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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.

St. Paddy’s past

I promised I would tell some of my wackier stories from St. Patrick’s Days past. Well, here goes. 

In 1994, two months away from graudating from Brother Martin High School, the honors civics classes took a field trip to the Louisiana Supreme Court on Loyola Avenue in downtown New Orleans. We were given a tour of the court building and then treated to a lecture by Chief Justice Pascual Calogero, who graduated from one of Brother Martin’s antecedent schools, St. Aloysius.

Before entering the court building, you had to pass through metal detectors.  All of us emptied our pockets, put our keys and coins into a basket, and then retrieve them on the other side. 

When I returned to my car, which was parked in the garage at the Holiday Inn on Loyola across from the Supreme Court–the same hotel which was once the Howard Johnson’s, the one where Emporia’s own Mark Essex killed seven people during his reign of terror on January 7, 1973–my key didn’t fit. I was panicked. I was about to have a nervous breakdown. I found our civics teacher, Eileen Depreo, and told her of my dilemma.

Mrs. Depreo was one of my favorite teachers of all time, anywhere, any level. She was very patient with me and really was impressed with my knowledge of government and current affairs. She was also a very gentle lady who rarely had to raise her voice, and she took a real interest in her students. 

Fortunately for me, Mrs. Depreo helped me out of a jam that day. It turns out my classmate, Dustin Oubre, also couldn’t get into his car. 

Guess what? We had each other’s set of keys. We made the exchange on Duncan Plaza, where officers Phillip Coleman and Paul Persigo were murdered by Essex in 1973. I was on my way a few minutes later. 

Six years later, a more hilarious incident ensued on St. Patirck’s Day.

I was beginning a season long internship with the New Orleans Zephyrs minor league baseball team. The Zephyrs were the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros at that time. Today, they are affiliated with the Miami Marlins, and in past years, have been affiliated with the Brewers, Nationals and Mets. 

The season was still three weeks off, but that weekend, Zephyr Field hosted a high school basetball tournament. Jesuit and Brother Martin were among the schools in the field. 

Some of the staffers in the press box took turns picking out the music to play in between innings, and when it came my turn, I went so far off the board it turned into a running joke. 

My choice: one of the anthems of the counterculture, “Up, Up and Away” by The Fifth Dimension. The 1967 mega hit is an easy listening classic, but at a baseball game, it’s doesn’t fit. 

I was immediately called on the carpet for the esoteric choice by Jamie Howard, the Zephyr’s community relations director. She chided me, in a gentle manner, for my selection. 

A few days later, a new sign was posted in the public address booth, where the music controls were. NO BALLOON, which is a reference to “Up, Up and Away”, which starts with the lyrics “Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?”

I also spent my fair share of St. Patrick’s Days watching LSU baseball. The rundown:

1996–LSU 23, Georgia 5

1998–LSU 4, New Orleans 1

1999–LSU 12, Nicholls State 4

2002–Vanderbilt 7, LSU 6

I have told many St. Patrick’s Day stories. But I’ve been saving the best for my next post…

Missing Tiffany

I have pretty much forgotten about almost everyone who was in my graduating class at Brother Martin. That’s not to say there weren’t some wonderful people I met during my five years at the New Orleans Catholic high school.

One of those very special people, Tiffany Peperone, turns 40 today. Tiffany was a cheerleader for Brother Martin, which was very important to her, since her brother graduated from Brother Martin and her father graduated from one of Brother Martin’s predecessors, St. Aloysius.

Even though Brother Martin is an all-boys school, it still had cheerleaders, as did New Orleans Catholic League rivals De La Salle, Jesuit, Archbishop Rummel and Archbishop Shaw. When I went to Brother Martin, St. Augustine did not have cheerleaders, and Holy Cross had only male cheerleaders, much the way Texas A&M only has male “yell leaders”. Holy Cross and St. Aug now have cheerleaders, although unlike Brother Martin, Jesuit, Rummel and Shaw, there are no male cheerleaders.

