Monday, February 27, 2006

Bobby Bouche Lives, Doggone It

Adam Sandler is one of the worst things that ever happened to me. Sandler's a funny guy, and I miss him on Saturday Night Live. I could do without "The Waterboy," however.
Why is this coming up now? Because somebody I admire and respect immensely just saw the movie over the weekend. Sandler plays a thirty-something Cajun simpleton, Bobby Bouche, who is a water boy for a fictional south Louisiana college football team. He longs for one particular girl. He improbably makes the football team. All the while, his preposterously overbearing mother lords over him like a swamp mist. This film's outrageous portrayal of the lifestyle of "my people" is hysterically funny once you get past all the stereotypes. Of course, the fact that most of America doesn't have any stereotypical notions of Cajuns is a factor in all of this. Maybe it hits a little too close to home.
None of that is relevant, though. What matters is: With the name Darrell Rebouche, you can imagine I have endured my share of Bobby Bouche jokes. There are still plenty of people who still call me "Booshay," particularly in the sports culture.
Since this movie was centered around football and real-life sportscasters had roles in it, and since my name is so alarmingly similar to the Waterboy's, I've taken my share of ribbing.
I was never a waterboy, although I did have something of a domineering mother. I was not home-schooled, but I did live through 12 years of Catholic school. I suppose my temper got the best of me a few times, but stop already with the similarities!
Anyhow, this person who has established a huge presence in my life rented the movie or saw it on cable this weekend, and my day started with Bobby Boucher references. All kidding aside, I enjoy the ribbing. I take it as a compliment. People who aren't comfortable with you won't mess with you or use you as a foil for the amusement of others. It makes me the center of attention, and the old ego doesn't mind that every once in a while.
Plus, I'm grateful for one thing: The Waterboy trumps Bob Newhart's show. For the record, I have no idea where my other brother Darrell is.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Jon Alston is Being Prodded

The NFL scouting combine is under way in Indianapolis. Players hoping to be drafted by pro football teams are out through rigorous workouts, psychological evaluations and sometimes-humiliating medical exams. They’re evaluated like livestock. Some of the best college players refuse to participate. They know they will be chosen early in the draft and feel as if they have much more to lose than to gain by enduring the process. The best of the rest try to have a good attitude about it. Most of them are imbued with confidence because of the success they’ve enjoyed on the football field. I have a rooting interest at the combine: Jon Alston from Stanford, a linebacker.
During my decades covering high school sports, a monosyllabic response to a routine question was a common event. I live with a couple of teenagers right now, so I understand that talking with a reporter can be pretty intimidating. In fact, just two weekends ago, a writer from the local newspaper approached my 16-year-old son for his impressions of an event he was attending. He did manage to string a few syllables together. But, when the story was published, his pithy comments were not included. That’s probably because he didn’t make any. After his brief interview, he said to us, “that was awkward.” This is an eloquent kid, so that comment was a little surprising. It was also illustrative.
This brings us back to Alston, who was an absolute pleasure to cover when he was in high school at Loyola College Prep. He was an outstanding athlete who played both ways on the football team. He was a remarkable student. He met Stanford’s academic standards and got a full ride to play football, and those things speak for themselves. Alston had a quality about him that caused him to stand out. He was poised, confident, and well-spoken. He had direction. I did a radio talk show for about ten years, and in all that time I had just one high school athlete on as a live, in-studio guest for a full hour: Jon Alston.
When you think about the highly-sought-after athletes who have come out of north Louisiana high schools, that’s pretty remarkable. When you get right down to it, they all start to sound pretty much the same. They want to play hard and make their coaches and parents proud. They’ve narrowed their college selections down to five schools, and they’ll make a decision after they make all of their visits. Rarely is new ground broken in an interview with a high school kid.
Alston was different. He was politically and socially aware, well beyond his years. He was thinking of a career in politics, and knew that anything he said or did, even in high school or college, could come back to bite him. He set out to live an exemplary life. I lost track of his activities after he left for the west coast, but I haven’t heard a bad syllable about him over the last five years.
I don’t know if Alston has a future in pro football, or not. I suppose the combine and a subsequent training camp will answer all the questions. The last time I spoke to him, he told me he hopes to run for President of the United States one day. He might just do it. He might just win, who knows? He looked me in the eye and promised me that, if he moves into the White House, he would have me over. I’ll take him at his word.
He’s being examined, poked and prodded in Indianapolis. Maybe this is just another way for Alston to prepare for his Presidential bid. More likely, it’s just another stage in the personal and professional development of a remarkable young man.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Do These Things Happen in Threes?

My childhood TV heroes are dying: First, Curt Gowdy, now Don Knotts.
Gowdy was Gowdy, but Knotts was Barney Fife, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, the Reluctant Astronaut and so much more. He was one of the funniest men who ever lived. His acting was one-dimensional. Honestly, almost every character he played was some version of Barney. It just didn’t matter. The years he spent as the bumbling, loveable deputy on “The Andy Griffith” show earned him enough currency to last the rest of his life and well beyond. People laugh as hard today at Barney’s misadventures as they did forty or more years ago. Five Emmy Awards are outward and visible symbols of his comedic greatness. Griffith got top billing, but there’s no disputing that Knotts was the star of that show and everyone else supported his character. When the show wrapped in 1968 after being on the air since 1960,, it went out on top: #1 in the ratings, according to statistics reported by the Associated Press.
Younger people may remember his work on “Three’s Company,” but Barney defined his career.

Knotts died Friday in Beverly Hills at age 81.

The AP’s description of his film career sums up his acting style:

Knotts' G-rated films were family fun, not box-office blockbusters. In most, he ends up the hero and gets the girl — a girl who can see through his nervousness to the heart of gold.

In the part-animated 1964 film "The Incredible Mr. Limpet," Knotts played a meek clerk who turns into a fish after he is rejected by the Navy.

In the 1967 film "The Reluctant Astronaut," co-starring Leslie Nielsen, Knotts' father enrolls his wimpy son — operator of a Kiddieland rocket ride — in NASA's space program. Knotts poses as a famous astronaut to the joy of his parents and hometown but is eventually exposed for what he really is, a janitor so terrified of heights he refuses to ride an airplane.
His character is accidentally launched into orbit is a space capsule. He endures a series of bumbling misadventures, but ultimately returns to Earth a hero.

The AP's summary continues: In the 1969 film "The Love God?," he was a geeky bird-watcher who is duped into becoming publisher of a naughty men's magazine and then becomes a national sex symbol. Eventually, he comes to his senses, leaves the big city and marries the sweet girl next door.
He was among an army of comedians from Buster Keaton to Jonathan Winters to liven up the 1963 megacomedy "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World." Other films include "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" (1966); "The Shakiest Gun in the West," (1968); and a few Disney films such as "The Apple Dumpling Gang," (1974); "Gus," (1976); and "Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo," (1977).
In 1998, he had a key role in the back-to-the-past movie "Pleasantville," playing a folksy television repairman whose supercharged remote control sends a teen boy and his sister into a TV sitcom past.

Knotts made people laugh. When people my age were kids, we loved his characters in a way only the innocent can. He was an example to us. He taught us that you don’t to be perfect to be loved. Now, he’s gone. But the lessons and the laughs he leaves behind will live on.

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What Do I Miss?

