. Ferentz makes Nick Saban look downright warm and fuzzy. Ironic, since Ferentz and Saban were assistants under Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns.

    Saban is known as a world-class screamer and is not afraid to mix it up with the press, but he also knows the publicity is good for the Crimson Tide, his players and the University of Alabama as a whole, so he willingly rolls out the welcome mat to ESPN.

    Dabo Swinney? Never met a camera he didn’t like. Clemson is in the spotlight so much some are probably sick of seeing his face. But Dabo knows the media can make Clemson a destination school despite its somewhat remote location.

    The next time you see ESPN, the Big Ten Network or another national outlet do in-depth features from Iowa City, it will be the first time since Ferentz succeeded Hayden Fry. Urban Meyer may have been totally clueless about assistant coaches beating their wives and his players doing who knows what, but he too knew the media could be a program’s ally, and Ohio State was the favorite stop of the BTN during his years in Columbus.

    Ferentz gives Bill Snyder a run for his money as the least media-friendly coach of the last 30 years. Another irony, since Snyder was Hayden Fry’s offensive coordinator from 1982-88 before undertaking the Herculean rebuilding project in the Little Apple.

    Iowa’s administration must think he walks on water. Ferentz’ buyout is ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous, actually. It makes it impossible for him to be fired short of a player or staff member being charged with rape or murder. If he had the track record of Saban, Meyer, Swinney or Steve Spurrier, then fine. But outside of 2015, when Iowa plowed through a weak regular season schedule and came within a couple of minutes of reaching the playoff, the Hawkeyes have been nothing special.

    Even worse than the monetary amount of Ferentz’ buyout is the clause in the contract which names his son, Brian, as his designated successor. Bill Snyder, why didn’t you think of that? You hung Sean out to dry by not demanding it in your contract. Now Chris Klieman has your baby.

    (I was being VERY sarcastic about the Snyders. K-State made the absolute right decision not giving Sean his father’s old job. Now will Iowa do the same, or will it knuckle under to their douchebag coach?)

    The Hawkeyes also deserve scorn for blocking Iowa State from potential Big Ten membership. It would make a lot of sense for the Cyclones to leave the Big 12, now with Nebraska in the Big Ten and Missouri in the SEC, but that won’t happen, because Iowa will never let it happen. The other 13 schools in the Big Ten could say yes, but Iowa would go to court to block it.

    Frankly, Iowa’s academic reputation is dwarfed by every other school in the Big Ten except Nebraska. Iowa’s academics are third in the state behind Iowa State and Drake. Other than wrestling, what does Iowa offer to the Big Ten? At least Northwestern is an elite academic institution. Then again, the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers…

    ##########################################################################

    LSU and Iowa have only played twice in football. Each school has one once. Both games were bowls in Florida.

    Iowa defeated LSU 30-25 in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day 2005 on a 56-yard touchdown pass on the game’s final play from Drew Tate to Brian Holloway. The Bayou Bengals would have easily won had it not been for Saban announcing his departure for the Miami Dolphins one week prior to the game. The players wouldn’t say it was a distraction, but how could it NOT be? The man who led you to a national championship only one year earlier, the man who recruited you to play for LSU, was leaving. Too bad for LSU and the rest of college football outside of Tuscaloosa, Saban didn’t last too long in the NFL.

    Nine years later, the Bayou Bengals bested the Hawkeyes 20-13 in a completely forgettable Outback Bowl. I slept through most of it. Of course, Les Miles still had a grudge against Iowa from all those years as a player and assistant coach at Michigan, so that felt good.

    There is a much more memorable skirmish between the LSU and Iowa programs. It did not take place on the field, and it was 46 years before they met in Orlando. More on that in a later post.

    ##########################################################################

    Middle of an unforced trivia timeout. Old Chicago’s servers are down. Oh well. I’ll get back to my hotel room in Salina and play deep into the night, thanks to the close proximity of Buffalo Wild Wings.

    ##########################################################################

    Happy birthday Peggy! You look fabulous. Don’t ask me her age. I will not tell.

    Feb. 25: Filipinos and football

    When I was much younger, February 25 produced two moments I’ll always remember hearing about when they first took place. They happened a year apart.

    The first was in 1986, when Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines, ceding control of the island nation to Corazon Aquino, who held the plurality of votes in the country’s presidential election.

    Marcos, whose loyalists assassinated Aquino’s late husband, Ninoy, in August 1983, attempted every trick in the book to rig the election in his favor, the same way Nicolas Maduro did in Venezuela last year, the same way Robert Mugabe did in Zimbabwe in 2008, the same way dictator after dictator has done through time.

    Fortunately for Filipinos, Marcos was not as stubborn and stupid as Maduro has been in Venezuela, and he and kleptomaniac wife Imelda got the hell out of Manila. Sadly, they received asylum in the United States, which had been the biggest supporter of Marcos’ brutal regime, simply because Marcos abhorred communism. It was fine from 1966, when Marcos took over, through early 1972, but became very problematic when Marcos declared martial law later that year and made himself president for life.

    Aquino’s victory brought full democracy back to the Philippines, and the country has largely been peaceful for the last 33 years. Corazon Aquino’s son, Nonoy, is now president.

    February 1986 was a volatile month. The volatility started January 28 when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff at Cape Canaveral, killing six astronauts and school teacher Christa McAuliffe. Two other countries besides the Philippines were rocked by violence in that month: Haiti, where Baby Doc Duvalier was overthrown and fled after 15 years of rule (and after over 30 years of Duvalier family rule); and Sweden, where Prime Minister Olof Palme was assassinated outside a Stockholm theater.

    March 1986 was better. LSU made an unexpected run to the men’s basketball Final Four, and the Bayou Bengal baseball team rose to #1 in the polls on their way to their first College World Series.

    Exactly one year after Corazon Aquino brought hope to a nation, a college football team had all hope taken away.

    The first thing my brother and I did when we got home from school February 25, 1987 was turn to ESPN. After watching the morning news that Wednesday, we knew something big would happen.

    Indeed, the football program at Southern Methodist University (SMU) was handed the NCAA’s Death Penalty, meaning the Mustangs would not be able to play at all in 1987. The NCAA opened the door for SMU to play only road games in 1988, but two weeks later, the school announced it would not return to the field until 1989.

