Monday, August 22, 2016

"That Bolt guy" and other Olympics stories

       My Olympics observations ...
     I have always been an Olympics fan -- as I wrote in a blog piece before the 2012 Summer Games in London began -- so I again reveled in Rio and Brazil these past two weeks. 
    Didn't spend as much time watching on TV as others did, but I watched enough. Could not turn away from track and field -- still love it after all these years -- and the best part was this was a wonderful diversion from the gawd-awful, never-ending political and social media discussions (and I use "discussions" loosely).
Matt Centrowitz's golden 1,500-meter run finish
(The Washington Post photo)

    Before I go any further, here is my favorite story of these Olympics: Matthew Centrowitz Jr.'s gold-medal glory in the men's 1,500-meter run. 
    Oh, hallelujah. What a story. Son of an Olympic-runner father, son of a track/cross country coach. The first United States winner of this event in 108 years.
     Jim Ryun, somewhere in Kansas, had to be overjoyed. Those of us who loved Jim Ryun -- our favorite runner in 1964 through 1972 -- had to love it. 
     This one was long, long overdue -- at least 48 years overdue. (More on this below.)  
      We were on Facetime last week and asked our 8-year-old granddaughter, Josie -- who has been taking gymnastics lessons for a few years -- if she was watching the Olympics.
    "Yes, the gymnastics," she answered, "and that Bolt guy."
    Yes, even our precocious children know of Mr. Bolt, the fastest runner in history, a forever legend, a charismatic (and kind of crazy) character.
    I think Josie liked his lightning-bolt victory pose. We all got to see it nine times in nine races ... over three Summer Olympics. He is awesome.
     But so were Michael Phelps (again and again -- dang, 28 Olympic medals, 23 gold), Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles, and so many others ... and the beautiful, joyful country of Brazil.
    Despite all the pre-Olympics concerns, and some tacky Olympic stories (unfortunately, American-made), Rio did it right.
    Those of us who love the pageantry and the traditions of the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies had to be satisfied. Maybe other cities/countries have spent many more dollars, but they did not put on any better, more colorful shows, than Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.
      There is, for me, a lot of pride in seeing the United States athletes dominate the competition, especially in track/field and swimming and basketball. But, gosh, shouldn't we expect that -- as much money and time as we invest in pro, college and even at the high school/amateur levels?
       It's good to be an American.
       It is also good -- and I think you'll understand this -- to be a native Dutchman.
       I still feel emotional when I see The Netherlands flag being carried in or -- better yet -- on the gold-medal flag pole. And in the closing ceremony Sunday night, it was great to see the athletes at one moment dressed in a sea of orange; no question what country that represented.
       Had a friend send me a text early in the Olympics -- when the U.S. faced Holland in, I think, women's volleyball -- asking me who I rooted for in U.S.-Holland games.
       My answer: It depends. If it's men's soccer, no question -- the Dutch team was/is my first love. If it's speed skating or bicycling, probably Holland, but not always. Anything else, let the best team win ... I'm rooting for both. (Think Louisiana Tech vs. LSU.)
       But, honestly, I do think there is a bit too much nationality involved in the Olympics, too much flag-waving. Just my view. I enjoy seeing any superior performance by any athlete from any country.
       Some of the great moments, for instance, were Mo Farah's double golds-- repeated from four years ago -- in the men's 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs, and the amazing 400-meter world record by the runner from South Africa.
       It is also nice, U.S./Dutch partisanship aside, to see the host country take some significant gold medals. Brazil deserved that, just for its Olympic host efforts. So good for its men's volleyball team, and its men's beach volleyball pair ... and, yes, men's soccer.
       For Brazil, that final men's soccer victory-- on the hallowed turf of Maracana Stadium -- was the one it wanted. Brazil thinks of itself as the king of soccer.
        But, but, but ...
        Look, it was all the drama you wanted -- a tie game with Germany, a penalty-kick shootout after extra time (have I told you lately how much I detest PK shootouts to settle world-level soccer games?), and superstar Neymar's final golden PK.
        Let me remind you, these are basically under-23 national teams. These are not THE national teams.
        Make what you want that this was an equalizer for what happened in the Brazil-Germany semifinal of the World Cup -- in Brazil -- two years ago. No, it wasn't. That 7-1 Germany victory, a Brazil embarrassment, was achieved by the best players in the world, not under-23 teams. So there.
      Now about women's soccer. Those are the national teams, and so it was tough for the U.S. world champions to lose a PK shootout to Sweden after a 0-0 tie. It was tougher to hear U.S. goalie Hope Solo -- who made her team spokesman? -- carp about Sweden's team being "cowards."
      Shut up, Hope, and tell you teammates to score and keep you from being the victim in the PK shootout.
      Speaking of shutting up. Ryan Lochte, what the hell? This was the most overblown, overrated story of these Olympics. I guess NBC -- carrying the games on TV here -- felt that it had to be the news lead/interview subject, repeatedly. Too much, just a punked-out story.
       And then there was the overblown public reaction to gymnast Gabby Douglas not showing what many felt was the lack of respect during the U.S. national anthem. C'mon, people, give her a break; she's represented this country well for two Olympics.
       Now, Matt Centrowitz Jr. -- "like father, like son," as the tattoo on his chest says, and he proudly showed it off.
       Like Dad, who ran in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, he also followed him to run at the University of Oregon. He wanted the Olympic medal Dad didn't get, and four years ago in London he missed out by a split second of a podium finish in the 1,500.
       Watching Matt Jr., I could not help but think of Jim Ryun in the prelims and then the final Saturday night. 
Jim Ryun: 1972 Summer Olympics
(Getty Images)
       Because for three Olympics (1964, 1968, 1972), I rooted for no athlete more than Jim Ryun. He was 1 1/2 months older than me, and he was the first high school athlete to break 4 minutes in the mile run (in our junior-year spring, 1964). The next year, he set a national high school mile-run record (3:55.3) that stood for 36 years. He was in the Olympics at age 17.
        A year later, running for Kansas University (his hometown was Wichita), he set world records in the mile (3:51.3) and 880 yards (1:44.9). He was one of America's greatest athletes then.
         We thought he'd win the 1,500-meter gold for sure in the 1968 Olympics. But running in the mile-high altitude of Mexico City, even though he ran a career-best 3:37.8, he finished almost three seconds behind Kip Keino of Kenya, who was accustomed to running at heights. 
         Ryun had beaten Keino several times on flat land, and I am convinced he would have done so if the Olympics had been on flat land.
         But what we also didn't know then was that Keino was the first of what would become decades-long distance-running domination by Kenyans.                     
        And that only the first of two Olympics heartbreaks for Ryun (and us). Even worse was four years later in Munich's Summer Games when Jim was tripped up and fell during a qualifying heat. He was out; the U.S. protest was denied by Olympic officials.
        Ryun always remained one of our heroes. I wasn't a political fan (he was a very conservative 10-year House of Representatives member from Kansas), but some things can be forgiven.
        Matt Centrowitz, on Saturday, led almost the entire race, and set a very slow pace, much to his liking. When it came time for the sprint -- and the field included the past two Olympic champions in the event -- he held them all off in a gutsy, determined, golden effort.
        So what if it was the slowest men's 1,500-meter final (3:50) in 84 years? It was pure gold.
        Made my Olympics. For Josie, it was "that Bolt guy."


