Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shiver Me Timbers

This is "Captain Jack," the new mascot of our minor league baseball team, the Captains. We used the have the Captains, then we had the Swamp Dragons, then we had the Sports. In 2009, we have the Captains again, although they're in a different league and they're re-branded.
You've got to do what you've ogt to do if you're trying to make minor league baseball successful in this town, as it was wildly so in the late 1980's and early 1990"s. Believe it or not, that was a long time ago.
I have stayed silent on this since they revealed this guy and announced his name, but I remain silent no more. The history of the name "Captains" has nothing to do with pirates or Johnny Depp movies. It has everything to do with the guy our city is named after, Captain Henry Miller Shreve. He was a riverboat Captain who history tells us was perfectly honest and honorable, not to mention reliable.
It's clear the baseball team's management has no sense of our city's history. This incarnation of The Captain flies in the face of all of that.
I hope my feelings don't matter. I want them to be successful. We're all better off if they are. In order to be so, the guys who are running the enterprise need to learn a lot more about the place they now call home.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Fish Out of Water

The 2009 Bassmasters Classic is behind us, and we are told it was a record setting week. More than 100,000 people saw some part of the event over three days, according to the event's organizers. To me that is just incredible. I read in the paper that on Saturday, the fire marshall would not let any more people into our arena, which seats 12,000 or so and holds even more with people on the floor. Although this kind of thing doesn't interest me at all, I had to see it to believe it. So, I used my familiarity with the arena to shoehorn my way in and I was just blown away.Aside from the sheer numbers, it was interesting to observe the demeanor of the attendees. They were thrilled to watch their angler heroes roll in and present their day's catch to be weighed. It was that simple: Ride in your boat as it is towed behind a pickup truck, put your fish on the scale, get the weight, get interviewed and get on your way. Next! Do it again...and the breathless thousands were having the time of their lives. More power to them. I left after five fishermen and was happy to get home.
I had also read that more than 60,000 people went into our convention center on Saturday for a bass fishing expo. So, I had to see that, too. Having been there for about a half-hour, seeing the crowd and the cars and the vendors, I believe it.
Let me rephrase: I can accept that figure as true, but I still can't really believe it.
As long as I had decided to be out and about, I decided to immerse myself in full citizen participation. I went to an affternoon Mardi Gas parade. The atmosphere was lively and light-hearted. People were having a great time. So, it was a positive day and I was about to assuage my guilt about my own abject apathy.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's a Really Big Event, They Tell Me

It's a multi-day fishapalooza, "the Daytona 500 of Bass Fishing," and it's happening right here in the home town this weekend. Since the Daytona 500 is "the Super Bowl of NASCAR," the logic linkage tells me something. So it is that tens of thousands of people are showing up in our nice arena to watch fifty men and one woman weigh fish.
The 2009 Bassmaster Classic is getting Shreveport and Bossier City a lot of attention. We are in a "twin cities" situation and the Red River runs through it. In the Red River are trophy-class bass and these 51 competitors aim to find them, hook them, weigh them and take home untold riches because of it.
I actually understand all of that. It's pretty straightforward. I understand the incalculable benefit of having an inernational event of this magnitude in our towns. It means international multimedia exposure, including many hours of coverage on ESPN2. There's nothing wrong with that and there's a whole lot right with it.
What I don't get is why people, thousands of people, stand in line eagerly awaiting the opening of the doors to the arena so they can jam into the place to watch the Fabulous 51 flash their fish.
I have been to this sort of thing before. This weekend's event is the most significant of its kind, but when you get right down to it they're just weighing fish! I didn't grasp the attraction on a smaller scale. Now that it's as big as it gets, the only thing that's larger for me is my puzzlement.
Shuttle buses are running between multiple locations. Visitors have come from near and far to be a part of this like...well, the Daytona 500 or the Super Bowl.
I have been unsuccessful in my quest to muster up any enthusiasm about this. I'm feeling the guilt of being a Terrible Citizen becasue I am not participating in this in any way.
I will celebrate our area's success from the comfort of my house, check the internet for photos and turn the TV on to make sure the ESPN people are saying good things about us. I have several buddies who are just breathless about this thing and have been all up in it. I will go to lunch with them next week and let them tell me all about it. Maybe we'll eat fish.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

