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The last–or next to last–post of 2019

The final 24 hours of 2019–and the 2010s–for those of us six hours behind Greenwich Mean Time are underway.

It will be 2020 at this time tomorrow. YIPPEEE!

Those of you who are going to some lame party later this evening to celebrate the flipping of a calendar–GET A FREAKING LIFE.

I hate New Year’s Eve. I find it to be contrived, phony and nothing but cow feces. Your life is not going to magically change because the year changed. Your debts will not be magically erased because the year changed. Your favorite team is not going to magically win the championship of their league because the year changed.

Resolutions are just as pointless. Why bother? Most people, myself included, are only going to break them.

If I am up when 2019 becomes 2020, I will not be watching live television. I never watched Dick Clark hosting from Times Square, and I certainly have never watched Ryan Seacrest. That tradition should have ended when Clark suffered his debilitating stroke in 2004, and if not then, definitely when Clark passed away in 2012.

I never considered venturing to the French Quarter on New Year’s Eve when I lived in New Orleans. Too many a-holes in the Big Easy like to shoot guns in the air to celebrate the flipping of the calendar, and tragically, it killed a tourist from Massachusetts in the first minutes of 1995, a harbinger of what was to come.

I ended 1995 at the Superdome watching Virginia Tech beat Texas in the Sugar Bowl, the night Frank Beamer’s Hokies officially became a power player on the national college football scene. Four years later, Beamer’s squad was back in New Orleans, losing to Florida State in that year’s BCS championship game.

I got an up close look at Beamer during the leadup to the Sugar Bowl in January 2005, when the Hokies faced Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn Tigers. I came to the conclusion Beamer was one of the nicest men to ever coach college football. If I had a son who had a chance to play football for a Power Five school, I hope he’d have Virginia Tech high on his list..

Anyone who has a bad thing to say about Frank Beamer needs help. A great coach and a greater man. The game is a little emptier without him on the sideline in Blacksburg.

Say what you want about Tuberville, but I enjoyed seeing him at press conferences that week as well. Sadly, the man who called Auburn’s 16-13 victory in that Sugar Bowl for Auburn radio, Rod Bramblett, was killed along with his wife by a reckless teen driver this past May. Ironically, Bramblett became Auburn’s play-by-play announcer for football after his predecessor, Jim Fyffe, passed away from a heart attack in 2003. Life is cruel.

Witnessing the Hokies’ defeat John Mackovic’s Longhorns was one of the best days of 1995 for me. Tells you how bad that year was. It is the only time I have been out past 2100 on New Year’s Eve, and it’s something I don’t want to repeat. As long as I’m in Russell on December 31, I won’t have to worry about that.

Speaking of college football, it’s a good thing LSU and Clemson will have two weeks to prepare for the showdown in my native city. LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger and the rest of the Bayou Bengal family needs the time to grieve the loss of Carley McCord, a sports broadcaster with New Orleans’ NBC affiliate, WDSU, who died in a plane crash in Lafayette with the pilot and three other passengers five hours before the Peach Bowl kicked off. McCord was married to Steve’s first child, Steve Jr.

McCord, who received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern State in Natchitoches and her master’s from LSU, was only 30. Sadly, Natchitoches is where singer Jim Croce perished in 1973 after a small plane crashed just after takeoff from the small town’s airport.

(In case you haven’t looked a a map of Louisiana, Natchitoches is almost halfway between Alexandria and Shreveport along Interstate 49. It’s where the blockbuster motion picture Steel Magnolias was filmed.)

Steve Ensminger was the football coach at Central High, where he was a star athlete from 1972-76, in 2001. I covered two of his team’s games, losses to perennial powers St. Amant and East Ascension. The Wildcats may have been overmatched by their foes from Ascension Parish in those games, but they were disciplined and fundamentally sound. Those kids had to be thrilled to be coached by a Central legend, an ex-LSU quarterback, and someone who had been a college assistant at powerhouses like Georgia and Texas A&M. Ensminger’s wife, Nancy, coached Central’s softball team for many years, and his daughters were All-State pitchers for the Wildcats.