Friday, August 19, 2016

Football press boxes I have known and loved (or not)

     (Disclaimer: I am writing about football press boxes here, at Louisiana Tech. It is, in regard to the severe flooding in South Louisiana, a frivolous topic. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of this storm-stricken state. I live in Texas, but Louisiana is my home state, so I care.)
      Those of us who have occupied football press boxes, and even did a little work in them, and those of us with Louisiana Tech University ties took note of last week's announcement with interest.
    Tech people are planning a new $16.7 million press box/guest suite facility atop Joe Aillet Stadium. It is going to be an impressive sight.
    Good. Wow.  
    It's about time.
    Not that we didn't appreciate the press box that opened when the stadium did in 1968. Those of us who worked in the old -- really old -- press box at what was Tech Stadium about a half-mile away really appreciated it.
    (There aren't many of us left that remember that old Tech Stadium press box. That one had only about 18 seats, and usually was really crowded. More on that in a moment.)
    We were excited when the new stadium -- a dream of coach-athletic director Joe Aillet for years -- was being built (while I was a student at Tech, starting in fall 1965).
    The press box, as it was being built, looked appealing. We looked forward to working there; in my case, as the Tech statistician during games, and then later covering games as a sportswriter.
    But, dang, that box was cramped and crowded and a bit dysfunctional from the start. It was -- and if I'm offending the construction company, sorry -- poorly designed.
    It was outdated from the start. It needed a redesign -- in 1968. (I'll return to this, too, in a few paragraphs.)
    Don't get the wrong idea. We were happy to be there, in an enclosed press box, especially if it rained. (Not so fortunate at some of the big-school, no-window press boxes -- LSU and Florida, to name two -- during rain games.)
    And at Joe Aillet Stadium, for the first couple of decades, the (free) meals were a real treat ... prime roast beef, fried chicken, good sides, good desserts, and eventually a popcorn machine. That's not the primary reason we were there -- to eat -- but it was a side benefit.
    Keith Prince, the sports information director at Tech for 25 years starting in 1969 and a good friend, helped me recall those times, and said the meal money wasn't in his department's budget but was provided by then-Tech President F. Jay Taylor, who also was treating the school's top benefactors, some of whom were visitors to his private press-box booth.
    I have covered games in a three-person press box, and some high school press boxes a little bigger, and some here in north central Texas that were new and roomy and college-level. I covered games at major university and NFL stadiums.
    The first press box I was in, at old State Fair Stadium in Shreveport, was mediocre, and that's being kind. The replacement at what became Independence Stadium had its issues.
    I was not exactly enamored with the old Tiger Stadium press box; the one now is very nice, as are those at Florida and Tennessee. But the problem with them -- for me, I'm not speaking for anyone else -- is they're too high up; it's better to watch the action on the nearby TVs (and, thankfully, most press boxes at colleges and in the NFL have those).
    Best press-box seat I've had for a college game was at Kentucky -- at the top of the lower level of seats. I think the new stadium here at TCU, about a mile from our apartments, has a fabulous press box/luxury suits level (and view). 
    But the best press-box seat ever was at Texas Stadium when the Cowboys moved there in 1971. Again, top of the lower level of seats, and the service -- stats provided, food, room to work, a small TV between every two seats -- was tops. And it was two press boxes -- one for print media, stats, etc.; one across the way for TV/radio people.
       (Then Jerry Jones took over the Cowboys and decided that great view was much better suited for big-money donors and the media was moved to the very top of Texas Stadium near what little roof there was. At the new Spaceship Stadium in Arlington, it's upper-level near the end zone on one side ... and closer to Fort Worth than the playing field.)
        So old Tech Stadium was, I think, a 1930s facility much too small and dated by the early 1960s. But when I first saw games from the press box there, as a high school junior and senior, I thought it was big-time. Absolutely thrilled to be there.
        But crowded, yes. By the time you put in the Tech sports information director (Pete Dosher then), the statistician (Frank "Spike" Bright and Mike Powell in the years before me), sportswriters from Shreveport and Monroe and the visiting team's media, the Tech radio crew (Bill Carter and Bill Darland then), the visiting radio (not all the schools had one), the public-address announcer (the venerable  "Major" Lawrence Fox), a spotter for him, a pro scout or two and opposing teams' scouts, it was a full and cramped place.
     And ... a Western Union man -- who took the stories from the various sportswriters and sent them in telegram-form to the respective papers. That's how it was done then, or by dictation with the one or two telephones there. The good old days.
     The friends I asked didn't remember the details about the old press box. What they remembered mostly was the hospitality shown by the wonderful Pete Dosher, a fine and crafty journalist and SID. 
      Paul Manasseh was the Tech SID in 1968 when the new stadium and press box opened, and Keith Prince took over the next football season; each of them were pros who were good to and provided well for the media. 
      What was special about the first two years at Joe Aillet Stadium, remembers O.K. "Buddy" Davis, my old friend, fellow Tech journalist and sports editor of the Ruston Daily Leader for 50-plus years, is that those were Terry Bradshaw's great two seasons as the Tech quarterback.
        But that press box was built with, as a friend put it, "a flaw in spacing." The front-row seats at first were too close to the working counter in front, so guys with, well, big bellies, couldn't sit there. That was quickly adjusted. But, always, the upper back-row seats were built too close to the front row; you had to squeeze down the front-row alley; even (then) skinny guys like me.
       It is, as that friend said, "difficult to walk the length of the press box. It's impossible without touching someone, or with having to scooch into a wall or a chair. There is little room to serve food. Very difficult for student workers to get info passed out."
        In the first couple of years, there was no elevator, so equipment had to be carried up. Not a big problem, but still ... Then when they installed the elevator, it was s-l-o-w. It's been s-l-o-w for 45 years.
       The working booths upstairs, for radio-TV, scouts and team coaches, and the President's box, were all too small, too tight, and one level. No elevated seats, which is common now in most press boxes to accommodate -- in particular -- the four or five coaches each team sends upstairs. 
       At some point, Tech added a level for TV cameras, and in 1988, a Sky Box "luxury" level -- for major Tech donors -- above the main press. Still everything was crowded.                  
       There has been -- forever -- one bathroom per level ... one tiny bathroom. Go figure. (Or go outside.)
        Same friend's observation on this press box: "... workable, but way outdated. A very uncomfortable press box."
        So, yes, the new Tech press-box plans ...
        It is going to stretch from 10-yard line to 10-yard line, so 80 yards wide. That should be plenty for the media level and the luxury-box level.
        (To be honest, I've been to two Tech home games in some 35 years. The press box media level was maybe half occupied. But, hopefully, this will attract more attention and more people.)
         The best part of all of this is: All of the construction money, $18.6 million in all (with $1.9 million in other stadium improvements), is to be privately donated. No state money involved.
          The cynical part of me asks: Is this illusions (delusions) of grandeur for a school Tech's size? Is this not too much? Why 80 yards wide? Why not 45 or 60? A friend suggests that the word "overbuilding" applies here.
          The press-box fan in me says: This is necessary, long overdue. A redesign/renovation would have been good years ago.
          Certainly, the luxury-level boxes will bring a significant chunk of revenue to the university.
          The Tech fan in me reads that it is part of the overall
 vision Tech President Dr. Les Guice has for the university (the enrollment goal of 15,000 students by 2020) and new facilities and other improvements/updates all over the campus. And that's great.
          I would hope that this type money will put be into classrooms, dorms, cafeterias, the Student Union, the library, etc., and I trust that it is.
          Certainly, a new football press box will be great for the media, for Malcolm Butler (the current SID, in his 18th year) and staff, and it will be an impressive sight on the Tech campus. If it helps make Tech a more elite mid-major athletic program, I'm for it. If it helps attracts new students and new Tech supporters, even better.
         If you're going to do it, do it big and do it right. Go first-class, and serve the hungry media. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Three sweet women ... our treasures

