Thursday, December 31, 2015

Resolutions? Sure, we'll try it

     Don't usually do New Year's resolutions, but because I haven't posted a blog piece in three weeks and I need to write today, let's give it a shot.
     Looking back at last year's Dec. 31 post, I did a review of our year in 2014 -- and it (the blog, not the year) went on and on. I intend to keep this one much shorter. Don't want to bore you (again).
      So I am resolving the following ...
      -- Work on being nice, or kind, to people. Take out the harshness. I'm much better in this area, but patience -- especially when we're driving in this often bizarre Fort Worth-Dallas area traffic -- can be lacking.
      -- Forgiveness. Goes with being kinder. I forgive the young woman who sharply told me I was walking on "private property" during one of my Thursday "church route" (as I like to call it). When I told her I was not trying to do any harm, she said again harshly, "It's private property." I took out that phase of that route; haven't been back.
       -- Relish all the phone calls, Facebook posts and pictures, Facetime sessions and visits from the kids and especially the grandkids. They are so beautiful and so interesting, so curious and inventive. This is an easy resolution; this is the top priority in our lives.
      --  Maybe more than one trip to East Tennessee a year. But, gosh, that road gets longer all the time. That's a l-o-n-g drive, and flying is not only costly, it is a hassle. Even the driving trip to see the two oldest grandsons is now 10-15 minutes longer.
      -- Keep vacuuming and Swiftering regularly in the apartment. Beatrice and I work on this together; the place needs it. Stuff spreads, and our cats have hair that sheds.
      -- Listen better, more closely. I resolve not to walk out of the room while Bea is talking ... even when she's rambling (just kidding). Don't mean to be rude, but that's how it appears. However, I'm trying to convince Bea that when I am loading up the washing machine and the water is running, I can't hear you.
       -- Less computer time. Trying to improve here. There's the half hour in the morning to catch up on the news and e-mail and Facebook, but sometimes that's an hour-and-a-half. And at night, when Bea is watching the Dallas Mavericks play (and I can't stand the stress), the computer is my outlet.
       -- On the other hand, keep writing. I have been doing the blog for almost four years now, and I aimed to write two or three blog pieces a week. But several months ago, I decided I would only write when I felt like it, when I had something that a few people might want to read.
        -- Keep reading. I am proud of this -- I am about to finish my 26th book this year. (That's 11 sports-related books, eight for the book club, four on historical political issues.) That's in addition to daily Internet reading (hello, ESPN), and weekly Sports Illustrated issues (when I can find them).
        -- Selected television viewing. We don't do a lot other than Charlie Rose and Stephen Colbert, the 5 p.m. WFAA newscast, the NBC Nightly News and the PBS NewsHour. Then there's Washington Week on Friday nights with Gwen Ifill, and our favorite, Sunday Morning on CBS, and then Face the Nation. Only a few series, such as Hawaii 5-0 and Major Crimes and -- one more time -- Downton Abbey. Bea is missing Person of Interest.     
         -- Keep exercising. Yes, there's my daily walk -- still -- of 45 minutes to (yikes) two hours if the weather is really good. More importantly now, we go to the Downtown YMCA in Fort Worth for yoga or stretching classes 3-4 times a week. Like the work; like the company.
          -- Eat more wisely. Big area of need for me. I snack far too much, eat too many sweets, eat portions that are too large, eat too late at night. I need to lower my cholesterol/triglycerides levels before my yearly physical because I don't want to have the discussion with my friendly doctor that includes the word "statins."
          -- Same vein: With exercise and better eating habits, I want to lose the extra 5-10 pounds I need to, and to trim my waist. But, as I was reminded when I read my last 2014 blog on Dec. 31, I said the same thing last year. Oops.
          -- Honor the friends we have lost -- either by word, e-mail or on Facebook. Paying respect, having remembrances ... it's important to me.
          -- Continue to write or post stories or comments about Shreveport-Bossier and North Louisiana. I don't live there anymore -- truthfully, don't really want to -- and our visits are less frequent, but we have so many friends and so many ties there. And I feel that I owe those people and that community because for 30 years that was home and where my professional career (which I mostly loved) began.
          -- Watch less football. Seriously. Bea is totally anti-football, and I'm getting there. I cannot watch less NFL because I have watched no games this fall.
          She deplores the violence; I am sick of the off-the-field and some on-the-field crap, especially in the NFL. I do read about the league some, but I don't want to read about or watch any interview involving Jerry Jones, Dez Bryant, Greg Hardy, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Odell Beckham, etc., etc., etc. (Let's make a hero of O.J. Simpson.).
         But even the showboating and trash talking are too much in college football. And, yes, the LSU kids are part of that; they were much too chippy and a little too arrogant the other night against Texas Tech.
          -- I don't intend to watch another LSU football game until at least September. Don't know about you, but I found the 2015 Tigers very difficult to watch. Don't want to get into the coaching thing, but this was a team that gave every opponent some hope. I don't expect a rout every week, but I do wish for more efficiency.
          -- I watched more college football than I probably should have this fall, and I don't intend to do that again next fall. Not likely to keep this resolution, though.
          -- I will watch the Dallas Mavericks because I like the team (but not as much as Bea likes them) and because Dirk Nowitzki is an all-time great player, plus he's as funny and as humble and genuine as any superstar could be. Rick Carlisle is, in our opinion, as good as Gregg Popovich as an NBA coach.
          -- I'd love to watch more baseball on TV. But not in person because games take far too long now. Too many strikeouts, too many one-batter relievers. I watched a lot of Houston Astros games last season because they were a fun team.
           One of my resolutions, though, is to watch more of the New York Yankees, although it is hard for me because my expectations of them are so high. When you've won 40 pennants and 27 World Series, you expect them to win -- always. That's not realistic, is it?
           -- I resolve to take American politics with a level head. There is so much harshness, so much bitterness, so much criticism out there; I don't think it solves anything.
           There is a guy out there who reminds us every day that he has all the answers -- never mind facts or realism -- and who thinks everyone is more stupid than him. If you like him, fine. I think he's a deterrent, someone playing on people's fears. The political process will play out as it usually does and we will get what we deserve.
            But the harshness is destructive. That's my opinion. And here is what I resolved a couple of months ago -- on Facebook, I am "unfollowing" anyone who posts what I consider a derogatory remark or cartoon or story ... and especially those who fall into "name calling."
            I try not to challenge anyone online or tell them what I think, or what they should think. But I don't want to see it, and I imagine my "unfollow" list will grow in the next few months. What I decide won't hurt anyone, and we're still friends. But not on political matters.
            -- Mostly, I resolve to believe that peace is possible -- in this country, in the world. Wish I could erase prejudice toward others in any fashion, but all I can do is resolve that for myself. Back to where I started; it takes kindness and understanding and (if possible) trust; name-calling and the lust to use guns and bombs, to "put boots on the ground," don't work for me.
            So I wish you and yours personal peace and a Happy New Year. I resolve to have another great year.
          
