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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

As if the Mid-Continent Conference wasn't far reaching enough, Centenary's league added IPFW, North Dakota State and South Dakota State this week.

The league needed to add more schools due to the defections of Oakland and Valparaiso, which leaves the Mid-Con with just seven teams after this year. But it would have been nice if conference officials had picked a travel partner for Centenary and/or Southern Utah. Nothing against the three newbies -- I'm sure they're great schools, even though I can't name a player who performed at any of them -- but surely there were other choices out there.

Can you imagine making a road trip to Fargo, N.D. (NDSU), in January? That can't be a big recruiting tool for Rob Flaska or Steve Curtis. All three schools won't begin competing for Mid-Con titles until the 2007-08 season. With eight teams remaining this season, the Gents and Ladies are assured of a berth in the Mid-Con postseason tourney for at least one year.

Good move by Astros' brass

Congratulations Tim Purpura, you are now a real Major League Baseball general manager.

On Tuesday, Purpura did the financially prudent thing for the Houston Astros and signed ace Roy Oswalt to a five-year, $73 million contract. After a slow first offseason and a mixed-result trade deadline, Purpura finally made a move that will impact the franchise for the next several years.

In Oswalt, the Astros have a true No. 1 starter who is entering the prime of his career. Already a two-time 20-game winner and two-time All-Star, Oswalt is easily in baseball's elite group of starting pitchers.

The signing solidifies the Astros' top of the rotation for the next five years. Purpura's next task will be to find a bat or two to complement Lance Berkman for the same time period.

Shreve vs. Byrd football

Fourth quarter
Justan Gibson has had a rough night, but he ran for 43 yards into the end zone to perhaps put the game out of reach at 13-3, Byrd.

1:22 in third
John Michael Anthony, 30 run into end zone. Yellow Jackets take 7-3 lead after Gators hold momentum for most of three quarters. This is starting to look like a typical Byrd win, leaving the Gators with the most heartbreak possible.

Halftime, Shreve leads, 3-0
Byrd has had some big plays called back by penalty. On the other hand, for the momentum the Gators appear to have, three points is not much. If Captain Shreve doesn't come out and take charge -- and Byrd gets the ball first -- the Jackets could keep their 11-game winning streak in this series going.

7:50 in 2nd
John Michiels 23 FG good, Gators lead, 3-0

End of first period, Jackets 0, Gators 0.
After one quarter, neither team has scored or done much offensively. For football purists, that's meant a nice punting exhibition by two of the best in the city, David Hankins of Byrd and John Michiels of Shreve.

PREGAME NOTES:
First (again), just about everybody on the Byrd side is wearing camoflauge. Students. Parents. Even principal Jerry Badgley as he stalks the ticket line watching for trouble. Whatever happens on the field tonight, the Jackets crowd is well organized.
Second, while the heat seems to have broken in town, the humidity is holding strong in the Lee Hedges Stadium press box. STRONG.
Finally, heights and weights for Captain Shreve football players are among the most secretive numbers in Caddo Parish. Yet, through the glass window into the Gators radio booth, I can see them on a roster belonging to play-by-play guy Pat Netherton. IT SHALL BE MINE!!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Centenary lands talented coach

Centenary softball coach Mark Montgomery added some championship caliber talent to his coaching staff this week with the addition of Lyndsey Angus.

Angus recently led her New England Riptide to the National Pro Fastpitch Championship title and was named the Majestic Athletic Player of the Year along the way. Angus played seven different positions during the season, batted .345, had a .452 on-base average and a .531 slugging percentage. Additionally, she committed just one error throughout the season.

With those kinds of credentials, Angus should be able to bring a championship-type attitude to the Ladies, a perennial Mid-Con Tournament champion.

Looking for some leadership?

The Louisiana Tech football team decided on Wednesday who will lead them into battle against the mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday.

Senior tight end Anthony James, senior safety Dez Abrams, senior wide receiver Eric Newman, junior nose tackle Josh Muse and junior linebacker Brannon Jackson were elected team captains in a vote by the squad members.

