Category Archives: History

Random thoughts: Mardi Gras edition

It’s just another humdrum Tuesday in most of the United States, but in Louisiana–especially the southern part of the state–and southern Alabama, it’s Mardi Gras. 

I grew up in New Orleans, so I know all about it all too well. I last went to a parade on Mardi Gras day 25 years ago. I do not want to recall it. It was dreadful. I hated the crowds, I hated having to wait on a hot and muggy day, and then the Rex parade itself was nothing to write home about.

There were Mardi Gras parades in the suburban community in which I lived until 1988. Then my family went to watch the Mardi Gras parade in a western suburb of New Orleans for three years. In 1991 and 1992, we went to watch the Rex parade on Napoleon Avenue.  

I will never, ever forget being bullied at school the first day following the week-long Mardi Gras holiday. I was bullied by several people over what I wore. I will not go into detail about it, but it was not a costume. Maybe I should have worn a costume. I might have taken less grief.

I stopped going to parades altogether after graduating from high school. I went to the Krewe of Thoth in 1993 and 1994 because I knew several riders. When they saw me standing at the corner of Henry Clay and Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-i-TOO-las for those of you non-natives), they would bombard me with beads, doubloons (metal coins about the size of a silver dollar) and other trinkets. I would let some of the others standing there scoop up stuff, simply because I had no use for all of that crap. 

Speaking of Thoth, it’s the only one of two parades in New Orleans proper which does not follow the traditional route from Napoleon to St. Charles Avenue. Thoth does roll down Napoleon to St. Charles Avenue, but takes a much longer to get there. It starts on Tchoupitoulas, heads west to Henry Clay, north on Henry Clay to Magazine Street, then Magazine to Napoleon. It is the longest Carnvial route in the city.

Thoth does this for a reason. It allows residents of several New Orleans facilities for the mentally and physically handicapped, as well as patients at Children’s Hospital, to see a parade. 

The other parade which doesn’t follow the traditional route is Endymion, the super krewe which rolls in Mid-City the Saturday before Mardi Gras. 

I don’t miss parades one bit. Not. One. Bit. And don’t ever ask me to go to the French Quarter. Not happening. 

If you’re the adventurous type, then sure, it’s worth going to once. But keep in mind what might be permissible (not necessarily legal) in the French Quarter are HUGE NO-NOS on the parade routes. Do that on St. Charles Avenue and you’re going straight to jail. The parades are meant to be family friendly, and if you even think about doing it when young children are present, you’re asking for jail time and a large fine. 

There used to be a parade on Mardi Gras evening. I said used to be, because the organization still exists, but it cannot parade due to a terrible New Orleans ordinance which has long since been declared unconstitutational by the United States Supreme Court. 

In late 1991, a black New Orleans City Council member named Dorothy Mae Taylor introduced an ordinance which would require all Carnival organizations to list their membership, as well as prove they do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or sex. 

I don’t know how the heck the ordinance passed, but it did. 

EVERY Carnvial krewe in New Orleans was opposed. EVERY ONE. 

Zulu, the premier black krewe, admitted whites before the ordinance was passed, wanted to keep its krewe all-male. Bacchus and Endymion, the super krewes which always had a celebrity as grand marshal and/or monarch, wanted to stay all-male, too, even though like Zulu, they were racially desegregated. 

The big problem came for the “old-line” krewes, which had been all-white, all-male and for the most part, all-Protestant since they wer formed. 

Rex, King of Carnival, agreed to admit non-whites and non-Christians and have been parading non-stop. 

Proteus, another old-line krewe, refused to acquiesce, but they still held their 1992 parade. They did not parade from 1993-99 before returning in 2000.

Sadly, two of the great old-line krewes, Momus and Comus, have not returned to the streets. 

Why the hell should anyone care who is a member of a Mardi Gras krewe? If you don’t like the fact Comus is all-white and all-male, and mostly Protestant, STAY HOME. 

Let me put it this way: Bill Gates cannot become a member of Comus. Donald Trump cannot become a member of Comus. 

Simply put, if you are not born into the right family, you’re shit out of luck. That includes Archie Manning and his sons, Drew Brees and John Bel Edwards, the current Governor of Louisiana. 

I could care less about not being able to join a Mardi Gras krewe. It’s not life or death. Let them choose whomever the hell they want to be a member. Why do politicians care? Crime is rampant in New Orleans, the public schools are horrendous, the city is broke, yet some want to tell Mardi Gras krewes which have been around since the 19th century who the hell can or can’t be in their club. 

Dorothy Mae Taylor is dead. Sadly, Comus and Momus haven’t paraded since 1991. That has to change. I won’t be attending if and when Comus returns to the streets, but my native city will be a big winner. 

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.  

A Mickey Mouse kind of place 

I went into my Howard Hughes phase yet again. Five straight days without posting. I’m not going to use Christmas as an excuse. I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to get this figured out in 2017. 

