Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Thanks, NCAA ... your timing is absurd

Robert Parish at Centenary
(The Shreveport Times photo)
     The top part here was written by John James Marshall for the web site (check it out), with the headline: "Out of record book? Parish the thought!"
     It is not often -- ever? -- that "Centenary basketball" and "Son of Sam" gets used in the same sentence. There you have it!
     This is all due to the recent announcement that the NCAA will now officially recognize Robert Parish's statistics while he played for the Gents in the 1970s. As David Berkowitz -- 1970s serial killer in New York City known as "Son of Sam" -- said when they came to arrest him, "What took you so long?"
     The beginning and the end to this story defy description as far as absurdity is concerned. To make a very long story short, back in 1972 when Parish was about to enter  Centenary, the NCAA used a formula based on high school grades and standardized tests to predict a player's GPA, which needed to equate to at least a 1.600. But Parish didn't take the SAT, so Centenary converted his score from the ACT and used that for the NCAA formula. Centenary had done this for the previous two years and nary a peep. But when the No. 1 recruit in the nation showed up, the NCAA took notice and told Centenary that the move was "illegal." (Parish wasn't the only Gents player who this had been applied to.) 
     So the NCAA dropped six years on probation on the Gents -- unless they yanked the scholarships of Parish and four others. Centenary told the NCAA to go jump in the lake.
     (One questions remains more than 45 years later:  Why didn't Parish and the others just take the SAT? It's not like they have to achieve a Harvard-like score.)
     Eventually the NCAA did away with the formula (called the 1.6 rule), but still stuck the hammer to Centenary. There is the favorite (and often misquoted) line by famed coach Jerry Tarkanian, who often said (kind of): "Every time the NCAA gets made at (UCLA/Kentucky/other big guys), they add another two years' probation to (Centenary/Cleveland State/other little guys). Tarkanian filled in whatever blanks he needed to fit the audience, but the message was clear -- Centenary was getting hosed.
     Parish and others could have gone anywhere else and been instantly eligible, but they stayed on Kings Highway and had a memorable four-year run.
     When it was over, he had 2,334 points and 1,820 rebounds, but you'd never know it because the NCAA did not recognize his stats in its record book. Only two players in the history of college basketball have more points AND rebounds than Parish's totals.
     So what happened? Did someone wake up at the NCAA one day last week and say, "OK, it's been 40 years. Enough's enough?" Were there protest marches outside the NCAA office and they were worried about the PR hit they were taking?
     Actually, to Centenary's credit, the school made an appeal last year to the NCAA seeking "reinstatement." After they woke up the guy in charge of such things, the appeal was granted. And then the NCAA turned around and slapped Louisville around by denying its appeal of the vacated 2013 championship.
     Somewhere out there, Jerry Tarkanian is smiling.
     My take (as a sportswriter who wrote about Parish's high school and college careers in Shreveport):
     Surprised by this, but I am not thrilled about it. It's OK.
      It was so long ago, and the NCAA's "banishment" of the Parish statistics did not hurt his fabulous Basketball Hall of Fame career at all. 
      Don't see that it makes a lot of difference now, except for the principle that the NCAA -- after 42 to 46 years -- is admitting how petty it was in 1973-76.
      Centenary benefited greatly from Parish being in school there, Robert and his family benefited greatly, and so did the basketball fans of Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana.
      Can't tell you that Centenary did not break rules in admitting Robert to school. LSU (Dale Brown) and Indiana (Bob Knight) gladly would have taken him in their program, but were clear to Parish's high school coach (Ken Ivy) that he would not qualify academically.
      Still, what the NCAA did to Centenary was best captured by then-Gents athletic director/head basketball coach Larry Little's remark that Centenary was given a death-penalty sentence for a speeding ticket.
      Parish, in those years, got enough publicity to be known in many parts of the nation; I know this because I was the Centenary sports information director his senior season and set up several interviews with writers from other areas.
      Plus, we sent out a flier touting Robert's accomplishments to most major newspapers and college/pro basketball sources in the country, and each week the NCAA statistics came out, we made sure to note where Robert would have ranked in points, rebounds, shooting percentage, etc.
      Centenary showed up regularly in the Associated Press national Top Twenty or Top 25 polls because Jerry Byrd of the Shreveport Journal was on the voting panel in Parish's last couple of seasons and would vote the Gents No. 2 or 3 each week, giving them enough points to wind up in the Nos. 17-20 positions. (For some reason, Byrd's vote was taken away after that last season.)
      Where the NCAA six-year penalty hurt Centenary most -- my opinion -- was not Parish himself, but the team not being eligible for postseason play.
      It is highly unlikely that Centenary had a good enough record and enough victories over prominent opponents to have been selected for the NCAA Tournament, which then had a 32-team field (but no more than one team per conference). But the NIT (16-team field) would have been a strong possibility -- a likely spot, because of Robert's presence -- for Centenary.