All five of those guys have exhibited the work ethic necessary to draw respect from their teammates. The Bulldogs may not upset the Huskers on Saturday, but with this group of student-athletes leading them, they should make a respectable showing.

af2 takes a hit

However you slice it, Macon's departure from the af2 puts a black eye on the league. One of the league's oldest standing franchises at six years, Macon should have been able to survive with its local ownership.

According to the release from the af2 office, the Knights averaged 2,661 fans per game last season, nearly equal to what the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings reported averaging. Macon is just three years removed from an ArenaCup berth and made the playoffs in four of their six seasons. But they couldn't make it?

What makes the Macon situation particularly disturbing is that the owners apparently were unable to sell the franchise. They just folded their tents. That doesn't do much for the value of the remaining af2 franchises.

Watch out, Evangel. Texas rules the gridiron

I was raised on Earl Campbell and Luv Ya Blue, rooted hard for Andre Ware and David Klingler in my teens and lost gasser after gasser to LaDainian Tomlinson in college (making me seriously rethink my future as a running back). Yes, I'm a Texan, from Houston.

As such, this is undeniable to me: the best football played on Fridays and Saturdays can be found only in the Lone Star State.

The proof will come again Friday, when powerhouse Texas program Lufkin High School, one of the nation's five best teams according to polls that chart those sort of things, makes its way to Evangel on Friday night.

Look, Evangel had a nice little run in the late 90s and early 00s. West Monroe has an awesome tradition and even better teams. LSU did steal away with the BCS title (but not a decisive national championship) in 2003. Kudos.

But let it go, Louisiana. Same for you, Florida and California. "Friday Night Lights" wasn't set in Bossier City for a reason, you know?

Now that pass is no longer a four-letter word (um, maybe it is) in Texas, the strength of our numbers, tradition and passion for the game makes it hard to deny that the nation's strongest state in its favorite game is only a few miles to the west.

Heard of Vince Young, only the most dynamic college football quarterback of the past decade? That Tomlinson kid went on to become arguably the NFL's best running back. Texas Tech is home to the country's most feared and innovative passing attack.

Evangel will find out who rules the gridiron the hard way Friday. The Eagles will find out again two weeks later when they take on Southlake Carroll, a program that has won 3 of the last 4 Class 5A state titles in Texas.

It's simple: not only are things bigger in Texas; they're better.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tech hoopla is put to rest

Apparently the hoopla about some of the Louisiana Tech athletic training personnel being upset about getting kicked off the plane for the trip to Nebraska this weekend is much ado about nothing.

According to one long time athletic official at Tech, the school has rented a large bus that the cheerleaders and the training personnel will travel to Lincoln in and almost everyone is happy. The bus will leave on Thursday, will allow movies to be shown on board and will stop for the students to eat along the way. More personnel will be making the trip than were originally planned because of the additional space on the bus.

The traveling party will arrive at their hotel on Friday night, then hook up with the team on Saturday.

LHSAA ruling looks heavy

It appears the trophy Bastrop won at Independence Stadium last year with a Class 4A football championship will be taken back by the LHSAA.

Hmmm.

I don't have many details yet, but what I know so far seems to make this the perfect case to illustrate what's wrong with high school football in Louisiana and with the LHSAA.

After Katrina blew through, the LHSAA was quick to say athletes were the focus and the rules would be followed but handled with compassion. Principals were going to be trusted to do the right thing.

It wasn't long before Parkway was losing a game it dominated because a kid lied about his age, and the appearance of some Port Sulphur athletes at Bastrop drew national attention. The argument at the time was that Bastrop had done something wrong, but unless my memory is incorrect, the LHSAA gave the school the nod.

I've seen enough underhanded recruiting to be unsurprised about what might have gone on with these players at Bastrop, but I've also seen the LHSAA operate like a Cesna in a windstorm, fishtailing all over the rulebook with no apparent direction.

The whole affair is pretty disgusting.

Thoughts on Katrina

Today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

For the life of me I don't understand this notion of "celebrating'' Katrina. More than a thousand people died because of Katrina. The Mississippi Gulf Coast was shredded, New Orleans was flooded and we're "celebrating.''

I don't mean to be the editor here, but maybe "acknowledge'' is a better word than "celebrate'' when it comes to Katrina.

