Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saban Digs His Hole Deeper

Nick Saban, a virtual enemy of the state, has given people in Louisiana another reason to dislike him. He used the term "coonass," and somebody recorded it. Wednesday, Saban issued an apology. My father is from Avoyelles Parish and speaks with a distinct accent. Some of his older brothers had much thicker cajun affectations, and I can easily slip into the distinctive rhythms of South Louisiana-speak myself. As a child, other kids often referred to me as "coonass," and I didnt think much of it. Of course, in the 60's and 70's a lot of other racial/etchnic perjoratives were used without a lot of thought. In the politically correct 21st century, the term seems insensitive at best. Really, it has no positive connotation.
Surely Saban should know better than to use a slur, even in casual conversation. He is alert enough to realize his name is mud among many coonasses because he accepted the head coaching position at one of LSU's biggest football rivals. He accepted the job at Alabama after angrily denying, on many occasions, interest in it. He made his decision on the day his former program, the LSU Tigers, played Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

In a place where he was revered, he is now reviled, and this slip of the tongue (or whatever it was) only makes matters worse. I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it. This one will probably blow over. It was a dumb mistake and a stupid thing to say, and even though a lot of people may not like him anymore, most people would believe that Saban simply is smarter than that.

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Hangin' With My Crew

My wife and I don’t get out much, at least not with other forty-somethings. We have friends, but we just can’t seem to find enough time to be social. We do run with a crew, though, and we like them. When our kids were born, we said that we would like our house to be the one our kids’ friends like to visit. That goal has been attained. Much to our delight, almost every weekend our house is filled with girls. Some subset of the crew you see here, with the occasional wild-card entry, is always around.
I’ve told a lot of people that my house looks like a Miss America pageant every weekend. There’s no question that this is an attractive group of young ladies. The thing is, they’re as sweet and nice as they are pretty. While many girls their age show a wild streak, these girls seem to be well-grounded. They’re not out partying a lot. I know this for a fact, because they’re always at the house. I also know where they are most of the time because we’re the ones hauling them around town.
There are many benefits to having girls around. They cook, for one thing. And I like to eat. I think they torture my son, though. They are girls, after all, and they have a tendency to be a little loud. I don’t think his girlfriend is really excited about having these people around all the time, either. They’re part of the landscape, though. The truth is, on the rare weekend when they camp at somebody else’s house, I miss them. They are very nice to me and have me wrapped around their cute little fingers.
They all are freshmen in high school, and I have to come to grips with the thought that they could turn on me. They are adolescents, after all, and chances are there will be hurt feelings and broken friendships. More than likely, a boy will be involved somewhere along the way. Allow me to dream. I hope to watch these girls grow together into womanhood. I want to become overly emotional when they leave for college. I want big Christmas reunions. I want them to bring their kids to the house one day in the distant future.
I love these girls and I’m proud of them. They can hang around at my house any time.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

It's a Marshy World and We're Just Livin' in It.

Volumes could be written about the people who have come through the Shreveport media market and have been miserable during their time here. This is a place you learn to love or for which you develop a dank disdain. As someone who has spent his life living in Shreveport or Bossier City, I've often been frustrated to hear newcomers disparage my cities. After decades of watching them come and go and hearing them whine about how there's nothing to do, I finally came to grips with the fact that this is just not a place for everyone. People like Liz Swaine and Carl Pendley came to town and made it their home. Bob Griffin has been here almost 50 years, and plans to stay longer. So, Shreveport-Bossier obviously has its charms.

Among those young people who recently have come here and beat a hasty retreat are the Fabulous Marsh Sisters. Rene Marsh worked at KTAL for almost two years, where she struggled to fit in while limping her way through the start of a career in broadcasting. Her claim to fame was breaking the story of Woodrow Hayes, who swindled a group of nuns in Shreveport out of approximately four million dollars. Rene had it first and the national media followed.