      The example is this: In the 1975-76 season (Robert's senior year), one of the teams chosen for the NIT was U. North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC), featuring Cedric Maxwell and Lew Massey and coached by Lee Rose. That season Centenary beat UNCC in Shreveport and lost by one point at Charlotte in the season's next-to-last game (and Centenary missed a wide-open last-second shot).
      UNCC finished second in the NIT, in Madison Square Garden (lost to Kentucky). 
      The next season UNCC made the NCAA Tournament, and went all the way to the Final Four (lost to eventual champion Marquette, by two points). 
      Maxwell would go on to be a teammate of Robert Parish with the Boston Celtics and be the MVP of the 1981 NBA Finals. Lee Rose would move from UNCC to coach at Purdue, and was back in the Final Four with a Joe Barry Carroll-led team in 1980.
       (Small-world department: The Golden State Warriors made Joe Barry Carroll the No. 1 pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and their starting center, and traded their previous starter. That was ... Robert Parish, who made the most out of being sent to Boston. First year: NBA champions.)
       But, of course, Parish then was still persona non grata to the NCAA, and remained that way through this last week. Yes, a 7-footer who could not being seen.
       We saw him. People in Shreveport and North Louisiana saw him. People all over the country, and the world, saw him -- after he got to the NBA. 
       And now we can even see where he ranked -- officially -- in the NCAA statistics. Like it matters a lot now. 
       If the NCAA had done this anywhere from 1973 to 1976, it would have been a lot more appealing to me. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

If it is Olympics speed skating, color it Orange

      Not as much of an Olympics fan as I once was, and not that interested in the Winter Olympics ... except for speed skating.
      That's right. It is the Dutch in me. The Dutch love speed skating, and they are excellent at it.
      For the past two decades, they have dominated long-track (outdoor) speed skating.
      Give you the facts: At the last Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, 2014, The Netherlands won 23 of the possible 36 medals in the sport -- men and women combined. Eight gold, seven silver, eight bronze. Domination.
      That included four 1-2-3 finishes, only Dutch people standing on the medal podiums and the Dutch flag being raised on the flag poles, and the Wilhelmus -- oldest national anthem in the world -- being played.
      Loved it. Mom and Dad would have loved it. My Dutch friends -- especially those in that small but marvelous and beautiful country -- loved it.
      Could it happen again? Not likely, but the Dutch team is still deep and talented.
Kees Broekman (photo from a 1955
sports book in Holland; I still have it.)
      And it all began with Kees Broekman in 1952. My first sports hero, the first athlete from Holland -- I was 4 1/2 there then -- to win a Winter Olympics medal.
      He's still a hero there. More on this below. 
      I will watch parts of the Opening Ceremony tonight on NBC-TV -- recording it -- because I like the Olympic pomp.
      Especially like when the Olympic flag is marched in, solemnly, and when the Olympic torch arrives at the main stadium and is fired up. Beautiful sight, always.
      But as for the Winter Games themselves, when is the speed skating?
      Answer: It begins Saturday, and there will be one event each of the first seven days. 
      Good thing is, don't have to watch it all. We can be selective. Because South Korea is so many hours ahead of us, the competition starts at about 5 a.m. here. Not about to get up and start watching. 
      I will wait for the results to be posted. If the news is good (if the Dutch or the Americans do well), I will watch the event that evening on NBC. 
      If not, that's fine, too. Outdoor speed skating, honestly, is not terribly exciting. Two competitors only at a time, and the clock is their main opponent. The grass is growing, paint is drying, watched water doesn't boil , your computer hourglass is spinning (cliches' for b-o-r-i-n-g).
      But it's not boring if you are rooting for the winners. So I watched a lot of speed skating in 2014. Hoping for more of the same.
      (Short-track speed skating -- which is like roller derby -- can be more exciting. It's faster, there is bodily contact at almost every turn, and it doesn't take nearly as long as long-track. But, dang it, it is a contrived sport.)
      For me, the widespread Winter Olympics menu is down to speed skating and ice hockey.
      And even hockey now has its limitations. It was very interesting to watch the U.S. and Canadian teams, and other world powers, matched when they all had National Hockey League players on their rosters. But no more; the NHL pulled out after 2014.
      So the U.S. team is down to mostly collegiate players. They will compete hard, and we'll root them on. 
      What we remember, of course, is that it was a team of U.S. college players who gave us the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980 (Lake Placid) -- the upset of the mighty not-so-invincible Soviet Union team I consider the No. 1 U.S. sports moment of my lifetime.  
      Some of the old standbys that I watched in the early TV days of the Winter Olympics, beginning in 1960 (Squaw Valley, Calif.) -- Alpine skiing, bobsledding, luge and ski jumping -- are in my past. 
       You can have snowboarding, skeleton, freestyle skiing (moguls? The only mogul I know is Taylor Moore), biathlon, Nordic combined, and -- oh, Canada, it's a curling iron.
