LSU and Missouri have been together in the Southeastern Conference since 2012.
Yesterday was the first time the Bayou Bengals visited Columbia, and only the second time the purple Tigers and black Tigers faced off as conference opponents.
Blame one man. He resides in Tuscaloosa.
Nicholas Lou Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, believes the world would stop spinning on its axis if the Crimson Tide did not play Tennessee every year.
Alabama and Tennessee have a rivalry which dates to 1901, less than two months after President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo. The Tide and Volunteers have played every year since 1930 except 1943, when neither school fielded a team during the height of World War II.
General Robert Neyland wanted Tennessee to play Alabama every year, knowing if the Volunteers defeated the Tide, Tennessee would be the undisputed king of southern football.
Bear Bryant, who played on a broken leg when Alabama won 25-0 in 1935 at Birmingham, considered Tennessee a bigger rival than Auburn. It was his trainer, Jim Goostree, who began the tradition of handing out victory cigars to players and coaches following victory in the series. Tennessee soon copied the tradition.
It is a vile and disgusting tradition. The Birmingham News’ website, AL.com, posts hundreds of photos of players and fans smoking cigars after a Crimson Tide victory over the Volunteers. They are glorifying a product which has killed tens of millions of Americans (although cigars have killed fewer than cigarettes). Memo to the women who smoke cigars: it doesn’t make you prettier. It makes you repulsive.
Nick Saban loves the cigars, given he once chain-smoked cigarettes. Unlike Bryant, he had the guts to give them up, but he still chews Red Man.
Alabama fans shouldn’t be lighting up cigars anyway. Tennessee is as impotent against Alabama these days as I am with the disgusting little thing between my legs. No reason to bother.
No wonder Saban wants to keep Tennessee on Alabama’s schedule permanently. He beats them all the time.
On the other hand, the world will not end if the Crimson Tide and Volunteers don’t play every year.
Conference realignment has cost us Maryland-Virginia, Maryland-North Carolina, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Nebraska-Colorado, Nebraska-Missouri, Missouri-Kansas, Missouri-Oklahoma, Colorado-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Baylor, Texas A&M-TCU, Texas A&M-Texas Tech, Arkansas-Texas, and the biggest of all, Texas-Texas A&M.
LSU and Tulane haven’t played since 2009. That sucks. Tulane bears some of the blame for demanding every other game be played in New Orleans, but LSU has a point by not wanting to give up a home game and play in a stadium which seats 30,000. Tulane blundered massively by leaving the SEC in 1966, but it could make up somewhat for it by playing every year in Baton Rouge and accepting a generous check from LSU. It really angers me LSU will play McNeese, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and now Southern and Grambling, but not Tulane.
Even within conferences, some rivalries aren’t played every year.
When the SEC split into divisions in 1992, it ended the yearly battle between Auburn and Tennessee. In 2002, Auburn’s yearly rivalry with Florida ended. LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001, but now don’t see each other but once every five or six years. Alabama and Georgia once played every year, but haven’t since Vince Dooley’s early days in Athens. LSU and Alabama was NOT a yearly rivalry until 1964. LSU and Auburn rarely played until they were thrown into the SEC West together. Same with Tennessee vs. Florida and Georgia in the East; Tennessee played Ole Miss every year before divisions.
The ACC stupidly divided the four North Carolina schools. This means North Carolina and Wake Forest don’t play every year, nor do Duke and North Carolina State. Last year, the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons played a game which didn’t count in the ACC standings just to play. Clemson also doesn’t play Duke, North Carolina and Virginia every year, while NC State and Wake Forest don’t see Virginia every year.
Before Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12, it stranded Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with the Texas schools, and refused to have even one cross-division rivalry which was played every year.
In the Big Ten, the Little Brown Jug isn’t contested between Minnesota and Michigan every year. Same with Illibuck, the turtle contested by Ohio State and Illinois. Fortunately, Iowa and Minnesota still battle every year for Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig which is bar none the best trophy in college sports.
Anyone who can read a map knows Missouri is farther west than 11 of the other 13 SEC schools. Only Arkansas and Texas A&M are west of Columbia.
Yet the SEC refused to consider moving one team out of the West to let the Big 12 expatriates join the same division.
Then-Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs repeatedly said he would gladly move to the East to allow Mizzou into the West, yet then-SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and league presidents refused.
The biggest reason was Saban’s bellyaching about the cherished Alabama-Tennessee rivalry. Such bellyaching was not as loud from Knoxville, although I’m certain some Volunteer fans want their team to play the Crimson Tide, even with the yearly slaughter.