    SMU became the third major college to have a big-time sport shut down by the NCAA.

    Kentucky had its men’s basketball program shuttered in 1952-53 by a gambling scandal which involved two of the best to ever play for Adolph Rupp, Alex Groza and Ralph Beard.

    In August 1973, the NCAA whacked the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) for numerous violations, including cash payments and falsifying transcripts. The violations were so severe the NCAA wanted to expel USL from the organization, but instead, the Ragin Cajuns’ men’s basketball program was shut down for two seasons, and the school’s other programs were ineligible for championships in the 1973-74 and 1974-75 school years.

    SMU was guilty of numerous egregious violations of NCAA rules under coaches Ron Meyer (1976-81) and Bobby Collins (1982-86). Hundreds of players were paid, the biggest no-no according to the NCAA. Eric Dickerson, the Hall of Fame running back with the Rams and Colts, was given a sports car to sign with SMU after he had been all but locked up by Texas A&M. Another stud running back, Craig James, was offered money, and his girlfriend (later wife) was given a cushy job in Dallas; the move kept James from leaving Texas and playing for Bear Bryant at Alabama. They weren’t paid the most, but they became the most famous players to be caught, since they were standouts in the NFL and played on an SMU team which went 11-0-1 in 1982 and finished second in the polls behind Penn State.

    My brother and I were used to scandals involving college athletics. Two years prior to the SMU case, Tulane shut down its men’s basketball program due to point shaving by numerous players. All-American John “Hot Rod” Williams was tried but acquitted, and he went on to a lengthy NBA career.

    Tulane president Dr. Eamon Kelly intended to never, ever bring back men’s basketball, a decision which drew scorn from the local media, including The Times-Picayune, the city’s newspaper. The T-P’s esteemed columnists, Bob Roesler and Peter Finney, blasted Kelly for his rash and harsh decision, saying while the cancer needed to be cured, it did not require the patient to be killed.

    SMU football returned in September 1989. Less than three months later, so did men’s basketball at Tulane.

    Today was the 40th anniversary of the cancellation of the Bacchus parade due to a strike by the New Orleans Police Department. Ron Howard, who was then starring in Happy Days, was scheduled to be Bacchus, but instead he rode on a float in the Superdome at an event for krewe members.

    Don’t ask me about February 25, 1995. Let me just say I was in a place I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

    It’s almost February 26, so that’s all for now.

    Two days late. What’s new, pussycat? (Other than the year)

    So much for posting every day in 2019. I was extremely lazy the past two days. Actually, the past three. Too little sleep. Too much junk food. I’m still not feeling up to speed.

    The last two weeks of 2018 had enough trouble for two months. Let’s hope that doesn’t repeat in 2019.

    Of course, there was the fiasco with the person who didn’t appreciate my wishes for a Merry Christmas. I’ve tried to forget about it, or at least not bring it up until I see Crista again, which happens to be at 0900 tomorrow.

    After 7 1/2 years and 236,000 miles, my Chevrolet gave out. It didn’t leave me stranded, but it gave me enough difficult to convince my father to transfer the title on my grandfather’s Buick LeSabre to me.

    It had been planned for years. My grandfather’s vision has continuously deteriorated over the past 25 years, and now it is to the point where he cannot see well enough to drive. The Kansas Department of Revenue, which is in charge of processing driver’s licenses, told him his vision was not good enough to keep him on the road. He had been banned from night driving since 2010 and restricted to the city limits of Russell since 2012, but now, he can’t drive, period.

    My grandfather’s female companion, Betty, had been driving the Buick, but sadly, she passed away from cancer in October. As soon as that occurred, my father began keeping the Buick at my grandfather’s old shop on East 12th Street.

    I was driving to Salina last Friday in the Chevrolet, but when I got to the Wilson exit on Interstate 70, the engine all of a sudden began to power down. There was a message that my traction control system had failed, and that the car needed to reduce power to the engine.

    I turned the car off and back on at the Sylvan Grove exit, but still the engine power was down. I drove for 10 miles westbound at 45 to 50 miles per hour (70-80 km/h) and it was scary. I was unhappy I was slowing the flow of traffic, but what else could I do? Finally, I pulled off again at Dorrance, let the car sit for a couple of minutes, and while the service engine light was still on, the engine was back to full power and I drove back to Russell.

    That afternoon, my father and I got the paperwork done to transfer the Buick to me. It’s a 2004 LeSabre Limited, with leather interior, heated seats, satellite radio and most of the same accoutrements the Chevrolet has. This is the first car I’ve had since the Oldsmobile without a spoiler on the trunk, and the first since the Oldsmobile where the shifter is on the column and not the floor. Oh well.

    As it turned out, I accidentally threw my iPod in the trash when I cleaned out the Chevrolet. I frantically looked for it through all the stuff I took out, but no luck. I have a new one on reserve at the Apple store in Leawood I’ll pick up tomorrow. At least all of my music is secure on my iCloud and computer.

    The Buick is so ancient it has a cassette deck. However, it has no plug-in for the cable to go from the iPod to the radio like the Chevrolet did. Fortunately, there is a cassette adapter which will allow sound to come through the iPod to the car speakers. If that weren’t available, I would have had to get a new radio.

    My new iPad arrived 24 hours ago. It’s fancy. Huge screen, great video and sound. I was able to give my old one to my parents so they can stream Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

    I left the house at 0830 because there was a plumber working on the sink in our kitchen. Stopped at SportClips to see Amber, drove to Wichita to go to the bank, then rocketed back up I-135 to stop at Buffalo Wild Wings for trivia, which I haven’t done since August. Leaving at 2030 because I have the appointment with Crista.

    Alabama and Clemson are playing for college football’s national championship Monday. Again. Third time in the last four seasons. It will be that way until either Nick Saban retires, which will leave another school to fill the vacuum. Clemson, meanwhile, should be there for at least another 20 years, because Dabo Swinney is much younger and is having too much fun.

    I’m happy LSU beat Central Florida. I am beyond fed up about UCF bragging about its long winning streak, the American Athletic Conference whining about how it should be treated as a power conference when it clearly is not, Danny White (UCF’s athletic director, not the former Cowboys quarterback) bitching about how power schools won’t play him in Orlando….blah blah blah. ENOUGH.