I need to do a lot of things better in 2017. Eat better. Don’t lose my cool. Don’t worry about what I don’t have. Easier said than done, of course, but at least I have a place to start. 

Bowl games are going on all day today. Georgia beat TCU in the Liberty Bowl, and Stanford is leading North Carolina in the second quarter of the Sun Bowl. Nebraska and Tennessee kick off at 2:30 in the Music City Bowl, and tonight is Florida St. vs. Michigan in the Orange Bowl. 

LSU plays tomorrow morning at 10 am vs. Louisville in the Citrus Bowl. Hopefully the Bayou Bengals can shut down Lamar Jackson, the undeserving Heisman Trophy winner, and shut up Bobby Petrino. 

Peggy and her family are on a skiing trip in Colorado. I have to admit I’m a bit jealous. I’m settling for Kansas City AGAIN. Not that I dislike anyone in KC, but it sometimes gets repetitive. On the other hand, I’m afraid to hang out at a Buffalo Wild Wings in another city, because I believe they would kick me out for loitering. The die is cast; I’m wedded to Zona Rosa for the foreseeable future. 

The farthest west I ever ventured in my first 28 years and 11 months was HAYS. I’m not saying I wanted to go skiing, but going west would have been nice. Denver. Or maybe Wyoming. But my mother hated small towns. She still does, even though she’s lived in one for almost 11 years. 

My parents DRAGGED ME KICKING AND SCREAMING to Disney World in 1985 when I was 8 1/2. It was beyond AWFUL. I hated every minute of that trip. HATED. EVERY. MINUTE. What else was I going to do? I couldn’t stay home at that age. It was a mile walk to the nearest restaurant and convenience store, and a little longer to a grocery store. It would have been awfully boring staying in the house all day, but then again, it could not have been much worse than Disney World. 

Two experiences not related to Disney World on that trip were horrifying. The first was my dad’s moronic decision to eat at a greasy truck stop in Marianna, a small town about 60 miles west of Tallahassee, on the way. The second was a tire blowing out on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. Not to mention my dad got lost leaving Kissimmee and didn’t find the Florida Turnpike until we were almost to Ocala, and the hotel in Tallahassee on the way there and back overcharging my dad’s credit card. 

My brother and his wife took their honeymoon to Disney World three years ago. Pretty dumb. I wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near Orlando, much less be caught at Disney World. It was bad enough in 1985, when there was only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. It’s a billion times worse now with MGM Studios and all the other shit. If they want to go back to Disney World with their son one day, then I can’t help their stupidity. I would never take a child of mine on that torture trip. 

I don’t remember a damn thing about Disney World that was good. Maybe the video arcade. But no ride was worth a dime. And I cannot stand roller coasters. I would only go on one if I had a significant other who wanted to. And I would have to warn her I might throw up. 

If you’re that desperate to go to a Disney theme park, then pack the bags and head to Anaheim. Disneyland may be smaller, but the weather is much better. I woudn’t be caught dead anywhere in Florida any time of the year. Yes, there is a the constant threat of earthquakes in Orange County, but I wouldn’t want to deal with the Florida heat, not to mention hurricanes in August and September. 

I’ve been to Florida four times since Disney World, all on business. Two trips were to Gainesville when LSU played Florida in baseball. Gainesville is one of my least favorite cities in the Southeastern Confernece, and Florida’s baseball stadium is a joke. The press box has no air conditioning, or at least it did when I went there. Yeah, great idea, Gators. 

The other two times were in the Florida panhandle with Delgado Community College, where I worked prior to Katrina. At least I didn’t have to worry about changing time zones. 

October 13 history lesson

I officially turned 40 a few minutes ago. I was born at 9:16 a.m. October 13, 1976, a sunny Wednesday, at Baptist Hospital on Napoleon Avenue in New Orleans.

Two hundred and four days before my birth, a baby boy who went on to become much more famous than I was born in the same hospital. His name: Peyton Williams Manning, the second child of Elisha Archibald (Archie) Manning and Olivia Williams Manning.

I’ve always wondered why my parents chose Baptist Hospital, which was pretty far from our residence in suburban St. Bernard Parish (county), to give birth. My brother, Jason, was also born at Baptist on February 24, 1978. Now for the Mannings, Baptist was the closest hospital, since they lived on First Street in the swanky Garden District.