If Auburn was moved to the East, the Tigers of the Plains would become the Crimson Tide’s permanent cross-division football opponent, meaning they couldn’t play the Volunteers every year. Tennessee probably would have picked up Mizzou or A&M as its permanent West rival.
There is no rule stating Alabama and Tennessee cannot play a game which wouldn’t count in the SEC standings. Bear Bryant did this vs. Ole Miss near the end of his tenure. Has nobody thought of this? I’m not just talking about the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. Everyone in the SEC could do this. It would be an easy way to schedule the required non-conference game vs. a Power Five team.
The above ideas are good, but definitely not the best.
I realize Tuscaloosa is farther west than Nashville, home to Vanderbilt. However, the SEC could fudge its geography just a little bit and make it all right.
Swap Mizzou and Vandy for Alabama and Auburn. There, problem solved. Alabama would have Auburn and Tennessee as division opponents, and playing Georgia and Florida would more than make up for not playing LSU every year.
Tennessee-Vanderbilt would become the lone cross-division game to be played every year, the same way Indiana-Purdue is the only one in the Big Ten. This would get teams into each stadium more frequently.
Your blogger would be pumped to see LSU and Mizzou play every year in football, baseball and softball, meaning the Bayou Bengals would be in Columbia every other year for those sports instead of once in a blue moon.
It just makes too much damned sense, so it will never happen.
Then again, Missouri sports teams have a history of being geographically misaligned.
The Cardinals played in the National League EAST from 1969-93, even though it was farther west than Atlanta and Cincinnati, which were in the West.
The Cardinals and Cubs raised holy hell when the National League wanted to align geographically when the two-divisiion format was approved for 1969. Both were afraid of (a) 27 games per year in California, which meant late start times for television, and (b) not playing in New York. NL president Bill Giles gave the Cardinals and Cubs what they wanted, giving the big “F YOU” to the Braves and Reds, which faced longer trips to California and later start times for their fans, since Atlanta and Cincinnati are on Eastern time.
Giles didn’t have the balls AL president Joe Cronin did. He told the White Sox flat out they were going into the West, and if they didn’t like it, tough shit. The Sox’ owners at the time wanted to be in the East, citing tradition, as five of the other six old-line AL teams were in that division (the exception was the second Senators franchise, the one which became the Rangers in 1972). The White Sox tried again to move to the East when the Senators’ relocation was approved, but the Brewers, who were originally the Seattle Pilots, were moved from West to East, trading places with the Senators/Rangers.
The AL should not have moved the Brewers. It short-circuited rivalries with the White Sox and Twins, and since the Cowboys were in the NFC East, and the Cardinals and Cubs were in the NL East, it wouldn’t have been too bad to keep the Rangers in the AL East.
Speaking of teams from Dallas and St. Louis, it was totally asinine the Cowboys and football Cardinals were in the NFC East. Those cities aren’t east of anything, except San Francisco and Los Angeles in the NFC.
Pete Rozelle wimped out when the AFL and NFL merged. Rather than unilaterally imposing an alignment on NFC owners, he allowed secretary Thelma Ekjer to blindly pick an alignment out of a vase. And wouldn’t you know, the only one with the Cowboys and Cardinals in the NFC East was picked.
Let’s see..the Cowboys in the East and the Falcons in the West. Brilliant.
Rozelle should have put the Cowboys in the West, then added either the Cardinals or Saints (probably the latter, since it would have preserved a Dallas-New Orleans rivalry, one Cowboys’ president Tex Schramm loved). The other should have gone into the Central with the Vikings, Bears and Packers, and the Lions would go into the East with the Falcons, Redskins, Eagles and Giants.
When the Rams moved to St. Louis, there was no problem for me with them staying in the West, although it would have been an ideal time to realign the NFC, with the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and Saints in the West; the Falcons, Panthers, Redskins, Giants and Eagles in the East; and the Central staying the way it was. At the time, the AFC was too convoluted to try to redo the East and Central (the West was great the way it was).
I’m not giving up my hope LSU and Mizzou are more than occasional rivals. Sometimes the world actually works the way it should.
Until then, I’ll start saving up for tickets when the Bayou Bengals return to Columbia in 2023. And for LSU’s trip to Lexington next year.
I was reminded most of today why Louisiana is near the national leaders in rainfall year in and year out.
I woke up at 7:30 with Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” blaring from my iPhone. Surprisingly, the thunder and lightning did not.
It was absolutely pouring. The sky was quite dark. There were severe weather alerts issued seemingly every two minutes, including a couple of tornado warnings for East Baton Rouge Parish. Thankfully, those warnings were not for where we were staying. However, it was nasty.
The rain seemed to end by 12:30, when my dad and I went to eat at Acme Oyster House. Oyster Rockefeller soup, charbroiled oysters, bread pudding. I can die happy now.
