Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Kick in the Jockstrap

In Shreveport and Bossier city, we know what we are. When vistors arrive, we usually treat them with hospitality and kindness, but the favor isn't always returned. Over the years, we have endured our share of potshots and criticism from Independence Bowl travelers and others who have been compelled to come here. Sure, it stings a little because we would like people to think nice things about us. I remember well when columnist Woody Paige of the Denver Post wrote that Shreveport is a "dingy, dismal southern city." That may have been the most unkind description I've read from an outside media person. Until now.
A writer from the weekly tabloid "The Dallas Observer" came to town to craft something about Battle Wings quarterback Quincy Carter, who used to play for the Cowboys. The things he wrote about Carter's fall from grace speak for themselves, but this passage made me see red:
Since getting dismissed by the Cowboys in the summer of 2004, Lavonya Quintelle Carter's life has gone to shit. And, arguably worse, Shreveport.
Dude's name is Richie Whitt and don't ask me what we ever did to him. He took his share of unfair shots in his piece, including making the ridiculous comparison of our nice little arena on the river to the stadium being built for the Cowboys:
Fittingly, on an Easter Eve sprinkled with snow, Carter looks ridiculously out of place in the quaint building about the size of a concession stand in the Cowboys' new $1 billion baby. The joint is sponsored by Shoney's, has all the ambience of a nursing home knitting hour and boasts a grainy black-and-white scoreboard video screen not unlike the set your old man used to watch The Honeymooners. The game is 8 on 8, the 50-yard field is surrounded by padded walls and the referee constantly stops play to yell "Please turn down the music!"
I was sitting two seats away from this man, and I can tell you that his demeanor the entire evening should have been a barometer for the turd storm he was about to unleash on us. I'll give him this: the video screens do need work, and the referee that night did announce twice that music was being played improperly. Making two announcements is a long way from "constantly" stopping play.
The story Whitt wrote actually has some facts in it and had the potential to be a legitimate piece of reporting. To allude to some of his own language, it turned out instead to be a piece of something else. The biggest problem, from our perspective, is that some of his stink lingers and is now associated with us.

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4 comments:

Kathryn Usher said...

If Shreveport is so bad then why does most of Texas(mostly Dallas - Fort Worth folks) feel compelled to visit every week?

And it's not a new syndrome. We've been entertaining Texans for over 150 years. We had the largest legal redlight district of any city our
size back in the day and then we developed The Bossier Strip and now riverboat casinos.

Mr. Whitt didn't have to be so snarky. It's unfortunate that snark
is being passed off as thoughtful prose these days. Or perhaps Mr.
Whitt is just another underpaid and overworked newspaper journalist and we should feel sorry for him until he puts in enough years so he
can take a sabbatical and write his "great American novel."

Jimmy Davis Barksdale said...

Actually, Shreveport was just an innocent bystander in the carnage. Most intelligent readers of the Dallas Observer will be able to figure that out.

Richie Whitt could have written about Quincy Carter's new life and job in a charming southern city. But who the hell wants to read that?

Imagine for a moment that you are unlucky enough to live in Dallas. Now picture yourself ordering a latte and grabbing a free copy of the Observer underneath the coffee shop window. You're now sitting down, soothing yourself with slow sips and a long, bitterly snarky tale of the banishment of a once-vaunted member of the almighty Cowboys. Imagine the sinful twinges of inner delight as you savor every delicious detail about Quincy Carter's downgraded status in professional sports, in a depressing southern backwater where instant replay images are relegated to scratchy black-and-white jumbotrons.

Feel better yet? I know I do!

As he started driving east from Dallas on Interstate 20, Richie surely had the piece written in his mind long before he got as far as Waskom. I'm guessing he was somewhere outside of Marshall when he excitedly made a mental note of his brilliant "shit/Shreveport" alliteration. The whole thing is just too easy.

Back when I lived in Shreveport, I would've been just as horrified as Darrell is if an article like that had appeared in a big-city paper. Now on the outside looking in, I realize the problem here is not what outsiders say about Shreveport in the media. It's that so many locals are still insecure enough about their interesting, vibrant and growing hometown to even care.

You don't have to recite all the new sports teams and movie productions in town. You don't have to run down all the great food, the festivals, the music, the way of life. You don't even have to remind me how many Texas license plates are littering the casino parking garages.

All you need to do is say it to yourself and really believe it: "I live in a fantastic place!" Your town has already arrived. Believe it.

This may sound stupid, but when the locals truly decide to be obnoxiously proud of Shreveport/Bossier, and when that attitude permeates in the media and on all the blogs, you'll be shocked to see what will happen.

As for readers of the Dallas Observer, the back page ads for gay male escorts will likely catch far more attention than whatever ax Richie Whitt has to grind with Shreveport - or more accurately, with Quincy Carter.

Next time someone takes a shit on Shreveport, just let it go. Very few are really listening.

jdb said...

Sorry for posting a million times. I thought my computer was screwing up, but realized your blog is set to approve comments before posting.

Darrell said...

JDB,

Your comment was worth all the trouble. Thanks for a well thought-out response. I actually agree with you. Stay in touch.

-JDR