Category Archives: Uncategorized

The infrequent spectator

I said I would be back in less than 24 hours after my last post. I kept my promise, although it’s because I’ve had a stream of consciousness moment, not anything dealing with LSU and Mizzou.

My memory is failing me.

When I went to Wentzville and Lake St. Louis earlier today, I forgot how bad traffic on Interstate 64 west is from Lake St. Louis to I-70. I witnessed it in May when I drove into Chesterfield for my week-long stay.

I shouldn’t be too worried. After all that’s happened between 11 May and 9 October, I should forgive myself for forgetting traffic patterns in western St. Charles County. It was my third trip that way in 13 months, more than I’ve been most places, but still not enough to rise to the status between tourist and resident.

Now if I had forgotten the traffic patterns on the other side of Missouri, I’d have to worry about the old brain.

I haven’t seen an LSU football game in person in almost 17 years.

Tomorrow will be the first time I will be observing an LSU football game as a regular spectator in 25 years.

Every LSU football game I witnessed from 1996 through 2003 was in a press box. Most of them were in the old press box of Tiger Stadium (Death Valley), which was torn down after the 2004 season to make way for a new upper deck on the west side of the stadium, as well as a new press box.

The old press box at LSU was an oven. No air conditioning, and worse, no circulation, period. Breezes barely blow in Louisiana on most nights, and even if it did, there was no way to get the air circulating in the press box, at least on the second level (print media) and third level (private booths). The first level, where the radio and television broadcasters worked, as did public address announcer Dan Borne, had air conditioning. I loved lingering in Dan’s booth as much as I could, because he turned the thermostat WAY down, the way I like it.

I also watched LSU play in the Sugar Bowl twice, defeating Illinois after the 2001 season, as well as the aforementioned game vs. Oklahoma two years later.

The last LSU football game I went to strictly as a fan was with my dad on 16 September 1995, when the Bayou Bengals defeated Auburn 12-6.

Our seats were terrible—ground level boxes at the southwest corner of the stadium. Naturally, most of the big plays occurred at the north end of the stadium, including James Gillyard’s sack of Patrick Nix for a safety and Troy Twillie’s interception on the game’s last play.

On the drive back to New Orleans, my dad remarked he could not hear LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland because of the crowd noise. LSU’s band at the time was at the northwest corner of the stadium (now it’s near the top of the north end zone), but with so many members, the sound carried well across campus. Not that night.

Tiger Stadium was sold out (80,559), and the crowd had a big part in throwing Auburn off its game. That, and the revenge LSU sought after giving away the 1994 game in Auburn, made the Plainsmen’s task that much more difficult.

I’ve seen five games from the stands at Tiger Stadium—two in 1992 (Tennessee 20, LSU 0; LSU 24, Tulane 12), two in ‘93 (LSU 24, Tulane 10; Arkansas 42, LSU 24) and the aforementioned 1995 game. I also was in the Superdome stands for LSU’s wins vs. Tulane in 1991 (39-20) and ‘94 (49-25).

This will not be my first LSU road game.

That came 26 years ago, when I watched the Bayou Bengals get embarrassed 34-21 by a mediocre Ole Miss squad in Oxford. The game was nowhere near as close as the score; the Rebels led 31-0 before they relaxed and let the Tigers score a couple of cheap touchdowns.

I bought a ticket for $18 through LSU’s ticket office. I had a good seat, 40-yard line behind LSU’s bench about 15 rows up.

I had no idea how to get there and where I was going to stay. I had a car, but there was no way I was going to find a hotel room in Oxford. My dad’s original plan was for me to stay in Jackson, 360 km (170 miles) south of Oxford the night before the game, drive to the game, go back to Jackson, then return to Baton Rouge Sunday.

At this time, Baton Rouge was the farthest I had driven. I could drive back and forth on I-10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but I had no confidence going out of state.

Lucky for me, LSU’s athletic photographer, Brad Messina, was going to drive to the game instead of flying with the team like he usually did. He and Steve Franz, who later became LSU’s athletic photographer, let me ride in the back seat of Brad’s Volvo and crash in their hotel room in Memphis where the team was staying.

The game was forgettable, but two incidents in the stands which stood out.

One was where I berated Adam Young, who I worked with in LSU’s sports information office. Adam told me at halftime the game was over, and I denounced him for not having faith in his school.

To be fair, Adam had to suffer through the first three seasons of Curley Hallman’s coaching tenure while working as a student in the sports information office. That, combined with the sudden freefall of LSU’s volleyball program (Adam was the volleyball team’s media relations director from 1992-94) had worn him thin.

Two female student assistants from the sports information office, Nikki Sontheimer (now Amberg) and Rebecca Borne (yes, that one) (now Brennan) found the exchange funny. Rebecca teased me about it quite a bit through the years before things went terribly south between us.

Adam and I patched things up. His wedding to former LSU volleyball standout Luciana Santana in July 1997 was the first I attended.

I had a crush on Nikki, who was four years older. I annoyed the hell out of her during the 1994-95 athletic season, but when I saw her again after the 1996 football season opener, she forgave me too.

Now if only Rebecca will…

The second incident in Oxford came after LSU scored its second touchdown on a blocked punt.

An inebriated Rebel rouser turned to the LSU fans cheering behind him and shot the finger. Lovely.

Oxford is my least favorite SEC location. If it isn’t, it’s in a dead heat with Gainesville and Tuscaloosa. I don’t have any desire to go back.

That’s it for tonight. No, really, it is.

Time to scratch the 17-year itch

In 16 hours, your lazy blogger will be in attendance at his first LSU football game in almost 17 years.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

LSU and Missouri were not originally scheduled to play each other in 2020. The schools are in opposite divisions of the Southeastern Conference (which is stupid; I’ll get into that in another post), which means they play once every five years, as is the case with every school in the opposite division except one.

LSU’s designated permanent Eastern opponent is Florida, something which has pissed off every LSU coach and administrator since the SEC expanded in 1992 and split into divisions. LSU played Kentucky every year from 1992 through 2001, but in 2002, the SEC elected to cut the number of permanent cross-division rivalries from two to one. That meant Florida and Auburn had to end their yearly series which had been played every year since the 1940s, while LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001.

Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 from the Big 12. At first, the Tigers and Aggies were paired as permanent foes, but in 2014, the SEC saw the opportunity for a border war, and made Arkansas Mizzou’s permanent opponent from the West. South Carolina, which played the Razorbacks every year since the two joined the SEC, got Texas A&M.

