Category Archives: LSU

Rumblings from Red Stick (too bad I'm not there)

So much for posting every day this year. I missed yesterday. I’m a bad boy. However, given my lack of posts over the last two and a half months of 2019, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad, to paraphrase Mr. Meat Loaf.

If Matt Rhule has his way, Joe Brady will be a one-year wonder with LSU. The new Panthers coach has targeted Brady, the wunderkind who turned Joe Burrow from a former Ohio State backup into this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, to be his offensive coordinator. Ed Orgeron and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward are going to give Brady a significant pay raise if he remains in Baton Rouge, but LSU can’t match the resources of an NFL team, especially considering Rhule will make more than $8 million per season.

LSU plays Clemson for the national championship Monday in New Orleans, and the casinos are worried Burrow, Brady, Orgeron and the team in purple and gold take the golden trophy west on Interstate 10.

Sports books across the nation are reporting heavy action on LSU, by far the most one-sided action for a championship game since the first College Football Playoff in January 2015. For every nine dollars bet on money lines, eight is on LSU, while the spread action is 4-to-1 in favor of the Bayou Bengals.

It’s hard to believe Alabama did not receive anywhere near the action in its three national championship games vs. Clemson, two of which the Crimson Tide lost. However, the public is betting LSU is more battle-tested by playing in the SEC than Clemson is in the ACC, although the South Carolina Tigers had a much tougher semifinal vs. Ohio State than the Bayou Bengals did vs. Oklahoma.

If LSU wins, the casinos will take a bath. If Clemson wins, the bettors will take the bath.

This is a disturbing trend for the Bayou Bengals.

Sports books are reporting they have not seen this much one-sided action on a championship football game since Super Bowl XLVIII, when most of the betting public put their money on the Broncos, believing Peyton Manning would cap a record setting season by winning his second championship.

Instead, the Seahawks demolished Denver 43-8, and the books made almost $20 million, a Super Bowl record.

Yesterday’s Baton Rouge Advocate had a wide-ranging interview with former LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who was forced out of the job last year after 11 years in Baton Rouge. Two things Alleva said were of particular note.

First, Alleva did not want to hire Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, to be LSU’s football coach. Alleva, who had ties to the ACC during his days as Duke’s athletic director, did not want to give in to Fisher’s exorbitant demands, demands which were similar to those Nick Saban made at LSU and Alabama before taking each of those jobs. The most exorbitant of which was a fully guaranteed contract, which would have to run at least eight years and pay Fisher at least $7 million per season.

Late in the 2015 season, it was rumored LSU would fire Les Miles, who led the Bayou Bengals to the 2007 national championship but whose teams had slipped following the 2011 BCS championship game loss to Saban’s Crimson Tide. Most thought Fisher would be the successor, but Alleva now says it wasn’t so.

Alleva didn’t want to fire Miles in 2015, and when LSU defeated Texas A&M 19-7 in the regular season finale, Alleva went to the locker room after the game and told the media Miles would be back in 2016.

Four games into 2016, Alleva fired Miles following losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. Orgeron was named interim coach, then got the full-time position two months later, angering many LSU fans at that time. Of course, it has all worked out.

Ironically, Woodward hired Fisher at A&M, giving in to Jimbo’s demands with a 10-year, $75 million contract which is fully guaranteed. Not even Saban had that at LSU, nor does he have that at Alabama. Like Saban, Fisher does not owe a buyout if he leaves College Station.

The second nugget from Alleva’s interview which struck me was regret over hiring men’s basketball coach Will Wade.

Wade came to LSU from VCU after Johnny Jones was fired following a disastrous 2016-17 season. Wade was suspended in March 2019 when the NCAA announced LSU was under investigation for numerous violations, and did not coach the team in its last regular season game or in the SEC and NCAA tournaments, where LSU lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State. Wade was reinstated following the season, but the NCAA is still investigating.

Alleva told Advocate sports columnist Scott Rabalais “he got bad information” about Wade. Hmm.

What wasn’t discussed was hiring the awful Nikki Caldwell-Fargas to coach LSU’s women’s basketball team.

LSU went to five consecutive women’s Final Fours between 2004-08, but hasn’t been close since. LSU has slipped to an SEC afterthought under Caldwell-Fargas, while former league doormats Mississippi State and South Carolina have become powerhouses, with the Gamecocks defeating the Bulldogs in the 2017 national championship game after State ended Connecticut’s record 110-game winning streak in the semifinals.