Maybe it’s appropriate I have become immersed in sports, given Peyton (and Eli) were born there, and October 13 is a birthday for many notable sports personalities. A few of them:

  • 1876–Rube Waddell, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Pirates and Philadelphia Athletics in the first decade of the 20th century. Heavy drinking hastened his death at age 38.
  • 1931–Eddie Mathews, slugging third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves; member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who finished his career with 512 home runs
  • 1942–Jerry Jones. Yes, THAT Jerry Jones, the one who went on to play football for Frank Broyles with the Arkansas Razorbacks, and later bought some NFL team.
  • 1949–Tom Mees, one of the first ESPN SportsCenter anchors, and one of the foremost experts on the National Hockey League. Died tragically at age 47 in 1996 when he drowned attempting to rescue his son from the swimming pool at his family’s Connecticut home.
  • 1953–Pat Day, jockey who won 8,803 races, including 9 Triple Crown events (5 Preakness, 3 Belmont, 1 Kentucky Derby), and earned $298 million in purses during a Hall of Fame career.
  • 1957–Reggie Theus, standout basketball player for the New Mexico State Aggies and later in the NBA for the Bulls, Kings (in both Kansas City and Sacramento) and Hawks.
  • 1961–Doc Rivers, coach of the Clippers. Coached Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship. Also had a standout career as a point guard, mostly with the Hawks, feeding Dominique Wilkins (the Human Highlight Film) for many spectacular dunks.
  • 1962–Jerry Rice. Who the hell is he? Doesn’t he hold some NFL receiving record? Or several?
  • 1969–Nancy Kerrigan. I won’t go into detail about what happened with Tonya Harding, but she did win the silver medal at Lillehammer in 1994 despite the serious injury to her right knee.
  • 1972–Summer Sanders, American swimmer who won two gold medals, one silver and one bronze at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Later became co-host for NBA Inside Stuff with Ahmad Rashad.
  • 1973–Brian Dawkins, four-time first team All-Pro cornerback for the Eagles (1996-2008). Played three seasons with the Broncos, earning second team All-Pro honors in 2009.
  • 1978–Paul Pierce, former Kansas Jayhawk superstar who led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship.
  • 1982–Ian Thorpe, Australian swimmer who captured five Olympic gold medals and nine medals overall between the 2000 games in Sydney and 2004 in Athens.

Speaking of sports, a few notable events have taken place on October 13:

  • 1960–Bill Mazeroski takes Larned native Ralph Terry deep at Forbes Field in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, lifting the Pirates to a 10-9 victory over the Yankees and an improbable World Series championship. Pittsburgh was outscored 55-27 in the series and out-hit 90-60 by the Bronx Bombers, yet won its first championship since 1925.
  • 1965–the Twins force a seventh game in the World Series, defeating the Dodgers 5-1 at Bloomington. The next day, Sandy Koufax, pitching on two days rest, strikes out 10 and pitches a three-hit shutout to lift Los Angeles to a 2-0 victory and its third championship in seven seasons. Koufax, who struck out 382 batters in 1965 and pitched a perfect game vs. the Cubs (the same night Hurricane Betsy devastated Louisiana), would pitch only one more season before retiring at age 30. Game 7 was the only one won by the visiting team in that series.
  • 1967–the American Basketball Association debuts in Oakland. The hometown Oaks defeat the Anaheim Amigos 134-129.
  • 1971–the first World Series night game is played at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium. Thanks to a superb pitching performance by Pirate rookie Bruce Kison, the home team wins 4-3. The Pirates went on to win the series in seven games, winning the deciding game in Baltimore, the only one won by the visiting team.
  • 1972–a Uruguayan plane carrying the nation’s rugby union team crashes in the Andes Mountains along the Argentina-Chile border. The survivors of the crash are not found until December 23, by which time 29 people aboard the plane had perished. It was reported the survivors ate body parts of their dead compatriots in order to live. That anyone survived that long is a miracle, since the body needs extraordinary amounts of food to survive in high altitude, and oxygen is in extremely short supply at that elevation.
  • 1984–ESPN broadcasts live from LSU’s Tiger Stadium for the first time. The Bayou Bengals build a 34-6 lead early in the second half vs. Vanderbilt, but have to hold on for a 34-27 victory.
  • 1985–the New York Giants’ Phil Simms passes for 513 yards, but they lose 35-30 to the Bengals in Cincinnati.
  • 1991–the Saints improve to 6-0 with a 13-6 victory in Philadelphia. New Orleans would win its first division title that season.

Some other notable people born on October 13:

  • 1947–Sammy Hagar, iconic rocker
  • 1948–John Ford Coley, singer and songwriter who had a huge hit in 1976 with England Dan, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”
  • 1958–Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator (D-Washington)
  • 1962–Kelly Preston (Mrs. John Travolta), actress
  • 1967–Kate Walsh, actress (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice)
  • 1971–Sacha Baron Cohen, actress (Mr. Isla Fisher)

The most famous people to DIE on October 13 are probably Roman Emperor Claudius (56) and Ed Sullivan (1974), whose eponymous television show on CBS was must-see viewing on Sunday nights from 1948-71.

It is believed Claudius was poisoned by his stepson, Nero, who ascended to the throne at age 17. That would turn out well, now wouldn’t it?

