Category Archives: Current Events

Two events, almost zero interest

The last Sunday of February.

It has meant two things, at least in recent years: the Daytona 500 and the Academy Awards.

I really don’t care much about NASCAR. Yes, I will look on the Internet to see who won the race, but don’t expect me to tune in for lap after lap after lap of driving around in an oval (or whatever the shape of the track is). The only races I feel that are worth tuning in for extended periods are the two on road courses (Sonoma and Watkins Glen), and the two at Pocono, since that track is so oddly shaped.

Growing up in Louisiana, there just wasn’t much interest in NASCAR. First, the Bayou State does not have a track, unlike most southern states.Alabama and the Carolinas are nuts about NASCAR. So are large swaths of Tennessee and Virginia.

Mississippi doesn’t have a track, but once you get east of Interstate 55, there isn’t much difference between Mississippi and Alabama, and if people in Alabama aren’t watching football, they’re probably watching NASCAR.

I’m surprised there is only one track in Texas, and that’s at Fort Worth. I would think a track at Houston or another metropolitan area–El Paso excluded–would do well.

When I do follow NASCAR, I want Chevrolet drivers to win, because I have driven only General Motors cars all my life. I’m also a fan of Joe Gibbs Racing, because I admire Gibbs’ coaching acumen with the Washington Redskins. Imagine if Gibbs had Tom Brady or another star quarterback throughout his tenure with the Redskins. Oh well, that’s another blog post for another day.

NASCAR isn’t high on my list, but it’s way, way above tennis and the Olympics, and probably above the NBA too.

I may not be too interested in NASCAR, but I’m a die-hard compared to my interest in the Academy Awards.

I have never watched a single minute of the Academy Awards. The only way I’m starting now is if I’m with a significant other on the couch. But since I’m not, NO.

I absolutely hate Buzztime trivia questions which focus on Academy Award winners. I don’t know. I could care less! I could name a very few Best Picture winners, but that’s it.

From 1972 through 1998, the Academy Awards were always presented on a Monday night, save for 1981, when President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, and out of deference to the former president of the Screen Actor’s Guild, the ceremony was postponed one night.

Some of those Academy Award ceremonies clashed with the NCAA basketball championship. The first was in 1976, when Indiana completed its 32-0 season by defeating Michigan 86-68 in the final. When on stage to present an award, Elliott Gould quipped the winner was, “Indiana, 86-68”.

Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers won the 1987 championship over Syracuse at the same time the Academy Awards were being presented. The 1981 NCAA final between Indiana and North Carolina was originally scheduled to go head-to-head with the Oscars, but the game went on as scheduled and the Oscars did not when it was confirmed Reagan would survive.

In 2000, the Academy Awards were shifted to Sunday, where they’ve been ever since. And in 2004, the ceremonies were moved to the Sunday following the last Friday of February.

I have only one hope for this year’s Academy Awards.

Emma Stone had better be Best Actress!!!!!!!! If it’s Meryl Streep, I’m calling it a huge fix. Streep may have had great roles in the past, but if she wins this time, it will be because the Academy voters will want to hear her slander Donald Trump.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association state wrestling championships were this weekend.

I watched exactly zero seconds of coverage of the 3-2-1A tournament on Smoky Hills Public Television. I do not miss that event one bit. I have nothing against the wrestlers, the coaches, or the fans who attend, but I could care less. I’m better off not going.

Kansas is the ONLY STATE in the United States which holds its wrestling state championships at THREE different sites. I repeat, the ONLY STATE.

Missouri? Columbia. Nebraska? Omaha. Arkansas? Little Rock. Alabama? Huntsville. Louisiana? Shreveport (used to be New Orleans). Yet Kansas cannot get its act together.

It’s very sad. I’m sure Nathan Broeckelman, a two-time state champion wrestler at Norton who now coaches at Great Bend, would have loved to be able to see his alma mater win its fifth consecutive 3-2-1A championship. And I’m sure Nathan’s wife, Hannah (Mills), who went to Norton with Nathan, would have loved to see it to. But nope. the KSHSAA insists its silly format is the best.

Well, it’s basketball sub-state week. Another convoluted format.

I’m going to Beloit tomorrow night to watch Cailtyn and the Norton Lady Bluejays play the Trojans. I hope it is not Caitlyn’s last basketball game, but I know it will end sooner or later. I would just prefer it end in my hometown, or in Hutchinson at the state tournament.