LSU and Mizzou first played 1 October 2016 in Baton Rouge. It turned out to be Ed Orgeron’s first game as Bayou Bengal coach after Les Miles was fired six days earlier, four games into Miles’ 12th season. Mizzou also had a new coach, Barry Odom, who succeeded Gary Pinkel, who resigned after the 2015 season due to a cancer diagnosis. Pinkel coached Mizzou for 15 years, rebuilding the Tigers from a bottom feeder in the Big 12 back into a respectable program, not quite what it was under Dan Devine in the 1960s, but certainly not as wretched as it was under Woody Wiedenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith from the mid-1980s through 2000.

The Bayou Bengals won 42-7 in a game most notable for a melee as the teams were leaving the field for halftime. Every person in uniform was charged wtih a fighting penalty, meaning if they received another unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalty, they would be ejected and suspended for the next game.

The new rotation began in 2017 with LSU playing Tennessee in Knoxville, followed by Georgia at home, at Vanderbilt, and this year, vs. South Carolina in Baton Rouge. It was scheduled to be Kentucky in Lexington, Tennessee at home, and then Mizzou in Columbia in 2023.

Mizzou’s scheduled Western road game this year was Mississippi State; the Tigers were going to move their home game vs. Arkansas from Columbia to Kansas City. The game is back in Columbia due to COVID.

In August, the SEC decided to have its team play a 10-game, conference-only schedule. Most believed the league would simply take the next two cross-division opponents in rotation and place them on the schedule. For LSU, that would have meant Kentucky in Lexington and Tennessee in Baton Rouge; for Mizzou, it would have been Ole Miss in Columbia and Texas A&M in College Station.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and his administrative team, which includes my mentor, Herb Vincent, didn’t take that route, instead trying to balance out the schedules.

LSU, which obviously won the national championship in 2019, thus got the sixth- and seventh-placed teams from the SEC, Mizzou and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Mizzou, sixth in the East, got the #1 and #3 (Alabama) from the West (Auburn was second).

Mizzou lost its opener to Alabama at home, 38-19. LSU won 41-7 at Vanderbilt last week.

When LSU’s plane landed in Baton Rouge after midnight Sunday, plans were already in place for Mizzou’s second visit to Death Valley in five seasons. It was going to kick off at 20:00, which was the regular start time for LSU home games from the late 1940s through 1965.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature had a cauldron brewing in the far southern Gulf of Mexico which would throw everything into chaos.

Tropical Storm Delta formed Sunday, and havenby Monday afternoon, the storm was upgraded to a hurricane.

Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center in Miami released a sobering forecast for Louisiana.

The “cone of error” for Delta encompassed the entire Louisiana, with landfall between Morgan City and Grand Isle.

On that track, it would be next to impossible to fly into Baton Rouge after Thursday evening, and by Friday morning, LSU’s campus would be facing winds of upwards of 170 km/h and flooding rain. Mizzou might be able to get into town Thursday, but would they be stranded until Sunday and not be able to play?

Wednesday morning, the game was moved to Columbia. I decided I would go.

I made it to Columbia yesterday. Yet i’ve spent a lot of time burning up Interstate 70 between here and western St. Charles County.

I was dismayed to discover Columbia’s White Castle was closed yesterday and today. I would have to find something else to eat.

No way Jose.

I blew past Columbia and kept on trucking 130 km (80 miles) to Wentzville, the western edge of the St. Louis metro, to get my White Castle fix. It wasn’t until 20:30 that I got to the hotel.

Today, more of the same. Not only did I get my White Castle fixes, but I found a lot of goodies I haven’t been able to find in Russell, Hays, Salina or Kansas City.

I have not witnessed LSU play football since the evening of 4 January 2004. On that ridiculously warm and humid Sunday, the Bayou Bengals defeated Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl, giving LSU the Bowl Championship Series national championship, its first since 1958. The Bayou Bengals had to share the title with Southern California, which won the AP poll, but finished third in the final BCS poll after the regular season behind Oklahoma, which was destroyed by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, and LSU.

Since moving to Kansas, I’ve attended two forgettable college football games: Kansas 62, Southeastern Louisiana in Lawrence (8 September 2007) and Kansas State 45, North Texas 6 in Manhattan (30 August 2008). My dad and I went to the Jayhawk game; I was on assignment at the Wildcat game for the Smith County Pioneer, since former K-State All-American Mark Simoneau, a Smith Center native, was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

It will be a very interesting experience attending a college football game during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no more than 17,000 fans allowed into Memorial Stadium aka Faurot Field, masks must be worn, social distancing will be enforced, and LSU will not have its band, cheerleaders or radio broadcasters in attendance.

Lucky for me, I have plenty of yellow in my closet. I can wear something good and be completely neutral. It will be warm tomorrow, with an expected high of 29 Celsius (84 F), which will be close to the record for Columbia on 10 October.

I’ll report from CoMo in less than 24 hours. I promise. Have a good night and a better tomorrow.

Normal for me? Somewhat. Nebraska? Not so much.

Even with the Big Ten and Pac-12 declaring life should not go back to normal, pushing back fall sports until at least the spring semester, if not to fall 2021, I’m trying to find normal in any way I can.

Normal for me in August is a few days in Kansas City and eating in a sit-down restaurant. That restaurant is Brewtop in Kansas City, North, where Dana Tenpenney, whom I met at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa seven years ago, works weekdays behind the bar.

This is the first time I’ve been in a sit-down restaurant with wait service since I ate at Old Chicago in Hays seven months ago. My last dine-in experience was with Peggy at McDonald’s in Russell in February.

Normal included a visit to Milan Laser to continue to eradicate the legacy of my late grandfather. I don’t get why my grandfather had bear hair, my father has next to none, yet my brother and I were bears. I hope my 4-year old nephew, Luke, doesn’t end up like his dad and uncle (at least before laser treatment).

Normal includes a visit tomorrow to the fancy men’s salon in Leawood, which, like Milan Laser, closed for almost three months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring. I’ve been cutting my own hair since the last time I visited The Gent’s Place, and fortunately for me, I can cut my own hair without it looking too terrible.

I’ll never forget swiping my mother’s sewing shears one evening in June 1987 and attempting to cut my own hair while watching a College World Series game between LSU and Arkansas.. I had longer hair—the short hair arrived on Memorial Day weekend 1989–and it was awful. My longtime barber in New Orleans, Roy LaCoste, almost died laughing at my foolishness.

