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Severely tarnished silver anniversary

I was hoping to be headed east on Interstate 70 back to Russell by now.

Instead, I’m marooned at the Golden Q. Cassidy and Jocelyn are lovely to look at and there are a couple of pretty ladies at a table to my right, so it’s not bad.

Three inches of rain drenched Hays between 1830 and 2030. Ash Street, which runs in front of the Golden Q, is under ankle-deep water. The water is above the bottom of my Buick’s tires. I could use a pirogue. I would say New Orleans’ pumps would come in handy right now, but given the problems my native city has had with its pumping stations, I doubt it would help.

I was hoping to leave early tomorrow for Wichita. I have to pick up an Amazon order at the locker in front of QuikTrip at Central and Oliver, buy some more bleu cheese from Dillon’s on Central at Rock, and get my car cleaned of the bugs on the windshield. Since this isn’t time sensitive, I can sleep in and leave later. I’ll probably stay overnight now, either in Wichita or Hutchinson.

I have not watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High today. It was released 13 August 1982 and launched the careers of three of Hollywood’s most recognizable names: Sean Penn (Jeff Spicoli), Judge Reinhold (Brad Hamilton) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (Stacy Hamilton). Phoebe Cates, who played the promiscuous Linda Barrett, has largely withdrawn from the public eye since marrying Kevin Kline in 1989 to raise her children.

Bravo Phoebe. As much as I’d love to see you on the screen, you’re doing much better without the limelight.

As for Ms. Lehigh (born Jennifer Leigh Morrow), she’ll be returning for season 3 of Atypcial on Netflix next month, the comedy-drama about the struggles of raising a son on the autistic spectrum. Leigh (Elsa Gardner), Keir Gilchrist (Sam Gardner, the “Atypical” young man), Michael Rapaport (Doug Gardner), Brigette Lundy-Payne (Casey Gardner), Amy Okuda (Dr. Jennifer Sasaki) and Jenna Boyd (Paige Haradway, Sam’s first girlfriend) are all first-rate. The one character I cannot stand is Sam’s best friend, the lecherous Zahid, portrayed by Nik Dodani. Along with Last Chance U, it’s my favorite show on Netflix.

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Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of one of sports’ blackest days, as well as the day my life was altered for better or worse.

The black day was the beginning of the Major League Baseball players’ strike. The players walked out due to constant threats by owners to implement a salary cap. The NBA adopted a salary cap for the 1983-84 season, the NFL adopted one starting in 1994, and the NHL would follow suit a decade later after it cancelled the entire 2004-05 season with a lockout.

Thirty-three days after the strike began, Brewers owner Bud Selig, the chairman of the owner’s council and acting commissioner (Fay Vincent was fired by the owners in September 1992 for appearing to be too friendly towards the players), announced the entire 1994 postseason would be cancelled. It was the first time since 1904 there would be no Fall Classic.

The strike finally ended on 2 April 1995 when U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor–the same Sonia Sotomayor who now sits on the Supreme Court of the United States–ordered the players back to work under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement which expired 31 December 1993.

Baseball after the strike was disastrous.

Hundreds of players became addicted to steroids. Home run totals went through the roof, with Mark McGwire hitting 70 in 1998, four more than Sammy Sosa. Both later admitted to taking steroids. Barry Bonds, who hit 73 home runs in 2001, also cheated, but he lied about it and would not be man enough to admit it. To me, Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 is still the legitimate record.

It took the new CBA in August 2002 to finally bring the juicers under control. Sadly, it looks like steroids are back, given another round of ridiculous home run numbers.

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A few hours after the last out of the 1994 MLB season was recorded in Oakland, my life changed, thanks to the introduction of three new people into my sphere.

12 August 1994 was LSU football media day. The media covering the Bayou Bengals at the time were looking forward to it as much as they would an IRS audit or a trip to the dentist to fill a cavity.

Hudson “Curley” Hallman was entering his fourth season as the leader of the woebegone LSU football program. In his three previous seasons, Hallman compiled a dreadful 12-21 record, including a 2-9 mark in 1992, the worst ever by an LSU team.