I ran into an old media acquaintance recently. He’s one of those for whom the idea of walking away from TV is still incomprehensible. He asked me, “So, do you miss it? I answered, “Not yet.” I started thinking about the question, as well as my response. What is it that I do not miss?
I don’t miss working the assignments desk and trying to get the people who answer the phones at various law enforcement agencies to answer simple, straightforward questions. I don’t miss calling families of soldiers who have been killed or injured and convincing them to talk to a reporter. I don’t miss chasing information on every fire alarm and 911 call that involve a gun, a knife or a pit bull.
I don’t miss trying to convince sales people that news people absolutely do not, will not and should not ever make editorial decisions based on who bought a schedule or who might buy a schedule some day. My God, the ancient conflict of sales versus news is just exhausting. Sales people don’t understand how news people think and news people are trained, taught, and expected to philosophically run like hell the other direction when the sales people start down that preposterous path they seem so hell-bent on dragging others onto.
I don’t miss the pressure of Friday night football. To be honest, that surprises me, because for a couple of decades Friday nights in the fall were the highlight of my professional life. I love going to football games. I just got to the point where trying to please everyone from DeQueen to Natchitoches and from Ruston to Longview wore me out.
I don’t miss the phone calls at 4:00am about morning show live shots or the phone calls at 11:00pm about overnight breaking news.
I don’t miss cold sandwiches at my desk which I “enjoyed” while watching the competition’s mid-day news. I don’t miss planning election coverage.
I miss what a local sportscaster used to be all about: covering games and telling stories of success, achievement and triumph. I don’t miss a lot of what local sports reporting has become: gimmicks, games, and manufactured honors. I miss standing on the sidelines at LSU games. I miss covering Dallas Cowboys games. I miss the Shreveport Captains. Since I wasn’t doing those things any more, this does not translate into missing the job.
I miss the freedom of expression that came with my radio talk show. I don’t miss making people angry because my radio persona was, by design, that of an agitator. I miss laughing hard with all of my sports media buddies at yet another lunch to talk about Demon football or Mudbugs hockey. I don’t miss competing with them on stories that are of no real consequence, like national signing day.
I don’t miss the mean-spirited culture that sometimes is cultivated in a newsroom. I do miss the collective sense of humor that develops when creative people with liberal arts degrees spend a lot of time together.
I don’t miss the unrelenting deadline pressure that comes with managing a young, eager but out-gunned staff. I don’t miss the turnover that is a direct result of having a young, eager but out-gunned staff.
I don’t miss being recognized in public, because it still happens all the time. In fact, it even happens when I’m not actually there. I got this e-mail from another long-time local TV news personality who now works in the “private sector:” Honest story. Thursday, I'm in line at Subway. The "Sandwich Artist" looks up at me and says, "Good afternoon, Mr. Rebouche, what kind of sandwich would you like today?"

18 years on TV, and they still don't know who I am? :)

I wonder if he misses it?

I don’t miss being asked how the weather will be, since I was never a weather man. Come to think of it, I don’t miss the puzzling emphasis placed on the weather reports in every single local newscast. I’ve never understood why three or four minutes of precious news time has to be dedicated to telling us it will probably rain tomorrow, and it will be about sixty degrees. It takes about thirty seconds to say that, even if you elaborate.

Speaking of elaborating, I suppose I’ve gone on a bit about all this. I guess it’s okay to be gone but not forgotten.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Albert Belle Going to Court

Shreveport native Albert Belle is in the news again, accused of tracking his ex-girlfriend with a Global Positioning Satellite device and threatening her several times.
Belle was arrested last week in Arizona and charged with stalking. He went to court and made bail. The judge ordered him to be electronically monitored and to stay away from the woman.

An Associated Press reporter reached Belle Friday morning, and he didn't want to talk about it.

"You didn't write a story about my Hall of Fame induction," said Belle, referring to joining the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last year. "You guys never report the good stuff that I do."

Belle's next court appearance is set for February 24.

Belle is eligible for the baseball Hall of Fame, and needed 390 votes from sportwriters to get in. He got 40. His disdain for the media is well known. It will haunt him, as they use his off-the-field troubles to justify ignoring his statistics. He has virtually no chance of being inducted.
Of course, the local media in north Louisiana reported on his induction. Here's what Daddy D had to say in the summer of '05:

One of the most impressive athletes Shreveport has ever produced received a well-earned honor on June 25. Albert Belle was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Belle made it big in baseball with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. He was one of the most imposing and productive sluggers ever at LSU. Belle was viewed by many as eccentric. The intensity that drove his success drove him into trouble sometimes, but there’s no questioning the legitimacy of his hall of Fame induction. During his big league career, he had one season in which he hit more than 50 home runs and stole more than 50 bases, a rare combination of speed and power.
Before a degenerative hip condition forced him to retire quietly, Belle hit 381 Major league home runs 389 doubles and drove in 1239 runs. Despite his success and notoriety, Belle never was much of a celebrity around town, and he preferred it that way. When he was home visiting his parents, he preferred to be left alone. He let those close to him enforce that. With rare exceptions, he avoided media interviews. His face seemed frozen in a scowl. His size and demeanor were intimidating to many.
Belle meant business at the ballpark. The only way he knew how to be successful was to place himself into some kind of emotional solitary confinement, a self-imposed social exile. He would insulate himself from distractions: reporters, cameras, teammates, fans. It didn’t matter. He had no interest .whatsoever in public relations. While he met with criticism and even ridicule for some of his behavior, his work ethic was legendary, and the statistics speak for themselves.
When he was younger, we knew him as Joey Belle and he was impossible to ignore. One afternoon in the early 80’s, the Major League Scouting Bureau conducted an open tryout at Centenary College. Young hopefuls from hundreds of miles away showed up with gloves and cleats and dreams. Watching from the stands, it was easy to see that most of them would leave there with little more. But, there was one young man turning heads. As he swung the bat with force and authority, the sound it made as it struck the ball was different: louder, crisper. While most were fielding grounders or shagging flies with shaky confidence, there was one who was cleanly fielding the ball off the wall, turning and making rope-tight accurate throws to a cutoff man. He was young, but he was a man among boys that day. Ultimately, the skeptical old scouts and the handful of observers found themselves focusing almost exclusively on the kid introducing himself as Joey. He wasn’t ready for the big leagues, but he had all the tools. He spent three seasons at LSU, alongside his twin brother Terry, worked his way up the minor league chain and made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1989.
Along the way, the local media kept up with his progress, of course. His success was celebrated, his accomplishments lauded. There also was reporting on his troubles off the field – his admitted struggle with alcohol, a minor scrape with police, that sort of thing. From his place within himself, Belle resented the glare and he was perceived negatively by many.
I was able to communicate with him over the years for reasons I can’t explain. Maybe trust was earned that day at Centenary. Who knows? I never asked Belle why he would accept my phone calls or do an interview with me at the exclusion of others. I just took it as it came. However, I can tell you this: Beyond that scowl is a warm, funny man who loves his brother, his parents and his home town. Behind those emotional barriers is a man who would embrace acknowledgement of his accomplishments.
This will tell you all you need to know about how much the Louisiana Hall of Fame honor means to Albert Belle. He was to be married on the same day as the induction ceremony. When he was asked to be there, he changed his wedding date.
Belle has been silently longing for acceptance, to belong. Now, finally, he does.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How 'Bout Those Pilots!

