Category Archives: History

Father’s Day without baseball: un-American

Ah, Father’s Day. An observance I will never be a part of. I’m not going to be a father, which is not a bad thing. I would not want to pass my defective DNA to anyone. That would be grossly unfair.

This is my dad’s first Father’s Day without his father, who passed away 11 March at 97. He hasn’t said a word about it. I probably thought of it before he did.

For the first time since 1981, there will be no Major League Baseball on Father’s Day. The reason there wasn’t Father’s Day baseball 39 years ago was because the MLB Players Association went on strike 12 June and stayed out through the end of July, although games did not resume until 9 August with the All-Star Game in Cleveland.

Seven hundred twelve games were wiped out by the strike, which foisted upon us the comically bad split season, which cost the Cardinals and Reds, the teams with the best overall records

Ironically, Father’s Day in 1981 was also 21 June. Two other Father’s Days falling on 21 June produced MLB history.

In 1964, the Phillies’ Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Bunning, a father of six, struck out 10 in the first National League perfect game since 1880 and the first regular season perfect game since 1922, when Charles Robertson authored one for the Tigers.

Of course, in between Robertson and Bunning, Don Larsen of the Yankees notched the most famous perfect game of all in the 1956 World Series vs. the Dodgers. It should also be noted Harvey Haddix pitched 12 1/3 perfect innings for the Pirates at Milwaukee in 1959, only to lose to the Braves.

The day after the game, Bunning was the New York Times‘ “Man in the News”, a rare honor for an athlete. On the same page as that item was a cigar advertisement with Phillies’ manager Gene Mauch, who has been described as the most successful manager to never appear in the World Series.

Philadelphia was a lead-pipe cinch for the World Series until the infamous “Phold”.

The Phillies led the National League (there were no divisions until 1969) by 6 1/2 games with 12 to play, only to lose 10 in a row (four to the Reds, three apiece to the Braves and Cardinals) and see their pennant dreams vanish. Mauch was widely blamed for pitching Bunning and left-hander Chris Short constantly on two days’ rest, simply because he didn’t trust anyone else on his staff. The only pitchers who could have possibly survived that workload are knuckleball specialists (Wilbur Wood, Phil Niekro, Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield), and even then it would be dicey.

Hours after Bunning’s perfect game, something much more sinister took place in the piney woods of east Mississippi.

Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan, led by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price and trigger man Alton Wayne Roberts, who was dishonorably discharged from the Marines. It wasn’t until 4 August that the bodies were found in an earthen dam.

Six year’s after Bunning’s pitching gem, Cesar Gutierrez had his day in the sun.

The Venezuelan went 7-for-7 in the second game of a doubleheader at Cleveland. Gutierrez was 5-for-5 through nine innings, added an infield single in the 10th, then singled again in the 12th after Mickey Stanley put Detroit ahead 9-8 on a one-out solo home run.

Two players have gone 7-for-7 in nine innings: Brooklyn’s Wilbert Robinson in 1892 and Pittsburgh’s Rennie Stennett in 1975.

Sadly, Gutierrez was out of MLB after the 1971 season, and passed away in 2005 at 62. He only played in 190 games, but on one shining Sunday, he proved why sports are the greatest reality show of all.

I found out today that Michael Gross and Meredith Baxter (Birney), who portrayed parents Steve and Elyse Keaton on “Family Ties”, were born on 21 June 1947. No wonder they had such chemistry on the TV show. They share a birthday with Bernie Kopell (Dr. Adam Bricker on “The Love Boat”, 87), Ron Ely (“Tarzan”, 82) and Chris Pratt (41).

Unfortunately for Gross, Baxter, Kopell, Ely and Pratt, Jussie Smollett was born 21 June 1982. UGH.

One day, two tales in the Big Apple

Fifty years ago yesterday, two notable events occurred in New York City within hours of each other. (Yes, it’s still 8 May for a few more minutes in Kansas, but it’s 9 May in NYC, so yesterday is appropriate).

One, the Hard Had Riot, was one of many regrettable episodes in the more than 400 years of the city once known as New Amsterdam (“Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam”, a famous line from the famous They Might Be Giants song, “Istanbul not Constantinople). Occurring four days after Sandy Scheuer, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause lost their lives at Kent State, 200 construction workers mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO attacked more than 1,000 students protesting the war and mourning the Kent State four.

Apologies to Ms. Scheuer’s family and friends for misspelling her name with an extra “R” in previous posts.

It began at 07:30 with a memorial for Scheuer, Schroeder, Miller and Krause at Federal Hall. Four hours later, construction workers broke past a pathetic police line and started beating the protesters, especially those men with long hair, with their hard hats, steel-toed shoes, and anything else they could find.

Four policemen and 70 others were injured. Fortunately, nobody was killed.

This was not the case in January 1976 when union members murdered a non-union worker at a chemical plant in Lake Charles in the midst of Louisiana’s push to become the last southern state to pass right-to-work legislation.

Six months later, after right-to-work cleared both chambers of the Louisiana legislature, the leader of the right-to-work campaign, Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie, was murdered in Baton Rouge by a sniper acting on orders of Shreveport police commissioner George D’Artois, who attempted to use city funds to pay for his election campaign. Leslie flatly refused D’Artois’ bribe, and paid for it with his life. Rat bastard D’Artois dropped dead in June 1977 before he could be brought to justice. It would have been lovely to see the S.O.B. rot in Angola.

Back to 8 May 1970 in the Big Apple.

Nine hours after the construction workers attacked innocent protesters who had the nerve to exercise their First Amendment rights, the Knickerbockers met the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden for the championship of the National Basketball Association.

Hours after the Kent State shootings, the Knicks won Game 5 107-100 at MSG to take a 3-2 series lead despite losing the NBA’s 1969-70 Most Valuable Player, Louisiana native and Grambling alum Willis Reed, to a serious leg injury in the first quarter. Los Angeles led 51-35 at halftime, but committed 19 turnovers in the final 24 minutes, leading Lakers fans to believe their franchise was cursed, if they didn’t already.