    Why should Florida give up a home game in its 92,000-seat stadium to play UCF in its 44,000-seat facility in Orlando? The Gators were offering a 2-for-1 with the Knights, which I think is quite generous. South Florida accepted the offer. Yet UCF thinks one undefeated season gives it the right to make demands when writing contracts. Okay then.

    In his early years at Florida State, Bobby Bowden played six or seven road games consistently until the mid-1980s, exposing the Seminoles to numerous hostile environments, using the large paychecks FSU received for playing at LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, Pittsburgh and Michigan. The only schools the Seminoles played home and home in those days were Florida and Miami.

    UCF, meanwhile, has its feelings hurt because Florida doesn’t feel like giving up millions in revenue in the name of fairness. Schools are not in the business of losing money. Florida has every right to tell UCF to take its offer or leave it.

    I did not follow through on my vow to not watch college football. However, I’m not sad the season ends Monday. I can do without hearing about Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide for a few months.

    Nobody in Kansas has been paying attention to college football anyway. It’s all about basketball. Yippee.

    I scored a perfect 15,000 in my first trivia game of 2019. It’s not an omen. But imagine if it were.

    November ends with a flurry

    I spent SIX HOURS at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa yesterday, more time I’ve spent there in a single day in a long, long time. Finally, the restaurant has new tablets to play trivia after saying for over a year it was getting new ones. The first one I used locked up on me after 20 minutes, and I was logged off the second one a couple of times, but after 1415, I was good.

    Robb and Theresa showed up for a couple of hours. I hadn’t seen Robb since the day before my birthday, which is a long time, although I’ve gone longer without seeing him.

    Three big pieces of news happened yesterday. Well, two big pieces happened and one didn’t.

    The one that didn’t involved Kansas State and its fossilized football coach.

    Bill Snyder is still the football coach of the Wildcats, despite calls from most respected members of the media in Kansas and Kansas City and most Wildcat fans for Snyder to call it a career.

    Snyder was expected to meet with K-State athletic director Gene Taylor Wednesday. No meeting. Then Thursday. No meeting. Then Friday. No meeting. Today, Snyder is acting like he will be the coach in 2019, hosting recruits at the Vanier Football Complex, the impressive facility at the north end of Bill Snyder Family Stadium which was considered nothing more than a pipe dream when he was hired 30 years ago Friday.

    Kevin Kietzman, who hosts the 1400-1800 show on WHB 810 AM in Kansas City weekdays, has advocated for Jim Leavitt, the former South Florida coach who was once an assistant under Snyder, to be the new Wildcat leader. Leavitt, currently the defensive coordinator under Mario Cristobal at Oregon, had a brutality charge leveled against him in 2009 which led to his ouster at USF. The details are murky, and while he would not be my first choice, he is far more palatable than the option Bill Snyder wants.

    Of course, Bill Snyder wants his pride and joy, son Sean, to be his successor. Sean Snyder was an All-American punter under his father during Bill’s first four seasons in Manhattan, and has been at K-State ever since. He has NEVER been an offensive or defensive coordinator. He has NEVER even been a regular position coach, instead coordinating the Wildcat special teams for the last 26 seasons (Sean was kept on by Ron Prince during his three seasons).

    If Bill really wanted Sean to succeed him, he should have given him full responsibility over one side of the ball when he returned in 2009. Better yet, Bill should have encouraged Sean to branch out and become a head coach somewhere else. He could have done it at one of the four Division II schools in Kansas (Fort Hays State, Emporia State, Pittsburg State, Washburn), or a Division I school (FBS or FCS) outside the Power 5.

    Instead, Sean has stayed inside the cocoon working for daddy, refusing to even INTERVIEW for another position. It smacks of pure nepotism. It’s as if Sean believes the head coaching position at K-State is his birthright. It isn’t.

    This reminds me of the situation at Texas after Darrell Royal retired in 1976. I wasn’t born until the middle of the 1976 college football season, so it doesn’t remind me per se, but I read about this in the early 1990s.

    Royal lobbied the Texas Board of Regents hard to name his defensive coordinator, Mike Campbell, as his successor, but the board rejected Royal’s suggestion and instead hired Fred Akers, who coached defensive backs on the Longhorns’ 1969 and 1970 championship teams. The reason: Akers left Austin to be the head coach at Wyoming in 1975 and ’76, leading the Cowboys to the Western Athletic Conference championship in the latter season. Campbell had no head coaching experience. Akers went 86-34-2 in 10 seasons at Texas, but was fired after going 5-6 in 1986.

    I believe Snyder will coach the Wildcats through spring practice and fall camp. He’ll lead the team in the season opener against Nicholls State (the team which beat Kansas in this year’s season opener). He will announce his retirement to the team at halftime. When the game is over, Snyder will be carried off on his player’s shoulders. When the team reaches the locker room, Bill will find his wife, Sharon, and the two will walk straight out of the Vanier Complex into a waiting limousine. Sean will go to the press conference and announce he’s in charge.

    It might be a little far-fetched this could happen without Taylor and K-State President General Richard Myers knowing, but stranger things have happened.

    If you’ve read my blogs, you’re aware I don’t worship Snyder like many in Kansas do. In fact, I find him to be grossly overrated. But I won’t go into detail again.

    The thing which DID happen to affect the sports scene in these parts involved Kareem Hunt, who went from NFL rushing champion to unemployed in the space of 11 months.

    The Chiefs star was released at 1900, six hours after TMZ released video of a February incident in the lobby of a Cleveland hotel which saw Hunt push away, then strike, a 19-year old woman. Hunt lied to the Chiefs and told Clark Hunt, Brett Veach and Andy Reid the incident was nothing to worry about and it wasn’t serious.

    Hunt obviously did not listen when his high school history teacher lectured on Watergate. Yes, what Hunt did was terrible and he should have been punished. But covering it up and openly lying about it got him in much more trouble than he could have dreamed of.

    Had Hunt told the truth, he would have likely been suspended. That would have been the bad news. The good news would have been he probably would still be employed by the Chiefs, who undoubtedly would have paid to get Hunt the help he needed to prevent this from happening again. He might not have been able to use the team facilities to keep in shape, but I’m sure the Chiefs would have reimbursed the expenses of a private trainer and gym membership.