       We count our blessings daily, especially for our family and so many great friends, but there is a special love for three "old" women in Shreveport.
    Because they were so special to my parents, our love is never-ending for Pauline Murov, her younger sister Ruth  Nierman, and Lou Gwin.
    We lost Pauline a week ago today, not unexpectedly because she was 96 and her life extended nine months past when we thought it might end. She was, as her niece Helaine Nierman Braunig posted on Facebook in announcing her death, "sweet and hilariously funny."
    We were in Shreveport, at B'nai Zion Temple, for her memorial service last Thursday -- a beautiful and touching service, sad as all memorial services are, but also, befitting Pauline's personality, containing funny moments.
    Saying goodbye was the hard part of the day. The good part: seeing Ruthie, at 92 recovered from a recent broken hip. And then, an hour later, a visit with Lou, who at 89 is at a rehabilitation center recovering from pneumonia.
Pauline Murov and Ruth Nierman: the beloved Gilbert sisters,
three years ago on a visit to Colorado Springs
    As with Pauline, the wonderful aspect is that even after all these years, Ruthie and Lou are as sharp-minded as ever, no signs of aging mentally, still daily looking ahead.
    We have known them all for six decades.
    Pauline and Ruth are the daughters of Abe A. Gilbert, who had a job (at the Pipe & Supply company that carried his name) waiting for Dad when we arrived in the United States. We met them the first week we were in Shreveport (early January 1956).
    They would be the biggest benefactors we had -- the best of our support system. The only one who would match them was Janice Cahn, who became like the mother my mother no longer had after 1943.
     If Mrs. Cahn was mother-like, Lou Gwin was like my mother's sister -- her best friend almost from the day we moved to Sunset Acres (July 4, 1957), a next-door neighbor for a decade, a neighborhood neighbor the next 40 years.
     These women were our treasures.
     We think of them, and we think: kind, generous, upbeat, positive, lovely. 
      I wrote about Pauline and Ruthie four years ago, and our connection to the Gilbert family:
      The connection carries on because we now live within walking distance of where the Gilbert girls grew up in the 1930s and early 1940s, in Fort Worth, in the TCU neighborhood. I walk or drive past their old home a couple of times a week.
      During the memorial service Thursday, I remembered that Pauline outlived her father -- my Dad's first boss here -- by 50 years, and outlived her husband Lazar -- my Dad's second boss at the pipeyard -- by 20 years.
      To open the service, our favorite rabbi -- Jana De Benedetti, of B'nai Zion -- said: "Beautiful full room of people who don't want to be here. We are sad to be saying good-bye, but she -- Pauline, Aunt Sissy, Aunt Peshy -- lived an incredibly wonderful life filled with amazing experiences, lots of wonderful family ... "
      Rabbi Jana added how that most of us "wish we could have the kind of blessed end that she had. Peaceful. She thought she was going to die many months ago, and didn't.
      "... She had this extra time to talk to people, and the things that she said to people, and the things that people got to say to her were really wonderful, important things."
      A little later, she had us lift up our imaginary cups in a symbolic toast -- "l'chaim." Wine, someone suggested -- Mogem David wine. Rabbi Jana laughed and said, "I wasn't thinking wine." Pauline did like her occasional drinks.
      And then our co-favorite rabbi, Jordan Braunig, gave the eulogy. He is one of the six grandsons of Ruth Nierman, and  Pauline, he noted, transitioned over the years from beloved great aunt to surrogate grandmother to them. 
      "My grandmother (Ruth) has instructed me to speak into the microphone," Rabbi Jordan began. "I can think of no better way of honoring Aunt Sissy than to speak very loudly."
      He then told of her last birthday gathering, a surprise planned by the family and her caretakers. 
      "For those of us who spoke to her that day, there was something bittersweet in her voice," he recalled. "She absolutely loved the party they made for her, and at the same time, it would most certainly be her last. Pauline had months of knowing this day was coming and she lived them bravely, reflecting on the arc of her life. She lived them with pleasure, continuing to have dinner with her sister and accepting the many visitors who called on her.
      "She lived these days maintaining her one-of-a-kind sense of humor. In one of my last visits with her, we were joking about her healthy appetite, and she waved her hand at us and said, 'Make fun of me all you want, I can't hear you anyway.' "
      He spoke of her sister connection to so many old friends and groups, the love for so much family -- immediate and extended -- and the strong connection she and Lazar had for 49 years of marriage.
      It wasn't all perfect -- whose life is, after all?  There were family problems and disconnection.  
      As Jordan said, though, "In easy times and hard, she remained devoted, hopeful, loving."
      And he added, "There were many ways in which Pauline also grew funnier and more honest and more reflective as she got older" and, in many cases, delivered "the God-honest truth.
      "She was delightfully honest and funny, and had a self-deprecating side to her humor that was endearing," he said. "She was the least bit self-conscious, and she knew who she was.
      "Arriving at a restaurant, she would reach into her purse and pull out a bib that said, 'Miss Clean Pauline.' Unless, of course, it was a fancy restaurant, in which case she would reach for the sequined bib."
      "She always claimed she wasn't trying to be funny. She was just saying what she thought, speaking her mind. And whether it was intended or not, she brought out joy and laughter in those around her. She increased happiness in the world she encountered."
      What sticks with us most is the connection with Ruthie. The Murovs and the Niermans were part of our lives from 1956 on, so influential in my Mom and Dad's lives.
      For years, after Mr. Murov's death, Pauline dined with Ruth and Neal almost nightly and that continued after Neal's death in 2008 (just a month after my Dad's death). The girls, remarkably healthy for most of their 90-plus years, were traveling, shopping, Temple-going and -- mostly -- emotional companions.
      "To witness the lifelong friendship between these two sisters is to know what you can aspire to in your familial relationships," Rabbi Jordan said, pointing out the daily -- hourly, maybe -- phone calls.
      "At some point in their lives, they made the decision that they were in this together, and they would do all the work that it takes to be sisters, and to be friends.
      "Pauline would joke that when their parents were old that they asked her to take care of Ruthie, and that she agreed." Then, a laugh, "But she didn't expert her to live so long."
      When they last visited three weeks ago, with Pauline talking about memorial service plans, she told Jordan "not to go on too long. If she were here, I'm sure Pauline would wave her hand at me and 'say whatever you want about me, I can't hear you anyway.'
      "What I want to say, loudly and into the microphone, but what I believe she already knew, is that she was loved by a wide community of friends and family, that she was worthy of that love, and that her memory will continue to be cherished."
      Yes, it will.
      In my mother's final days, as she was in a rehab center after a broken hip and surgery, Pauline and Ruthie were almost daily visitors, bringing gifts and treats -- and conversation with Mom and her main caretaker, Beatrice Van Thyn.
      Another everyday visitor: Lou Gwin.