It appeared to get worse in 1993, when LSU started 2-5, including a 58-3 embarrassment by Florida in Tiger Stadium, a game also witnessed by millions on ESPN in an era when having a game televised at 1830 was an honor, not a routine occurrence.

Had a sane man been in charge of the LSU athletic department, Hallman would have been fired within 48 hours of the Bayou Bengals’ 35-17 loss at Kentucky one week after the Florida debacle.

Sadly, Robert Joseph (Joe) Dean was LSU’s athletic director.

Joe Dean was a great basketball player for LSU, where he teamed with Bob Pettit to help the Bayou Bengals reach the Final Four in 1953, LSU’s last trip to the NCAA tournament until 1979. In case you don’t know, Pete Maravich had only one winning season in three years on the LSU varsity, and since the NCAA took only one school per conference to the big dance prior to 1975, the Bayou Bengals had to content themselves with a trip to the 1970 NIT.

Dean was also a tremendous color analyst on basketball broadcasts for over two decades. His trademark phrase “strrrrinnnng music” was repeated by tens of thousands of teenaged boys who one day dreamed of playing for Kentucky, LSU or any other SEC school.

In 1987, Dean was hired to clean up the mess in LSU’s athletic department. LSU hemorrhaged red ink in the early 1980s under the mismanagement of Paul Dietzel, the man who coached LSU to the football national championship in 1958 and groomed his successor, Charles McClendon (Cholly Mac), who led the Bayou Bengals to a 137-59-7 record from 1962-79.

Dietzel was fired by the LSU Board of Supervisors in February 1982 and succeeded by Bob Brodhead, the one-time general manager of the Houston Oilers, and later the business manager of the Miami Dolphins. Brodhead got LSU back on sound financial footing and made several tremendous coaching hires, including Skip Bertman, Sue Gunter and Bill Arnsparger.

Brodhead, however, ran afoul of the NCAA and men’s basketball coach Dale Brown, who led LSU to the Final Four in 1981 and ’86. Brodhead was convicted in April 1986 of wiretapping and sent to federal prison.

Dean inherited new football coach Mike Archer, who went 10-1-1 in 1987 and 8-4 in ’88 , largely with players he inherited from Arnsparger, who was 26-8-2 from 1984-86. When Archer had to play with his own recruits, LSU went down the toilet, going 4-7 in 1989 and 5-6 in ’90.

Dean fired Archer with two games remaining in the 1990 season. His coaching search began and ended in Hattiesburg, where Hallman led Southern Mississippi to a 23-11 record over three seasons and several huge upsets (Florida State, Alabama, Auburn), all away from Hattiesburg.

Actually, Hallman would never haver sniffed 23-11 had not been left a present by his predecessor, Jim Carmody.

That present was an unknown kid from Kiln, 70 miles south of Hattiesburg.

His name: Brett Favre. If you don’t know Favre’s story, stop living like a hermit crab.

Hallman was clearly out of his league in the SEC in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Not only did he come up woefully short against Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M, his LSU teams lost twice each to mediocre teams from Kentucky and Arkansas, was shut out 32-0 by middling Ole Miss, and was humiliated 17-14 at home by a Colorado State team which went 3-9, leading to the firing of Earle Bruce and the hiring of Sonny Lubick.

Nobody should have felt sorry for Hallman, because many of his problems were self-inflicted.

First, he completely closed practice to all media. However, people who provided players with summer jobs were provided unfettered access to practice. Watching football practice bores me to tears sometimes, but the good men who were covering LSU regularly in 1994–Scott Rabalais, Dave Moormann and Sam King (The Advocate), John Reid (Times-Picayune) and Scooter Hobbs (Lake Charles American-Press), not to mention television and radio stations–deserved to have more access than a locked gate. If he had opened practice, maybe those covering the team would have been in his corner and been able to report credibly the team was improving despite the record. With no practice access, the reporters could only go off of what they saw on Saturdays.

Second, his brutally physical practices left the team drained. He basically took the model he was subject to when he played for Bear Bryant disciple Gene Stallings at Texas A&M in the late 1960s and copied it to the letter. Hallman held two-a-days from the start of camp until the start of classes. Actually, he didn’t; sometimes Hallman used THREE-A-DAYS. Yikes. And many of those two-a-days were in full pads. It took LSU firing Hallman and Gerry DiNardo to find a coach who knew having all of those practices in full gear was silly. I wonder how that Nick Saban fellow is doing.