       Figure skating gets so much attention -- millions of TV viewers -- and used to watch. But it's like gymnastics (and, heaven forbid, the ugly side of it); those sports are so tainted by the judges' national leanings, the beauty of the events does not outweigh the slanted scoring. I'm out.
      It has been six years -- Summer Games in London, 2012 -- since I wrote about the Olympics, and my love for them.
       Now I think that, like so much of American sports, the Olympics are too much -- money, attention, oversaturation, more television hours than anyone can handle. 
        And arguably, too much politics and too much nationalism. 
       I contradict that by saying that I root for the red, white and blue -- the Americans in every sport (yeah, America first!). Except for speed skating and -- Winter Olympics aside, when it applies -- soccer.
       In those sports, my No. 1 country is also red-white-and-blue (the Dutch flag, horizontally from top to bottom) with orange -- the national color, thank you, the royal House of Orange -- as the main uniform color.                
        America has had some speed skating legends -- Eric Heiden (five golds in one Olympics), Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen (when he stayed on his feet), and, in short-track, Apolo Anton Ohno (who also ballroom danced championship-style on TV). The still-active Shani Davis is our biggest name now.
        The Netherlands' superstar in the sport was Ard Schenk (three gold medals in 1972). But he followed the legacy of my man Kees Broekman.
The silver medalist, Kees Broekman (left), could only
look up to gold winner Hjalmar Andersen in 1952. 
         Kees competed in four Olympics, first at age 20 in 1948 and last at Squaw Valley in '60. Twice (1956-'60) he was The Netherlands' flagbearer for the Winter Games. By then, he actually had moved to live in Norway.
         He really never got close to winning Olympic gold, though. His misfortune was his peak came when Hjalmar Andersen of Norway was the best in the world, a three-time gold medalist in 1952 (that guy was not popular in my house). Kees finished 11 seconds behind in the 5,000, 25 seconds back in the 10,000. Not close.
          And when he finally did win a major championship, the all-around title in the 1953 European Championships, it coincided with the Jan. 31-Feb. 1 night of the massive North Sea flood of the greater part of southern Holland.
          Broekman's skating career carried over into coaching. He was tutoring skaters in Berlin, where he moved, when he died at age 65 in November 1992.
          But some of us never forgot him, and there is a street named for him in Amsterdam. Nice. 
          And he is the first reason why people whose blood sometimes bleeds Dutch orange were blessed with the speedskating gene.       
          Skate on. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An inspirational story: Connie Smith has made his life meaningful

          Connie Smith has been an inspiration to anyone who knows him, and the story linked below bears that out.
     He has been partially paralyzed since a swimming accident in 1971 -- the first two vertebrae in his neck were crushed -- but he has made a life for himself.
     It is a story much like that of Kenneth Harvey (Logansport), subject of a series of stories/posts on my blog and on Facebook. Their courage, and faith, and the lives they have lived since each had a horrific moment as  young men are testaments to strong will.
     Both were outstanding high school athletes, and Connie went on to compete in college for three years. But their dreams of athletic fame were shattered.
     Researching baseball history in North Louisiana brought a reminder of Connie Smith, who starred at Spearsville (La.) High School and in American Legion baseball for the T.L. James Contractors of Ruston, and then at East Texas Baptist College.
     He was a versatile baseball player, a leader, an All-State catcher in high school (Class B, 1968, .427 average, four home runs in 15 games) who played first base in Legion baseball, and then after a year at Louisiana Tech in which playing time was more sparing, a pitcher and shortstop after a transfer to ETBC.
     He also was a good high school basketball player, helping Spearsville into the state regionals, and was one of the top scorers on the La. Tech freshman team in 1968-69 (my senior year there). 
     "But baseball was my passion," he said. 
     His talent was impressive enough that he was selected in the 1971 Major League Baseball draft by  the San Francisco Giants. 
     MLB at that time did make the draft-pick lists public instantly, nor did we at The Shreveport Times cover it closely. So, unless you were around Spearsville and Ruston then, the news of his being drafted did not make The Times until three weeks later. 
     His accident occurred two weeks later, seven days after his 21st birthday. Life changed forever.
     After a long rehabilitation period, Connie -- in his wheelchair -- worked in law enforcement for some 35 years.
Connie and Linda Smith (from his Facebook page)
     And then he had a calling to serve the Lord. For the past 15 years, he has been pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in rural Dubach, La. -- 13 miles north of Ruston. It is another 19 miles north to Spearsville (also rural), which is in upper Union Parish near the Arkansas border.
     Spearsville -- many familiar with North Louisiana athletics know this -- is a basketball/baseball town. Among my friends from there, athletes all, were the late Cecil Upshaw, Ike Futch, R.V. Lockwood, Joey Barron and James Smith (Connie's older brother).
     James is back living in Spearsville after 25 years as a women's basketball coach at Northwestern State University, where he became a legend. After eight seasons as top assistant coach, he was the Lady Demons' head coach for 17 years, and his teams won 340 games and played in four postseason tournaments (two NCAAs). 
