Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My day with Arnie, the King

       He was my favorite golfer always, as he was for millions. And I spent one day -- at a distance -- with Arnie.
    I write this with apologies to Hal Sutton and David Toms, the best two golfers of recent vintage from Shreveport and my favorites from the late 1970s through today.
Arnie, his health obviously declining, at his final Masters
opening ceremony appearance in April 2016 (from
    Like so many of the thousand PGA Tour stars who followed, I think they will tell you they are indebted to Arnie.
   On a Sunday that began with sadness with the news of the death of 24-year-old Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins in a boating accident and the not-totally-unexpected firing of Les Miles as head football coach at LSU, the news that evening was most difficult for me came in  a text message from a friend:
    "Tragically sad day. Arnold is gone."
    Oh, Arnie. We loved you so.
    This has been a year of more deaths of sports and sports media icons, nationally and on a personal level, than I can ever remember. For those of us who relish the late 1950s and the 1960s, Arnie was one of the greatest memories.
    He was the golfer I rooted for -- not for his greatest rival and great friend, Jack Nicklaus; not Lee Trevino; not Gary Player or Raymond Floyd or Billy Casper or any of the others.
    If Arnie was playing, I was in the television Army.
    And one day, in June 1989, I was in the on-course Arnie's Army in a round at Sawgrass' then-new The Valley Course in North Florida. It was the only time I followed him live.
    It was the Senior Players Championship; it was on a day I wasn't working at the Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville) and so I took the long drive (45 minutes or so) from Orange Park,  where we lived to Ponte Vedra Beach, home of PGA Tour office and the adjoining course, the more famous Stadium Course.   
    Not having grown up as a golfer, rarely having covered the sport until the mid-1980s and still not knowing much about the intricacies, I was grateful -- despite my lack of knowledge -- to be on the Times-Union coverage team for five The Players Championship tournaments.
   Arnie never played in those, his best PGA Tour days long behind him. If he had been there, I would have followed him. Still, following my other favorites -- Sutton and Greg Norman (this was before Toms made the Tour) -- was exciting.
   But the one day, at the Senior Players, was memorable.
   Arnie was no longer a contender but still competitive, and he did not play well that day. He struggled for, I want to say, a 74. And in the news conference afterward, which I sat in on, he was un-Arnie-like.
   In the hundreds of interviews I've seen and the hundreds of stories I read, Arnie was almost always gracious, courteous, with a story/memory or two, his humor wry, his comments diplomatic even in controversy. 
   That day at Sawgrass, he was a bit peeved. His answers about his game were curt, not expansive. He wasn't rude, but he obviously was not happy with his play.
   He was, as we were reminded last night watching a 2011 interview with Charlie Rose, his own toughest critic. He told Charlie that his Latrobe, Pa., club pro father, Deke, who had brought him up in and taught him the game, always told him: "Don't tell people how great you are; show them."
     Obviously, he showed them so much over the years. For me, he was golf for many years.
     I have seen many beautiful stories/columns written on Arnie the past few days, including those by my golf writer friends -- Jeff Rude, Garry Smits, Jeff Babineau -- and by the great Dan Jenkins (of Fort Worth). (Links are below.) 
     My favorite Arnie golf memory: His last of his 62 PGA Tour victories, at the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic. He won it in typical Arnie fashion, with flair: A last-hole birdie putt, and a pump-fisting celebration. We were watching on TV at The Shreveport Times.
      Biggest Arnie disappointment: What else? The 1966 U.S. Open when he blew a seven-shot lead in the final nine of the fourth round, while Billy Casper blazed to a 32 and tied him. Then Casper won an 18-hole playoff the next day.
      Arnie finished second in the Open again the next year (he was second four times in a six-year period), but he never won another major.
      Watching that Sunday round from San Francisco was, unbelievably, an even greater collapse than Norman's blowing a six-shot lead in the first nine holes at the 1996 Masters, finishing with a painful 78 and losing by five shots to Faldo. Loved watching Norman, exciting and flawed, almost as much as Arnie.
      My fondest Arnie memory: He was guest host of The Tonight Show, the first athlete I'd ever seen do that. Looked this up -- it was July 17, 1970, one of those rare nights (there's a laugh here) that Johnny Carson was away on vacation or appearing in Las Vegas. I loved Carson and The Tonight Show, so I watched often.