I haven't been to New Orleans since the storm. But I have been to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Yes, there has been some rebuilding done there and I guess that is why we call it "celebrating'' Katrina. But I've also driven down U.S. Highway 90 and missed a turn because no landmarks are still standing. I've seen the tree branches still in the water off the beach. I've seen where the hotel I used to stay in has now been reduced to bricks.

"Celebrate'', I don't think so. Katrina was a bad thing. I think we should acknowledge that it happened and acknowledge the progress that has been made. But celebrating needs to wait until the Gulf Coast and New Orleans are whole again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Playing with a heavy heart

Grambling coach Melvin Spears said he expects - "no doubt about it'' - quarterback Brandon Landers to play in the season opener against Hampton.

Landers may play, but he'll play with a heavy heart after his brother was shot and killed in Monroe over the weekend.

Landers tried to serve as a peacemaker according to media reports. It's amazing nothing bad happened to him as well as his brother and another cousin who was also shot. It's enough to scare a college football coach.

Yes, playing football can serve as a distraction and a healing process for Landers. Still, Brandon Landers wouldn't be human if his focus isn't affected somewhat on Saturday by the events of last weekend.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

It's just the preseason, right?

New Orleans Saints fans can take comfort in knowing it's just the preseason.

The team doesn't look like it's running on all cylinders but there are a few weeks until the regular season begins. However, it may take more than a few weeks to make the Saints a contender.

Drew Brees is starting to play better, although he threw a few interceptions Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts and overthrew receivers on a couple plays. Deuce McAllister and Joe Horn are healthy and running well and rookie Reggie Bush has shown several flashes of brilliance -- despite a fumble Saturday -- in his limited game action.

The biggest worry is on defense, where there is not one player who stands out. Sure Mike McKenzie stood out Saturday -- he was flagged three times for pass interference -- but if the Saints' defensive line and linebackers were able to bring any pressure maybe McKenzie would not have been beaten so badly. The defensive line is slow and ineffective and the linebackers aren't much better.

The Saints have a short week of preparation then play the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night in their final exhibition game. After that, you can't blame the poor play on it being the preseason.

More reasons to loathe the NL

In its current state, the National League is by far and away an inferior product when compared to the American League.

Heck I'm guessing Triple-A Charlotte, the White Sox's top affiliate, could give some NL teams a run. And not just the bottom feeders.

Take Sunday's St. Louis-Chicago game. The Cardinals, supposedly one of the NL's top teams, blows a late lead and is staring extra innings in the face against the fifth-place (and lucky not to be lower) Cubs.

Long story short, Gary Bennett, he of the zero home runs before Aug. 18, hits a game-ending grand slam. Chaos ensues at home plate as a bunch of bouncing Redbirds prepares to greet Bennett.

I have no problem with the emotion, but save it for a game that matters. The majority of the Cards were on either the 2004 World Series team or the 2005 team that reached the NLCS. And they're celebrating beating the Cubs? Come on. Act like you've won something of value lately.

Oh well, just another reason the NL representative probably will get dusted in October's World Series.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson

Booker T. Washington High School doesn't fly Jeremy Jefferson in for games the way a football player named Jefferson was in the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High.''

But this Jefferson has the same effect.

He rushed for more than 200 yards per game last season. He looks like he may be even better this season.

Granted, Woodlawn appeared to be defenseless in the jamboree on Friday night. But Jefferson was in midseason form with nine carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns in what amounts to a quarter of high school football.

There will be some who wonder why Jefferson isn't a big-time recruit. The answer to that question is fairly simple - size.

Still, you would have to think some smaller school would take a chance on the kid if for no other reason than his production.

If nothing else, though, he is a fine high school football player to watch. That in itself should be enough.

Baker back to the bigs?

The good news for Scott Baker is he may be headed back to Minnesota.

The bad news is he would be going there to replace Brad Radke.

Radke, Minnesota's longest-tenured player, may be done after his gimpy shoulder finally gave way during the Twins' 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday.

Baker is the logical choice to replace Radke, who has been one of the biggest reasons Minnesota is currently in the AL wild-card lead. However, since he began riding the shuttle between Triple-A Rochester and Minnesota, Baker has struggled to find consistency at the major league level.