      And you know he is as proud of his younger brother, as Connie is of him.
      Connie and wife Linda built a home with a Farmerville address and lived there for 35-plus years. When he turned to his second career -- as a pastor -- they moved to a home a quarter-mile from the Fellowship church.
      "I love it here," Connie said Monday when we talked by phone. "This is one of those things God just opened up for us."
      Here then is a story written by Brian Blackwell in July 2006 and posted online on
     Wheelchair not a handicap for this pastor
     DUBACH -- Pastor Connie Smith may be confined to a wheelchair, but his congregation has never considered his disability a hindrance to their leader's ministry.
      "Since Brother Connie has been here, we don't even notice that he has a limitation," Deacon William Green said of their pastor, who was called to Fellowship Baptist Church in Dubach last month. "His good qualities outweigh that."
     Before Smith became pastor at Fellowship Baptist, Connie Ward said the congregation was struggling with transition. Since then, Fellowship Baptist and Smith have been the perfect fit for one another.
      "The people's attitude toward Connie (Smith) is what Fellowship Baptist is all about," explained Ward, pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church in Farmerville. "To see God bring these two together has been a joy to my heart."
The Shreveport Times story, Aug. 1, 1971
     Smith's journey to Fellowship Baptist is an amazing story, indeed. If not for an accident on July 11, 1971, Smith may never have entered into the ministry.
     A former draft pick of the San Francisco Giants, Smith was spending that afternoon in 1971 with some friends at an East Texas lake before he was scheduled to report to camp in a week-and-a-half to play for the baseball team's A farm club.
     But in the blink of an eye, the Spearsville native's life changed.
     Smith attempted to skim just beneath the top of the water. However, in what Smith calls a "freakish accident," his forehead hit the bottom of the lake, three feet deep, leaving him paralyzed.
     Smith's next one-and-a-half years were spent in Denver and New Orleans hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
     Soon after he completed his rehabilitation in 1971, Smith married his high school sweetheart, Linda, and entered the workforce.
      "I couldn't have made it without Linda," Smith said. "She has been such a help to me as a spouse and pastor."
     After working as a dispatcher at the Union Parish Sheriff's Office, he moved to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center to become the control room operator. By the time, he retired from the detention center, Smith had worked himself to the position of assistant warden.
     Since he was retired, Smith devoted more time to service at Zion Hill Baptist. It was there that Smith discovered his need for Christ and, in 1995, he made a profession of faith.
     For the next eight years, Smith was an active member of the church, serving as a deacon. Eventually, his heart for Christian service led to a call to full-time ministry in 2004.
      "I had been feeling God dealing with me for some time," Smith said. "For years I had run from salvation. But I told Connie Ward that I wasn't going to run from this call to preach."
     One year later Zion Hill Baptist called Smith as its associate pastor.
      To support his call to preach, Zion Hill Baptist allowed Smith to preach monthly one Sunday there and two Sundays at other area churches. One church he preached at, Fellowship Baptist, extended a call to serve as its interim pastor in August 2005.
     For three months, Smith struggled with the decision.
     "Each day my family, which now included a God-given 15-year-old daughter, Heather Elizabeth Meredith, and I passed by Zion Hill as I was on my way to preach at Fellowship," Smith said. "It hit me that the Lord was leading me away from Zion Hill to be the pastor of Fellowship. We felt like if it was God's will, I wanted to be at the center of His will."
     In December 2005, Smith accepted the call as interim pastor. Six months later, the church called Smith as its pastor by unanimous secret ballot votes.
     "I had struggled with the possibility of 'no' votes," Smith recalled. "For my assurance that this was God's leading, I wanted there to be unity among the members.
     "When I found that 100 percent of the congregation voted to call me as pastor, it reassured me that this was the place for me to serve."
     For Smith, Fellowship Baptist has been like a second family.
     "God couldn't place me in a better situation and church," Smith said. "From the time I was here, I felt at home immediately."
     He is still serving today.
     "God has truly blessed me," Connie said Monday. "A lot of people died from accidents like what happened to me. I was able to work all my life, and I have not had any major health problems.
     "It was definitely a change [in lifestyle, after the accident," he said. "But it has been a blessed life."
     And the kid baseball player -- who was a player -- added this: "When spring is near, I can still feel the spring of the ball coming off the wooden bat."        

Friday, February 2, 2018

Scanning the gratitudes and the memories

      There are "projects" with the computer -- the Internet, Google, etc. -- that keep me busy, or motivated, or maybe taking up time.
      They are fun, or least I think so, and in the future, they might meaningful to some other people.
      Let's start with the work of the past week or so -- scanning in pages of my gratitude journal from 2012 and 2013.
      This is the seventh year I have written gratitudes,  picking one or two positives from each day. Beatrice has done this for a couple of decades, and she and our daughter Rachel suggested I do so, especially as I was about to start this blog in January 2012. 