A native New Yorker, I got the impression she never found happiness here. She just didn't seem to fit in with any community. Her younger sister Michelle interned at KTAL. They sound almost exactly alike, and certainly look like siblings. They have similar carriages. In the south, we might call them "peas in a pod." We laughingly referred to them as "The Hilton sisters." Now, they are working at the same television station (coincidentally, channel 6) in Albany, the capital of New York. They are getting attention not only because of their unusual "sister act," but because there apparently just aren't that many African-Americans on the air in upstate New York.

Rene left Shreveport before her contract at KTAL expired, searching for fulfillment. Maybe she has found it. We wish her well and hope she and her sister remember Shreveport fondly.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dave's Deal With the Devil

My last sportscast was the night LSU won its national championship in football with a Sugar Bowl win over the Oklahoma Sooners. I was not a sportscaster at the time, but I was allowed to return to the air as a gracious gesture from my employers. They acknowledged that I had spent a quarter-century covering LSU football, and I just needed to be there to cover that story. I bring this up only to call attention to my broadcast partner that night, Dave Foster. Dave replaced me as sports director at the television station, then his career hit a bit of a skid.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Dave wanted to go home. He had a couple of strong looks at sports jobs in that market, but didn't quite get over the hump. Finally, he accepted a job as the assignments manager at the Fox afilliate there. He toiled behind the scenes, planning and coordinating coverage. Apparently, he did a fine job, because...incredibly, preposterously, amazingly, Saturday night Dave Foster won an EMMY AWARD for his station's coverage of the aftermath of Tennessee tornadoes in April.
This is ironic in a way because he won television's most prestigious award a day after he officially decided to walk away from the assignments desk. Why would an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist walk away from his post? Because he was named the weekend sports anchor at his station, that's why. His dream of anchoring sports at a television station in his hometown has come true. His first sportscast in Nashville is next Saturday.
I don't want to spill Dave's business, but let me say that he has been struggling a bit over the last three or four years. He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and he certainly deserves a break. I'd say he got one. Congratulations, Dave!
By the way, I happen to know that Dave, who is single, had a date Sunday night. Let's see: Friday: get the Dream Job. Saturday: Win an Emmy. Sunday: Well, what would cap off a perfect weekend? The way things are going, only Dave knows for sure.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Salve for the Saban Wound

The annual sportsman’s lament is near. If you are not a fan of basketball, then what are you to do for the next few weeks? As surely as February is the shortest month of the year, so will I fall into some kind of dysthymia. LSU’s fabulous football season is long behind us. The incredible run of the New Orleans Saints will sustain us, but only for a few more days...a couple of weeks if things go well. Spring training for baseball is still weeks away. If we can force ourselves to pay attention to LSU basketball, maybe we can make it through. The Mudbugs’ success on the ice is something we take for granted, but it still is something of an elixir for what ails us. Still, we are left longing.
One of the worst things to happen to sports fan in Louisiana early in 2007 may be one of the best things at this juncture. With college football recruiting reaching its crescendo, we can once again concentrate on how angry and disappointed we are with Nick Saban. At least we have someone, something on whom we can focus our energy. Saban’s decision to accept the head coaching position at Alabama led to furious foaming at the mouth for several days in January, and understandably so. The timing of his accepting the job (on the day LSU played Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl) was unfortunate at best. His arrival in Tuscaloosa on the day when the Tigers, his former team, should have been grabbing national headlines with a convincing victory was insulting to thousands of fans who had viewed him as a hero. Now, he’s recruiting against the team he coached to a national championship. This story will not go away. It will be fun to watch for a long time.
LSU will be fine, though. Les Miles, the man who replaced Saban, has made a crucial, inspired hire. Gary Crowton has come on board as LSU’s offensive coordinator. Most recently, Crowton held the same position at the University of Oregon. He has been the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and the head coach at Brigham Young University. He is known in Louisiana because he was the highly successful head coach at Louisiana Tech.
At Tech, Crowton coached quarterback Tim Rattay, who became a starting quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers and is still in the NFL. His star receiver was Troy Edwards, who was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also played for the Ram and the Jaguars in the NFL. Those names reflect the kind of job Crowton can do with offensive talent. This means that his very presence is a valuable recruiting tool. He can take undersized players with above average talent, coach them at a small football school and get them to a level to earn millions of dollars playing pro football. Imagine what he can do for the caliber of players who are attracted to LSU.
Crowton also is considered by many to be an innovator, if not a genius, on the offensive side of the ball. Talk about fun to watch. I can hardly wait to see what he does with Matt Flynn, who will be a senior quarterback for LSU this fall. Jimbo Fisher, the man Crowton replaces at LSU, said Flynn has enough talent to be an early-round NFL draft pick. If his new coach can work his offensive wizardry, it could be a magical fall in Tiger Stadium.
Those of us who worked with Crowton during his time in Ruston can tell you that he is one of the most affable men you will ever run across. The combination of his talents and his personality could mean something special for LSU in the years ahead. This is arguably Coach Miles’ most significant hiring since he arrived in Baton Rouge. If things work out the way they should, people in Louisiana may eventually be willing to forgive Saban. Don’t count on it, though.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