The basketball team at LSU-Shreveport, as of today, is the #1-ranked team in the nation in the NAIA. So, from a mere month or so ago, Daddy D's tribute to the Pilots:

Most local sports fans have not heard of “The Dock.” Trust me; it’s the place to be in Shreveport this basketball season. The basketball program at LSU-Shreveport is enjoying quite a revival, and The Dock is where they’re invigorating the ever-expanding Pilot fan base. The gym, officially named the LSUS Health & Physical education building, seats about 1100 for basketball, and the place is almost always packed. Having a clever nickname for home port certainly doesn’t hurt.
The second incarnation of Pilot basketball is now in its third season. The men’s program is led by dynamic coach Chad McDowell, whose infectious enthusiasm for life and basketball pervades his team. “Being up tempo, definitely exciting is our best opportunity to win night in and night out,” said McDowell, who played at LSUS the first time the school gave basketball a try. Up tempo may be an understatement. Through the first 12 games of the season, McDowell’s Pilots were averaging 108 points per game. That figure includes a gaudy 153 point total against Paul Quinn on November 6th. More often than not, five players will score in double figures. It’s part of the McDowell plan. “Our success so far has not come at the hands of one player this season, but it is a different trio every night that seem to put up very impressive numbers,” the coach is quick to point out.
The Pilots compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), not in the NCAA. This has created a bit of a recruiting advantage. Players can transfer from NCAA schools and be immediately eligible to play. Jeremy Johnston from Louisiana Tech, Kyle Blankenship from Tulsa, Josh Porter from Stephen F. Austin, Greg Tyer and Rico Payne from Northwestern State have coalesced to create, along with their teammates, an emerging small college power.
“At the beginning of the season we questioned whether there were enough basketballs to go around with all of the talent we have in this group,” McDowell said. In all of my years coaching at the High School level and even my two years here at LSUS, I have never had such a close group of guys who understand and make the best of every minute they have on the floor which I think that speaks highly of the character of this team.” Keep in mind that no player is on full athletic scholarship. It’s the NAIA way.
Clearly, the Pilots have found clear sailing. Last season, they were ranked #7 in the nation among NAIA schools when the regular season ended. They advanced to the “Sweet 16” round of the national tournament. This year, they have been ranked in the top three. They’ve tested themselves in exhibition games against McNeese State, Northwestern State, Arkansas and LSU. All of this is motivated by a goal which may actually be attainable: an NAIA national championship. McDowell has been around long enough to become an expert on coach-speak, but this has some truth to it: “It should be everyone’s goal as it is ours to be #1,” he said. “We are proud to be recognized throughout the country. However, our focus will continue to remain on playing together night in and night out and letting the rest take care of itself.”
National recognition has come, but a lot of local folks have missed the boat. The Dock is rocking. It’s not too late to jump on board.

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An Ant Can't, Can It? Can Tech?

Louisiana Tech is like the ant with the rubber tree plant. It has high hopes: high apple pie in the sky hopes. The ant knocked over the plant, so maybe Tech’s football team can overcome Shreveport’s overwhelming apathy when it comes to any college football other than LSU.

Tech, which has plans to play Texas A&M in Independence Stadium in 2009, has struck a deal to bring Clemson to town in 2008. This really is fantastic news for north Louisiana sports fans. Just be sure to check those dates again LSU’s home schedule. I did. They’ll be at Auburn when Clemson plays in Shreveport. That’s good. Maybe local people will actually show up. It’s telling, though that Tech Athletic Director Jim Oakes said, “Clemson travels very well and I wouldn't be surprised to see 10,000 of their fans at the game." He’s counting on a big crowd from the opponent.

In 1999, Texas A&M played Louisiana Tech in Shreveport in early September. The announced attendance was in excess of 40,000. It’s hard to say that the 50,000 seat stadium was 80% full for that game. It was obvious, however, that the majority of the fans there were Aggies. There was even a full-fledged A&M “yell practice” in festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport the night before the game. The event was treated almost like a bowl game for A&M.

Oakes took a little breathing space before brining quality opponents back to Shreveport. He would never admit it, but the 2003 game against the Miami Hurricanes was a disappointment. The Canes were a national championship contender. Shreveport product Brock Berlin was making his first start after transferring from Florida. Really now, can you get any bigger than Miami? Still, the stadium wasn’t even close to being filled. The announced crown was 43,000 and change. When tech defeated Oklahoma State in Shreveport in 2002, the stadium was approximately half full, with an announced attendance in excess of 31,000.

Every one of those games should have been a sell-out. Many of tech’s fickle fans are dead-set against any game being played in Shreveport. I’m not sure it’s a principle thing about playing on campus, either. I think a lot of people who reside, say east of Minden just don’t want to make the drive. Maybe they’re afraid of the stadium’s geography. Maybe they just don’t care enough.

I hope Oakes is right. I hope 10,000 or more Clemson fans roll into town. Everyone benefits if they do. I admire Oakes and the school’s administration for continuing the effort to elevate the program and to include Shreveport in the process.

There are tiny college towns all across America which hosts tens, even hundreds of thousands of visitors on five or six Autumn Saturdays. Shreveport, certainly larger than Ruston, can handle it. But, the town has to believe. The city has to embrace these games as events. The casual fan (and, yes, even the odd LSU fan) must accept Louisiana Tech.

Oakes continues to stab at giving Shreveport a home-town team it can support. A big-time program, if greeted with big-time attendance, will come back. Success will breed success, and then maybe we’re onto something.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Landrieu Lands in Shreveport

I heard Louisiana’s senior Senator, Mary Landrieu, speak on a variety of topics this afternoon. Naturally, Katrina/ Rita recovery dominated her remarks to the Rotary Club of Shreveport.
She is touting a plan for the state to acquire a share of federal earnings from energy businesses working off the Louisiana coast. The money would be used to rebuild the levee system in and around New Orleans, as well as for coastal restoration. She compared Louisiana to Wyoming, saying that state generates $1.8 billion in energy funds annually, and gets $900 million back. She said Louisiana’s coastal waters generate many times that, but our state gets zero back. She said Louisiana needs about two billion dollars to get south Louisiana restoration going, which is about half the money the U.S. is spending on the War on Terror in an average week.
Showing a wry sense of humor, she said that if the erosion isn’t stopped, Shreveport could soon have its own coastline to worry about. She was also quick to point out that north Louisiana projects will not be forgotten, and will in fact remain a priority. I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s okay. One would have to be essentially soulless not to understand that New Orleans and Lake Charles need an extraordinary amount of attention, and that it will be that way for a long, long time.
Landrieu did assure us that I-49 construction (north and south) and the still-proposed I-69 (NAFTA Highway) remain high priorities. That, I believe.
She was asked directly about her concern over a Middle Eastern company controlled by the United Arab Emirates taking control of U.S. ports, including New Orleans. At that moment, she became emphatic, saying “That’s not going to happen.”
She was warmly received, which was slightly surprising given the preponderance of conservative thinkers in that particular gathering. She was quick to spread credit around, mentioning Republican U.S. Representative Jim McCrery at least twice, singling him out for praise. She talked of the Louisiana Congressional delegation presenting a united front in DC on may issues important to the state.
I know she has her detractors, but I’m not sure what all the hubbub’s about. We have a nice balance of representation. A young Republican, David Vitter, occupies Louisiana’s other Senate seat. Landrieu, a middle-aged Democrat, has earned her stripes on Capitol Hill, and that can’t hurt as our state tries to recover from one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. An unfortunate moment occurred during Landrieu’s introduction. She was referred to not as Louisiana’s senior Senator, but at its “senior citizen.” She graciously and deftly diffused the situation by admitting up front that she does now, in fact, have an AARP card.
Politics aside, Landrieu exudes confidence and a certain charisma. She clearly loves Louisiana and is doing her dead-level best to muster optimism about our recovery. Her trip to the Netherlands to study the system of levees and docks was somewhat controversial, I suppose. But, listening to her justify the trip, it makes perfect sense to me.
She’s touring the state, and has been slightly hampered by a persistent fog hanging in the air everywhere she goes. While that was literally true today, there has to be a metaphor in there somewhere. So far, I haven’t seen anything to scare me away from allowing Landrieu to carry the lamp that leads us down the road to recovery.