Two nights later, with Reed back in New York, the Lakers destroyed the short-handed Knicks at The Forum 135-113 behind 45 points and 27 rebounds from Wilt Chamberlain.

The teams flew commercial from LAX to JFK the next morning, leaving them approximately 30 hours to rest for the winner-take-all game.

Charter flights were not the norm in the NBA or NHL until the late 1980s, which means the likes of Chamberlain, Reed, Jerry West, Bill Bradley, Walt (Clyde) Frazier, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson flew charters very rarely, and Kareem didn’t fly them for the majority of his career. Same for Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Jean Beliveau, although Les Habitants (the Canadiens) may have been flying charter before the American teams.

The Lakers were planning a glorious return to LAX Saturday morning, then a parade similar to the ones enjoyed by the Dodgers following World Series wins in 1959, ’63, and ’65.

The Knicks wanted to be honored with New York’s third ticker tape parade for a championship sports team in 17 months, following the Jets in Super Bowl III and the Mets after the ’69 World Series. In between the Jets and Mets, Neill Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were honored with their own parade for Apollo 11.

Sadly for most of the 19,500 who passed through MSG’s turnstiles that Friday evening, the Knicks’ chances appeared dim without Reed.

Then, the NBA’s version of Moses parting the Red Sea occurred.

ABC announcers Chris Schenkel and Jack Twyman lamented the Knicks’ fate without their MVP, but as they went on, Twyman excitedly noticed Reed coming out from the tunnel.

Reed took the court with Bradley, Frazier, Dave DeBuesschere and Dick Barnett for the opening tip.

Eighteen seconds later, Reed, who could barely walk, took a jump shot from 20 feet.

Swish.

A minute later, Reed scored again to make it 5-2.

Willis Reed did not score another point.

He didn’t need to.

His defense against Chamberlain spooked The Big Dipper, who was limited to 21 points, although he led all players with 24 rebounds.

Frazier picked up the offensive slack with 36 points and 19 assists, and New York rolled to a 113-99 victory in a game which wasn’t that close.

The Knicks were NBA champions for the first time. New York had its third championship team in 17 months. Prior to that, the Big Apple went six-plus years without a title after the Yankees won the 1962 World Series. The Giants were in the midst of 29 seasons without a title, with Super Bowl XXI a little less than 17 years off. The Rangers’ Stanley Cup drought stood at 30 years in 1970 and would last 24 more. The Islanders and Devils (Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies) didn’t exist, and the Nets were an afterthought until they signed Julius Erving.

The Knicks won the title again three years later by defeating the Lakers in five games, one year after Los Angeles got the monkey off of its back by ousting New York in five.

Since 1973, the Knicks have been to the championship series twice, losing to the Rockets in 1994 and the Spurs in 1999. The Lakers have had slightly more success, winning five championships in the 1980s and five more in the 21st century.

Today’s Knicks are an outright disgrace to Red Holzman’s championship teams. Thankfully, the surviving members of the 1969-70 Knicks didn’t have to put up with having to watch the 2019-20 Knicks at a 50th anniversary reunion; it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Owner James Dolan is a douchebag who continues to anger fans with his outright stupidity and callousness. Isaiah Thomas is a sexual harasser who should be in prison, but Dolan loves him, so he still has a high-paying job with the Knicks.

That’s more NBA than I care to discuss, so I’m signing off.

COVID-19 and Kent State: two sad stories of American history

Kansas’ stay-at-home order has expired. Some businesses have reopened, but many have not.

This was evident today when I went to Hays.

The Wendy’s at the corner of Vine and 43rd north of Interstate 70 was doing quite a business. Ten vehicles in the drive-thru, elderly couples sitting at the tables outside, and people inside the restaurant for the first time in seven weeks.

The nearby Applebee’s and Old Chicago were not seating customers, although they were accepting takeout orders.

I haven’t missed sitting in a restaurant. I’ve been able to procure takeout from Chick-Fil-A without difficulty. Unfortunately, Arby’s and Popeye’s don’t have mobile ordering, which stinks, because I could really go for Popeye’s right now. Then again, the chicken would get cold on the 70-minute drive from Salina to Russell.

The three large cities in southwest Kansas–Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal–are all overrun with COVID-19. Each county has more cases than Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located.

Coincidentally, the same thing has happened in Nebraska. The three large cities of south central Nebraska–Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney–have more cases between them than either of the state’s large metropolitan areas, Lincoln and Omaha.

Missouri also lifted its stay-at-home order, although Kansas City and St. Louis are still locked until at least May 15. St. Louis couldn’t care less about lockdown right now; all the Gateway City wants is for the Blues and Cardinals to return.

Today marked the 50th anniversary of the infamous shootings at Kent State University in northeast Ohio. Sandy Scheurer, William Schroeder, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller were killed, and nine others injured when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during an anti-Vietnam War protest. Krause and Miller were participating in the protest, but Scheurer and Schroeder were innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Due to COVID-19 and the closure of every college campus in the United Staes, the celebration at Kent State was quite subdued, a far cry from what organizers of the school’s May 4 Committee hoped for. Had campus been open, it’s likely Kent State’s most famous alumnus would have appeared (see below), not to mention Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and possibly three of the school’s greatest athletes, Jack Lambert, Antonio Gates and Julian Edelman.

One of Krause’s classmates was a freshman from Monagaha, West Virginia named Nicholas Saban, who, of course, would become the most successful college football coach of the last 50 years, leading LSU to a national championship in 2003 and Alabama to titles in 2009, ’11, ’12, ’15 and ’17.

Saban and a classmate were walking to a dining hall and saw the shooting unfold. He rushed back to West Virginia after campus closed to spend time with his longtime girlfriend, Terry Constable, now better known as Miss Terry, Nick’s wife of almost 49 years.

There was another future Southeastern Conference football coach on Kent State’s campus that day.

Gary Pinkel was a tight end for the Golden Flashes who went on to earn All-Mid-America Conference honors. He eventually followed in Saban’s footsteps as head coach at Toledo before going to Missouri in 2001.

