Saturday, March 31, 2007

It Done Has Come a Flood!

It rained hard at my house this morning, but not enough to cause my kitchen, the morning room and the back hallway to flood. So, why did I find myself using virtually every towel in my house to dam a rising tide and redirect water into my garage? More on that in a moment.

It's quiet around here. The women in the house have taken off for a week at the beach with a gaggle of friends. So, I decided to spend a low-key Saturday working in the yard. Thunderstorms rolled in about 7:30, so that plan didn't work out.
Never one to miss an opportunity to lie around, I made some coffee, grabbed a couple of magazines, opened the windows so I could experience Mother Nature's offering and took a seat on a sofa. I must have been lost in my reading, because the next thing I knew, I hear my alert 17-year-old asking, "Hey, where's all that water coming from?" Without looking up, I answered. "Oh, the rain must be blowing in. I need to close the windows." Then, I looked up and saw the tsunami.
Let me paint a picture for you. Water is essentially rolling into the kitchen. Two chairs in the morning room are in standing water and the sofa I'm enjoying is in imminent danger of wetness. I spring into action. What does my observant companion do? He pours a bowl of cereal! I cannot possibly make this up. Does that sum up a 17-year-old boy right there, or what? My son, my son, I am so very proud!
Something like this has happened to me before. When I was about his age, still living at home. I was awakened abruptly one morning by the sound of my mother shrieking in panic. The water was a little deeper that time, and she was in full freak-out mode. One of the hoses attached to the washing machine had broken, and there was a geyser spewing in the laundry room. Once we turned off the water, we had a huge mess on our hands. Fortunatley, one of us was thinking clearly. We called the fire department. They responded promptly with squeegies and water vacs and helped us clean up. She said, "how did you know to do that?" I said I didn't, but I figured firemen dealt with thousands of gallons of water routinely and maybe they'd have an idea. They did.
Our little crisis this morning didn't rise to that level, but it was of the same origin: a recalcitrant washer. I had a big load of towels going and for some reason, the thing just overflowed. I don't know if there was a clog, or what. I've spent the balance of my day, ironically, washing all the towels I used to clean up the mess.
My 17-year-old helper? He helped himself to a $20 bill from my wallet and went downtown to a guitar festival. Who has time to watch furniture dry?

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Baseball is Back

To celebrate the imminent arrival of baseball season, we go back to June of 2000 for a Daddy D classic. I was moved while watching my son and his great grandfather together at a baseball game:
(Fair Grounds Field, circa 2000, above)
Jack took in a ball game on a splendid sunlit Sunday. It was the last thing he expected to do. It was the best thing he could have done. His friend Christopher sat beside him, sharing the day. Two guys, worlds apart, bound by blood and baseball.Jack has been going to games for a while now. He has forgotten more days in the sun than his buddy has ever seen. When pressed for his first baseball memory, Jack can recall seeing Babe Ruth in Shreveport, a rare glimpse of greatness that any child of the 20's would find hard to forget. Press Chris, and he can go back as far as Mark McGwire's 70-home run season - a summer any child of the 90's would find impossible to ignore. As the old man nears ninety, memories don't come as quickly or as clearly as they once did, but feelings flow freely as a lazy fly ball lands helplessly and harmlessly into a left fielder's mitt. If he closes his eyes, Jack knows his father is sitting beside him now. It's the day The Babe came to town. Dad doesn't want him to miss this. Jack is a little boy again, just like Chris. A breeze brushes Jack's cheek and breathlessly he is beside his beautiful bride again. He has loved her since third grade, since he was a little boy just like Chris. Jack's companion is a bundle of memories in the making, a 10-year-old great grandson sharing a Sunday, along with a nacho or two, with someone he finds easy to love. From a distance, they seem an improbable pair. Sitting behind home plate, their caps pulled low over their eyes, at once they're talking about nothing much but saying everything that needs to be said. Examined more closely, it becomes easy to see why they are there. It's simply to be together. The day swirls around them. Without warning, a blimp floats overhead; an unlikely occurence, to be sure. It seems somehow fitting on a day that has become so unexpectedly extraordinary. A sharp crack rips the afternoon air as a batter makes contact, the thrill of the moment lifting them and their anonymous companions out of a mid-afternoon malaise. A singing rhyme echoes through the stands, a veteran vendor hawking his wares. The little boy nudges the old man. They take it all in with a glance and a smile. Some might say the ball game is dragging along as the three-hour mark slips silently by; but for Jack and Chris, time stands still. "We had a good day, good seats and good company" is Jack's simple assessment of an elegant afternoon at the ballpark. But it wasn't so simple, after all. The game became a caretaker, holding at bay the angst of aging while embracing all the wide-eyed wonder of just being ten. That's the responsibility baseball bears: to make sunlit Sundays and moonstruck Mondays at the stadium special. The game is a steward of something that should be spectacular, yet understated: an old man, a little boy and thousands in between having epiphanies at the park, and realizing it subtly but surely. That's the thing about baseball. Often, the players don't matter. The outcome usually is irrelevant. On this particular Sunday two guys didn't really care who won or lost or that the ace pitcher had to leave the game early. They can only tell you that they had a great day, great seats and great company.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Close Shave. Definitely.

