Category Archives: History

August anniversaries

Gulfport, Mississippi and Bethel, New York are 1,283 miles (2,065 kilometers) apart.

It would seem as these two locales would have absolutely nothing in common.

Yet they are forever linked by 17 August 1969.

Those who were in Bethel that day remember it fondly and wish they could go back.

Those in Gulfport that day would probably like to forget.

Thirty days after Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo Koepechne to her death off Martha’s Vineyard, 28 days after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, nine days after Sharon Tate and four others were brutally butchered by Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenewinkel, Leslie Van Houten and Tex Watson on orders of Charles Manson, there came an August Sunday which made not one, but two, indelible impressions on the United States of America.

Woodstock, held on Max Yasgur’s Dairy Farm, a little more than 100 miles (160 km) from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, was filled with three and a half days of “peace, love and music”. The names of those who performed that weekend are legendary: Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who. The list of those who didn’t perform may have been just as impressive: Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were among those who said no.

There were hopes for a 50th anniversary Woodstock. Many of the performers at the original festival who are still alive were invited. However, it never got off the ground and was cancelled in June. It would have been held at the Watkins Glen automobile race course, about 155 miles (250 km) west-northwest of Bethel.

Two years after Woodstock, organizers attempted a similar festival in Louisiana. They found some land on a levee along the Atchafayla River in Pointe Coupee Parish, 60 miles (97 km) northwest of Baton Rouge and 80 miles (128 km) southeast of Alexandria.

The Festival of Life was nothing short of a disaster. Needless to say, nothing like that has been attempted again in Louisiana.

While 400,000 were having the time of their lives in New York, residents of the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Panama City were dealing with something which was certainly not peaceful.

Hurricane Camille crossed the western tip of Cuba hours before Richie Havens opened Woodstock. Once it emerged into the hot waters (30 degrees Celsius/86 F) of the Gulf of Mexico, it exploded, surpassing the intensity of Betsy, which had winds of 145 miles per hour (223 km/h) when it crossed the Louisiana coast at Grand Isle the evening of 9 Sepember 1965 and caused over $1 billion of damage and 76 deaths in what would become my native state.

Camille’s winds reached 170 miles per hour (265 km/h) as it made it way steadily towards the Florida panhandle the afternoon of 16 August. From Pensacola to Panama City, thousands of residents headed north into Georgia and Alabama.

The next morning, Camille was still on her inexorable march towards land.

The target, however, had shifted dramatically westward.

The storm had shifted to a north-northwest track, a path which would lead it straight towards New Orleans. It appeared the storm would follow a path eerily similar to Betsy’s, making landfall approximately 25 miles (40 km) east of Grand Isle.

If that occurred, New Orleans would have been utterly destroyed. My parents would have perished.

Eventually, the storm took a due north heading, crossing the mouth of the Mississippi River. It wiped much of southern Plaquemines Parish (county) off the map. Fortunately, evacuation orders were followed and nobody died in Louisiana.

Mississippi was not as fortunate.

The storm crossed the coast on the border between Hancock and Harrison counties. Pass Christian was ground zero. The small town between Bay St. Louis and Gulfport was blown away. Nothing remained standing.

Had the storm come in a few miles/kilometers further east, Gulfport would have been ground zero, and Biloxi would have been devastated more than it already was.

The wind speed at landfall will never be known. The wind measuring instruments in Gulfport and Biloxi were demolished. J

The storm killed 160 in Mississippi, but Camille wasn’t done.

Her remnants dumped buckets of rain on northern Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky before once again exploding in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia.

This time, nobody had any notion of what was coming. Over 100 people perished in the Old Dominion, and floodwaters came dangerously close to leaving Richmond completely swamped. Richmond and Roanoke, two of the commonwealth’s largest cities, were spared the worst, but it was of little consolation.

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Twenty-five years ago this morning, I almost died because of my own stupidity.

It was that Sunday I moved into my dormitory at LSU in advance of my first semester of college.

I almost didn’t make. I probably shouldn’t have.

The night before, I slept maybe three hours. I left my house in New Orleans at 0600. My father followed me to help me move my belongings into my sardine of a room at Power Hall, which thankfully has been demolished and replaced with modern apartments.

This was the first time I drove from New Orleans to Baton Rouge alone. I knew the route, but every time, my dad was with me.

The first 50 miles (80 km) was fine.

Suddenly, I found myself drifting off the road to my right.

I fell asleep shortly after the St. James/Ascension parish line. I panicked and cut the wheel of my 1989 Chevrolet Cavalier sharply to the left. That took me across both lanes of traffic and into the median. By time I was done, I was facing westbound in the eastbound lanes of traffic.

If it were any other time except Sunday morning, I would have been dead or paralyzed.

I was beyond lucky that no traffic was coming either way. I crossed the median and continued my journey.

When I got to the McDonald’s on Louisiana Highway 30 in Gonzales to meet my dad for breakfast, I told him. He agreed I was very, very lucky.

Power Hall featured seven two-story units, rather than one high-rise. I am grateful I lived on the first floor. Climbing the stairs carrying things would have been hellish.

There was a communal bathroom and shower just down the hall. I made sure I took my shower early in the morning so I didn’t have others in there. I don’t recall anyone else ever using a shower at the same time I did.

I had a private room at Power Hall, so it was a little better. I would not want anyone to have to deal with me as a roommate, nor do I care to have someone else in my room. I like my privacy.

When I returned to LSU in January 1997, the department of campus housing did not give me a private dorm room at Kirby-Smith Hall, a high rise on the northwest edge of campus. After sleeping in the room for two nights, I hastily moved off-campus. Lucky for me, the person who was assigned to the room had not checked in, so I was alone. That worked out better, because it allowed me to stay in Baton Rogue year-round. I should have thought it out better when I first went to LSU.

The efficiency I lived in for the last two and a half years at LSU was a rat trap. I was desperate and I didn’t want to make my parents pay an outrageous sum, so I took what I could find. I lived to tell the tale.