My oldest friend on earth, Rosemarie Renz Huguet, now teaches in the Central school system, as does Michele Ashmore LeBeouf, who helped St. Joseph’s Academy go 165-9 and win four consecutive volleyball state championships from 2001-04.

A lot of people criticized Ed Orgeron when he kept Ensminger on staff following the 2016 firing of Les Miles, but Orgeron has had the last laugh. Ensminger, who preferred a run-heavy offense in his earlier years, has proven to be flexible and able to adapt to the pass-first mentality of 2019. Orgeron also deserves credit for coming to that conclusion after Alabama came to Baton Rouge in 2018 and embarrassed the Bayou Bengals 29-0. He hired Joe Brady, who along with Ensminger helped Joe Burrow enjoy one of the best seasons for a quarterback in college football history.

Two questions remain for Burrow: (a) Can he complete the job against Clemson, and (b) Will he enjoy a long and prosperous NFL career, something only two previous LSU quarterbacks (Y.A. Tittle and Bert Jones), have done?

It’s a shame Ensminger never got the chance to be a college head coach, yet I think he’s happy where he is and is content with never occupying the big office.

He was cordial enough to me when I interviewed him after the 2001 games, but wasn’t as quotable as coaches like Dale Weiner (Baton Rouge Catholic), Sid Edwards (Redemptorist and later Central), Kenny Guillot (Parkview Baptist), David Masterson (Northeast), J.T. Curtis (John Curtis) and Hank Tierney (Shaw and now Ponchatoula). It’s not that he dislikes the media. Instead, he’s comfortable staying in the background and letting Ed Orgeron do the talking. Nothing wrong with that.

Another rambling post in the books. Night.

Football, the Sunday savior

It’s the first Sunday of the NFL season. Thank God. Sundays without football are pretty bad.

The second part of Saturday was much better than the first, although I got mad at Lisa when I should not have, and I felt terrible about it. I would have felt terrible on a normal day, but last night, I felt a thousand times worse, since Lisa was having back pain. I should not be hard on her at any time because she’s been such a good friend to me, but last night, I should have really backed off. Not only was she hurting, she was really busy. I had no right to do what I did.

Lisa came in this morning. At least she doesn’t have to work a double shift like she did yesterday, but she told me she has to go study for a chemistry test after. I wish there was something I could do.

I stayed until almost midnight because Liz and Sydnie Adler were still working. I also stayed through the end of the Virginia Tech-Ohio State football game. The Hokies claimed one of the biggest regular season victories in the program’s history by knocking off the Buckeyes 35-21, handing Urban Meyer his first regular season loss as Ohio State coach.

I was happy to see Frank Beamer get such a big win. Beamer is one of the nicest people in college football, and his Hokie teams are the kind you want to root for. It’s hard to attract elite athletes to Blacksburg, Virginia, which is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke and isn’t exactly up there among destinations for teenagers. Beamer could easily have been run off when his early VT teams struggled, but the administration stuck with him, and by 1995, he had the Hokies consistently playing in major bowl games and contending for conference championships, first in the Big East and now in the ACC.

I got to see Beamer up close during the week leading up to the Sugar Bowl following the 2004 season. I was working with the media relations staff for the Sugar Bowl, and twice I saw Beamer at press conferences. He was the quintessential gentleman. He was polite to all who asked questions, he didn’t shy away from answering any questions, and he was always honest and straight to the point. You can’t ask more out of anyone. It was a great week, because Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was the same way.

You also want to root for VT because of the horrible massacre of April 16, 2007, when a deranged sicko killed 32 innocent people, all of whom were students or faculty members. I’ve seen countless incidents of school violence through the years, and I thank God it never happened at a school I was attending, nor has it happened to any of my friends.

I”m back at Buffalo Wild Wings, occupying the same booth cushion I did from 4 until 12 yesterday. I’m going to get wings today for the first time in who knows when. The Chiefs play the Titans at noon, and the place is filling up fast with a lot of people wearing red and gold. I’ve also seen a few Saints fans, Bears fans, but no Cowboys fans yet, since they don’t play until 3:25. The Cardinals don’t play until tomorrow night in the late game.

I’ve got a lot of work to do from the first week of the high school sports season. Hopefully I can knock a lot of it out tomorrow and then be ready to go home Tuesday.