LSU women’s basketball has fallen into gross disrepair since the glory days of Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. It was never going to eclipse football, baseball or men’s basketball in importance, but now it is far behind gymnastics, softball, and track and field, and even men’s golf has won a national championship recently.

Someone, either the UCLA, where Caldwell-Fargas coached before leaving for LSU, or the late Pat Summitt, who coached Caldwell at Tennessee, sold Alleva a bill of goods. This was a terrible hire, one which Woodward must rectify switfly, or the PMAC will again become a tomb for women’s games the way it was in the mid-1990s before Sue Gunter got it back on track.

Alleva blundered big time by not going after Kim Mulkey when there was a vacancy in 2011. Mulkey, who has coached Baylor to three national championships, grew up 45 minutes from LSU’s campus in Hammond, then went on to become an All-American at Louisiana Tech and a gold medalist on the 1984 United States Olympic team. Alleva should have taken a blank check to Mulkey and asked her to fill it in. Even if she stayed in Waco, Alleva would have won fans for going for it. Instead, he copped out and hired someone who is getting circles run around her by Dawn Staley and Vic Shaffer.

The only good things I can say about Caldwell-Fargas is (a) she’s a woman coaching women’s basketball, and (b) she is nowhere near as inept as the men leading Power Five women’s basketball teams in my current home state. Kansas State hiring Jeff Mittie and Kansas hiring Brandon Schneider were only eclipsed by the Wildcats hiring Ron Prince and the Jayhawks hiring Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and David Beatty.

It’s a good thing I was in Kansas City last weekend. This weekend is promising snow and ice, plus the myriad of travel problems it causes.

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.

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.

Blue Sunday night (and Monday)

I’ve been singing the blues since 2200 last night, at least as far as sports goes.

The Blues choked in their attempt to win their first Stanley Cup last night, losing 5-1 at home to the Bruins. The series goes back to Boston for the winner-take-all game seven Wednesday.

St. Louis has performed very well away from the Enterprise Center in the playoffs, winning 9 of 12. However, no team in the Stanley Cup Finals has lost game six at home, then recovered to win game seven on the road since the Maple Leafs in 1945, who lost to the Red Wings in Toronto, but somehow got back up and took the Cup at Detroit’s venerable Olympia.

The Blues became the third team this millennium to lose game six of the finals on home ice. The Devils blew it in 2001 and the Flames did it three years later. New Jersey bowed to the Avalanche in Denver, and Calgary choked against the Lightning, subjecting us to the ridiculous spectacle of the Cup being skated in Tampa by the home team.

Three other times since 1995 have the finals have reached game seven:

2003–the Devils and (Mighty) Ducks each fail to break through on the road. New Jersey has the good fortune of home ice advantage.

2006–the Hurricanes lose twice to the Oilers after taking a 3-1 series lead, but recover to win the Cup in Raleigh

2011–the Canucks and Bruins split the first six games, with neither team able to win away from home. In the seventh game, that changes, with Boston rolling 4-0 in Vancouver, prompting lawlessness in the streets of British Columbia.

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Meanwhile, about 800 miles down the Mississippi River, LSU’s 2019 baseball season came to a sorrowful conclusion.

The Bayou Bengals were swept in their super regional by Florida State. LSU blew a 4-0 lead in the first game and lost 6-4, and in the second, it erased a 4-0 deficit, only to lose 5-4 in 12 innings.

LSU’s season ended 40-25. There were some highs, like winning a series in Starkville, but some real lows, like being swept in Austin by a mediocre Texas team which finished last in the Big 12 and losing a series for the first time to Missouri.

The Seminoles are going to the College World Series in coach Mike Martin’s 40th and final season. Martin has won the most career games of any baseball coach in NCAA Division I, surpassing 2,000 earlier this year.

The Seminoles will be in Omaha for the 17th time under Martin, who succeeded the late, great Dick Howser when the latter left Tallahassee in late 1979 to become manager of the. Yankees and later the Royals. FSU also played in Omaha six times prior to Martin’s ascension. The Seminoles’ baseball stadium is fittingly named Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium.

For all their success in the regular season and early rounds of the postseason, the Seminoles have yet to claim the brass ring. Their 22 previous CWS appearances without a title are the most. By comparison, LSU didn’t make its first CWS until 1986 and has six titles in 18 appearances.

Martin’s plight resembles that of longtime FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, who came close season after season in the 1980s and early 1990s before winning two titles in 1993 and ’99. Bowden and Martin are good friends, and I bet Bobby will be in Omaha rooting on his former school.

I’ll never forget the 1998 CWS. I went to Omaha for the first time. In the first game of that year’s series. FSU lost 11-10 to Arizona State in a game marked by numerous errors and wild plays.