Third, Hallman hired the worst assistants. Period. Of all of his assistants, I would rate only Phil Bennett, George Haffner and Larry Zierlein worthy of being part of a Power Five staff. Maybe Lynn Amedee had been at one time or another, but his two years under Hallman were a complete waste.

Bennett was the only reason Hallman wasn’t totally screwed. The Texas A&M alum was articulate. He could relate to players. He wasn’t afraid to try new things. He always said the right thing to the media. Today, most head coaches don’t allow assistants to talk to the media. Hallman would have been better off shutting up and letting Bennett do all the talking.

Bennett was the defensive coordinator in 1994 when LSU led the SEC in total defense. It’s too bad his only head coaching gig at SMU didn’t turn out well. He certainly deserved much better.

Haffner was Georgia’s offensive coordinator when Herschel Walker ran roughshod over the SEC, but he had zero talent at LSU. Hallman made Haffner the scapegoat for the 1992 season by firing him and hiring Amedee.

Zierlein was a solid offensive line coach and had professional experience in the World League of American Football. His arrival in 1993 helped Kevin Mawae immeasurably before he embarked on a Hall of Fame NFL Career.

As for Hallman’s other assistants.:

  • Thielen Smith was a standout for McClendon in the mid-1970s. Too bad Hallman scapegoated him, too, after 1992.
  • Mike Bugar was not cut out to be a defensive coordinator in the SEC. He may have done a fine job in Hattiesburg, but matching wits with Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer was a recipe for disaster in Baton Rouge. Bugar mercifully left for Baylor after the 1993 season.
  • Pete Fredenburg, who was basically traded for Bugar for 1994 and coached the defensive tackles, was the victim of timing. He came one year too early, because Anthony “Booger” McFarland came along in 1995.
  • Lee Fobbs, who coached the defensive ends in 1994, was hired by Hallman to help with recruiting New Orleans, specifically the Catholic League, where his son, Jamaal, was a standout running back for St. Augustine. One year wasn’t enough to evaluate.
  • Buddy King, who was Zierlein’s predecessor, had Mawae and little else on the offensive line. He jumped at the chance to join Danny Ford in Arkansas in early 1993.
  • Then we have the three stooges. In what universe did Larry Edmonson, Rick Villareal and Steve Buckley qualify to coach in the SEC, other than being with Hallman in Hattiesburg? Buckley never even played college football. He was a cheerleader at USM! At least Edmonson played at Texas A&M.
  • The strength and conditioning program was a flat-out joke under Chris Seroka. I wish Seroka could come back to LSU so Tommy Moffitt could kick him in the nuts and show him what real strength and conditioning is.
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  • Back to 12 August 1994.
  • I was asked by Herb Vincent, LSU’s associate athletic director for media relations, to come to Baton Rouge that day to help with football media day. I had yet to attend classes, and I could not move into the dorm until 21 August (more on that next Wednesday).
  • I met Herb in July 1993 on a visit to campus. I hoped he would have a position available as a student worker in his office, and in June 1994, he gave me the good news.
  • My dad and I drove to Baton Rouge on a Friday morning. I drove up in casual clothes, but I brought dress clothes just in case. I needed them.

    Shortly after arriving in the office, I met the other student assistants: Corey Walsh, Adam Young and Shelby Holmes. Walsh, a Texan, and Young, an Alexandria native, had worked in the sports information office as students for three years, while Holms, who went to McKinley High, less than two miles north of the campus, was entering his second year working with Herb.

    Next up, I met Kent Lowe, whom I knew as LSU’s men’s basketball publicity director, having seen his name in Bruce Hunter’s book about the 1988-89 team, Don’t Count Me Out. I also recognized his face, since he was the statistician for LSU football radio broadcasts in 1992 and ’93; his picture was in the game programs with Jim Hawthorne, Doug Moreau, spotter Patrick Wright (also the voice of LSU women’s basketball) and Tom Stevens, the network engineer who tragically passed away in the Tiger Stadium press box prior to LSU’s 2000 game vs. Kentucky.