    Hunt is a PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE. In the United States, professional athletes are under the microscope constantly, which says this country is screwed up, but they know once they put on an NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL uniform, they are immediately subject the same scrutiny as an amoeba under an electron microscope.

    Kareem Hunt has nobody to blame but Kareem Hunt for his unemployment. He won’t be unemployed long, because undoubtedly some team will claim him on waivers. If the Browns have the chance to claim him, he’ll be playing behind Baker Mayfield beginning next season, since (a) Cleveland GM John Dorsey drafted Hunt in Kansas City, and (b) Hunt grew up in Willoughby, an eastern suburb of Cleveland.

    The much more important news of Friday came at 2230, when it was announced George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President of the United States, passed away at 94.

    Death is always sad, but in this case, nobody will be sad for too long. President Bush lived a wonderful life, and now he is joining his soulmate, Barbara, who passed away earlier this year.

    What did President Bush not do? Fighter pilot in World War II. Oil tycoon. U.S. Representative. Chairman of the Republican National Committee. US Ambassador to the United Nations. CIA Director. Vice President. President. Father of a President, Grandfather. Great grandfather.

    Of course, there will be a state funeral at the National Cathedral in Washington, the same way one was held for Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford (Richard Nixon declined the state funeral, instead holding a simple service at his presidential library in. Yorba Linda, California). Then Bush will be buried next to Barbara at his library at Texas A&M, meaning the Bushes will be about the 13th and 14th most prominent figures buried on the A&M campus, trailing all the Revile mascots through the years. Just kidding.

    I’m guessing George W. Bush will speak at the funeral. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama might. I don’t know about the current Commander in Chief. Given the elder Bush’s love of sports, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few sports figures speak in College Station. Among my guesses would be Nolan Ryan (George W owned the Texas Rangers before he was elected Governor of Texas, Ryan played for the Astros, and now he’s an executive in Houston), Justin Verlander (George HW and Barbara were often spotted in the very front row behind home plate at Minute Maid Park during Astros games) and Jimbo Fisher.

    RIP, President Bush. You’ve earned that right and then some.

    Midway through the second quarter of the Big 12 football championship game, Texas leads Oklahoma 14-6. SIX POINTS in 23 minutes? Did the Sooners leave their offense in Norman?

    Oops, check that. Sooners just scored a touchdown. Now 14-13 Longhorns with five minutes left before halftime.

    November 18–don’t save the date

    For the first time since a lost weekend 13 1/2 months ago, I am in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In fact, I’m at the same hotel in St. Peters, about 50 kilometers west of the Gateway Arch and the Mississippi River. 

    I had no intentions of stopping in Kansas City this time. I thought about dropping anchor in Columbia, but felt good enough to keep going. I made sure not to eat after breakfast so I had the proper appetite for White Castle. 

    I went to two different grocery stores in St. Peters, Schnucks and Dierberg’s. Selection is much better than anything in Kansas City, except for the bread, and certainly better than anything in Hays, Salina or Wichita. I still cannot find the poppy seed hot dog buns. I bought the last pack in Columbia last week, but struck out in St. Peters tonight. Try again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have to stop in Columbia to see if they’re restocked at Schnucks. 

    November 18 holds bad memories for a lot of people.

    On November 18, 1997, I got into a very petty and very ugly argument with Rebecca Borne (now Brennan), whom I had a crush on throughout my time at LSU. It was over class presentations, and I got very upset with Rebecca when her group wasn’t able to make their presentation on time. Her group wanted to go before my group, and I told her I wouldn’t do it. The instructor, Laura Klaus, tried to calm me down, but I was over the edge. I skipped my 0900 class and hurried to the athletic department, where I lost it. 

    There were two historical events on November 18 which are best forgotten. 

    Sunday was the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, when Marxist cult leader Jim Jones ordered 900 followers in Guyana to drink Flavor-Aid laced with cyanide. Those who refused to drink the deadly cocktail had the cyanide injected into their veins. Prior to the mass suicide, Jones’ henchmen murdered U.S. Representative Leo Ryan (D-California) and members of an NBC News crew. 

    Jones was enabled by Harvey Milk, the infamous homosexual member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and San Francisco mayor George Moscone. Milk and Moscone shared Jones’ radical leftist views, and through Milk and Moscone, Jones charmed his way into the inner circle of President Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, Vice President Mondale, future San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, who was then the Speaker of the California Assembly, as well as Hollywood elite, namely Jane Fonda and her anti-war zealots.

    Just how far to the left were Jones, Milk and Moscone? Their leading opposition on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors came from Diane Feinstein. Yes, THAT Diane Feinstein. Apparently, Feinstein was too “conservative” for the likes of the grossly corrupt Milk, who lied about his service in the U.S. Navy (he claimed he was dishonorably discharged for his homosexuality, which was totally false; he was honorably discharged) and demonized anyone who dared oppose gay rights ordinances in San Francisco and legislation in Sacramento. 

    Before Milk could be humiliated for his close association with Jones, he and Moscone were assassinated nine days after the Jonestown massacre by former Supervisor Dan White, who was forced to resign from the board due to financial difficulty and was denied renomination, thanks to Milk’s badgering of Moscone. 

    Seven years after Jonestown, Joe Theismann’s football career ended in horrific fashion when he suffered a grotesque broken leg when his Redskins hosted the Giants on Monday Night Football. 

    On the fateful play, Harry Carson grabbed a hold of Theismann’s arm, but missed. As the Redskins quarterback sighted his Hall of Fame wideout, Art Monk, Lawrence Taylor caught him from behind.

    Taylor’s knee crushed’ Theismann’s tibia and fibula. LT was so horrified he frantically motioned to the Redskin bench that Theismann was really, really hurt.

    Theismann’s career ended right then and there at RFK Stadium. The Redskins recovered to win Super Bowls XXIII and XXVI under Joe Gibbs, whom I regard as the best NFL coach I’ve seen, since he won three Super Bowls with four different quarterbacks: Theismann in XVII, Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams in XXII, and Mark Rypien in XXVI. Can you imagine if Gibbs would have had Dan Marino or John Elway for his entire tenure, at least after Theismann? It wouldn’t have been fair. 