Hopefully normal will be getting to see Robb and Larry, some of the people at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek (especially GM Rita Roberts, Tina, Nikki, Sherman and Ashley), and Lindsay and Bailey at Minsky’s Barry Road.

Maybe normal will include a side trip to Columbia for White Castle and Schnucks, but now that I’ve learned how to cook the frozen White Castle sliders properly, it’s not a higher priority. I did most of my grocery shopping last week after I had major repairs done to my car at Cable-Dahmer Buick.

Kansas City hopes normal will be the Chiefs kicking off on time vs. the Texans Sept. 10 in the NFL season opener.

Right now, normal must seem like another galaxy in Nebraska.

In case you don’t know by now, the Big Ten and Pac-12 opted to not play sports until at least January. The Pac-12 vote was supposedly unanimous, but Iowa and Nebraska vociferously protested in the Big Ten, wanting to play. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC are proceeding for now with reduced schedules, but most don’t think the season will be played to completion.

Nebraska’s administration and coach Scott Frost, who led the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 national championship in coach Tom Osborne’s last season, is attempting to go rogue and see if it can play elsewhere, including a return to the Big 12 for this year.

That probably can’t happen.

FIrst, the Big Ten would likely hold the threat of expulsion over Nebraska (and Iowa if it tried). Expulsion would mean a severe loss of revenue for at least a decade due to grant of rights the 14 Big Ten schools signed in its latest media contract.

In short, if a school departs the Big Ten, then the Big Ten, not the school, would receive all revenue generated by media for the length of the grant of rights, which in the Big Ten, runs into the 2030s

The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 also have them, leaving the SEC as the lone major conference without one. The last school to willingly leave the SEC was Tulane in 1966, so the SEC is justified in feeling secure in its membership. Any school which leaves the SEC, especially Vanderbilt and others at the low end of the revenue scale (Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina) would be cutting off its nose despite its face.

Second, if Nebraska and/or Iowa was ousted from the Big Ten, those schools would likely be blackballed by the Big 12 from joining, lest the Big Ten threaten the Big 12 with cutting off all interconference competition during the regular season.

Third, Iowa State might block Iowa from joining the Big 12. I’m certain the rest of the Big 12, save TCU and West Virginia, harbors ill will towards Nebraska for jumping ship the same way Baylor hates A&M and Kansas hates Mizzou for joining the SEC.

Nebraska already lost this year’s College World Series due to the pandemic. Now not only is it losing Cornhusker football, but Nebraska is also losing its superpower volleyball team, which has sold out the 12,000-seat Bob Devaney Center, the former basketball facility, on a season ticket basis since moving there a few years ago.

Lincoln and Omaha are fine places to live, albeit with the same problems of every big city. Right now, it doesn’t seem like it.

July was not good. Should have saw it coming.

July 2020 has a little more than five hours to run, at least for those who observe UTC -5. I won’t miss it.

I’ve been in quarantine since the evening of the 22nd, when my father revealed he tested positive for COVID-19. I haven’t seen his face since then, and I’ve seen my mother’s face for 10 seconds. I don’t want them in the basement, and I only go upstairs when they are asleep.

If there is a good time to be in quarantine, summer is it. I hate hot weather to begin with.

This July has been the rainiest month I’ve experienced in Russell. We need a drought. The rain has caused the humidity to soar to levels similar to what I see in Kansas City during the summer, and that makes a bad situation worse.

On the other hand, I should not have expected the seventh month of 2020 to be good.

When July has started on a Wednesday, at least as long as I have lived, has usually been bad.

Prior to this year, the last year July started on Wednesday was 2015. That was a disaster to say the least, between the infamous incident with a then-employee of Buffalo Wild Wings location #0296, the continued deterioration of the relationship with my former supervisor, and my finances going straight to hell.

The Buffalo Wild Wings employee, who no longer works for the company, still thinks I’m the biggest jerk on earth. My former boss died in October 2017, two years after our final conversation ended with us cursing each other out, and my finances still suck.

In 2009, I was passing blood in my urine throughout Independence Day weekend in Kansas City. The day after Independence Day, I drove myself to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Northland in extreme pain after passing kidney stones. Fortunately for me, I was back at my hotel in four hours, although in pain until the next morning when I had a prescription for painkillers filled. It’s the last time I was in the hospital for something other than routine care or tests.

1998? The alternator in my car died the evening of the 13th at a Baton Rouge hotel on Airline Highway, a long way from my apartment at the time, which was south of the LSU campus. Bill had to drive me home, then was reduced to driving me around the next day, which happened to be his 35th birthday.

1992? The Steinle family trip to St. Louis started terribly, with a blinding thunderstorm as we drove north. Got lost on I-270 and nearly went into Illinois before taking the loop west and finding our destination. The next day, our Oldsmobile 88 broke down and we were stuck for several hours waiting for it to get fixed. My dad, brother and I went to two Cardinals-Braves games at Busch Stadium, but the seats were awful. The highlight of the trip was seeing Bill Clinton and Al Gore returning to a downtown hotel after jogging one morning.

1987? My father left the United States for the Netherlands on the 9th on company business, not to return until 29 August. I was also counting down the days for my time in hell locked in a child psychiatric hospital.

1981? Don’t remember much, but there were no Major League Baseball games due to players’ strike which began 12 July and didn’t end until the final hours of the 31st. Games didn’t resume until 9 August with the All-Star Game, while the regular season began again the next evening. Also, Prince Charles and Princess Diana wed 29 July, Peggy’s 17th birthday. I was also a month away from kindergarten.

Thank God 1976 was a leap year. Had it not, July would have started on Wednesday, and I would have been born three months prematurely, knowing my luck and my mother’s terrible habits.

Thank God it will be August shortly. As boring and bad as June and July have been, it can’t get more boring or worse, can it?

A party of no, no, no, no, no, no…

Today was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball. Tonight was supposed to be the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

Unless you have totally shut out media the last two weeks, you know by now there will be no NCAA basketball tournaments for either gender at any level until at least 2021, and it’s likely the first pitch of the MLB season will not be thrown before Memorial Day, probably later.