When Pinkel arrived in CoMo (to differentiate from the other Columbia in the SEC), Mizzou was in sorry shape. The Tigers were a powerhouse under Dan Devine throughout the 1960s, and even though they fell on hard times after Devine left for the Green Bay Packers in 1971, Mizzou bounced back to respectability under Al Onofrio and Warren Powers.

When Powers was fired after the 1984 season, the Tigers tanked. Woody Widenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith all failed miserably in pulling Mizzou out of its funk. Sadly, the thing Mizzou is best known for during the tenure of those three coaches was the infamous Fifth Down Game vs. Colorado in 1990.

It took Pinkel a few years to get it going, but when he did, Mizzou zoomed to heights it had not seen since Devine’s glory years. The Tigers reached #1 in the polls in 2007 following their victory over Kansas, although their hopes of a date with Ohio State in the BCS championship game ended with a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. LSU was the beneficiary, ending up as national championship following their victory over the Buckeyes in New Orleans.

Mizzou ended up #5 in the polls following the 2007 season, and repeated it in 2013, the Tigers’ second season in the SEC. The Tigers have struggled since winning the SEC East (why is Mizzou in the SEC East when it is farther west than five of the seven SEC West schools?) in 2013 and ’14, but it hasn’t relapsed into the pitiful form it showed from 1985-2000, when it became roadkill for Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and later, Kansas State.

Here is an excellent New York Times retrospective of Kent State.

Given the late hour, I’ll end it here.

Happy 50th, Apollo 13

Fifty years ago last night, the humdrum of what appeared to be another routine Apollo mission to the moon was forever changed by five words spoken by Commander Jim Lovell.

“Houston, we have a problem”.

And so began the saga of Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert. There was no way they would follow in the footsteps of Apollo 11’s Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, nor Apollo 12’s Bean, Conrad and Gordon. Apollo 11 went to the moon in July 1969, with Armstrong and Aldrin setting foot on its surface on 20 July. Four months later, Apollo 12 took the same path.

As an aside, it would be Dick Gordon’s last space flight; twenty-six months later, he became the Executive Vice President and General Manager of the New Orleans Saints. Gordon was obviously smarter than the man who hired him, Saints owner John Mecom, and the head coach Gordon was inheriting, J.D. Roberts, but Gordon was in over his head against the likes of Jim Finks in Minnesota, Carroll Rosenbloom with the Rams, Al Davis in Oakland, the Rooney sin Pittsburgh, and Donald Francis Shula in south Florida.

Enough football. Back to Lovell, Haise and Swigert. Landing on the moon was out of the question; the new question was simply if they would live or die.

The first three and half months of the 1970s were carrying on the same deadly legacy as the last few months of the 1960s.

Following Apollo 11, ]Hurricane Camille bulldozed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast the same weekend as Woodstock, killing 256 over five states. Three and half months later came the infamous Altamont Free Concert in northern California, where 18-year old druggie Meredith Hunter was stabbed by Hell’s Angel Alan Passarro, the latter claiming self-defense because he and his fellow Angels were scared the former would attack Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones during their performance.

Less than six days before Apollo 13 lifted off, four members of the California Highway Patrol were shot to death by snipers near Los Angeles. And three weeks after Lovell radioed the Johnson Space Center, four students died at Kent State (fortunately for football fans from coast to coast, one of them was not Nick Saban, then a freshman on the Golden Flashes football team).

The launch of Apollo 13 on 11 April was covered by the three networks, but other than updates from Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds, there was no special coverage. The night of Lovell’s transmission, the networks were in regular programming (“Here’s Lucy” on CBS; “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” on NBC and a horrendous TV movie on ABC), but Cronkite, Brinkley and Reynolds scurried back to their anchor chairs and updated the viewing public.

The mayday came after an explosion occurred in a liquid oxygen tank on board the command module. It turns out the tank was seriously damaged when it was dropped in preparation for Apollo 10. The tank for Apollo 10 was replaced, and the damaged tank was repaired and placed aboard Apollo 13.

It should not have been. It should have simply been disposed of. However, in 1969 and ’70, the cost of simply replacing the tank may have been too prohibitive to not to try and salvage it.

The damaged tank could only handle 28 volts, compared to 65 volts if the tank were in optimal condition. When temperatures spiked to approximately 185 degrees Celsius (365 degrees Fahrenheit), the internal wiring in the tank melted. When Swigert flipped a switch to stir the cryogenic tanks, the defective one exploded.

Lovell, Haise and Swigert were now on their own, more than 320,000 kilometers (200,000 miles) from earth. Mission Control was rendered useless.

The only hope was to use the lunar module, which Lovell and Haise would have used to land on the moon while Swigert circled above in the service module (the same way Collins did for Armstrong and Aldrin during Apollo 11, and Gordon for Bean and Conrad during Apollo 12), to fly back to earth.

Lovell had to figure out how to guide the lunar module with the service module attached, a totally different animal compared to what he and Haise would have experieneced landing on the moon.

As the trio neared earth on 17 April, they moved back into the damaged service module to prepare for splashdown. Originally, it was believed it would splash down in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Australia, but the trajectory was improved and it splashed at the original destination in the south Pacific.

I learned about Apollo 13 in sixth grade science. Two years later, an episode of ABC’s “The Wonder Years” featured the Apollo 13 crisis as a central plot point. Norma Arnold (Alley Mills) is up late after husband Jack (Dan Lauria) and children Karen (Olivia d’Abo), Wayne (Jason Hervey) and Kevin (Fred Savage) had gone to bed. Just as Kevin walks into the kitchen where Norma is watching television, and Frank Reynolds pops onto the screen with a “special report”. Later in the week, Kevin enters a church and finds Norma praying for the astronauts. The astronauts’ safe return also seemingly eases any tension between Norma and Jack. Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) sat out this episode.

The three men aboard Apollo 13 never returned to space. The Apollo program ended in December 1972, and it would be over eight years before the first space shuttle launch in 1981.

Lovell, still alive and well at 92, retired from NASA and the U.S. Navy shortly after Apollo 13. His book “Lost Moon” served as the script for the 1995 blockbuster film “Apollo 13”, with Tom Hanks portraying Lovell.

I know of a few people who are not enamored with Lovell.