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What Now, Ricky?

I’ve held off on the Ricky Williams topic for a day or so. I just needed to sleep on it. It would be easy to add my tiny voice to the cacophonous chorus lamenting the latest Ricky racket.

I’m a big second chance guy. How many is this for Williams? His agent says Williams has been in “outstanding behavioral mode” for six months, and that no one should jump to any conclusions. Okay, let’s not leap. Many media sources are reporting that Williams failed an NFL-mandated drug test, and that he is facing a suspension from the league of one year.

Reporting indicates the substance in question was not marijuana, an affection for which Williams has publicly proclaimed. If we are to read between the lines, this mystery substance which set alarms clanging has something to do with Ricky’s spiritual journey toward serenity, contentment, whatever.

Whatever, indeed. Let’s distill this: whatever Williams is not (model citizen comes to mind), there’s one thing he is: weird, an enigmatic cat, to be sure. He is a great athlete. That’s undeniable. The 1998 Heisman Trophy winner from the University of Texas and 2002 NFL rushing champion, he is spending time in India studying yoga and holistic medicine. He’s searching for something,no doubt. He couldn’t find contentment in New Orleans when he played for the Saints. He apparently was unhappy in Miami playing for the Dolphins, and sat out the 2004 season. Once he decided to return to pro football (owing the team more than eight and a half million dollars for breaching his contract), he had to miss four games because a violation of the NFL’s drug program, his third infraction.

This does not take into account the drugs he’s taking legally. When he was in New Orleans, William was diagnosed with some kind of social anxiety disorder and was quite publicly being treated with the prescription drug Paxil. At the time, sick of his shenanigans, I began referring to him on the radio as “Paxil boy.” I hesitate to even bring it up, because it was so harsh. I regret it, and he didn’t deserve to be mocked.

Well, here we are again, and I’m sick of his shenanigans.
Guilt and a certain amount of empathy, however, are compelling me to give him the benefit of the doubt this time. Dolphins coach Nick Saban, a man I’ve enjoyed working around for a number of years, praised Williams openly last year, calling him a leader. Williams got to a point to where he could laugh at himself and even use the word “weird” about his behavior. It appears that Williams, who gained 743 yards despite missing four games and sharing playing time with a rookie hotshot, has really been working at rehabilitating himself and his image.

He is appealing the positive drug test, and I’m prepared to let this play out. It will take a couple of months for the process to reach a conclusion. I’m guessing things will go Williams’ way this time, because as so many much louder voices have said over the last couple of days: Williams just can’t be that stupid.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

The Loss of a Legend

For any sports fan over the age of 40, February 20th is a day of mourning. Curt Gowdy has died. Leukemia claimed him at age 86.
For people my age, Gowdy was the voice of sports. He called the first Super Bowl in 1967. He was behind the microphone for thirteen World Series and 16 All-Star Games.
Moreover, he was the voice of NBC’s Major league Baseball "Game of the Week" for ten years. From the time I was six years old, and into my teens, Curt Gowdy was baseball. Those Saturday afternoon games were often the highlight of my week, and Gowdy’s voice was the consistent link to all of those fields of dreams. Back in the day when we only had three TV stations, and a sports junkie took what he could get, we would also watch the "American Sportsman" series. Gowdy was out there in his hunting or fishing gear, helping us learn about far away places where a guy could bond with his buddies and the Great Outdoors.
Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, calls Gowdy the greatest play-by-play man NBC has ever had. That’s high praise, if you think about it. It’s also quite well deserved.
He is literally a Hall of Famer. He was inducted into the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the American Sportscaster's Hall of Fame in 1985. There’s even a state park named after him in his home state of Wyoming.

Who is the biggest name in sports broadcasting today? Jim Nantz? Al Michaels? Tim Brando? Bob Costas? The fact that we can debate that says something about Gowdy and his era. During his time, the late sixties and possibly into the eighties, he was the singular sports broadcasting superstar. He was the go-to guy for all the big events; bigger than Keith Jackson, because of Gowdy’s remarkable versatility.

I didn’t realize how much I missed him until I heard he was gone. In an era when sports broadcasting has become as much entertainment as sports (Are you listening Terry Bradshaw and Tony Kornheiser?), Gowdy’s style might not have been in vogue. I can promise you, it would have worked, anyway.
Gowdy was the best. He set the table for today’s sportscasters to do what they do. An Associated Press story quoted him as having said,
"I tried to pretend that I was sitting in the stands with a buddy watching the game poking him in the ribs when something exciting happened.” He didn’t just try. He succeeded. This buddy watched hundreds of games with him. I can assure you of that. I’m grateful that he kept me company and taught me about the game.
I hadn’t heard his voice in a while, but surely I will miss it.

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The Illusion of Niceness

I’ve discovered over the last year or so that folks ‘round these parts are generally nice. It’s not that I didn’t know that before, it’s just that I’ve achieved a certain clarity about it. There’s an abundance of sincere niceness, a comforting sense that there’s support for you if you’re in a jam.
There’s also an undercurrent of insincerity which is a little unsettling. I was on TV almost every day for more than twenty years. For five years before that, I was on with some regularity (weekends and such). However, I have not been on with any consistency since the summer of 2003. I haven’t had a job in television since the summer of 2005. You wouldn’t know it, though, based on how I’m approached in public.
I was in the checkout line at the grocery store. Keep in mind; I have been working in my present position, outside of the media, for slightly more than six months. I ran into a lovely women who I’ve know for many years. She said, “Darrell, you are doing such a good job.” I was feeling great about this, because one can wallow in insecurity in a new position and any affirmation is welcome. I said, “Well, thank you for saying so,” and asked, “How can you tell? What have you heard?” She said, “Well, I watch you all the time.” A nearby mutual acquaintance, who had actually been paying attention to my job status, just laughed and walked away, muttering “I’m not getting in the middle of that.:” I just said, “Well, that’s very kind. Tell your husband I said hello,” and walked away. She stood there in the check-out line, dazed and confused.
The family and I were having lunch at a popular Mexican restaurant. The waitress was conspicuously staring at me. Finally, no doubt working for a big tip, she said “I just want you to know that I can’t go to sleep at night without hearing your voice.” Doggone, she hasn’t slept in two and a half years! Unless she recorded something a plays it back at night. Freaky.
I grew up in the same neighborhood with a guy named Andy, who is now the pastor of an Assembly of God congregation nearby. My wife and I ran into him at a popular Italian place. “Hey, Andy. How’s the flock?” “Great, Darrell. How’s work for you?” I said something like things were going well and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. He said, “I can tell, Darrell. I want you to know I watch you every night.” I said, “Thank you for saying so,” and walked out of the restaurant. I looked at Claire and said, “Maybe I should go back in there and tell him that preachers shouldn’t lie” But, no. he was just being nice.
I suspect this will go on for a while. To be fair, some people have actually noticed my absence. I filled in on a local radio talk show last week, and a caller said on the air, “Hey, I thought you were dead.” No, I’m not dead, just more alive than I’ve been in a long, long time. Another lunch companion said to me just last week, “You’re just so pleasant to be around. I’m not sure what you’re doing, but you’re obviously happy.”
His observation was right on target. More importantly, it was legitimately nice.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sleeping With Stock Cars