      

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

In the real world, people matter most

     Real-life matters keep reminding me what is really important. It is not all fun and games.
    For years and years, I have lived in an unreal world -- athletics. I have plenty of company. We love our teams and our games; they are part of our lives, and they can dominate our thoughts.
    How often I wish it wasn't so.
    Honestly, I do not want to discuss or even think about LSU football and Les Miles for a couple of weeks. Enough already.
    And I kept thinking as people were contacting me by phone, Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, about the Miles/LSU saga, I have other things that matter more. People things.
    They matter more to other people, too. The blog piece I wrote and posted about the young woman -- a family friend -- and her unborn baby dying received more than 5,400 "views" on my blog site. The piece I wrote about the Shreveport sportswriting legend, now with dementia, received more than 1,100 views. The Miles piece had 200 views.
    That's the difference in the real world and the unreal world. 
    It is unreal the amount of attention athletics receive, the money that is spent on athletics, the outrageous salaries of coaches and professional athletes, the off-the-field crap that we have to endure. The games are what count for me; yes, the wins and losses, but even more, the competition. 
    It is, in many senses, a fantasy world. It is, as a friend pointed out, an entertainment world, which explains the ever-growing amount of money these people make. And now we're talking about paying college athletes. Why not?
Amy Geneux Keck: This is the cover photo for the beautiful,
touching memorial tribute posted by her husband.
    But I have learned -- finally -- not to let the games bother me too much or too long. Because in recent months there have been so many other considerations.
    Here is real life:
    -- The death of Amy just before childbirth, and Adeline. We think of the grieving family daily, and if you watch this video (link below) posted by Amy's husband, it will grab you.
    (And we know other parents, old friends, who have lost their children much too soon -- an Oak Terrace/Woodlawn athlete and his wife, a woman from a Dutch family in East Texas. Their pain might subside over time, but it never goes away.)
    -- While in Shreveport for Amy's visitation/funeral, we learned that the delightful 95-year-old matriarch (with her 93-year-old sister) of the family that were our first "sponsors" after we immigrated to the U.S. was in the hospital with pneumonia and other health problems. Thankfully, she has recovered and continues to live this beautiful life.
    -- My visit with the Byrdman, "Tweety" to some and "The Man, The Legend" to me. After I wrote the blog piece, one of our co-workers said "it must have been hard to write." Not as hard as the actual visit itself, knowing that The Man would not remember it.
    -- My best friend since 1958 having his third heart attack while on vacation with family members in San Francisco. Yet another procedure to clear blockages, and lots of uncertainty before they could return to Shreveport. He's battling; he always has.
    -- Another close friend's 4-month-old grandson, a precious Down's Syndrome baby named Jack (after his great grandfather), undergoing heart surgery and making a recovery.              
    -- One of my high school coaches and good friend, 85 years young, going through another heart episode and the same doctor as before, thankfully, keeping him going up in Tennessee.
    -- Another high school coach and good friend seeing his wife -- a popular couple with so many of us from North Louisiana -- go through lung cancer and surgery. Again, a nice recovery.
    -- Still another high school coach, tough guy on the field and super nice guy off it, deep in the throes of Alzheimer's for several years now.
    -- Quadruple heart bypass surgery for the soon-to-retire LSU play-by-play announcer of more than three decades, whose broadcasts I messed up regularly when we did Centenary road basketball games in the late 1970s.
    He missed all three LSU football losses and the three road-trip men's basketball losses, so -- as I write this -- he's undefeated this school year. He's recovered enough to return to the games and to travel, and on Monday night in New York City, he received the Chris Schenkel Award for long and distinguished  service in college broadcasting.
    -- An older woman from The Netherlands who immigrated to East Texas, after a long recovery from hip surgery is moving to the Seattle area to be near her second and youngest daughter. She is the widow of one of my Dad's oldest and best friends. 
    -- My sportswriting buddy since the mid-1960s partially paralyzed and limited after a stroke and again dealing with health challenges. He's not OK with it -- none of us are -- but he's still cranking out stories and columns and doing the best he can daily.
    -- I've written about losing old coaches/players earlier this year. The latest was a high school/college pal with Fort Worth ties who was a do-good person, a U.S. Navy veteran, husband and father, and forever sports (especially baseball) fan.
    A lot to deal with, but we also cherish the good parts of life:
    -- Our daughter, so devoted to her kids at home and at school, so dedicated to increasing interest in reading by fellow faculty and her students.
    -- Our son-in-law trying to straighten out Tennessee athletics on his radio show in Knoxville.
    -- Our son and daughter-in-law preparing to open a third Cajun Tailgators location, a restaurant at the Dallas Farmers' Market. There is much to do.
    -- Our oldest grandchild, our only granddaughter, sweet, silly, sassy and smart, into gymnastics and soccer, and the avid student and reader her mother wants her to be. Two years ago, she told me enthusiastically and emphatically, "I can read!"
    -- Our youngest grandchild, her brother, at 15 months learning to walk and talk and seeing his first Christmas tree. Stay out of it, Eli.
    -- Our two oldest grandsons, growing wiser and more curious and active, taking in their first LSU football gameday. They wore out, but they are ready to go again.
    -- The boys' new foosball game. They're good at it, but they found out that Opa is not a pushover. It's competitive, remember.
    -- Beatrice and I working daily to keep the apartment in shape and, with regular trips to the downtown YMCA for stretching and yoga, to keep our bodies in shape.
    -- We have to keep our place tidy because our spoiled-rotten cats also live here. Ditto and Grayson, brothers who are almost 10, wake us daily at 6 a.m. or earlier, demanding to be fed.
    -- We think of our extended family and our friends, and we try to stay in touch. We are grateful for the good days. We know everyone has hardships and tough times, so we understand.
    The games, my teams, are important to me; they always will be. That's just me. But when you weigh this unreal world against what really counts, it's all relative, isn't it?
---       
https://animoto.com/play/2F6FTEJeyszX7C2tYxqMMQ      
        
        