       I was so proud Arnie was the host. Don't remember much, except he was not exactly adept at the monologue, not quite as at home as on a golf course, and I know he wore a bright red blazer. Arnie always was a colorful dresser.
       He was a colorful character, period, and one of the sports greats of our time. He was golf's ace ambassador.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy about it? No, no, no

         So we heard the news Sunday afternoon -- son-in-law was the first to call and alert me -- and a few minutes later, Bea walked in and asked, "Well, are you happy now?"
     After 20 phone calls and text messages over the past 24 hours, with several more people asking me how I felt about Les Miles being fired as head football coach at LSU, here is my answer:
     No, nothing to be happy about.
     There's not much good about anyone being fired, period. I know from personal experience, several times. But often it is for the best. Other doors will open.
     Happy about a 2-2 record? Heck, no.
     Yeah, the losses were close, and they could have turned into victories. But LSU's team looked so out of sync and was so thoroughly outplayed in those games.
      And, really, there wasn't much difference in a stilted, passing-challenged offense and a much-too-leaky defense from the last couple of LSU teams we've seen.
      Except for a super running back, Leonard Fournette, LSU last season could have lost five or six games. But not even Superman Fournette can make up for what I believe is a subpar offensive line so far this season.
      Miles gone at LSU after 11-plus seasons, a helluva lot of success, much fun ... and much agony. 
      It had gotten -- my opinion -- so that his football teams were not enjoyable to watch any more. In many seasons, the Tigers were sporadic but also exciting and ultimately successful. But, damn, the method often was excruciating.
      The past two-plus seasons these were -- again, my opinion, and that of many others -- not well-coached teams.
      You look at so many other programs, especially in the SEC and especially in the SEC West (Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas are prime examples), and their offenses, defenses and special teams were so much sharper than our Tigers.
      The reality: LSU is 4-5 since last season's deceptive 7-0 start (thank you, Leonard). This has become a mediocre program.   
      So was it time for Miles to go? Yes.
      Was it good timing? Yes, no need to wait. His job status  would have, could have been, a distraction through the next two months -- especially with each mounting loss.
      Will it make a difference? Your guess.
      Unless the Tigers improve quickly and drastically, they are looking at a six- or seven-loss season, or maybe even eight. Florida? Alabama? Ole Miss? Arkansas? Texas A&M? Maybe even Missouri this Saturday.
Ed Orgeron: He's in charge ... for now. (photo from
      Interim head coach Ed Orgeron has been in this role before (at Southern Cal). He is a fiery guy, a funny one, and he's been around a long time in the coaching world.
      Maybe he and new offensive play-caller Steve Ensminger, an LSU guy who also has been coaching for years, and the rest of the staff will have some answers, or wrinkles, or whatever that Miles and deposed offensive coordinator Cam Cameron did not have.
      I would suggest -- football mind that I am -- that they give their quarterback, be it Danny Etling or Brandon Harris, a chance to roll out and make plays with their feet, depend less on the pocket passing which hasn't worked well.
      Mostly, I would suggest that the offensive linemen actually block defenders more consistently, knock them out of the way, and give the QBs a chance to pass the football.
      Sacks, or heavy pressure, late in the Wisconsin and Auburn games badly curtailed LSU's comeback chances.
      Defensively, new coordinator Dave Aranda has a lot of talented players. But when the opponents are controlling the ball for 17 to 21 first downs a game (only Mississippi State had fewer, 14) and totaling 339 to 388 yards a game (Miss. State had only 270), the Tigers are vulnerable.
      (Only in the second half against Jacksonville State and for the first three quarters vs. Mississippi State did LSU look like a decent defense. And then it nearly gave the Mississippi State game away.)
      When the Tigers really needed a stop late in the game last Saturday, Auburn rolled off three first downs and almost a fourth, gained 51 yards and -- most important -- took 6:05 off the clock and kicked its sixth field goal.
      So what if Auburn didn't score a touchdown, and LSU had one goalline stand to keep it that way? Auburn had seven chances to score, and the way LSU's offense is, that was enough.