      I also wrote four years ago about Lou, recalling all the friends we made in our growing-up neighborhood:
Our dear friend Miss Lou,
with great granddaughter Brooklynn
         Here is what I said then: :" ... And Miss Lou remains in South Broadmoor; we saw her a week ago. She's the wonderful, simple country girl who understood how much of a friend my mother -- an often-fragile Holocaust survivor from a faraway place but also a dynamic, forceful Holocaust educator -- needed her to be."
      One other sentence from that blog: "When my mother's health declined, Lou Gwin was about the only person she really trusted (other than my wife Bea) to do anything she needed."
       She has been, since her husband Howard's death 27 years ago, living by herself -- an independent force, until a few years ago still cutting her own grass, driving (carefully) to the store and faithfully attending church, and best of all, spending lots of time with her beloved great granddaughter, Brooklynn.
        A pacemaker installed a year ago slowed her a little, but our visits with her nearly every time we were in Shreveport were much the same. 
        So we were concerned when we heard about the pneumonia and hospitalization a few weeks ago. She is bouncing back, taking well to the rehab (she acknowledged with a laugh and a shake of the head that it is a daily test), and there is a ways to go to get her back on her feet.
         We are, to say the least, rooting hard for her, hoping she can return to her own home, on her feet. Just as we continue to cherish the ongoing days of Ruth Nierman.
         Here is how the Van Thyn family -- mine and my sister Elsa's -- feels about Pauline, Ruthie and Lou: forever grateful, forever loved. They are our treasures.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A worthy cause: The "GameChanger"

        Two areas I usually avoid: (1) raising funds for a cause; (2) writing about Jesus Christ.
        Today is an exception.
        The cause is the ongoing fund-raising effort for a Christian documentary/film --  GameChanger: The Kenneth Harvey Story. We can use your help ... and your money.
         The part about Jesus? If you know me, and my family's religious heritage (Jewish), you know this is not our focus. So why today? Read on.
         If you have followed my blog and/or received my e-mails for the past three years, you will know that Kenneth Harvey -- a hero in his hometown, Logansport, La. -- is a person we greatly admire.
         Three years ago, I wrote a 12-part series on Kenneth and his life before and after the brain-stem injury he suffered during a Logansport High School football game late in his senior season (1964, also my senior year in high school).
          He had been a star athlete -- quarterback and safety in football, and an even better basketball player. He was a college basketball prospect -- a rangy (6-foot-3), skillful shooter.
          He never walked again; his legs paralyzed. But with only partial use of his hands and arms, he has lived on courageously and as an inspiration. Until two years ago, he lived in an apartment by himself and drove a customized van.
          He has since been in an assisted living facility in nearby Mansfield, but the hope is that he can return to live -- and live well -- in Logansport.
          Kenneth is a deeply religious man -- always has been -- and it is his faith, his Christian testimony in churches in Logansport and the area, that is the basis of this story.
          As the DVD and poster promoting the documentary/film idea proclaim: "I am quarterbacking for Jesus Christ now."
          His friends in town, and in DeSoto Parish, honored him on Oct. 30, 2009, with "Kenneth Harvey Day" and a statue/tribute next to the Logansport High football stadium. 
          The organizers of those special honors now are working on the documentary/film that will tell Kenneth's story. Ben Freeman, John G. Russell, Mary Mac Thompson and Sissy Morris are among the leaders of the effort and the "Kenneth Harvey Advisory Committee," which has been holding monthly meetings in Logansport over the past year.
           As you also might know, there is a Facebook page dedicated to the effort, a "Go Fund Me" page linked to it, and a web site (
           Through various endeavors, the committee has raised some $14,000 of the $30,000 needed for producer-director Troy LeBlanc of Elyon Media -- based in San Antonio, where Ben and Cynthia Freeman live -- to begin to do the actual filming they have planned.
           The committee currently is promoting a project with Logansport-area church pastors and deacons to help raise funds. They have a letter, plus the DVD and the poster, asking for help.
           In part, the letter reads: "The Advisory Team feels that Kenneth's life story is a powerful witness to the love of Jesus Christ and to those who hear Kenneth's story."
           So not only is the committee asking for contributions from churches and its members, the letter also says that "Kenneth is available to visit your church on a first-come basis."
           If you are reading this in Shreveport-Bossier or elsewhere in North Louisiana or East Texas, I hope that you will consider going to your church leaders and ask them to be part of this. And make a financial contribution.
          (And if anyone has a connection or input with the Duck Dynasty/Duck Commander organization, let them know about it. The Duck Commander leader, I hear, once was a 1960s quarterback in North Louisiana -- a year older than Kenneth.)             
          I'll say this with no reservation: Making a contribution to this is money spent a heckuva lot better than giving to one of the political parties. Not much Christian about the millions being spent there.
          Checks should be made to "Gamechanger: The Kenneth Harvey Story" LLC. Mailing address: P.O. Box 791, Logansport, LA 71049
          All monies collected should be deposited at Community Bank of Louisiana to the account of "Gamechanger: The Kenneth Harvey Story" LLC.
          Those interested in having Kenneth speak at their church, should phone John Russell at 318-697-4303.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Our ode to Coach Billy Joe