Thursday, December 3, 2015

LSU football: "Imperfect" says it exactly

      So do I think Les Miles is a great football coach? I don't. But he has a darned good record.
     Do I think he should have been fired as the LSU coach last week? Hard as it might be to believe, I don't have a strong opinion on that. And, what difference does it make what I think? Not my call, thank goodness.
A final victory ride after the Texas A&M game? No, the "Mad Hatter"
will continue his ride as LSU's head football coach ... for now.
(The Shreveport Times photo)
     Of course, I have plenty of opinions or theories about LSU football, although -- as I've written before -- there are many, many people closer to the situation, and much more knowledgeable. I'm just an interested fan/would-be analyst from a distance, another state, away. I have been watching Tigers' teams for 5 1/2 decades.
      I'm like so many people. I can run an offense and defense better than the LSU coaches. We're all experts. (I'd sure as heck wouldn't call the confounded, predictable, old-timey short-pitch running plays -- always good for a 1- or 2-yard gain -- 25 times a game; maybe once or twice.) 
     But on the Miles firing/buyout question, I wimped out. I could argue both sides.      Because I try (and don't always succeed) not to worry about things I can't control, I'm OK with the result (he's staying). I would have been OK with a coaching change, too.
     Change doesn't have to be a bad thing. Coaching effectiveness, coaching tenures run out (see Steve Spurrier, Mark Richt, Frank Beamer, etc.). But it can be unsettling, wondering who the next coach will be, and can his teams win as often as Miles' teams, will the program be run as well, will it be as much fun (and as much agony)?
     But, damn, $15 million to buy out a contract, maybe $20 million with the rest of the coaching staff's contracts added? ( (Honestly, and I told several friends this a couple of weeks ago, I did not think there was any way LSU people/boosters would come up with $15-$20 million for a buyout. I was wrong.)
    Ridiculous. Really ridiculous in a state in which funds for education have been cut to shreds. Bad message.

    Plus, the way all this came down -- rumors, rumors, reports of a "done deal," hour after hour, day after day of speculation. An embarrassment for LSU, for the state.
     It was a fire drill, a borderline disorganized mess. Those are descriptions some of my friends will recognize because that's how often I describe the way Les Miles' LSU teams play. And they still win.
     It is difficult to explain to people who don't follow the program closely, who just see the scores and the record, why there is dissatisfaction with Miles. It has to do with the mostly conservative, run-oriented offensive style; with ragged special-teams play; and with defenses so prone to giving up big plays.
      And how the Tigers consistently play down to the level of teams that should be more easily handled, such as falling behind 31-3 to Troy (2008) and then coming back with 37 points in the last 16:26 of play  -- 30 in the fourth quarter --  to win 41-30.
      You have to see it to (not) appreciate it.
      But what we do appreciate is how many times Miles' LSU teams have come from behind to win, how resilient they've been, how he has called the trick plays that work like a charm. (The man has "Les-ticles.") It's like watching a circus act.
---
     You want to blame the media for blowing up the "Miles is out" story, you can. I don't.
     Sure I'm prejudiced, but I also think I am qualified to judge, and I think the coverage of LSU football is better than it's ever been. Yes, I know many of the writers involved, they are friends and some date to my time in Louisiana in the 1970s and '80s, and I'll tell you they do a great job. That's a talented group.
      On this story, though, they missed -- badly. Or that's how it turned out. The national media which picked up on the story missed, too. But everyone went with the information they were given; writers are only as good as their "sources." I'd say in this case they were misled.
      Those sources, and I'm guessing they were LSU Board of Supervisors members or in the athletic department, talked too much and too soon.
      We know it couldn't have come from LSU athletic director Joe Alleva because he didn't say anything -- not publicly -- until he told us postgame that, never mind all you've heard and read, Les Miles is still the LSU coach.
      We also know that someone, or several people, had to organize the $15-$20 million effort from the deep pockets to assure buyout could happen. Who knows how much Alleva was involved, or knew, about that?
      It's fairly clear that Alleva's unwillingness a year ago to adjust John Chavis' contract clause covering the possibility of Miles' being let go was enough for the defensive coordinator to bolt for Texas A&M. That was out of Miles' control.
      Of course, the way that LSU played against Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss on three consecutive Saturdays was out of Miles' control, too. Which is why we had this growing predicament/movement. But it's been like that for most of 11 years.
      The most on-target assessment was a head-shaking moment Saturday night, one of many during this LSU football season. In his opening remarks after the Tigers' game with Texas A&M, after addressing his job situation, Miles called the victory "an imperfect fistfight" and later said, "We were imperfect offensively."
     "Imperfect" describes so many LSU victories -- and losses -- in the Miles era.
And describes all the commotion about the program the past few weeks.
---
      Here's what I'm sure of: Many people in my world -- in person, on e-mail and Facebook and by phone -- wanted to talk about Les Miles and LSU football the past few weeks.
      It's taken up too much of my time and energy, but here is my view of the situation. I could write several pieces on this, but enough already.
      We have heard how likeable Miles is, how good a family man, a man of good deeds and sympathy. We've seen and heard how much his players respect him and we saw the fans' love Saturday. We know he's "quirky" with a sense of humor. I have no personal experience with him, but I know that he treats my media friends well (and we know of some coaches who can be quite peevish that way).
      I do have friends who think that Miles' act is fraudulent, that his program isn't as clean as people think. I know some people were critical of his leniency toward Jordan Jefferson and Jeremy Hill -- to use two examples -- after their off-the-field transgressions. But we also know that he's disciplined those players and others, cutting some from the program.
      For head coaches, it's like parenting, and in college programs, you're in charge of 125 kids or so. Not easy. Not as easy as being critical of the coaches.
     So when LSU loses a game, or three games in a row and is dominated in each one, coaching must be one of the reasons. The strategy is wrong, or the players weren't prepared properly. Or so we keep hearing.
     I am not a fan of coaching changes; I don't believe they necessarily fix what ails teams. What I believe is that it's about the players. Coaches can only do so much. Players win -- and lose -- the games. So that means it's also about recruiting players.
     That said, coaches' philosophies and strategy can make a difference. LSU football is often -- always? -- ripe for second-guessing.
      I have a friend who was a coach and who says that Miles "didn't have them [LSU] ready to play" in the losses. I don't quite agree; I think that's a coach's cliche'. Teams have all week to prepare; coaches prepare them for what opponents tend to do.
      So my thinking is that the players did not execute what they were taught. If they weren't taught, if the opponents' strategy was unfamiliar to them, that's on the coaches. Can't imagine LSU's coaches don't do their homework.
      One of the constant argument I hear is that LSU has as much or more talent than any team in the SEC, except Alabama. Some years, most years, I'd agree. The recruiting rankings -- which I think are over-emphasized, over-publicized -- suggest that LSU's recruits are among the nation's best.
      And if you look at the number of LSU players who have made NFL teams the past decade -- few programs can match the number -- you'd have to say that's a lot of talent.
      Because so many of those players went to the NFL and passed up another year of college eligibility, it's been a challenge for LSU's coaches, forcing them to give more playing time to sophomores and freshmen. In that way, Miles and staff have paid for excellence.
      But my opinion -- and I've had a tough time selling this to several friends -- is that this LSU team lacks the overall talent of most teams Miles has had here.
      Sure, there is some great talent -- Leonard Fournette and Malachi Dupre, for instance -- but this team's defense is too mistake-prone, caught out of position far too much; the offensive line was dominated by Alabama and Arkansas' defensive fronts; and the quarterback play has been increasingly erratic.
      (And we root for the QB, a kid from the area and high school -- Parkway -- in Bossier City where we used to live.)
      The early successes of Miles' tenure, and the continued success, raised the high expectations. Alabama's success, under Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and the current reign of Nick Saban, makes it tough on LSU and all the other SEC programs.
---
      About Saban: LSU fans should be grateful for his five-year stay (2000-04) as the Tigers' coach. Under him, the program revived after the mediocrity of most of the 1990s. But when he left for an NFL head coaching job -- he previously had been in the league as an assistant for six years -- it was no great surprise.
       Two years later, he took the Alabama head coaching job and became a nuisance, and reviled by many LSU people. And now one of the big raps against Miles is that LSU has lost five games in a row to Alabama.
        Let me remind you: At one time, Miles' LSU teams were 5-2 against Alabama, 3-2 against Saban. Here's what else: It took Alabama last-minute drives to beat LSU in 2012 and 2014. Two of Saban's wins against LSU were in overtime. The 2013 game was tied 17-17 late in the third quarter when a fake Alabama field-goal try that worked for a first down turned the momentum. This year's game was 10-10 in the last minute of the first half.
       It's not like it's been total domination. Saban, at Alabama, is difficult for any coach to beat. He's ruining the SEC.
       Here's what else, for those with long memories: Charlie McClendon, LSU's coach for 18 seasons (1962-79), the only LSU coach to win more games than Miles, was 2-14 against Alabama and Bear Bryant (his own college coach).     
       I liken Miles to McClendon because, no question, they are the most criticized LSU football coaches in history. From the time Charlie Mac succeeded the sainted Paul Dietzel after the 1961 season, LSU fans were always ready to "Help Mac Pack." Any loss to Ole Miss -- and the Rebels were so good in McClendon's time -- was distressing.
      Miles is seven seasons and 26 victories behind McClendon's 18 and 137. After what happened the past few weeks, it's hard to see Les at LSU past next season.
      Like Charlie Mac, who had one losing season, Les has never convinced a lot of LSU people (and likely never will). Like Charlie Mac, Les will never have an offense that pleases a lot of LSU people. Tough running games, between the tackles -- no matter how many games it helps win -- isn't what they want.
     Charlie Pevey was McClendon's quarterbacks coach/play-caller. "Too conservative" was always the criticism. Cam Cameron has been LSU's QBs coach/offensive coordinator/play-caller for three years, and the last two years he's been "too conservative."