Tuesday is Mardi Gras. I have to go to Kansas City. I don’t have to, but I need to. I haven’t seen Robb and Dawn in three weeks, and that’s the same with the crews at Buffalo Wild Wings and Minsky’s.

I stayed up until 4 a.m. today working on things to get ahead. I took a shower before getting a few hours of sleep. Worked out okay. Surprised I didn’t need a nap today. Maybe it’s the energy of knowing I see Caitlyn and Peggy tomorrow.

Now where do I end tomorrow? Back in Russell? Salina? Kansas City? There are pros and cons to each option. Russell I wouldn’t have to spend money on a hotel, but there’s the four-hour drive. Kansas City puts me there for Tuesday, but I’m looking at 11:30 to midnight before arriving. Salina gets me off the road sooner, but I still have to drive three hours.

If that’s the biggest decision I have to make for tomorrow, it can’t be bad.

The new guy at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Donald John Trump is President of the United States. Until the wee hours of last November 9, very few people not named Donald John Trump believed it would happen. Yet here it is. 

Unlikeliest president in American history? Maybe. I certainly did not see this day coming. 

If you would have asked me if Trump would have been president in 1984, I would have laughed. I was not quite 8 years old, but I knew Trump was a real estate tycoon and the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League, which played in the spring in 1983, ’84 and ’85, and then foolishly attempted to change to a fall schedule for ’86. 

Trump tried to buy a super team with the Generals. Herschel Walker, the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner for the Georgia Bulldogs, was signed to the richest contract in professional football history by the Generals’ first owner, oil magnate J. Walter Duncan, but Duncan became disillusioned with football, and thus sold the team to Trump following the 1983 season. Trump signed Brian Sipe, the 1980 NFL Most Valuable Player, to be his quarterback for 1984, and the Generals went 14-4 in the regular season, only to lose to Jim Mora’s Philadelphia Stars in the playoffs. The Stars, who lost the 1983 USFL title game to the Michigan Panthers, won back-to-back USFL titles in 1984 and 1985. 

The Stars played their last season in Baltimore after the Phillies refused to allow the Stars to negotiate a new lease at Veterans Stadium for 1985, and also because the Stars would never make it in Philly going head-to-head vs. the Eagles, not to mention the 76ers and Flyers once their seasons started. The Stars tried to use Franklin Field, where they played a few games late in the 1984 season, but the University of Pennsylvania also said no.

Back to Trump. He didn’t see Sipe as enough of a star to bring people to the Meadowlands to watch the Generals, so he signed Doug Flutie right out of Boston College after he won the 1984 Heisman Trophy. Again, the Generals had a tremendous regular season in 1985. Again, the Generals failed to reach the championship game. 

Trump was the lead plaintiff in the USFL’s $1.3 billion lawsuit against the NFL, claiming Pete Rozelle’s league was a monopoly. Trump felt it was unfair the three major networks at the time–CBS, NBC, ABC–refused to negotiate with the USFL to televise games in the fall of 1986. ESPN, which broadcast many USFL games in the spring, agreed to televise the USFL. 

Problem was, where was Trump going to play in the fall of 1986? No way he was going to be able to play on weekends in the Meadowlands, especially after the Jets moved to New Jersey in 1984. Rutgers? At that time, Rutgers’ stadium in New Brunswick was a joke. Not happening there. Princeton? Too small. Ditto with Columbia on the other side of the Hudson. So that meant Trump would have to play home games on Wednesday or Thursday nights. Thursday night going up against The Cosby Show? Ha. 

In the end, the USFL won its antitrust case, but the USFL was awarded only $1 by the jury, who found the USFL slit its own throat by overpaying players and not sticking to a budget. ESPN was fortunate; with the USFL buried, it could televise the NFL, which it has now done for 30 seasons. 

Even though Trump’s football team was no more, he still had his hand in sports. His casino in Atlantic City was beginning to attract top fights which almost exclusively were held in Las Vegas throughout the 1980s, and he attracted the World Wrestling Federation’s biggest event, Wrestlemania, to Trump Plaza in 1988 and ’89. 

Trump isn’t the first sports owner to become president. 

George W. Bush owned the Texas Rangers from 1989 until his election as governor of Texas in 1994. He helped the Rangers build a new ballpark in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, a park which was 15 years overdue. The Rangers’ first home, Arlington Stadium, was horrid, especially if you sat in the bleachers, which stared directly into the setting sun. More often than not, games in June, July and August began with the thermometer above 100 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius). 