    About 20 minutes after meeting Kent, Bill Franques came into the office. I heard Bill’s voice plenty from LSU baseball broadcasts, both as the public address announcer for home games and Hawthorne’s color analyst for road games.

    Little did I know William Paul Franques would hold such a position of importance in my life. There are days I wish I could go back to that morning and call Herb to tell him I would be turning down his offer to work in the athletic department. Lord knows what I’ve done to Bill over the years. I wake up some nights in a very cold sweat thinking about it.

    After Hallman, Amedee and Bennett met the media in LSU’s athletic administration building, the media moved to the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse for player interviews.

    It was there I met another man who became entangled in my weird world.

    It took three-tenths of a second after shaking hands with Dan Borne to realize I had heard his voice plenty as the public address announcer for LSU football and men’s basketball games.

    Standing next to Dan was one of my new colleagues in Herb’s office.

    Rebecca Borne was three months removed from graduating as the valedictorian of the St. Joseph’s Academy Class of 1994. She scored 34 out of a possible 36 on the ACT test. The only reason she was at LSU and not Yale or Harvard was because of her dad.

    I don’t know why the hell Dan still wants to call me a friend. Lord knows I hurt Rebecca, his wife Lisette, his other daughter Elizabeth, and (to a lesser extent), sons Jason and David, more than one human should be allowed to hurt another human.

    Rebecca hasn’t talked to me since 2002. She hates me. And I hate myself even more for the hurt I caused her. She made it to New Haven, graduating from Yale Law School in 2006 and starting a family in Connecticut.

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    LSU was 2-7 when Dean fired Hallman on 15 November 1994. Hallman had the class to finish the season, and the Bayou Bengals defeated Tulane and Arkansas.

    I’m sorry, but I’m about to cry. This is painful.

    Brett Favre and LSU’s deep football depression

    The Pro Football Hall of FAme induction ceremonies will be starting in Canton in a couple of hours.

    The biggest name of this year’s inductees is Brett Favre, who set many NFL passing records during his career, mostly with the Packers (1992-2007). 

    Favre’s biggest game as a pro came in New Orleans, when the Packers defeated the Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI. He also defeated Tulane twice in the Superdome as the starting quarterback for the University of Southern Mississippi. 

    I have never cared for Southern Miss. What use does it have? With all of the junior colleges across the state, with THREE historically black colleges, plus Ole Miss and Mississippi State, why is Southern Miss even there? I understand it’s close to the Gulf Coast, but it wouldn’t be that hard to drive to Mobile and South Alabama, or to New Orleans. 

    Another reason I can’t stand Southern Miss is because it foisted a man who dragged LSU into its deepest football abyss. 

    Hudson Hallman. Better known as Curley Hallman, who was Favre’s coach in Hattiesburg. 

    If not for Brett Favre, Curley Hallman doesn’t go 23-11 in three seasons at USM, the Golden Eagles don’t beat Florida State in 1989, or Alabama and Auburn in 1990, and he never, ever sniffs the LSU coaching job. 

    Brett Favre was the reason why LSU football collapsed. 

    What I don’t understand is how Ole Miss and Mississippi State whiffed on Favre. 

    The Rebels and Bulldogs were constantly near the bottom of the SEC in the 1980s. Certainly Favre could have done wonders for either team. 

    The biggest problem for Ole MIss was it was on probation when Favre was being recruited by then-coach Billy Brewer, who himself would become ethically challenged later in his tenure. In 1987, the Rebels were banned from television and bowls, so maybe the idea didn’t appeal to Favre.

    Brewer and his assistants committed egregious recruiting violations in the early 1990s. In November 1994, the NCAA came awfully close to giving Ole Miss the death penalty. The Rebels were very lucky to get away with a one-year TV ban, two years without postseason play, and the loss of 25 scholarships for 1995 and 1996. 

    As for Mississippi State, its coach at the time, former Bulldog quarterback Rockey Felker, wanted to keep running the option, which had been the bread-and-butter of his predecessor, Emory Bellard, the father of the Wishbone formation. Favre running the option? No way. Felker had a sentimental attachment to the option, having run the Veer at MSU under Bob Tyler, who was as ethically challenged as Brewer. 