       It has been strongly suggested -- and perhaps Miles has agreed to this -- that coaching-staff changes be made. Les has done it before; the coordinators (Cameron, Kevin Steele) are the fourth he's had in each position. Some of the coaches might leave on their own.
       It also has been strongly suggested -- by everyone -- that he find a way to open up the offense.
       I strongly suggest LSU win its bowl game. An indication of how the Miles era has slipped -- the Tigers won their first four bowl games under Les; they've won two of six since then.
        If they lose this bowl game, there will be more dissatisfaction. But here is a thought: What if another school -- more impressed with Les than the "anti" faction at LSU -- offers him a deal? You wouldn't blame him for accepting, and that would make a lot of people happy. Not likely to happen.
        He has shown much more loyalty to LSU than has been shown to him.
        Obviously, it will take a much more competitive LSU team in the SEC next year to soften the anti-Miles rhetoric. Could happen because many of the young players (sophomores, freshmen) of this year's team will return. But they have to improve -- and arguably so do their coaches.
        So Les Miles in a sense is a "lame duck" coach. That is not going to help him in recruiting and maybe -- as one of my columnist friends wrote -- it is a bad situation. But Les, as we know, isn't easily deterred.
        His program has bounced back before, from 8-5 and 9-4 records in 2008 and '09 to 11-2, 13-1, 10-3, 10-3. Yeah, some (many) of those wins were ugly and agonizing, and maybe that gets to Joe Alleva and those really smart football minds -- with deep pockets -- on the LSU Board of Supervisors.
         They can keep their money, for now, or put it to better use. They can keep thinking that Jimbo Fisher or some other superstar coach will just -- snap -- jump at the LSU job.
         So they can gripe -- and plot -- for another year or, if Les Miles can be the perfect coach they want, they can jump back on the bandwagon. Hold on because if nothing else, it's a bumpy ride.
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A (difficult) visit with Mr. Byrd

Unlike the recent photo taken of him, Jerry Byrd did not
want to smile for this photo last Wednesday. Maybe it
was the company he was keeping.
     It was a relatively brief visit, 30 minutes maybe, but it was good to see Jerry Byrd last Wednesday morning.
     It was also difficult.
     Some of my friends, and Jerry's friends, know -- and I am writing this with the consent of and input from his wife Barbara and his son, the big man known as "Little Jerry" -- that Shreveport's best-known and arguably its most gifted sports writer/editor ever is in a mental-care facility.
     His short-term memory is lacking. But the old Jerry -- the mind for details and stories, sports events, people from the 1940s, '50s and early '60s, and the sharp wit, some of it (well, a lot of it) irreverent -- is still there. The ego -- as I always joked, as large as his very big head -- is too.
     The many people who worked around Byrd at the Shreveport Journal for the 34 years he was there know that's all true.
     Yes, he looks a little older (he's 80) and he has difficulty walking (a cane is necessary, a wheelchair is better), but he remains fairly robust. His handshake is very firm, he's still really loud, he still sings ... and he can make me laugh, even if he doesn't mean to.
      A few weeks ago, Little Jerry suggested I go by and see him; Barbara early last week agreed. It would be good for him; visitors stimulate his mind, maybe motivate him, keep him busy.
      But here is the tipoff. He did not recognize me when he first saw me (there is a possible reason); he's known me for 50-plus years. And when Barbara asked him the next day if I had been by, Jerry's reply was that he didn't remember.
      Little Jerry's take: "He probably didn't remember 30 minutes after you left."
---
      Gosh, it's hard. People with family members or friends with memory loss -- be it dementia or Alzheimer's, and I'm not qualified to define Jerry's situation -- know how hard it is. It starts with lost trips to the nearby store, or to work -- that was the case with Jerry beginning four years ago -- and soon the daily details become foggy or forgotten.
      Such an insidious disease.
      Here is this individual with such a compelling story -- born with a cleft palate and cleft lip, the cause of a severe stutter, and so he was a painfully shy boy and young man hesitant to speak much. But he found in high school that he could write and he loved sports, and as he grew more confident, he became one of the best sports writers, most knowledgeable ones, in Louisiana history. I'm far from the only one with that opinion.
      He talked more freely, met a young woman (Patricia) in his church and married, he was a father twice, a grandfather, and the Journal sports editor. And he grew to be a pretty darned good public speaker (still with a stutter, but the pauses only made his punch lines more timely) and a raucous, uninhibited public singer without stuttering (now that was a laugh).
      He was never afraid to express his opinion; he could handle the criticism; and OK, he could -- pardon the language -- piss off his co-workers because he was high maintenance and did have an anger button.
      But, look, almost everyone admired him. They knew how good he was, how talented, how dedicated, how devoutly Christian. He did so many favors for me personally -- beginning when I was in high school -- and we had so many good times together, so many shared stories, so many laughs.