We went to the Mall of Louisiana to kill time, and by time we left the area, it started to rain hard again. It really rained hard when we were on Siegen Lane, and my dad thought there was no way there would be a baseball game tonight. I had some doubt, but from experience, I knew LSU would do everything it could to play the game. It was still raining hard at 5:00 when we went to eat at Outback, which is in the same parking lot as the Courtyard.
Lo and behold, the rain stopped by time we left the restaurant at 5:50. There is a lot of standing water on the streets, but the railroad trestle on Acadian between Interstate 10 and Perkins Road was passable.
Teams have taken infield–batting practice was conducted in the cages in order to allow more time for field prep–and the game will start at 8:00 as originally rescheduled. The good news about playing tonight is the game tomorrow starts at 4:00, so there will be plenty of time to sleep in and eat lunch.
LSU defeated Tennessee 9-3. The Tigers hit four home runs, two by Jake Slaughter, in the first three innings to go up 8-0, then coasted the rest of the way.
The last LSU run helped me.
My dad got tired during the seventh inning and asked me to bring him back to the hotel. I agreed and we left in the bottom of the 7th. Fortunately I was able to map out a route which avoided traffic and we got back in good time. I then drove back to the stadium for the rest of the game.
I thought I might not make it back for the end, but LSU added a run in the bottom of the eighth which gave me some time to make it past Highland Road. By time I pulled into the parking lot, the top of the ninth had just started.
The Volunteers scored twice and loaded the bases again against two LSU relievers before the game ended. In all, 15-20 extra minutes were tacked on to the ending.
Bill is now on the field coordinating interviews with players and coach Paul Mainieri. After that’s done, he’ll interview Mainieri for the radio in the Champions Club on the ground level of the stadium.
Even though I ate a lot of brisket at TJ Ribs, I gave the jambalaya at the stadium a try. Good for stadium fare, but my mother makes it better.
It’s been a great day. But I am tired. I’ve been up for over 18 hours now. Fortunately tomorrow’s game is not until 2000 (8 p.m.), so I can sleep in.
I’ve got to hit the Walmart on College Drive to stock up on drinks and snacks. I don’t think I’m hitting Whataburger tonight. It’s too far to drive. Ivar’s is probably too busy.
I did get a little typing done between dinner and the game. Looks like it will all flow smoothly and allow the return to Russell to be easy.
I’m going to blog about my nice dinner at TJ Ribs in my next post. Whether it’s late tonight or tomorrow morning remains to be seen. If I don’t post again, have a great night and a better tomorrow. If I do post, I hope you’re still up to read (actually, I don’t. Sleep is exponentially more important than my blog.).
I’m inside the press box at the new Alex Box Stadium. I had seen it plenty on television, but looking at it up close, it is impressive to say the least.
The press box is actually a press box, something it wasn’t at the original Alex Box. At the old park, the press box was open air and was two cramped rows, save for a little more room for LSU’s radio broadcasters.
Bill has his own booth, but he told me there are always a lot of people in the booth, which makes is as hectic as the old place. The official scorer–who happens to be my old pal Bryan Lazare–has a public address system to announce scoring decisions and pertinent statistics. In the old Box, the scorer had to use hand signals to convey decisions.
For the fans, the two biggest things are (a) an open concourse which allows fans to go to the concession stands and use the restrooms without missing much action, and (b) no obstructing poles in the grandstand, which was not uncommon in baseball parks built before World War II. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field still have them. Comiskey Park in Chicago and Tiger Stadium in Detroit were notorious for them.
Driving through campus to the stadium was sort of an out-of-body experience. I remembered the route from the Courtyard to Alex Box well enough, but many of the buildings I saw along West Lakeshore and South Stadium Drives were not there when I took my final class in the summer of 1999.
I’m glad LSU was able to build so much when there was good funding to education during the administrations of Mike Foster and Kathleen Blanco. Bobby Jindal cut education funding drastically, and although John Bel Edwards constantly states he wants to increase education funding exponentially, it’s hard to do with Louisiana’s budget in such dire straits. Just like Kansas, except K-12 education funding is the big problem in the Sunflower State, not that for higher education.
LSU and Tennessee are ready to begin. First “Baseball at the Box” since June 6, 2005.
Even if the Tigers don’t score a run this weekend–heaven forbid, but I don’t think that happens–the trip to Baton Rouge is already a smashing success. I’ll blog about it when I get back to the hotel.
Two thousand eight hundred forty nine days since I last departed Baton Rouge, I have returned.