     When the news came that Billy Joe Adcox had died Tuesday night in Ruston, La., five days short of his 85th birthday, it was no surprise. Alzheimer's had robbed his mind several years ago.
      I would ask friends in Ruston about him over the years, and it was hard to hear. Because he was a man we respected. He was a mentor and a friend.
      He was, in my opinion, as good at what he coached -- offensive line in football -- as anyone at any level.
      The decline these final years was so difficult for Miss Shirley, his wife of almost 60 years, and the three children and six grandchildren, plus a considerable extended family.
      We're thinking of them today. The funeral is Friday in Ruston, with burial in Atlanta, Ark.
      Coach Adcox was an Arkansas boy. But the bulk of his life and career was in North Louisiana.   
      He was a quiet, genteel man, a man of few words, a nice guy who I never heard use bad language.
      But when I first encountered him -- as a team manager at Woodlawn High School in Shreveport in the early 1960s -- I wasn't sure that he was nice. Neither were the players he coached.

     When it came to football, he was a tough guy. Nice didn't apply. As a player, and then for years as an offensive line coach, he was uncompromising.
      My great friend for decades, Casey Baker, was a Woodlawn offensive lineman (1962-64) and I know this morning he's thinking about this, because we always joked about it. If it was cloudy before practice, Adcox would go outside, point at the sky and say "hut, hut," -- and soon the clouds would disappear. No rain at practice.
       And he's also thinking this: "Per, Casey, that was per. Let's do it again."
       That came to mind when I received a note from Sid Huff, a team manager at Fair Park High in 1969 when Adcox became head coach there.
       "I can still see Coach Adcox," Sid wrote, "walking around the practice field twirling his keys back and forth and saying, 'Per ... that's per,' which was his pronunciation of 'poor' during pass blocking drills."
       Yes, a lot of us remember that. Adcox didn't stand for "per."
       No question, Billy Joe Adcox was a winner, an achiever -- as an undersized offensive guard when he played, then with the teams he helped coach -- at Woodlawn (1960-68) and Fair Park (head coach 1969-72, assistant 1973-76). 
       As an offensive line coach, he was demanding, dedicated. As ruler of the equipment room, the dispenser of helmets, pads, socks, jocks and shoes, etc. he was -- well -- frugal and conservative.
       He might've been that way, too, in real life, I don't know for sure. But I can tell you -- and the Woodlawn coaches would laugh at this -- not much was ever wasted.
       Jerseys, shoes, equipment went from varsity level to practically worn out, but Adcox kept issuing this stuff to B-team and sophomore-team players. Kids would bring worn-out cleats to the equipment room, pleading for replacements. No deal.
       But he also took pride in the uniforms; once Woodlawn began winning and making money in football in the early 1960s, the staff kept purchasing equipment. At one time, there were three sets of helmets (red, white and blue) and five sets of jerseys, three sets of pants.
       Adcox liked a well-dressed team as much as he loved a well-drilled team.
      The players -- and, yes, the team managers -- were just a bit afraid of him. You did not want Coach Adcox griping at you. And, well, he did gripe -- often.
       He was conservative with words; a short phrase might be all you got. From my sportswriting perspective, he was no quote machine. But from a team manager's perspective, I know this: We kept that equipment room very orderly.

       Don't get the wrong idea, though. He was not an "ugly" person or coach.
       Even in football -- as I noted in an e-mail I sent to people late Wednesday night -- he wasn't an aggressive coach, not a yeller or cusser. He made his points to his players briefly and directly and sometimes sarcastically ("c,mon, fellas"). He wanted them to play aggressively, but clean. He would not let his players settle for anything but their best.
      Adcox was, in my opinion, an excellent teacher (football and, yes, driver's education, as many kids will remember).
      He was masterful at teaching blocking techniques, pass protection -- moving the feet, getting proper leverage on opponents ... and being more determined, more competitive than the other guy.
      There was a reason the well-known quarterbacks at Woodlawn -- Billy Laird, Trey Prather, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson -- were successful passers. Their offensive lines gave them plenty of chances.
      This was especially true in Ferguson's three years as a starter. When Woodlawn went to an all-out passing game -- unique for that era -- in the 1967 and 1968 seasons, the key to letting Joe's strong and accurate right arm cut up defenses was offensive-line protection that rarely broke down.
       He had some outstanding, nice-sized lines in the mid-1960s. But before that, he took kids in the 150- to 170-pound range who really had little business playing at the Class AAA level and guided them into productive, winning players. Even those of us who watched it up close were amazed at players' development.
        Maybe he enjoyed that most because they reminded him of himself -- the smaller guy who excelled enough at El Dorado (Ark.) High School to earn a scholarship to Louisiana Tech, the small-but-tough guard who became an all-conference lineman for Coach Joe Aillet, and then played football in the service (he was an Air Force lieutenant).
      One of his early mentors was the great Paul "Bear" Bryant; Adcox was a graduate assistant coach at Alabama as he earned his master's degree.
      He then went into coaching as an assistant as his alma mater (El Dorado) under his high school coach, the well-respected, successful Garland Gregory, who also had been a standout lineman once at Louisiana Tech and played in the NFL.
      At Woodlawn, Adcox was part of the original five-man coaching staff beginning in 1960. The program went from an 0-9 first season to the winningest big-class team in Louisiana in the 1960s.
      Adcox coached on 10 district championship teams, 12 playoff teams, and in five state championship games (El Dorado, 1958 and 1959; Woodlawn, 1965 and 1968; Fair Park, 1974).
       He was an integral part of the 1968 state champions. His obit says the state championship came at Fair Park, but that 1974 team -- a wonderful team to cover -- lost a 9-0 fourth-quarter lead and fell 10-9 (on a late field goal) to Tara (Baton Rouge).
      In 1969, he left Woodlawn to become head coach at rival Fair Park and his first team went 8-2 in the regular season and shared the district title with ... Woodlawn, which was the No. 1 seed because it beat Fair Park 13-6.
       (A quick aside: At The Shreveport Times postseason banquet that year, Adcox was being honored as our city  "Coach of the Year." He sat at the head table and the paper's editor, Raymond McDaniel, came to sit next to him.
       When they were introduced, Mr. McDaniel thought it was Joe Bill Adcock, the baseball star from Coushatta. He was quickly corrected: "I'm Bill Adcox." I don't think Coach Adcox was pleased, but he probably had been mistaken for Joe Bill before.)
       In four seasons as head coach, Adcox's teams went 23-17-1. But he didn't enjoy the time-consuming, off-the-field tasks in the role, so Jimmy Orton -- once a Fair Park great in three sports and for years the de facto offensive coordinator -- became head coach in 1973 and Adcox stayed on as -- first love -- offensive-line assistant coach.