      And it hasn't been an easy life -- Patricia's long illness and death, Jerry's battle with cancer, a gall bladder removed, other tough situations.
      I hear people, sports writers, described as "a walking sports encyclopedia." In my world, Byrd was the encyclopedia, especially on high school sports in Louisiana, but in other areas, too.
      In July 2012, I wrote a blog piece on Jerry (link below) in which I referred to him -- as I have for years -- as "The Man, The Legend." He always made light of that.
      Not long after that, I began to sense that his e-mail or Facebook replies to me weren't totally coherent. Very unlike-Byrd. Few people were as sharp with facts and his typing -- his "copy," in newspaper terms -- was almost always immaculate (not a word used often for Mr. Byrd in other ways).

      A few months later, Little Jerry told me that his Dad was having memory issues. So I wasn't surprised when he told me a couple of months ago about his being in this facility. Barbara -- like Jerry, a Fair Park High School graduate of 1953 -- had been caring for him at their home, but it got to be too much of a chore for her.
      And here is what dementia has done. He is not clear on where his wife and daughter are. He says he is still writing his column. He thinks this mental-care facility is only a temporary stop. There's more; I'll spare the details ...
---
      At this facility, Jerry is in a room at the end of the hallway at the far southwest corner of the second building. They probably want to reduce the noise level (I'm not being serious). It's a long walk there, and with an activities director, we went through a large dining room/activities area where maybe 25-30 people were sitting, most in wheelchairs. And not a word from anyone.
      It's gripping.
      One facility worker described Jerry as a "sweetheart" (that will be news to some people). When I asked the activities director how Jerry was doing, she said, "He can be grouchy some days, but he's doing better. When he first came, he would not take part in any activities, but he's beginning to get into it."
       (This is a man who would scream, "Twenty, twenty, twenty," as our Journal softball team neared that run total in games, who stripped off his shirt in freezing weather to pose -- hilariously -- for a photo at new Fair Grounds Field, who joined in singing Happy Birthday to someone during lunch at a restaurant in Bossier City. Not exactly reluctant.)
       As we neared a hallway, we passed a worker and the woman with me told her we were going to see Mr. Byrd. "You can have him," she said. As she explained later, when we passed her again, Jerry is not always the most cooperative of residents.
       When I went into Jerry's room, he was sleeping. So I left. But the woman who had walked me there saw me coming down the hall, and said we should go wake him because it was almost time for lunch "and he will like seeing you."
       He was groggy and a bit fussy when awakened, and the woman said, "I have someone here to see you." Jerry raised up a bit, peered at me and didn't say anything.
        "Do you know who this is?" she asked him.
        Me: "Put on your glasses, Byrd." Jerry, disdainfully: "I don't need my glasses to see you." And then he said, "He looks familiar, but I can't think of his name right now."
        When I said, "Nico," he yelled my full name -- loud enough that they could hear him in the nearby South Broadmoor neighborhood. And then, considering he hasn't seen me in about six years, he quickly added, "What happened to you?"
        He asked me what I was doing these days, and I told him I was retired ... "like you."
        "I'm still writing for the Bossier Press-Tribune," he replied. (He hasn't been on a computer in a couple of years.)
        About five minutes later, as we headed to the lunch room, he asked me again, "What are you doing now?"          
---
        As I entered the room, I saw some photos and a scrapbook. One of the photos was of Rogers Hampton, the great all-around Fair Park athlete of the early 1950s. When I mentioned the photo to Jerry, he said, "I have that photo at home." I told him it was here, and he said, "Well, if I'm going to have anyone's photo, it would be him."
        Then, as the woman got Jerry ready to go in the wheelchair, he asked where we were going. "To lunch," she said. "Who's paying?" Jerry said. Told it was part of the facility cost, he said, "Good."
       "He asks every day," she whispered to me. (And five minutes later, Jerry asked again.)
        I noticed that among the three dozen books on the shelves in his room were three of the books he has written on Louisiana athletics. When I mentioned that, the woman said, "I didn't know you wrote books, Mr. Byrd."
        "I've written eight," he said. She then said, "I didn't know you were famous."
        Byrd: "Some people think so."
---
        The woman said to Jerry, "I heard you singing in the lunchroom yesterday." To which Jerry replied, "I was singing? What was I singing?" The woman: "That song about sunshine that a Louisiana governor wrote." Jerry: "I don't know what song that is."
        I chimed in with "You Are My Sunshine." "That's it," the woman said. "Governor Jimmie Davis," I added. Jerry: "A Louisiana governor wrote that?"
        (Just think, the best of Byrd's tunes at the Journal: Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl. ...  Elvira. ... This Is Dedicated to the One I Loooooove. ... I Found My Thrill on Blueberry Hill. Ba ba ba, ba, Barbara Ann, Ba ba ba ba, Barbara Ann ...)
        The one that made me laugh the hardest, though, was one night at old SPAR Stadium when a large group of barbershop quartet singers performed pregame. Just Byrd and me sitting in a box seat right behind home plate, no one else close, when he -- loudly, what else? -- joined them in Let Me Call You Sweetheart. I'm still laughing.)
---       
       When we got to the lunchroom, the woman placed Jerry at his usual table. I asked him if he remembered Billy Montgomery. "Of course," he said. "Billy Wayne Montgomery." How about "Honey" Russell? "That's Jimmy, they called him Jimmy," he answered. "Honey was his nickname." 
       And I asked about Tony Sardisco, whose widow died just a couple of days earlier. "Yeah," Jerry said, "we used to call him 'Nabisco.' " (Which we did.)
       Little Jerry has told me several times that "Dad can remember most anything before 1965. ... In the scrapbook, there is a photo of him when he coached swimming; he must have been around 30, and there are four or five swimmers in the photo with him, and he knows them all, without even having to think about it."
        A man was slumped nearby in his wheelchair, sleeping. A worker awakened him and rolled him to the table where Jerry was sitting. "He's pretty low-functioning," the woman whispered to me. He didn't speak for a minute, then suddenly he sat up and began describing what he was going to do to his meal. It was mostly gibberish, but I think I heard "cut it up into little pieces, mash it, pulverize it."
        "That guy," Jerry said to me, "is not going to last much longer."
        Oh, wow. I hope I'm forgiven for laughing.             
---
        When I asked Jerry how he likes the facility, he said, "It's OK. But I'm not going to be here long, another week maybe. Then I'm going home."
        He's been there for two months already.
        He rarely goes out in public now and Little Jerry said that his Dad prefers to stay in his room and that he has to coax him into the outside world by stretching the truth a little.
        It is, as you can imagine, most difficult for his family. As a friend, I can wish for a lunch at Strawn's like hundreds of times before and I'd love to hear his opinion(s) on the LSU football season and the coaching situation. And to hear him tell so many of the funny stories once stored in that large head.
        We could always try to imitate him -- that voice, those mannerisms, that singing, the memorable lines ("Hey, Phillip, what took you so long?" and "he can skate, but he can't hide"). Professionally, we all could learn from him, take something from his work.
        We pray for him. We hope for a peaceful existence. And we can still love The Man, The Legend.
---
http://nvanthyn.blogspot.com/2012/06/legendary-man-mr-byrd.html
 


