Monday, December 15, 2014

Don't knock Shreveport-Bossier -- and the I-Bowl

      Found out last week how to gain Twitter followers: Just jump on the Tim Brando and Paul Finebaum bandwagon.
      Long story short: A conversation on Finebaum's simulcast TV/radio show included derogatory comments by Paul, but mostly by his producer, about Shreveport-Bossier and the Independence Bowl. Brando, like Finebaum, a national TV/radio voice (and face) with ties to Shreveport, quickly took up defense with a series of tweets in which he was critical of Finebaum and the producer.
      I chimed in -- of course -- to side with Brando in defending our hometown and, in my case, more particularly the Independence Bowl.
      (Excuse me if I don't refer to its sponsor name, the Duck Commander Bowl. But we should thank the Duck Dynasty people, the Robertson family, for its involvement.)
      A couple of disclaimers: (1) I almost never tune into radio or TV talk discussions; I've had my fill of them. I have written this before. (2) I have not lived in Shreveport-Bossier since 1988, but it was home for 30 years, and the base of my sportswriting career, for most of 2 1/2 decades.
      So I am not as gung-ho on Shreveport-Bossier as Tim Brando, whose career has taken him from there to ESPN, CBS and FOX Sports but who -- after living in Bristol, Conn., for a time when he worked for ESPN -- returned to live in Shreveport and base his talk TV/radio show there.
     Shreveport-Bossier isn't the same place as when we lived there; what place is the same? The neighborhoods I came up in sure aren't the same.
      We don't go back that often, but I have hundreds of friends and acquaintances there. I am fond of the place, I root for it and the people there, and I don't like seeing it or them criticized nationally. And I don't like the fun that's made of the Independence Bowl.
      I wrote a blog two years ago addressing that:
      Last Friday, either in reply to Brando or a post of my own, here is what I tweeted ...
      -- Cheap shots at Independence Bowl and Shreveport-Bossier are BS. It's not paradise, but it is home. I am with Timmy B.
      -- For years, Independence Bowl people have done a very good job making this game and visit enjoyable. Give them credit.
      -- Shreveport-Bossier not a sports haven. But Independence Bowl is a lot better show (and bowl game) than people realize. To critics, shut up.
      -- This producer, in the words of the great Jerry Byrd, is "GUTLESS."
      Here is the bottom line: I had 94 "followers" on Twitter before those posts, and picked up six more. But I received the usual weekly notice from Twitter today that those posts had more than 10,000 views (10,119, to be accurate). That's because I included the Twitter handles @TimBrando and @finebaum.
      Those guys have thousands of followers. As I'm writing this, Finebaum has 254,812 followers and Brando has 95,271. I have 100. (Please surpress that laughter.)
      Thank you, guys.
      As Brando tweeted, he considers Finebaum "a dear friend." And, other than one bad moment, my history with Finebaum is fine. I wrote about him, too, a couple of years ago:
      I admire Paul's outstanding career, which is still on the rise with his daily talk show on SEC-TV and his appearances on network pregame/postgame shows. But through the years, he has taken his shots at Shreveport-Bossier and the Independence Bowl.
      I think some of it is for effect, to stir up talk. I consider it show biz. But it irritates Shreveport-Bossier people; it infuriates one of my best friends. Another friend says Finebaum "is dead" to him.
      Oh, gosh.
      Brando was really teed off. Here are some examples of what he tweeted Friday:
      -- Beneath contempt!
      -- Hurrying away from the incredibly horrid comments about Shreveport, Finebaum turns to a Sports Business guru to justify the criticism.
      -- ... not when my hometown is defamed AGAIN! NO! I do defend it.
      -- I'll defend my hometown until my dying days. Finebaum made a horrible error allowing his rookie producer to take him down a horrible slope!
      -- Paul's done this before but it's no less CHEAP! A shame.
      -- Cheap shots against communities that have BOWL games has no place in intercollegiate sports.
      Let's consider this last one: I agree. The communities that have bowl games are doing college football programs, and the schools, a favor. Take the Independence Bowl, which is paying each team $1,200,000 this year. There are -- if I count correctly -- 38 bowl games. The I-Bowl pays more, I believe, than 15 others.
      This will be the 39th Independence Bowl. Shreveport-Bossier has a long history of being unable to maintain sports success, but the people who have carried on to keep this bowl game going are to be commended. It ranks, by my count, 11th among the current bowls in longevity.
      The stadium is old (opened in 1925) and even after several renovations could use a remake. But the south end-zone skybox opened in 2008 is a neat and useful addition. Like the city itself, the stadium -- for so long State Fair Stadium -- is my home stadium. It is for many of us from Shreveport.
      In response to Brando, I saw a dozen "critics" calling Shreveport-Bossier names and how it lacks things to do, how gambling is the community's only attraction, etc. Most of those critics seemed to have Alabama-based Twitter handles; some were defending Finebaum, the bulk of whose career has been in Alabama.
      I looked up tweets by a couple of those people and what I saw almost exclusively was sarcasm, criticism and bitterness. I don't like the negativity on Facebook or Twitter in any form or on any subject. I try not to engage with stupid people, but sometimes ...
       So it's BS (see above). People that come to this bowl game can have fun ... if they want to. And, as I pointed out on Facebook, as a friend said to me, if South Carolina and Miami did not want to be in the Independence Bowl, they should have played better.
      Look, there aren't many teams who start the season aiming to play in the Independence Bowl (or in many of the other bowls). But as my friend Patrick Locke pointed out on Facebook: "EVERY team I've talked to, including Nick [Saban] when he was at Michigan State, said the bowl was a great experience. Make no mistake, though, the best thing about the bowls for college coaches is the extra practice time they get a start on for next year. They only work on their game plans a week prior. The rest of the time is prep for the next season."
      We all agree there are too many bowl games, too many what I consider mediocre -- maybe undeserving -- teams. There are, by my count, 12 teams with 6-6 records in bowl games, 17 at 7-5, two at 6-5, one at 7-6, and one (Fresno State) at 6-7. That's a lot of mediocrity.
      But communities (and ESPN) have the funds to pay those teams, and the NCAA will not turn down that money. And among those mediocre records are some nice matchups: Texas-Arkansas, Iowa-Tennessee, Texas A&M-West Virginia and ... Miami-South Carolina in Shreveport.
      I have a friend (Bob Basinger) who has been to all 38 I-Bowl games -- sometimes through rain, cold and one blizzard. He'll be there again Dec. 27. That's supporting Shreveport-Bossier, college football and the bowl game. He, like Tim Brando and me -- and thousands of others have this message: Don't knock the Independence Bowl. We're proud of it.