There. I watched the Daytona 500. Yes, I did. It was the first time for me. I can’t say I saw it all. I saw Jon Bon Jovi performing on TV with some lady singer. I’m not sure who she was, but she had a good voice, and the song was peppy. I saw the start of the race. I saw some rubbin’ and some bumpin’ and I saw the green-white checker finish. Despite my best efforts, I also spent a lot of time examining the insides of my eyelids. It’s remarkable that I used the phrase “green-white-checker finish,” because until the phrase was used about 5:00pm on NBC, I had never heard it before.
The look on my son’s face was priceless. He moseyed down the stairs in his 16-year-old “who the hell cares” way, then just stopped in his tracks. “You’re watching NASCAR?” His incredulity filled the room. I said, “It’s the Daytona 500. It’s their biggest thing.” He said, “Why don’t you go get a beer and a TV dinner?” I said, “Yeah. I’ll get my tank top on while I’m at it.” Who knew my kid was such a snob?
I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried. With apologies to the Stones, I can’t get my NASCAR-loving buddies no satisfaction. (There’s that subject-verb agreement thing I love so much about stock care racing. You know, there’s a big difference between poetic license and redneck speak). I just can’t make it through a race. Maybe I need to pay attention to all the back stories.
Jimmie Johnson won the race without his crew chief, the NASCAR equivalent of a head coach. It would be like the Steelers winning the Super Bowl with Bill Cowher jutting his jaw back in Pittsburgh. Apparently, the Johnson team got caught in some kind of car-design violation early in the week (if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t racin’). The NASCAR bosses kicked him out of Daytona. There was a wreck on the final lap, which led to extra laps. Then, there was a wreck on the actual final lap, which was really two laps after what was supposed to be the final lap. Johnson was declared the winner. It’s good news that he was the first car to cross the finish line, anyway. The guy with the checkered flag waved it enthusiastically, and Johnson drove his car the wrong way around the track on purpose (practicing right-hand turns, no doubt) and we knew he was happy. This had to do with the green-white-checker thing.
I will say this: Tony Stewart, the NASCAR bad boy, got in a lot of trouble during the race for aggressive driving. It looked dangerous, but it was kind of fun to watch. So, even though I didn’t really get all the subtleties of what was happening, I knew he was misbehaving. (If you ain’t misbehavin’, you ain’t racin’?) He did knock another guy off the racetrack. Then, the other guy flipped him off (“made a hand gesture,” according to our subject-verb agreein’ announcers) and knocked Stewart off the racetrack to get back at him. That, I understood. I like a good dust-up when I’m not involved in it. A couple of times, Stewart got sent to the back of the pack as punishment. He still roared back for a green-white-checker fifth place finish, showing his pluck. I like pluck. So, as of this moment, if you ask me what driver I’d choose to follow as a fan, it would be Stewart.
Don’t think for one moment, though, that I’m about to run to AutoZone or Home Depot or wherever and buy a “#20” decal for my rear windshield. I think my son would move out of the house. He’s desperately seeking a peace-sign sticker, 60’s style, with which to pimp his ride.
What’s the next big race I’m supposed to be interested in, something at Talledega? I'll think about that while shopping for tank tops. Here’s where we stand, a major philosophical shift: In the extremely unlikely event that someone were to offer free tickets and free lodging to attend a race at the Texas Motor Speedway (the closest NASCAR track to me), I will actually consider going. So, just in case this happens, I’ll be stocking up on beer and TV dinners.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Turning 40....

Blog note: I celebrated my fortieth birthday almost six years ago. The occasion is worth recalling. So, from the Daddy D Archives:

Country came to town, and the Bossier boy saw Yankee Stadium, but a funny thing happened on the way to the Bronx. My wife, the steady-as-she-goes skipper of my life, surprised me.
Somewhere on the seven train late in the New York night as we whistled through the bowels of a city that never sleeps, she declared "I could do alright in this town."
To understand what a breathtaking moment this was, you need to know a little about how we got here. These were two people on a simple mission, really: to celebrate a guy's birthday in style, sports style. The idea was to see New York and hang around a few days waiting for the big payoff: The House that Ruth Built.
Things started benignly with a typical tourist stop - the top of the Empire State Building. That was followed by a midtown stroll and something only for a sports fan, dinner at ESPN SportsZone. The location of the restaurant, Broadway at 42nd Street, is key to what happened next. Night fell on Times Square.
My wife is a charming blend of sophistication and simplicity. She has a Southeastern Conference private school education and a Masters degree. I have always perceived her as being disarmingly intelligent, reassuringly self-confident and contentedly southern. What I never knew was that the sheer notion of surviving in the Big Apple intimidated her. It doesn't any more.
The New York night took her breath away. She was tantalized by Times Square, blown away by Broadway and almost hypnotized by a Renoir portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Things began to change early in the second day of our visit. Through a combination of dumb luck and the best powers of persuasion I could muster, we scored two tickets to a Monday taping of the Letterman show. It can’t be a coincidence that Late Night is based at the Ed Sullivan Theater, a place where so many young women went a little crazy over the Beatles and Elvis. That’s just about how my wife reacted when we found out Dave’s guest would be Bruce Willis.
When we were escorted into the theater, should could not contain herself. “Darrell, this is so cool!”
Her southern simplicity was showing, and that was pretty cool, too.
We backed that right up with dinner on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, and she was hooked.
“I don’t think I took a breath for an hour and a half,” she said, amazed, following the first act of Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic.
“I had no idea. Now I know why people come back again and again,” she offered after an emotional Miss Saigon matinee at the Broadway Theater.
From Soho to Little Italy to Central Park “where Briscoe and Logan find bodies under the bridge” to Rockefeller Center, she loved New York.
“Okay, where is the big screen we see Tom Brokaw on at the end of the news?” “Hey, isn’t this where Peter Jennings did his New Year’s Eve broadcast? Is that the Brooklyn Bridge?” Look! There’s Radio City Music Hall!”
She was like a loveable little girl, the pressures of career and motherhood set aside, far away for just a few days. Starry-eyed at Sardi’s, she was smitten and determined to return soon.
And to think, those were only the days leading up to the big moment.
By the time we were to see the World Series champs, we had mastered the subway system and made it from Broadway to the Bronx without incident.
At first, she seemed a little let down. It’s quite an emotional shift from Claude Michel Schonberg to Joe Torre. Once I steered her to Monument Park in center field, however, and the rich history of the Yankees and their 25 world championships began to sink in, she was okay. When she saw Derek Jeter make playing shortstop look like ballet, she settled in nicely. When she saw how happy I was simply to be in Yankee Stadium on my 40th birthday, she was southern contentment personified.
Steady as she goes, the whole idea was to make me happy. It was her idea for me to be at a ball game as I turned 40, and it was inspired. She proved the words attributed to St. Francis, “it is in giving that we receive…” for with her gift she got back so much.
She had more fun than she ever anticipated. I saw a side of her personality that had been gently tucked away for ten years or more. I learned some things about her I never knew. I enjoyed her company immensely. I realized she means more to me every day.
Sure, it was fun to be at a ball game on the day I turned 40, but the greatest gift was the one I didn’t see coming.
I fell in love with my wife all over again.
Happy birthday to me.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Confessions of a TV Viewer