It became official just before noon when my dad and I crossed the US 190 bridge over the Mississippi River. The bridge is now painted silver like the Interstate 10 bridge. Previously, it was orange, which matched the bauxite dust from the nearby Kaiser Aluminium plant, long since closed. When it opened in 1940, the bridge was blue, but when the dust kept coating the bridge, it turned orange, so the state decided enough was enough and stopped painting it blue.
The trip from Texarkana included a bit of hilarity in Shreveport. We stopped for gas along the last exit out of Shreveport heading south on Interstate 49. There are two stations on the road, a Chevron on the right (eastbound) and a Shell on the left (westbound). The Shell was selling gasoline for less than the Chevron. There were no cars at the Chevron, yet at the Shell, every pump was in use and there were line waiting to get their gas.
All to save six cents per gallon.
You read it right: SIX CENTS. One nickel and one penny.
In other words, many were there to save no more than $1.08, which would be 18 gallons of gas times six cents. One guy had a full-sized pickup truck and a generator to fuel. Even if he needed 50 gallons, he would still save a measly three bucks.
My dad decided to wait in line, since we had already pulled in to the Shell and didn’t want to cross the highway to go to Chevron.
We passed by the state capitol when we got to town, but traffic was nuts, so we decided to come back and try to get a picture Sunday. When we returned to Interstate 110 to get to I-10, traffic came to a crawl. Baton Rouge and traffic go together just like peanut butter and jelly.
In an hour, my dad and I will be going to eat at one of Baton Rouge’s most popular restaurants, TJ Ribs. We’ll be meeting someone from my past…
We have time. The game isn’t until 7:00. Tonight will be fine, but tomorrow is supposed to be very stormy as I mentioned earlier.
I will admit I’m nervous. I have not seen this person in a very long time. I have wanted to see them for a very long time.
Ten hours after leaving 1224 North Brooks Street, Russell, Kansas, my dad and I arrived in Texarkana. The hotel is on the Texas side of the state line right on Interstate 30.
There were a couple of rough moments today.
The first was in Wichita where a car was stopped on the left shoulder of Interstate 135, but was sticking out into the road. Luckily we saw the vehicle to avoid trouble. I hope the person in the car was not seriously hurt or worse. That looked like big-time trouble. And if there was an accident, I can only imagine how bad traffic would have been snarled on I-135.
The second came right before getting to the hotel. If you have ever driven in Texas, at least in metropolitan areas, you are aware there are frontage roads where hotels, restaurants and stores are located. In many instances, there is no direct access from an exit to your destination; you’ll have to probably use a frontage road for at least a mile, probably more.
In this case, we had to use the frontage road on Interstate 30 east for two miles to reach the hotel. The problem was, the turn was almost immediately after crossing a double white line, and that is very dangerous.
The danger almost came to pass, as a car came over the double white line and nearly sideswiped us. My dad made a quick maneuver to turn right into the hotel. The stuff in the back seat shifted, but we were okay. Just a little stunned.
That was enough excitement for one day. Other than that, it was a very good trip, with two stops at Love’s Travel Centers, which are as ubiquitous in Oklahoma and north Texas as strip clubs on Bourbon Street. Dinner tonight at On The Border was outstanding. I’m stuffed.
Tomorrow should be fabulous. We’ll be in Louisiana about an hour after leaving the hotel, and by 1:30, we should be in Baton Rouge. I cannot wait to see Bill, Michael Bonnette, Chris Blair and anyone else who shows up. And maybe someone I haven’t seen for a very, very, very long time. Someone I miss more than just about anyone on earth.
From what I have seen, it is going to be very cold back in Russell tomorrow. So cold that Hill City postponed its big track meet scheduled for tomorrow. Since Hill City put installed a world-class track at its stadium before the 2017 season, its meet has become one of the best for small schools anywhere in Kansas. It’s a shame it has to be pushed back to April 23, but Mother Nature is still undefeated.
Four enchiladas and some fajita meat and veggies (my dad couldn’t quite finish it) has done a number; thankfully, I didn’t eat breakfast and I restrained myself from eating too much at Chick-Fil-A for lunch, so it could be much worse. I will sleep well tonight. If I can sleep. The anticipation might keep me buzzed.
Have a good night. And a better tomorrow.
It’s here. In less than two hours, my dad and I will be on the road. Today’s destination: Texarkana. And no, we won’t have any beer, despite what Jerry Reed sang in “East Bound and Down”, the theme from Smokey and the Bandit.
I last went to Louisiana in 2010. Like that trip, I am not returning to New Orleans. Baton Rouge is the end of the line for us. There’s baseball and hopefully good food, but I have work to do during the down time. There is a lot of sitting and waiting during weekend baseball series, as I rediscovered last year in Lexington and two years ago in Columbia (Missouri, not South Carolina).