      Now, about that offense ... we all know that's what cost Miles and Cameron their jobs. Here, in a capsule, is the example of how they operated:
      Auburn led 12-10, late third quarter, when LSU recovered a fumble at the Auburn 16. They reached a third-and-3 at the Auburn 9 ... and then couldn't line up correctly and had to burn a timeout. Critical.
      Given time to come up with something creative or different -- anything to get the ball into the end zone or get a first down -- they instead ran their favorite play, the worn-out toss sweep left to Fournette. The blocks weren't made, he was tripped up short of a first down, and LSU settled for a field goal.
      Fournette was obviously upset, speaking to Miles as he came to the sidelines and then having a coach speak to him moments later. 
      My complaint? The timeout call. What a waste. Think the Tigers could have used that in the game's final ill-fated drive? The clock that ran out, and wiped out what looked like the winning TD pass.
      So typical of the whole Miles era. A waste of time, clock mismanagement (15 wasted seconds between plays need the end, a receiver failing to go out of bounds).
      And a loss, not a last-second undeserved victory, as so many of LSU's "miracle" victories under Miles have been.
       I don't like the trend in college football, the firing of coaches on any day, any time in the season. Used to be firings didn't happen until the end of the season, period. Now coordinators are at risk from game to game, and so are head coaches. Miles wasn't the only one fired Sunday.
       Miles won't go broke, not with buyout LSU will have to pay him, and he'll coach again if he wants to, and he indicated Monday that he does. Some program will hire him, probably for next season.
       Don't feel sorry for him. And many, many LSU faithful, including his players, thank him for representing the university well. He spread good will in the community often, in tough times, and the media appreciated his good moods and cooperation.
        So you keep hearing and reading that he's a good guy. But I have friends, coaching friends in Louisiana I respect, who did not like him, did not respect him, thought he was a fraud and not as good a judge of talent as so many thought. And flat out despised his offensive tactics. 
        Bottom line: It is about winning football games, or at least looking like a well-coached, disciplined team.
        It is obvious, as it was last November, that there were powers-that-be at LSU -- maybe the athletic director, certainly some big-money people on the Board of Supervisors -- who wanted him fired then. 
        I was told by what consider a reliable source not affiliated with newspapers or athletics, that the then-governor (Bobby Jindal), reportedly friendly with Miles, who told the LSU President (King Alexander) to back off, that the huge buyout then would not look good considering the state's woeful educational funding -- do we blame Jindal for that?
        Nothing saved him this time. You can lose to a mediocre Auburn team. You can't lose five in a row to Alabama, or look totally outclassed two years in a row by Ole Miss and Arkansas. You can't always depend on magic tricks.
        So good-bye and good luck -- and thanks -- to Les. It was past time to move on.
        But more good luck for LSU. I hope Orgeron and the Tigers go 9-0 (with a bowl victory), and if he becomes the head coach (after the interim), great. He's perfect for the job; he's a helluva recruiter, and he speaks Cajun.
        They don't all have to be wins. If it looks as if the Tigers know what they're doing, if they are organized and competitive, that would be more acceptable.
        Time for LSU football to be fun again.         


Friday, September 16, 2016

Let's hear it for the bands

      This subject might surprise you. It is sports-related, but it's not sports. It is about bands -- school marching (and playing) bands.
      I love high school and college bands. I always have.
      Football games and, to a lesser extent, basketball games would be a lot more dull without them. These bands are such entertainment, and such spirit boosters.
      I appreciate hard work, the enthusiasm and the spirit of the kids in the band. Seems to me they are having a ton of fun. 
      I thought of writing about this a week ago when late Friday afternoon -- on my usual route that day through the Paschal High School parking lots -- I saw the school band practicing on the new artificial-turf football field.
      It has been a regular feature of those Paschal walks, the band practicing. A year ago, when it was part of the annual UIL regional/state competition -- yes, it is a competitive endeavor in Texas high schools -- those Panthers were out there, and the band directors were drill sergeant-like. I stopped and watched several times.
      Bless their hearts. That took some doing, especially early in the school year when it was still awfully humid-to-hot, even at 4:30 p.m. or so.
      What's nice these days is that with the addition of dance teams and flag bearers -- we didn't have those in the 1950s and '60s; only a few majorettes then -- it gets a lot of young people involved.
      They don't get much publicity, not like our over-scrutinized, over-publicized football and basketball players and teams -- but we are thankful for them. And if band members go on to earn college scholarships or aid, great.