A reporter came back to the Rosenblatt Stadium press box with audio from Martin’s postgame press conference. The first words out of Martin’s mouth: “We stunk the dadgum cotton picking ballyard up!”

The Seminoles were eliminated two days later by Long Beach State. Martin was much more subdued and conciliatory after losing to the 49ers (aka Dirtbags).

In 1999, FSU reached the championship game, but lost to archrival Miami (from 1988-2002, there was a single CWS championship game). In 2000, the Seminoles were ousted by LSU, which went on to win its fifth title under Skip Bertman.

Another school which has been to Omaha plenty with nothing to show for it, Mississippi State, is going back. Also in the field are Louisville, Texas Tech, Michigan (first time since 1984), Auburn (first time since 1997) and Vanderbilt. Arkansas looks like it will round out the field, as the Razorbacks lead Ole Miss 7-1 in the fourth at Fayetteville in the decisive game of that super regional.

I’ll take Vanderbilt and Arkansas in an all-SEC championship series. And I’ll take the Razorbacks to overcome their heartbreak from last year’s championship series loss to Oregon State, which would bring Arkansas its first baseball national championship and first major sports title since basketball in 1994.

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Once the Blues fell behind 3-0 last night, I turned off live television and switched back to The Brady Bunch DVD collection. I’m halfway through season four. I’m going to rewatch them once I get through the entire series.

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I need to get my car washed. The bugs are bugging me big time. It looks horrible.

For those who live in a big city, you would be well advised to get an unlimited car wash plan. It will do wonders against the bugs in the summer and the snow, ice and grime in winter.

One good news for my car: my custom sunshade arrived today. It works great. The generic ones in Target (and Walmart, even though I no longer shop there) don’t fit my car. They are awful. No wonder they are #########################################################################

The United States plays its first match in the FIFA Women’s World Cup tomorrow in France. At least Hope Solo, Lauren Holliday and Sydney LeRoux are no longer on team. However, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd are, and those are three big reasons I’m rooting against the Americans.

Morgan is nowhere near the caliber of player former teammate Abby Wambach was, and certainly not in the same league as past greats Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly and Cindy Parlow.

The only reason Morgan is getting attention? She’s a sexpot. She posed in a bikini for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. So what?

Rapinoe is association football’s version of Collin Kaepernick, taking a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest pay inequality in association football and the poor treatment of LQBT athletes like Rapinoe (and Wambach). If she wants to protest on her own time, that’s her business. I don’t give a darn if she’s a lesbian. That’s her privilege. However, she should not protest her country’s national anthem representing that country on an international stage. Rapinoe needs to pipe down during the competition. Save it for later.

Lloyd is nowhere near Hamm. Give it up already.

Solo is a crybaby. And she’s stupid for marrying a man, former Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, who beat the piss out of her days before their wedding. This weekend, Solo opened her mouth and inserted her foot by saying US manager Jill Ellis chokes in pressure situations.

Last I checked, Ellis was the team’s manager in 2015 when Solo and the US won the World Cup. Therefore, Hope(less) Solo should shut up.

Of the current players, Julie (Johnston) Ertz would crack the starting XI in any era. But that’s it.

Personally, I’d like to see France, Germany or England win the Women’s World Cup. The jingoism of American broadcasters is sickening. That’s why I loved the 2018 Men’s World Cup–the Americans were nowhere to be found, and Fox had to actually cover the matches as neutral journalists, not as surreptitious cheerleaders for Uncle Sam.

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Have I bored you? If I have, I’m sorry. That’s it. For now.

Acting like garbage

The above photo was taken at Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina last night.

The purpose of the sign is to remind both customers and employees the latest possible birth date to be legally served alcohol.

It reminded me of one of my most embarrassing days, an embarrassment I created for myself and have nobody to blame but myself.

On April 26, 1998, I was in Gainesville for the final game of LSU’s baseball series with Florida. The Bayou Bengals and Gators were the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference, both ranked in the top 10 by all the major polls of college baseball at that time: Collegiate Baseball newspaper, Baseball America magazine, and USA Today, which was the coaches’ poll, the same way it was in football and basketball.

LSU won the first game of the series 13-5, but Florida came back to win game two 4-3. The winner of the “rubber” game would have the inside track to the SEC championship, although both would more than likely host an NCAA regional tournament in late May, barring a total collapse.

I was already a bundle of nerves. We were flying from Gainesville to Atlanta to New Orleans after the game, then taking a bus back to Baton Rouge, meaning we would not be home before 2200, and then the players, managers and myself would be in class the next morning.