Earlier today, it was announced the Indianapolis 500 will be postponed from 24 May to 23 August, the first time since 1945, the last year of World War II, that “The Brickyard” will not host the iconic race on Memorial Day weekend. Formula One already cancelled several Grand Prix races, including its most prestigious in Monaco, which is usually run the same day as the Indianapolis 500.

Tuesday was quite eventful, definitely not the norm with stay-at-home orders proliferating to try to “flatten the curve” against COVID-19.

I was supposed to see Crista at 13:00. As soon as I pulled into the Walmart parking lot to pick up an order, the phone rang. Since it was The Cars’ “You Might Think”, I knew it was Crista’s office.

She told me that I would not be going to the office to see her. Instead, we would video conference via Zoom. The setup was simple, but now I had to find a quiet place to hold the meeting. Going inside a restaurant was not an option, and besides, I wouldn’t want to attract unwanted attention. It was a nice day to go outside, but again, I didn’t want people to become concerned.

As I drove south on Vine, I got the idea to go to Sonic, pull into a stall, and sit in the Buick while conducting the session. I knew Sonic was operating as usual, and it would be easier to go there than most other places, since there was no inside seating and everything was brought to the car to begin with.

The idea worked like a charm. Got two burgers and a big drink, and I had my session with Crista and Alicia, one of the many students who sit in on sessions at High Plains Mental Health (with client consent, of course).

Crista and Alicia laughed at my Zoom backdrop: the Kentucky state (or is it commonwealth?) capitol. Obviously, the picture was from when I stopped in Frankfort three years ago on my way to Lexington. They did not know you could create your own background. I told them it was like the backgrounds used on CNN, ESPN and other outlets.

The session went well. I see her again April 15, and hopefully I’ll be able to go into the office. Actually, Zoom might work better, since I see Dr. Custer 20 minutes after my session with Crista will end.

I went into Dillon’s on Vine. No toilet paper, no hand sanitizer, no rubbing alcohol, very few paper towels (no Brawny or Bounty, only the cheap stuff), no Dixie Ultra paper plates. However, there was ONE package of Chinet plates. One hundred of them. I decided they would never go to waste. Also found bacon, which was not available last week.

Since I was able to drive this week, I ventured to Salina to pick up orders at Walmart and Dillons on Ohio. I also took time to get my car washed at a new location and pick up Chick-Fil-A, where mobile ordering is a snap. Too bad Popeye’s can’t get its mobile ordering straight.

Tuesday was the first day I drove since 17 February. I believe it is the longest I’ve gone without driving since I received my unrestricted license 28 May 1992. The previous long was 25 days in November and December 2004 when I almost died from pneumonia and a pneumothorax, and I spent two weeks in the hospital, the first in ICU.

The Dillons on Ohio had no rubbing alcohol, toilet paper, wipes or sanitizer, but there were Dixie Ultra plates. However, I bought two packs of the Kroger brand. I figure if I have to use two at a time, it will be okay. I also stocked up on Boar’s Head sopresseta, as I like to munch on it. I was tempted to buy some capicola and/or mortadella, but my refrigerator and freezer were going to be stuffed anyway.

Since CVS pharmacy was only six blocks north of Dillons, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stop. It would allow me to kill time, since driving to Russell at that time would have a blinding sun in my face. I had trouble in Salina with the glare driving westbound.

There were a few packages of toilet paper at CVS, with a large sign reading “LIMIT ONE PER CUSTOMER”. I milled over buying a pack, but I said no, since I have 19 big rolls of Charmin downstairs in Russell. It was a good stop because I needed a certain item I forgot at Walgreens last week, and I needed to print a picture to mail to Crista.

Old Chicago in Salina was closed, as it should have been. Last Thursday, the company issued an e-mail stating it was closing every location, even for takeout.

Yet when I pulled into the parking lot at the Hays location Tuesday at 12:30, four people walked in. I also noticed last Saturday that two people played one of the Buzztime games which cannot be played through the app.

Last stop in Salina: Target. Plenty of hand soap. Again, I passed. No toilet paper, but there were Bounty paper towels and Dawn Platinum dish soap available, so I bought one of each. I also stocked up on more toilet bowl tablet cleaners, even though I purchased eight at Walmart. Those don’t go to waste, either, and I could afford to keep my toilet cleaner.

I didn’t need to buy any soap to begin with. I ordered three bottles from an online collaborative in northern California. I got it yesterday, along with two more boxes of facial tissues.I’ve got four full cannisters and three partial cannisters of hand wipes, and three bottles of household cleaner with bleach. Now I’m glad I kept buying incrementally during all those trips to Kansas City.

When will I return to Kansas City? See below for why it might be awhile.

I made Larry’s day yesterday.

He was attempting to play Buzztime Tuesday night when I got back to Russell, and he said he got kicked off the server at Minsky’s, and then at 54th Street Bar and Grill in Liberty.

Buzztime updated its app recently. I noticed Tuesday, since I played in Salina (don’t worry, only when I was in a parking lot) that it had been updated, because after each game, the national leaderboard came up like it does in bars.

Yesterday afternoon, a Buzztime e-mail said its app now could connect to establishments up 20 miles (32 kilometers) away instead of only 2 miles (3.6 km) previously.

That change doesn’t affect me. Russell is 27 miles (44 km) from Hays, so the closest I could connect would be the Gorham exit on I-70, or a mile or two east of that.

For Larry, it’s a godsend. Now he doesn’t have to leave his home, drive by Minsky’s to pick up the signal, and then hope the app doesn’t leave him high and dry, like I did until I discovered the Android emulator for my laptop and a GPS spoofer for my phone.

I played until 02:00 Wednesday and 01:00 this morning. I’m back at it now. Might as well try to keep my mind off of COVID-19.

Larry and the rest of the Kansas City metro is under a stay-at-home order until 23 April, as is the St. Louis area. Missouri did not have many cases at first, but it is mushrooming and has surpassed Kansas.

I told Larry that hopefully we’ll be playing trivia again at Minsky’s on the first Friday of August. I can hope for July, but maybe August is too optimistic. I also want to get to Kansas City and St. Louis to be able to shop at their wonderful grocery stores, as well as eat White Castle in either St. Louis or Columbia.

The Advocate’s banner shows the number of COVID-19 cases, deaths and people hospitalized in the Bayou State.

The numbers are alarming, disturbing , depressing and a bunch of other adjectives, none of them bright and sunny.

As I look at The Advocate’s home page, the numbers are 2,305 positive cases, 83 deaths, and 676 hospitalized.