      My love for high school bands, obviously dates to Woodlawn in Shreveport in the early 1960s.
      Those hear those kids -- many of them my friends -- play the fight song, and the alma mater, and The Stripper and the marches they practiced during the week was always a thrill. (More on this below.)
      But even before that, I was aware of the bands at the first college football game I saw -- Louisiana Tech vs. Northwestern State, at the State Fair in 1957.
      The clincher, though, was my first trip to LSU -- fall 1960. I remember "The Golden Band From Tigerland" even more than the football game.
      Because when we arrived on campus, early in the morning, after the overnight train ride from Shreveport (Kansas City Southern railroad, starting at midnight and arriving at maybe 6 a.m.), the band was already practicing. 
      It was fascinating; I was impressed. It was probably five hours until kickoff, and they were out there for about two hours.
      Their numbers -- Tiger Rag, Touchdown for LSU, Fight for LSU, and the alma mater -- stuck in my mind.
      When I listened to LSU games on radio in those days, I relished just hearing the band.
      I can imagine that the LSU bands of the past couple of decades, so sharp-sounding and sharp-looking, practice just as hard.
      OK, so I'm partial, but I've never seen the LSU band -- or the Golden Girls dance team (majorettes?) or the flag bearers -- make a mistake. 
      The football team should be so disciplined (you can laugh here).    
      My love affair with bands continue at Louisiana Tech, where in the mid-1960s, the program got a boost from school president Dr. F. Jay Taylor and the band director, Jimmie Howard Reynolds.
      One of my freshman roommates was a drummer with the band, and because it practiced close to Memorial Gym -- where the sports information office was relocated in my last three years at Tech -- I often heard them while I was working. 
      Wendy was my favorite tune as the band marched down the street toward old Tech Stadium. 
      Tech's band now is known as "The Band of Pride" and for 25 years it has had as its director, The Man in the White Hat ... Jim Robken.
      And just as LSU's songs are dear to me, so are the Tech alma mater and the two fight songs (an old-time one, and one created in the late 1960s, and quickly copied by a dozen North Louisiana high schools).
      But, honestly, give me any of the bands and theme songs -- "The Pride of the Southland" and Rocky Top at Tennessee, "The Showband of the Southwest" (with the huge bass drum) and Texas Fight, "The Pride" and Boomer Sooner at Oklahoma, even the Fightin' Texas Aggie band and the Aggie War Hymn.
      Yeah, the Aggies rock, and the band's marching precision is awesome, if you like those drab uniforms.
      Then there's the "Million-Dollar Band" -- to match what the football players are paid -- and Roll Tide. (Just kidding, OK.)
      I went to the TCU-Arkansas game a week ago, and those bands were fun, too. I've seen them perform, and ... I want to stay positive here. The football teams are better.
      But I really like them all -- Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Southern Cal, Michigan, Ohio State, etc. -- the traditions and the fight songs  All good.
       Better than good: I covered the Grambling-Southern football game about five times, even before it was known as the Bayou Classic. Talk about great halftime shows. Same for the Green Oaks-Booker T. Washington high school rivalry in Shreveport -- the "Soul Bowl" -- and I also covered it several times. 
Not much better than this on college football gameday:  The LSU
band on Victory Hill (photo from New Orleans Times-Picayune)
       I prefer the traditional pregame and halftime shows. Then there's the wild, zany band at Stanford and "The Mob" at Rice. Nothing traditional, certainly not the "uniforms," of those bands, but there are people who enjoy their antics.
       At just about every school, there is now the football team's "walk" through crowds to the stadium, and the band's pregame shows. 
        And all LSU fans can tell you that there is nothing better than the band's march across campus, the stop at the top of Victory Hill right next to Tiger Stadium, the "four corners" salute and then the run down the hill.
        We have marched and then run behind the band. But that was a few years ago.
      At Woodlawn High in the early 1960s, the band practiced during second period within range of the beautiful main building. So during English class, we could hear it play.
      My friend John English -- we were together in school from Sunset Acres through Louisiana Tech -- was a three-year band member at Woodlawn, and band captain our senior year.
       He tells me that the march he remembers practicing so often was called Grandioso, and he remembers the long hours, especially in late summer before school. While the football team had two-a-day practice -- in the heat -- the band also was preparing on another field.