The all-boys schools, which included De La Salle until it started admitting girls in 1992, selected girls from the all-girls Catholic high schools. St. Mary’s Dominican and Mount Carmel Academy mostly supplied cheerleaders for Brother Martin, Jesuit and now Holy Cross, although Jesuit also culled the ranks of Ursuline Academy. Archbishop Chapelle in west Metairie, was the source of Rummel’s cheerleaders, natural since Rummel is also in Metairie. Immaculata was largely the source for cheerleaders at Shaw since the schools were located very close to one another, although some came from Archbishop Blenk. Blenk and Immaculata merged after Hurricane Katrina to form the Academy of Our Lady.

Tiffany attended Dominican, in uptown New Orleans, which made for a very long commute for her, since her family lived in the northwest corner of Kenner near Lake Pontchartrain. If there was no traffic, it would take at least 25 minutes, probably closer to 35 during rush hour. Tiffany was very bright and very gregarious; I hardly remember her without a big smile. She also appeared in several Brother Martin drama productions which were directed by the wonderfully talented Rebecca Hale, who definitely was one of my favorite teachers at Brother Martin, ranking only behind Bob Conlin and Janine Koenig.

I first met Tiffany near the end of my eighth grade year. She was the steady girlfriend of Mike LeBlanc, the daughter of Brother Martin math teacher and later director of student services Claire LeBlanc, who taught me trigonometry as a junior. Mike’s twin brother, Mark, earned an appointment to West Point. Tiffany and I bonded that summer at Brother Martin’s American Legion baseball games, since Mike was the team’s catcher.

Tiffany was nominated for the Brother Martin homecoming court during her senior year at Dominican. I was a sophomore, and I took it upon myself to convince the other students Tiffany was the perfect homecoming queen candidate, since she was so dedicated to Brother Martin. I got caught red-handed by a male teacher, I don’t recall whom. The next day, just as the football team was leaving for a game at Central Lafourche, coach Conlin asked me about it and I admitted to it. He grinned and patted me on the back. When we got back that night from Raceland, Tiffany asked me about it. She was impressed.

Tiffany graduated from Dominican and went on to LSU, where she was a cheerleader during the 1992 and 1993 football seasons, and she was also very active in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. I wanted to ask Tiffany to the 1993 Brother Martin homecoming dance, since LSU had an open date on its football schedule that weekend. It was the game vs. Utah State when Herb Vincent gave me a credential to sit in the press box, but I never made it down to the field. I ended up finding a date the Monday before the dance with Colleen Bandera, another cheerleader and the daughter of Brother Martin math teacher Jeanne Bandera.

I ran into Tiffany during my third week at LSU after an address by former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer to the College Republicans. A few months prior, my civics class at Brother Martin were guests on Angela Hill’s talk show on WWL-TV in New Orleans, and Roemer was Angela’s guest. Angela came to me to ask a question of Gov. Roemer. Tiffany drove me back to my dorm after the presentation. I saw Tiffany a couple more times at LSU during the second semester of my freshman year, but we lost contact again once I left for UNO.

By a fortunate chance, I ran into Tiffany, in of all places, Ivar’s Sports Bar, my favorite hangout in Baton Rouge. It was late on a Friday afternoon in July 1997. I walked in and she immediately recognized me. We didn’t talk long, because she was there with someone else, but we mentioned coach Conlin’s passing the previous day. I saw Tiffany again one day at lunch in October when I went with Bill Franques and Fred Demarest from the LSU athletic department.

And I have not seen or heard from Tiffany since. I followed her on Twitter and have sent a friend request on Facebook, but nothing.

I decided to take a shot in the dark and send Tiffany flowers for her 40th birthday. I didn’t know where she lives right now, so I sent them to her parents’ house in Kenner. Doubt it will get anywhere, but I figured it was worth a try.

Tiffany, if you’re out there, I miss you greatly. I would love for us to reconnect. God bless.