So, the first lady of the Great State of Louisiana, Supriya Jindal, came to town today. She's the front person for the admirable "Shots for Tots" program, which promotes immunizations for the state's children. Why she appeared at a Wal-Mart escapes me, but okay.
Even in that peculiar setting, things could be okay...but some people just don't get it. The Wal-Mart braintrust set up a stage, a podium, a microphone and big speakers. They anticipated media coverage, and they got it. So, why...WHY would you set up the lovely, well educated, well spoken, highly respected first lady directly in front of the restrooms?By the way, she was accompanied by the state secretary of health and Human Services. It was kind of a big thing. To prove I'm not making this up, here's a shot of the set-up, pre-arrival: This is so shockingly stupid that I can barely wrap my head around it. Mrs. Jindal was gracious and probably didn't even notice. I mean, her back was to the bathroom sign.
Still, someone needs to receive a sternly worded memo or something. Better still, next time let's send the first lady of Louisiana, who might be the first lady of the United States someday, into a significantly more dignified setting.
For God's sake.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

An Excellent Nap

As a lifelong sports fan, I make an annual attempt to watch NASCAR. I want to give the thing a chance by tuning in its biggest event, the Daytona 500. I saw more of it this year than I ever have before. But, I have to confess that once again I fell fast asleep somewhere in the middle of the telecast. We're talking sitting up, mouth open, drooling snoring sleep. The people in my house did things to try to keep me awake. My son, on his birthday, commandeered the HD and surround sound for an afternoon of Guitar Hero. While "Junior and them" were turning left on other TV's in the house, the living room was rockin'. I got up and played in a little Guitar Hero round robin with The Happy Couple and my daughter and that held my interest. But once I returned to The Great American Race, Heaven help me I was sawing logs. This is despite the consumption of large amounts of Diet Coke and iced tea in a genuine effort to make it through the race while remaining conscious at all times.
I did see "Junior" wreck everybody, which as a non-NASCAR afficianado seemed to me to be a jackasss thing to do. Who knows? It might have been brilliant strategy, I couldn't tell you. I'm happy for the guy who won because he was so emotional about it.
That's it for me and the stock car circuit for another year. See you in February when once again I will try to avoid a long winter's nap.

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There's Your Bloodline, Ladies and Gentlemen

My daughter landed at home long enough to join us for a celebration of her brother's 19th birthday. The gang was all there: The girlfriend, both surviving grandparents, mom and me. It was a low-key day. 19 is an odd number: technically a man, but still kind of a boy. He got presents and his longtime love interest made him a cake. We went to his favorite restaurant for lunch. The highlight of the day was watching his 82-year-old grandfather attempt to decipher a Chinese food menu. He said, "I'm not acquainted with Chinese food," which I call B.S. on, by the way. I personally have eaten Chinese food with the man dozens and possibly hundreds of times, but you go with the flow.
The highlight for him was being with his immediate "blood relatives," the entire collection of which is assembled in this photo.
It's Theater of the Hair, wouldn't you agree? I've told Mr. Nineteen to "grow it while you've got it," and now you know why.
For a nondescript birthday, things went rather well. Two years to 21, when the prospects will be decidely more interesting.

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Father-Son Bonding

My son and I both have failed to acquire what I call "Man Skills." We're not hunters or tool guys. We don't work on cars. The women in our lives will tell you that we have our strengths, one of them being a clear reconginition of our deficiencies. Macho, we are not. So, it was simultaneously disconcerting and amusing to see My Main Man repairing a power tool.
I guess there are latent man skill tendencies. A recent storm created quite a mess in our back yard. While our daughter was off conquering the world on one of her many out-of-town excursions, the rest of us cleaned up the homefront. This led to the wearing of eye protection and the cacophanous production of prodigous sawdust. All of which was worth it to get this hysterical photo which to me is reminiscent of John Belushi's samurai character from Saturday Night Live.
All snickering aside, the day was well spent. We spent time in the not-so-great outdoors as a family, working together to put things back in order. My son used a chainsaw. The dog was thrilled because we spent hours in her domain, giving her the best of all her worlds: Her yard, her food, her cat, her toys and her people all together.
Plus, we have new firewood for the anticipated early spring cold snap. My son and I can sit around together and enjoy the warmth. That's a skill we definitely share.