     After his coaching days, he moved to Ruston for a job as the purchasing agent at Louisiana Tech. He was in that position for 22 years -- I visited with him in his office there a couple of times -- and I can just imagine that Tech did not make any wasteful purchases in that time.
      He retired at Tech and began working parttime at a cleaners business in Ruston. When his mind began fading, and he got up at about 3 a.m. and drove to work one night, Miss Shirley knew it was trouble. Sad; it's a horrible disease.
      He was a man who knew who he was, who was quietly confident and sure of what he was doing. We all knew that.
      He was a very good family man, religious -- a deacon in his Baptist church for years.
      The quietest of the Woodlawn coaches, he was the target of practical jokes, especially because he feared snakes. So a rubber snake often appeared in one of his desk drawers or his locker or his shoes. "Per" idea. 
      But those coaches knew his value, and values. He was well-liked and respected by them and by opposing coaches.
      All of us, too -- his players and, yes, the managers -- ended up loving him. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Staying connected (or not) ... my political world

        So I've taken a three-week break from blogging, for one reason because the last two weeks have been so difficult.
     These have been sad times, depressing -- and I don't like being depressed. I want to think that my world view is more optimistic, but these last 14 days ... dang, it's hard.
     Makes me sometimes wish I could do without television, the computer and the phone.
     Which is why six hours two weeks ago Tuesday -- July 5 -- were actually kind of nice but also distressing.
     Got up that morning, the night after a significant storm hit here, to find that (1) my computer would not connect to the Internet and (2) the TV would come on, then not function.
     Those kind of things can mean panic here in this apartment.
     See the accompanying photo: That's our TV/Internet (U-Verse) modem. If those five green lights are on, good. If four are on, OK. Anything less, and especially if the bottom one turns red, uh-oh.
     We weren't totally out of touch. Bea's I-Pad was working fine; my phone was connected to the Internet. So e-mail and Facebook and Twitter were available there.
     But I like the TV; I like the computer -- and I want to use them. No such luck that day.
     Still, through the other devices, we weren't cut off from the world. So we learned this ...
     It was that morning that the news broke that the FBI was not going to charge you-know-who with wrongdoing in regard to e-mail servers. That news, of course, sent many people into orbit. 
     I've written this once or twice or 128 times before -- I try not to discuss politics online or with my friends who I know don't see the political/social world the same way I do. Does no good; only can cause hard feelings, and I value the friendships more than telling those people how stupid and gullible they are.
     I am going to say this again: I am sick and tired of this political season. I have been sick and tired of it for more than a year; I am going to be sick and tired of it through at least early November. 
     Aren't you?
     The answer to that is yes. But it's also no, not enough to shut up about it. I am appalled at the harshness, the bitterness, the ugliness of so many people's Facebook posts and e-mails about so many things.
     On Facebook, I have "turned off" many people's posts. But I do not turn off all of the posts I don't like because I want to keep somewhat of an open mind. There are people I respect, longtime friends, that I might not agree with -- aw, heck, I disagree -- but I will consider their viewpoint.
     They won't change my mind, but I pay attention. Because I want to stay connected to the world.
     So back to that morning and afternoon without my computer and the TV. I am not a technologically minded person; I am not a dumbass ... but close (there's a laugh there). It took a while, but I have figured out enough on the computer to set up my blog, write it, insert photos and then post it.      
     On this day, though, nothing I did was working. Then, nothing on the TV moved. The remote control doesn't scare me as badly as it did for months, but be it computer or TV, I am fearful of tinkering too much and making matters worse.
     So I knew to call AT&T for technical support. Doing so  is generally a pain in the behind. But at least I didn't panic as badly.
     It took two phone calls -- got cut off the first time -- and two disconnecting and resets of the system, but when the red light on the modem turned green, I knew we were about back in business on the TV.
     The computer, not so much. I looked and looked and looked, and could not find the network/sharing page I needed. The "off" button for connectivity stayed off.
     Before making a third call to AT&T -- this is now 6 p.m. -- I decided to keep looking, keep trying. And ... yes! I found the right button, the right page, and as soon as I did, I saw the "off" button for connectivity switch to on.
     By then, I'd also found that I somehow had switched on the button, bottom left front on the computer, for Bluetooth -- thus preventing the normal Internet connection. But even after that, the problem was -- I think -- that the storm the night before had knocked off my computer offline.
     Once I put in the Internet access code and the password (a complicated one), I was back in business.
     And then the two weeks of bad news began, every day or so it seemed. Baton Rouge, Minnesota, Dallas, Bastille Day in Nice, France, coup attempt in Turkey and hundreds dead, Baton Rouge again. 
     This after the Pulse club in Orlando, after Paris, San Bernardino, Charleston, Colorado, and go back some, Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Colorado again ... back, back, back to Oklahoma City and 9-11. Schools, churches, military bases, planes blown up or disappearing, hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the Middle East for Europe.
     It's just keeps happening. So fast now it's hard to keep up. What a world, what a country we're living in.
     Meanwhile, there are the memorial services and the tributes, and the reporting and analysis never-ending on news shows. The endless debate on gun control and on racial matters and on ISIS and ...
     Practically every day, the candidates for President hammering, belittling each other. People hammering, belittling the candidates. People playing the Blame Game. Blame the Black Lives Matter movement, blame the white supremacists, blame ISIS, blame the LGBT people, blame guns, blame the media, blame the liberals, blame the conservatives, blame Hillary, blame Trump, blame the President. Always blame the President.
      It goes with the President's job. We've been listening -- for a couple of months -- to an audio tape (33 discs) and here is what we heard late last week:
       "... What is indisputable is that the democratic Republican society led to a much more raucous style of American politics. Instead of discussing politics politely at dinner tables or in smoky taverns, these groups were likely to take to the streets in mass rallies.
      "These government critics also had few qualms about chastising their leaders. ... Now the opposition sought to debunk [the President's] entire life and tear to shreds the upright image he had so sedulously fostered. ..."
      Talking about Obama? Oh, no. George Washington!
      The book is Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow, also the author of Hamilton, which led to the Broadway musical (ever hear of it?).
       At the end of his second term, Washington was pretty darned unpopular, particularly with some of his fellow Founding Fathers (such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Presidents-to-be Nos. 3 and 4).
       George Washington, the Father of our feuding country.
      Heck, I blame Jerry Jones. Nah, not this time (wait a couple of months).
      Blame Nick Saban, who assures us it's much tougher being a college football head coach than, say, being an officer of the law. Just don't ask him about disciplining his players for a little marijuana use and a gun in their car ... because, well, there are LSU fans in Louisiana and the system is "rigged" (gee, where have we heard that?).
       If the media dares to ask Coach Saban, well, blame them, too ... for doing their jobs.
       I blame the New York Yankees, for some mediocre baseball this season. But as I often say and know full well, not many people feel sorry for them. Also know this: We've won our share and lots of other teams' shares.
       Really, I blame Richard Nixon -- for everything. That's an easy one.
       The worst President ever. He was a crook. Twice-elected, Republicans. Hard to forgive that; soured me forever on Republicans. But you have a chance to top it this year.
        Just got done reading Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward. Oh, Tricky Dick. Talk about crooked and liar, about self-absorbed, arrogant, deceitful, paranoid, conspiracy theories, and "a secret plan" that really wasn't there. And, out of the public and media's sight, cursing and a blacklist.
         Give Mr. Trump this: Unlike Nixon, he doesn't hide his terribly slanted views. His flaws are out there. I could go on, but I'm not going to.
          I'll blame Trump for stirring up the nation's anger, and taking millions with him. And millions will blame Hillary ... and Obama and, well, George Washington.
         Here's my disqualifier for Trump; I could list a thousand reasons. But if David Duke endorses you, if Bobby Knight speaks up for you ... that's enough for me.
         Ah, I got into politics some, didn't I? Sorry to bother you.
         I like news shows, news/analysis shows; I want to hear and see the reasoning, the differing viewpoints. Might not agree, but I want to do my own evaluation.
         Can't hide from the bad news, either. Wish it wasn't so. The protest marches, the mass deaths remind us of the difficult days -- mixed in with great times -- of the late 1950s and the 1960s. 
          I am not a political/social expert, not a pundit. But I have been telling Bea for months that I feel a revolution of sorts coming on -- maybe from minority groups, from the middle/lower class, and from the disenfranchised majority.
         There is anger, and there is violence, there are these "wild cards" -- and it's playing out in the streets, across the world. And the "blame game," particularly by our politicians, just stirs up the anger.
          Can't avoid seeing it on TV or on the Internet. Unless you abstain or you can't connect online.
          (After President Obama was re-elected in 2012, I wrote a blog piece saying we needed to move on. One of my sportswriter friends wrote and said I should stick to sports. Good idea ... but I'm living in the world, not just the sports world.)
          The previous two weeks have been ugly, and sad. I expect the next two weeks, with our political conventions, could be ugly -- mayhem in the streets in Cleveland and maybe Philadelphia. It could be a sign of what's to come in the next four years.