In August 1999, Lovell was as guest of the Chicago Cubs during a nationally televised game vs. the Houston Astros. Lovell harshly criticized a group of umpires who lost their jobs when they followed Richie Phillips’ dreadful strategy to resign the previous month. The interview, conducted by ESPN announcers John Miller and Joe Morgan, was seen by millions from coast to coast.

Two of the umpires working that night’s game, the infamous Eric Gregg and Paul Nauert, lost their jobs three and a half weeks later. Jerry Crawford, the crew chief for that night’s game, didn’t lose his job, but he was Richie Phillips’ best friend, and I’m certain he won’t shed a tear when Lovell finally slips the surly bonds of this earth and touches the face of God, as Ronald Reagan once put it.

Haise, still alive at 86, was scheduled to fly on Apollo 19, but his number didn’t come up, since Apollo 17 was the last. He was recruited for the space shuttle program, but he got tired of the delays.

Swigert turned to politics in the late 1970s after leaving NASA. His first run for office failed, as he lost the 1978 Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat from Colorado to U.S. Rep. Bill Armstrong, who went on to win the general election and serve two terms.

In early 1982, Swigert announced he would run for U.S. Representative from Colorado’s 6th district, a seat which the Centennial State gained from reapportionment following the 1980 census.

Before Swigert could worry about winning in November, he had to beat cancer, which manifested itself in a tumor in his right nasal passage. He finished radiation treatment in June 1982, but two months later, cancer came back in his bone marrow.

Swigert stayed in the election and won with 64 percent of the vote, becoming the third ex-astronaut to win election to Congress, with the others serving in the Senate.

The first was John Glenn, the living legend who represented Ohio from 1975-1998; the second was Harrison Schmitt, who represented New Mexico from 1977-82. Ironically, the same day Swigert was elected, Schmitt lost his seat to Jeff Bingaman.

Sadly for Swigert, he never took the oath on Capitol Hill. He died 27 December in the same wing of Georgetown University Hospital where Vince Lombardi succumbed to colon cancer 12 years earlier. Swigert was only 51.

Apollo 13 may never have reached its intended destination. However, the courage demonstrated by James Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert will continue to serve as a beacon of hope, especially poignant given what’s happening right now, 50 years after Lovell radioed Houston.

A bad March transitions into (probably) a worse April

The worst month many of us have experienced is over.

What may become the worst month many of us will experience is now upon us.

Life without sports will continue throughout April, and probably May. If there are any games played before Fathers Day (June 21), it will be a Biblical miracle. If there are any before America’s Independence Day, it will be a major miracle. If the college and professional football seasons kick off on time in September, it will be a minor miracle.

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit scared the living crap out of every coach, player and fan last week, stating he didn’t believe there would be any more sports, period, until a vaccine for coronavirus was available.

Yikes.

College football’s resident coronavirus expert, Ed Orgeron, believes there will be “no disruption” to the college football season, which is scheduled to begin August 29 with the Notre Dame-Navy game in Ireland.

I’m naturally pessimistic, and I’m tending to believe Herbstreit might be right. I’m not scared. I’m downright terrified.

My native state is in one of its biggest crises since Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803.

The banner on the top of The Advocate’s home page is grim indeed: 5,237 cases, 239 dead, 1,355 in the hospital.

For perspective, the coronavirus has killed three times as many Louisiana residents as Hurricane Betsy, which claimed 76 lives in the Bayou State (plus five in Florida) in September 1965.

The toll is only 17 short of the total number of people who perished in Hurricane Camille, the Category 5 monster which plowed much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast the same weekend as Woodstock in 1969. The total of 256 was spread over Mississippi, Louisiana, Virginia and West Virginia; the latter two states experienced flash flooding in the Blue Ridge mountains two days after landfall.

Hurricane Katrina killed 1,836 in Louisiana in 2005. If the coronavirus comes anywhere close to reaching that figure, it will be just as catastrophic, maybe more so. I’m certain it will surpass the 550 who died when Hurricane Audrey roared into southwest Louisiana in June 1957.

Kansas has “only” 428 cases as of this minute. Barton County, due south of Russell County, reported its first case yesterday.

For the second consecutive Tuesday, I ventured to Salina to pick up food and other necessities. It was a complete success, as I picked up five dozen eggs, plus the sausages and other things I like.

Target had two surprises for me.

One, TOILET PAPER. And not just any toilet paper, the Charmin Ultra Soft I have used for most of the past 25 years. I first used it when I went to LSU, and I kept on using it living in Baton Rouge following graduation. I did not use it when I moved home from April 2004 through August 2005, but once I got to Russell, I started using it again.

I have 19 mega rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft in the utility closet next to my bathroom, but 30 mega rolls for $30 was just too good to pass up. I’m set for the rest of this year, and probably most of next year.

There were ZERO packages of toilet paper available the previous Tuesday in the same store.

I was also happy to find Bounty paper towels. Bounty and Brawny are head and shoulders above all other brands. They may be more expensive, but as they say, you get what you pay for.

The second surprise: Target’s stock of home haircutting kits was completely sold out.

I was stunned, but then I realized barber shops and salons were forced to close by the statewide stay-at-home order which took effect Monday. This is going to force parents to cut their children’s hair, although there are no grooming regulations to worry about since nobody will be attending school in a building until at least August.

Fortunately, I bought a haircut set at a Walmart in Topeka in 2007. It sat unused until November, when I elected to cut my own hair to save money.

Walmart did not have haircut sets, either. Bed, Bath and Beyond, whose stores are closed through at least Friday and longer in many states due to stay-at-home orders, is sold out online. Amazon’s supplies are low.

Speaking of Salina and haircuts, I miss Amber.

Chick-Fil-A was again my meal of choice. I hadn’t eaten since the previous night so I devoured a chicken sandwich and eight strips. I think their strips are just as good as Zaxby’s and Raising Cane’s, although they aren’t hyped as much as the sandwiches.

I have seriously lost track of time. I sat down to play Buzztime at 22:00, and now it’s 02:10. I’m surprised Buzztime hasn’t kicked me off the system, which it used to after 02:00.