Louisiana’s rate per capita is the highest in the nation. Yes, there are more cases in New York, California, Washington, Illinois and Florida, but Louisiana’s population is less than 5 million. That’s only two-thirds the size of New York City’s population (that’s just the five boroughs, not the entire metro), one-sixth of Florida’s population and one-eighth of California’s.

The number of cases in the city of New Orleans (Orleans Parish) is 997, with 46 deaths. Neighboring Jefferson Parish has 458 cases and 12 deaths, while St. Bernard Parish, where I lived and was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, has 28 cases and one fatality. Fifty-one of the state’s 64 parishes have at least one positive case, and every metropolitan area has been hit.

NBC reported last night that “patient zero” may have come from a foreign country during Carnival, which ended with Mardi Gras on 25 February, and then it spread like wildfire.

There certainly isn’t social distancing during Carnival; if you get six CENTIMETERS between yourself and another person in the French Quarter, you’re fortunate. I never went to the Vieux Carre during Carnival, but the big parades (Endymion, Thoth, Bacchus, Rex) also had crowds bunched like sardines.

It’s not hard to figure out how quickly COVID-19 can spread in that environment, just like it has in New York City, San Francisco and Chicago.

Two of the city’s most famous residents, Saints coach Sean Payton and Archbishop Gregory Aymond, tested positive. Payton is recovering, and hopefully Aymond will.

Weekend number three without sports looms, but first another visit to Hays to get my wound treated. It’s looking a lot better than it did two months ago, when Dr. Custer first got a look at what was a grotesque chasm.

A different type of March Madness

The first NCAA men’s basketball tournament was held in 1939.

In 1939, much of the world still struggling to claw its way out of the Great Depression. A couple of madmen in Europe, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, were plotting the attacks which would ignite World War II. There was no television, at least in the United States and Canada. Radios were luxuries many couldn’t afford. Franklin Roosevelt was giving thought to running for a third term as President of the United States, breeking the two-term limit tradition began by Washington, adhered to by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson and Cleveland (non-consecutively), and imposed upon Grant (due to party rejection following two corrupt terms) and Wilson (due to debilitating illness).

Since 1939, there has been a world war and numerous lesser wars (Korea, Vietnam, two in Iraq, Afghanistan). Tornadoes have decimated two communities in Kansas 42 years apart (Udall and Greensburg) and caused billions of dollars in damages to larger cities (Topeka, Tuscaloosa and Joplin). Hurricanes wiped out the Mississippi Gulf Coast twice and flooded New Orleans twice. There have been numerous scares from diseases (Ebola, H1N1, avian flu, Zika, SARS), and the war on cancer may never be won.

None of it affected what came to be known as March Madness.

Until now.

This afternoon, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced the NCAA was cancelling all championship events sponsored by the organization through the end of the 2019-20 academic year.

The biggest loss, of course, is the Division I men’s basketball tournament, which is the NCAA’s biggest money maker by far.

Revenue from March Madness finances just about every other NCAA championship. The Division I women’s basketball championships and Division I baseball championships, which include the College World Series, have turned small profits from time to time, but usually are in the red, although far less than the deficits run by lower-level events and Division I championships in lesser sports.

Yesterday, the NCAA planned to go on with March Madness in mostly empty arenas. Attendance would have been limited to the immediately families of players and coaches, support personnel from the competing universities, arena staff and media members.

Social media exploded. Fan after fan threw hissy fits complaining about conducting March Madness without fans.

My response? TOO FREAKING BAD.

The NCAA tournament is for the PLAYERS. The players are the ones competing for championships. They are the ones who put in the work day after day in practice and perform at games. They are the most important figures in any sports tournament.

After the players, the coaches are next in importance, followed by game officials and support staff.

Fans buy tickets. They cheer their teams. Otherwise, they have no effect whatsoever on what goes on during a basketball game or any other sporting event.

Nobody would have forced those crybaby fans to watch games in empty arenas. Most true basketball fans would have watched. They may not have liked the idea of being kept out of arenas, but they would have understood.

To those fans who threw fits yesterday about possible games in empty arenas: I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY.

The last time a major sport shut down competition due to illness was in 1919, when the NHL cancelled the Stanley Cup “challenge series” due to the Spanish Flu epidemic which spread worldwide following the end of World War I.

The NCAA’s cancellation of the College World Series three months before it’s scheduled to start is puzzling. I understand the desire to protect everyone, but who’s to say the coronavirus threat won’t be greatly reduced come June?

College baseball is now shut down until at least the end of March, probably longer. Without a championship to shoot for, is there any reason to resume the season?

The coronavirus is serious. It has killed thousands. More than 1,500 Americans have been infected. I hope it passes soon. But I’m not worried. I haven’t had any reason to go out in public much, and with things being cancelled left and right, there may not be any reason to do so.

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.

Partying like its 1969 (and January 1970)

Stupid mouse. Now I have to start over. Actually, I’m the stupid one for not saving my draft.

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl IV, when the Chiefs, led by quarterback Len Dawson, running back Mike Garrett and receiver Otis Taylor, “matriculated the ball down the field” well enough to defeat the Vikings 23-7 in the last Super Bowl to match the NFL and AFL. The merger of the leagues was to take effect after this game, per the terms of the 1966 agreement brokered by Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, and NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.

It was fitting the final game involving an AFL team was played in New Orleans. The Big Easy was represented in the U.S. House by Thomas Hale Boggs, who helped the NFL and AFL secure an antitrust exemption to allow for the merger. Louisiana’s junior U.S. Senator, Russell B. Long, son of Huey and nephew of Earl, was the manager of the antitrust exemption in the Senate. The bill was signed by LBJ in October 1966. As a reward, New Orleans was awarded an expansion team, which began play as the Saints in 1967.

Ironically, Hunt nearly moved the Dallas Texans to New Orleans instead of Kansas City in early 1963. There was a slight problem with that idea: segregation.

Tulane Stadium did not allow black patrons to sit in prime seating areas for Green Wave games (nor did any other stadium in the Southeastern Conference at that time). No way that would be kosher for a professional league, especially one which had a large number of black players.

No state of the former confederacy other than Texas had a professional sports franchise until the Braves moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, but Atlanta was fortunate to have a progressive mayor, Ivan Allen, who initiated desegregation in the ATL before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. New Orleans wasn’t as bad as Birmingham and Montgomery as far as treating blacks as a lower life form, but mayors Chep Morrison and Victor Schiro weren’t rolling out the red carpet, either.