    Mississippi State has historically been a terrible passing team. Their recently departed quarterback, Dak Prescott, throws the ball well, but he made much more happen with his legs with the Bulldogs. 

    LSU was set at quarterback with Tommy Hodson. No way Favre was beating out a Louisiana native who led the Bayou Bengals to the 1986 SEC championship, their first since Bert Jones played in Baton Rouge in 1970. Then again, Jones was NOT the full-time starter in either of his first two years. Maybe a Hodson/Favre rotation would have worked wonders. Or maybe not. 

    For some reason, Bill Curry, the new coach at Alabama in early 1987, didn’t see fit to drive down Interstate 59 a couple of hours.  If Curry had taken the time to look at Favre, maybe he doesn’t get a brick thrown through his window at home, and maybe he doesn’t bolt for Kentucky after three seasons. 

    Actually, Hallman lucked into Favre. Jim Carmody, his predecessor at USM, recruited the kid from Kiln to Hattiesburg. Hallman was an assistant at his alma mater, Texas A&M, in 1987 before succeeding Carmody in 1988. 

    Curley Hallman had no business as the head coach of an SEC football team. He made it worse on himself by hiring bad assistant coaches. His running backs coach, Steve Buckley, played as many downs of college football as me. ZERO. He was a cheerleader in college. 

    Of all of Hallman’s assistants, only one, Phil Bennett, found work in a major conference after leaving LSU. Bennett went on to be the defensive coordinator at Kansas State, head coach at SMU, and then defensive coordinator at Baylor, where he is still employed. 

    It wasn’t until Nick Saban came from East Lansing to Baton Rouge in 2000 that LSU finally pulled itself out of the swamp and into the elite echelon of college football.

    I contend it would have been much better had Favre gone to Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Sure, he may have beaten LSU four times the way John Bond did for State from 1980-83. But at least Curley Hallman would never have led a team out of the tunnel at the north end of Tiger Stadium. 

    Two decades ago…

    Two events happened in the sporting world 20 years ago today. One affected my life directly. The other didn’t, but it certainly affected tens of millions of sports fans in one way or the other.

    Second thing first. Today marked the first day of the 1994 Major League Baseball players’ strike. The strike would wipe out the postseason, which was supposed to be the first year of the wild card and expanded playoffs. The strike would not be settled until April 1995, when U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor–the same Sonia Sotomayor who now sits on the Supreme Court–issued an injunction forcing the owners to reinstate the 1993 collective bargaining agreement and let the players come back.

    The event which affected my life took place in Baton Rouge. It was LSU’s football media day, where Curley Hallman would preview his fourth season as the Bayou Bengals’ coach, coordinators Lynn Amedee (offense) and Phil Bennett (defense) would talk about their respective units, and the players would be available for one-on-one interviews with members of the media.

    Looking back on it today, Hallman was very lucky to have been LSU’s coach in 1994. The Bayou Bengals were awful during the first seven games of 1993, with the lowlight being a 58-3 loss at home to Florida. I understand Florida was on its way to the SEC championship and 11 victories, the last being a thumping of then-undefeated West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl, but no SEC team should lose by 55 points in their home stadium unless the talent gap is grossly unfair, which was the case for Kansas and Kansas State when they faced Nebraska and Oklahoma in the 1980s.

    Yes, LSU was in a down period in the early 1990s, bottoming out at 2-9 in 1992. However, there was more than enough talent for the Bayou Bengals to at least remain competitive in the SEC, even if they would go 2-6 or 3-5 in the league. There’s no way LSU should have been in the depths with the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt, and at that time, the two new additions to the league, Arkansas and South Carolina.

    Hallman saved his bacon by taking LSU to Tuscaloosa 28 days after the debacle vs. Florida and stunning the defending national champion Crimson Tide,, ending Alabama’s 31-game undefeated (there was no overtime in college football regular season games until 1996, so ties were still unusual, although not rare, during this era). The Bayou Bengals had a chance to go to a bowl game in ’93, but Arkansas came to town two days after Thanksgiving and shredded LSU’s defense by running the Wishbone to death, scorching the Tiger Stadium sod for 412 yards rushing en route to a 42-24 victory.