Robert Hershey, who founded the world-famous chocolate company, died on October 13, 1945, 41 days after World War II ended. I need to find a Krackel bar today.

A few hours after my birth, the Kansas City Royals defeated the New York Yankees 7-4 in the Bronx to force a fifth and deciding game of the American League Championship Series. The next night, Chris Chambliss hit the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth inning over the right-center field fence to give the Yankees their first pennant since 1964, and what turned out to be their last win of 1976. Seven days later, they were swept out of the World Series by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

A more important event took place on the day of my birth.

In Atlanta, Dr. F.A. Murphy, a microbiologist with the Centers for Disease Control, observed something he had never seen before under an electron microscope.

It was the Ebola virus. Murphy, now a professor emeritus at the University of California at Davis (the school which gave the NFL quarterback Ken O’Brien), has gained worldwide renown for his research.

Maybe I should have attended Georgia Tech. It was founded on October 13, 1885, after all. Oh well, LSU was a great choice.

Ghosts of birthdays past

In my previous post, I explained just how bad my 39th birthday was. I don’t want to remember it if I can help it. That’s not possible given my memory.

My last birthday party was way back in 1983, when I turned seven. It was at Showbiz Pizza, which was a competitor of Chuck-E-Cheese in the late 1970s and 1980s. I have reminded Rosemarie Renz (now Huguet) she came and I have thanked her profusely.

My 13th birthday (1989) was on Friday the 13th. I’ll never forget Emile Fair, a PE and science teacher and football coach at Brother Martin, needling me about how I was doubly cursed.

I spent my 20th birthday in 1996 at a Saints-Bears game in the Superdome. New Orleans won 27-24. It turned out to be Jim Mora’s last game coaching the Saints in the Superdome, and Mora’s 93rd and last victory coaching New Orleans. Eight days later, following a loss to the Panthers in Charlotte, Mora quit in a huff.

My birthdays in 1997 and 1998 (21 & 22), when I was a student at LSU, were pretty bad. In ’97, my father was on business in Brazil, and my mother came to Baton Rouge. It rained that Monday, perfect for the gloomy mood I had been in for all of October that year.

In ’98, I had a three-hour class the night of my birthday. I hated the class. I hated night class. I never looked more forward to my birthday ending, at least until last year. What is it about birthdays which fall on Tuesday?

I spent my birthdays of 2013 and 2014 (37 & 38) at Buffalo Wild Wings. I was alone in 2013 watching the NFL. Liz was not working that Sunday, and I didn’t know too many other employees just yet. It was kind of lonely. I drove back to Russell at night.

In 2014, Brittany and Lisa showed up with their then-boyfriends (now husband for Brittany and now fiancee for Lisa). Lisa got drunk and begged me to do a shot, but Brittany kept telling her I couldn’t because I had work to do the next day, which was true. I also got a couple of unexpected treats: Pam Reid, who is now a manager there, brought me cupcakes, and Alex Mullinax brought me a cookie cake.

In 2007 and 2012 (31 & 36), I was covering the Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament. The 2007 tourney was at WaKeeney, and 2012 was at Phillipsburg. During the 2012 tournament, I did the play-by-play for Smith Center’s television station, and after the championship match, which the Lady Red won, the players, coaches and the players’ parents sang Happy Birthday twice. It got me a little embarrassed, but it was nice to know people cared.

I had to work on my birthday in 2000 (24), covering a football game at Baton Rouge’s Memorial Stadium between Zachary and Capitol. The next day, I was at the LSU-Kentucky game in Tiger Stadium. Sadly, the LSU Radio Network’s engineer, Tom Stevens, dropped dead of a massive heart attack in the press box about two hours prior to kickoff. Jim Hawthorne (play-by-play) and Doug Moreau (color) soldiered on and did the game, but with very heavy hearts. The contest was forgettable: LSU 34, Kentucky 0.

My 30th birthday in 2006 saw me all over the place. I began the morning at the Wichita Marriott, since I had to be Emporia later that day for the Class 4A girls tennis state tournament. I got there at 11 and stayed for a few hours, then had to drive up the Kansas Turnpike Topeka and backtrack to Abilene for Russell’s football game that night. I then drove back to Russell, then left Russell at 6 a.m. the next morning to get to Stockton for the MCL volleyball tournament.

I was in Kansas City in 2008 (32). Buffalo Wild Wings at Zona Rosa wasn’t open, but I did go to the one in Liberty. I brought my laptop and played trivia on a quiet Monday afternoon. It was raining that day, too.

My 27th in 2003 was a Monday, so I was in Baton Rouge doing my regular turn on Jimmy Ott’s radio show at Pocorello’s Italian deli and restaurant. I loved that place. I really miss it. I could go for a muffaleta or an Italian sausage po-boy right now.

My final birthday in Louisiana, my 28th, was almost my last.