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Home Is Just a Base

You never know where my daughter will show up, it's just usually not at home. Most recently, she was spotted on the floor of the state legislature, introducing a bill.
This was all part of a "Youth in Government" excursion during which she and her peers get hands-on experience with how the state house works. At 17, this girl has been places and has even more plans.
She has been heard to say "The south is a bubble. You live inside it or outside it, but there's a huge difference in atmosphere." She aims to pierce it. With trips to L.A., New York, D.C. and Atlanta in her recent experience, she has a basis for her statement. There's more to come. She's off to Colorado the day after her last final exam to staff a church camp. She has recently announced her intention to take a mission trip to Mexico in July.
Grass does not grow under this girl's feet. I just hope somewhere along the way she's heard the lyrics to that ancient song: "It's good to touch the green, green grass of home."

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Radio Daze

The opportunity to guest host a local sports radio show presented itself. How could I turn that down? It's a semi-regular deal. I'm the "third host" of a show hosted by two brothers. They only need me when they both can't be there. So, I never get to interact on the air with either of them. This means when I'm on, the show takes on a completely different personality.
This used to be easy stuff for me. Sports was my life and my livelihood. These days, I am not forced by my profession to pay attention to sports which do not particularly interest me. This means on the odd occasion I have the opportunity to speak extemporaneously about sports on the radio for a couple of hours, my focus has changed.
I never was a "break down the game" kind of host. My presentation was more philosophical than clinical. Nowadays, it's news driven. This means I got really lucky. The Alex Rodriguez steroid revelation is still fresh. This means it's generating interest and conversation, two things which are vital to the success of sports talk radio. Happily, there was plenty of sports news to discuss, despite the absence of football.
Being back on the air was not like riding a bike. Being able to talk about sports for a couple of hours used to be second nature to me. This time, I had to study. I was happy to do it, though. This will help lunchtime conversations. I'd prefer to talk about sports anytime. I'm sick of politics, economic troubles and octuplets.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reapplying for My Man Card

Having spent the previous weekend in the company of my two favorite women doing decidedly non-manly things, Super Bowl weekend presents itself as an opportunity to muscle my way back to the masculine coordinates on the gender axis.
Saturday was spent enjoying a local sports twin bill: college basketball in the afternoon and hockey at night. Centenary College boasts an NCAA Division 1 athletic program, but hardly anyone notices. It is the smallest school in the NCAA's most prominent level of competition, which could be a badge of honor for the school and the community. It has sent two players, Robert Parish and Larry Robinson, to the NBA. Both earned league championship rings. Parish has five of them , in fact. Now, the city has essentially forgotten about the Gents although there was a nice crowd on hand for this game against Oral Roberts University. If Centenary's team could find a way to win consistently, it could capture the area's imagination. We really have something special here. People just need a reason to drive into the heart of the city and experience it.
Conversely, the minor league hockey team seems to be thriving. For more than a decade, the Mudbugs have attracted impressive crowds. On an ordinary Saturday night in January, traffic leading into the arena was so significant that police shut down nearby traffic lights to manage the flow themselves. It seemed like a special event, and I suppose an argument can be made that it was. The team wins consistently and seems to always be in contention for its league championship. It gives people something to cheer about which is always a good thing. This was the first game I've attended this season. It was a pleasant way to spend an evening.
It did get me into a little pinch with my bride. There was a show downtown at the same time featuring Broadway stars singing memorable numbers from the Great White Way. She really wanted to go to that. We had dropped a chunk of change on the lodge and the spa the weekend before. The hockey game cost significantly less than the theater. Faced with the prospect of paying bills this weekend, that got her attention. Broadway can wait. Manhood sufficiently reasserted, I can strap in now for the last football game of the season.

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