This is yesterday's news. I mean, even Keith Olbermann made a big thing out of it; but I have perspective on it. The softball media guide at the College of Southern Idaho has stirred conversation, controversy, titillation and a little faux outrage for its "this and that" section of selected players' profiles. Along with asking them if they pefer coffee or hot chocolate, mountains or beaches, Coke or Pepsi, that kind of thing; some players are asked to choose shaven or unshaven. You can see it for yourself here.
I did an informal poll of people I know, most of them women or girls. The question: "What are they referring to there?" The response was unanimous. One woman phoned into a local radio show to ask what all the fuss was about. She thinks they're referring to men's faces. No one is that naive, do you think?
Where I work, this topic, in a broader sense, has been a discussed most recently.
It all started when Britney Spears shaved her head. This happened in the wake of widespread dissemination of photos showing that she is "shaven" elsewhere. This naturally led to millions of peole making the same joke: "Why did Britney Spears shave her head?" "So the drapes would match the carpet."
I happen to know several gynecologists, and they are consistent in their observations. These days, they are seeing lots of tattoos in the area in question and almost no hair. How and when did this happen? How does this (what is it, a fashion trend?) achieve widespread conformity among young women? Is it an internet phenomenon?
I don't have any answers, but I am left with many lingering questions. For instance, what was the sports information department at Southern Idaho thinking? What were the girls thinking?
I'm stopping right here. This is a family-friendly blog. For now, this is about as far as I'm willing to go.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

KSLA Distinguishes Itself

This time of year in Louisiana, weather almost always becomes a big story. There is a tendency among some observers to think TV meteorologists go overboard sometimes. Your average person mave occasionally overreact to severe weather. On Tuesday, however, at least one media outlet got it right. Tornadoes and funnel clouds were spotted across the area, hail created an alarming clatter and flash flooding paralyzed parts of east Texas. Fallen trees blocked highways and thunderstorm winds did some structural damage. As this was happening, the staff at KSLA did an outstanding job of reaching out to viewers. I only watched KSLA, so I can't make a comparison. I know that having their air product streaming live on the internet provided a tremendous service to a wide audience. Keep in mind that most people don't have access to televisions in the workplace or at school.
Patrick Dennis and Ron Young kept their cool and kept viewers informed about what was going on. Shannon Royster showed poise from the anchor desk. KSLA's crews did a remarkable job of fanning out aross the region and capturing the day's activities. Producers and editorial leaders got viewers involved in a meaningful way. E-mails, cell phone video and stills, home video and photos rounded out an outstanding day of severe weather coverage. To play off the station's promotional phrase, they actually DID track storms! More importantly, though, they effectively told the stories of people who were affected by the storms.

KSLA found a commendable balance between information and hysteria. The potential for destruction and injury was there, but they didn't overplay it. This was a great drill for the station and its viewers. Any time a severe weather system rolls through the viewing area, there is potential for a more serious outcome. Tuesday, KSLA proved it is prepared to handle the story well.
To illustrate how successful the station was at getting viewers involved, I've borrowed some photos from their website. Go there to see more, as well as to watch streaming video of their coverage.The church photo is credited by KSLA to Alisha Martin-Coffee. The others are not credited.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

McConathy Makes a Move

Mike McConathy, one of the nicest and most underappreciated coaches you will ever know, is trying to move up in the world. McConathy, the head basketball coach at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, has applied for the job as head basketball coach at the University of Iowa.
The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa's student newspaper, is reporting that McConathy applied for the job, which had been held by Steve Alford, last Friday. I spoke with the coach personally and he does not deny the report. McConathy rose to national prominence last March when his Demons upset Iowa 64-63 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. So, obviously the athletic administration at Iowa is familiar with his work.

McConathy, who is from Bossier City, was the head coach at Bossier Parish Community College for thirteen seasons before getting his Division 1 break at Northwestern. He has made the most of it, as almost everyone who knows him expected. He has led the Demons to two NCAA tournament berths and has won two tournament games. That's impressive, coming out of the tiny Southland Conference.
It is with mixed emotion, I'm sure, that people who know McConathy wish him luck in his effort to advance his career. If he is going to make a bold move into, say, the Big Ten, this is the right time to do it. Iowa should seriously consider his candidacy. If he leaves NSU, and it may not be likely that he will, he has constructed an outstanding program. If he stays another year or two then the school, the team, the conference and those who have known Mike for all these years will benefit from having him around a while longer.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Six-Figure Stan!

Our man Stan Stava made his network television debut on "Deal or No Deal" Monday night. He won 107 Grand! One hundred seven thousand dollars. Stan played the game well, recovering well after knocking the million dollar case out of play with just his second selection. The $107,000 offer was the second-highest amount offered by the banker during the course of Stan's round.

As the game played out, it turns out Stava made an excellent deal, because the case he chose at the start of the game was worth just $10,000.
I talked to Stan last week, after the taping but before the show aired. While he couldn't say how much he won, from his tone it was clear he had done well. He said he had played the DVD and/or on-line version of the game more than 200 times before he got his shot at the real thing. He hardly hesitated during the game, because he chose his numerical sequence in advance and stuck with the plan.
Fittingly Stava, who had a fledgling advertising agency, held his Monday night watch party at a client's business. You gotta work it.
Speaking of working it, Stan brought yellow roses for all the models. When host Howie Mandel asked Stan if he had a favorite, he singled out Lisa Gleave. The other models played off of Stan's stated desire to have "one date" with Lisa. I don't know if it happened, and I'm not asking. Stan did choose wisely in more ways than one.
It was surreal to see people you know on a TV game show. One of the friends he took along was Kay Casson, who like Stan was an account executive at KTAL. He also took along his priest and pledged in advance to give part of his winnings to his church. The weirdness continues, because the priest, Fr. John Raish, was most recently the rector at the church at which my father-in-law (also a priest) was serving when my wife and I married. Nobody ever hit it big on a game show while he was running the place.

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Saving the Saints Has Merit

It looks like the Saints will stick around for a while. The team and the state of Louisiana have agreed to toss out exit clauses in their contract. Until today, there seemed to be real potential for the team to leave the state some time over the next four years. Before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, it seemed likely the Saints would leave for Los Angeles or San Antonio.