The trip actually got off to a bad start yesterday.
When my parents went to New Orleans last October, my mother’s Toyota was involved in an accident in the French Quarter. They had to drive back to Russell in a rental car while her car was being repaired. My mother offered us use of her Toyota for the trip, but my dad said no.
Instead, he decided to rent a car in Hays. I offered to drive to Wichita, leaving my car at the airport. But he declined. So we went to Hays yesterday to get the car.
If anything seems too good to be true, it is. And so it was with the car.
It was a 2018 Impala, a much more sophisticated version of my car.
Problem was, the air conditioner did not work. No refrigerant.
I was very angry. STEAMING. And for what? I made a fool of myself. Again. Another story for Crista and I to discuss in 16 days when I see her again.
My fear was there would not be a car for us in Hays, and we’d have to drive the sweatbox to Wichita to trade it out. Fortunately, another car, a Hyundai Sonata, arrived back in Hays at 5:15, so all is on track again.
The weather today will be just fine, albeit a bit hot for mid-April. Tomorrow is going to go downhill as the day goes on, but we should be able to drive from Texarkana to Baton Rouge without any problems.
Then comes Saturday. Rain chances 100 percent, as in it is going to rain; the only question is how much. Some models are predicting up to four inches. The good news is no severe weather is predicted in Oklahoma or Kansas on the trip, which is always a huge concern in spring.
Still nothing on a change to the weekend schedule. My thinking is they’ll try to wait out the rain Saturday and still attempt to play at the scheduled starting time of 6:30, rolling the dice and accepting the reality of two seven-inning games Sunday if the rain doesn’t abate. Tennessee should be in Baton Rouge by 5:00, so the wheels will start spinning then.
Tuesday and Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of one of my stranger experiences in college baseball.
LSU played Vanderbilt Easter weekend 1998 in Nashville. My dad and I drove up for the Friday and Saturday games, but missed the Sunday game to get back to Baton Rouge so I didn’t miss class Monday.
My dad and I left Thursday and stopped for the night in Tuscaloosa. Thank God we left Thursday, because the previous day, killer tornadoes struck Alabama, including an F5 which destroyed homes in suburbs of Birmingham. The motel where we stayed along Interstate 20/59 was destroyed by the April 2011 tornado which came perilously close to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Vanderbilt’s campus is not too far from downtown Nashville, in an area famously known as the West End. There are many upscale hotels, restaurants and shops along West End Boulevard, which runs from Interstate 440, the loop around Nashville, to downtown and the Cumberland River.
Vanderbilt’s campus is wedged in along the west end of West End, the quintessential urban university, which is totally opposite of the large state institutions which populate the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
Land at Vanderbilt is at a premium, and the athletic plant is no exception. The baseball field is wedged into a small space abutting the Commodores’ football stadium and Memorial Gymnasium, the basketball arena where the benches are along the end lines and the stands rise like balconies in a theater rather than encircle the court.
Vanderbilt has made it work despite the limitations. Hawkins Field is a wonderful facility, featuring a large press box and luxury boxes, chairback seats, and just about every amenity you would need for a school Vandy’s size.
The third base line at Hawkins Field shares a boundary with the east side of the football stadium. There is a 35-foot high “Black Monster” in left field to make sure most home run balls do not damage windows at Memorial Gymnasium.
It has certainly helped the Commodores go from SEC doormat to an established college baseball superpower, one which won the 2014 national championship. Of course, Tim Corbin, who has coached there since 2003, has been another big reason for Vandy’s success.
Prior to the construction of Hawkins Field, the Commodores’ diamond was, well, let’s just say, lacking.
What was known as McGugin Field, named because it was across the street from Vanderbilt’s McGugin Athletic Complex, was WAY below sub-standard for an SEC program. That’s being kind.
The listed capacity was 1,000. The Commodores hardly ever needed that many seats, save for SEC weekends which drew large crowds. Of course, LSU draws the largest crowds to SEC games, and as expected, purple and gold was all over the stands in Nashville that weekend.
Those stands were worse than what I have encountered in some high school football stadiums in rural Kansas. Think the visiting side of Russell High’s stadium. I can think of a few stadiums around here–Hill City, Norton, Phillipsburg–where the visiting stands are better than what Vandy had in those days. And there was no shade, which, sadly, is too common in the SEC.
(One place without a roof over its grandstand is Florida, which is ridiculous. The good news is the Gators will be moving into a new facility by 2021, one with a roof over the main seating area, which will mean the end of McKethan Stadium. I’m not shedding tears.)