          And the rest of the world is shaky, too.
          I don't want to be angry, or depressed, so after I post this blog, I will take a two-week break from Facebook -- I know you'll miss me -- and I will limit my TV watching.
          I will watch the NBC Nightly News and the PBS Newshour and CBS' Sunday Morning because I like those and they keep me informed, and I'll keep up with the below-.500 New York Yankees (not much fun right now). Too early to worry about LSU football.

         You can have politics.
         And if the lights on the modem don't come on, and the Internet and TV don't work, for the next two weeks ... no panic. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Joe Reding: LSU football was "the greatest experience"

    (Third of three parts)
    He was at LSU from the fall of 1964 until his graduation in the spring of 1969, and Joe Reding calls being part of the LSU football program "the greatest experience of my life. They treated us so well."
LSU football, program photo
    It is an example of his athletic ability, his strength and good feet, that he was able to go from running back and linebacker in high school to the offensive line in college.
    He gained weight before his freshman season -- perhaps a factor in limiting his shot put potential that spring -- and was at 220 pounds when he reported to training camp in August.
    With only upperclassmen eligible for varsity ball in NCAA Division I at the time, he played on the freshman team in 1964, a four-game schedule, and practicing against the varsity, he learned something.
    "There was no way a freshman could ever have played on varsity then anyway," he said. "There was such a gap between the freshmen and the guys who had been there a year or more. It's not like today where kids come out of high school and they're All-Americans as freshmen. In those days, a freshman wouldn't have a prayer in hell of playing."
    By spring practice of 1965, he was down to between 195 and 200 pounds and in line to play at guard. He did not think he would redshirt; most D-I linemen then did sit out one year.
    "I was hard as a rock, fast, quick," he said. "I was one of the very few people that lifted weights regularly."
    But then ... the first knee injury. So it was a redshirt year and a year of rehabbing the knee. LSU wound up the '65 season by upsetting Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl -- a memorable game -- and Joe was merely a spectator.
    He played in 1966, '67 and '68. As in high school, he was only on a couple of very good teams, but not championship teams.
    The Tigers were 5-4-1 (3-3 in the SEC) in his sophomore season, a difficult year in which experienced quarterback Nelson Stokley was hurt during the second game (knee injury, out for the year). LSU led Rice 15-7 in that game and lost 17-15, and then struggled to a 3-4-1 record until two victories at the end.
    It was the worst record in the first 12 years of Charlie McClendon's LSU head coaching tenure.
A favorite photo -- Page One, Baton Rouge Morning
 Advocate, coming home from a victory at Florida.
    Reding was one of three alternating "messenger" guards -- bringing in play calls from the sideline to the huddle -- until an offensive-line shuffle midway in the season made him a starter ... for good. He wound up starting the last 28 games of his career -- the last season at tackle.
    With LSU shy of experience at the position, "they [the coaches] asked me during the off-season (after the '67 season) to switch to tackle."  
     Fine, but unlike high school, when he usually was one of the biggest players on the field, at LSU he played at 6-foot-1, 210-215 pounds, and "I was one of the smallest starting offensive linemen in the SEC."
    The Tigers were 7-3-1 (3-2-1 SEC) and 8-3 (4-2) the next two seasons and bowl winners each time -- the Sugar Bowl (20-13 vs. Wyoming) on Jan. 1, 1968, and the first Peach Bowl at Grant Field in Atlanta (31-27 vs. Florida State in the rain). 