There are so many things I wish I had done differently in college. Leaving LSU after my first year was a huge mistake. Not paying attention in class was another. I cry about it. A lot.

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High school football is cranking up. I want to be back in Louisiana covering games on Friday night. Kansas high school football is severely lacking.

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.

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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.

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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.
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  • 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.

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    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.

    1971: baseball nirvana

    I wish I could put myself in a time machine and go back to the summer of 1971.

    Sure, I would not be blogging if it were August 1971. Sure, I would not be playing Buzztime trivia if it were August 1971. The American economy wasn’t in great shape in August 1971, and Nixon made a foolish mistake by taking the United States off the gold standard.

    There were good things about 1971, though. The Brady Bunch was on the air. Gas was 30 cents per gallon; even with inflation, that’s $1.90, 45 cents less than what I paid last night when I filled up in Salina.

    Major League Baseball was certainly better in 1971.

    Hank Aaron hit a career high 47 home runs as he drew closer and closer to Babe Ruth’s record of 714, once thought to be unbreakable. In his final season with the Giants, Willie Mays led San Francisco to the National League West championship in yet another epic battle with the Dodgers. San Francisco lost the National League Championship Series to the Pirates in four games in their last postseason appearance until 1987. The Orioles won their third consecutive American League pennant by sweeping the Athletics in the American League Championship Series. It was the Athletics’ first trip to the postseason since 1931, when they were in Philadelphia and led by legendary Connie Mack.

    The 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit was one of the most memorable. Aaron and Johnny Bench staked the National League to an early 3-0 lead with home runs, but Reggie Jackson began the American League comeback by launching a monstrous home run off of a transformer on roof above right center. The pitcher who served it up was Dock Ellis, the same Dock Ellis who threw a no-hitter while allegedly under the influence of LSD (his claim) the previous season.

    Ellis, the volatile right-hander from Pittsburgh, was the Naitonal League’s starter. The American League countered with Oakland lefty Vida Blue, who went on to win the AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. More importantly, it was the first time there were two black starting pitchers in an All-Star Game.

    One of the umpires in the 1971 All-Star Game was Jake O’Donnell, who from 1968-71 officiated both in the American League and NBA. O’Donnell resigned from the AL at the end of 1971 to concentrate on basketball. It was a wise move, for Jake worked the NBA Finals every year from 1972 through 1994. O’Donnell is the only man to officiate All-Star games in two major sports.

    Also on the umpiring crew that evening in Detroit were future Hall of Famer Doug Harvey, and Don Denkinger, whose moment of infamy in Kansas City was still a long way off.

    Nearly every team still wore flannel uniforms in 1971. Sure, they were hot, but they were beautiful for the most part.

    The Athletics had a lovely sleeveless vest which came in white, gray and gold, and those could be worn with gold or green undershirts. The Dodgers debuted a new road top with thin blue and white piping along the shoulders. The Padres had a tan road uniform. The White Sox and Phillies both debuted new uniforms, and both would keep them when they switched to polyester the next season. I thought both sets were downgrades; the White Sox’ royal blue and white set of 1969-70 was downright gorgeous, and the Phillies ditched the classic set they debuted in 1950, when the “Whiz Kids” won the franchise’s only pennant between 1915 and 1980.

    Three teams wore polyester that season. The Pirates debuted them in July 1970 when they moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium; the Cardinals began 1971 wearing them; and the Orioles gradually switched from flannel to polyester throughout that season, finally ditching flannel for good in the ALCS. Ironically, the 1971 World Series was all polyester, as the Pirates took down the heavily favored Orioles in seven games.

    In 1971, the Senators were still in Washington. The Brewers were in the American League West, building healthy rivalries with the Twins and White Sox.

    That changed in 1972.

    Cheapskate Senators owner Bob Short lied to the American League, claiming he was going broke in the nation’s capital, giving owners a supposed reason to allow the second incarnation of the Senators (the first became the Twins in 1961) to move to Dallas/Fort Worth and become the Texas Rangers. RFK Stadium was not a great facility by any means, but Short traded it for Arlington Stadium, a minor league facility which had no business hosting Major League Baseball. Yet it was the home of the Rangers through 1993.

    Dallas/Fort Worth is too big an area for any major sports league to ignore. However, Short was, well, (extremely) short-sighted for deserting the nation’s capital for a dump like Arlington Stadium. Had DFW waited until the American League expanded for 1977, it would have had a stadium which might still be standing, or would have served a team much better than Arlington.

    I visited Arlington Stadium a handful of times in my teenage years. I hated the park. Hated it. Those metal bleachers in the outfield were hot enough to fry eggs. Of course, the idiots who expanded the park built bleachers instead of building more decks from foul line to foul line, which would have been better for fans watching the game and the team, since those tickets would have commanded a higher price than bleachers.

    The Senators’ shift to DFW prompted AL owners to move the Brewers to the American League East, pissing off the White Sox and Twins, each of whom who lost six games per year against Milwaukee. The Great Lakes trio would not be reunited until 1994 when the American League Central, but that lasted only four seasons, because the Brewers gleefully moved to the National League for 1998.

    Speaking of the leagues, another great thing about baseball in 1971: NO DESIGNATED HITTER.

    The designated hitter is a pox on baseball. Charlie Finley, you can rot in hell. It is the single worst rule in all of sports. There are many other terrible ones, like the shootout in the NHL and high school football overtime, but the I despise the designated hitter more than any other rule in sports.

    Basketball players are not allowed to play only one end of the floor–at least if they want to stay on the court. Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored loads of points during their playing days, but if they didn’t rebound and block shots, they would never have sniffed the Hall of Fame.

    Other than the goaltender, hockey players must be good offensively and defensively if they hope to stick in the NHL. Gordie Howe, the NHL’s greatest goal scorer until Wayne Gretzky came along, prided himself as much for his defense as his offense. No opposing winger dared cross Mr. Hockey, or else he would find himself in a world of hurt.