Just posted my first perfect Late Shift of the night. On my 17th try. Usually I can get it quicker than that.

I’d better get to bed, or I’ll sleep through my appointment with Crista at 16:00, although I don’t have to drive to Hays. We’re doing it via Zoom, which was the case last week.

The rare astronomy post

Last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of a total solar eclipse visible across the eastern United States. My parents, who were seven months away from getting married yet still did not know one another at this point, don’t remember it.

Virginia Beach and Nantucket Island were the most notable locations in the United States to experience totality; a New York Times story the next morning reported more than 60,000 visitors flooded Virginia Beach and Norfolk to experience the eclipse.

One location in the path of totality was not as fortunate.

Over 20,000 converged on Perry, Florida, a speck on the Gulf of Mexico 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Tallahassee. The only other time Perry–and Taylor County–is in the news is if a hurricane approaches Florida’s Big Bend.

If a major hurricane came ashore at Apalachicola, Perry would be in the right-front quadrant, the most dangerous part of the storm. Perry might resemble Pass Christian after Camille and Katrina.

For those who made it to Perry, the view of the eclipse was ruined by heavy cloud cover which blanketed areas from Oklahoma to Georgia and all the way down to Key West.

The morning after the eclipse, The New York Times had another interesting article related to space.

The headline: “Nixon Asks for Start of Grand Tour of Planets in ’77”

President Nixon, who spent the weekend of the eclipse at his Key Biscayne compound with Bebe Rebozo, among others, told the NYT he hoped to explore Mars and other outer planets, as well as launch a nuclear-powered rocket by the end of what he hoped would be his second term in January 1977, or at least by the end of the decade.

The idea for touring the outer planets–Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (it didn’t get downgraded to dwarf planet until 2006)–came to birth because in 1979, Pluto’s orbit would move inside Neptune’s, the best opportunity to explore the nether regions of our solar system.

In March 1970, anything seemed to be possible in regards to space exploration.

Less than eight months had passed since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, and only four months after that, Apollo 12 sent Alan Bean, Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon–the same Dick Gordon who became General Manager of the Saints in 1972–to the moon.

Little did anyone know what was to come with Apollo 13, which launched five weeks after the eclipse. It was a stark reminder space exploration was mighty risky; one only had to mention Gus Grissom, Ed White (not the former Chief Justice of the United States) and Roger Chaffee to realize just how risky.

Nixon also wished to continue flights to moon with Apollo through 1974. The last Apollo flight was Apollo 17 in December 1972; less than two years after that, Richard Nixon was a private citizen, having resigned in disgrace due to Watergate in August 1974.

Before handing the reigns to Gerald Ford, Nixon laid the groundwork for the Space Shuttle.

The 7 March 1970 eclipse is part of a mystery involving Carly Simon’s signature song, “You’re So Vain”.

The last verse begins: “I hear you went up to Saratoga, and your horse naturally won. Then you flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun…”

“Saratoga” refers to the Saratoga Springs Race Course, a world famous thoroughbred track, in upstate New York.

There was another total solar eclipse on 10 July 1972 which was not visible in the continental United States. It traveled over the Northwest Territories of Canada, then ventured over Quebec City and then out to the Atlantic over Nova Scotia.

The date of the 7 March 1970 eclipse fits because Simon penned “You’re So Vain” in 1971. However, the season does not; Saratoga’s horse racing season doesn’t begin until after Independence Day.

Therefore, the 10 July 1972 eclipse fits in that regard, even if it occured after the song was written. However, “You’re So Vain” was not released until 8 November 1972. Bingo.

If off-track betting was legal in 1970, maybe someone could have placed a bet on a race at Santa Anita or the New Orleans Fair Grounds from Saratoga.

It’s a mystery which may be best left to the imagination, or the clouds in your coffee.

The most recent total solar eclipse was 21 August 2017. Kansas City was in the path of totality, and hotel rooms in the metro area and places as far away as St. Joseph, Topeka and Columbia were totally booked.

I went to Kansas City the Friday and Saturday before the eclipse. Robb was asking me to look for eclipse glasses on Amazon. I had to break it to him they would not arrive in time; that was moot anyway, since all of Amazon’s supply of eclipse glasses were either sold out or defective.

It was the biggest event to hit Kansas City since the Royals won the 2015 World Series, and would be the biggest until Patrick Mahomes took the NFL by storm.

Like Perry in 1970, clouds ruined Kansas City’s view of the 2017 eclipse.

There’s supposed to be another total eclipse visible in the United States 8 April 2024. Locations in the path of totality include Waco; Cape Girardeau; Bloomington, Ind.; Youngstown, Ohio; Buffalo; Rochester, N.Y.

While many were going gaga over a solar eclipse 7 March 1970, the high school which I would attend made history.

Brother Martin of New Orleans defeated Captain Shreve 72-56 in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Class AAA boys basketball state championship game at Alexandria.

The Crusaders outscored the Gators 16-0 in the three-minute overtime. Why overtime periods were only three minutes and not four in those days is a mystery.

Brother Martin, which was in its first year of operation following the merger of St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu high schools, finished 36-0 and was named national champion by one of the many polls which predated the USA Today and MaxPreps rankings.

The Crusaders won state championships in 1971 and ’74. In 1971, Brother Martin defeated Shreveport Woodlawn, led by future Hall of Famer Robert Parish, in the championship. The 1974 Martin team was led by Rick Robey, who helped Kentucky win the 1978 NCAA tournament and was a reserve on the Celtics’ 1980-81 NBA champions.

By time I arrived at Brother Martin, the basketball program was a mess. The Crusaders did not have a winning season in my five years of attendance, bottoming out at 9-23 in 1990-91. Martin has bounced back, winning state championships 2004, ’05 and ’10.

Brother Martin is a heavy underdog in their “Division I select” semifinal Wednesday at Baton Rouge Scotlandville. If the Hornets prevail, they will play the winner of Baton Rouge Catholic at St. Augustine in their home gymnasium Saturday for the “Division I select” state championship.

The LHSAA is seriously messed up. I’ll explore on the blog this week. I promise.