    Thirty-three years to the day after Theismann’s career ended, Alex Smith’s career might well have come to a screeching halt. 

    Smith suffered an injury described as bad as Theismann’s in the Redskins’ loss to the Texans Sunday. If I were him, I would retire; he’s set financially, and he will do a tremendous job as an analyst should he choose that path. 

    There was happier news Sunday. 

    Leslie Edwin Miles is once again a college football coach. Miles was introduced Sunday as the new leader of the Kansas Jayhawks.

    The best thing about this? Besides Miles coming to Lawrence, it’s we didn’t hear too many idiots wanting to bring back Mark Mangino. Mangino is a steaming pile of feces as far as I’m concerned. 

    I’ll have more on Miles in an upcoming post. Right now, I’m beat. Good night. 

    Red Sox, it’s yours to lose; Saban vs. Snyder is a pipe dream; I can’t advocate freeing Devin White

    Boston won again last night. The Red Sox are now halfway home to their fourth World Series title this millennium following a 4-2 victory.

    The Red Sox are, as Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic said often during the NFL season, a Stone Cold Lead Pipe Lock.

    The last five teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series have won in either four or five games. The roll call: 2004 and ’07 Red Sox, 2010 and ’12 Giants, 2015 Royals. Only the 2010 Rangers and 2015 Mets managed to win a game in their home park.

    The 2001 Yankees are the most recent team to fall behind 2-0 (to the Diamondbacks in Phoenix) and at least get the series back to where it started. That year, the home team won EVERY game, the same way it occurred in ’87 (Twins over Cardinals) and ’91 (Twins over Braves).

    In 1998, ’99 and 2000, the Yankees won the first two games of the series and it never returned to where it started. In ’98 and 2000, the series began in the Bronx; in ’99, the Yankees won the first two in Atlanta, then the next two at Yankee Stadium II.

    Only three times has a team lost the first two games at home and come back to win: 1985 Royals, ’86 Mets, ’96 Yankees.

    The Dodgers are down 2-0 for the fourth time since making their first World Series appearance representing Los Angeles. In 1965 (vs. Minnesota) and ’81 (vs. Yankees), the Dodgers won all three games at Chavez Ravine, then won the series on the road (Game 7 in ’65, Game 6 in ’81). In 1966, the Dodgers lost twice at home to Baltimore and were cooked; the Orioles won a pair of 1-0 games in Maryland. Shortly thereafter, Sandy Koufax, who beat the Twins in Game 7 of ’65 on two days rest, retired.

    In 1955, the Brooklyn Dodgers were behind 2-0 after losing twice in the Bronx. The Bums won all three at Ebbets Field, only to lose Game 6 back in the Bronx. Fortunately for the Brooklynites, Johnny Podres pitched the game of his life to give the Dodgers their first world title.

    The next year, the Dodgers took a 2-0 lead at Ebbets Field. To nobody’s surprise, the Yankees won all three in the Bronx, with the last of those three being Don Larsen’s perfect game. Brooklyn won Game 6 back at home, but the Yankees pummeled the Dodgers 9-0 in Game 7 in the last World Series game in Flatbush.

    The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004 and the Rockies in ’07, but they were up 2-0 on the Mets in ’86 going back to Fenway. The denizens of Queens won Games 3 and 4 before Boston won Game 5. Then you know what happened next…Bill Buckner.

    The Dodgers won’t be going back to Fenway. Not this season at least. It’s over. Boston will have a long flight to celebrate its latest World Series championship, much the same way the Bruins had a transcontinental journey from Vancouver when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011, or the Celtics after vanquishing the Lakers in 1962, ’68 and ’69.

    The Patriots have never played in a Super Bowl in California. Three in New Orleans, two each in Houston and Phoenix (technically Glendale), one each in Minneapolis, Jacksonville and Indianapolis. I would have loved to be on the flight back from Tempe after the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. I’m sure it was tons of fun. If that were the case, I’ve got a beachfront house under construction in Russell.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Speaking of Bill Belichick, I’m sure I would pee in my pants if I were anywhere near him or Nick Saban. Actually, I got pretty close physically to Saban during media day at the Sugar Bowl 15 years ago when LSU played Oklahoma for the national championship. People say Belichick and Saban are different people away from football. I don’t know either man personally, so I can’t tell.

    If I did meet Saban, I would love to ask him about how he game planned at Michigan State for facing Iowa. When Saban was the defensive coordinator in East Lansing (1983-87), the Hawkeyes’ offensive coordinator was none other than Bill Snyder. Saban went to the NFL in 1988, Snyder’s last year in Iowa City, and ’89, when Snyder took over at K-State. Their paths last crossed in 1987, when Michigan State went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965. Iowa went to Pasadena in 1985.

    Of course, you cannot convince anyone in Kansas (minus Jayhawk fanatics) that there is a college football coach greater than Bill Snyder. I’m not denying Snyder has done great things at Kansas State. However, I am not buying into the narrative of him being the best coach ever.

    I will say one thing: Saban and Snyder are 180 degrees apart when it comes to scheduling.

    Saban wants to play all Power Five teams and nine conference games instead of eight. He would rather not play the ‘buy games’ to give the fans much more bang for their buck, but it isn’t feasible if nobody else wants to do it. Until every other SEC school agrees to play only Power Five teams, Saban simply is stuck.

    The SEC and ACC should have to play nine conference games. If the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are doing it, the other two should have to as well. I honestly think the College Football Playoff committee should seriously penalize SEC and ACC schools until (a) they play nine conference games or (b) cut the crappy teams and play at least two Power Fives in non-conference.

    I’m not the biggest Saban fan, but I applaud the man for willing to put his considerable money where his mouth is, not backing down from the best.

    Snyder would rather load up his schedule with cupcakes and lesser lights, the fans be damned. He doesn’t mind feeding Wildcat faithful filler until Big 12 season goes along. I’m sure he was royally pissed when the Big 12 required a full round-robin schedule following the loss of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M, and the addition of TCU and West Virginia. Snyder wanted two five-team divisions so he could schedule at least one, maybe two, more softies. At least the Big 12 had the foresight to ignore him.