If he finds a groove similar to his 10-appearance trial in 2005, Baker and the Twins will be fine. If not, the Twins' surprising run back into the playoff race may fall into the danger zone.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bradshaw was worth the drive

Terry Bradshaw was better than expected at Louisiana Tech on Tuesday. You grow up admiring a guy from afar, then wonder if he'll be a jerk when you finally meet him. But the NFL Hall of Famer was nicer than I've heard he can be at times.

I saw Bradshaw play at Tech, then went with my father to the preseason game at Independence Stadium during his rookie season. I became an avid Steelers fan, which I quickly got over after Bubby Brister joined the team. I've bought his books, seen him in movies and watched his antics countless times on the Tonight Show.

After the TV boys wasted their direct tube time with Bradshaw by asking him about his donation (he'd just spent 15 minutes downstairs discussing it), I asked him about his rapport with Jay Leno. The TV boys dropped their cameras and disappeared, missing the opportunity to see Bradshaw more in his element. I believe that he would have kept on answering questions from the 2-3 writers there, had not Tech Media Relations personnel cut him off.

He was mauled downstairs when he walked in to meet with Tech fans. His face lit up when he saw A.L. Williams and Mickey Slaughter, whom he said had the most influence on his life.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Saints/Cowboys game disappoints some

Not everyone made it into the Saints-Cowboys game on Monday night. A friend from Ruston, who had purchased $135 worth of tickets, got caught up in the I-20 traffic and didn't get to the area in front of Independence Stadium until 8 p.m. Unable to find a parking place, the entourage decided to drive to a restaurant, eat supper, then head back to Ruston.

Another friend was in the State Fair lot tailgating at 5 p.m. At about 10 minutes until 7, they headed up to the stadium, but were disconcerted at the 500-plus-line of people getting frisked. He looked at his wife and asked if she wanted to wait in the line. "No." They headed to their car, drove home and watched the game on TV after a cold shower.

Many of the things associated with the NFL preseason game went well, but obviously there were other people disgusted with the lines.

Prepsbeat.com will add personality to players

Everything new means more work for somebody, but we've had some fun here at The Times lately despite a new task.
We're entering information from player questionnaires to our Web site, Prepsbeat.com. We've asked all the local prep football players who their favorite football teams, players, etc., are, and the answers are interesting.
Along with some creative spelling, I've seen Babe Ruth listed three times as favorite baseball player. North Caddo seems to have a future lineman in its freshman class. His favorite football player is Steelers and former LSU guard Alan Faneca.
I've seen Dwyane Wade's name spelled at least 10 different ways, but he seems to be the most popular basketball player with local athletes.
Beginning Monday, you'll be able to read these answers yourself at Prepsbeat.com. It's interesting to read what young people are thinking about sports these days.

Busy, busy days

It's been a busy, busy time in the Ark-La-Tex these last three or four days.

Just to recap:

On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys arrived in town for their preseason game. The Saints signed a few autographs and walked in the front door of the hotel at Diamond Jacks. The Cowboys tried to avoid the crowd through the back door at Sam's Town.

On Monday, there was the actual game. Even though it was just preseason, the atmosphere outside of Independence Stadium dripped football. Yes, there was trouble getting the crowd to their seats. And traffic was slow at times. But all in all, it was worth it.

On Thursday, The Times will publish its high school and college football preview. It'll be divided into two sections with two covers. We hope you'll like it. We'll spread out our NFL previews in the coming days.

On Friday, the high school jamborees will give us the first hint of football on the local scene.

And we at The Times will also be rolling out our new high school Web site, PrepsBeat. We think you'll like it with stats, schedules, player profiles and more.

It's a busy time these days. Ain't it great?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

These Texans are different

If the preseason is any indication, the Houston Texans should be a dramatically improved team this year. Under first-year head coach Gary Kubiak, the Texans on Saturday night recorded their second straight exhibition victory, knocking off the St. Louis Rams 27-20 on the road.

The Texans were impressive on both sides of the ball.

Behind the running of second-year back Vernand Morency (11 carries for 95 yards and two TDs) and rookie Wali Lundy (7-for-40), the Texans set a preseason franchise scoring record.

Quarterback David Carr completed 10 of 17 passes for 99 yards. And he was sacked ONLY ONCE.