The flight from Baton Rouge to Atlanta was my first time in an airplane since 1981. It was a harrowing ride for me. The Delta 727 hit turbluence and I was scared the plane was going to crash. Jeremy Witten, an outfielder for the Bayou Bengals, sat next to me and was doing his best to keep me calm, but to no avail. When the plane landed at Hartsfield-Jackson International, the players and some other passengers cheered. I’m sure those not on the team were glad I would never be in the same plan as them again.

I wanted to beg someone–Bill Franques, Jim Hawthorne, Jim Schwanke, Dan Canevari–to rent a car and drive from Atlanta to Gainesville, five hours on Interstate 75. Then again, I didn’t want to torture them. So I kept my mouth shut and trudged through the terminal to the gate.

The leg from Atlanta to Gainesville was uneventful, even though it was on ATR-72, a turboprop which became infamous when one crashed into a field in northwest Indiana on Halloween 1994 after wings developed on the ice. That crash killed 68 and forced American carriers to remove all of their ATR-72s from anywhere above the 35 degrees north latitude.

Gainesville is not one of my favorite SEC locales. I had nightmares about Gainesville from the infamously horrendous 1985 Disney World trip with my family, since our station wagon blew out a tire there and we were forced to wait three hours for a new one.

McKethan Stadium, Florida’s baseball facility, is near the bottom of my list. The grandstand is completely open, and there are huge picture windows in the press box which open and let in the heat. There is no air conditioning.

Fortunately, the first two games of the series were played at night, but the Sunday game was at 1300 EDT, and it was BROILING. And I had to wear pants, since there would be no time for me to change after the game.

But what was to come was the worst. And I will never live it down.

Late in the game when LSU left runners on base, I kicked a huge garbage can. Bill Franques and Jim Hawthorne were busy in the radio booth and they didn’t see it, but Florida’s publicity man, Steve Shaff, and a few of the Florida writers did.

I should have crawled into a hole. Had I been old enough to rent a car, I would have and driven back to Baton Rouge by myself.

I confessed my transgression. If Bill or someone else wanted to leave me in Gainesville, I would not have contested. I deserved to be deserted. But I got on the plane, and made it back to Baton Rouge without further incident.

That was one of about 384 incidents during my years with LSU baseball I regret. I want to go to the SEC tournament in Birmingham and apologize to all of those I wronged through the years. I am well aware many have moved on, I want to be able to at least look some people in the eye and say I’m sorry.

I returned to Gainesville and McKethan Stadium four years later. I was surprised I was not banned. This time, Bill and I made like Smokey and the Bandit and drove as fast as we could, taking liberties with the speed limit all the way. Bill’s second son, Benjamin, was born only three weeks prior to our departure date (not to mention their first son, William, had not yet turned two), and he did not want to leave Yvette any more than he had to.

The previous week, Bill was delayed at Hartsfield–Jackson trying to get to Knoxville, and it looked like he would miss the first game of the LSU-Tennessee series. However, the game was rained out, so he had a cushion.

Bill and I left Baton Rouge at 0600 CDT the morning of the first game. We were in Gainesville by 1600 EDT, three hours before first pitch. We made the reverse trip from Gainesville to Baton Rouge with similar alacrity, leaving the stadium at 1630 EDT and arriving at my apartment at 0005 CDT. LSU won two of three in that series, so the drive back was much more enjoyable.

I will never see McKethan Stadium again. It will be demolished after the 2020 season, and the Gators will open a palatial new facility in 2021, one where all the grandstand seats are covered. Hopefully LSU lucks out with the schedule rotation and does not have to go to Gainesville next year.

My last flight was April 4, 1999, when the LSU baseball team flew home from Knoxville. There was a slight bit of turbulence on the flight from Atlanta to New Orleans, but nothing like what we hit two weeks prior when flying in a puddle jumper from Memphis to the new Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Cave Springs, somewhere between Bentonville and Fayetteville.

Given security and the lack of leg room, I do NOT want to fly if I can help it. I prefer driving and getting to take as much as can fit in my car. Also, I’d have to drive to either Wichita or Kansas City (UGH!) unless I wanted to fly in a small plane from Hays to Denver to connect. Why bother?

Forget Jesus; Tiger is God this Palm Sunday

The Masters teed off at 0630 (0730 EDT) this morning in order to beat anticipated heavy rain in Augusta. I was not watching.

Why bother? Tiger Woods is going to win and every talking head and writer is going to pee their pants and drool all over themselves about Tiger being the greatest golfer who ever walked the earth.