The Saints' home stadium, the Superdome, became a symbol for misery and government ineptitude in the days and weeks following Katrina. It has been rebuilt, and so has the team. They are tied together as a symbol of hope for a complete recovery in the southern part of the state.
“For the foreseeable future, Louisiana’s team will keep marching to victory right here,” Governor Kathleen Blanco said Monday. Let's hope she's right. If we believe at face value that the team will stay in place, that's one thing. The Saints being the Saints, "marching to victory" isn't exactly a given. Still, give the governor her due for putting an optimistic spin on things.
The contract had allowed the team's owners to "opt out" of the current deal with the state if it repaid $70 million dollars in subsidies (or inducements) to which Louisiana has been obilgated.
We are told a long-term agreement to stay in New Orleans is being negotiated. If that is accomplished, it could be a lasting legacy for Blanco, who has announced that she will not seek re-election. Team spokesman Greg Bensel, who has been down this road a few times before, said his boss Tom Benson is committed to forging an arrangement that will keep the Saints in New Orleans "forever."
The current deal was negotiated in 2001 by Governor Mike Foster. The Saints receive annual payments and other considerations from the state.
In addition to the repairs made to the dome following the hurricane, an additional $185 million was reportedly spent on improvements and upgrades Benson wanted. Surely a state ravaged by one of the worst natural disasters in United States history can find better ways to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe not. Just spend time with any die-hard Saints fan. They are the personification of "tried and true," sticking with one of the most bumbling franchises in National Football League history. It is not an exaggeration to say that often fans' emotional well-being is tied to how the Saints are performing. Millions of people feel strongly about the City of New Orleans and many still are legitimately grieving over its condition. The Saints are a salve for them, and the state's leadership is smart to keep that in mind.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Tale Of T-Pac and Heavy G.

There is a certain amount of decorum necessary in professional settings. Media members, even in medium-sized cities like ours, should show deference to the people with whom they are interacting. If a reporter is interviewing a physician, for instance, he should address the interview subject as "Doctor so-and-so." When the camera is turned off, if they are comfortable being informal, that's terrific.

It became commonplace for broadcasters in this market to refer to Mayor Hightower as "Keith" in interview situations. It was inappropriate and unprofessional. Something happened in a public setting this week which took this to a new level.
Mayor Cedric Glover addressed the Rotary Club of Shreveport. Following his formal remarks, he accepted some questions. In the group was local radio personality Tom Pace, who was a visiting Rotarian. The mayor recognized him and called on him by using a psuedo-hip hop nickname, "T-Pac." Obviously, these men know one another well. What happened next was a little disturbing. Mr. Pace responded in kind, acknowledging the mayor by referring to him as "Heavy G."
He called the mayor, in a public setting, "Heavy G." Being friendly and informal with the mayor is a good thing. Undermining his dignity is something altogether different. Mr. Pace deserves the benefit of the doubt here because the mayor opened the door and Pace just walked through it with him. Both men are culpable here. Mr. Glover is new in his office and is being scrutinized carefully. We all need to watch our manners.

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A Day Without Newspapers?

There are a lot of people making hay with "new media." Bloggers are influencing politics at the local, national and international level. Some folks (certainly not me) are making money with their blogs. How much of this work is truly independent? I would suggest that a tiny sliver of it stands on its own. Humor columnist Jeff Kramer, in a piece published in the Syracuse Post Standard, got my attention when he wrote that most "new media" are just parasites clinging to the droopy rump of a struggling host animal. Wow. He's making a point that newspapers still set the standard for news, that print media is the engine driving the train.

Kramer is proposing a day without newspapers, just to see what happens. That's all I want. Just one day. No post Standard. No New York Times. No USA Today.
For 24 hours, let the shock jocks, "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," the bloggers and the rest of the "new media" darlings run with the ball. We'll see how far they get when they don't have their cloddish "old media" brother clearing a path through the clutter
Boy, does he have a point. A lot of local TV stations, for instance, bluster about not "taking stories out of the paper," but just watch local news carefully. You will see versions of stories you easily could have read earlier that day. That's not to say that TV newsrooms are not enterprising their own stories. They are. The daily paper, though, absolutely is a significant tool in their editorial processes. Kramer addresses that, imagining how a local newscast might look if the producers and anchors don't have a newspaper to pore over:
TV Anchor Person: "Good evening, everyone. Normally this is when we rehash what we read in this morning's paper, but because The Post-Standard and every other newspaper didn't publish today, all we have is this breaking story about a cat named Snuggles playing with a large sock."
That's harsh, but you get his point. You will hear people say with more and more frequency that they don't read newspapers. They do, but they just don't know it. Or, as Kramer puts it:
Non-newspaper readers need to be helped to understand that most of the content they devour from other sources isn't coming from elves working at the headwaters of The Magic Google News Brook.
If your primary source of news is the net, that's okay. If you want local news on the net, go to The Times' website, then visit all three local stations' pages (KSLA, KTBS, KTAL). That should illustrate this point quite well.
Some of our favorite stops for news and entertainment on the web are merely gateways to other media. I hadn't really thought it through, but parasitic may be an appropriate word in many cases.
Bloggers have a role other than feeding off the life blood of the mainstream media. When they perform well, a valuable service is provided. As Kramer would no doubt agree, the old guard media can and will abuse its power. Sometimes, old-school journalists get it wrong or even make it up. The Constitution gurantees the right of a free press in this country, primarily to hold the powerful accountable for their actions. The framers could not have envisioned what the media has become and will become. Still, the system works. That's the wonderful thing about "new media." It participates in the process of holding the powerful accountable, even when the power rests in the hands of the "old media."
It would be hard to argue with Kramer's final plea to give the papers a day off: "...stop the presses. Give the beast a day to rest. Something tells me we'll miss the old guy."

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Updated TV Viewer Confessions

This is a bittersweet week for the BSG Geeks. Count me among them. There is no show on television to which I am more devoted than "Battlestar Galactica," which airs on the SciFi Channnel. This is not a typical space-jockey show, but a wonderful social/theological/ political drama which is set in outer space. If you have not seen the show, do yourself a favor and buy the DVD's. You have to start with the mini-series and move forward. Absolutely, it is worth your time.

The season finale will air this Sunday night. For the show's devotees, the final episode of 2007 is set up to be enormous. The show's creators have said the series is a play in three acts, and last week's show was the start of Act III. All indcations are, the season will end with some spine-tingling (for fans) revelations. We will apparently have to wait until after the first of the year, Sopranos-Style, to find out what happens next. There is great news: SCI FI Channel has upped its episode order for season 4 of BSG from 13 to 22 episodes. This will include a special two-hour extended event that will air during fourth quarter 2007 and be released on DVD. Production on the new season of Galactica is expected to start in May. Here's some news release stuff, which is all true: Redefining the space opera with its gritty realism, BattlestarGalactica’s intensity, issues-driven topicality, and command performances have garnered it unprecedented critical acclaim. In addition to winning a prestigious Peabody Award, the series has been honored as one of the 10 Outstanding Television Programs of the Year by the American Film Institute (AFI) for two years running. I can hardly wait for Sunday, and I'm sick I'll have to wait so long to find out what happens next.