Bush attracted Nolan Ryan to north Texas after nine years with the Astros. Ryan recorded his 5,000th strikeout, 300th win, and two no-hitters with the Rangers. 

Ronald Reagan wasn’t an owne, but he was a Chicago Cubs broadcaster in the 1930s, paving the way for successors Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. 

Mark Cuban has toyed with running for president. He just may do it in 2020. He was a huge Hillary Clinton supporter. And I believe Shark Tank will still be on the air in 2020. Cuban and Kevin “Mr. Wonderful” O’Leary were on opposite sides of last year’s election, and maybe the Canadian Conservative Party can draft O’Leary to run against Justin Trudeau for Prime Minister. 

Other than the inauguration, it’s a dead Friday. Just not a lot happening.  

Feeling stronger (apologies to Chicago the band)

I was in no mood to post for most of the previous week. Thankfully I am this morning. Time and a change of scenery helped.

I’m in another hotel in Kansas City, this time in Clay County. The hotel is on the dividing line between Kansas City proper and Liberty, the largest suburb of KC in Missouri. It’s about 20 minutes to Zona Rosa, not bad, especially at night, when the traffic is lighter. It’s not as far as Overland Park, but nowhere near as close as the hotels on I-29 in Platte County.

Last Saturday and Sunday, I was an angry person. Very angry. And not for a good reason.

Alabama beat LSU 10-0 last Saturday in Baton Rouge. The Bayou Bengals held the Crimson Tide scoreless for three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, LSU’s exhausted defense finally gave way, yielding a 21-yard touchdown run to Jalen Hurts and then a field goal. LSU gained just 125 yards against Alabama’s defense, which may be better than half the defenses in the NFL, and were shut out at home for the first time in 14 years.

I was pissed. REALLY PISSED. I tweeted and posted on Facebook that (a) LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron should be fired, (b) Alabama was a horrible place and (c) losing 10-0 was much, much, much worse than Nebraska losing 62-3 to Ohio State.

None of the above was really true.

First, Orgeron can’t do anything right now. He’s playing the hand dealt him by Les Miles, who was fired Sept. 25 after LSU lost to Auburn. Who knows, maybe he could remake the offense with a recruiting class under his belt and a full season to work with the team as head coach. Orgeron wanted so badly to end LSU’s drought vs. Alabama. He was pretty emotional all night. I could tell it mattered a great deal to him.

Second, I can’t generalize all of Alabama just because I don’t care for one of the state’s flagship universities. I’ve enjoyed my time in Hoover for the SEC Baseball Tournament, and I’m sure Huntsville is a great place to visit, especially the Marshall Space Center.

Third, LSU gave it all they had. But it’s hard to defeat the top-ranked team when your offense just doesn’t have the talent to compete with the best defense in college football, designed by the best coach in the game today, Nick Saban.

I was still very upset Sunday and Monday morning. I got so despondent Monday I called and made an appointment with Dr. Custer. She had an opening that afternoon. I told her my blood pressure was running way high, my blood sugars were sky high, and my bowels were obstructed.

Only the last one was true, and not entirely.

Later that evening, I met Peggy at Walmart in Hays. I’m not a Walmart fan, but I agreed to help her shop. She was there not only to shop for her family, but for the student council at Norton Junior High, where she teaches. She stopped at Walmart on her way to Plainville for  a Mid-Continent League meeting. It was out of her way, but it was easier than driving the other way to Colby, or north to Lexington, Nebraska.

I did not watch election returns Tuesday evening. It wasn’t until 7 a.m. Wednesday I found out Donald Trump would be the 45th President of the United States. I certainly did not comment on social media like I did in 2012, when I made a complete imbecile of myself with lots of cursing and hatred.

I left for Kansas City at noon yesterday. No stops, not even for the restroom. I was at the hotel by 3:35. Pretty good, considering I had to go into downtown KCMO and then drive north on I-35 for 17 miles.

Buffalo Wild Wings went well. I saw Tori and Dana behind the bar, and played good trivia. Hopefully Robb and Dawn will be back soon. They took the election very hard.

Time to leave. Got a few errands to run before heading west.

 

 

Two gone too soon

In my last blog post, I stated what I went through last weekend was not worth dying over.