Francesco Molinari would win his second major in less than a calendar year if he holds on. But if you want to read about it, I suggest finding an English-language version of an Italian newspaper, because all the coverage from American journalists will be about Eldrick Woods and his greatness.

Tiger is one reason why I do all I can to avoid watching SportsCenter these days. Tiger is part of a privileged class that can do no wrong. The class also includes Tom Brady, LeBron, Serena Williams, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Warriors, Alabama football and Duke, North Carolina and Virginia basketball. ESPN doesn’t give a crap about the NHL, so nobody is listed here, although NBC is strongly biased against the Canadian teams (especially the Canadiens–you can figure out why) and in favor of the Rangers, Flyers, Capitals, Kings, Ducks, Golden Knights, Lightning and Panthers, even though the last team in that list sucks most of the time.

Tiger is a great golfer. I won’t deny it. However, I get nauseous whenever he is referred to as the “Greatest of All Time”. No. Not for me. The problem is people today have ridiculously short memory spans. I bet many people under 40 would have no idea who Jack Nicklaus is, even if they watch golf regularly. On the other hand, someone who couldn’t tell the difference between a golf ball and a tennis ball knows about Tiger Woods because he’s been forced down America’s throats for over 20 years.

I don’t begrudge anyone who is a member of Augusta National. Good for them. Congratulations on your success. However, I have no earthly desire to join a country club of any kind. Not my thing.

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LSU and Missouri wrap up their baseball series at 1200. The home team won yesterday 4-1, its first win over LSU in Columbia in eight tries, and just its second in 17 games all-time. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

I recall LSU won seven consecutive series vs. Arkansas when the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992 until the Hogs finally broke through in 1999. Arkansas swept twice within four years (2001 in Fayetteville, 2004 in Baton Rouge).

However, my stay in Columbia is not over. I’m not departing until Tuesday. I have work that has to get done tonight and tomorrow, and the rest must be wrapped up by 1200 Tuesday so I can make the two-hour drive west to Kansas City. It also means more White Castle. I had waffle sliders for breakfast. Great as ########################################################################

Max Scherzer’s number 31 was officially retired before yesterday’s game. Of course, the honoree was with the Nationals in Washington, so his parents accepted the honor.

The Royals must have been stuck on stupid when they did not draft him #1 overall in 2006. Instead, they took Luke Hochevar, who was drafted #1 overall by the Dodgers in 2005, but did not sign, so he spent time in an independent league before re-entering the draft in 2006.

The 2006 draft was the last act of Allard Baird as Royals general manager. He was fired the previous week and Dayton Moore was hired as his replacement, but Baird was allowed to conduct the draft. Had Moore been in charge, it may have been very different.

Scherzer would not have been with the Royals right now, because he would have been too expensive to control. However, he would have come to Kansas City quickly and allowed the Royals not to spend a lot of money on Gil Meche, and maybe Zack Greinke would have stayed. Who knows. But Hochevar definitely was a big-time miss when Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw were available.

Speaking of the Royals, maybe they need to play Cleveland more. They have beaten the Indians 8-1 and 3-0 so far and can sweep the series today. Prior to that, Kansas City lost 10 straight, getting swept in three by the Tigers and four by the Mariners.

As I drove to Columbia Thursday, I got a glimpse of the upper deck at Kauffman Stadium during the game. I estimated there were maybe 80 fans in the entire upper deck. Attendance has slacked off since the 2015 World Series championship.

The Brewers were swept in Anaheim by the Angels, but can sweep the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine today. That’s baseball.

Purple Tigers vs. Black Tigers round one

LSU and Missouri will do battle on the diamond on a windy evening in Columbia. The ball might jump out of the park, just like it has in Lawrence, where Oklahoma State hit EIGHT home runs vs. Kansas through six innings.

I committed a serious error today. One which cost me $77.

I accidentally locked my car keys in my trunk at the QuikTrip. I got out of my car to retrieve something from my trunk, and I accidentally hit the lock button. When I closed the trunk, I realized I had just gone stupid.

It took an hour for everything to get cleared up and for me to be on my way.

It’s not the first time I’ve had automotive adventure on an LSU baseball road trip.

Two years ago, I drove from St. Louis to Lexington on a flat tire. Fortunately for me it was a rental vehicle, so Avis replaced it in Kentucky and I drove that one back to Kansas City.

Last year, the first rental car from Hertz in Hays did not have a working air conditioner. Had to return it and wait for a replacement to come in, which didn’t come until two hours later.