Is it okay to admit you watch American Idol? Why is there shame in that? It's clean. It's funny. The American dream is alive and well on it. You don't get the creeps when you watch it with your kids. More people watch it than any other TV series, so why must we stay in the closet? I watch it twice a week. Yes, I do.
Conversely, Two and a Half Men is slightly perverse. Yet, it remains perhaps the funniest show on TV. I TiVo it and watch it late in the evening.

I'm excited about the return of "Entourage," and "The Sopranos." I wonder when "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is coming back.
I finally caved in to pressure and forced myself to watch "The Office," and now I'm hooked like everybody else. My friend Andrew delivered the first season of "My Name is Earl" to me on DVD. Now, I get what all the fuss is about. It's laugh out loud funny.
I remain hopeful that "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" will be renewed. I like the whole cast and really enjoy producer Aaron Sorkin's work. I've pretty much given up on "Lost," but my wife still likes it.
"Desperate Housewives" is a distant memory in our house. My TiVo gets "House," "CSI: Miami," "Cold Case" and "Without a Trace." We will watch those recorded shows, in that priority, if we are sitting around the house bored.
Finally, my wife, my daughter and my son's girlfriend are hopelessly devoted to "Grey's Anatomy," of course. I've learned to take my eyes off of Izzy. I don't think Meredith is all that attractive. The only thing I have to counter McSteamy and McDreamy is Addison and she's getting her own spin-off. I think I'll pick up a good book.
(Katherine Heigl as "Izzy," above)

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Behind the Headlines

A couple of stories in the paper jumped out at me Wednesday morning. Let's start with Rodney Watson, tabbed to be the new assistant superintendent at the Caddo Parish School Board. The story tells us that the school board has to change up its reporting structure because Mr. Watson, under the present arrangment, would be his brother's boss. Here's a little more detail for you. Mr. Watson and his brother Randy are identical twins. One is a little heavier than the other and they comb their hair differently, so they are relatively easy to distinguish. With minimum effort, though, they could pass for one another. I suspect in the first few days of Rodney Watson's tenure, there will be some confusion. The Watsons grew up in Queensborough, so this is a homecoming for Rodney who has been in exile in Baton Rouge for many years.

The family is big into public service. Their older brother Harvey is the Risk Manager for the City of Bossier. Before that, he was a safety and claims manager for the city. Harvey received some national publicity last year for his part in rescuing some California owls which showed up in Bossier. It's family reunion time, I guess. Just so you know, their mother's maiden name was Rebouche. I have insider knowledge.

The story that really grabbed my attention concerned an old boddy of mine, Stan Stava. Stan was a contestant on the smash-hit NBC game show "Deal or no Deal." Stan can't say how much money he won, but the show will air Monday night at 7:00. We do know that Stan brought yellow roses for all the models who open those briefcases. I can only imagine that Stan will be entertaining to watch. I became acquainted with him through his television career. He started as the sports photographer at KTAL and later returned as an account executive at the station. He has a zest for life and a real love of sports. Long after his days as a "sports shooter" were over, he would go on his own time to high school football games with a home video camera. If he captured a big finish on tape, he would rush to the station flush with excitement, just wanting to contribute. I really enjoyed having Stan around and I hope he cashed in. The Times reports Stava recently started his own advertising consultant firm, SS Advertising, and sells phone book ads. He hoped to win at least enough to pay back the debt.

Stan told the paper the day he got the call from the producers saying he had been selected was one of the best days of his life. Maybe that's an indication of how he did. We'll find out Monday.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learning From the Living

I have a buddy who is battling cancer. He inspires me. He is at work now, less than three weeks after enduring major surgery. Facing an uncertain future, he remains one of the most positive people I've known, expressing admiration for his surgeon, gratitude for his friends and a deepening love for his wife, saying "when God put her in my life He knew exactly what He was doing....she has truly been my heart and soul these many (35) years..."

He has said many times that the power of prayer is real, that he felt people praying for him during his hospital stay. His faith is astounding, yet reassuring. He is a walking testimony to living in the moment as he points out that none of us is promised tomorrow. He is bolstered by Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths."

He told me he has at moments experienced a peace that passes all understanding, a reference to Philippians 4:7 which is quoted in church services with some consistency. This seems to indicate that he is preparing for any outcome, including passing from this life into the next. He said that any time spent worrying about what will be is time stolen. Whatever time he has left here, he wants to use it wisely.

This is not a new-found philosophy or an emotional crutch. This man has lived his life this way for years; his devotion to his faith, if taken at face value, is being rewarded. He believes God is at work in his life in infinite ways, the most obvious of which is an outpouring of love and support from people whose lives he has touched. "It has been very humbling to be the recepient of the grace of God through His people. You are all such a blessing and we thank God for each of you," he posted on a website dedicated to updating his surgery and recovery.