Sadly, two beautiful ladies from Louisiana’s Cajun Country with so much to offer the world didn’t have the choice whether or not to continue their lives. 

Jillian Johnson was a 33-year old graphic designer and musician. She owned a fashionable boutique, Red Arrow Workshop, was a member of an all-female Cajun bluegrass band, The Figs, and designed logos for many corporations and groups in Acadiana. 

The other murder victim, Kayce Breaux, was a 21-year old native of Franklin, a small city southeast of Lafayette in St. Mary Parish. Franklin is best known ast he home of former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster (1996-2004). 

Breaux was a radiology student at LSU-Eunice, a two-year branch of the state’s flagship university. She was scheduled to continue her education in the radiology department of Lafayette General Hospital. Her fiance was with her in the theater and may be one of the wounded. 

Johnson and Breaux were  murder victims at the hands of John Russel Houser, the 59-year old drifter from eastern Alabama who opened fire in a darkened movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana’s fourth largest incorporated city, which likes to call itself “The Hub City” and the “Capital of Acadiana”. 

Lafayette is a booming city of 125,000 located at the junction of Louisiana’s two major Interstate highways, I-10 and I-49. The oil industry is the main cog in the economy of the area. Many high ranking executives work in offices in Lafayette, and many workers on the rigs live in the city and commute to the coastal areas via US 90, which will become part of I-49 in the very near future. 

During my years in Louisiana, I made many a trip to Lafayette. Most of the time in the city was spent at the Cajundome, the multi-purpose arena best known as the home to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette basketball teams. The arena also hosted the Louisiana High School Athletic Association boys basketball championship games during the era, and I really enjoyed those games. 

I also spent a couple of very forgettable nights in Lafayette in March 2002. My car was stolen from the parking lot of a hotel the first night, and the second night, I witnessed LSU’s baseball team get totally worked over by ULL, and the fans at the Ragin Cajuns’ Moore Field ate it up. My good friend Bill Franques drove me back to Baton Rouge following the game, and the next morning at 4 a.m., I got a call from the Lafayette Police Department that my car had been located off an I-49 exit. It was towed back to Baton Rouge that day and it needed to be repaired. 

Bill grew up in Lafayette and graduated from Cathedral-Carmel High School (now St. Thomas More) in 1981. His father, Howard, was an attorney in the city and is well known throughout Baton Rouge and Lafayette for his letters to the editors of The Advocate and the Lafayette Daily Advertiser, most of them shredding Bill Clinton and others of the left-wing ilk. 

I had another car related mishap at the same Lafayette hotel in 2005. I left something plugged into the socket, and the battery of the rental car was drained. Since it was a rental, Avis came by and replaced my car with no trouble. 

Lafayette would be the last of Louisiana’s major cities where I would expect something like this to occur. Sure, there are bad areas, just like there are in any city of appreciable size, but such incidents are nowhere near as frequent as the other three big cities of Louisiana: 

  • Shreveport has had gang problems going back to the 1950s and murder and drug use are rampant in pockets of the northwest Louisiana city. 
  • Baton Rouge has gotten very bad. Very bad. The areas north of the LSU campus are ghettos. So are many parts of nroth Baton Rouge and Baker, a small city just north of the city limits. 
  • New Orleans? Still as dangerous as Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. In 1994, the year I graduated from Brother Martin High School, there were 421 murders. That’s more than a murder a day for those mathematically challenged. 

This is not the worst incident of spree killing in Louisiana.

That dishonor belongs to Mark Essex, the former Black Panther who killed seven, incuding three New Orleans Police Department officers, during a siege at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s (now a Holiday Inn) in the Crescent City’s Central Buisness District on January 7, 1973.  Essex grew up in Emporia and entered the Navy two years later. He had a cushy job in the dental office at the San Diego naval base, but went AWOL and was dishonorably discharged for unsuitability. Essex also killed two police officers one week prior to the siege at the Howard Johnson’s, and also started the November 29, 1972 fire at the Rault Center, another high rise near the Howard Johnson’s, which killed five. 

In January 1972, there was a shootout in downtown Baton Rouge between Black Muslims and Baton Rouge police officers and sheriff’s deputies. Four died, and WBRZ television news reporter Bob Johnson was severely paralyzed. 

It’s pouring in many Kansas locales along the Nebraska border tonight. Of course, none of that rain will come close to Russell. Typical. 

Roller coaster ride

The highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a span of four hours today. Neither involved me.