Saturday, November 14, 2015

This is tragedy ... this is heartache

Amy, about 4, with Miss Rose.
     Oh, Amy, we loved you so.
     Amy was the little girl who lived across the street from my parents' home. We knew her all her life.
      When our Jason -- at ages 3, 4, 5 -- came to visit with his new Oma Rose and Opa Louis, one of his favorite things to do was go play with Amy. They were the same age.
      They were a matched pair, both blond(e) and sweet and cute, two kids playing in the driveway or the garage. Loretta and Lynn Geneux, Amy's parents, were as proud of her as we were of Jason. My parents thought of Amy as practically another grandchild. 
      The Geneuxs lived on Schaub Drive in Shreveport for Amy's first decade (brother Emile came next, and sister Amanda followed). Lynn Geneux became our family attorney and, with Loretta, were my parents' "protectors" as they aged.
      Many people took care of Rose and Louis, but few as much and as consistently as Lynn and Loretta, even after they moved to another nearby neighborhood. If there was a Van Thyn family function, the Geneuxs were there. They were loyal.
      We thought about that Thursday, one of those days -- one of those phone calls -- that devastates you.
      We were getting ready to go exercise at the downtown YMCA when my phone rang at 9:47 a.m., and Lynn Geneux got right to the point.
      "We wanted to let you know that Amy died yesterday [Wednesday] morning," he said, hesitating. 
      What do you say to that?
The Keck family in summertime: Amy, William, Audrey, Jim
      He then told me a little of the circumstances. Amy Geneux Keck, age 41, wife of Jim (married for seven-plus years) and mother of 6-year-old twins Audrey and William, was nine months pregnant and at home in Houston when she began to feel labor pains. She was having trouble breathing.
      She told Audrey to call Nonnie and Papa in Shreveport. Audrey did and told them Mama was having the baby -- due near Thanksgiving -- and they better hurry to Houston. She then yelled at William to call 911.
      It was Amy who called 911. The medics arrived, and Amy got herself on the gurney. But, it is thought, she stopped breathing by the time they took her out of the house. They tried to revive her on the way to a nearby hospital, but ... no.
      The baby also died.
      Adeline Claire Keck, Geneux grandchild No. 8, never had a chance. 
      When I told Bea, her first response -- after sobs -- was that "you don't expect that to happen in today's world."
      As Lynn told me in a later conversation -- after I asked permission to write this blog piece -- the cause might have been a pulmonary embolism (blood clot). They are awaiting autopsy results.
       There had been no warning signs, not in a doctor's visit Monday. Some back pain Tuesday, but it all looked good. And then ...
---
      Lynn Geneux was in the Jesuit High School Class of '64, not an athlete -- not
All the Geneux/Keck/Ericson family; that's Jim and Amy, far left
even that much of a sports fan -- but one of the excellent students for which that school is known. He has been wise counsel in so many matters as our attorney; as a caring person, my parents believed so much in him.

      When Dad had so much trouble with French attorneys and the government trying to settle his first cousin's estate -- Dad was the heir -- Lynn worked hours, days, months, a couple of years on the case. Not sure he ever charged Dad for any work; if he did, it was a cute-rate bargain.
      Loretta Gates Geneux, like Bea, was a country girl who came to live in the city. She was from Coushatta, La. -- Bea's mother's hometown -- and, for you baseball fans, a cousin of the famed Joe Adcock.
      She has her country twang, a delightful, upbeat person who is sneakily funny. She doted over her children -- and Miss Rose -- and she's the best Nonnie anyone could ever be.
      We have known so many great people, and the Geneuxs are right there.
      Lynn reminded me that Loretta was nine months pregnant when, after a weeks-long search, they found the house for sale on Schaub Drive. They signed the papers on July 1, 1974, moved in on July 5, and Amy was born July 10. Welcome home.
      Our Jason was 4 months older. They each started school the same year, graduated high school the same year (1992) and attended LSU (separate locations) at the same time. They each married the same year, each a few years into their 30s, had children the same year.
      Amy became a teacher, first in Shreveport and then in Houston, where she moved because it was Jim's hometown and he had a job as a chemical engineer. She taught in middle school (social studies) and elementary school.
      To be honest, we were not that close to Amy after they moved from Schaub Drive. But to look at her Facebook page now, and the many, many posts from longtime friends and her students, she was so much like her parents -- just as sweet and kind (and funny) as we remember her as a little girl. As a teacher, she obviously was dedicated and diligent.
      But mostly, she was about family. The Geneuxs are about family.
      Amy and Jim's twins are the oldest grandchildren and the first of two sets of twins; Dr. Emile, a dentist in Shreveport, and wife Dr. Beth, an OB-GYN, have twin daughters, and two younger daughters. Amanda (and Jeff) have a daughter and grandchild No. 9, a boy, due in February. 
      It is a loving, tight-knit group, and we admire them. On Loretta and Amy's Facebook pages, there are so many wonderful family photos -- many taken by Jim, who is a skilled photographer (side business) -- and so many neat posts. 
      They've had their challenges, serious health issues with two of the grandkids, and other difficulties. But they were patient and persevered.
      And now this. Our hearts ache for all the Geneuxs, especially for Jim, Audrey and William with the loss of their wife and mother.
Our little Amy, with baby Emile
      Their grief is profound and, no comparison, but for us, the rest of Thursday was full of tears and remembrances. There was no trip downtown -- too much emotion -- just long walks for each of us.
       Amy and the family was about all I could think about. It is difficult to fathom such a life ending so tragically.                        
       "She was a good mother," Lynn said of his oldest daughter, his and Loretta's first baby. "She lived for her children and for her family. She was good to them, she was good to Emile and Amanda, and their kids.
       "It is not supposed to be this way," he said, choking up at the thought (but not as choked up as the person he was talking with). "But it is."  
       Amy, the beautiful little girl who lived across the street.
---
        The Geneux family posted these visitation/funeral arrangements:
        Houston:
        Sunday: visitation, 5-8 p.m., Klein Funeral Home, Cypress-Fairbanks, 9719 Wortham Blvd., Houston, TX 77065
        Monday: Mass, 4:15 p.m., St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, 10135 West road, Houston, TX 77064
        Shreveport:
        Tuesday: Visitation, 5-8 p.m., Rose Neath funeral home, 1815 Marshall St., Shreveport, LA 71101
        Wednesday: Mass, 1 p.m., St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 211 Atlantic Ave. 71105, burial to follow at Holly Springs cemetery near Coushatta, LA