While no doubt focusing on his own disease and discomfort, he nonetheless takes the time to teach those around him about courage and faith. Truly, that is time well spent.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Under The Radar: The Show & Tell Cocaine

It barely got mentioned locally, but a story from Shreveport has made national headlines. A six year old boy took crack cocaine to school for show and tell. Yes, crack cocaine is such a part of this child's life that he thought nothing of telling his classmates all about it. His mother, 20-year-old Lachristie Thomas, was arrested on a charge of improper supervision of a minor.
He's six. She's twenty. Do the math on the age at which Ms. Thomas gave birth. At the risk of behaving like the publisher of The Inquisitor, let me ask this: Shouldn't this have been played more prominently in the paper? It was in Friday's police briefs.
KTBS had a quote from the Shreveport Chief of Police, "Going on 30 years in law enforcement, sometimes you think you've seen it all. But this one, I just can't believe," Police Chief Mike VanSant told KTBS after the mother was brought to jail.
"He (the child) said that he had seen other family members smoking it," VanSant told the station. "He had found it in his mother's car."
The police apparently were disturbed by the child's obvious familiarity with the drug. Shouldn't we all be disturbed? Maybe Ms. Thomas is a victim of her environment or the people around her. She's out of jail, and according to several media accounts the little boy is in foster care. He is probably bewildered, confused and scared. It's likely he feels as if he is being punished and he does not know what he did wrong.
We hear about outrage when a twenty-something female teacher has sex with a high school boy, but when a 20-year-old mother routinely uses crack cocaine with her pals in front of her six-year-old son, we seem to collectively shrug our shoulders. Why don't I understand that?
I do not intend to become a media critic, but I called into question KTBS's editorial judgment over the "dog bites mailman" story; so I want to offer balance here. They got this one right.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

More On the Topic Of Reproduction

North Louisiana got more national publicity today. Good Morning America did a Maury Povich impersonation and revealed live on the air that a Chimp named Conan is the father of the little miracle baby at Chimp Haven, a facility near Shreveport which provides a retirement home and ongoing care for chimps who used to be the subjects of laboratory research.

Teresa, a chimpanzee who is approaching 50 years old, gave birth late last year. The baby has been named Tracy. Seven guy-chimps were eligible for the honor of fatherhood, even though all of them have had vasectomies. This should offer great hope to our matador buddy discussed in the most recent post. I'm not sure why it's important we know who Tracy's father is, but DNA tests were done. I think this means that Conan gets another surgery.

The happy news, according to Chimp Haven's website, is that Tracy apparently is being raised by committee: "Teresa is very attentive and responsive, making sure that Tracy is well-cared for by both herself and the other members of her group. She is even letting the other chimpanzees in her group as well as the care staff take closer looks at the baby!"

Now that paternity is settled, we are assuming that Conan will do the right thing with respect to banana consumption and poop throwing. As for Teresa, I think she probably is thinking, "enough already. I just want to get some sleep."
(Proud Papa pictured, left)
Photos borrowed from Chimp Haven's website. Frankly, they are hoping all this attention raises awareness, which leads to more donations.
Meantime, a popular light night television comedian who shares a name with the Proud Papa is disavowing any involvement in this affair.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Who Needs a Vasectomy?

Middle-aged men will occasionally discuss their vasectomies. I have one friend who recalls with great discomfort the moment he saw a puff of smoke rising from between his legs. I know another who talked on his cell phone during the entire procedure, preferring to concentrate on work rather than what was going on down there. I don't know if he disclosed his location or his activity while he was "working," but that's a detail I can live without.

I remember feeling quite conspicuous when the urolgist was done, because he and his people left me undraped, exposed to the room. It's a lonely feeling when you ban your boys from the house.
I suspect no one can imagine the pain and embarrassment felt by Spanish matador Fernando Cruz. According to the Reuters news agency, Cruz, who is just twenty-five years old, is recovering in a hospital following his most recent forway into matadordom. I think the bull won, because Cruz was gored in the upper thigh, thrown into the air, and gored again after he hit the ground, this time in the groin.
All of this was caught by TV cameras (see the video here) and has been played on the national news in Spain. I'm sure it will show up on YouTube in no time. The King's horses and the King's men, with the help of some actual surgeons, put Cruz back together again.
Here, for your enjoyment, is a passage from the doctors' news release, translated into English for your reading comfort: "Fernando Cruz is suffering from two horn wounds of 25 centimeters in length each. One involves the fibers of the abductor muscle and dissects the femoral artery, the other involves the scrotal area and eviscerates both testicles."
Do I have to translate "scrotal area" for you? Go ahead, if you dare and look up "eviscerates," but do so at your own peril. Then, think about what was eviscerated.Think Cruz will "man up?" He's expected to be back in the bull ring in about three weeks.
Watch out for that puff of smoke.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How Inconvenient for Gore

I don't know a lot about global warming; but I do have a general notion that what we're experiencing along those lines is probably part of a great cycle. What I do know is, for reasons I can't explain, I got really uncomfortable during the Academy Awards watching the Hollywood elite treat Al Gore like some kind of hero.

My 17-year-old has bought into all the hype. He's basically freaking out about global warming and has developed some preposterous hatred for President Bush, as if whatever might be going on is his fault. He raised his voice the other day and said, "Do you realize that Bush refuses to even watch An Inconvenient Truth?" That's the movie "starring" Al Gore which won an Academy Award. Well, no. I didn't know that and I don't care. Do you really think the president would take the time to watch that piece of liberal propaganda?
Hold on. Did I just tip my political hand? Who anointed Al Gore savior of the universe? I didn't watch the movie either and I don't plan to. I'm not closed-minded. I am as worried about the future of the planet as the next guy. I just don't need a bitter politician to tell me about it. This movie made millions and the accompanying book was a best-seller. Do you think Gore's motivations were pure? If so, he should donate the proceeds to Shreveport Green or something.
It has taken me a while to get to my point, but here it is: the notoriously liberal New York Times is taking Gore to task for playing fast and loose with the truth in the movie and book. Isn't that inconvenient?
At our house, we're big recyclers. My in-laws drive hybrid vehicles. As a Catholic, I've been taught not to waste food. We are an environmentally friendly family. I'm inclined to believe that our global environment is rapidly changing; but I'm not ready to jump on Al Gore's pony and ride it bareback into oblivion.
To me, it's just as likely that our solar system's position in the galaxy at this moment in eternity is causing changes. There is a growing school of thought that all of this will reach its peak when our planet and the rest of our celestial brethren reach galactic equinox in 2012. Honestly, is that any more farfetched than Gore's hysterics? Surely, if he started whining about the potential for a destructive pulse of energy from the center of the Milky Way he would be labeled a kook.
Oh, by the way, I guess we all noticed that Gore is spending an average of $30,000 a year on utilities at his Tennessee mansion. It has been widely reported that for his home Gore uses approximately twenty times the energy the average American uses.
Whatever it is we need to do, I'm all for getting it done. I am not dismissing Gore's presentation completely. It just galls me that some people take the title of his movie literally. It may not be truth, at all. At this point, it's just an incovenient theory which is worthy of more study.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Louisiana Stands Alone