    Association football? Same as hockey. Defenders don’t score many goals and forwards don’t play beyond the center line, but a player who is a defensive liability will be on the bench unless he scores goals as frequently as Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

    Players went both ways in the early days of the NFL, and in college until 1964. Many players at small high schools go both ways, and even at some large ones, because coaches would rather have an excellent athlete who may be fatigued rather than a mediocre one who is fresh.

    When Mr. Doubleday invented baseball in the 19th century, he intended for the nine players on the field to specialize in a defensive skill AND be able to swing the bat. Some swing the bat better than others. That’s professional sports.

    Major League Baseball is the best of the best of the best. The 750 men who populate the 30 MLB rosters are supposed to be the best in the world. Not all of them have to hit .350 with 50 home runs. Heck, Bill Mazeroski and Ozzie Smith, among many others, were mediocre hitters, but so great with their glove they have plaques in Cooperstown.

    I can tolerate–not accept–the DH in Little League and high school. However, at those levels, pitchers are often the best hitters, too, so it’s not necessary in those cases. Little League has a much larger problem than the DH. You’ve probably read my rants about this in earlier posts.

    In college baseball, the DH should be abolished, especially in Division I. If a young man is good enough to be pitching at the highest level of college baseball, he should be able to stand in the batter’s box up to four times every week if he’s a starting pitcher.

    The National League is going to adopt the designated hitter soon. I am deathly afraid of it. When it happens, I will be back on this blog using language not safe for work. You’ve been warned.

    When you went to the ballpark in 1971, there were no silly promotional handouts, no dizzy bat races, no scantily clad 20-something women shooting t-shirts out of air-propelled mini-cannons, and no mascots. Umpires still wore their blazers many days. American League umpires wore the balloon chest protector, leading to the Junior Circuit becoming known as a high-strike lead, contrasting to the National League, where the low strike ruled. Games usually lasted two hours, give or take a few minutes. There a few real doubleheaders, where one ticket got you two games, although there were fewer by 1971 than there had been in 1961, and fewer in 1961 than in 1951.

    In my opinion, the best thing about baseball in 1971–and the 34 years prior to that–NO FACIAL HAIR!!!!

    In 1971, only the Reds had a rule banning facial hair, but the other franchises unofficially followed suit. Many players had mutton chops and other forms of long sideburns which were in vogue in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but not one player in professional baseball sported a mustache and/or beard.

    Unfortunately, this came to an end in 1972. The culprit? Charles O. Finley. I hope you are seriously rotting in hell, Mr. Finley. You were a bastard in so many ways.

    Cheapskate Charlie, who refused to pay his A’s (from 1972-86, the Oakland franchise was officially known as the A’s) a living wage, somehow came up with an idea to give each player a $300 bonus if he grew a mustache by Father’s Day. Sure enough, every goddamn A’s player grew one.

    The A’s, wearing their new polyester uniforms of “kelly green”, “Fort Knox gold” and “wedding gown white”, ended up in the World Series against the clean-shaven Reds in a series termed by the medias as the “hairs” vs. the “squares”. Oakland won in seven games.

    I’m glad I wasn’t alive in 1972. I would not have known who to root for. I despise the Reds for Pete Rose, a gambling pedophile who played dirty. I disliked the A’s for the facial hair, not to mention the strong hate I have for Finley, who pulled the Athletics out of Kansas City after the 1967 season because of his avarice.

    The plague known as the DH came into being in 1973. That’s one of two reasons why 1973 was a horrid year for the grand old game. The second was the introduction of one George Michael Steinbrenner, who bought the Yankees from CBS for a paltry $10 million. That season was also the last for the original Yankee Stadium and the first for the facility now known as Kauffman Stadium.

    In 2019, finding a clean-shaven MLB player is as hard as finding a four-leaf clover. I don’t get it.

    Beards in hockey are ubiquitous in the playoffs. I don’t like them. Wayne Gretzky never grew a playoff beard. He was okay, wasn’t he? At least most hockey players shave them. Baseball players aren’t shaving them, and it’s gross.

    I’m surprised there isn’t a huge Detroit Lions fan club in western Kansas because of coach Matt Patricia’s disgusting facial hair. People out here could root for the Lions without feeling guilty, since Detroit plays the Broncos and Chiefs only once every four years. The Lions happen to play both this season, and for some reason, Kansas City has to go back to Ford Field. Under the current schedule rotation, Detroit will go 20 years without visiting Arrowhead. Good work, NFL.

    1971 also happened to be a wonderful year in other sports.

    • The Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship in their third season, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in four games. Of course, having Lew Alcindor, who had already changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but not yet adopted it on the court, and Oscar Robertson didn’t hurt.
    • The NFL in 1971 was fabulous. Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page was the league’s Most Valuable Player. Dallas legend Bob Lilly and the Doomsday Defense powered the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship. The Dolphins, who lost Super Bowl VI, won the NFL’s longest game, defeating the Chiefs after seven minutes, 40 seconds of a second overtime period in what was the final NFL game in Kansas City Municipal Stadium.
    • College football came down to Big Eight superpowers Nebraska and Oklahoma on Thanksgiving Day in Norman. The Cornhuskers survived 35-31, then steamrolled undefeated Alabama 38-6 in the Orange Bowl to finish the first 13-0 season. That Crimson Tide team switched to the Wishbone offense and also fielded its first black players, John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson.
    • After the previous three Stanley Cup finals series ended in four-game sweeps (sorry Blues), the Canadiens and Black Hawks played a series for the ages. The home team won each of the first six games, with the series returning to Chicago for game seven. In what turned out to be the final game for Montreal legend Jean Beliveau, Montreal silenced Chicago Stadium by winning 3-2 for the first of its six Stanley Cups in the 1970s.
    • UCLA won its fifth consecutive college basketball championship, overcoming determined Villanova 68-62 in the final at the Astrodome. Kansas reached the Final Four for the first time since 1957.
    • There were 48 NASCAR Grand National races in 1971, many on short tracks. The next year, the schedule was shortened to 31 races, and Winston cigarettes (🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤢🤢🤢🤢🤢🤢🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮) became the sponsor of the top series.