Defensive end Mario Williams, the first pick in the 2006 NFL draft, was also impressive. He made outstanding plays (including a tackle behind the line of scrimmage) while fighting off double-teams. And Antwan Peek recorded two sacks.

The Texans are off to a 2-0 preseason start for the first time.

As exhibition games go, Saturday night’s victory was meaningless; it doesn’t count in the standings. But what a morale booster for a team that finished with the NFL’s worst record last season!

These aren’t the 2-14 Texans of a year ago.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Look up the word retirement

Apparently, no one in the sports world knows the meaning of the word retirement.

The latest case is Junior Seau. On Monday, the former All-Pro linebacker told the world he was done with football. Four days later, Seau, a San Diego-area native, decides to go back and play for the New England Patriots.

I guess all Seau needs to finish his career is a Super Bowl ring and he figured going all the way across the country where it will snow and rain most of the winter is worth giving up a year of relaxing on the beach and surfing in the Pacific.

Look it's time for athletes to understand that retirement is retirement and that means go away. If you're ready to give it up, give it up. Don't go dragging your very good career through the mud just for a season or two more of play that is far below the standards you have set for yourself.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bad National League is good news to Astros

Resist the temptation.

Don’t do it.

Just say no.

DO NOT write the Houston Astros off. Not just yet.

Despite a five-game losing streak, which included a three-game sweep in Houston by the Chicago Cubs, the National League Central’s next-to-last-place team, the Astros find themselves squarely in the middle of the NL playoff race.

But so do most of the NL’s 16 teams. Take a look at the wild-card standings.

Astros fans can thank the weak…uh…uh… well-balanced National League for their team’s good fortune. Everybody in the NL (with the possible exception of the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates) has a shot at baseball’s postseason extravaganza.

Ten of the 12 teams chasing the NL wild card-leading Cincinnati Reds are less than 10 games from the top. And that includes the 53-67 Washington Nationals, who’ve won two straight and are within nine games of the Reds.

How weak is the NL this year?

Only two of the teams in the race for the NL wild card are playing above .500.

So, how, despite their five-game skid, can you dismiss the Astros – with another full month of games remaining?

You can’t. Not now. Not in the National League.

Had the Astros won five straight instead of losing them, they’d be at the top of the NL wild-card standings. And as anyone who’s even vaguely familiar with the Astros knows, these Astros are just as likely to reel off five straight wins as they are to lose five straight.

The same, however, can be said of any other team in the league. It’s too early to write off almost any NL team, especially the Astros, who have one baseball’s top starting rotations.

Anything can happen in the wacky NL, where the Astros have the major league’s longest losing streak and the Cubs (four straight) have the second-longest winning streak.

So, sit back and relax Astros fans. There’s good news: The National League is bad.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Parcells looks good in pink

I'm wondering if Cowboys coach Bill Parcells has gone to Penney's yet and picked out his pink skirt.

His handling of Terrell Owens sure makes it appear that he needs one. Parcells has long been known as a don't-give-me-any-crap coach, who makes overpaid NFL players bend to his will. If any player didn't do things his way, they were shown the door.

So why is Parcells ruining his reputation by allowing an egotist like Owens to dictate what he will and will not do with no repercussions? If you didn't see this coming months ago, when Owens left Philly, your blinders must have been on.

Parcells is on his way to losing control of his team. How can you respect a man who lets a jerk get away with his own agenda. Even with Owen reporting to practice on Wednesday, all should not be forgiven. Sitting him on the bench for a couple of regular season games without pay, might do Owens, and Parcells' reputation, a world of good.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

4-23 may be looking good with this slate

Centenary coach Rob Flaska may have put together the toughest schedule of any area coach with the release of his 2006-07 slate on Tuesday.

Texas, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern, Utah State, TCU, SMU. That's a murderers row of games before the conference gets underway. If Flaska were returning a veteran team that had enjoyed some success last season, the schedule might be somewhat feasible. But after finishing 4-23 last year and with about a half-dozen new players on the roster, it's daunting. Throw in a tournament in Fairbanks, Alaska, and it gets even worse.

The good news is that the Gents should be battle tested, if not road-weary, by the time Valparaiso rolls into town on Jan. 4.

Expect Centenary's schedule to be less daunting in the future.