Thirty-seven days after my birthday, I woke up with stabbing pains on my right side. It was hard to breathe, hard to bend over, hard to do just about anything. I had to call Robin Fambrough and tell her I could not cover that night’s high school football playoff game in Metairie between Plaquemine and John Curtis.

It got worse over the weekend, and on the Monday before Thanksgiving, my mother took me to her physician, Dr. Joe Johnson.

It wasn’t bad. It was life-threatening.

I had pneumonia and a collapsed right lung caused by a buildup of fluid. I was in the intensive care unit for a week. At first, it didn’t look like I would make it. I had two chest tubes attaches to my right side in order to drain the fluid. It left me immobile for nearly my whole time in the hospital.

Two weeks later, I was back home. Lesson learned. If I’m not feeling well, I had better see a doctor ASAP. Or else.

It’s time to sleep. I have a big decision to sleep on.

Come back, Comus

Six hours are left in Mardi Gras 2016. 

Sadly, Mardi Gras has been missing something since 1992, something which goes back to before the Civil War. 

It’s the Mistick Krewe of Comus, the first organization to organize a street parade in New Orleans.

Comus first paraded in 1857, four years before the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter. The Krewe was made up of Anglo-Saxon Protestants who had largely been excluded from Mardi Gras until then.

Since Carnvial is a Catholic tradition in Rio de Janeiro, it stands to reason that the Catholics started Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They celebrated Carnival with parties in the French Quarter, but never had anyone thought to organize a parade until Comus. 

Comus was interrupted by the Civil War, but returned during Reconstruction. 

In 1872, a new Krewe, Rex, formed. Rex would soon eclipse Comus and become the “King of Carnvial”. Proteus came along in 1882, and Mardi Gras as we knew it would blossom in the 20th Century.

Comus is one of the most secretive organizations on earth. Good luck trying to become a member. The Manning family has no chance to join. Drew Brees? Not a prayer. Bill Gates could not buy his way in. 

In 1991, an evil New Orleans city councilwoman named Dorothy Mae Taylor had to ruin Mardi Gras by demanding all Krewes open up their membership to all races and both genders. Not only dod Comus, Rex, Proteus and other Krewes protest loudly, but so did the African-American Krewe of Zulu, which did not want women in their club, either. 

In response to the ordinance, Comus and another old-line Krewe, the Knights of Momus, immediately canceled their 1992 parades and have not returned to the streets. Proteus held its 1992 parade, but canceled in 1993, and stayed out until 2000. Rex and Zulu continued to parade, opening up their ranks to men of other races, but never to women. 

The ordinance was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court in New Orleans a violation of the right of free association. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals denied the City of New Orleans’ request for a rehearing. The city decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

I never went to Comus. I have heard horror stories about rampant crime along the parade route. But it should come back. It’s long overdue.

And Dorothy Mae Taylor, I hope you’re rotting in hell. Shame on you. 

Mardi Gras, or just another Tuesday

It’s Mardi Gras in my native city. It’s just another Tuesday in Kansas City and just about most of the rest of the country. To liven up the mood here at Buffalo Wild Wings, I played “Go to the Mardi Gras” by Professor Longhair. 

The song mentions you will “see the Zulu King at St. Claude and Dumaine”, although the parade hasn’t passed by that point since the 1950s. Today, Zulu started at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Claiborne and proceeded south to St. Charles and then towards downtown and Treme, the neighborhood made famous by the HBO series. I wish Kim Dickens were still on TV. 

Not that I cared about Mardi Gras much during my later years in Louisiana. The last time I went to a parade on Fat Tuesday was 1992, when my family went to watch Rex on Napoleon Avenue near the parade’s starting point. The last parade I attended was Thoth in 1994, only because I had several friends riding, including Herb Vincent, who was then an associate athletic director at LSU and now is an associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference in Birmingham. Many of the men I knew riding in Thoth–Ray Maher, Bruce Civello, Joe Scheuermann, Scott and Bryan Bairnsfather, Jeff Wooton–have lost touch, and sadly, Ray “Bigun” Jeanfreau passed away in 2012 at 49. 

Thoth is the longest parade on the Mardi GRas calendar. Instead of starting on Napoleon and heading to St. Charles, the parade starts farther west, now at the corner of State and Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-it-too-las), proceeds to Henry Clas Avenue, north to Magazine Street, east to Napoloeon, then north to St. Charles. Thoth passes by several medical homes for the developmentally disabled and Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s best pediatric facilities. When I went to the parade from 1992 through ’94, it started at Henry Clay and Magazine, proceeded south to Tchoupitoulas, then east to State and north to Magazine. 

The day before Thoth in 1994, I went to Endymion for the last time. I’ll never forget asking Ray to order a Coke for me at a local watering hole, and then tasting it and discovering bourbon mixed in. It was funny then and it’s funny now. 