    Also in 1971, cigarette advertising on TV and radio was banned following the completion of the Orange Bowl (Nebraska 17, LSU 12) on New Year’s Night.

    Too bad H.G. Wells’ vision will never come to light. I’m stuck in this era of beards, tattoos and other things I can’t stand.

    I’m not going to apologize for this novella of a post. I needed to say these things.

    Maybe Buzztime knew I was blogging about 1971 in baseball. The first question of sports trivia tonight: What award did Ferguson Jenkins win that year? Of course any baseball fan worth his salt knows it was the National League Cy Young.

    The fire some want you to forget

    Every 24 June, the LGBTQ community pauses to remember the horror of a Sunday night in the French Quarter.

    It was 24 June 1973 when an arsonist doused the stairwell of The UpStairs Lounge with lighter fluid, then set it ablaze. By time the inferno was under control, 32 people perished.

    It was New Orleans’ third massive loss of life in seven months.

    The first was a 29 November 1972 fire at the Rault Center, a 16-story high rise in the city’s Central Business District. One man died when he was trapped in an elevator. Five women jumped from the 15th floor; three died instantly, one died in a hospital a month later without ever regaining consciousness, but miraculously, Natalie Smith of Metairie lived to tell her story. She passed away in 2014 at 81.

    Five and a half weeks after the Rault Center came the infamous sniper incident at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Motor Hotel across Gravier Street from the Rault Center. Two hotel guests (a honeymooning couple from Virginia), the hotel’s General Manager and Assistant General Manager, and three police officers (Phillip Coleman, Paul Persigo and Louis Sirgo, the NOPD’s Deputy Superintendent) were cut down by Emporia native Mark Essex.

    Essex was later identified as the sniper who killed NOPD Cadet Alfred Harrell New Year’s Eve at Orleans Parish Prison, then wounded Edwin Hosli in a neighborhood. Hosli passed away 65 days later without regaining consciousness. He also was fingered by many as the perpetrator of the Rault Center fire.

    The Howard Johnson’s incident received national coverage on all three networks. Imagine if there were CNN, MSNBC and Fox News back then.

    The Rault Center fire led the national newscasts hours after it occurred, although outside of New Orleans, it wasn’t mentioned after 29 November 1972.

    The UpStairs Lounge fire rated less than two minutes on the next night’s CBS Evening News and barely a minute on the NBC Nightly News. Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith (a Louisiana native) didn’t mention one word about it on ABC.

    Why?

    The patrons in The UpStairs Lounge were nearly all homosexual males. One woman died, and it’s unclear if she was lesbian or a relative of one of the men.

    In 1973, homosexuality in New Orleans, which was more progressive than the rest of Louisiana and most of the rest of the Deep South, was frowned upon.

    The coward who committed the dastardly deed at The UpStairs Lounge was never caught. He took the sissy way out and committed suicide a little more than a year after the fire.

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    The College World Series championship series started an hour ago. I had Vanderbilt right. Arkansas, however, was a big disappointment, losing to Florida State and Texas Tech.

    Michigan is the first Big Ten (B1G) team to reach a CWS final since 1966, when Ohio State won the championship. One of the Buckeyes’ best players was Bo Rein, who sadly perished in a January 1980 plane crash only 42 days after being named LSU’s football coach.

    Had Rein lived, there’s no way LSU suffers 10 losing seasons between 1980 and 1999. Would he have won a national championship at LSU? Hard to tell. There were so many superpowers in that era. On the other hand, LSU would never have hired such duds as Mike Archer, Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo.

    If Rein lived and coached a long time at LSU, do the Bayou Bengals entice Nick Saban, and later Les Miles, to Baton Rogue? Who knows.

    The Big Ten has long complained about college baseball being slanted heavily towards teams in warmer climates, and in particular, the other Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC).

    I understand the weather is a problem. But Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and other Big Ten schools, save Northwestern, have no room to complain. They are raking in millions upon millions of dollars through the Big Ten’s television contracts and their partnerships with Nike or another apparel company, meaning they have plenty to build indoor baseball facilities, whether it be through capital outlay or donors.

    Michigan has an athletic budget which dwarfs some COUNTRIES. Why can’t it build a dedicated indoor baseball facility in Ann Arbor, one with a full-sized diamond? If the Maize and Blue can afford separate hockey facilities for its men’s and women’s teams, it certainly has the money to build something more in baseball (and softball).

    And why does Wisconsin not play baseball anymore? It’s inexcusable the flagship university of the Badger State does not play the sport when there is a Major League franchise in Milwaukee. It’s the same for Colorado.

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    That’s all from Salina. I need to get home pronto.

    More Arabi Park memories

    My post earlier this week about Arabi Park Middle School was well received by my former classmates.

    However, names continue to come back to me, and I would be remiss if I did not mention them.

    One I feel terrible about omitting was that of a beautiful young lady who joined our classes for the seventh grade.

    Michelle Woodland came to Arabi Park from Houston. She immediately showed she was bright and kind, and she took a real liking to me. Of course, I brushed her off because I stupidly continued to crush on Stacie Dauterive (Seube).

    Looking back, Michelle obviously did not mean any harm. I felt bad when I left for Brother Martin that I wouldn’t see her anymore. I should have been nicer to her. I’d give anything to find out where she is today.

    One young lady who was on the receiving end of my volatile temper was Lori King. I spilled red drink on a white shirt she was wearing the afternoon of May 13, 1988, and I was suspended for one day.

    I wanted to crawl into a hole. I cried all weekend and the day of my suspension. My homeroom teacher, Mrs. Robichaux, saw me with my parents and brother in the parking lot of the old K-Mart in Chalmette the day after the incident and tried to make sense of it. She thought being suspended was too harsh.

    Lori never mentioned it again. We danced together at one of the school dances the next year.

    Another young lady I omitted was Jennifer Cancienne, who played saxophone in the band with Jack Bastoe and Allison Richardson (White). Rest in Peace, Allison.