Louisiana distinguishes itself in many ways, a lot of them embarrassing. This is hardly new, but now our state is truly unique. New Mexico has banned cocked fighting, meaning Louisiana is the only state in the USA where idiots can legally force roosters to fight. It's all about gambling and it's certainly not about sport. People raise roosters and train them to maim and kill or be maimed or killed. It's bloodsport and to me it is incomprehensible.
I eat my share of chicken and I don't want to know how the bird I'm frying met its demise. So, I guess I run the risk of being hypocritical any time I bite into a spicy wing. I hear God gave us dominion over animals, but does that mean his intent was for us to abuse them for our amusement? Why not just put a puppy into a microwave or use a cat for target practice? Why is is that we consider people who mistreat animals to be potential serial killers; but someone who gets birds to peck each other's eyes out is just engaging in a time-honored sport, a cultural pastime? There are proponents of cockfighting, and honestly I find that shocking.
I guess I shouldn't. Within the last year, I was involved in a conversation about dog fighting in Louisiana. One group of people was, as you might expect, expressing incredulity and outrage that the practice continues and even thrives in some circles. Out of nowhere, a person in the group said, "my brother and I used to make good money training dogs to fight." The person then went into some distressing detail about the training methods. The room fell eerily silent for a few seconds. Then, thankfully, someone changed the subject.
The Louisiana legislature is expected to consider a cock fighting ban again next month. The last time an enlightened legislator tried to make this "tradition" illegal, the measure died in committee.
This state will never lose its backwater reputation as long as we allow ourselves to be humiliated with circumstances such as this. Having a cultural identity which sets us apart is one thing. Being viewed as a bunch of cruel bumbling simpletons on the bayou is something altogether different.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Brings New Hope In Bossier CIty

The Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings opened training camp Sunday. The Wings stumbled through the 2006 season and the community hardly noticed. After six seasons in CenturyTel Center, a Battle Wing buzz has yet to develop. New general manager Butch Bellah thinks things are about to change, saying the 2007 team “is going to make a lot of noise in af2.”
At least people around town are talking about the team. The signing of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Quincy Carter assured that. Carter agreed to play at this level in an effort to rehabilitate his image in pro football following his well-chronicled struggles with marijuana and the police. He has been working diligently to overcome his troubles, and now will concentrate on playing well enough in the Arena game to command notice at a higher level. "It is perfect for my skills,” Carter said the day he was signed. “I know quite a few players who have moved from the outdoor game to the AFL and af2, and even more that have moved from arena football to the outdoor game.”
If nothing else, Carter’s presence on the roster has created curiosity. If the Wings can attract fans to the arena, the next step on the road to success is to win. If that happens, the fans should show up in more significant numbers. Team owner Dan Newman said “We thought for sure we would win in 2006. We didn't. But we've never had the experience in our coaching staff or the seasoned veterans who will play here to begin this season. These players are all hungry to get to the next level. Some have been there before, and are trying to get back as quickly as possible." If Carter is a one-year wonder, everybody wins.
Each of the last two seasons, the Battle Wings won just three games and lost thirteen. A glance at the 2006 roster shows an abundance of players with no arena football experience. Many Wings players simply didn’t understand the game. That, combined with an alarming early-season rash of significant injuries to key players, contributed to a downward spiral the coaching staff could not correct.
This season things have changed. New coach Jon Norris, who brings with him a record of success in Arena Football, has assembled a veteran team. That has something to do with his reputation. Most recently, Norris was defensive coordinator of the AFL’s Austin Wranglers and before that he coached with the Dallas Desperados. He was the head coach for the af2 Tulsa Talons their first season in existence, and led them to the playoffs. Newman said, "I knew we had to find a coach who knew the game, had a winning tradition before coming here, and could attract players to Bossier-Shreveport who are looking for a shot at moving on to the AFL and NFL. Coach Norris has committed for two years to head the Battle Wings. Players now know that Jon will be here for the long haul and is committed to help them develop skills to move them up."
Newman and Norris have become fond of saying that this team has an “opportunity to win like no previous BattleWings' team has before them,” which, frankly, is easy to say. In six seasons, the team’s best record has been nine wins and seven losses. The Wings will be working to earn their first trip to the playoffs. The sentiment is real for Newman, who enters his fourth season as the team’s owner. Spring is a season of optimism for Newman, who has been trying to find a winning formula. Each year, he has had high hopes that he has cobbled together the structure of a championship contender. It sounds like hype, but he is an optimist who believes it when he is told his team has the players and the coaches to contend for the af2 title.
Newman, Norris, Bellah and Carter are true believers. They need to cultivate a community of converts. In football, nothing preaches like winning.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

A Catholic Conundrum

While I am a member of an Episcopalian congreation, I am a baptized, confirmed and married Roman Catholic. Father Peter at the Catholic cathedral in Shreveport would take indignant exception to this, but I claim dual citizenship. Hey, it's between God and me where my heart is. I present this background because it's a Friday in Lent and I'm avoiding the consumption of meat.

Today, for instance, I had no breakfast. Then, I had a fish sandwich at lunch. I'm not following Canon Law, but at least I'm participating in some way. I'm thinking Big Salad for dinner.

Last Friday, I went to a "shrimp and oyster night" buffet. I rolled through and got, you guessed it, shrimp and oysters. I also got a piece of fried catfish. When I took a bite of the fish, I discovered to my dismay that it was, in fact, chicken. Hey, it looked like fish and logic seemed to lead me to conclude that it would be fish, but it just wasn't.