        It was getting ready for games, pep rallies -- and regional and state competitions.
       "The band was a big deal in my life, and to an extent it still is," said John, now an attorney in Houston. "It enhanced my life. ... If you're a member of a group like that, it enhances your experience."
       At a recent class reunion, a group of former band members independently wound up in the school band room and talked about the old days.
       "When we came to Woodlawn, you knew that [band] was at a different level [than in junior high]. You knew that you had to be better than you had been, you had to improve if you wanted to be in the marching band. You had to up your game."
       My opinion: Our band was as good as our football teams, and that was pretty darned good.
      High school bands are a big deal in Texas -- just as they were, for example, in Georgia when I saw several games there a couple of decades ago. 
      The most impressive high school band I've ever seen is Allen High School north of Plano (north of Dallas). It is one of the largest high schools in the country, probably -- some 6,000 students.
      And while the football team dresses out 125 players and is practically unbeatable every year, the band numbered 850. All on the same field -- goal line to goal line -- and the two times I've seen them, they put on a perfect show.       
      Paschal might not be perfect, and not nearly that large. But its our neighborhood school and -- I saw this on the web site this morning -- it is full of tradition. This school began as Fort Worth High School in 1885, and the band began that same year.
      That's right: 1885.
      It became R.L. Paschal High (named for its longtime principal in 1935), and it moved from near downtown (what is now Trimble Tech High in the medical district) to its present location, about a mile from TCU, in 1955.
      While I watched the Paschal kids practice a week ago, I saw a half-dozen school buses lined up in front of the school and I visited with a band parent waiting in a parking lot.
       "It is amazing how much time these kids put into this," he told me.
       Practice ended, and the band began loading onto the buses for a football game in Mansfield, and a ride in very busy rush-hour Fort Worth traffic.       
       When I saw the band director a few moments later, I asked about practice limits. He told me that UIL rules limit band practice to eight hours a week -- not counting the games. But before school started -- just as at Woodlawn in the '60s -- there was "band camp," two-a-day practices, three hours each time. 
         Lots of time invested, just as with all school bands. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.     

Monday, September 5, 2016

This is going to be a long season ... and what's next?

        I did not want to write about the weekly mis-adventure series that is LSU football so soon, but I can't resist.
     To begin, who do you have being LSU's next head  coach? And how soon?
     Next week? Don't laugh. It is a possibility ... if Jacksonville (Ala.) State -- no pushover -- does to the Fighting (?) Tigers what Wisconsin did on Saturday. 
     Wouldn't surprise me. Nothing with LSU football for the last dozen years under head coach Les Miles surprises me.
Brandon Harris and his LSU teammates were woeful and
embarrassed against Wisconsin at Green Bay's Lambeau Field.
(photo by Benny Sieu/USA Today Sports)
     You know darned well the "help Mac pack" faction -- oh, sorry, a little flashback there -- no, the "let Les leave" crowd is gathering the money for the contract buyout that I read Sunday is substantially less than the roughly $15 million it would have been last year.
     Can't lose four of your last six games at LSU and not feel the heat.
     Lose your season opener, which had never happened to Miles before at LSU, and lose it with the promise of a better-balanced and maybe even more exciting offense -- didn't happen -- and the hot seat is burning.
     I was ambivalent during the "Miles is fired" onslaught last November. But I'm worn out now. 
     A change might be a good thing. I think it was Steve Spurrier -- now the ex-Head Ball Coach -- who suggested that a dozen years is enough for any head coach at schools these days. The days of long-time tenures (think Joe Paterno, Tom Osborne, Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden, Mack Brown) now are rare.
    Time for Les to go? More days like Saturday, and it'll be an easy decision. Maybe even Les will agree, although -- as LSU faithful know well -- he is one stubborn individual.
    Keep reading that LSU has as much or more football talent on campus than most schools (except maybe Alabama). I said this last year, and I will repeat: Not true.
    Most people will tell you that the Tigers' main problems the past few years are (1) coaching, be it Miles and/or offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Cam Cameron and (2) quarterback play.
     Yes, yes, and yes. But here is what I believe is the biggest problem: The Tigers' linemen -- offense and defense -- are vastly overrated.