    Jenny lived a couple of blocks south of Judge Perez Drive, the main thoroughfare of St. Bernard Parish. The busy highway separated her house from Carolyn Park and the Dauterive house, which was two houses down from St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic school and church, where I attended school from kindergarten through fifth grade.

    I recall Jenny undergoing a horrific ordeal. It was either kidnapping or assault; I’m not sure. I hope she has recovered and is living a happy life.

    During seventh grade, Aimee Roniger, who was in my fifth grade class at St. Robert’s, transferred to Arabi Park. She and her neighbor, Nicole Lowery, who was also in our classes at APM, once came to my house and played football with Jason Malasovich and I. It was Jason’s birthday, the day after mine.

    There are a couple of things from my seventh grade year at Arabi Park which are hilarious looking back upon them 30 years ago.

    The first was after our trip to the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on February 16, 1989. We got back to school in time for seventh period, but instead of forcing us to go to class, Shelly Schumacher, our science teacher who led the field trip, let us stay in the school’s planetarium, where we had science class during sixth period.

    She turned the radio on, and invited anyone who wanted to sing along to do so.

    George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” came on WEZB (B-97), the top-rated FM station in the New Orleans area.

    Yours truly took the mike and proceeded to sing along terribly with Mr. Michael. Mrs. Schumacher and many of my classmates were amused. Some weren’t.

    Two more notes on WEZB.

    Mrs. Schumacher let us do karaoke one day in December. Eddie Money’s “Walk on Water” came on. I asked Nicole would you believe in me if I walked on water. She said no.

    In 1989, WEZB’s Walton & Johnson, who were on the air from 0530 to 1000 each weekday, had a birthday contest. If your birthday was called and you were the first to call the station, you won cash, usually $20.

    On May 18, 1989, the prize was $10,000.

    The birthday Walton & Johnson announced was November 6.

    The birthday of Roy Steinle, aka my father.

    I called Air Products trying to get dad on the phone so he could call. Unfortunately I was too late.

    Jason (my brother) or I should have called and told them I was Roy. If he would have been disqualified because one of his sons called on his behalf, so what? It wouldn’t have cost us anything, and I’m sure WEZB would not have pressed criminal charges.

    Back to Arabi Park.

    I was obsessed with sex during my seventh grade year. I was only 12, and I was way, way, WAY too young to even be considering it. That unnerved the girls in my classes, except for Rosemarie, who knew me too well, and Michelle, who thought I was endearing.

    This leads to my next escapade from APM.

    In the fourth quarter of my seventh grade year, the boys and girls were separated for sex education. Mrs. Schumacher taught the girls and Susan Buras taught the boys.

    Shoulder pads were a big fad among women in the 1980s, and at the time, I had a very misguided idea as to why women were wearing shoulder pads.

    To satisfy my curiosity, I asked Mrs. Buras if women carried their sanitary napkins (maxi-pads) in their bra straps around their shoulders.

    That cracked everyone up. I was teased the rest of the year for it.

    Turns out the pads were nothing more than a fashion statement.

    I’m laughing so hard thinking about it as I type.

    It’s been 30 years, but I’ll never forget all of you. Nor the good times we had.

    30 years ago: out of the (Arabi) park

    I didn’t realize it until this morning, but Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of my last day at Arabi Park Middle School.

    There were no classes that Friday; it was just to pick up our report cards and say goodbye until late August, or in my case, say goodbye, period.

    I knew since mid-February I would not be attending eighth grade at Arabi Park. I received my acceptance letter to Brother Martin High, which has an eighth grade, February 11, four days after Mardi Gras and three before Valentine’s Day. I was surprised I got in, because I thought attending a public school would work heavily against me. Apparently, someone saw something in me to let me in.

    I did have some help.

    The admissions director at Brother Martin at the time, Greg Rando, had a sister-in-law, Anne, who was the assistant principal at Arabi Park. Greg, who graduated from Brother Martin in 1977, later became principal and is now president at his alma mater. Anne really helped me navigate the choppy waters at Arabi Park, especially the last three months after I was accepted to Brother Martin.

    The famous trip to the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi Gulf Coast came five days after I received my acceptance letter. On that trip, I wore not a shirt for my future high school, but the college I hoped to attend…Kansas State. It had Willie Wildcat, the cartoon mascot who bore a striking resemblance to Tom from Tom and Jerry, on the front.

    On my last day at Arabi Park, I wore a Brother Martin t-shirt. Mrs. Rando was proud to show me off wearing it, but a lot of my classmates were not thrilled. Stacie Dauterive (Seube) was relieved I would be attending school in Gentilly, but I can’t blame her. I gave her and the other female members of my classes a lot of grief. I feel horrible I cannot apologize to Allison Richardson (White), who passed away from cancer in 2008. If I could have taken her place, I would have.

    I admit I had a crush on Stacie at Arabi Park. She is a beautiful lady, but she is intelligent, kind and funny, and I love her much more for that. Her sister, Andree, is the same way. They definitely got it from their parents. Stacie could have been great at anything she wanted to, but she chose to give back by becoming a teacher like her mom.

    Stacie has an autistic son, something which is heartbreaking for me. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But he will thrive because he has great parents and a great family support system.

    Rosemarie Renz (Huguet) went to school with me in kindergarten through fourth grade and could handle my antics, but the others couldn’t, but I really have no ill will towards them. I came into their universe in the second quarter of their sixth grade year, and I was, well, different. Nobody knew what Asperger’s Syndrome was in the United States, and they wouldn’t for five more years.

    God, I miss Rosie. She is my oldest friend. I was sad when I didn’t get to see her in Baton Rouge last year. I hope my next visit there will reunite us. Rosie, like Stacie, is a teacher. The profession is that much better because of people like Rosie and Stacie.

    I DID see Jason Malasovich, my second oldest friend, in Kansas City last year. I had the pleasure of meeting his lovely wife, Melissa, and their kids, Olivia and Carson. I’ve known Jason since we played basketball together in 1986-87.

    And I’ll never forget Toni LaRocca in a Hooters uniform in 2000. She is such a wonderful soul whom I would give anything to see again, just like Rosie and Stacie.