Endymion, Thoth and Zulu are the three parades which deviate significantly from the standard route, which begins on Napoleon and heads either north or south towards St. Charles. Most parades start south of St. Charles, but Rex and a couple of others come from the other direction. 

Endymion starts at the corner of City Park Avenue and Orleans Avneue near Delgado Community College and Tad Gormley Stadium. It heads down Orleans to North Carrollton, from CArrollton to Canal Street, and then down to St. Charles, where it turns west towards Poydras. From Poydras it heads to the Mercedes-Benz Supderome for the krewe’s “Extravaganza”, which is open to the public, unlike most carnival balls, which are by invitation only. 

If Mardi Gras fell late, I was usually knee deep in LSU baseball or covering the high school basketball playoffs for The Advocate. So I didn’t mind missing it at all. 

For those of you in Norton, Phillipsburg and Smith Center wondering if one of these parades could motor down US 36, forget it. The floats are way too wide, and there would be no room whatsoever on the sides of the road. Maybe along US 281 in Russell. 

It’s brutally cold in Kansas City. Again. At least it isn’t snowing. 

Kansas’ turn

After watching Washington, Philadelphia and New York get buried under a mountain of snow last Saturday, it looks like it will be Kansas’ is next.

There have been dire predictions of a major snowstorm affecting the Sunflower State Monday and Tuesday, and it looks like the worst will be along the Interstate 70 corridor between Hays and Manhattan. Of course, Russell is in that corridor.  There have been some models which forecast as much as two feet. TWO FEET.

I’m fearing not only that there will be a lot of snow, but there will also be a lot of wind, which would be beyond disastrous. The last thing I want is snowdrifts piled up like you see them at times during Buffalo Bills home games. However, it isn’t looking good.

Of course, the storm would hit during a week I have an appointment with Crista. If I missed that, it would really, really, really anger me. I just have to pray I-70 is clear by Thursday at 7 a.m. The appointment is at 9, but making sure it’s clear early would give me enough time to get there and back without having to rush.

I wanted to get out of Russell Thursday to stock up on a few supplies, but I couldn’t yank myself out of bed. I did make it over to Hays and picked up a few things. I saw more than three people carrying out cases of bottled water. I’m planning on a run to the big cities today, and possibly a stop at Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina on the way home.

It wasn’t until 10:30 yesterday evening that I realized it was the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. My old middle school pal Shawn O’Neil posted something about it on Facebook.

I was in the fourth grade at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic school on January 28, 1986. Someone came up to me during recess after lunch that the space shuttle exploded. I didn’t believe it. I thought this person was joking.

When I got back into the modular classroom behind the main school building, our teacher, Myra Annaloro, turned on the TV and we watched the coverage. President Reagan was scheduled to deliver the State of the Union that evening, but instead he gave a speech from the Oval Office about the six astronauts and Christa McAuliffe, the New Hampshire school teacher who was scheduled to teach video lessons from aboard the Challenger.

The Space Shuttle program was suspended for two and a half years. By time the next launch occurred in September 1988, I was in the seventh grade at Arabi Park Middle, less than a year from leaving for Brother Martin. When I heard the news of the Space Shuttle Columbia’s disintegration as it attempted to re-enter earth’s atmosphere in February 2003, it came as far less of a shock, given what I remembered about the Challenger.

The Challenger’s 1986 mission was barely mentioned by the networks and CNN–Fox News was more than 10 years away–until the night before the launch.

The big news of the weekend, and the week before, were the seemingly invincible Chicago Bears, who won Super Bowl XX less than 48 hours before the Challenger explosion.

The 1985 Bears won their first 12 games before losing in Miami to the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. After beating the Colts, Jets and Lions to close the regular season 15-1, Chicago shut out the Giants 21-0 and the Rams 24-0 to reach the Super Bowl for the first time.

Nobody gave the AFC champion New England Patriots any chance against the Bears. The Patriots were much improved from the team which lost 20-7 in Chicago in week two, and even though New England won road playoff games against the Jets, Raiders and Dolphins to get to the Super Bowl, the Patriots largely capitalized on opponents’ turnovers. New England recovered fumbled kickoffs for touchdowns vs. the Jets and Raiders, and the Dolphins turned it over six times.

The Patriots were largely an afterthought once the teams arrived in New Orleans. Most of the focus was on the Bears, specifically quarterback Jim McMahon, who was receiving treatment an acupuncturist to treat a strained muscle in his rear end. McMahon mooned a helicopter which was trying to spy on the Bears’ closed practice at the Saints’ facility.

McMahon was also at the center of a fabricated controversy.

The Thursday before the game, Buddy Diliberto, the sports director at WDSU, the NBC affiliate which would televise the Super Bowl throughout southeastern Louisiana, claimed McMahon had called New Orleans women “sluts”. It turned out the whole report was false, and Diliberto was suspended.