     Better line play, and a lot of problems are solved. But -- my opinion -- against better teams, the Tigers have been whipped up front consistently the past couple of years.
     They've rarely been as dominant as some of the LSU lines for most of Miles' first 10 years there.
     You saw it Saturday. Wisconsin's defensive front so badly outplayed, outmaneuvered, out-willed LSU's offensive line that it made all the difference in the game.
     I've read several reviews that said LSU's defense played at least decently, considering how much it was forced to play. I don't agree.
     Yes, it was the defense which scored the first LSU touchdown and set up the second one with a forced Wisconsin turnover.
     Truth is, the Badgers had several time-consuming drives -- punching holes against the LSU linemen/linebackers or space in the secondary because the Tigers rarely pressured the Wisconsin QB (certainly not to the extent that the Wisconsin defense harassed Brandon Harris).
     When it came to crunch time, LSU trying to protect a 14-13 lead, Wisconsin kept the ball 4 1/2 minutes and drove 48 yards (eight plays, three first downs) to the winning field goal.
     The Badgers had 21 first downs, 339 total yards, 19 pass completions ... and a couple of near-misses. They should have won more easily than they did. 
     So overall LSU's defense was hardly impressive, not anything like some of LSU's finer defenses over the years (the last one in 2011). 
     I had to laugh when one of my friends -- not an LSU fan -- sent me a message right as the game ended, saying "I really miss the Chinese Bandits."
     Very (not) funny.
     Now about the LSU offense ... what's new? Nothing.
     Boring. Haphazard. Not creative enough. Not nearly. Watch other teams' offenses and they're efficient and often unpredictable.
     The quarterback is too erratic; same problem for nine years, or since Matt Flynn in 2007 (national title).
     Zach Mettenberger had some very good games (and great receivers) in his two seasons as the starter (2012-13) but also some subpar ones. Harris is looking more and more like Jordan Jefferson (2008-11) and Anthony Jennings (2014).
     Leonard Fournette is outstanding -- a pro star developing -- but even he cannot do it on his own enough times to overcome a lack of blocking.
     Too many three-and-outs, too many failures (short on 3rd-and-1, then 4th-and-1), too many off-target Harris passes (high, low, wide), two sacks, repeated hurries, too many unblocked defenders spoiling plays.
     Tell me if I'm wrong, but LSU in recent years can never throw an effective screen pass. Either the ball is poorly thrown, or a defender breaks through and makes the tackle after a short or no gain (as Wisconsin did Saturday in a crucial situation).
     As usual, two wasted time outs when play calls didn't come in fast enough from the sideline (or Harris didn't read them quickly enough). A typically weird  "explanation" by Miles after the game.
     A really dumb timeout call by Harris with 2 seconds left in the third quarter to avoid a delay-of-game call. (Take the darned penalty, and save the much more valuable timeout.)
     You'd think he would have improved over last season -- with more coaching from Cameron. Nope -- not yet.
     (If you look at Cameron's resume, his many stops and many good coaching ties, you'd think better results. He has had some success, but rarely at a championship level. He does have a Super Bowl ring, with the Baltimore Ravens in the 2012 NFL season ... and they fired him with two games remaining in the regular season.)
     I'm not a fan. Sorry. I've seen many more effective play-callers and quarterbacks coaches.
     Kicking game? Also, still inconsistent and often harmful, a poor punting game and kickoffs that are either short or out of bounds. Happens much too often. Bradley Dale Peveto has been called a good special-teams coach. I question that ... often. Again, not a fan.
     I am a fan of Brandon Harris, as I wrote last year. The kid is from Bossier City and from the school in what was our neighborhood in the 1980s. Playing QB at LSU is a high-profile, high-pressure job. Hope he grows into it; I know he wants to.

    One of my thoughts on the Miles era: The Tigers invariably make it interesting, they more often than not play to the level of their opponent.
     Another thought: If the opposing team is smart and well-coached, and its talent can come close to matching LSU's, it has a great chance to beat the Tigers.
     Wisconsin, on Saturday, was smart, well-coached and more talented than LSU fans might have expected.
     I've written this before, and I'll say it again; it is something everyone knows: Miles has been one of the nation's luckiest coaches. But luck has turned on him and hasn't bailed him out much in recent years.
     In other years, Wisconsin might have missed that final field goal.