Russell High’s basketball program was still in pretty good shape in 1970, four years after Amos Morris coached his last game. Morris went 301-99 in 17 seasons at RHS, leading the Broncos to four state championships (1952, ’53, ’55, ’63). His name is now on RHS’ gymnasium, and he was inducted into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1983.

The 1969-70 Broncos, coached by future KU athletic director Bob Frederick, reached the Class 3A final, where they lost 52-50 to Colby. Russell won its sixth state championship in 1979, but has not reached a sub-state final since.

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I didn’t vomit yesterday, although I wanted to.

Daylight savings time returned at 01:00 Sunday. Yippee!

DST is a crock of crap. It does not save energy. It WASTES energy because it forces the use of air conditioning later in the evening in the summer.

Arizona has it right. Save for the areas controlled by the Navajo, the Grand Canyon State does not adjust its clocks when most of the nation does.

Kansas used to get along just fine without DST. The Sunflower State did not change its clocks until it was forced to in 1967 after jerkwad LBJ signed the “Uniform Time Act” into law. Staying on standard time year-round was better for Kansas farmers, who were able to get into the field an hour earlier and wrap up an hour earlier compared to states with DST, not having to stay in the fields when most farmers would rather be in bed.

Actually, half of Kansas should be on Mountain time anyway.

Russell, for instance, is at 98.9 degrees longitude. The mean meridian for Central time is 90 degrees, and the mean for Mountain is 105. Last I checked, 98.9 is closer to 105 than 90. Therefore, nothing would be upset too much if the Central/Mountain divide were extended to the US 281 corridor and put Hays, Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal, Great Bend, Colby, Russell and other places on Mountain time.

Prior to 1967, Missouri was split on DST. St. Louis and eastern Missouri observed it, while the Kansas City metro and all areas bordering Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska did not.

Some idiots have proposed year-round DST, which would mean ridiculously late sunrise in the winter, even if the sun were out an hour later. In states where it snows–like Kansas–that would be dangerous, since school children would be forced to go to school in the dark for three months.

Fortunately, there cannot be year-round DST. That is illegal under federal law. A state can exempt itself from DST and remain on standard time year-round, but it cannot go on DST year-round. Thank God.

To those of you getting your jollies because daylight savings time has returned, I feel sorry for you. There’s many more things to be jolly about than a clock changing.

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If you’re bored, I’ve got good news. That’s all for this post.

Too many Monday holidays and not enough money

It’s back to work for state and federal employees after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday yesterday. The civil rights icon, who was tragically assassinated in 1968 by white supremacist James Earl Ray or by Ray as part of a larger conspiracy, has been honored on the third Monday of January since 1986.

I don’t get why the day honoring Dr. King isn’t celebrated every year on January 15, his actual date of birth in 1929. If January 15 happens to fall on a Wednesday like it did this year, then so be it. If it falls on a Saturday, have the holiday on Friday the 14th, or if it’s on a Sunday, have the holiday on Monday the 16th.

It’s the same as Columbus Day being celebrated on the second Monday of October instead of October 12, the actual date of Columbus’ arrival in America. It used to be that way for Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday until the law changed in 1971 to observe most federal holidays on a Monday, and then it was just condensed into President’s Day, which means Washington and Lincoln are given the same honor as William Henry Harrison, Rutherford Hayes and Warren Harding.

Veterans Day (Armistice Day until the American Legion in Emporia suggested it honor all veterans, not just those who fought in World War I) was moved from November 11 to the last Monday of October in 1971 (the law was signed by LBJ in 1968). The Legion and VFW raised hell, so President Carter signed a bill in 1977 which moved it back to the fixed November 11 date in 1978.

I find it insulting to those who gave their lives for this country that Memorial Day is not celebrated every year on May 30 as it was until 1971. Why do all veterans get their own day every year, yet those who made the ultimate sacrifice are honored with the last day of a long weekend?

Two U.S. Senators who served in World War II, Daniel Inyoue (D-Hawaii) and Russell’s own Bob Dole (R-Kansas), introduced legislation on several occasions to move Memorial Day permanently back to May 30. It got nowhere. Apparently those who gave their lives for our freedom are less important than getting post offices named after some random citizen.

I’m surprised Independence Day hasn’t gone to a first Monday in July observance. I heard so much bitching and moaning in 2018 when July 4 fell on a Wednesday. Not so much last year when it was on Thursday, because many employees got the 5th off as well.

With July 4 on Saturday this year, governmental offices (except the U.S. Postal Service) will observe it on the 3rd.

I’m betting Barack Obama will have a holiday in August after he passes, if not sooner. His birth date was August 4, 1961, so I’m guessing it would be the first Monday of August. Besides, August doesn’t have any federal holidays.

Perry County, Alabama, a poor rural county in the Alabama Black Belt not too far from Selma, where the 1965 Civil Rights Marches began, has observed the second Monday of November as “Obama Day” since 2009, the year after his election as POTUS.

From 1936 through 1971, August 30 was a state holiday in Louisiana. Why? It was the birth date of Huey Pierce Long, who was shot to death in the state capitol at age 42 in 1935. The Long family and his rabid supporters believe Dr. Carl Austin Weiss fired the fatal shot, but evidence has come to light through the years that the bullet came from one of Long’s gun-toting thugs.

Louisana’s governor at the time, O.K. Allen, was simply a stooge who did whatever the hell Huey told him to do. If Huey told O.K. to take a dump on the House floor, O.K. did it. So of course O.K. made sure nobody forgot the Kingfish by making his birthday a holiday.

Allen died in 1936 after winning nomination to Long’s U.S. Senate seat (thank God). His successors–Huey’s brother Earl, Richard Leche, James Noe, Sam Jones, Jimmie Davis, Robert Kennon, Earl again, Davis again, and John McKeithen–never saw fit to repeal this joke of a holiday.

Fortunately, Edwin Edwards said enough was enough and told state workers to get their butts in their offices on August 30, 1972.