     By then, I was semi-retired, working only parttime in sports, the first few days of that year for The Dallas Morning News and then returning for my last year of work with the home team, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
     My gratitudes from that year are about some of the work days and assignments.  
     Anyway, it's been a wonderful exercise, a moment each day to reflect on life.  
     For the past four-plus years, I have kept the gratitudes in (black-covered) journals. But here's the catch: The first two years, I did not. In 2012, I brilliantly (yes, that's sarcastic) kept my posts on a page-a-day notepad, each with a Sudoku puzzle. In 2013, I used a yellow-paged notebook.
     So ... because one of my projects has been to take my stack of newspaper clippings, some letters and other written material and scan them into the computer for future reference. More importantly, it helps rid us of paper we've carried through every move to a new residence (lots of moves in 40 years of marriage). 
      We are trying to downsize, consolidate, lighten our paper load. We have worked at that for a decade.
      Instead of carrying 312 paper-clipped-together pages by months -- six sheets a week (Saturdays and Sundays were on one page together) -- they are being scanned into the computer one by one, then cropped to the right size and dropped into one file folder: "2012 gratitude journal."
      It is not a quick process. And I have the 2013 notebook -- 84 6x9 pages back and front -- for future scanning.
      So those two years will be in the computer hard drive, and someday Jason and/or Rachel and the grandkids might want to take a look. They're mentioned a few times.
      Fun, and sometimes agonizing (family members and friends' deaths), to read back over the gratitudes. Many posts are about the grandchildren -- Josie was 4, Jacob 2 and Kaden 10 months as the year started. No Eli yet.
      In 2012, we went to Baton Rouge for Emily and our nephew Josh's wedding (they just had their first child, Ella Rose), and we brought Josie home with us to spend a week, then drove her back home to Knoxville. So that's about two weeks' worth of blog posts.
      In 2013, two weeks' worth of posts about our trip to The Netherlands. Great memories of "home" for me.
      Examples of those 2012 pages: two days in February. The subjects -- Dr. James C. Farrar and Trey Prather -- were well known to my set of friends from Shreveport and North Louisiana.         
     The gratitudes are just one small part of the days. There is the daily walk, the yoga/stretching classes three or four days a week at the downtown YMCA, lots of reading (computer stories, books, magazines), not as much TV watching as in the past (not even sports events), helping Bea with the household chores (I get in my 15 percent), the once-a-day coffee/one chocolate square fix, and lately mixing the ingredients for the smoothies from our new Ninja blender. 
      Spent much time for more than a year now researching material on the computer on Shreveport/North Louisiana pro baseball history -- teams and players.
      A book on the subject was suggested to me by someone. I don't know if that will happen, but I will have a pretty solid history of events and people available to those who want it. About 85 percent done on research.
      There is also research for my blog topics, and for a few weeks, I researched -- with the help of -- football lettermen/participants at Louisiana Tech University. Because I noticed in its football media guides that the lists there had much missing information and some names that I was not sure belonged (the Tech sports information people were alerted to this, so I received their permission to work on it).
      Another project: Updating the Louisiana high school track and field champions' list -- team and individual/relay events -- from 1985 on. The late Jerry Byrd's book on track and field in the state has the lists through 1984. 
      Yet another one: A list of Louisiana state champions in American Legion baseball, with results of the state finals' games.
       (I know that much of this is in "who cares" department. But I care, and it's busy work, so ...)
       As I research, I keep stopping to clip photos and stories about people and events that I think might interest them because many people do like nostalgia. Post some of those on Facebook; send some out by e-mail.
         So anyway, there is gratitude for having time to do this. Meanwhile, I will be -- to twist a sportswriting phrase -- scanning to daylight.  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The word is (sports) "curmudgeon"

     Had to look up how to spell "curmudgeon," knowing it might apply personally. OK, maybe -- maybe -- it does.
     From the dictionary definition that popped up on Google: 1. A crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man. 2. archaic: miser.
     Shut up.
     Before I looked up the spelling/definition, my roommate -- Beatrice -- guessed (correctly) at the "old man" part, and observed, "I have never heard a woman called 'curmudgeon.' "
     No comment. (Except, maybe I was a young curmudgeon, too. Still a miser.)
     The reason for this discussion, this blog, is a chapter I read in my current library read, The Best of Frank Deford, one of my favorite sports writers of all time.
      The book's subtitle is I'm Just Getting Started ... 
      Well ... now he's finished. OK, that's a bit harsh, but true. 
      This book was published in 2000, and so Frank's brilliant career can only be remembered. He died last May 28 at age 78, one of several journalism greats we lost in 2017.
      We loved reading Frank and listening to him, although I know of people who thought he was a pompous you-know-what.
      He was a Sports Illustrated superstar writer for much of 45 years and did commentaries for National Public Radio for 37 years, almost right to the end of his life.
      He also was editor-in-chief of The National, the first sports daily newspaper in the U.S., a short-lived (18 months) but excellent product. And he wrote 18 books, nine of them novels, including Everybody's All-American, which became a movie (can you say Billy Cannon?)  