The low, of course, was the tragic, sudden passing of actor Robin Williams at 63. Nobody could ever have dreamed he would take his own life. He had everything any man could want–a loving family, an adoring public, success enough for 500 people, and most of all, financial security for him, his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It shows the happiest person on the outside may have demons inside which are simply too much to overcome.

I never watched Robin Williams’ movies, but I do recall his spectacular performance in a 2008 episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit as Merritt Rook, an audio engeineerwho rebels against authority figures due to the tragic death of his wife and unborn son. He is charged with arson but represents himself and wins at trial against Casey Novak (Diane Neal). A target of Rook’s harrassment committed suicide, and Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) went to arrest him, but Rook threatened to detonate a bomb strapped to his body. He kidnapped Olivia and threatened to torture her if Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) would not press a button to shock Olivia with electricity. Turns out it was a fake, and Rook escaped by jumping into the East River, where he probably drowned due to being handcuffed and manacled.

I guess I’ll never forget where I was when I found out Robin Williams passed away. I remember where I was for the passing of several other notable people through the last three decades, probably the most tragic being LSU baseball All-American Wally Pontiff in July 2002. The Bayou Bengals’ third baseman had just been drafted by Oakland, and he was either going to sign a professional contract, or come back to his beloved LSU for his senior season and another chance at the College World Series and possibly a second national championship, only to die in his sleep.

The high, at least in Kansas City, just came when the Royals wrapped up a 3-2 victory over the Athletics to take over first place in the American League Central division, the first time the Royals have been in first place in August since 2003. Kansas City has won eight consecutive games, but they still have to play Oakland three more times, so things could change quickly. But for a city which has not witnessed postseason baseball since Darryl Motley squeezed the last out of the 1985 World Series, this is heady stuff. The Royals have enjoyed only two winning seasons since 1995, and they have lost 100 or more games four times, including three consecutive seasons in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The 29-year drought is not the longest of the division play era; that dishonor belongs to the Expos/Nationals, who went 31 years between playoff appearances (1981 to 2012).

There’s still a lot of baseball left, but the Royals are in the best position they’ve been to see postseason baseball in a very very long time.

Buffalo Wild Wings was great today. Got there just before 2 and played a lot of trivia, and ate my usual share of food. Went with a grilled chicken sandwich for the first time–good decision. I snuck out at 9:30 to get Liz a pretzel from QuikTrip on Barry Road. She was overjoyed. Glad I could do it for her.

Going to pack up in a minute and drive back to Overland Park. Another good day awaits Tuesday.

Tragedy upon tragedy

Earlier this morning, Malaysia Air Flight 17 was shot down over the Ukraine. The flight, which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, had 298 people on board. The missile hit the plane while it was at cruising altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet). Of course nobody survived, and body parts were scattered all over the ground for miles.

The incident is reminiscent of September 1983, when a Soviet anti-aircraft missile was fired into a Korean Airlines flight which accidentally ventured into Soviet airspace. U.S. Representative Larry McDonald of Georgia was on board, making him the second representative to die in the line of duty, joining Leo Ryan, who was murdered by Jim Jones’ cult in Guyana in 1978.

July 17 was already a tragic day because of what happened on a Friday night in Kansas City 33 years ago.

On July 17, 1981, two walkways at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Kansas City collapsed while a dance contest was taking place in the lobby.
The walkways were suspended from the fourth floor of the hotel were suspended over those on the second floor.

Those fourth floor walkways featured a fatal design flaw, as their design could barely hold the dead weight load. Humans are not dead weight, and when too many of those humans were on the walkway that night, disaster was in the making.

Disaster was putting it mildly. One hundred fourteen people perished, and another 216 suffered injuries, the vast majority of them serious, with some paralyzed for the rest of their lives. The rescue efforts lasted 14 hours, and it’s amazing as many people were pulled out of the rubble as they were.

There is no memorial for the victims, which is a shame. Hyatt refused to fund a memorial, but fortunately, Sheraton, which now operates the hotel, has agreed to fund one, and donations have steadily rolled in since the fund began in 2011.

I’m not shocked one bit Hyatt has refused to help with a memorial. That’s the kind of slime which populates the Pritzker family, which owns Hyatt. The Pritzkers were among the largest donors to Obama’s presidential campaigns, and Penny Pritzker is now Secretary of Commerce.  I swear I will never stay at a Hyatt hotel again as long as I live.