The field at Tulane Stadium in Super Bowl IV was a mud pit. Anyone who has watched highlights of the game (there is an excellent video chronicling the game on YouTube) knows why the NFL required the Saints and Tulane to install artificial turf (Poly-Turf) in March 1971 when the Big Easy was awarded Super Bowl VI, which was played in January 1972.

Super Bowl IV was the first to be played without a week off between the league (later conference) championship games and the finale. This wouldn’t be the case again until January 1983, when the playoffs had to be expanded in the wake of the 1982 players’ strike which reduced the regular season from 16 games to 9. The next time there was only one week scheduled between the conference championships and Super Bowl was the 1990 season.

The off week is a necessity. Players need time to work out ticket arrangements, coaches need extra time to game plan, business managers need time to figure out flights and hotels, and fans need a week off from football, period (the Pro Bowl doesn’t count).

Strangely, there was a week off for the Chiefs and Raiders before the AFL championship game.

In 1969, the AFL held a semifinal playoff round, with the division champions (Jets in the East, Raiders in the West) hosting the runner-up from the opposite division (Chiefs in the West, Oilers in the East).

The AFL’s 1969 regular season ended one week earlier than the NFL’s. The weekend of Dec. 20-21 would have been used for tiebreaker games, but with no tiebreakers needed, the semifinals were held those days, with the Chiefs defeating the Jets 13-6 on Saturday and the Raiders mauling the Oilers 56-7 on Sunday.

While the AFL rested the final weekend of 1969, the NFL held its semifinals. The Vikings edged the Rams 23-20 to win the Western Conference, and the Browns crushed the Cowboys 38-14 to win the East.

The NFL championship game in Minnesota was a 27-7 rout for the Vikings, and it wasn’t that close. Cleveland was probably glad to be going to the AFC after losing 52-14 to the Cowboys in the 1967 semifinals and 34-0 to the Colts in the 1968 NFL championship.

The AFL championship provided much more drama.

Kansas City was seething its last four games to Oakland.

After the Chiefs won 24-10 in Kansas City in 1968 in a game where Hank Stram used the Straight-T formation and passed only three times, the Raiders rolled over the Chiefs twice in Oakland, 38-21 and 41-6, the latter being a playoff for the AFL Western Division title. The Raiders lost the AFL championship to the Jets, who went on to prove Joe Namath prophetic.

In 1969, the Raiders swept the Chiefs, 27-24 in Kansas City and 10-6 in Oakland.

The Raiders, coached by a 33-year old newbie named John Madden, had their suitcases loaded onto buses in the Oakland Coliseum parking lot. If Oakland won, it would immediately head to San Francisco International Airport and fly to New Orleans that night.

Oakland scored in the first quarter to go ahead 7-0, but that was all.

Kansas City’s “Redwood Forest” defense, led by five future Hall of Famers, hled the Raiders the rest of the way, and the Chiefs rallied to win 17-7 for their third AFL championship and second trip to the Super Bowl.

The Vikings were immediately installed as 14-point favorites. Many experts, especially those loyal to the NFL like Sports Illustrated’s Tex Maule and notorious gambler Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, thought the Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III was a fluke. On the other hand, many of the Chiefs on the team in 1969 were on the field in Los Angeles three years prior, and Kansas City’s defense was superior to New York’s.

On the Tuesday prior to the Super Bowl, NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report broke news of several NFL players who had ties to a Detroit bookmaker, Donald “Dice Dawson”. The two most prominent names on the list were Namath (no surprise) and Len Dawson (shocking).

Six hours after the report aired, Stram addressed the media and had Len Dawson, no relation to Dice, read a statement. Stram and his quarterback vehemently denied the report. It turned out the reports were false. So much for there not being fake news in 1970.

Namath ran afoul of Rozelle in the summer of 1969 after it was discovered gamblers and mafia members were hanging out at Bachelor’s III, the Manhattan bar Namath owned. Rozelle ordered Namath to divest himself of holdings in Bachelor’s III. Namath initially refused and retired, but one month later, he reversed course and returned to the Jets. I’m guessing Bear Bryant had a lot to do with Namath coming back, much more so than Weeb Ewbank.

The Vikings featured the NFL’s best defense in 1969, led by the “Purple Gang”. Minnesota’s defense had three future Hall of Famers in end Carl Eller, tackle Alan Page and safety Paul Krause, as well as end Jim Marshall, an ironman who played in 282 consecutive games over 19 seasons. How Marshall isn’t in the Hall of Fame is a travesty.

Stram thought he could beat the Vikings with short, quick passes to the sideline with his speedy receivers, Taylor and Frank Pitts. The key was to make sure Eller and Marshall were blocked. To do this, Stram had a running back and/or tight end Fred Arbanas assist his tackles, Jim Tyrer (on Marshall) and Dave Hill (on Eller) chip the ends.

“King Henry” also ran reverses, traps and counters to take advantage of Page’s quickness and keep him off-balance.

On defense, Stram often shifted one of his tackles, Buck Buchanan or Curley Culp (both are in the Hall of Fame), directly over Minnesota’s All-Pro center, Mick Tinglehoff. All NFL teams were running the standard 4-3 defense in 1969, which meant centers could fire out and block a middle linebacker instead of having to deal with a man right on him.

By putting Culp or Buchanan on Tinglehoff, it freed middle linebacker Willie Lanier, another future Hall of Famer, to roam free where needed.

Minnesota’s offense, while effective, was primitive in 1969. With Fran Tarkenton in New York and Chuck Foreman and John Gilliam still years away, the Vikings relied mostly on two straight-ahead runners, Bill Brown and Dave Osborn, and reckless quarterback Joe Kapp, whose wobbly passes were similar to those thrown by Billy Kilmer, the Saints’ starting quarterback at that time.

Stram, at the request of NFL Films President/Executive Producer Ed Sabol and son Steve, agreed to wear a wireless microphone during the game. When the highlights of Super Bowl IV were released in the summer of 1970, it became the gold standard for all future NFL Films productions.

The Chiefs took a 9-0 lead on three Jan Stenerud field goals, then caught a huge break in the second quarter when Charlie West fumbled a kickoff. Kansas City lineman Remi Prudhomme, who played on the same field for LSU in its victory over Syracuse in the 1965 Sugar Bowl, recovered, setting up the Chiefs in the red zone.