      My favorite Deford book, which brought many tears, is Alex: The Life of a Child. Alexandra, Frank and his wife's daughter, was a brave cystic fibrosis victim who died at age 8 in 1980. Frank was national chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for years. 
      This book includes some of his best stories -- most for SI -- and 71 of his NPR commentaries (yes, I had to count them) through 2000.
      One commentary, which in this book follows Frank's rambling novel, far-too-long (18 pages) on the sport of bowling (bowling, Kent Lowe!), is titled "The Sports Curmudgeon."
      It resonated with me, and I found that Frank played this character repeatedly through his NPR commentary career.
      So I am going to plagiarize this particular piece, and share it with you. Frank delivered it on NPR in 1997, but I find myself agreeing with it and we could expand on it greatly in today's sports world. 
      Because "curmudgeon" defines how I feel about sports today. Like it less and less, daily, and not as interesting, and I'm not as interested in watching. (No NFL or NBA on the TV here, even less baseball and college football.)         
      Never thought I would get here. Wrote a blog on that  not too long ago. But I found in Deford's book that, even in 2000, he questioned much of what was happening, for instance, in college athletics and wrote/talked about the hypocrisy involved. He has several chapters discussing that. I think it's only gotten worse.
      Enough from me. Here's Frank, The Sports Curmudgeon, 1997. See what you think.
      Watch out! The Sports Curmudgeon is here, and he is angry. He has been locked up in a sports bar all year, reading the agate in the USA Today sports section and listening to sports talk radio, until this past week, when for four days running, he had to hear television announcers refer to The Augusta National Golf Course in the sacred tones reserved for Bethlehem, Mecca, the Wailing Wall and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
      So, The Sports Curmudgeon has had it up to here, and therefore now releases his Top Eleven list of things he can simply no longer abide in sport. (The reason it is a Top Eleven is because The Sports Curmudgeon is overflowing with so much bile that he can't restrict it to a Top Ten.) Herewith, then, from The Sports Curmudgeon.
       The Sports Curmudgeon asks: Has anybody but me noticed that the more the NBA devotes its energy to laser introductions, the more boring are the post-introductions ... or "games," as we used to call them.
       The Sports Curmudgeon says, okay, maybe it was funny the first time a dozen years ago. Maybe. Once. Maybe. Besides, how stupid are the coaches now not to expect being doused?
       Fine women have good looks. The Sports Curmudgeon says: Keep good looks out of sports.
       The Sports Curmudgeon says that baseball needs two things: a commissioner and a calendar. Or, a commissioner who can read a calendar. Okay, just a calendar.
       "Where has style in sports gone to?" cries The Sports Curmudgeon, bemoaning lumpiness.
       See same Sports Curmudgeon response, number 5. Only more virulently. Would Kathryn Hepburn stick a tennis ball in her panties? Would Emily Post?
       The Sports Curmudgeon says that patriotism is the last refuge of a rotten sports fan.
       The Sports Curmudgeon says: We do not need littering on the field of play. What's next? Picnic lunches for the right fielder? A bad precedent.
       Number 9 MIKE TYSON
       Only The Sports Curmudgeon can't decide whether he disliked Iron Mike more when he was a bully, or now, when he is scared to death of old Evander Holyfield.
       Number 10 "SHOW ME THE MONEY"
       Next would-be funny guy who says "show me the money," The Sports Curmudgeon says: Show him the door.
        The Sports Curmudgeon says: Go back to number 7. Presidents who do this are only looking for the votes of those jackasses. Hey, why not invite some good losers to the White House?
        Now, The Sports Curmudgeon is off to see the new Dennis Rodman movie, so he can start getting his blood boiling again.
        And to you and yours, he says, Have a good look!
         Thank you, Frank. See it still applies. We probably could do a Top Hundred, but haven't you suffered enough?        

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

About harassment and respect ... me, too

     It has taken many weeks, years, and thought to reach the point of writing this, and I was not harassed into doing it.
     That is not a funny line. And this blog piece is not about athletics.
      It is about an attitude, my attitude, toward other people, primarily women. And if you care to read on, I am going to trace that attitude to my last two years in elementary school, so that's only 60 years ago. 
      I can trace my "attitude" to a couple of women then -- a principal I respected greatly, a teacher I harassed constantly. It's the first remembrance I have of what was to be a lifelong pattern.
     The #MeToo has my attention and it provides an everyday reminder: Don't be an ass.
      Yes, me too. I have been harassed -- but not sexually, just mostly verbally. BUT mostly, I have been the harasser. 
      Verbal harassment, both toward men and women. Far too often. Physical harassment ... it has happened. 
      Sexual harassment, yes, to an extent. Depends on how you define it. If inappropriate touching -- innocently touching an arm, a hand, a face, a hug, a rub of the shoulders, to seem friendly -- and out-of-bounds comments are part of it ... then, yes.
       Wrong place, wrong time: oh, yeah.  