This is getting real old

Maybe Dennis Morris will try out for center on the Bulldog basketball team next.

In yet another move by the former Woodlawn standout, Morris was working out at tight end at Tuesday's practice after asking coach Jack Bicknell if he could give offense a shot. That's after starting last week as a linebacker, then moving to defensive end. At the rate he's going, Morris isn't going to see much playing time at any position this fall, because he's moving too many times and won't have a grasp of the offensive or defensive scheme.

And he won't beat out Anthony James or Anthony Harrison for a starting gig. It's time a coach stuck him at the best spot to help the TEAM and left him there.

Time to quit griping about the parking

Enough. Enough of the griping about the $15 parking at the Cowboys-Saints game on Monday night.

News flash, when you go to pro sporting events you pay more than when you go to the Airline-Shreve game.

If you don't believe it, then just ask the people in Seattle. Last week, the people there paid $25 to $30 for parking at the Seahawks-Cowboys game.

Sure, you'll find parking is cheaper in Jackson for the Saints-Colts game ($5-$10), but on average what the Saints and State Fair of Louisiana are charging is a realistic cost figure.

But if you're so cheap you don't want to pay to park, then you can avoid the whole thing by riding the city's FREE shuttle.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Big Mo moves spots

Louisiana Tech's recent move of Dennis Morris from linebacker to defensive end brings back memories of words from his Woodlawn coach Kendrick Law during practices last fall. Morris had a lineman between him and a ball carrier. Morris was supposed to shed the blocker and make the tackle.

"Aw, coach," Morris said, "I'm not gonna hurt that man."

In an interview with Brian McCallum, Law said, "He's big, strong and fast. He is the athlete; he's just not aggressive enough. He still has to break out of his shell of not wanting to hurt anybody."

And more from Law.

"Right now, he's the kid that has the ability to do whatever I need to get done. He's a total package."

Going up against 300-pound offensive lineman in college, who want to rip his head off, will probably make Morris aggressive in short order. And if he keeps getting bigger as expected, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

af2 disses fans

Despite winning just three games this season, the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings should be commended for landing two players on the af2's All League second team. Former Evangel/Texas standout Phillip Geiggar and local insurance salesman Brian Hazelwood (Miss. St.) made the team as a defensive specialist and a kicker respectively.

In other af2 news, there will be a new ArenaCup champion this season, since both Memphis (2005 winner) and Louisiville have been ousted from the playoffs. Green Bay will play at Florida, while Arkansas will play at expansion Spokane this weekend for the right to advance to Puerto Rico, site of the 2006 Cup.

Playing the title game out of the country might have sounded like a good idea at the time, and it sure makes for a nice trip for the owners and coaches, but it doesn't do much for the af2 fans and media. If I were a fan of either team making the finals, I'd be ticked off not to get to see my team play, due to the cost of travel. And I can't imagine that there'd be more than a minute number of media attending.

Getting ready for the game

The Saints-Cowboys game at Independence Stadium is getting closer by the day. If you don't believe it, then take a sneak peek inside the stadium.

City workers began painting the field over the weekend. They are expected to finish the job early this week.

There will be no doubt on the field that Monday night game will be a Saints home game. City workers painted the Saints' logo at midfield with the words, "Shreveport, La.'' underneath the logo.

In the stands, this may be a 50-50 split of fans with the close proximity of Dallas and East Texas to Shreveport.

At the very least, the stadium should have a professional atmosphere for the NFL preseason game on Aug. 21.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Trace takes his 'Swing'

Baseball and music have always gone hand in hand.

There was the famous Joe DiMaggio line in "Mrs. Robinson." John Fogerty begged "put me in coach, I'm ready to play" in "Centerfield." Alabama then told of a small town's love affair with its minor-league team in "Cheap Seats."

Now Sarepta's own Trace Adkins is adding baseball to his musical landscape. Well, sort of. Adkins', a former Louisiana Tech football player, new single is called "Swing" and it incorporates two of America's favorite pasttimes -- baseball and pickup lines.

While mixing in play-by-play type narration behind tales of a group of buddies trying to pick up a woman, Adkins has created a ballpark-type feel in the song that climbed to No. 22 on the country charts this weekend.