    Following the ’93 season, Hallman made his only coaching staff change which ever made sense by terminating defensive coordinator Michael Bugar, a longtime friend, and installing defensive ends coach Phil Bennett in the position. Bennett enjoyed a stellar playing career at Texas A&M and promoted an aggressive, attacking style which he learned while playing for the Aggies under R.C. Slocum, who was then a defensive coach at A&M, and later would become the head coach at College Station in 1989.

    At media day, Bennett proved to be the only one of the three speakers who had a clue. Hallman rambled on as usual and did his best to dance around as many reporters’ questions as possible, and Amedee looked like he had no interest in being there.

    The 1994 season would pretty much bear out that media day. Bennett’s defense was first in the SEC, but Amedee’s offense was beyond putrid, especially in game at Auburn when the other Tigers won 30-26 despite not scoring an offensive touchdown. The end result: a 4-7 record, and Curley Hallman was fired with two games remaining, although he was allowed to coach those games, which turned out to be victories over Tulane and Arkansas.

    The more important facet of LSU’s 1994 media day were the people I met that day.

    I already knew Herb Vincent, LSU’s sports information director, from a meeting we had in July 1993. We kept in touch through the year, and he let me watch the 1993 football game vs. Utah State from the press box. Herb had achieved a great deal by August of 1994, even though he was still 16 months shy of 35. Herb graduated from LSU, where he worked in the sports information office under the great Paul Manasseh, and after stints with the USFL’s Los Angeles Express and the SEC office in Birmingham, he was hired full-time at LSU in early 1988. In August 1988, when then-sports information director Jamie Kimbrough took a post at South Carolina, Herb was promoted to the top job.

    Herb brought in a pair of brilliant men, Bill Franques and Kent Lowe, to serve as his associates.

    Bill was assigned to baseball, where he learned the ropes from the master, the one and only J. Stanley (Skip) Bertman, eventually taking over the duties of public address announcer at Alex Box Stadium and color commentator for the radio broadcast of away games. Bill also does a lot of work on the television side with the coaches shows, and he’s the co-host of LSU Sports Journal. He will enter his 27th season as LSU’s baseball publicity director when the 2015 season opens in February. I hope one day he’ll one day join Skip and his current boss, Paul Maineri, in the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Bill deserves sainthood for putting up with me and my many, many, many mood swings. He could have easily kicked me to the curb, and nobody would have blamed him, least of all me. But he stuck by me and became a better friend than I ever deserved. I still miss our lunches at Ivar’s Sports Bar in Baton Rouge. Ivar’s is worthy of its own post, and I’ll get to it soon.

    Kent came to LSU after a distinguished career as the publicity director for Louisiana Downs, a thoroughbred race track in Bossier City, across the Red River from Shreveport in the northwest corner of the state. Kent was at LSU in the late 1970s and early 1980s to earn his master’s degree, and it was then he met Bayou Bengals men’s basketball coach Dale Brown. The two men kept in touch throughout the 1980s, and when the position as Brown’s publicity director came open, Herb knew where to turn.

    Kent and I were not as close during my days at LSU, but I have nothing but admiration for him. He could easily have become very frustrated by the struggles of LSU’s men’s basketball program through many years, but he kept his cool, he kept smiling and he kept a positive spin on everything no matter how bad things were. Kent is beloved by all in the LSU athletic department, as well he should be.

    Also that day, I met two other people who would become woven into the fabric of my life.

    One was Dan Borne, the public address announcer for LSU football and men’s basketball games. Dan is a native of Thibodaux, a bayou town about 75 miles south of Baton Rouge. Thibodaux is hard-core Cajun, and many of the people there and the rest of Lafourche Parish speak French as their first language. I was quite familiar with Lafourche Parish, since every year I was at Brother Martin High School, the Crusaders would venture deep down the bayou to Galliano to play South Lafourche in football. Galliano is only 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and much of that area was nearly wiped off the map by Hurricane Betsy in 1965, and bore the brunt of Hurricane Gustav in 2008. Since Katrina made landfall in Mississippi, Lafourche did not take nearly as bad a hit, but it was bad enough.