                          
            

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fight, Tigers, fight for Ol' Mizzou ...

      Because I was in journalism, and because I knew a dozen journalists with ties to the University of Missouri and Columbia, Mo. -- most of them sports writers -- I had this thought:
      I wonder how they feel about the student protests and the events of the past week on the Missouri campus?
      So I asked several for their reactions, with this blog in mind. Most (but not all) have a connection to Shreveport, and some did not respond or chose not to make their feelings public. But read on, if you want to see how they feel.
      I have my opinions -- uninformed, of course -- but I will reserve them until the end. I will say now that some of this makes sense, some of it doesn't.
      But it makes more sense than the murder, in Columbia, 14 years ago this month of Kent Heitholt, a Missouri journalism graduate who had come back to town as sports editor of the newspaper there. I'm sure Heity -- everyone's friend -- would have had a good take on these developments.
       I learned a long time ago that Missouri journalism grads, including my friends in sports writing, came out of the one of the nation's best journalism schools, and they were all pretty darned good journalists.
       (I can hear one of them, let's call him "Tiger," coaching us in the words of the Missouri fight song: " ... Fight, Tigers, fight, for Ol' Mizzou ...")
When the University of Missouri football team said it would
not practice or play games, the student protests' against racism
gained momentum and publicity nationwide
(photo from nbcnews.com)
       Maybe only Northwestern and Syracuse could match Missouri's journalism reputation, although -- some prejudice here -- I know that LSU and Louisiana Tech have turned out some fine journalism majors.
       So I have lots of respect for the Missouri people. Didn't like all their work or agree with them sometimes, and wasn't fond of all of them, but I know they were well-schooled. And they had to be watching the Missouri news -- charges of racism and bias, student protests, a hunger strike, a football team boycott, the resignation of the chancellor and system president, and an assistant professor of mass media asking for "muscle" to prevent a student photographer and cameraman for reporting the news.
       Ah, the lessons of political correctness and free speech, and the continuing issue -- always, it seems -- of the racial divide in this country.
---
       Here are the reactions from a few of my friends:
       Joel Bierig (former major-league baseball writer, Chicago): "[wife] Barb and I remember Mizzou as a friendly, tranquil place where our daughter [Becky] received a great journalistic education and had a very pleasant college experience, just as I had in the 1970s.
       " ... It's distressing to see our school in this sort of headline. Can this possibly be the same place we enjoyed so much? Now we know how Penn State grads felt a few years back. Obviously, the Mizzou administration must take the blame.
      "Today's climate and circumstances arguably are more complex, but the people in charge must be prepared to meet the challenges and deal with the issues. If the situation mushroomed and became magnified because of the administration's inattention, so much the worse.
      "The Mizzou brand has taken a beating under [president] Tim Wolfe's watch. Simply put, he is the CEO who presided over a stock crash.
      "I read where Wolfe was quarterback of Columbia Rock Bridge High's football team when it won a state championship in 1975. I graduated from Mizzou in May of that year. Weird in that regard, and also in that a football team (Mizzou's) was what finally sacked Wolfe.

       "I can't testify that racism and anti-semitism didn't exist during my time at Mizzou, but if it did, I missed it,  or perhaps differences often were hashed out in simpler ways. One of our best friends was an African-American student from West Plains, Mo., who was one of my apartment housemates for two years."
---
       Jeff Rude (golf writer, television host, Orlando, Fla.): "Well, I’m struck how the Missouri campus protest story had a little bit of everything. Race. Money. Power. Hunger strike. Politics – left versus right (or wrong). Students (read: football players) in effect ousting a president. A coach having no choice to rightly back his players. A clueless assistant communications professor stomping on the First Amendment. The irony of protesters not seeing both sides of the First Amendment. Even Michael Sam weighing in, and then getting bashed by the political right.
       "And, finally, a slow-acting president of the university system who seemed defiant when he resigned and who called for the dialogue he didn’t quickly deliver. This being 2015, a simple “we will not tolerate racist acts” early on might have helped.
       "You could say that football coach Gary Pinkel was caught in between the president (a boss) and his players. But let’s get real: Had he not rightly supported his players, recruiting African-American players would have been challenging, to say the least.