Though it remains to be seen if Adkins connects with "Swing," it is definitely worth a listen if for no other reason to crack a smile or shake your head.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Reg-gie Reg-gie

The New Orleans Saints probably sold another couple thousand tickets in the first half of their preseason game against Tennessee on Saturday.

Thanks, again, to Reggie Bush. Bush just disproved the oft-mentioned thought that NFLers are just plain faster than college players.

Anyone who saw Bush go to the far hashmark, get stopped behind the line and cut back across the field for 44 yards probably won't believe that statement anytime soon.

Bush was passing guys despite looking like he was running in first or second gear. It's a given the run will be on SportsCenter for days to come, which more than likely will foreshadow Bush's rookie season.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Transfer this

College baseball has been known as the sport of the senior transfer, players who can transfer from school to school without having to sit out a year as they would in football or basketball.

This rule has made for some interesting decisions and has made leagues like the Cape Cod League centers for some borderline unethical recruiting during the summer. Now, Baseball America has published a list of players who have transferred this summer.

New LSU coach Paul Mainieri has taken advantage of this rule and landed a couple of pitchers. Tulane's Rick Jones, a coach who has done an incredible job with transfer players, picked up the aptly named Shooter Hunt from Virginia.

The rule needs to be changed but isn't without its benefits. Take the case of former Tulane catcher Max Kwan, who hails from Washington. Kwan came to New Orleans to play for the Wave before Hurricane Katrina hit.

His New Orleans "experience" consisted of spending one semester in Lubbock, Texas, and one playing a Triple-A ballpark in Metairie. Now he is transferring to the University of Washington. That makes for a better fit for Kwan.

But it is clear there is no fit for the free-transfer rule in college baseball.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Get over it

While driving down Youree toward Chick-fil-A today, I noticed a strange window sticker on an SUV. It said "It was a fumble."

My first thought was there aren't any Oakland Raiders fans in Louisiana are there? Then when I looked down and saw the Raider Nation license plate holder my next thought was get over it.

The now-infamous Tuck Rule Play was five years ago, FIVE YEARS AGO. Yes it probably cost the Raiders a Super Bowl berth, but let it go.

Oakland had a chance to win the NFL championship the next season and got obliterated by Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl.

Yes hanging on to bad memories is part of being a sports fan. Look at pre-2004 Red Sox Nation. They had Buckner, Dent, et al. Same goes for Cardinals fans and the Don Denkinger call or non-call.

At some point, let go of the past and live in the present.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Early prep thoughts

I've visited a few high school coaches in the early part of the month and have a few tidbits to share.

The team I've heard referred to by two coaches as the team on the rise is the Calvary Cavaliers. Two opposing coaches from District 1-1A favor the Cavs to finish second to Evangel.

At least three schools that have been down may not be zooming out of the cellar just yet, but I hear positive things from them.
One is Green Oaks, where coach Steve Dennis believes he has a talented defensive group. He's going to go with speed rather than size on defense, and that makes sense when the Giants are chasing guys like Jeremy Jefferson from BTW and Lambert Tasby and Co. at Benton.

Lakeview coach Mark Anding says he's going to go with two platoons this year, even if it means putting younger players on the field. Players going both ways get tired in the fourth quarter, and it could give the Gators more chances to win late. It will also pay off next year, when twice as many players have starting experience.

Many's new coach, Jason McElveen, is off to a great start just by answering the phone. The Times didn't get one return call from the previous administration. In two years. He says there is plenty of talent there, and here's hoping the Tigers get to enjoy winning games again.

Keep reading. I'll tell you what I hear around town.

Some towns have all the luck

There was a time when Shreveport and Jackson were rivals in the Texas League.

They are rivals, sort of, this August.

Shreveport has the Saints playing the Cowboys. Jackson has the Saints playing the Colts. Shreveport has enjoyed a slight lead in tickets sold for the NFL preseason games. Jackson has been closing fast.

And that's about where the advantages end for Shreveport.

Jackson has the Saints' training camp. Shreveport has hot weather. Jackson has Reggie Bush. Shreveport doesn't have Bush or shade.

And now Jackson is getting Chipper Jones this weekend on a rehab assignment with the Mississippi Braves. And the Shreveport Sports? Never mind.