Missouri’s baseball stadium is just west of the football stadium. The Tigers’ indoor practice facility sits behind right field, and the outdoor practice fields are behind left field. Mizzou’ s bullpen is behind the left field fence, but the visitors’ pen is in foul territory down the right field line.

The infield is artificial, but there is grass everywhere else. Kind of surprising since artificial turf has made serious advancements over the past two decades. Missouri’s football stadium has artificial turf, one of five in the SEC (the others are Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt).

That’s all for now. Game about to begin.

Back to CoMo

I couldn’t help but feel guilty and nostalgic driving to Columbia today.

Of course, it’s Columbia, Missouri. If it were Columbia, South Carolina, I would have had to have left on Tuesday to make it there in time.

LSU plays Missouri this weekend, the third time the Bayou Bengals have visited Columbia since Mizzou joined the SEC in the 2012-13 school year. LSU is 6-0 in Columbia, with the series in 2013 and 2016. Last year, Mizzou defeated LSU in the second game of the series in Baton Rouge, its first win ever over the Purple and Gold Tigers.

The Bayou Bengals lost to Southern Tuesday, just the third time the Jaguars have defeated their cross-town rivals in baseball. Southern won in 2001 and 2005 at the old Alex Box Stadium, but this was the first time the Jaguars defeated LSU at their home park, Lee-Hines Field, in north Baton Rouge.

My dad wanted to go on this trip so bad, but he has been battling a terrible infection. He wasn’t sure he would be able to make the nearly six hour drive from Russell without something happening.

My gut was churning from Russell to Lawrence with guilt. I wish he were with me. I called home when I stopped in Liberty to get my car washed. He told me it would be okay, although he wishes he wasn’t having these episodes.

The nostalgia part comes from last year’s trip to Baton Rouge, which happened to be the same weekend as this year’s trip.

Last year, it was more about seeing everyone I had not seen in ages–Brenda, Dorinda, Dan and Lisette Borne, Bryan Lazare, Kent Lowe and others–than it was about LSU’s performance vs. Tennessee. Of course, it was a much happier return to Russell after the Bayou Bengals swept the Volunteers, with Daniel Cabrera’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the Sunday game being the final play of the series.

This will be pretty much a repeat of 2013 and ’16. I’ll have fun watching baseball, but most of my down time will be spent working in my room for stuff which needs to be done for Monday. It has to be done.

One of the best things about Columbia: WHITE CASTLE!

Columbia is one of only two SEC cities with White Castle. The other is Lexington, not surprising since White Castle’s corporate headquarters are an hour north in Cincinnati. I got hooked on White Castle when I stopped near Louisville on the way out of Lexington.

Of course I had to stop there on my way in this evening. Great decision.

White Castle has introduced a crab cake slider for Lent. YUMMMMM! It also has clams, and those are good, too. I think I’ll have to go back for more tomorrow. I order A LOT of sliders tonight. That means I’ll have plenty of leftovers Saturday and maybe Sunday. Sliders for breakfast? Not the first time.

The Masters is this weekend. Tiger is playing, so tickets at Augusta National are running much higher than they did for Super Bowl LIII, which was played in Atlanta, 145 miles west of Augusta on Interstate 20. Five thousand would have bought you six to eight tickets to see the Patriots beat the Rams in February. Five thousand might not get you into the gate at Augusta National this weekend.


Not that I want to visit Augusta National. If I had a choice of any golf course in the world to visit, it would be St. Andrews, where the game was born. To me, The Open Championship is more prestigious than The Masters, the same way Wimbledon is more prestigious than the others in tennis.

That’s the beauty of St. Andrews. ANYONE who pays the greens fees can play. Same with Carnoustie, another Open Championship course in Scotland. Augusta National? You’d better have a friend in a VERY high place, or you’re out of luck.



Tiger ended the day 2-under par, four shots back of co-leaders Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. Koepka has won the last two U.S. Opens and last year’s PGA, and if he wins the green jacket, he will enter the exosphere of major championship domination, occupied by only Tiger and the Golden Bear. Phil Mickelson, who turns 49 later this year, is 5-under. The oldest champion at The Masters was none other than Jack Nicklaus, who won it at 46 in 1986.

It’s getting late. I didn’t get enough sleep last night (or the night before), and the effects of all that time on the road is taking its toll. Have a good night and a pleasant tomorrow.

LSU’s eastern rerun

I was in Buffalo Wild Wings when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket was announced on CBS. However, I have not filled out a bracket for a contest, nor will I do so.