       Sexual abuse? I don't think so, but where is the line on "abuse?" If it's verbal, I am more than likely guilty of crossing that line.
       You don't need the details; I don't feel like sharing publicly. Not yet, probably not ever. (But if you want to have a private conversation, I will consider that.)
        Let me assure this: It has been painful -- for me, for my family, some friends and co-workers, and for those who I offended. Cannot undo the pain and the consequences. There is shame and embarrassment.
        But had to move on, and start over, and think about it, and get counseling, and try to do better. Haven't always changed the pattern.
        Certainly not bragging about this. No, this is apologizing for crass behavior. I have had to do that so many times.   
       These were not "power" plays, not with any kind of hold on or real threats to the other person(s). No, mostly, this was stupidity, immaturity, recklessness. Not a good reputation to build or have.
        And so, here I am today, at 70, still having to be reminded every day -- my own reminders and the #MeToo reminders. 
        My reminder: Keep your mouth shut and your hands to yourself. Don't offend, don't be disrespectful, don't make others uncomfortable, don't be an ass.
       The women I mentioned above: Ruth Hughen, the school principal; Lyndall Tinnin, my sixth-grade teacher.
       Those of us who were kids at Sunset Acres all remember Mrs. Hughen. She was a legend. 
       She was an educator in Caddo Parish for nearly 50-plus years, the first principal at our school; she was there 15 years, but before that, she was principal at Parkview Elementary (a long foul ball from SPAR Stadium). In fact, I found a 1940 story and she was there then.
        Some who had her as a teacher will remember Mrs. Tinnin. 
        I wrote about them more than five years ago (see link at bottom) when remembering those Sunset Acres years. They are linked to this story.
        With the exception of the usual sibling squabbling -- my poor four-years-younger sister -- I do not remember being conscious of how to (not) treat others, male and female, until I was about 10 and, after a tough 1 1/2 years of adjustment from a foreign country to this one, going into fifth grade at Sunset Acres Elementary School.
         I was always a high-strung, nervous, temperamental kid, from early on. If it is what you grow up in, it's what you learn.
        (But let's be clear; I never learned harassment from my mother or my father. They were very respectful people.)
        In that fifth-grade year, I -- well -- kicked one girl (Pam) in the shin. Trip to the office. Got into a verbal spat with another girl (Diane). Trip to the office. Diane has never let me forget that one.
        But the teacher that year, Maxie Cooper, was a good one and took special care of a tiny, funny, zany, different kid trying to find his way in America. I liked her, respected her, minded her.
        On my trips to the office, Mrs. Hughen was a compassionate, calm counselor. She could read me, and she knew some of my family's background.
         Sixth grade, not so much fun. Mrs. Tinnin was a veteran teacher, and probably a good one. But we did not connect, and -- my fault -- I was a troublemaker. Talked too much, yelled too much, would not mind her, left the school ground a couple of times (the house was only a block and one turn away) ... and was sent to the office multiple times.
          I can remember her dismay and her often saying, "I beg your pardon ..."
         Again, Mrs. Hughen stayed cool and calm with my mother, who apologized profusely.
         Sunset Acres kids might be surprised because Mrs. Hughen had a stern outward persona. "I was scared of her," my friend Diane remembered last week, and I am sure that is how many kids felt.
        Anyway, I got through the year, but my harassment of Mrs. Tinnin was maybe the first example of how far a line I could cross.
        (Nothing sexual then, but at that time, my body was beginning puberty and I remember first being aware of "sex," a young man's fascination with the female body. So the mind went there often.) 
        It has taken a long, long, painful time -- and painful experiences -- to face up to a major issue.
         OK, here is my brain bounces. Knowing I have wanted to write about #MeToo and harassment for a while, I thought of this angle last week while Shreveport researching baseball history online (and on The Shreveport Times microfilm). Decided to try to find the obituaries for Mrs. Hughen and Mrs. Tinnin ... and did. It did not take long. They've both been gone for almost 25 years.
          I also found a March 24, 1985, story on Mrs. Hughen by Margaret Martin -- our old buddy from late 1960s/early 1970s days at The Times who is still writing interesting people-in-town/area stories/columns for the paper. 
          (I have included the two sections of the story).
          I knew the subject. I was there the night it happened. I told this story before, but it is pertinent here.
          Early in 1985, I saw in the paper that the Sunset Acres PTA was going to honor Mrs. Hughen with a "night." I was sports editor of the Shreveport Journal then, but I went to that night -- and she was as happy to see me as I was her.
          I thanked her again, best as I could, for being so kind and compassionate to me. So glad I got that chance.
          I was sorry that Mrs. Tinnin was not there that night. Don't think I ever saw her again after the spring of 1959, although she remained at Sunset Acres for another decade. 
          Never did apologize to her, and I should have ... many times. I saw in her obit that she has several grandchildren. If they somehow see this piece, please know that your grandmother was a good teacher and a fine woman (read the obit), and you should be proud. I am sure they are.