So, there was the condundrum. If I wasted the food, that clearly would be a sin. If I finished the chicken, I would at the very least be in violation of tradition. My devoutly Catholic cousin Randy, who has emerged as my father's spiritual advisor, no doubt would have something to say about this. I hope my dear friends Mark and Andrea in Texas, the most Catholic people I know, don't think less of me for this, but I finished the chicken. It was a snap judgment, I made it and now I live with the consequences.

Please don't tell Father Peter.

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Movie & a Hockey Game? Sure!

Our local minor league hockey club is honoring its all-decade team. The film making industry is relatively new in town, but already we've rubbed elbows with international superstars. These seemingly unrelated and unlikely circumstances will merge this weekend. The people making a movie starring Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah and Tom Cruise's wife are looking for local extras, so they will sign you up at the hockey game Saturday night.

Isn't this bizarre? Think about it. We have a hockey team drawing overflow crowds to a magnificent riverfront arena. Also, we see faces around town which are instantly recognizable anywhere in the civilized world. When Cruise, who has proven to be kind of a nut job, decides he needs to keep an eye on his wife while she's making a movie, Shreveport gets attention in print all over the world. Katie's coming to Shreveport and Tom plans to be on the set every day! Whether you think that's a big deal or not, it simply is just because it has generated so much buzz. This movie thing is really taking off. I guess the big question now is whether it will grow roots.
From my personal experience, I can illustrate how we seem to have grown accustomed to having these big productions around. My daughter is involved in an activity that takes her to a downtown facility every Tuesday evening. We have decided that, since she's out anyway, we will go out to dinner on Tuesday nights. A couple of weeks ago, we had chosen a restaurant and I was planning to meet everyone there. I arrived a little early, but couldn't find a place to park.
I called my wife and said, "Hey, they're making a movie over here and the crew has taken up all the parking. Let's choose another restaurant." We did.
A few minutes later, it hit me. I said that matter-of-factly and she responded routinely. They're making a movie and we just blinked at it.
Last Saturday night, we went out with another couple. In discussing our plans, I suggested dinner followed by a hockey game. That's what we did. In Bossier City, Louisiana we joined seven thousand other people at a hockey game and didn't think anything of it. We just had fun.
Tonight, I think we'll have dinner downtown and go to the comedy club.
Things are changing around here. Maybe our cities finally are waking up.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Problem With Pokey

The unexpected resignation of LSU women's basketball coach Pokey Chatman has brought women's basketball to the front page of sports sections around the region. This new-found fascination for the Lady Tigers isn't so much about a run to the women's Final Four. It's about scandal.

The dirty little whispers across the state are about a supposed sexual relationship between Chatman and a player. Of course, all of this is amplified because any relationship that might have developed would be same-sex. A coach engaging in sexual activity with a player is universally frowned upon. When homosexuality is involved, the disapproval often becomes revulsion. Fans and alumni seem to assume that Lesbians are a significant part of the women's basketball population; but when it's shoved into their faces, they often get squirmy.

It's unfortunate that this scandal, if it develops, will overshadow Chatman's accomplishments as a player, assistant coach and head coach at LSU.

Now, the attention turns to replacing Chatman. The first name to come up: Kim Mulkey, the former Louisiana Tech mega star and assistant coach who is now the head coach at Baylor. Not only is she a south Louisiana native, but she has a national championship on her coaching resume. As a player, she led the Lady Techsters to four consecutive Final Four appearances and two national titles. Many LSU fans think athletic director Skip Bertman should just latch onto Mulkey and pummel her with money until she relents. It's a good idea on a lot of levels. Mulkey is a proven winner, an accomplished basketball tactician, and a traditional family woman (if you know what I'm saying). She won't be out-coached and there's virtually no chance of this kind of scandal repeating itself. Let the full-court press on Mulkey begin.

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The King is Creepy

An alarming update from The Wall Street Journal:
The (Burger King) chain has focused during the last year on lifting the profile of its "King" mascot, a mute character best known for his creepy smile. The burger baron recently starred in a series of video games, and the company says it has lined up a studio and distributor for a feature film. Russ Klein, Burger King's president of global marketing strategy, won't reveal the studio's identity or the likely plot. But he says the movie could appear as early as the end of this year, with the film aimed at "creating a back story for the King."

I loves me a Whopper! Let me tell you something: when it comes to a fast-food burger, I'll take a Whopper from Burger King any time. A Whopper trumps a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder. A Single from Wendy's? Not even in the same league. Griff's comes the closest to competing, as far as I'm concerned; but you have to work hard around here to find a Griff's. If you came up to me right now and offered a fresh, hot Whopper to me, I'd take it and I'd eat it, even if I just had lunch.

I haven't had a Whopper in, I'm guessing now, a year. Why? The King, that's why. The creepy voyeuristic big headed goon in the TV commercials makes my skin crawl. I have vowed that when I see The King on television, I will boycott Burger King for two weeks. Each time I see him, I reset my clock. I saw him tonight.

I have some emotional attachments to my Whoopers. My lifelong best friend Mark Murray and I used to walk from my house to a Burger King about two blocks away. It was always a big thing for him because his mother wouldn't let him snack after school. When he would come to my house, we could go to Burger King. I'd get a Whopper.

When I first met the lady who would become my wife, we had scheduling challenges. I worked nights and she worked 12-hour shifts which rotated. Getting together was difficult at times in the early days. I remember a time or two when we, motivated by the urgency of fresh love, would try to find fleeting moments to spend together. We would meet at the Burger King near my apartment as she was on her way to or from work.
I'm a big Burger King fan. They have done two things which trouble me: Some coven masquerading as an ad agency conceived this King and cast a spell on the BK Powers That Be to accept it as a mass marketing tool, and they changed the french fries. Both, from my point of view, were colossal mistakes.
So, I dwell in a Whopper-free zone for at least two more weeks. The boycott drags on. I can't avoid television during the NCAA Tournament, and The King seems ubiquitous. So, I'm guessing May at the earliest before I will enjoy my favorite burger again. Long live The King? Let's hope not.

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This is Tiger Country

There are many things in this state which divide us: politics, race, region, religion are among them. There is one thing that seems to unite us: LSU football. Yes, there are people with ties to Louisiana Tech who will vehemently dispute that. But even people who hate LSU talk about it. So, there's common ground.