    Because of that, Saban and Snyder will never face off unless they are matched in a bowl game. No chance Snyder wants to take the Wildcats to Tuscaloosa. None. And no way K-State gets into Alabama’s ionosphere for a bowl game, so the Saban vs. Snyder dream match will have to remain a relic of the old Big Ten, when the conference actually had 10 teams.

    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

    As for Saban’s current team, Alabama visits Baton Rouge a week from Saturday for another apocalyptic game, at least for LSU fans. Crimson Tide rooters really could care less, because as Bear Bryant famously said, he would rather beat the Cow College (Auburn) once than Notre Dame (or LSU or just about anyone else) ten times.

    LSU fans have been in a tizzy since about 2100 Saturday, when All-SEC linebacker Devin White was ejected for targeting on a hit against Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. With just under five minutes remaining and LSU leading 19-3, White was called by referee John McDaid for leading with his helmet and hitting Fitzgerald below the face mask, which is the definition of targeting.

    It appeared White attempted to hold up, and he led with a two-hand shove, not a launch with the helmet. It was a very, very questionable targeting. Yes, White should have been penalized, but ejecting him was probably over the top.

    The worst thing about a targeting call in the second half is that player is suspended for the first half of the next game. This means White will be a spectator or held in the locker room during the first minutes of the tussle between the Bayou Bengals and Crimson Tide.

    Had this been against the Alabama offense of two years ago, it might not have been so bad. LSU and Alabama were scoreless through three quarters before the Tide offense got going and won 10-0.

    Now, it is a major loss.

    Alabama has a more explosive offense than Joe Namath, Bart Starr or Kenny Stabler ever could have dreamed of. Tua Tagiviola, who came off the bench in the second half of last year’s national championship game vs. Georgia and rallied the Tide from a 13-0 deficit to win in overtime, is favored to win the Heisman. In fact, you cannot get even money odds on Tua at any Las Vegas sports book. Alabama has routed every opponent so far, and Tua has yet to see the fourth quarter of any game.

    The Twitter hashtag #freedevinwhite trended immediately after the game and most of Sunday. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was incensed and begged SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to overturn the suspension.

    It got so heated political guru James Carville, a Louisiana native and LSU graduate, wrote a letter to The Advocate in Baton Rouge claiming the officials of the SEC were in cahoots with Alabama. Carville claimed the directive to uphold the targeting call against White came from SEC Director of Officials Steve Shaw, an Alabama graduate and native of Birmingham.

    Carville wasn’t the only politically connected Bayou State resident who chimed in.

    Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, who also graduated from LSU, demanded to know from Shaw and Sankey why White was ejected and just how it was targeting.

    Edwards is the first governor to be this invested in LSU football since John McKeithen helped Charles McClendon recruit during his two terms (1964-72). John Bel, no relation to Edwin Edwards, has traveled with the Tigers and is very close to Ed Orgeron and his wife Kelly.

    It’s nice to see JBE loving LSU football. Edwin Edwards graduated from LSU, but really didn’t care about sports, although he was on the LSU plane to Philadelphia for the 1981 Final Four. Dave Treen graduated from Tulane, so he saw LSU as the enemy, at least in athletics. Mike Foster graduated from LSU, but only cared about hunting and fishing. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco hated LSU, having graduated from UL Lafayette. As for Buddy Roemer and Bobby Jindal, they didn’t give a you know what–both graduated from Harvard.

    As it turns out, neither Shaw nor Sankey has the power to vacate the suspension. That belongs to the NCAA and Director of Football Officiating Rogers Redding, who, like Shaw, was a longtime referee in the SEC. Redding said it’s not happening.

    Orgeron, to his credit, has moved on and is focusing on getting the Bayou Bengals ready for the Tide. Alleva is taking up the fight, which is what a good athletic director should do. Governor Edwards has bigger fish to fry, though. It’s nice to see him care about the state’s flagship school, but funding the academic side should be priority one, not the football team.

    I’m of the mind that if the officials–McDaid, Shaw, the replay official in the booth at Tiger Stadium and any other officials in Birmingham with Shaw at command central–did not see enough clear and convincing evidence to overturn the targeting call, it should stand. McDaid said the call was “confirmed” after replay, which meant there was clear and convincing evidence in their minds.

    Steve Shaw was the sine qua non of college football officials when he wore the white hat. Every time there was a huge game involving an SEC school during the regular season, Steve Shaw was the man announcing the penalties. If there was a major bowl game, there was a good chance Shaw was the man in charge. He only got to work two national championship games (Florida State vs. Virginia Tech in ’99, USC vs. Oklahoma in 2004) because the SEC almost always had a team in the title game, so by rule, Shaw and all SEC officials were barred from working. But three Rose Bowls isn’t a bad consolation, especially considering SEC officials never worked the Rose Bowl until the 1991 season.

    Shaw is one of the two greatest college football officials who ever lived. The other is Jimmy Harper, who was a referee in the SEC from the early 1970s through 1995. Harper had a Georgia drawl which made me laugh nearly every time. And Harper explained penalties so well you could understand even if you had never watched a football game before.

    My father loved Harper. My dad called Harper the ‘white-haired gentleman’. The good news is Harper was probably watching the LSU-Mississippi State game from his home in Atlanta. He’s still alive and kicking at 84.

    Shaw and Harper both could have been NFL referees. I’m sure they would have been as legendary as Jerry Markbreit, Ed Hochuli, Jim Tunney and Ben Dreith. But they chose to stay in college, which obviously was a great decision.

    I don’t believe for one nanosecond Steve Shaw has a biased cell in his body. He is a man of the utmost integrity. He doesn’t care the teams playing. He only cares that the game is played fairly, and that when someone violates the rules of the game, he is penalized accordingly. I will never buy LSU fans claiming Shaw is biased. No way.

    It’s a tough break for LSU, but it’s football. White will learn and be better for it.

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    I’m rambling yet again. Sorry. That’s all for now.

    Red Sox wins; Cardinals seeing red

    The Red Sox did what I thought they would last night. They closed out the Astros in Houston and clinched their fourth American League pennant this millennium. Boston now awaits the Dodgers or Brewers in the World Series.