There was no press box atop the “grandstand” at McGugin Field. Instead, the press sat in a trailer-like structure on top of the third base dugout. That actually was a step up from the past; Bill told me he and Jim Hawthorne broadcast from outdoors in both 1995 and ’96 and froze their butts off both times.
The problem was with the press “box” was there was no way to see down the third base line, since the trailer was very narrow and no way to see out the side towards the outfield. As bad as the open-air press box at the old Alex Box Stadium was, at least you could see the whole field.
Honestly, the SEC should have told Vandy it had to play conference games at Hesrchel Greer Stadium, which was then the home of the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. The Big 12 forced West Virginia to play its conference games elsewhere prior to 2015 since the Mountaineers’ stadium in Morgantown was horrible. That forced West Virginia to play games in other locales in the state, mostly in Huntington or Charleston, but sometimes in Beckley or Wheeling.
If Vandy had trouble finding dates at Greer, it should have been forced to another suitable facility, even if it were in Memphis or Chattanooga, or (God forbid) Knoxville and the Volunteers’ Lindsey Nelson Stadium. But college baseball in the late ’90s only mattered in Baton Rouge and Starkville. Other places can say they cared, but the reality was LSU and Mississippi State truly cared, and the others were going through the motions.
However, the SEC commissioner in those days, Roy Kramer, had been athletic director at Vandy for 12 years prior to making the move to Birmingham. No way he was going to rule against his former employer in that one.
LSU won the two games my dad and I attended, and Vandy won the Easter game. I returned to Nashville five years later, and of course, we were very happy to see Hawkins Field.
Those who play for Corbin today, or visit Vandy in the SEC, should be thankful for Hawkins Field. Their forefathers had it much worse.
Okay less than an hour to departure. Need to get in the shower. Signing off for now.
In less than 48 hours, my dad and I will be in Texarkana, resting after one long day of travel. The next morning, it is on to Baton Rouge for the weekend baseball series between LSU and Tennessee.
These will be the first baseball games I have witnessed on the LSU campus since the 2005 regional at the old Alex Box Stadium. Rice won that regional, defeating the Bayou Bengals twice. However, the Owls fell short of Omaha, returning to Louisiana a few days later and losing twice to Tulane in the super regional.
I have not seen the second Alex Box Stadium, which opened in 2009. I passed by it a few times in 2010 when I was last in Louisiana, but I never got close to the stadium. Now, in its 10th season of service, I’ll finally get an up close look at the the House of Mainieri.
In the past few years, I’ve attended LSU baseball series, but always away from Baton Rouge. It was Missouri in 2013 and 2016, and last year, it was Kentucky, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year, the only reasonably close drive for LSU’s five road series was Nashville, but there was too much going on that weekend (March 23-25) to go to Vanderbilt. Therefore, I suggested a trip to Baton Rouge, and my dad jumped on it.
Originally, we were going to go March 16-18 when LSU hosted Missouri, but events conspired to push it back.
The forecast is very dicey. It’s supposed to be warm and humid Friday–yuck–rain hard Saturday, then be very nice Sunday. It does not look like there will be a game Saturday. The question is whether the doubleheader will be Friday or Sunday.
If the doubleheader were Sunday, both games would be seven innings. The first game would probably start at noon, or 1 p.m. at the latest. One game must start at 4 p.m. since the SEC Network is televising the game. Here’s something weird: if there were a doubleheader Sunday, and the first game lasted past 3:15, it would be suspended and completed later that night, following the televised game.
The only way there can be a doubleheader Friday is if the SEC office grants a waiver, and both LSU and Tennessee agree to it. Last year, Kentucky asked for that waiver when LSU came to Lexington, and it was granted, and then Paul Mainieri gave his consent to Nick Miginone. It meant nearly eight hours of baseball and ten hours at the ballpark. If there is a doubleheader Friday, both games would be nine innings.
I didn’t think I would need long pants or long sleeves on this trip, but I’m bringing jeans and sweatshirts to be safe. The parka is staying back in Russell; last year, I wore it in Lexington.
I have slept 48 of the last 49 nights in my own bed in Russell. The exception was last Monday when I vacated to allow the work to be done in my bathroom. Next Thursday, it will be two months since I last left Kansas City. With Dawn now in Florida, with Lisa and Liz long gone from Buffalo Wild Wings, and maybe those pauses between Kansas City will become longer and longer.
All I know is it has been way too long since I’ve seen Baton Rouge. And way, way, way too long since I’ve seen certain people in that city. Hopefully the drought ends before I depart next Monday morning.
My God, I have gone way, way, WAY too long without posting. I am sorry. I am also very lazy.
There were some problems just before Thanksgiving, problems I do not wish to divulge, problems I do not wish to bore you, the good reader, with.