This cartoon, borrowed from Fred Mulhearn's website, pretty much sums it up. How profound is the dedication to the Tigers? A lunch group earlier this week was discussing the notion that the world might suffer some kind of major cataclysm on December 21, 2012. One guy said, "It doesn't matter what happens on that day as long as I get to keep my club seats at Tiger Stadium." I know people who borrow money, use credit cards, do whatever it takes just to maintain their season tickets.
This is a wonderful thing, really. A Saturday night in Death Valley is quite a sensory experience. There's an unmistakable, undeniable lure. LSU football is just part of our culture.
There are those who simply don't grasp this. Several of my former co-workers at a local television station attempted to convince the then-news director that there simply is nothing in our area which commands as much attention as LSU football. He wouldn't hear it, despite the fact that our de facto Tiger lobby crossed gender, age and racial lines. We had a virtual rainbow coalition of persuasion, but he refused to commit resources to covering LSU football right. To this moment, I am convinced it was one of the most colossal errors in judgment the guy made while he worked there. Somewhere, his mommy has him sitting on a training toilet and he refuses to relax.
There was a Saturday not long ago when Louisiana Tech, Grambling, Louisiana-Monroe and LSU all had home games. You could take the attendance for all three games along the I-20 corridor and add them together and they would not equal the number of people at Tiger Stadium that night. Really, it wasn't even close.
If you are in the company of people you don't know that well, you can almost always get a conversation rolling with a mention of Nick Saban, Les Miles, or some kind of quarterback controversy. Even people who have never been to a game in Baton Rouge can at least participate at some level. If nothing else, the people who have had the experience can tell tales of wonder and awe to the uninitiated.
Purple and gold essentially are the state colors. You will find them proudly displayed in every corner of Louisiana. It is common in this state, and it may be unusual anywhere else, for graduates of other state schools to openly and enthusiastically support LSU football.
It's almost as if having strong feelings about LSU is part of the culture of Being Louisianian.
Given the state of things, it's good to have something to hold us together.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What? Me Worry? Alfred E. Neuman Was Right

I spend most of my time these days worrying. I worry about my kids. My son is 17 and I worry he's going to get into trouble. I worry that he will suffer some social pitfall that will derail him emotionally and academically. I worry that my 15-year-old daughter will be corrupted or hurt by a boy or will get caught up in some kind of social atmosphere that will derail her emotionally and academically.
I worry about my wife because she worries about the kids all the time. She worries about her aging parents and together we worry about our niece in Texas. She's 15, and we've already covered that ground.
I worry about my father, who sounds older and weaker every time he calls me. His short-term memory is shot, he doesn't sleep well and he's still falling down every once in a while.
I worry about my buddy Ron, who had cancer surgery this week. I know he's probably suffering physically and emotionally, but he says he's not worried. I worry because he's not worried, but I am.
I worry because the long-time leader at our church is leaving this summer and I think the committee searching for his replacement has high potential to screw it up.
I worry at work, of course, because I've got a New Thing and I'm not supremely confident I'm going in exactly the direction The Big Boss wants. I worry about a couple of people I left behind at my Old Thing at Work because I believe they had sort of come to depend on me.
I worry because the stock market is "correcting." I worry because our guys are getting blown to bits in the Middle East and I'm starting to lose confidence that we're doing the right thing over there. I worry that I'm losing confidence about that.
I worry about the fact that I've behaved badly at times in the past and I know I've hurt and offended people. I know there are people who really don't like me and I worry that they have legitimate reasons. I worry that I will never have an opportunity to apologize to many of them because I don't know who they all are or where they all are.
I worry because when I start worrying, it's like someone opened an insecurity valve in my brain that spews out a stream of negativity which pools in the little depressions of my own self-loathing.
I worry that it takes me longer and longer these days to snap out of it.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Lifestyle Adjustments

Those who work full-time in broadcasting are taught that it is a lifestyle, not a job. That’s true in more ways than one. The overwhelming majority of TV/radio folks simply don’t make a lot of money. That clearly defines lifestyle. There are plenty of people in the business who make above average salaries, to be sure; but it is fair to say that applies to a small percentage of broadcasters.
The lifestyle statement also says a lot about your moment to moment activities.. If you work in news, for instance, there is an expectation that you are a naturally curious person. You should always have your eyes and ears open. Your personal radar, your “nose for news” should be engaged at all times. I didn’t realize how true that was until I achieved some distance from the business.
I’m occasionally asked to be a substitute host for a popular afternoon drive-time talk show on KEEL radio. The name of the show is “Sports Talk,” but regular hosts JJ and Ben Marshall more often than not allow themselves to talk politics and pop culture. I did a show similar to theirs for many years, and for a long time it was easy. My job, no my lifestyle, compelled me to pay close attention to sports and local events. Life was show prep. Or, was it the other way around? Did my job as a TV sportscaster and my other job as a sports radio talk show host drive my life? I now know the answer.
The fact that I feel compelled to study before I host the show tells me everything I need to know. I am still a sports fan, but I am now much more selective about what I watch, attend and read these days. Three years ago, I would read Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine cover to cover each week. I would pore over sports websites. I would watch baseball every night during the season. This time of year, I would flip between three basketball games. I ran in a crowd of sports journalists, so sports dominated our conversations. Now, I run in a crowd of health care professionals. I can usually get something started about LSU, but that’s as far as I can get.
The thing is, it just doesn’t seem all that important any more. I have become an average sports fan. I no longer force myself to be interested. I will strap in for a 12-hour day on Saturdays in the fall, but that’s the only time I even approach my former level of dedication. I think that’s healthy.
This impacts how I host the radio show when the opportunity presents itself. Now, instead of grinding details of a game or the selection process for the NCAA tournament, I have to speak in broader strokes. I can’t replicate what the Marshall brothers do. I have to be myself and just keep the microphone warm for them. The casual sports fan who is qualified to be an occasional host: it’s a lifestyle that suits me just fine.

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