    I’ll never forget the others, either: Shawn O’Neil, Lara Doyle (Meyers), Kimberly Carmouche (Lee), Christi Rehage (Alvarez), Tammy Gilbert (the brains of the APM Class of ’90), Holly Atwood (Syrdal), Erin Billingsley (Lee), Nicole Meyer (who was taller than all the boys and damn good at the flute), Juli Wahl, Tina Calabresi, Vanessa Condra, Janis Maillet, Jack Bastoe, Jared Couture, Brandon Miller….plus a few who graduated before me, especially Jennifer Newell and Chastity Manzella.

    They probably don’t remember me, but hey, memories fade.

    I got teased quite a bit because I really liked Phyllis Marsolan, our sixth grade English teacher. I liked her, but most of her other students were more lukewarm. She was my first teacher crush, followed by Janine Koenig, my eighth grade science teacher, at Brother Martin. But I knew better than to act. It would have been disastrous for all involved.

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    Yesterday was what I like to call Desiree Day.

    That’s because in the opening line of Neil Diamond’s 1977 hit “Desiree”, it mentions the third of June as the night he supposedly became a man (read: lost his virginity) to a woman twice his age named Desiree.

    Desiree is one of my favorite Diamond songs, and I have a lot of them. Here’s the Foots top 15:

    15. I’m Alive

    14. I’m a Believer (no, that is not a typo; Diamond came out with a version of the Monkees smash in 1967)

    13. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers

    12. Coming to America

    11. Crunchy Granola Suite

    10. Soolamion

    9. Shiloh

    8. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

    7. Kentucky Woman

    6. Cherry Cherry

    5. Song Sung Blue

    4. Desiree

    3. Forever in Blue Jeans

    2. Play Me

    1. Cracklin’ Rosie

    Notice what Diamond song is not up there. If I’ve offended any Red Sox fans, then too freaking bad.

    Thursday is another anniversary mentioned in a song. Can you guess?

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    The Blues and Bruins have alternated wins in the Stanley Cup Finals, with Boston winning the odds and St. Louis the evens. St. Louis has to break that pattern, preferably Thursday in game five at Boston. If the Blues win, they can clinch the Cup Sunday in St. Louis.

    St. Louis had to watch the Canadiens skate the Cup in 1968 and ’69 after the Blues were swept in the final. In 1970, the Blues somehow had home-ice advantage, but it didn’t work a bit, with the Bruins sweeping, winning the finale in the Boston Garden on that goal by Bobby Orr.

    The Stanley Cup has been skated four times in Boston since then, all by visitors: the Canadiens in ’77 and ’78, the Oilers in ’90 and the Blackhawks in 2013. Boston won the Cup in ’72 in Madison Square Garden vs. the Rangers, and in 2011 the Bruins won it in Vancouver, taking Game 7 4-0 after the home team won the first six games.

    St. Louis has payback for more than 1970 on its minds. The city would like to get Boston back for the 2014 and ’13 World Series, Super Bowl XXXVI in February 2002, and the 1961 NBA Finals, the last time the Hawks franchise has made the finals.

    In the NBA, the Warriors went on an 18-0 run to start the third quarter Sunday and won by five in Toronto, squaring that series 1-1. Had Golden State lost, it would have been bleak for the Warriors, even going back to Oakland. Hopefully the Warriors can hold serve at home and close it out, because the last thing I want is to see Drake leading a parade in Toronto.

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

    Feeding myself and my trivia addiction at Old Chicago in Salina. Got my hair cut by Amber. I have something groovy waiting for me in Russell..gl.

    Luxury riders

    I’m back. Time for that story.

    St. Patrick’s Day 1989 was on a Friday. Everyone at Arabi Park Middle School was looking forward to the final bell that day, since it would mean the beginning of one week off, the unofficial spring break, even though it wasn’t called that.

    That night would be another of Arabi Park’s dances for the 7th and 8th grade students. Want to talk about awkward? Your intrepid blogger was the poster child for awkwardness. I didn’t have the guts to ask any girl to dance, and I often started crying by the end of the first hour.

    Many girls were turned off by that, but I don’t blame them. They were 12 or 13, what were they supposed to do? Fortunately, Rosemarie Renz (now Huguet), who is my longest-standing friend on earth (37 1/2 years), was always nice enough to dance with me once or twice, and eventually, Stacie Dauterive (Seube), the young lady whom I had a crush on at Arabi Park, also danced with me near the end of the night.

    Stacie was beautiful then and is now. But she has a wonderful heart. That’s why I really had a crush on her. Her sister, Andree (Addison), has that heart of gold, too.

    I can’t say enough great things about Rosemarie. I hurt sometimes that we lost touch after 7th grade when I went to Brother Martin. Part of me wishes I would have stayed at Arabi Park fo the eighth grade and gone to Archbishop Hannah, the Catholic high school in St. Bernard Parish (county) with her.

    On St. Patrick’s Day 1989, the APM student council sponsored a raffle. The winner would win a ride to the dance in a limo and would be able to bring five other people with him or her.

    Let’s just say I spent as much money on trying to win the raffle as I would buying music credits during a long day at Buffalo Wild Wings. And $20 in 1989 was a lot more than $20 in 2019.

    My classmates noticed I was going after the limo ride hard. During an afternoon class, I kidded with Toni LaRocca and Allison Richardson about inviting them to ride if I had won.

    My heart weighs very heavy thinking about that right now. Allison Richardson (White) passed away in 2008 from cancer. Toni was extremely close to Allison, as was Stacie and several other girls in my classes at APM, and they are still devastated over a decade later.

    If I could press the rewind button, I would certainly have invited Allison and Toni to ride. Rosemarie too.

    That last sentence tells you I won the raffle. Shawn O’Neil informed me in the gym during a mini-carnival going on after classes ended.

    Shawn never went to dances at Arabi Park. I tried to entice him to come with a spot in the limo, but he wisely said no.

    I knew I couldn’t invite Stacie. She was going with Glen Weaver, her boyfriend throughout APM. She met her husband, Jeff, at Andrew Jackson High.