As for Thanksgiving itself, I didn’t eat upstairs with my parents, my paternal grandfather and his female companion. I did eat some turkey and fried cauliflower later, but no dressing, no mac and cheese, no sweet potatoes, and certainly no cranberry, which I have never eaten. Turkey sandwiches were just fine with me, thank you.
Kansas held its EIGHT high school football state championship games at SEVEN sites. Utterly ridiculous. I have ranted and raved about this for over a decade.
By comparison, Louisiana’s high school championships begin today. All nine games (too many) will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
I’ll talk about that in another post.
It’s very cold this morning in Kansas City. THANK GOD. Last weekend, it was close to 70 degrees. Unacceptable in this part of the country in December. I hated it when it was 70 degrees in Louisiana in winter. I REALLY hate it in Kansas and Missouri.
The Chiefs suspended cornerback Marcus Peters for this Sunday’s game with the Raiders at Arrowhead.
Last week, Peters threw a penalty flag into the stands at MetLife Stadium last Sunday during Kansas City’s loss to the Jets. Thinking he was ejected, he went back to the locker room, only to return without his socks.
Andy Reid, who would rather go through a root canal without anesthesia than punish a player, finally got tough with Peters, a known malcontent.
My question: what took until Wednesday, Andy? It should have been done before the Chiefs’ plane departed Newark Liberty International Airport after the game. Bill Belichick would not put up with this shit. After Rob Gronkowski speared Bills safety Tre’Davius White following an interception Sunday, Gronk was done for the day. The NFL suspended him for one game, and I’m certain had it not, Belichick would have punished Gronk in his own way.
The college coaching carousel is in full spin mode.
Arkansas, which waited eight seconds after losing its season finale to Missouri on Black Friday to fire Bret Bielema, hired SMU coach Chad Morris. Morris is 14-22 with the Mustangs, but let’s face it, SMU has been a wasteland since the NCAA gave the program the death penalty in 1987, shutting down the Mustang football team for the ’87 and ’88 seasons. SMU has done next to nothing since, and for Morris to win 14 games in three years has to be considered a success. The Razorbacks are definitely betting on the come, given Morris tutored DeShaun Watson at Clemson for two seasons before leaving for the richy-rich school in the University Park section of Dallas.
Jimbo Fisher traded Tallahassee for College Station. I don’t know of many coaches who would want to challenge Nick Saban every year, but Fisher has the ego. Texas A&M made it easy, giving Fisher a FULLY GUARANTEED 10-year, $75 million contract.
To replace Fisher, Florida State hired Willie Taggart, who went 7-5 in his first season at Oregon. Previously, Taggart coached at Western Kentucky and South Alabama. Florida State is in danger of becoming a distant third in its own state behind Miami and Florida, but the Seminoles also may become an afterthought in the ACC Atlantic, where Dabo Swinney has built a superpower at Clemson.
And it looks like Tennessee will have a coach today or tomorrow. It’s likely going to be Jeremy Pruitt, currently defensive coordinator at Alabama. Then again, being defensive coordinator at Alabama doesn’t carry much cachet, since everyone knows it’s Nick Saban’s defense.
The last time I posted, Butch Jones was still Tennessee’s football coach. He would not be three days later, fired after the Volunteers lost 50-17 at Missouri. It got no better for Tennessee under interim coach Brady Hoke, who lost to LSU and Vanderbilt, both in Knoxville.
The day after the loss to the Commodores, the Volunteers appeared to have found their man in former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, now the defensive coordinator at Ohio State under Urban Meyer.
My first thought? BAD HIRE. Schiano is an uptight prick. He alienated people across the NFL in his second game with the Bucs when he ordered his defense to attack Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was kneeling down to run out the clock, which is standard operating procedure in football since the Miracle of the Meadowlands, the 1978 play which saw the Giants’ Joe Pisarcik botch an attempted handoff to Larry Csonka and fumble. Philadelphia Eagles safety Herm Edwards scooped up the fumble and scored in the game’s dying seconds, lifting his team to a 19-17 victory, and eventually, the Eagles’ first playoff berth since winning the 1960 NFL championship.
Schiano was even worse in his second year with the Bucs, covering up several cases of MRSA, a deadly infection which is resistant to antibiotics. Thousands of people have died from the infection. Kicker Lawrence Tynes contracted the infection, but instead of placing him on injured reserve, the Bucs screwed him royally by placing him on the non-football injury list, which meant he would not be paid, he would not have access to the Bucs’ doctors, he would lose his health insurance, and lose a year of service time for pension benefits.
What a piece of crap. What did Tennessee see in this guy?