  1. From Jesse Carrigan: Thanks to you and Brando for defending such a fine town, bowl and the hard work it takes to live a higher standard of proper respect for people who make things happen.

  2. From Ross Montelbano: Great article. I happened to be watching the show when Finebaum made his comments, along with his dorkey lackey. After a commercial break, they came back much kinder, as in, "Uh, we probably shouldn't have said that" and were obviously a little uncomfortable. Let me share a conversation I had with Bob Stoops. After Oklahoma won the national championship game in the 2000 season, a jerk of a sportswriter said to Stoops something like, "This must feel a lot better than winning the Independence Bowl in Shreveport." Coach Stoops didn't take the bait and said, "Those people in Shreveport took a chance on us when we had been down. I'll never say anything bad about Shreveport." A few years later Sandy Cimino and I went to Oklahoma for the Independence Bowl to see them and Baylor play. After the game I met Coach Stoops. I reminded him of that quote and told him, "I've never been an Oklahoma fan, but I'll always be a Bob Stoops fan." He looked me in the eye and gripped my hand and said, "Don't you people in Shreveport ever take any crap off anyone about that game. We've been a lot of places and we were treated as good there as anywhere we've ever played." Man, talk about an inspirational guy. Anyway, I was a part of about 10 of them and met coaches, alumni, the big dogs and the everyday fans. Over and over I heard, "You guys are the nicest, hardest working group we've ever met. Thank you so much for your hospitality". I agree with Coach Bob Stoops, don't ever take any crap about OUR game.

  3. From Tim Slavin: Honestly guys, the airport is horrible. That is the first thing people see. ... The stadium is nasty. Upgrade! Appearance is everything. ... Take off your hometown hats and look around. The city needs an upgrade.

  4. From Tommy Henry: Too many bowls -- too many bowls -- but I'm proud that our state hosts the Independence Bowl!

  5. From Jimmy Russell: Shreveport has grown the bowl game from infancy. Remember Syracuse vs McNeese (1979)? Here is my only criticism: Shreveport people do not support the game. In my time around there they were always begging people to buy tickets and go to the game. They are always wanting money, which is normal as the NCAA continues to up the minimums for payout. It just needs financial stability instead of crisis management. I think it should be a community thing and people should go regardless of who plays and support their community. The people who stay in there and fight it deserve a lot of credit. Maybe a new stadium would help or a major renovation.The addition of the casino boats have helped in things to do. The bowl's games for the most part have been good.