    MLB executives, especially commissioner Rob Manfred, have to be having multiple orgasms over the probable Dodgers-Red Sox World Series. They were loathing a potential Brewers-Indians or Brewers-Athletics World Series when the postseason began. Now, they have one of their three most desirable matchups (Dodgers-Yankees and Cubs-Yankees were the others).

    The Red Sox and Dodgers have played only once in the World Series–way, way, WAY back in 1916. That’s before the Curse of the Babe. Ruth was a 21-year old hotshot left-handed pitcher for that year’s Red Sox, and Boston easily won the series in five games.

    Two interesting things about the 1916 World Series.

    First, the first two games were in Boston, the next two in Brooklyn, then it was back to Boston for the clincher, not the 2-3-2 we are used to seeing. The format was presumably 2-2-1-1-1, the same as the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals.

    Second, the Red Sox opted to play their home games at Braves Field, home of the future artists known as the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The Sox moved their games out of Fenway to shoehorn more fans into Braves Field, which opened in 1915. In 1914, when the Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series, the National League team played their home games at Fenway due to the decrepit condition of their rickety old stadium, the South End Grounds.

    I am very pessimistic about the Brewers tonight. Hopefully there’s a game tomorrow. But I have my doubts.

    %%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%

    Speaking of decrepit, that would accurately describe the Arizona Cardinals. They were demolished 45-10 by the Broncos last night in Glendale, and frankly, it should have been worse.

    Denver led 35-3 at halftime, and State Farm (nee University of Phoenix) Stadium sounded more like Mile High or whatever it’s called these days. It was a throwback to the days the Cardinals played in front of tons of aluminum and a few fans (mostly visiting team, especially when the Cowboys were there) at Sun Devil Stadium on the other side of the Phoenix metro.

    I knew the Cardinals were seriously screwed when they hired Steve Wilks. Wilks has no business being a head football coach at any level, especially the highest level of football.

    This buffoon was a head coach just once before moving to Arizona, and that was in 1998 at mighty Savannah State, a perennial punching bag for Power Five teams willing to exchange a few hundred thousand dollars for the right to win by 70 to 80 points. When Wilks coached there, Savannah State was Division II. And the team went 5-6 under Wilks’ leadership.

    Wilks’ professional playing experience consisted of one year in Arena Football with the Charlotte Rage. Are you kidding me?

    Ron Rivera, who was Wilks’ boss in Carolina before the latter was hired by the Cardinals, conned Michael Bidwill and Steve Keim good. Then again, Steve Keim is a known drunk, so it wasn’t hard to pull the wool over his eyes.

    If the Cardinals wanted an African-American coach, why not hire Herm Edwards? He got a job in the Phoenix area not long after Wilks when Arizona State hired him to succeed turd Todd Graham. Edwards’ failure with the Chiefs was not all his own doing; he had a lot of help from terrible drafting, free agent signings and trading by Carl Peterson, who clearly was awful without a strong personality as a head coach like Jim Mora with the USFL’s Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars and Marty Schottenheimer in Kansas City.

    Josh Rosen threw not one, but TWO pick-sixes in the first quarter. Geez, the Cardinals could have brought back Ryan Lindley, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb or Stan Gelbaugh to do that instead of wasting the tenth overall pick in the 2018 draft.

    Then again, Rosen has zero protection. The Cardinals have had a woeful offensive line for their entire stay in the desert. In my opinion, it has been really, really bad since the glory days of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Tom Banks and Tom Brahaney in the 1970s, when Don Coryell led St. Louis to NFC East titles in 1974 and ’75.

    Arizona’s defense is Chandler Jones, Patrick Peterson and a whole lot of crap. Peterson and Jones deserve better than this. They are true professionals and would be All-Pros if they played on a halfway decent defense.

    Larry Fitzgerald, WHY did you come back for this? Your professionalism and dedication to the Cardinals is admirable. But you could have easily rode off in to the sunset. All you’re doing is pushing back your Hall of Fame induction.

    Wilks is by far the worst Cardinals coach I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. And I can remember all the way back to Jim Hanifan (1980-85). Dave McGinnis was mocked and went 17-44 in three and a half seasons, but his teams never looked as absolutely awful as the Cardinals have under Wilks. Buddy Ryan was pretty bad, but at least the defense was fierce in 1994. Too bad he hated offensive players and had no clue what to do at quarterback.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Starting next year, Wimbledon is implementing the tiebreak in the final set when the score reaches 6-6.

    I will only watch tennis if someone pays me a ton of cash, and that hasn’t happened. And I will NEVER watch Serena Williams. But I think this is dead wrong.

    I understand why the All-England Club is doing this. They want to avoid marathon last sets like the one between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut in 2010 in a match that took 11 hours and three different days to complete, with Isner winning the fifth set 70-68.

    I totally disagree with doing this in what is supposed to be tennis’ signature event. This is a grand slam event, the most prestigious championship on earth. It should be EARNED. And if it takes 138 games in the final set to do so, so be it.

    If Wimbledon wants to implement the tiebreak in the final set, it should not be at 6-6. It should be at minimum after 8-8, maybe 10-10 or 12-12. And that rule should be in all five sets for men or three for women.

    The Australian and French Opens, the other grand slams, have not announced they will. implement a tiebreak in the final set. However, I’m certain they will be under enormous pressure to do so now that the U.S. Open and Wimbledon have them.

    Using a tiebreak in the final set at Wimbledon is the same as The Masters using a sudden death playoff if there is a tie for the low score after 72 holes.

    The Masters bills itself as the premier event in golf, although I will always believe it is The Open Championship. If The Masters is so high and mighty, why not make those tied play a fifth round? If it’s television they’re worried about, there are enough cable channels which would salivate at the chance to televise a round from Augusta for 18 holes. Besides, The Masters rarely allows full 18-hole coverage anyway, so how hard would it be to cut in for the last nine? Also, I’m sure CBS could pre-empt The Price Is Right, The Young and the Restless, and The Bold and the Beautiful for one day.

    The U.S. Open was the last golf major to require a full 18-hole playoff if there was a tie after 72 holes. Last year, that ended and it became a two-hole playoff, which wasn’t necessary when Brooks Koepka won it outright. That’s even worse than The Open (four holes) and PGA Championship (three holes). All majors should be the full 18-hole playoff. Sudden death is just fine for a regular tournament in late October, mid-January or early August. But not for the majors.