With second and goal on the Vikings 6-yard line, Stram famously called for “65 Toss Power Trap”.

In what became one of the most iconic play calls in Super Bowl history, the Chiefs offensive line influenced Page and Eller to their left, and with Marshall sealed off by Tyrer, Garrett ran through a gaping hole to the game’s first touchdown. Kansas City led 16-0, and that was the score at halftime.

The halftime show at Super Bowl IV featured a recreation of the Battle of New Orleans. Bad idea. A couple of the actors portraying soldiers lost fingers, and what was left of the grass on the field was gone.

Minnesota drove to a touchdown by Osborn in the third quarter to make it 16-7, but Kansas City put the game away for good later in the period when Taylor took a short pass at the right sideline, broke an attempted tackle by Viking cornerback Earsell Mackbee, then outran Karl Kassulke the rest of the way to a 46-yard touchdown.

Chiefs 23, Vikings 7 would be the final. Dawson was named Most Valuable Player, and President Nixon called the winning coach and quarterback in the locker room.

Kansas City hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl. The closest the Chiefs have come were AFC championship game losses to the Bills in 1993 and Patriots in 2018. The most crushing playoff loss was on Christmas Day 1971, when a strong Chiefs team lost to the upstart Dolphins in the NFL’s longest game (82 minutes, 40 seconds of playing time) in what turned out to be the final football match at Municipal Stadium.

Minnesota got back to the Super Bowl three times over the next seven seasons, but each game wasn’t close. The Vikings lost 24-7 to the Dolphins in VIII, 16-6 to the Steelers in IX (the last NFL game at Tulane Stadium; my parents were there, if only for a half), and 32-14 to the Raiders in XI. Minnesota lost NFC championship games in 1977, 1987, 1998, 2000 and 2009.

The Vikings’ drought is guaranteed to last another year, thanks to their 27-10 loss to the 49ers yesterday in Santa Clara. Seattle or Green Bay will visit Levi’s Stadium next Sunday to determine the NFC championship.

I’m wondering if older Minnesota fans or players might have had a feeling their team was cursed since the Vikings played on the 50th anniversary of Super Bowl IV.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have a golden opportunity to end their Super Bowl drought.

If Kansas City defeats Houston this afternoon, it will host Tennessee in the AFC championship.

That’s because the Titans went to Baltimore last night and shocked the Ravens 28-12, ending Baltimore’s 12-game winning streak.

The Ravens had the NFL’s best record, 14-2, thanks in large part to Lamar Jackson’s record-setting season. The former Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville set a league record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single season, while also throwing 32 touchdown passes.

Hardly anyone gave the Titans a chance, yet the last team to qualify for the playoffs is now one win away from its first Super Bowl since 1999, when Jeff Fisher’s club lost to the St. Louis Rams’ Greatest Show on Turf.

The Titans knocked out the Patriots in the first round of the playoffs. After downing the Ravens, I’m not so certain the Chiefs or Texans might be looking forward to facing Tennessee. Then again, playing at home beats playing in Baltimore.

For Baltimore sports fans, I rate it as the biggest shocker since the Orioles lost to the Miracle Mets in the 1969 World Series.

In case you don’t know that story, the Orioles won 109 games in the regular season before sweeping the Twins in the first American League Championship Series. Baltimore had three of the American League’s most dominant pitchers in Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Cy Young Award winner Mike Cuellar, along with a powerful lineup featuring Boog Powell, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

The Mets didn’t finish above eighth in the National League in any of their first seven seasons. Yet in 1969, Tom Seaver won the Cy Young, Jerry Koosman came of age, and a 22-year old flamethrower from Alvin, Texas named Lynn Nolan Ryan gave the club from Queens a staff just as good as Baltimore’s.

At the plate, the Mets couldn’t match the Orioles, but their outfield may have been the best defensive trio the game has seen: Cleon Jones in left, Tommie Agee in center and Ron Swoboda in right.

The Mets came from as far back as 11 games down in July to overtake the Cubs to win the National League East, then swept Hank Aaron’s Braves in the first National League Championship Game.

Baltimore won the first game of the World Series at home, but lost game two. Nobody in Charm City panicked…yet.

After the Mets blanked the Orioles 5-0 in game three, featuring two spectacular catches by Agee, Baltimore fans began to wonder if this was truly their year.

Swoboda made one of the most spectacular catches in World Series history in game four, robbing Brooks Robinson of an extra base hit which would have given the Orioles the lead. Instead, it was just a sacrifice fly which tied the game. The Mets won in the bottom of the 10th when Baltimore reliever Pete Richert’s throw hit Mets pinch hitter J.C. Martin in the arm, allowing Rod Gasper to score from second.

Baltimore led 3-0 through five innings of game five, but when Mets manager Gil Hodges proved to home plate umpire Lou DiMuro that Jones was hit by McNally by showing DiMuro a speck of shoe polish on the ball, the Orioles knew they were doomed.

Indeed they were.

Series MVP Donn Clendenon followed Jones with a two-run home run. Baltimore’s lead disappeared when Al Weis led off the seventh with a homer, and in the eighth, Swoboda doubled home Jones with what proved to be the Series-winning run. Swoboda later scored an insurance run when Powell booted a two-out grounder by Jerry Grote.

When future Mets manager Dave Johnson flied out to Jones, pandemonium erupted at Shea.

The Orioles got their World Series title in 1970 by defeating the Reds in five, and added another in ’83 with a five-game win over the Phillies. Baltimore lost to the Pirates in seven in both 1971 and ’79.

This habit of post-midnight posts is not a good one. I’ve got to cut this out.

The once-a-month update

There are less than 50 hours left in 2019, at least for locations which are six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, or Central Standard Time in the United States and Canada.

Sorry for the long period without a post. Again, there just hasn’t been much to write about…at least anything good.

It has been a terrible December for me. Some of it is my own fault. Binging on Twinkies is never a good idea, especially for someone with Type 2 diabetes. It shot my blood sugar through the roof, and unfortunately, I have to live with my painful trigger finger for at least another eight months. My A1C may come down enough to allow for the surgery, but now I need to eat up my health insurance deductible and co-insurance.

Twinkies have a special place in my heart. When I was in elementary school, my mother sometimes packed Twinkies in my book bag for a snack. Many times they got crushed. I cried when it happened.