    Dan came to Baton Rouge in the late 1960s and was an anchor for WAFB-TV, the CBS affiliate, throughout the 1970s before being named Executive Assistant to Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards in 1976.It was Dan who had the terrible responsibility of briefing the press on October 20, 1976, the day a drunken ferry operator killed 72 people (not counting himself and five other crew members, all of whom were also soused to the gills) by guiding a boat full of cars into the path of a tanker on the Mississippi River in St. Charles Parish. The tanker sliced the ferry in two and sent cars into the muddy river.

    Dan gave up that post when his third child, and second daughter, was born four days before Christmas 1976, or 69 days after I was. The girl born December 21, 1976 to Daniel and Lissette Borne would alter my life, both good and bad, in ways I could never imagine when I first met her that fateful August Friday in 1994. Dan has been president of the Louisiana Chemical Association for nearly 30 years, and he has been very effective lobbying Louisiana’s legislature and the state’s Congressional delegation for issues which are extremely important to his native state–and mine.

    I have a lot I want to discuss regarding Rebecca Borne, but that’s a subject which I need to think through, because I’m sure I’m going to feel a very wide range of emotions.

    Rebecca was valedictorian of the St. Joseph’s Academy Class of 1994. St. Joseph’s is an exclusive all-girls Catholic school in Baton Rouge, one which has produced hundreds of movers and shakers in Red Stick. Strangely enough, her older sister, Elizabeth, chose to attend Baton Rouge High, a public magnet school with a reputation as one of the nation’s best. Dan and Lissette’s two sons, David and Jason, opted for Baton Rouge Catholic, the all-boys equivalent of St. Joseph’s in Baton Rouge. Catholic is run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, who also run Brother Martin, my alma mater.

    Coincidentally, the volleyball coach who came to St. Joseph’s four months after Rebecca graduated also has played an important role in my life. She”ll be the subject of a post or two or three very soon.

    I nearly forgot about Adam Young, who was a senior and a student assistant in the sports information office when I came to campus. Adam became a good friend to me and gave me a chance to write for Tiger Rag, a publication devoted to LSU athletics, during my third year of school. Adam, who grew up in Alexandria in central Louisiana, was nice enough to invite me to his 1997 wedding where he married Lucy Santana, who came to LSU from Brazil and was a standout volleyball player. They settled in Shreveport after the wedding.

    Adam and Lucy’s wedding was one of only two I have attended; the other was Bill’s to Yvette Lemoine in 1999 in Bunkie, a small town 100 miles northwest of Baton Rouge.

    One person I did not meet at LSU’s 1994 football media day was Michael Bonnette, who became LSU’s sports information director in August 2000 when Herb left to take a position at a now-defunct television network in Birmingham. Michael, who had just been given a full-time position in LSU’s sports information office following a year as an intern, was in the hospital recuperating from knee surgery after tearing ligaments during a recreational softball game. He would not come back to work full-time until the week of the first football game that season, which also happened to be the first week of college classes for me.

    Michael has done a great job in succeeding Herb. He had the unenviable task of navigating the choppy waters surrounding Nick Saban’s tenure, not that it was choppy on the field, but Saban has had a reputation of being difficult. It seems Michael really enjoys being around Les Miles, and Les really appreciates him.

    Coincidentally, Herb is back in Birmingham as Associate Commissioner for Public Relations for the SEC. He’s been leading the drive to launch the SEC Network, which finally comes to fruition at 5 p.m. Central Thursday. I was thinking Herb would be in line to succeed Joe Alleva as athletic director at LSU, and he still may do so, but he’s got financial security for himself, his lovely wife Jamey, and their daughter Kennedy in Birmingham. I’m sure they’ve got a very nice home in a gated community in Hoover or one of the other upscale suburbs. He deserves it.

    Sadly, one person I met that media day is no longer with us.

    Shelby Holmes, who graduated as valedictorian at Baton Rouge’s McKinley High School a year before I graduated from Brother Martin, was shot and killed last October near his home in an apparent robbery gone wrong. Shelby lived in a rough neighborhood about a mile and a half north of the LSU campus, and he had his problems–we all did–but he had his life together when he tragically died.

    I’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. If you like it, please let me know.