I just received a message from Dawn. She’s excited the Chiefs will be playing in the Super Bowl in Miami Gardens. Dawn lives in Boynton Beach, about 48 miles north of Hard Rock Stadium along Florida’s Turnpike. She told me she has a small chance to go to the game.

I hope she gets that chance, but if she does, it doesn’t cost her a small fortune.

Current ticket prices on reseller sites (StubHub, Vivid Seats, Tickets for Less, etc.) are running anywhere from $4,800 for a nosebleed seat in the end zone to over $70,000 for prime seats along the 50-yard line. Those prices do not include fees, which will easily push the price of the cheapest ticket well over $5,000.

As much as I love sports, I am not paying that much money to go to a football game. If I had two Super Bowl tickets, I’d sell them and use the profit for something worthwhile, like a nice TV and recliner so I can enjoy the game without any distractions.

My parents went to Super Bowl IX 45 years ago, the last NFL game at Tulane Stadium. The tickets were provided free of charge by my father’s company, Air Products and Chemicals. They carried a face value of $20. That was the face value for all 81,000 seats in Tulane Stadium, whether they be high in the end zone or low on the 50-yard line.

Adjusted for inflation, those tickets would cost $99 today. A bargain. For Super Bowl LIV, you will be fortunate to park for $99 if you drive your own car, or find a cab, Uber or Lyft cheaper than $99. Considering Hard Rock Stadium is in the middle of nothing between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale, those rides will run well into triple digits.

Tickets for Super Bowl IV, when the Chiefs defeated the Vikings in New Orleans, were $15 at face value. That equates to $102.24 today. Very reasonable.

Air Products and Chemicals had four Saints season tickets in the most expensive section of seats (not including suites) in the Superdome prior to Hurricane Katrina. In 2004, those tickets were an average of $180 when club fees were added in. In 2019, those tickets are $380 per game, and $180 will only get you end zone seats.

For those fans from Kansas City hoping to attend the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl since the good old days of “65 Toss Power Trap”, you have to also add on flights which will cost at least $1,600 round-trip, plus three nights in a hotel for at least $500 per night, probably more.

I cringe when I see hotels in downtown Kansas City going for $329 a night Miami is one of the most expensive places to stay in the United States during slow tourist periods. During the Super Bowl? Heaven help you.

Let’s see: $5,500 for a cheap ticket+$1,800 flight+$1,800 hotel+$600 for transportation+$450 for food+$300 for concessions at the game+$150 in tips. That comes out to at least $10,600.

No thank you. I’ll be fine staying home. Besides, with the Secret Service now in charge of security at the Super Bowl–a sad fact of life after 11 September 2001–getting into the stadium is a gigantic pain.

To those attending Super Bowl LIV, good for you. Glad you can afford. Glad you want to put up with all the problems that come with attending such an event.

Stupid is and stupid does, and 1994 sucked

WARNING: I’m going to use some NSFW language. I’m sorry. However, some people deserve my complete scorn.

My brain is completely fried.

To wit: a Buzztime trivia question just listed five countries, and I had to pick the one which did NOT border Libya. The choices: Algeria, Chad, Tunisia, Egypt and Uganda. I mindlessly picked Tunisia, thinking it bordered only Algeria.

How stupid am I?

Uganda is MUCH farther south. I didn’t look at all the answers. I got Tunisia confused with Morocco, which is WEST of Algeria. I should have known Tunisia is wedged between Algeria and Libya along the Mediterranean.

Earlier tonight, I forgot Carmelo Anthony was still playing for Houston. I should have known he signed with Portland earlier this year.

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The front page of Wikipedia lists four events which occurred on a given date.

One of the events listed Monday (January 6) was the attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan at the United States championships in 1994.

The first thing which came to mind: 1994 was mostly a horrible year.

I was forced to attend my high school graduation ceremony that May. I felt like a tool in the red cap and gown I was forced to wear by Brother Martin High. Graduation caps (more accurately mortarboards) and gowns should be one color: BLACK. Worse than the cap and gown was having to see over 200 people I didn’t want to see again.

I begged the administration to let me forgo the graduation ceremony and simply receive my diploma in the mail, or in person at the school. Nope. My parents wouldn’t let me fake illness, either.

I was angry as hell Brother Martin fired Rebecca Hale. If you’ve ready some of my previous posts, you know how much I admire Rebecca.

I learned of Rebecca’s termination three weeks before graduation. I should have stayed home to protest that, or worn something with her initials.

Graduation wasn’t nearly as bad as the asinine “Ring Mass” I was forced to attend at St. Louis Cathedral in August 1993. I am Catholic and I believe in God, but I do not like going to Mass. I hate the sounds of an organ, especially when played by a man. I especially hate the Mass in English. Too much freaking singing. I have never forgiven my parents for this.

Another thing…rings should only be given when you GRADUATE from high school. I never wore my Brother Martin ring in school.

I was upset when I didn’t go to my senior prom two weeks before graduation. Looking back, that was a very good thing. Now I’m overjoyed I didn’t.

As bad as getting out of high school was, worse was to come.

The first was O.J. Simpson murdering Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman in the late hours of June 12, followed by the infamous freeway chase led by Al Cowlings later that week. The son of a bitch was running, and that told me right then and there Orenthal James Simpson was the “real killer”. O.J. had better admit to it on his deathbed.

Two months after O.J. committed double murder, Major League Baseball players went on strike. The third major MLBPA strike since 1972 forced the cancellation of the last seven weeks of the regular season, as well as the entire postseason.

The 1994 MLB season was horrible anyway, with too many home runs and three divisions for the first time, but the strike made it even worse.

While the MLB strike raged on, I started college at LSU. I was living in a crappy dorm room on the east edge of campus near the law school and University High, the Laboratory school where LSU employees send their kids for free and LSU students majoring in education get their first teaching experience. My classes and the athletic department offices were on the complete opposite side of campus, and that was a pain in the butt. I rode a bicycle in order to avoid walking, and I thus became the biggest klutz to ride a bike on a college campus.

LSU’s football season was miserable. The Bayou Bengals suffered through their sixth losing season, leading to coach Curley Hallman’s firing with two games remaining. He was allowed to coach those two games, and wouldn’t you know, the Bayou Bengals beat Tulane and Arkansas to finish 4-7.