         So, harassment ...
         Darned right I am paying attention, and I identify, and (again) I apologize to those I offended. Don't know how to make it better other than to keep from repeating my actions. 
         We should not stop learning and never stop growing mentally, and that is a personal goal.
The obits: 
Mrs. Hughen (Nov. 15, 1992)
Mrs. Tinnin (Dec. 30, 1993) 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Time to film "Gamechanger: The Kenneth Harvey Story "

     Happy New Year to all, and a special salute to the people in Logansport, Louisiana -- one in particular -- because the first week of 2018 is going to be an exciting, interesting one there.
      It is time to begin filming the re-enactment scenes for Gamechanger: The Kenneth Harvey Story.
      Scene-shooting begins early Tuesday -- tomorrow, as this is being written -- and will continue through Friday.
      Starring -- who else? -- Kenneth Harvey. 
      Yes, more than 53 years after the football accident (brain stem contusion) that left him greatly paralyzed, he is still rolling through DeSoto Parish and Logansport, grateful for his long life, deeply devout, and about to play a huge role in the story of his life.
     And always an inspiration to all who know him.
      After a couple of years of community planning and fund-raising, Cynthia and Ben Freeman (the couple from Logansport now living in San Antonio) -- guiding forces for the project -- and producer/director Troy LeBlanc are ready for "action."
       LeBlanc is the founder and leader of Elyon Media, which -- as its website promotes -- is "a Christian, veteran-funded, Texas-based (San Antonio) multi-media production studio."
       They have the script ready. Last week LeBlanc was in Logansport for casting call meetings. The scenes will involve many people in the surrounding communities, etspecially for the crowd re-enactments (at a football game, at the "Kenneth Harvey Day" (October 30, 2009) and the dedication of the football stadium monument that honors him.
       Cynthia and Ben Freeman also were organizing leaders of that community endeavor, and -- with lots of help -- have pushed for this documentary.
       Kenneth, 70, has dealt with health issues that forced his move from his beloved longtime apartment in Logansport to an assisted living facility in nearby Mansfield. But he remains enthusiastic -- thankful for this attention -- and church-going. And now he's going to be a movie star.
       He, of course, will be featured near the end in the "Day" and monument-dedication scenes.
       But there will be several versions of Kenneth Harvey in the film, such as ...
       -- The 8-year-old learning to love basketball -- the Freemans' grandson Nico Senna (that's right, his name is Nico) coming in from where he and his parents live in California, can play that part because he is ambidextrous like Kenneth was early on;
       -- The high school student, a real star in basketball (his favorite sport) who decided to return for football in his senior year and was the Logansport Tigers' quarterback and a defensive back.
       -- The young Kenneth, going through a long, painful rehab process who, when he was reluctant, was goaded by younger brother Terry (who had physical disabilities) as "chicken."
       -- The middle-aged Kenneth, wheelchair-bound, a role that will be played by a 40ish Logansport man who also is wheelchair-bound and -- my opinion -- looks like Kenneth. 
       Ben and Cynthia Freeman will play themselves. John Russell, the Logansport bank executive who has been as much of a fund-raiser and organizer as the Freemans, has a role. 
       So does Linda Gamble, the late 1960s/early 1970s North Louisiana women's basketball legend -- a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee -- who befriended Kenneth when they both lived near Longview, Texas, in the 1970s. She is going to be "Mom."
         Another key role: Gay Straus, Kenneth's aunt -- his mother's sister -- who has looked after him for many years.
         Scenes will be filmed at Rusty's Diner in Logansport -- where Ben Freeman first thought of the "Kenneth Harvey Day" idea -- and the old Frosty Shop  hangout in town will be re-created. So will Kenneth's old home place and the basketball goal which his stepfather Hank set up for him.
         Old Logansport High burned, but the Central school of Grand Cane (not far away) -- Lin Gamble's high school -- looks like Kenneth's old school, so it will be used. 
Kenneth Harvey: Ready for a starring role
         For the fateful football scene, they will return to the old field where Kenneth and his team played -- long since replaced by a new stadium. And in a neat development, neighbor rival Many -- the opposing team on the night of November 13, 1964 -- will bring a delegation of players and fans (cheerleaders, etc.).
         So some scenes call for 1950s dress and cars, and plans are for a 1960s look in football jerseys and helmets.
         The producers want to fill the stands with people from the community. 
         The documentary film will be narrated by Rick Rowe, the KTBS-TV (Shreveport) feature reporter who has done slices-of-life pieces for almost four decades.
         If all goes well, the documentary film should be ready for its premiere in March, planned for the Rio Theatre in Center, Texas, about 20 minutes from Logansport.
          LeBlanc and the Freemans also plan to submit the film to the fifth annual Christian World View Film Festival in Franklin, Tennessee, in mid-March, with hopes that someone will be interested in further developing the story in a full-length feature film.
            So good luck to all involved and, Kenneth, play the role like the star you always have been. It's going to be a good year.