    Jason Malasovich was going to ride, of course. It was an all-male crew: Jason, Jared Couture, Brandon Miller, Jack Bastoe, Joe Monaghan, and myself. Jared, Brandon and Jack were in classes with Jason and I, and Joe lived near Jason in another part of Arabi.

    We met at Jack’s house since it was the farthest from the school, not too far from the bowling alley in Chalmette. The ride was fun. The dance was a repeat of the past, save for two things.

    First, my mother was a chaperone, and Joe danced with her.

    Second, I danced with Stacie’s mother, Kathy, who was then a teacher at Carolyn Park Elementary School, about five blocks from my house. She said I should dance with my mother, but I declined.

    Confession: if I ever got married, I would be quaking in my boots over dancing with my mother. She is quite aloof and afraid of physical contact. I can name at least 50 people I have hugged more than her in my lifetime. Let’s see: Peggy, Caitlyn, Brenda, Dorinda, Liz, Lisa, Dawn…I’ll stop there for now.

    The Dauterive family resided on Badger Drive, only 200 feet from St. Robert Belarmine Catholic Church, whose school I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade. After Katrina, Stacie and Jeff moved in with their sons to 905 Badger Drive, while her parents, Rene and Kathy, moved to Baton Rouge.

    Rene owned a very successful plumbing company in St. Bernard Parish while I lived there, and he took care of our house at 224 Jaguar Drive. I’ve joked with Stacie and Andree that I want to bring Rene to Russell so he can fix the American Legion post’s plumbing problems for my parents, as well as those at 1224 North Brooks. Fortunately, there is a fine plumber in Russell, Donnie Boxberger, so we’re covered.

    Two schools of thought on my fellow limo riders 30 years later. First, the guys were the right choice, because it avoided any awkwardness I would have had with girls. The other is I should have invited at least Rosemarie, because she and I had been friends for so long and she was always so nice. But Jason and I had been friends before APM as well, so he was a great choice.

    I attended one more APM dance in late April. My mother did not allow me to go to the one in May, and rightly so, because I failed to turn in an assignment on time. I was very fortunate I was not forced to go to summer school. I could have been failed for not turning it in on time, but I was allowed to turn it in the following Monday for a D. On June 2, 1989, I was jeered out of Arabi Park twice, first at school, then by a passing school bus as I walked back to 224 Jaguar.

    I don’t blame any kids who were unhappy that I was going to Brother Martin. I rubbed it in their faces for the last 3 1/2 months of the 1988-89 school year. I thought I was on another plane because I was going to a school in the New Orleans Catholic League and they weren’t. I was not welcome back on campus during 1989-90.

    Sadly, Arabi Park closed in the late 1990s when St. Bernard Parish’s school system consolidated some schools. The shell of the old school stood until Katrina wiped it away.

    I lost touch with so many until discovering them on Facebook in 2014, 25 years after I left for the school at 4401 Elysian Fields in New Orleans. I saw Jason last August when he was in town with his lovely family. I hope I will see more Epton (before it’s too late in Foots lingo).

    After the dance ended, I got home in time to watch the second half of LSU’s NCAA tournament game vs. UTEP. The Bayou Bengals enjoyed a fine season with All-America freshman Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf), but the Miners had future NBA standouts Tim Hardaway and Antonio Davis, plus the coaching acumen of the legendary Don Haskins, the same Don Haskins who led an all-black Miner team to victory over Adolph Rupp’s all-white Kentucky team in the 1966 championship game.

    Many in Louisiana were salivating at the possibility of LSU playing Indiana and the hated Bobby Knight in the second round, but UTEP won 85-74.

    If you’re wondering why LSU was playing so close to midnight Central time, here’s the dish.

    Prior to 1991, CBS did not televise every tournament game prior to the Elite Eight. In the first and second rounds, CBS would select the games it wanted to show nationally, then the NCAA would put the other games up for bids. The NCAA produced the games and provided the announcers, and games were either televised by ESPN or a local network. In the Sweet 16, CBS selected two games a night, and the other two that night would be on locally in the areas of the participating teams.

    In 1991, CBS took over all games, and contests before the Elite Eight were regionally broadcast. It stayed that way through 2010.

    In 2011, CBS split the broadcast rights with TBS, TNT and TruTV, meaning every game would be televised nationally.

    I’ve got a sinking feeling LSU will be one-and-done 30 years later, thanks to all the scandal surrounding coach Will Wade, who is suspended and may be fired. The field will be revealed at 1700. Not that I’m going to fill out a bracket.

    Enjoy what’s left of your St. Patrick’s Day and weekend.

    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.

    Exploits of a 12-year old

    I swear I need to discipline myself to post every day during 2019, no matter how short or how silly it might be. Actually, short posts might be better considering I have the tendency for posts which fall just short of the length of War and Peace.

    I didn’t get to Kansas City until 1915 last night. I had to stay behind in Hays due to an eye exam with Dr. Stacey Jones at 1415. It was the last time I’ll visit her at the corner of Canterbury and 22nd in Hays, because in January, she and her husband will open their own ophthalmology/dentistry private practice in downtown Hays across the corner from the Hays public library, Fox Theater and James Motors. I’ve been seeing Dr. Jones since moving to Kansas in 2005, and she has picked up right where my ophthalmologist in Louisiana, Dr. Martin Schoenberger, left off. Both have been great caring for my vision.

    I ended up sending out 73 Christmas cards. So, far one has been labeled returned to sender. One person was not happy that I looked up their address and sent a card. Peggy, Caitlyn, Brenda, Dorinda and a few others, some of whom were middle school classmates of mine in 1988 and ’89, were much happier. They’ll stay on the list for 2019. The complainer won’t.

    Tuesday was the 30th anniversary of my only memorable athletic achievement.