        "It's also important to note that the assistant professor is not on the School of Journalism faculty. The journalism and communications departments are different, unlike the case at many schools.   
       "Missouri’s celebrated School of Journalism also had good moments. A professor spoke wisely during a CNN interview. And the evolved journalism dean sent alums [a] note Tuesday:
        [Key paragraph from that note, commenting on the president-chancellor resignations]: "It was a day that demonstrated the important role of journalism in a democratic society. It showed why we hold dear our First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion, and petitioning against the government for grievances."
---
      Ed Cassiere (from Shreveport, sports information director, Xavier University, New Orleans): "All I can offer are two sentences. First one is pretty much public domain. Second one belongs to Rodney King. It's 2015. Can we all get along?"
---
      Tom Marshall (from Shreveport, advertising director, New Jersey Monthly Magazine): " When I was at Mizzou in the mid-1970s, I never witnessed any overt acts of racism. My dorm hall was integrated (now that I think about it), but neither then nor now would I consider that to be unusual or noteworthy.
      "I also covered high school and college sports for The Columbia Daily Tribune during my years at Missouri but again, I don't recall any incidents of racism.
      "Reading the coverage of the last few days makes me sad for the turbulence on campus and sorry that students there have been subject to hurtful acts of discrimination. But in my memory my experience at Mizzou was happy, productive and strife-free."
---
      Dr. George Sylvie (from Shreveport, assistant professor of journalism, University of Texas-Austin): "This is the halo effect from Ferguson [Mo.]. Certainly we knew about racism then, but thanks to Watergate, I was too busy trying to survive Mizzou J School [masters degree] and land a job to really give it much thought.
      "Going to Missouri from Louisiana was liberating for a black kid then. I stayed away from the Ag School and the frats, so I never ran into trouble. You could date white girls and no one gave you a second look. So that's why I say Columbia now is living in Ferguson's shadow, reliving the 1960s."
---
       Mark Burgess (Knoxville, Tenn., area resident, former co-worker in sports at Knoxville News Sentinel, University of Tennessee journalism graduate who grew up in Columbia, Mo.): "Conflicting feelings. Proud of university students taking a stand and speaking out on a topic that's probably more widespread and common than most of us know. Not happy with how some of it was handled, including the bullying of journalism students there to cover the event.
      "Obviously some serious issues on that campus and felt fine with student athletes taking a stand. Would have opened up a lot of serious questions if it had gone on long enough to impact games, TV contracts etc. Glad it didn't go on long enough for that to happen.
      "I've heard some people argue this sets a dangerous precedent for future similar protests around the country. It's possible, but we'll have to wait and see if those battles take place and have the same impact. A little surprised the president buckled as quickly as he did. He was either very guilty of poor leadership or feeling some serious heat from some powerful, big-money insiders. Either way, it's a problem."
---
      As for me, I agree that I thought the system president gave in to the demands -- but maybe that was the right move. Might have been better if he had listened more carefully or more quickly, and at least tried to satisfy the protesting students.
       It also bothers me -- and I think it's a dangerous precedent -- that football team members were willing to sit out practices, and even games. Don't blame them for backing the protesters and making a strong statement, but perhaps sitting out a practice or two would have done it.
      So I agree with one friend who did not want to be quoted by name publicly about the football team's involvement: "... Team is going to resist playing a game when you are paid nicely [with scholarships] to play games? My response would have been, how much do you value your convictions, like enough to forfeit a week's worth of scholarship/food money?"
       And, he added, in light of Missouri's 4-5 record (1-5 in the SEC) and struggling offense (3, 6, 3 and 13 points in four consecutive SEC losses), that "the funniest thing I read was a comment in the [St. Louis] Post-Dispatch from a reader reacting to the story about Wolfe resigning, telling Pinkel, "I'm starving to death for a touchdown!"
 
      
 


                 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Replay/review: Do it right, give the victory to Duke

     When a friend on Facebook posted the ESPN story about the officials in the Miami-Duke football game being suspended for the next two weeks, here is how I responded:
      I quote myself -- "That is not enough. That was a crime. What was the replay official seeing. That's the guy who never should do that job again. The ACC commissioner and/or executive committee should give the victory to Duke. And Miami players and interim [head] coach were acting like they deserved the win. It was all detestable."
     It was one of the worst "jobs" I've seen in sports.
Is there any doubt that Miami player Mark Walton's knee was down before
he lateraled the football -- one of the eight laterals on the controversial
kickoff return against Duke? How did the replay official not see this?
(photo by Grant Shorin, Duke Sports Information) 
     So Miami had eight laterals on the kickoff return that was ruled a touchdown, wiping out Duke's 27-24 lead. Duke had just scored the go-ahead touchdown, and all it had to do was kick off and survive the 6 seconds remaining on the clock.
     Miami: eight laterals, what was an "official" 75-yard TD return, two blocks in the back and one player running onto the field without his helmet before the play ended. And a victory celebration that should have been Duke's.
     On one of the laterals, the Miami player's knee clearly -- clearly -- is on the ground, with him holding the football. He was down.
     How in the heck did the replay official not see that? Unbelievable.
     You can give the on-field officials an "out" for missing the blocking-in-the-back calls, considering the wildness of the play and that the officials probably had to run and stop and run and reverse directions while the play developed.
     But, absolutely, there is no excuse for the replay official. That's why he's up there in the booth. It took him nine minutes to look at the play repeatedly -- and still make the wrong call.
     It's a crime.
---
     Instant replay or "the play is under review" is, I believe, one of the best things that's happened in sports recently.
     Let's get the calls right, no matter how long it takes. If you have the technology for replay and review, let's use it.
     Don't mind it in baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and certainly in college football. And for those few of you who care, it should be used more in soccer, where players try to get away with anything they can.
     In trading e-mail messages with an old friend last week, he said he is not a replay/review fan in baseball. He'd rather have the human element -- umpires' calls -- remain as they were before the past couple of years, that the human element is part of the game.
     I politely disagree. I say this knowing that the Yankees have won a few championships with the benefit of umpires' mistakes. And ask St. Louis Cardinals' fans about the 1985 Kansas City Royals winning the World Series.
     In that vein, if college football had had replay/review in 1972, the clock would have run out on LSU against Ole Miss. No extra second and no last-play touchdown pass and winning PAT kick.
     And how many more games would have ended differently? One I can think of immediately is the "fifth down" Colorado victory against Missouri in 1990. How crucial was that extra play. It helped Colorado score a last-play touchdown and win 33-31, and it merely -- merrily -- went on to win a share of the national championship.
      A replay official probably would have changed that one, and Colorado coach Bill McCartney -- a deeply religious man -- was indignant afterward when it was suggested Colorado forfeit the victory. As I saw on an ESPN "30 for 30" feature on McCartney last night, he still doesn't apologize for a victory his team didn't deserve.
      Makes me agree that Duke coach David Cutcliffe's suggestion (demand?) that college football set up some sort of appeals committee or central command, or that conferences have a system to settle these type disputes, has a lot of merit.
      The deserving team ought to win. And that team certainly was Duke against Miami last Saturday. But the human element -- poor judgment by officials -- prevailed.
      Here is what really galls me. Now there is a tee shirt diagramming the play and boasting of the victory available for the Miami people.
      Great. Take those shirts, and donate them to needy kids.
      And give one to each of the game officials -- and especially the replay official. They can wear them as they watch games on television the next two weekends.
      Or they can put them over their heads, and they'll see as well as they did on that final play last Saturday.

http://espn.go.com/college-football/recap?gameId=400756970    
http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/14038336/officiating-suspensions-start-not-end-response-miami-duke-blunders