    ##################################################################

    I’m guessing ESPN is going to try to force the officials to speed up the Mississippi State-LSU game in Baton Rouge tomorrow night. That’s because the network is scheduled to show the Rockets-Lakers game from Los Angeles at 2130 CT (1930 PT), which will be LeBron’s first regular season game at Staples Center. It would probably anger the suits in Bristol, as well as two of America’s four largest metropolitan areas, if a trivial football game in the Southeastern Conference goes overtime.

    LSU and Mississippi State are not teams which throw the ball on every down. I hope 3 1/2 hours is enough time to get the game in, because college football games drag on and on and on! I remember non-televised games when I was attending LSU could last as short as 2 1/2 hours. But every game in the SEC is now televised, so that’s not happening. Not unless the NCAA wants to return to the terrible idea of starting the clock after the ball is spotted on a change of possession, an experiment which failed miserably in 2006. Not stopping the clock after a first down would be a good start. Maybe that rule could be limited to the final two minutes of the first half and final five of the second, much the way the out-of-bounds timing rules change in the NFL in those periods.

    CBS is notorious for forcing the games in the late window (1525 CT on doubleheader days; 1505 on non-doubleheader games) to speed up in order that 60 Minutes starts on time, either 1800 or 1830 CT. Fox doesn’t care, because it never airs new episodes of The Simpsons (JUST END IT ALREADY!) on Sunday nights before 1900 CT.  Actually, Fox prefers longer games in the late window when it has the doubleheader, so it can switch to bonus coverage, then Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy can drone on and on until 1900.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have a runny nose this morning. Using lots of tissues. Need to stop by the store before I leave Kansas City.

    Just saw I was close to 1700 words. Time to end it.

    Students, STAY OFF THE FIELD!

    I almost had the score right on the Georgia-LSU football game last Saturday.

    I said 37-17 Georgia. The final? 36-16.

    However, I had the wrong team winning.

    LSU played its best game in a long, long time, and certainly its best since Ed Orgeron took over from Les Miles two years ago. I didn’t think LSU had it in the bag until it was 29-9 in the fourth quarter. I was just waiting for the Bulldogs to make a big comeback. I thought it would happen in the second half, when they made the adjustments after falling down 16-0 at halftime.

    It never came. The Bayou Bengals won, and several thousand idiots stormed the field and cost LSU $100,000 because it violated Southeastern Conference policy, which demands schools keep people who have absolutely no business being on the field (or court) from going onto the playing surface and endangering the safety of the players, coaches, officials, working media and security personnel.

    Those idiots who stormed the field should be forced to pay the fine. Every student who was at the game should be forced to contribute part of the fine. LSU scans student identification cards at every game, so there would be a way to find out the students who went to the game and punish them.

    Sadly, U.S. Representative Garret Graves, who represents Baton Rouge in the House, started a Go Fund Me page to pay for the fine. IDIOT. Graves is encouraging this lawless behavior by raising money for the fine. Rep. Graves, there’s a lot more pressing issues in Congress than covering the ass of students who don’t know how to behave like civilized humans. You should be ashamed of yourself. You are an embarrassment to your constituents and Congress by doing this.

    Alabama comes to Baton Rouge November 3. Oh boy. If the Bayou Bengals pull off the shocker there, fans are certain to storm the field and cost LSU a $250,000 from the SEC. Worse, I fear the safety of Nick Saban would be in peril. LSU fans have shown their ass time and again when Saban’s Crimson Tide have been in Death Valley by shouting “F**K SABAN” so loudly it can be picked up by CBS and beamed from coast to coast.

    Bill Self was not hurt when Kansas State students stormed the court in Manhattan the last time the Wildcats beat Kansas, but he had to dodge several angry students who came after him. I would not put it past LSU fans to do the same to Saban, especially since LSU fans feel he betrayed LSU by going to Alabama.

    Come on. I don’t like Saban being at Alabama, but LSU fans cannot complain. Saban went to the NFL for two years with the Dolphins before going to Alabama. He did not go straight from Baton Rouge to Tuscaloosa. After all, Saban took LSU into the ionosphere of college football and it stayed there under Miles until the night of January 9, 2012. Even though LSU has yet to make the College Football Playoff, the Bayou Bengals are still winning 8, 9 or 10 games in most seasons and going to a bowl. Do they really want a return to Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo (and the last two years of Mike Archer)? I saw bad, bad, BAD LSU football aplenty in the early 1990s, and up close in 1994. This is as far from bad as possible.

    If the student shenanigans happen again November 3, LSU students should be banned from the home finale vs. Rice two weeks later. Actually, they not only should be banned from the Rice game, but the first Southeastern Conference game of 2019 vs. Auburn. Maybe that would send a message to the morons to act civilized.

    Maybe LSU needs to confine students to the upper decks. Reserve two sections in each upper deck at the far ends for students. Unless someone has a bungee cord, no way they’re getting down there.

    I miss the people at LSU and around Baton Rouge, but I am now very glad I wasn’t there. I cannot stand crowds, and it would have driven me absolutely insane to see idiots breaking the law and costing their school $100,000.

    I ended up spending part of my birthday in Ottawa with the Cox family watching Caitlyn play volleyball. She’s on the junior varsity right now, but will be on the varsity in 2019. Ottawa has a strong program and she is very fortunate to be playing there, just as older sister Courtney did many years ago. I drove straight home from Ottawa to Russell because of the forecast of snow. Made it home at 2240.

    I was dead tired Sunday and Monday. Dead tired. I slept through most of Sunday, staying awake long enough to eat steaks with my parents at lunch, then late to get some work done. Monday was little better; I stayed up through the night Tuesday, with a nap here  and there, to make sure I got my work done on time.

    No wonder I slept 11 1/2 hours last night and this morning. I woke up 80 minutes later than I had planned. Lucky for me, I could get the work done in plenty of time. So that worked out.

    The Brewers are now down 3-2 in the National League Championship Series to the Dodgers. The only good news is (a) the series now goes back to Milwaukee and (b) Clayton Kershaw is done for the series. However, I’ve seen enough Brewer failure through the years that I know the end is near.