New England started the Super Bowl well enough, recovering a Walter Payton fumble on the game’s first play at the Chicago 19-yard line.

Then it all went south.

On the Patriots’ first offensive play, Tony Eason had tight end Lin Dawson wide open in the end zone. Eason’s pass was on target, but Dawson’s left knee gave way when his shoes got stuck in the Superdome’s notoriously hard artificial turf. Dawson had torn both his anterior cruciate and posterior cruciate ligaments.

On the third play, the Patriots’ star receiver, Stanley Morgan, was open on a post pattern, but Eason’s pass was batted away at the last second by Mike Singletary. New England settled for a Tony Franklin field goal.

That was the high point of Super Bowl XX for the Patriots.

By the end of the first quarter, the Bears were up 13-3. At halftime, the Patriots not only trailed 23-3, they had netted minus-19 yards of offense.

I said MINUS-19 yards. Holy crap.

Eason, who was drafted 15th overall by the Patriots in 1983 (instead of Dan Marino) was pulled in the second half for veteran Steve Grogan. The Kansas State alum fared no better, even though he led New England’s lone  touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against Chicago’s reserves, which included a rookie linebacker from California named Ron Rivera.  Yes, that is the same Ron Rivera who will be coaching the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

New England finished with a Super Bowl record low 7 net yards rushing. Their 123 total yards were six more than the record low the Vikings recorded in Super Bowl IX vs. the Steelers at Tulane Stadium 11 years prior.

Final score: Bears 46, Patriots 10.

The 1985 Bears may be the best one-season team in NFL history. They do not deserve any more credit than that, simply because the second Super Bowl championship didn’t come in 1986, 1987 or 1988, and it still hasn’t come as the 2016 season is now a little more than seven months away.

McMahon was relatively healthy in 1985, the biggest reason why the Bears were able to win and win big. From 1975 through 1984, Walter Payton had performed heroically while playing behind one of the worst collection of quarterbacks any team could ever hope to assemble in a 10-year period. Other than McMahon, some of the quarterbacks who handed the ball to Payton included Bobby Douglass, Gary Huff, Bob Avellini, Vince Evans, Greg Landry, Steve Fuller and Mike Tomczak. Not exactly a Pro Bowl lineup. Landry was the best of the bunch, but that was in the early 1970s when he was with Detroit. By time he got to Chicago, he was decrepit, having taken savage beatings with the terrible Colts teams of the early 1980s and in the USFL.

McMahon got hurt often in 1986, and even though the Bears went 14-2, they were a one-dimensional offense which had to rely on the defense to keep the score down. The defense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain in the playoffs, and the Redskins won in Chicago 27-13. Washington won again in Chicago in 1987, and in 1988, the Bears were routed at home in the NFC championship game by the 49ers, even though it was 17 degrees with a wind chill of minus-17 at kickoff.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of Super Bowl XXX, the last time the Cowboys reigned as champions. Dallas was heavily favored against Pittsburgh, and it appeared the Cowboys would make it easy, leading 20-7 early in the second half. However, the Steelers rallied to within 20-17 and had the ball in the fourth quarter with the chance to tie or take the lead, but Neil O’Donnell threw the interception which clinched the game for the Cowboys. Larry Brown returned the pick to the Steelers’ 3, and Emmitt Smith cashed it in from there. Dallas won 27-17, but unlike its routs of Buffalo earlier in the decade, it had to earn this championship.

The only Super Bowl played on January 29 sucked. 49ers 49, Chargers 26. I’ll leave it at that.

Nothing really to report

It’s been forever since I’ve blogged. Then again, what have I really had to blog about? I’ve spent almost the entire time at home since my last post.

How boring has my life been? I got excited over having to drive to Salina last week to have my windshield replaced. There was a crack running along the middle of the windshield, and although it wasn’t affecting my vision, I had to get it fixed. Lucky for me, November is a slow month.

After getting the windshield fixed, I did sneak down to Wichita. Not for long. I”ll be back this Saturday, since Norton is playing Wichita Collegiate in a state quarterfinal football playoff game.

Speaking of Norton, I went to the game there last Tuesday vs. Marysville. I went mostly to go eat after the game with Peggy Cox, since we had not been out since July, before my world collapsed around me. At least I didn’t encounter any deer on the drive between WaKeeney and Norton.

I’ve had two therapy sessions with Crista since I last posted. It’s been mostly about the same subject, the wee hours of July 18, and the person who sent my life into a downward spiral. No, it’s not her fault, but I wish it would have turned out differently.

Tonight is the 40th anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The freighter carrying 26,000 tons of taconite iron ore pellets sank in Lake Superior during a hurricane-force storm. All 29 crew members perished. The ship was heading to Detroit to offload the cargo along Lake St. Clair, and then dock in Cleveland for the winter.