A Rare Religious Moment

I am contributing to a booklet of Lenten meditations for my church. Since I wrote something and I haven't posted anything in a while, I thought I'd give the Daddy D readership a preview of Lent Week 5 Tuesday...

Abraham is the father of faith, and we are taught to believe that we are Abraham's descendants and heirs of his covenant promises. God said to Abraham in Genesis 17:4, "Behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations." Does this mean that our physical ancestry can be traced to one man? Or, does it mean that a multitude of nations are the beneficiaries of his unwavering, seemingly unimaginable trust and obedience of God’s commands? In Genesis 12:3 God said to Abraham, "By you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." God created a genetic roadmap which would lead the world from Abraham to Jesus. We learn that everyone who trusts in Christ would become an heir of Abraham's promise and heirs to an eternal kingdom, God’s promise declared unto mankind.
So when God said to Abraham, "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations," He opened the way for any person from that moment forward to become an heir of God's promises. Generations later, when Jesus walked the Earth and brought a message of hope, forgiveness and eternal life to men, he was laying the groundwork for a new covenant. God sacrificed his own son to save us from ourselves. In today’s world, the words from these lessons should give us confidence that God works for us.
Today we would say faith in Jesus, who is the fulfillment of God's promises -- is the way to become a child of Abraham.
Jesus challenged the people of Israel to accept his word as the revelation of God. His claims challenged the foundation of their beliefs and their concept of God. Jesus claims unique knowledge of God and makes a breathtaking claim: that the only way to full knowledge of the mind and heart of God is through himself. He is declaring that the way he lives is the standard to which men and women of all generations should aspire.
The Jews asked Jesus, “Who do you claim to be?” He answered, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is telling them that he has been alive in some form for thousands of years, perhaps without beginning. He is putting himself on a plane with the Creator. Jesus was not just a man who came, lived, died, and then rose again. He is the immortal timeless One,* who always was and always will be. His death and rising make it possible for us to share in his eternal life.
The verses appointed from Psalm 105 tie these lessons together. The New Testament chronicles miracles or “marvels” credited to Jesus, who could do these things because he is God. The marvels in the psalm are precursors to the Wonders of Jesus. The consistent thread of covenant in verses 8, 9 and 10 leads us to the brink of redemption. God agreed to protect his people if they agreed to love and obey him. This means we strive to be Christ-like in our daily lives, because that honors God’s promise to us: The promise of a new and everlasting covenant for us and for all men means that sins will be forgiven, that the gates of Heaven are open. We gain entry by being children of Abraham’s faith, brothers and sisters in Christ’s death and resurrection.

*"The immortal Timless One" is a phrase I lifted from someone else's writing, which I can't find again. It stands out, though, and I didn't want to accept any credit for it.

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