The winter Olympics are in full swing, and I'm having a difficult time finding a reason to care. Apparently, I am not alone. According to the Associated Press, "American Idol" easily outpaced the Olympics in U.S. TV ratings. The wire service reported "Fox’s phenomenally successful contest crushed the Olympics in head-to-head competition on Tuesday night, 27 million viewers to 16.1 million, according to Nielsen Media Research." Tuesday night's show had significantly less substance to it than Wednesdays, to boot.
Uh-oh. I just tipped my hand. Yes, I watch American Idol. I watched it Tuesday. I watched it Wednesday. I've watched every second of it so far this season.
I'm not as pathetic as I may seem based on that admission. My TiVo helps a lot. I watch the show when it's convenient for my family. That's the key right there. For the first time since my kids were into "Barney," there's a show everyone will sit down and watch together. When you have teenagers, togetherness is hard to achieve. you take what you can get when you can force the action.
I'm not sure I'm a disciminating television viewer. I can say with complete candor that I was one of the first perople to call attention to a little show called "Seinfeld." I have witnesses. Of course, I also thought the next big hit would be "My So-Called Life," and it lasted less than half a season.
My friend Andrew loves his Arrested Development, but I've never seen an episode. There's some hope that another netowrk or a cable outfit will pick it up. I'm rooting for it because it gives Andrew so much pleaure.
What are the shows I will not miss? I've abandoned The West Wing. When Josh left the White House and the emphasis shifted away from the presidency and onto the campaign, I just lost interest. Plus, the McKenzie Allen administration over on ABC provided some kind of natural transition. I'll watch "Commander in Chief" if it's on (yes, my TiVo gets it), but I won't plan an evening around it. I'm certainly not as devoted to it as I was to The West Wing. I've also abandoned ER. My affair with the Desperate Housewives is over and done. I've really been captured by Grey's Anatomy, for some reason. (It's because I can't take my eyes off Izzy. That's why). But, far and away...the show I'm devoted to: BattleStar Galactica. I'm still hanging around the "Lost" island, too. And the last show on my high pririority list: Boston Legal.
We're TiVo-heads at our house. We have two. What shows get a season pass? Let's go from memory, which will say something about my priorities. BG and BL, of course. Idol, House, Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld (still), The Dog Whisperer, Law & Order SVU, CSI: Miami, Cold Case, 60 Minutes, Meet the Press, Face the Nation, anything LSU sports, How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, Lost, DH is still on there because the Mrs. watches, Commander in Chief is there, The Andy Griffith Show, Las Vegas, Letterman, SNL, Alias, and Grey's Anatomy.
That's a lot of TV shows, and it doesn't include my actor wishlists. I'm not saying I watch them all, but TiVo records them all. If I had to pare it down to two shows, I've decided which two it would be: BattleStar and Boston Legal.
Shows I've tried, but can't like: The Office, Everybody Loves Raymond, and (shocking, yes.....24). My friend Donna will not miss 24, and she doesn't have a TiVo. Of course, I didn't get into NYPD Blue until it was re-running on cable. Then, I would record it every day and watch it like a soap opera. I'm thinking that's what I'm going to have to do with 24 some day. I keep saying I'm going to take time off and have a one-man TiVo/ DVD festival, but I doubt that will happen. I'll be content with Commander Adama and Denny Crane for now.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Who's Got Spirit?

We've all run across, or at least heard about, parents who exhibit noteworthy personality traits in association with their kids' athletic endeavors. Football dads push too hard. Soccer moms do too much. Baseball parents abuse the umpires. It happens. It's undeniable, unfortunate, and often inexcusable. I've witnessed these moments at basketball courts, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, even swimming pools. I've been guilty of at least two unseemly youth sports incidents, I must admit.
Those who find themselves acting this way often come under harsh scrutiny from onlookers who believe they are above such disreputable behavior. We, the offenders, can defend ourselves only by saying we are driven to such madness by an overwhelming love for our children. Our desire to see them succeed, to not be embarrassed, to bolster their little fragile psyches makes us a little psycho. The judgemental may conclude that we are yearning for some validation through our kids' accomplishments, and we care more than they do. These schools of thought are not exclusive of one another. The truth is, credit and blame can be sprinkled liberally on the emotional and psychological soup cooking in the cranium of the typical sports parent. We all love our kids and sometimes we make idiots of oursselves because of it.
Having worked in and around sports all of my adult life, with a bonus of inflicting a wide variety of athletic activities onto my own children, I thought I had seen just about everyting. However, over the last three years, things have risen to a new level for me. My daughter has been a middle school cheerleader.
Men, let me ask and answer two questions: What's the best thing about being a cheerleader dad? What's the worst thing about being a cheerleader dad? The answer to both is the same: cheerleader moms. Trust me, many of these little girls are pushed to the limit by their own and their mothers' expectations. There's tumbling, heavy lifting, precision, discipline and teamwork. There are literally blood, sweat and tears. Throw in concussions, broken bones, strained tendons and hurt feelings.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: the kids who do competitive cheering are athletes. What they do is made even more challenging by the fact that they're supposed to look pretty while doing it. For many of them, the pressure from their parents can be oppressive.
I remember well my first exposure to a cheer competition. It was like "Amazing Grace:" I was blind, but now I see. The local venues, usually home to hockey games and rodeos, were cacophonous. Music was blaring and the crowd was roaring. I've been to many of these events subsequently, but you always remember your first. There was something different about the sound. It wasn't your typical sports crowd. There was more tweeter, less woofer. Screeching. Treble cajoling. Moms. Loud moms. Passionate moms. Most of them were lovely. All of them were loud.
I do not judge them harshly. Over the last three years, I have grown accustomed to them and fond of many of them. If the energy in my house during the days before a competition was any barometer, the moms deserve the outlet. The girls spent weeks preparing physically and emotionally. They paid the price, too. My own daughter had to have surgery to repair torn cartilage in her wrist. I saw one little girl from Deep in the Heart of Texas competing with a cast on her foot. I've seen knee braces, wrist supports, crutches and elastic bandages, just like a football sideline. If I had been allowed close enough, no doubt I would have smelled analgesic balm. It's been impressive and a little alarming at the same time.
Cheer moms, I've discovered, grind details in a way that most dads would have a hard time grasping. An emergency meeting was once called for our parents because the waistbands on our girls' skirts were white. Just the waistbands. Who know they were supposed to be blue? The moms, that's who.
Cheerleading squads have cheeering sections. They bring signs and wear colors. As in any other team sport, there are parents who might push a little too hard or yell a little to loudly. It might be a little unsettling for the unindoctrinated. But the moms will tell you: it's all part of the game.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Price of Prosperity