I admit I made an erroneous post about LSU being placed in the East region.

I said this would be the first time LSU would play in the East region since 1988, when the Bayou Bengals lost 66-63 to Georgetown in Hartford when the Hoyas’ Charles Smith banked in a 35-footer at the buzzer. That Georgetown team featured a freshman from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (known as Zaire in 1988) who would make his mark on basketball over the next two decades. His name: Dikembe Mutombo.

I did not realize the Bayou Bengals were in the East region in 2015, their last tournament appearance. That year, LSU lost a close game to North Carolina State in Pittsburgh. The Wolfpack followed that by ousting top seed Villanova, which bounced back just fine, as evidenced by the Wildcats’ national championships in 2016 and ’18.

The “pod” system, where first and second round sites are not tied to a specific region, sometimes makes it very easy to forget which region a team is assigned to. However, I should have done my homework. Not that it’s going to cost me anything, but I have to do better.

That I didn’t know LSU was in the East region four years ago shows my interest in March Madness has waned. A lot. I seriously doubt I’ll be watching at 1140 Thursday when the Bayou Bengals face Yale.

I listened to the end of the LSU-NC State game in 2015 driving around Overland Park. I watched the LSU-Georgetown game of 1988 in my old house in Arabi with Jason Malasovich, who was over to visit.

The Hoyas’ win over LSU was their last of 1987-88. Georgetown was no match for Temple in the second round. The Owls, the top seed in the East in 1988, lost in the East regional final to Duke, a disappointing end, but certainly better than the previous season, when John Chaney’s team entered the second round of the NCAAs 32-3, only to be easily defeated by the #10 seed in the Midwest, LSU.

Duke lost to Kansas in the Final Four at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena. Two nights later, the Jayhawks avenged three losses to Oklahoma, which ousted Arizona in the other semifinal, by defeating the Sooners 83-79 for their first national championship since 1952.

Two very interesting notes came from the LSU-Georgetown game of 1988 in 1989.

While Mutombo and Smith could not carry Georgetown alone in 1987-88, they got a huge assist the next season with the arrival of Alonzo Mourning from Virginia. The Hoyas won their first nine games of 1988-89 to rise to No. 5 in the AP poll, but lost their first game of 1989 to Seton Hall in the Meadowlands.

As it turned out, that was no sin. The Pirates would be one of the two teams left standing at the very end, losing in overtime to Michigan in one of the best championship games since the NCAA men’s tournament began in 1939.

Following the loss to Seton Hall, the Hoyas won their next six and were ranked No. 2 in the AP poll of January 24, 1989.

On January 26, top-ranked Illinois lost at Minnesota. That meant Georgetown would rise to the top of the polls if it won its January 28 game.

The opponent that Saturday was none other than LSU, which was enjoying a much better than expected season, thanks to the prowess of freshman sensation Chris Jackson (now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and the fiery leadership of fifth-year senior Ricky Blanton, who played on LSU’s 1986 Final Four team.

Georgetown came to Louisiana as the return game after the Bayou Bengals played the Hoyas in Washington (actually Landover, Maryland, where the Bullets played at the time), but instead of playing in Baton Rouge, the game was moved to New Orleans and the cavernous Louisiana Superdome.

LSU coach Dale Brown and the entire athletic department attempted to set a new attendance record for a college basketball game, and sure enough, over 68.000 packed the “world’s largest room” on Poydras Street, more than attended the Saints’ season finale one month prior.

Nobody gave LSU a chance, but lo and behold, the Bayou Bengals kept it close. Blanton, who was on the floor in Baton Rouge when Anthony Wilson hit a shot at the buzzer vs. Memphis in the secound round of the 1986 NCAA tournament, played the hero this time, laying it in after Dennis Tracey’s airballed 3-point attempt was tipped to him by Wayne Sims.

LSU, which lost 127-100 to Illinois in Baton Rouge three days before Christmas, won 82-80. The Bayou Bengals stumbled at the end, however, losing three of their last four, including the NCAA tournament game vs. UTEP I discussed in an earlier post.

Georgetown sustained road losses to Pitt and Syracuse after the game in New Orleans, but recovered to win the Big East tournament and earn the top seed in the East region. The Hoyas were sent back to Hartford, this time to face another team whose mascot is the Tigers.

Princeton proceeded to win the heart of every basketball fan who did not root for Georgetown. Coincidentally, that game was 30 years ago tonight.

Pete Carrill’s Tigers used their anachronistic offense, centered around back-door cuts and sets which bled the shot clock (then 45 seconds, 15 seconds longer than today) nearly dry and frustrated teams which wanted to play a more up-tempo offense.