Gerry DiNardo was hired two weeks after the season ended. The next day, LSU associate athletic director Herb Vincent fired me from my student job in the sports information office. I cried a lot then, but it was the right decision. I was way too immature to hold a high-pressure job, or probably any job. My parents didn’t force me to find a summer job in high school. Good thing they didn’t, because it would have been disastrous.

The 1994 NFL season was crappy. There were the Cowboys, attempting to become the first team to win three consecutive Super Bowls under new coach Barry Switzer; the 49ers, who spent a crapload of money on free agents like Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson and many others in an attempt to dethrone the Cowboys; and 26 other teams who were just there for show.

It was inevitable the Cowboys and 49ers would play for the NFC championship, which they did. When San Francisco prevailed 38-28, it was inevitable the 49ers would beat the living daylights out of the AFC champion. San Francisco did, mauling the Chargers 49-26 in a game which wasn’t that close.

One of the very few good things about 1994 was meeting some people who helped me along the way: Bill Franques, Dan Borne, Michael Bonnette and Kent Lowe. I met Herb in the summer of 1993. I also met Sam King, Scott Rabalais and Dave Moormann from The Advocate, who helped me become a freelancer with the newspaper a few years later. And I got to know LSU defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who was much more gregarious and astute than his boss.

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Geez, here I go again. I screwed up a question which asked the first rookie with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases in a season in 2012. It was Mike Trout, but I didn’t think it was. I thought Trout was in MLB earlier than 2012. What the hell man?

I’m going to sign off before I say anything worse and/or make myself look more foolish.

The Superdome must be secured!

Donald Trump announced yesterday he would attend the College Football Playoff championship game in New Orleans.

Security was already going to be problematic with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and nearly all 144 members of the Louisiana Legislature making their way down Interstate 10 from the state capitol, where Edwards, other elected officials and legislators will be inaugurated that day.

Adding a visit by POTUS is going to exacerbate the problem exponentially.

Security for the game will be as tight as it was for the two Super Bowls in the Superdome since the September 11 attacks. The Secret Service will take the lead from the Louisiana State Police and New Orleans Police Department for security, and searches will be much longer and more thorough.

The Superdome would be better off asking the Transportation Security Administration to get full body scanners and place them at each of the four main entrances.

I bring this up because 16 years ago tonight, the Sugar Bowl matched LSU and Oklahoma for the BCS national championship. Nearly 80,000 crammed into the Superdome, which was–and still is–a record for a football game in the facility. The record for all events is 87,500 for a 1981 concert by The Rolling Stones, although an estimated 95,000 attended a 1987 youth rally with Pope John Paul II.

Please forgive me as I go off the trail to tell another story about John Paul’s only visit to the Crescent City.

The pontiff hosted an outdoor mass behind the left field fence of the University of New Orleans’ baseball stadium a few hours after the youth rally. It was not the best idea. It poured before the mass, which proved to be the lesser of two meteorological evils for New Orleans in September (at least when there’s not a hurricane bearing down on the Bayou State). Better wet from rain than dripping with sweat.

If the Archdiocese of New Orleans was smart, it would have held the mass on Sunday morning in the Superdome and asked the Saints to play on the road in week one of the 1987 season. Sure, fewer people would have been able to attend, but it would have been much more comfortable for all. John Paul was frail after he was shot in May 1981 in St. Peter’s Square, but had not yet displayed symptoms of the Parkinson’s which would claim him in 2005. He made it through the nearly two-hour service, but Archbishop Philip Hannan breathed a lot easier when the pontiff got into an air-conditioned limousine after the service.

Now, back to LSU and Oklahoma playing for half the 2003 college football national championship.

I say half the national championship, because the media voting in the Associated Press poll had Southern California (DO NOT EVER use Southern Cal) atop its poll following the regular season, and the Trojans figured to stay there after hammering Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl three days prior. The coaches poll was contractually obligated to name the winner of the designated BCS championship game its champion.

Oklahoma stayed No. 1 in the final BCS standings despite a disgustingly ugly 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, the Wildcats’ first conference championship since 1934. LSU moved into the No. 2 spot following a 34-13 victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Two weeks prior to the Sugar Bowl, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert threat from “Elevated” (Yellow) to “High” (Orange). Since September 11, 2001, DHS devised a terrorism threat chart with five color-coded levels. The highest was “Extreme” (Red), followed by High, Elevated, “Guarded” (Blue) and “Low” (Green).

For the Sugar Bowl, DHS, LSP and NOPD ordered nearly all of the parking lots attached to the Superdome closed. Only the garage at the southwest corner of the stadium would be opened, and very few permits would be issued.

I was one of the fortunate few. I assisted the media relations staff in the week leading up to the game, and I would be in the press box on game night researching information for the media to use in their stories. The media from out of town had a shuttle running from their designated hotel to the Superdome, so they did not receive parking passes. Some media were staying at the Hyatt Regency attached to the east entrance of the stadium, so all they had to do was walk.

When I arrived at the Superdome, I got out of my car to allow a search of all areas, including the trunk. I was driving the Oldsmobile 88 which I totaled running into a deer in Kansas in October 2005.

I made sure to only take what was essential to the game to make the search easier. I took it in stride. At least my car wasn’t being searched for drugs or other contraband!

The Bayou Bengals defeated the Sooners 21-14, giving LSU its first national championship since 1958. Nick Saban celebrated for all of six minutes, 13 seconds, give or take. There was no Gatorade shower for Saban, which was a good thing for LSU players, given Saban’s anger over his dousing by Alabama players six years later when the Crimson Tide defeated Texas for the first of five titles won by Saban in Tuscaloosa.

Security was a breeze for the 2005 Sugar Bowl, where Auburn completed a 13-0 season by defeating Virginia Tech, but had to settle for No. 2 behind USC.

The 2005 Sugar Bowl marked the last time I have set foot in the Superdome. What I wouldn’t give to set foot in there one more time.

I’m into my last day in Kansas City. Tomorrow morning its back to humdrum Russell. All good things must end.

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.