Here in Shreveport and Bossier City, we citizens are watching and enjoying an uplifting revitalization of our cities. National retailers and restaurant chains which wouldn't give us a second glance ten years ago are popping up in certain parts of town. Hotels are planned or are being built downtown, by Louisiana Downs, and on the Louisiana Boardwalk. The controversial downtown Convention Center has had a "soft opening," and the events have been well-attended. There's plenty to celebrate. However, Shreveport is Shreveport, and people will find something to complain about.
The stretch of Youree Drive between Southfield road and Bert Kouns Industrial Loop has enjoyed the most dramatic transformation. Five years ago, that area was dominated by cotton fields, vacant lots and declining strip shopping center that was on the verge of blight. Now, it's bright and shiny and new and busy as hell.
Back up a second. Did I say the highway has "enjoyed" a dramatic transformation? That may not be accurate. Some of us enjoy it. Some of us celebrate it. Many others would rather complain about the traffic. If you have to wait through a red light or two, or if you have to wait 20 minutes in a drive-through line, what does it mean? It means we're prosperous. It means people are spending money. It means jobs, growth, vitality. We have grown up here, accustomed to getting "anywhere" in fifteen minutes or less. Now, it may take you fifteen minutes to go a mile on Youree or Airline. This is not something to complain about. This is something to celebrate. However, instead of being energized by it, we fall into the morass of negativity. The local newspaper published an editorial cartoon about Youree Drive traffic.
I went to an event at the convention center and dragged along a familiar companion. On a Saturday monring in downtown Shreveport, traffic was backed up for two or three blocks. I was thinking, "This is cool. Downtown is busy on a rainy Saturday morning. things really are changing around here." What did I hear from the passenger seat? "Well, they're going to have to do something about this." About what? The fact that the parking garage was full? Isn't that a great thing? What if we had been able to zip right in? Inevitably, there would have been a comment something like, "Well,this is a waste of time. Nobody's here."
We were so economically depressed for so long that we have become victims of our own success. Part of our pathology is to look for failure, because we've come to expect it. The Louisiana Boardwalk, open for less than a year, has been a raging success. They're continuing to build and they're bringing in more retailers and restaurants. Yet, you hear comments like "there may be people down there, but they're just walking around. they're not shopping, not spending money." Or this one, "I hear it's a rip-off. My friend went down there and paid seven dollars for a sandwich." Seven dollars for a sandwich? Really? Oh, my God! Let's assume for a moment that IS a rip-off. So, one restaurant charges you seven bucks for a sandwich and the whole boardwalk is a rip-off?
If we are to grow and succeed, we have to allow ourselves to enjoy it. Shreveport has to allow itself to be happy.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Necks Go High-Tech

The return of the traditional football season seems a lifetime away. We have arena football to get us through if we need a pigskin fix; and college basketball has just recently entered its meaningful phase. The NBA season drags on, collapsing into drudgery as it does due to its protracted mediocrity. So, what is a southern sports fan to do to make it through the dreary days of winter? Well, watch cars zoom around tracks all across the country, that’s what.
NASCAR is changing. Next year, Toyota will run a Camry on two stock car circuits. (This is shocking, shocking some red, white and blue purists. Let’s not get started on the “stars and bars” crowd.) The sport has wisely distanced itself from its long-time tobacco company sponsorship. Now, it has joined America’s major sports by going high-tech with its stats.
Traditionally, the positions of the cars during races were plotted once per lap. Frankly, that’s been part of the sport’s appeal: the simplicity of it. If you can keep up with which cars have been lapped, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s winning: the car in front. You know how many laps are set aside for a race, and the car that crosses the finish line first wins.
Now, gearheads and nerds unite! Football and baseball fans have long drilled down into stat packages to follow their favorite players more closely. How many people really understand a quarterback rating or a slugging percentage? More than you might think. Now, stock car fans can learn the joy of meditating on the minutiae of their sport. High-tech sensors have been installed at the 36 NASCAR tracks. They can track the positions of every car up to twenty times per lap. The frequency of the findings varies depending upon the size of the track. NASCAR’s like baseball that way. There is a wide variance in the playing field depending on how ballparks are configured, and the racetracks have been constructed at different distances with varying angles on banking, etc.
Thirty or so new racing stats will be generated. This could open a new marketing tool for this ever-growing sport. Don’t be surprised if fantasy racing takes off like rotisserie baseball. The broadcasts should be more interesting, too. Announcers who call football, basketball and baseball are accustomed to having access to an abundance of data, much of it in real time. The availability of this kind of information to the likes of Benny Parsons and Dale Waltrip should help them analyze the intricacies of a race as it unfolds.
This development could broaden the appeal of auto racing. Instead of being perceived as a long series of swift left-hand turns, the underappreciated high-tech aspects of the sport, as well as the oft-disregarded but essential teamwork involved will be illuminated.
The sport’s brain trust has been diligently working on broadening NASCAR’s appeal. Surely, they must cling to their roots. Fast cars, crashes and emotionally-charged confrontations between drivers are part of the package. Subtly, it seems, things are changing. Not to sound condescending, but putting emphasis on things like subject-verb agreement on the part of the announcers is important. You can sound Southern without sounding stupid. A sponsorship based on technology instead of tobacco is a profoundly positive change. Incorporating technology into fan interaction is the next thing in a long list of things being done right at the racetrack.
For those of us who don’t speak the language, (Go ahead, translate this: “If you ain’t rubbin’, you ain’t racin’.)
The opportunity to have things translates for us is welcome as we try to cultivate interest. For the crowd that wants to stick to basics, there are the fundamentals. No matter how many consecutive passes are captured by the sensors, even if “speed in traffic” is charted second-by-second, it still comes down to one thing: the car that crosses the finish line first wins the race.

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Thoughts on Saban

This is really random. An 8th-grader of my acquaintance recently had a writing assignment. She chose Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban as her topic. Saban used to coach football at LSU, so she thought I might help with some insight. Here's the interview:

1. Have you ever met Nick Saban?

I have met Coach Saban on many occasions; first, when he was coaching the football team at Michigan State, and they played against LSU in the Independence Bowl. When I worked as a sportscaster, I covered LSU football regularly. So, I would have the opportunity to speak with him after every home game. Additionally, I covered several bowl games in which LSU was involved, and I had the opportunity to speak to the coach during those times, as well. As the head coach at LSU, he visited north Louisiana quite often on recruiting trips, as well as for alumni functions. So, we become well acquainted. I remember well a time when I was offerend an opportunity to be an honorary coach during LSU’s spring football game. I got a behind-the-scenes look at how he operates.

2. Do you like the way he coaches?

I don’t think you can argue with his success. A national championship at the college level is the best he could possibly do. He’s an effective recruiter and a skilled football tactician. He also surrounds himself with outstanding assistant coaches. Based on the Miami Dolphins’ trend during the second half of the most recent NFL season, it would appear he has nis new team on the right track, as well.

3. How do you feel about him leaving LSU?

As a fan, I was disappointed to see him go. He coached the team to its only national championship in my lifetime. So, certainly I, along with many others, was hoping he would stay a few more years.

4. Do you think he made the right decision to coach professional football?

He achieved the highest level of success at the college level. As a highly-motivated achiever, it is not at all surprising that he accepted the opportunity and the challenge to coach in the NFL. Only time will tell if the decision was “right” for him and his career.