Captain Ernest McSorley got stupid and decided he could sail through the storm, which was the force of a strong Category 1 hurricane. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Sadly, he nor his crew lived to regret the decision.

Most people know about the incident from Gordon LIghtfoot’s 1976 hit song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Billy Fitzgerald, who coached Moneyball author Michael Lewis in basketball and baseball at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, had a son named Edmund. He was born only a few months before the wreck.  Edmund was a baseball teammate of none other than Peyton Manning at Newman. I’m sure many Newman opponents played the song to anger the Fitzgeralds.

Birthday memories, part one

I officially turned 39 at 9:16 a.m. Central Time. There were days when I didn’t think I would make 29, much less 39.

Actually, I almost didn’t make it much past 28. I came down with pneumonia and a collapsed right lung the Friday before Thanksgiving in 2004. Stupid me didn’t go to a doctor until the following Monday, and it nearly cost me my life.

That’s another story for another day. Right now, it’s time to take a trip down memory lane for birthdays past.

On the day I was born, the first micrograph of the Ebola virus was discovered by Dr. F.A. Murphy, who was working at the time for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Today, he’s a professor of microbiology at the University of California at Davis, best known for producing Ken O’Brien, the quarterback the New York Jets selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft, passing on this guy Dan Marino. Never heard of him.

Speaking of Atlanta, maybe I should have gone to Georgia Tech instead of LSU. Tech was founded on October 13, 1885.

Hours after I was born, the Kansas City Royals won Game 4 of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium, 7-4. The win staved off elimination for the Royals, who were in Major League Baseball’s postseason for the first time. The next night, the Bronx Bombers won the pennant when Chris Chambliss hit Mark Littell’s first pitch of the bottom of the ninth over the right field fence, just out of the reach of the leaping Hal McRae. Royals manager Whitey Herzog contends that if his standout center fielder, Amos Otis, would not have been hurt in the first game of the series at Royals Stadium, maybe Al Cowens, forced to move from right to center in Otis’ place, catches Chambliss’ ball.

Herzog may have had a point. McRae rarely played the outfield after he was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City, spending most of his Royals career exclusively as a designated hitter, the scourge of baseball. If McRae wasn’t good enough to play the field, he shouldn’t have been playing. Period. Karma, Whitey. Karma.

My last birthday party was for my seventh birthday in 1983. It was at Showbiz Pizza, which was the competitor to Chuck E. Cheese in the 1980s. Rosemarie Renz (Huget), who is my oldest (in terms of years knowing her, not age) friend, was at the party. I’ve thanked her for it.

I watched Game 4 of the 1984 World Series between the Padres and Tigers on the afternoon of my eighth birthday. Yes, I am old enough to remember when some World Series games were still played in the daytime. In 1985, the Cardinals-Royals series featured seven night games, and there has only been ONE day game in the Fall Classic since, Game 6 of the 1987 Cardinals-Twins series. In 1985, Missouri had a dry and mild October, so there were no weather worries. However, that isn’t always going to be the case.

Speaking of 1985, October 13 of that year was something else.

Since it was a Sunday, my mother cooked pasta, and then we went to her mother’s house, a shotgun duplex in the Algiers section of New Orleans. My brother and I flipped (literally flipped, the TV didn’t have a remote control) back and forth between the Saints-Raiders game and Game 5 of the American League Championship Series between the Royals and Blue Jays. During halftime of the football game, Brent Musburger announced on the NFL Today that Vince Coleman, the Cardinals’ speedy left fielder, had broken a bone in one of his legs after he got rolled up by the tarp at Busch Stadium. Coleman was out for the rest of the National League Championship Series, which the Cards won in six over the Dodgers, and the World Series. Most baseball fans know how THAT turned out, especially those in St. Louis and Kansas City. The football Cardinals began a steep decline that day, losing 30-7 to the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Big Red went from 3-1 to 5-11 and coach Jim Hanifan was fired. By 1988, the football Cards were in Arizona.

I spent part of my 20th birthday (1996) at the Superdome with my dad watching the Saints play the Bears. New Orleans won 27-24 in a battle of two forgettable teams.

Eight days later, the game became significant.

Following 19-7 loss to the Panthers in Charlotte, Saints coach Jim Mora resigned Oct. 21, walking out of his press conference after reading a short statement. In the locker room in Carolina, Mora ripped his team, saying they didn’t do “diddly-poo” offensively and calling the effort “horseshit”.

The game we witnessed vs. the Bears was Mora’s 93rd and final victory with the Saints. He would coach the Colts from 1998-2001, getting Peyton Manning’s career launched.

Peyton Manning was born March 24, 1976 at Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans. I was born in the same hospital. I’m sure Olivia Manning’s birth suite was far more palatial than my mother’s.

That’s a good place to stop for now. Part two to come.