Every time I saw Twinkie the Kid on a package of Twinkies, I thought back to my early years. It made me cry sometimes. It made me smile others. And unfortunately, it also made me hungry. My willpower was zero at this time last month. Fortunately, I’ve been staring at four unopened boxes of Twinkies for the last five days and not given in to temptation.

The block of Roquefort I’m looking at is a much better alternative. Yes, it may be more expensive, but it has zero carbs. Maybe it’s time I indulge my cheese cravings in 2020. Or keep on eating bacon.

I tripped and badly bruised a bone in my right wrist in Hays when I went to visit Crista early this month. It still hurts.

LSU routed Oklahoma yesterday to reach the College Football Playoff final, where it plays Clemson January 13. I’m not too excited. I really don’t care. I’m not going to be there, and I’m no longer living in my native state.

The Sooners have become the 21st century version of Nebraska in the 1980s. The Cornhuskers mauled teams left and right in the regular season throughout that decade, but when it came time to win an important game, Tom Osborne’s team came up short, whether it be Barry Switzer’s Sooners in the regular season or in a bowl game.

From 1978-93, Nebraska was a pathetic 4-12 in bowl games. Three of those wins came at the expense of LSU (1982 Orange, 1984 Sugar, 1986 Sugar), and the other was against another SEC team, Mississippi State (1980 Sun).

Osborne won three national championships in his last four seasons to cement his legacy. Current Sooners coach Lincoln Riley may be piling up wins, but he is 0-3 in CFP games, all against SEC foes.

Until Riley gets over the first hump, he can’t try to get over the second. And if he doesn’t get over the second, he’ll be on the same pedestal as Chuck Fairbanks, one step below greatness. Switzer, Bud Wilkinson and Bob Stoops (who lost in the 2015 CFP semis to Clemson) all occupy the top rung in Norman, and with good reason.

Last year at this time, I wondered if LSU would ever play for a national championship again in my lifetime. After the woeful effort in the 2011 championship game (actually January 9, 2012) when LSU gained 92 total yards in losing to Alabama, I had serious doubts.

Yet here we are, with LSU 14-0 and 60 minutes away from its fourth title. Clemson is going to be a gut check for the Bayou Bengals, but at the same time, the Tigers from South Carolina have yet to face a dynamic offense like the one Joe Burrow has led this season.

The biggest winner is Ed Orgeron. This can’t be the same guy who went 10-25 at Ole Miss from 2005-07 and looked terrible doing it? It is. Right now, LSU athletic director Scott Woodward would choose Orgeron over anyone else, even if Nick Saban came crawling back and telling Woodward he would coach LSU again for free. Orgeron probably has the job as long as he wants, and unlike his predecessor, he probably will get to retire in Baton Rouge.

If LSU defeats Clemson, I hope everyone remembers that and doesn’t try to run Orgeron out of town the same way the late, great Charles McClendon was forced out in the late 1970s simply because he couldn’t beat Bear Bryant and Alabama. Same thing with Les Miles vs. Saban and Alabama. Orgeron has earned the right to keep the LSU job for the foreseeable future, win or lose vs. Clemson.

As for Louisiana’s professional football team, the Saints have to play in the wild card round. New Orleans hosts Minnesota, and the Saints have nobody to blame but themselves for having to play this coming weekend. Losing to the Falcons at home doesn’t cut it. Neither does giving up 48 points to the 49ers on your home field. Now the Saints will have to win in Green Bay and possibly San Francisco to get to the Super Bowl.

The Saints are 1-6 in road playoff games. And the “1” was a two-point squeaker in Philadelphia in 2013. Not promising.

Chiefs fans are deluding themselves into thinking this is the year they go to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. Not happening. Yes, Kansas City got a bye today by defeating the Chargers and the Patriots choking at home to the Dolphins.

All that did was make sure the Patriots will come back to Arrowhead and end another Chiefs season. It would be delicious irony if the Chiefs’ playoff game was Jan. 11, because it would be EXACTLY 50 years since Super Bowl IV. I hope no Chiefs fans have booked non-refundable travel expenses to Miami for the Super Bowl, or to Baltimore for the AFC Championship. Kansas City won’t get past New England.

(The NFL spared the Chiefs that ignominy. Kansas City’s game is Sunday, January 12 at 2:05).

Better hope like hell the Titans pull off an upset, Chiefs Kingdom. Then again, DeShaun Watson already beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead, so doing it again isn’t a problem.

While LSU and Clemson start preparing for the only college football game left that matters (oops, make that one of two, because North Dakota State and James Madison have to play for the Division I FCS title Jan. 9), meaningless games resume tomorrow. Not interested.

Now there are 49 hours left in 2019 in these parts. Good night.

Hello it’s me

I am alive. I am also lazy for not posting in over a month. Then again, there really hasn’t been much worth posting. Not exactly true, but most of what I could post would not be good.

Twenty years ago today, I was in Bunkie, a town in central Louisiana the size of Russell, for Bill Franques’ wedding to Yvette Lemoine. I was up until 0200 the previous evening after covering a high school football playoff game in Baton Rouge, and I was not feeling so good when I got up. If it would have been just about anyone else, I would have stayed in Baton Rouge. Since it was Bill, I made that 100-mile drive. I left the reception early after clogging one of the toilets in the residence where it was held.

I’m glad I went, because some of Bill’s colleagues from LSU were not able to make it due to work commitments.

That was my last wedding ceremony for almost 18 years.

Fifteen years ago today, I had pneumonia and didn’t know it. I woke up Friday morning (19th) with sharp stabbing pains on my right side. At first, my dad and I thought it might be a broken rib.

I was so stupid that Saturday (20th) I attempted to go to work for a basketball game at Delgado Community College, a 25-minute drive from my house. When I got to campus, I decided I couldn’t take it and told Tommie Smith, the Dolphins’ athletic director, I couldn’t do it. He understood.

I didn’t go see a doctor until the following Monday. That nearly cost me my life.

I had to go into the hospital right away for pneumonia and a buildup of fluid around my right lung. I was on the critically ill list for at least 24 hours. Once I went under for surgery, I did not come to until the Colts-Lions game was on TV Thanksgiving Day.

I somehow pulled through, and I have only been back to the hospital once, in Kansas City in 2009 when I had unbearable pain after passing kidney stones. That lasted four hours, not 15 days.

It’s almost midnight and I’m starting to fade. Actually, I need to sleep. A lot. That’s all for now, folks.