5. Do you think Nick Saban's coaching style suits college or proffessional football better

From what I’ve observed, his style of managing players seems to suit professionals better. As far as game management and success on the field, that remains to be seen. While I haven’t seen him operating up close in the NFL environment, I have had the opportunity to closely watch him at the college level. My gut reaction is that older players (who are being paid to be there and therefore have a different level of commitment) will respond well to his style of motiviation.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The NFL season is finished. So, what’s next? 2006 will loom over Louisiana sports fans as a giant fleur-de-lis morphed into a question mark. The Saints will be back in Baton Rouge and New Orleans for this season. There's even talk of a pre-season game in Shreveport. After that, who knows? The team’s owner, Tom Benson, certainly hasn’t made any friends since the start of the last season. The NFL’s commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, has forced the issue by compelling Benson to keep his team based in south Louisiana.
The Saints are bigger than Benson; and if he doesn’t want to be a part of Louisiana anymore, he should disassociate himself with the team. Sell it, make his money, get out and never come back. He doesn’t like us. We don’t like him. Fine. Let him move to San Antonio or somewhere even farther away, as long as he leaves the football team behind and doesn’t bother us anymore.
An argument can be made that his sordid affair with San Antonio (he wants to move the team permanently after playing a handful of games there in 2005) was strictly business. It’s easy to come to the conclusion that he was thinking seriously of moving the team long before it was displaced by Hurricane Katrina; but we cannot, and he should not, ignore how that unspeakable disaster changed everything.
This state must recover economically, physically, ecologically, and emotionally. We are struggling to rebuild our largest city, our coastline and our reputation. If a franchise in the most successful professional sports league in America abandons us, we risk becoming a metaphor for failure.
Conversely, if we show up for the Saints despite their owner, we can build a reputation for resiliency. When the football season starts, the national and international media will be visiting New Orleans for “one year later” stories. We can’t know, and in large measure can’t control, how far along the recovery effort will have come by then. We can show the world that we may be bloodied, but not beaten.
The Superdome, which became a symbol for despair in the days following Katrina, could be ground zero for the hope of recovery and revitalization. The economic impact of being home to an NFL franchise is measurable and profound. The spiritual repercussions of losing it under these circumstances would be incalculable.
Benson has pledged that the Saints will be a leader in rebuilding New Orleans and the gulf coast. The team will play games in Tiger Stadium until the Superdome is ready.
A lot of people who love the team have developed a dyspeptic disdain for the owner. They may be reluctant to buy tickets for fear of putting more money into his pockets. It’s important to remember, however, that it’s our reputation that needs to be rehabilitated. He can worry about his own, if he so chooses. Chances are, he won’t. He has demonstrated that many times over with his inexcusable antics following the hurricane.
The Saints’ return to the Superdome will be a major media event. The message that New Orleans and the whole state of Louisiana are rising from the ruins will be amplified across the globe. This story transcends sports and multimillion dollar salaries. It’s about getting better. We must take control of the message and not let one man, who just doesn’t get it, wreck it for the rest of us.

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Google Yourself

Have you ever done it? You'd be amazed, even alarmed, by what you might find. As a semi-public figure for a long time here in Louisiana, I was distressed to discover half-truths and inaccuracies about me out there on the web. There's no real harm done. However, there are blogs out there dedicated to TV news. Anonymous posters who really are detatched observers are getting publsied out there, behaving as if they know what's going on.
Please, just be careful and be fair. Being witty is good, too. Try not to be harmful. I need to get into this "wit"thing.

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Me and Religious TV

I spent 25 years on local TV, but rarely have I had a reaction quite like the one I've received from a random appearance on a baptist minister's talk show this past Sunday. If you must know, the show is called "It Feels Like Home." It's produced by Summer Grove Baptist Church.
For wider interest: This church in Shreveport is growing so fast they they actually BOUGHT A MALL. Yes, Southpark Mall, which was sadly underperforming, is being transformed bit-by bit into a Churchoplex. The worship space, not that long ago, was Dillard's, I think.
Anyhow, I'm acquainted with the pastor. We're in a civic organization together. He had a same-day cancellation just a couple of hours before taping. Since the show would air on Super Bowl Sunday, it sort of made since to have a sportscaster (or, at least a former sportscaster) on his show. We wound up talking about spiritual journeys. (If there's any demand for this, I'll post details).
I've been blown away by the response. Three days outfrom the broadcast, I've had multiple humans say something to me every day. Mad Props to My Man Rod Masteller from what is apparently an amazing viewership. Thanks to Rod and Summer Grove for the opportunity to speak to the Ark-La-Tex about faith.

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The Big News

So, here's the headline:
New BattleWings Broadcaster
27 Jan 2006
A longtime local television and radio sports host takes over behind the BattleWings' game microphone.

Not that anyone would actually care, because it's not a big deal in the short run: My pals at the (Shreveport) Times were kind enough to publish an edited version of this in the Sunday paper. People have been congratulating me for days. However, most think I've joined the team full-time. It's 18 Saturdays out of my life, with an opportunity to travel to exotic locales like Oklahoma City and the Rio Grande Valley. I'm grateful that my full-time employers, Willis-Knighton Health System, are allowing me to do it. Here's the raw release:

January 27, 2006 (Bossier City, LA) The Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings will have a new radio voice for the upcoming season. Veteran Louisiana sportscaster Darrell Rebouche will handle play-by-play duties for the six-year-old AF2 team’s games in 2006.“Darrell is a longtime friend and a professional broadcaster in the truest sense of the word,” said Dan Newman, BattleWings’ owner. “Local sports fans have seen and heard Darrell for many years. I’m thrilled to have him as part of our family.”“This is shaping up to be a breakout year for the ‘Wings,” Rebouche said. “Coach John Fourcade brings a long track record of success and a new level of credibility to the team. His name recognition and his history of coaching winners at the highest level of arena football are impressive.”Rebouche spent more than 25 years as a television and radio sportscaster in Shreveport and Bossier City. For two years, he was Managing Editor at KTAL-TV (NBC in Shreveport) before joining the administrative team at Willis-Knighton Health System in 2005. Willis-Knighton is the exclusive sports medicine provider for the BattleWings. During his broadcasting career, Rebouche covered sports at the highest levels, including the Dallas Cowboys, the New Orleans Saints, and LSU football. He has covered Super Bowls and major bowl games, the NCAA basketball tournament, as well as countless local and regional events. His play-by-play experience includes Southland Conference football television. For many years, he hosted a popular radio sports talk show, “Sports Day with Darrell Rebouche.” He also provided daily morning sportscasts for three Clear Channel stations in Shreveport. He contributes features and sports columns to City Lights Magazine. “Darrell knows sports, but more importantly, he knows sports in Shreveport-Bossier. I’m thrilled to have him as part of our family,” Newman stated.“I am excited through this agreement to have an opportunity to be part of two outstanding organizations that are working together,” Rebouche said. “This is a chance to use the skills I have gained over the years in sports reporting and analysis. I am grateful to Dan Newman and to (Willis-Knighton President and CEO) Jim Elrod for this chance.” The BattleWings enter their sixth season in Bossier-Shreveport – the only professional football team to ever last five years in this market. The Wings host Central Valley at the CenturyTel Center in their home opener Saturday, April 8th. Negotiations are underway to play either a preseason game with the Tulsa Talons in the New Orleans Arena, normally home to the New Orleans Voodoo – the Arena Football Team owned by the New Orleans Saints – or possibly move the Talons vs. BattleWings game scheduled for April 22nd in Tulsa to New Orleans. The Voodoos because of Hurricane Katrina had to cancel their 2006 season. The Talons and BattleWings owners have close ties to the New Orleans area and are trying to assist The Voodoos in keeping arena football in the city.

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