     Oh, there's still the great escapes. Take you back to last season when LSU escaped losses -- Mississippi State and Syracuse, to pick two games -- mainly because Fournette made some spectacular runs to save the Tigers' butts.
      Miles better find that lucky charm in the next dozen weeks. He needs to coax his linemen and his QB to play much better and -- and his coaches to find solutions.
      Glenn Guilbeau, who writes columns and stories on LSU for the Gannett Co. papers in the state (Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lafayette) and is one of several Louisiana writers I respect a lot, reminded us Sunday that Miles will not change his philosophies or his quirky ways. He is who he is.
      Might not work much longer here. You can bet that LSU's money brokers in the anti-Miles faction are looking at an offensive-minded head coach successor.
      Already, with the Tigers at 0-1, we're reading/hearing Jimbo Fisher (again), Tom Herman (the hot name at Houston), the unemployed Art Briles (fired in a scandal at Baylor) ... and here is one someone suggested to me -- with a controversial career somewhat rehabilitated as the offensive play-caller at Alabama, Lane Kiffin.
      Spurrier is available. LSU has its chance with him once.
      But maybe Miles and his staff -- and it is a good defensive staff, especially -- can salvage this mess. They better hurry. No. 5 (a ranking far too high, I thought) should be number zero now.
      I have told a few friends this already, but have been reluctant to say it publicly about LSU football. However, I suspect a few people will agree with me:
      I'm disgusted.
      People know: I love LSU, and I love Louisiana Tech. Never would root against either one -- in any endeavor, but especially not in football.
      But as I hinted in a blog post last week, I no longer love football; I merely endure it these days.
      After watching LSU in that woeful game Saturday, I made a decision: I'm not watching for a while. Don't enjoy it, don't need the stress or aggravation. 
      So call me a front-runner. But until things improve, I figure the Tigers can win or lose without me. I'll record the games and watch them later because I'm interested. I apologize for this -- but the Les Miles era has become too hard for me to endure.
     Who's next?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

At the end of the day ... stand up, sit down

       Let's see: Colin Kaepernick, sitting, not standing ... Anthony Weiner, doing what (again)? ... Rick Perry, dancing ... Hillary's e-mails and the Clinton Foundation ... Trump and his daily blurtations ... Tony Romo's back ... Ryan Lochte, lying (no, dancing).
    Lots to be angry about, isn't it?
    We can be angry every day, if we choose to be. I'd like to choose to not be angry; done enough of that in my life.
    So I'm going to laugh at all this craziness.
    But, hey, it's college football season. That we can like.
    (But some people -- I can't divulge names -- are so anti-football, period, that we can't discuss it here. I'll leave it at that. It's OK.)
    Quick hitters ...
    -- Colin: Plenty of you are plenty upset about his national anthem sitdown. Fine. Frankly, in my opinion, he can do what he wants. He wants to make a statement, he has to take the criticism that comes with it. (Borrowing these thoughts from a friend.)
      What the hell does he care? He's making $11.9 million this season.
     The way I see it, he isn't playing football worth a darn, so he has to find a way to call attention to himself.
    He has succeeded. He's not the first to protest this way   and he probably won't be the last.
      A friend re-posted an story on Facebook in which Jackie Robinson, in his 1967 autobiography, wrote, in part: "... I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag."
      Jackie Robinson is revered in baseball.
      Look, I think it's disrespectful, and I always would stand for the anthem and the flag. But it's America; he has the right to protest, and at least it's a peaceful protest. We've had too many bloody, angry protests.
      But to call him names, to call anyone names, I'm just not into that. It makes me question your (lack of) respect.
      Here's what I think happened: New 49ers coach Chip Kelly said to him: Colin, you are playing like crap. Go take a seat on the bench. And he did.
       If I was a 49ers fan, I'd be PO'd about that six-year, $126 million contract they gave him two years ago. That's $21 million a year average; that's today's sports world. Salaries so overblown, athletes so overblown. Where are our priorities?
        -- I have a solution: The Cowboys need a quarterback, or at least an experienced backup (to our man from Haughton, the rookie and now-starter Dak Prescott). So Kaepernick goes to join "America's Team." Now that's a laugh.
        Hey, Jerry Jones likes to take chances.