    The down side: In his three varsity seasons, the Tigers were 0-5-1 combined against Alabama and Ole Miss.
    As a senior, Reding was a co-captain for the season's sixth game, a 10-7 victory against TCU at Tiger Stadium. The other co-captain that night: tight end Robert Hamlett, his old teammate (a year younger) at Bossier High.
    Reding was not the star in college he had been in high school, and his size kept him from a pro football career. But no matter; he loved the program.
    "I got to play with some great football players," he said.
    And this: "They treated the players so well, especially the married players. They treated us like family. It was unbelievable.
    "They paid for everything. When we had the baby (Kathy), they paid for the baby expenses, baby food." And there was a place where the married players could go "and stock up on food -- steaks, meat, all sorts of food."
    Plus, he added, players were lined up with summer jobs -- and no gimmes there: "They were union jobs, hard work -- pipefitting, offshore jobs. And those paid well."
    And Joe did not even mention game tickets. It was common knowledge that LSU players could sell their two or four games tickets for whatever they could get for them -- no NCAA rules against that then (the NCAA put a stop to it a few years later). As now, LSU game tickets were much in demand, so there was money to be made.
    Hearing these things, I asked Joe: Was this within the rules?
    "Who knows," he answered. "They did it."
     As for McClendon -- the folksy country boy who lasted longer than any LSU head coach (18 years) and was so often criticized -- Reding said, "Coach Mac was just great to me.
    "I could not have been treated any better. It was the best five years of my life [in athletics]."
     He remembers this, too, about wearing jersey No. 78.
    "I think I have a unique position at LSU," he pointed out. "The guy who wore that number before me, George Rice, was a first-team All-American [defensive tackle]. The guy who wore it after me, Ronnie Estay, was a first-team All-American."  
    Rice was a huge man, out of Istrouma (like Cannon), who went on to play several seasons with the Houston Oilers (also like Cannon). He was a practice opponent for Reding and "he hit me with a forearm, and I have never been hit as hard in my life. And then he laughed at me."
    And when Joe's right knee buckled and was torn up in a 2-on-1 blocking drill in the spring of 1965, the player who drove him to the ground: George Rice.
    His playing days finished, his degree earned, he moved into coaching, back home in Bossier City. He and David Smith were named assistant coaches at Parkway, which was converting from a junior high school to a high school by adding a sophomore-only class in 1969.
    The head coach was Freddy Shewmake, who had been Reding's coach in kids' baseball for several years in the late 1950s/early 1960s.
    After one year, Reding moved to the Airline coaching staff. Jack Gray was the head coach and had one of the area's best programs (state champions in 1967, the school's fourth year). 
    Reding was the offensive line coach for five years, the last two with M.D. Ray as head coach. The highlight was a district championship team in 1972, with a superb passing game (with Steve Haynes at quarterback) and an 11-3 record that ended with a tough 6-0 loss to Neville (Monroe) in the Class AAAA state finals.
    That was a bad-luck night for Airline -- the game was played on Neville's field in a downpour on a soaked, slippery field that was perfect for the well-coached, defensive-minded Neville team.           
    Reding remembers that Vikings team as much for its  intelligence as its ability. "Great group of kids, a lot of very smart, disciplined kids," he said.
    "I loved coaching," Reding said. "I was like a big kid. I had so much fun with those kids. I'd wrestle with them, run with them, lift weights with them."
    Billy Don Maples remembers the friendship with the Redings -- pool parties and camping trips.
    "Our families used to visit a lot," he said. "Karen's parents lived in Broadmoor (in Shreveport) and they had an indoor pool. We'd go there and swim after games, and we have a good time."
    And Maples also recalls the long hours the Airline staff put in, especially Reding.
    "Jack [Gray] was known for long practices, 3-4 hours; he kept us out there," Maples said. "Then on weekends, we'd be hours breaking down films. Joe would do that, then he go work at Roadway, loading and unloading trucks."
    He'd worked at the freight company even in his high school days and while coaching, Reding concurs, "I worked some nights, and weekends. I'd go work from 5 p.m. Sunday to 1:30 a.m., then be at school the next morning."
    The managers at the freight company were impressed with his strength and work habits, and in 1974, one manager suggested to Reding that he come to work there full-time.
    Joe told him he didn't want to load and unload freight his whole life. No, the manager assured him; he meant for Joe to learn a management position.
    Reding said he talked with Karen about it, and she was open to his decision. He decided to leave Airline as soon as the '74 football team was eliminated from the playoffs.
    So on the Monday after a first-round loss, Joe Reding moved into a new career and "I tripled my salary starting that day."
    Thus began the freight company journey -- one move after another, one company after another, one advancement after another, from assistant terminal manager to terminal manager, to company executive.
    And in 2005, back home to Louisiana -- downstate, near LSU.

     The long, relentless hours the jobs required were part of his life; he always had had the desire to work, work, work. 
     The admittedly reticent young man grew into a sure-of-himself speaker at company gatherings, and -- I'll vouch for this -- he now is a free talker and story-spinner.
     He remains a Tigers fan, but attending games is more of a chore now -- he hasn't been to a Tiger Stadium game in three years -- "and it's easier to sit in my recliner at home and watch."
    He's not the modern communicator -- seldom uses the computer now that he's no longer working; the only cellphone he has is the old flip phone sort he bought after Katrina hit -- when phone lines were out -- and keeps in his car for emergency use only. So no texting, no messaging, no Internet.
    There was a special honor at Bossier High in 2010 when he, Dick and their father were inducted into the school's athletics Hall of Fame -- a Reding triple play. He returned the next year as featured speaker when, among others, Neal Prather was inducted.
     Joe's weight ballooned to 240 a few years ago and a knee surgery and major back pain convinced him it was time to get back in shape.
    He was at 175 a year ago and is 180 now, and "I go to the gym six days a week when possible and have stayed in great shape for a 70-year-old. ... I still push the younger guys there."
    And those younger guys probably don't want to challenge him to a shot-putting contest. Even Billy Cannon was no match for him.