    I played youth basketball for the local playground, Carolyn Park, for three years in the 1980s. My last year was in the 1988-89 season, when I played on Carolyn Park’s 11-year old team (I was 12 by time the season started, but since I had an October birthday, I played with the 11-year olds, as did my Arabi Park Middle classmate, Jason Malasovich). The goals were only 8 1/2 feet high, and the free throw lanes were trapezoidal shaped like they were in international basketball at the time, albeit narrower than what was used both internationally and the NBA.

    On the afternoon of Dec. 18, 1988, Carolyn Park played Versailles, which was located at the junction of Paris Road and St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette, not too far from the ferry landing where the boats which ran between Chalmette and the Algiers section of New Orleans would take on cars.

    There were six playgrounds in St. Bernard Parish. Carolyn Park was the farthest west, taking in the community of Arabi, which stretched from the city limits of New Orleans about two miles to the east. Three–Vista, Versailles and Rebel–were in Chalmette, the largest community in St. Bernard. Bournemouth (spelled the same as the city on the south coast of England) was in Meraux and Violet, and then Kenilworth took in the eastern third of the parish.

    Carolyn Park didn’t have its own gym, so the game was played at Bournemouth. Four nights earlier, my team played Kenilworth at Bournemouth’s gym, and I had a decent game, scoring six points and blocking a shot from behind. I blocked the shot from 12 feet at its apex and it flew out of bounds. I could hear my mother and brother cheering that one.

    Jason was one of three very good players that Carolyn Park team had. The others wer the guards, Chad Nuccio, son of our coach, A.J. Nuccio, and Trey Guillot, who later enjoyed a stellar baseball career at Holy Cross before pitching for Tulane. I wasn’t athletic enough to be a starter, but I came of the bench and did what needed to be done, mostly rebounding, good defense and points here and there.

    In the game vs. Versailles, I scored on a pair of jump shots from the foul line in the second period, and it helped Carolyn Park lead 30-15 at halftime.

    In the second half, Versailles came back. It had a couple of future high school varsity starters, Brett Tessitore (Archbishop Hannah) and Michael Marques (Brother Martin); Michael was in my graduating class at Brother Martin, and his dad and my dad worked together at Air Products and Chemicals.

    Foul trouble nearly crippled Carolyn Park. Five players fouled out, including Chad and Jason. I would have been on the bench the entire second half, but the starter who played my position, Alex Dupre, fouled out with three minutes left. I knew it was his fifth foul, and coach Nuccio sent me into the game.

    As the fouls began to pile up, I got so angry I slammed the ball with 90 seconds left. It was right in front of an official. I should have been given a technical foul. He let it go. He must have known I was frustrated.

    With 30 seconds left, Carolyn Park was down to four players. Basketball rules allow a team to play with fewer than five if players foul out or are ejected, but you cannot start a game with fewer than five.

    I thought I would be gone with another foul, but it turned out I had three. With 12 seconds left, Versailles missed the front end of a one-and-one (the double bonus was not adopted in high school basketball until 1995-96), leaving it ahead 45-44.

    Trey pulled down the rebound and sped down the left sideline with a beautiful left-handed dribble. His layup was off the mark.

    The rebound came down to the right side of the lane to #14. ME.

    From seven feet away, I put an awkward-looking jumper.

    It skimmed the backboard and fell through with two seconds left.

    Versailles called timeout. I was mobbed by my teammates and coaches. All we had to do was defend and my shot would be the winner.

    Versailles threw a long pass which was tipped and bounced harmlessly away. Carolyn Park won 46-45.

    Of course, I got a hugely inflated head over the shot. I bragged about it the next two days at Arabi Park. Thankfully for Jason, Shawn O’Neil (who was a damn good player for Vista) and my other classmates, school let out that Tuesday for the holidays.

    The shot went to my head. I played like crap the next two games, and my dad suggested after the second, a 19-point loss to Rebel, that I quit because I wasn’t committed.

    The Thursday after Christmas, I wasn’t feeling well. I was battling a cold, and I had to wear long sleeves under my jersey. Carolyn Park played Bournemouth all the way at Kenilworth at the other end of the parish.

    I was on the bench in the first quarter. In the second quarter, I went off.

    Ten points in six minutes. I went to the foul line for the first time that season and swished both shots. I played the entire second half and finished with 14 points in Carolyn Park’s 53-34 victory.

    The night before my big game, Shawn O’Neil held his 12th birthday party at Showbiz Pizza in Algiers, across the Mississippi River from St. Bernard Parish. Showbiz was Chuck E. Cheese’s competitor in the 1980s, and both places advertised heavily on the four main New Orleans television stations. Chuck E. Cheese was on the Metairie-Kenner line on Veterans Highway in Jefferson Parish.

    Shawn’s dad insisted on taking the ferry to Algiers. I begged him not to. I HATED HTE FERRY. I hated it. I knew all about the infamous incident in 1976 (exactly one week after I was born) when a drunken ferry pilot did not see a huge tanker crossing the river in St. Charles Parish. The boats collided, and all of the cars went into the river. Of the 94 people on board the ferry, 78 perished.

    My mother took the ferry often to visit her mother, who lived in Algiers from 1970 until her death in 1992. It made some sense before October 1988, when the second span of the Greater New Orleans Bridge (now the Crescent City Connection) opened. When it was one bridge and there were only two lanes of traffic in each direction, an accident could cause delays of up to six hours in some cases.

    I tried to get girls in our class at Arabi Park, especially Stacie Dauterive (now Seube) invitations, but the O’Neils said no way.

    Jason and I had to play in a Christmas concert in New Orlean’s’ Jackson Square with the Arabi Park Middle band the day before I hit my game-winning shot. It was chilly and windy. Good preparation for my future life as it turned out.

    Shawn, Jason, Stacie and a few others from Arabi Park were on my Christmas card list. I would give anything to see all of them. I’m very happy that rift has been repaired. It was pretty ugly when I left Arabi Park after seventh grade for Brother Martin. I lorded Brother Martin over them much worse than that game-winning shot, and it was little wonder why they were glad to see me continue my education at 4401 Elysian Fields Avenue in New Orleans.

    Apparently, forgiveness is a four-letter word to some I’ve known through the years. Sad.

    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.