People who defended Schiano said he won at Rutgers, which is usually pitiful. But I say he was ONE GAME over .500 (68-67) with the Scarlet Knights, and Rutgers did not win consistently until Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech all left the Big East for the ACC.
Well, Volunteer fans let their displeasure know via social media. But it wasn’t over what happened with the Bucs, or his mediocre record at Rutgers. Rather, it was the fact he had allegedly covered up sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky. Schiano had been an assistant at Penn State under Joe Paterno before leaving for Piscataway. I don’t know the full details, but the reaction in Knoxville was swift and overwhelmingly negative. Even state legislatures and U.S. Representatives took to Twitter to denounce Schiano.
Six hours after it first broke Schiano was heading to Knoxville, the offer was rescinded.
Athletic director John Currie went on the hunt for a new coach. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy? Nope. Duke’s David Cutcliffe, who was offensive coordinator at Tennessee when Peyton Manning played there? No thanks. North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren? Nope.
Currie thought he had his man on the last day of November, flying to Los Angeles to meet with Washington State coach Mike Leach. Leach, who previously coached at Texas Tech, is as goofy as they come. Would he have fit in the SEC, which is as buttoned up as it comes in college football: I don’t know.
However, the next day, Currie was asked to return to Knoxville by Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport. The reason: Currie was given his pink slip. Fired after less than nine months in charge.
Philip Fulmer, who coached Tennessee to the 1998 national championship, was named as Currie’s successor. After rumors first leaked that Fulmer reached out to former LSU and Oklahoma State coach Les Miles about the position, Pruitt emerged as the front-runner, ahead of fellow SEC defensive coordinators Kevin Steele (Auburn) and Mel Tucker (Georgia).
That seems to be the new trend in the SEC: hire somebody who coached under Saban. Pruitt will become the third coach in the SEC East who was once a Saban assistant, joining Kirby Smart at Georgia and Will Muschamp at South Carolina. Muschamp was a teammate of Smart’s at Georgia and also coached Florida for four seasons before ending up in Gainesville.
Of course, Saban assistants aren’t always successful. Jim McElwain, the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator on their national championship teams of 2009 and ’11, bombed in three seasons at Florida. He was replaced by Dan Mullen, the winningest football coach in Mississippi State history. The Bulldogs were ranked #1 for several weeks in 2014, thanks to the exploits of Dak Prescott, now the Dallas Cowboys’ starting QB.
I’ve got to do better at posting. Much better. I will reflect on this in the time between posts, which hopefully will be very short.
For those hoping for exciting football games, the first day of 2016 has been a huge disappointment.
All four bowl games so far have been one-sided, to put it mildly. Oklahoma State and Ole Miss face off in the Sugar Bowl starting at 7:30 CT, the last chance for excitement today.
The two bowls in Florida were total laughers. The combined score? 86 points for the winning teams, 13 for the losers. It was a split decision for the Big Ten and SEC, as Tennessee mauled Northwestern 45-6 in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, and Michigan stomped Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando.
The Fiesta Bowl was just as bad. Ohio State led 14-0 early and Notre Dame never got closer than 10 points. The Buckeyes ended up winning 44-28, despite playing all but the first nine minutes of the game without All-America defensive end Joey Bosa, who was ejected for hitting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer with the crown of his helmet. Bosa has already announced he is leaving Ohio State for the NFL Draft, and some project him as the No. 1 overall pick, and all mock drafts have him in the top five.
Iowa, which was 12-0 in the regular season but lost the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State, was all pumped up about playing in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 25 years.
Too bad the Hawkeyes no-showed in Pasadena.
Stanford is taking Iowa to school. The Cardinal led 21-0 after less than 11 minutes and 35-0 at halftime. Iowa finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it’s far too little, far too late.
The Hawkeyes have not won the Rose Bowl since the 1958 season, when the legendary Forrest Evashevski was still coaching in Iowa City.
Florida ended up losing its last three games to finish 10-4. Yes, the Gators were improved in their first season under Jim McIlwain following two bad seasons under Will Muschamp, who somehow got the head coaching gig at South Carolina last month. However, the Gators were absolutely putrid offensively this season, the worst Florida’s offense has been since Ron Zook coached the team from 2002-05, and maybe as bad as 1986, the year before Emmitt Smith arrived in Gainesville.
Northwestern’s stinker makes me wonder how the hell the Wildcats beat Stanford, especially in light of how bad the Cardinal are beating Iowa. And the Hawkeyes won 40-10 in Evanston in October.
Iowa scored another touchdown. Yippee. Brent Musburger just said the Hawkeyes are winning the second half. Come on, Brent, we all know football games are SIXTY minutes, not thirty. Stanford could care less.