Georgetown was one of those teams that got frustrated.

The Hoyas needed Mourning to block a last-second shot to escape with a 50-49 victory. Georgetown’s luck ran out in the regional final when it lost to Duke, who in turn was routed by Seton Hall in the Final Four at Seattle.

While Princeton lost, the NCAA tournament won. Big time. Watch the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about this game and you’ll see how.

This game was not televised on CBS, but rather on ESPN, which had a much lower percentage of households in 1989 than it does today. And it was good fortune Princeton-Georgetown was on ESPN, because many first round games were only televised locally in the markets of the participating teams.

For instance, the LSU-Georgetown game in 1988 was only on in Louisiana and the Capital Beltway, although it may have been picked up by markets in Mississippi, Alabama and east Texas. Two years prior, LSU and Purdue played a thrilling double overtime game in the opening round, but if you weren’t in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Indianapolis, South Bend or another town in Louisiana or Indiana, you were out of luck.

When the NCAA negotiated its next TV contract for the men’s basketball tournament, CBS ponied up the cash and made sure every game would be on The Tiffany Network, an arrangement which lasted 20 years (1991-2010).

Today, CBS shares the tournament with three cable networks, and every game is shown start to finish. Plus with streaming, any basketball junkie should know the final score of every NCAA tournament game right away.

St. Patrick’s Day 2019 is over for the Eastern third of the United States. And it is for me, at least on this blog.

Awesomely crepe-y

Eighteen hours ago, I had never tried the Swedish crepes from iHOP.

Now I’m craving them worse than a pregnant lady craves ice cream and pickles.

While I was on the barstool at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek last night, I decided to order pickup from iHOP in Liberty so I could have breakfast in the morning. I figured I’d put them in the fridge in the hotel room then warm them for 90 seconds in the morning.

After getting lost on my way to the restaurant, I decided I couldn’t wait until morning. I tried one.

Wow. I have a new favorite iHOP dish, and one of my favorite restaurant items anywhere, right along with any steak from Outback, the Jumbo Combo pizza from Minsky’s, the Veggie 7 pizza at Old Chicago, the brisket and corn grits at T.J. Ribs in Baton Rouge, the charbroiled oysters at Acme Oyster House in New Orleans and Baton Rouge…you get the idea.

Thank God I got two orders. Breakfast was great. Now I want to go back and get some for late tonight and tomorrow morning.

The best thing about the Swedish crepes is they are meatless, meaning I can eat them on Lenten Fridays. If I happen to go to Columbia next month, I guess I’m going there at some point.

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LSU’s basketball saga is over, at least as far as playing in the SEC tournament. The Bayou Bengals, the SEC regular season champion, lost 76-73 to Florida when the Gators, coached by New Orleans native Mike White, hit a 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left.

LSU is a lock for the NCAA tournament, but with so much controversy surrounding Will Wade and the wiretap which revealed his willing to do anything to sign Javonte Smart, the three-time Louisiana high school player of the year from Scotlandville in north Baton Rouge, what can LSU reasonably expect?

I don’t think my alma mater will last past the first weekend. I hope I’m wrong, but I see trouble.

Kansas City is now overrun with Iowa State fans in town for the Big 12 tournament. The Cyclones play Kansas State at 1800, followed by Kansas vs. West Virginia, which finished last during the regular season but is still alive thanks to wins over Oklahoma and regular season co-champion Texas Tech.

Honestly, I only know what’s going on because I’m at Buffalo Wild Wings. If I were back in the basement in Russell, I would probably not watch.

I won’t watch the selection show Sunday. I can wait until the bracket comes out.

I usually don’t watch the NBA, but with the Bucks heading for the top seed in the East, will I have to?

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The Chiefs are big news this week with the start of the NFL’s business year. Dee Ford, Justin Houston and Eric Berry are gone. Tyrann “Honey Badger” Matthieu is in. Kansas City needs to restructure its defense, but right now, it looks like it will try to win every game 41-38 with Mahomes.

The Saints let Mark Ingram go to the Ravens via free agency. It looks like the Cardinals will draft Kyler Murray first overall after drafting Josh Rosen last year. Great idea, Arizona, to let Murray get beaten up behind an offensive line which is worse than a sieve.

The Cardinals have had a horrendous offensive line since Dan Dierdorf was in his heyday, and that’s when your intrepid blogger was in diapers. Arizona is doing this back-assward, but I can’t help it.

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Swedish crepes at iHOP. Gotta have them again.