        -- Tony Romo: Three plays -- three preseason plays -- and that might be it for his 2016 season. Sure, they're saying he'll be back. Want to bet $27 million on it? 
        Taken from a Cowboys' web site press release on Romo's contract in November 2014: "Romo's base [salary] is only $8.5 million for 2016, but with 2015's restructure it places his cap hit at $27.1 million; so no way Romo  is not the Cowboy starter in 2016."
          Oh, yes, there is. Back fractures. 
          -- I'll say it again; I said it last year: I do NOT care about the NFL anymore, not even about the Cowboys. Not the Saints, either. Don't intend to watch one second of play this season. (Yes, I've at least partially joined my no-football companion.)
         And here is one major reason why: I was asked by a Facebook friend to check on tickets for a Cowboys' preseason game a couple of weeks ago. I was given a list of ticket prices. One word: outrageous.
       My take: Paying -- any amount -- to see an NFL preseason game is the biggest ripoff in American sports. Period.
        I don't care about the NFL.
        -- Oh, wait, a couple more Romo thoughts:
        (1) We like Romo; we do. But let's face reality: Colin Kaepernick came within a few yards, and one completion, of leading his team to a Super Bowl championship. Romo hasn't come close to the Super Bowl ever.
        (2) Yes, Romo has been a talented, exciting player, and he's handled all of the ups and downs as well as anyone can. And, yet ... In the best imitation of Danny White, he's had the most star-crossed career for what has become a star-crossed franchise.
Not watching, no longer an NFL fan, but I will root for this kid --
 Dak Prescott, of Haughton, La. (photo by Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)
        (3) Not watching, but silently really rooting for Dak Prescott. I'm partial to Shreveport-Bossier athletes, and I have fond memories of many trips for visits and games to Haughton, where Dak went to high school. Still have lots of friends living there. 
        -- Speaking of The Star, here's a real true-to-life outrage item: Frisco, Texas, voters turned down a 13-cent property tax increase that would have funded pay raises for the school district's teachers and help hire new teachers. It means some coaches in the district might lose their jobs. 
      I have a Facebook friend, a newspaper friend, who angrily -- curses! -- denounced Frisco voters and pointed out that a couple of years ago they happily approved $115 million to contribute "to the richest sports franchise on the planet" for  the building of The Star, the Cowboys' superstar office/training complex that just opened in Frisco.
       Another friend, an old Woodlawn High friend who is a longtime teacher in the Frisco district, posted in a more genteel manner how she felt "physically ill," "sadness" and "heartbroken" about the vote, but how much she still loves teaching her students.  
       Entertainment over education? Never should be that way. Especially if it's the NFL and Jerry Jones who benefit.       
      -- My sportswriting buddy, O.K. Davis, tweeted recently that the most overused cliché in interviews these days is "at the end of the day." He's right. See how many times you hear it or read it today?
      -- I was told to not use an Anthony Wiener joke. Can't help myself. Has there ever been a more (in)appropriate name for this -- uh, behavior -- than Wiener?
      -- We've loved watching Dancing With The Stars for years. This might be the season we don't watch. The cast of celebrities was announced this week, and we're dismayed.
      We know Rick Perry should do very well dancing to his right. We know Ryan Lochte will dance around the truth.
      Dancing around the truth brings us back to Donald and Hillary. Oh, never mind. At the end of the day, we don't want to comment. 
        -- Outstanding first weekend of college football matchups: LSU-Wisconsin, Southern Cal-Alabama, Clemson-Auburn, UCLA-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-Houston, Notre Dame-Texas, Ole Miss-Florida State ... and, yes, Louisiana Tech-Arkansas.
        We'll start with a major vs. mid-major matchup tonight: My Smith family's Tennessee Vols at Rocky Top Stadium vs. App State.
         Our youngest grandson, Eli Smith, almost 2, now repeats phrases when prompted. When I asked him to say, "Go Vols," he quickly said, "Go Vols." When I asked him to say, "Go Tigers" ... silence.
         What the ... ?
         I do have two grandsons who know how to say "Geaux Tigers," and they've seen Mike the Tiger and they've been in Tiger Stadium, and they can mimic the LSU band. So there.
         At the end of the day (tonight), I'll be watching college football ... without the other person who lives here. Might even stand up for the national anthem. Thank you.