POST No. 300!!

In honor of the 300th post on the Free For All ... let's take a look at significant 300s.

Number of Major League Baseball players with 300 home runs:
114 (24 active).

MLB players with 300 wins:
22 (2 active, Clemens-Maddux).

NFL players with 300 touchdown passes:
4 (1 active, Favre).

NASCAR drivers with 300 wins:
O (Richard Petty was closest with 200).

Another classless move by the Wies

Apparently it's the caddie's fault now. Greg Johnston was canned after Michelle Wie finished in a tie for 26th in the Women's British Open on Sunday.
The best part ... Michelle didn't tell him, and neither did her father, B.J. After having dinner with Wie's agent, Ross Berlin on Sunday night, Berlin informed Johnston Monday morning at his gate in the airport that he was canned.
Stay classy San Diego ... or Honolulu.
Johnston began working for the 16-year-old American when she made her pro debut last October at the Samsung World Championships, where Wie was disqualified over an illegal drop in the third round.
Wie had finished no worse than a tie for fifth in her first six U.S. LPGA Tour events this year, including three majors. She failed to break par in any of her four rounds at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last week, and the tie for 26th was her worst finish on the tour in two years.
A "release from the family" concerning Johnston's firing said it, "comes as part of Michelle's maturation as a golfer, part of which is learning from many different bright golf minds."
"I was shocked and surprised," Johnston said. "I was disappointed I didn't hear from them."
Johnston previously caddied 12 years for Juli Inkster and was on the bag when she won four of her majors and qualifed for the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Wie also used prominent U.S. PGA Tour caddies such as Fanny Sunesson, Mike "Fluff" Cowan and Jimmie Johnson while she was an amateur. She is not scheduled to play again until Sept. 7-10 at the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, a men's event on the European Tour.
She also is scheduled to play the 84 Lumber Classic the following week on the U.S. PGA Tour, which will be her sixth attempt to become the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make the cut on the U.S. PGA Tour.
BOTTOM LINE: Johnston knows what he's doing. Michelle does not. And neither does her dad B.J. Wie. It's too bad such an incredible young talent has been led in such a poor direction.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

NSU's loss, McNeese's gain

You just knew Northwestern State's NCAA Tournament run (OK, win over I0wa) was going to land someone a job. It eventually did on Tuesday when longtime (OK, seven years) Demons assistant Dave Simmons was named head coach at McNeese State.

Simmons certainly played a key role in the Demons' success under Mike McConathy. And now he will be a rival in the same league as NSU.

But to McConathy's credit, he is happy for Simmons' succesful job interview at McNeese even though McConathy's own job got a lot tougher. Not only does he have to face Simmons, but now he has to replace him.

It's the cost of success.

Tech coach misses practice

Look for Louisiana Tech football coach to catch some flak for missing Tuesday's practice to attend a speaking engagement in Monroe.

While we appreciate Bicknell's diligence in speaking to just about any group that will have him, he may be the only Division 1-A coach in the nation who would miss the second practice of the season for anything other than a birth or death in the family.

The Bulldogs have a young team with a lot of new faces that require a lot of evaluation before the 2006 season kicks off on Sept. 2. You'd think that if the engagement was important enough to attend, that practice would have been moved to an earlier time to allow the head coach to be there.

We just hope that anyone else who wants Bicknell to speak picks a time when it won't interfere with practice.

Mike Smith joins Delta Devils

Centenary men's basketball coach Rob Flaska is searching for another assistant coach today after Mike Smith resigned to take an assistant's job at Mississippi Valley.

That may not seem like big news, but it is a big loss for our communnity. Smith, the only holdover from Kevin Johnson's staff, is a class guy who worked hard, did things the right way and endeared himself to the Centenary faithful. He'll get a big jump in pay with the Delta Devils and he could be in line to take over as head coach in a year or so if current coach James Green moves on as expected.

We'll miss seeing Smith's looming frame roaming the Gold Dome sidelines. We just hope that he takes that award winning smile with him to Itta Bena, Miss.

"Driving Force" decent reality show

I'm not a big fan of reality TV, but "Driving Force" on A+E is fairly entertaining.

The show follows the family of National Hot Rod Association star John Force. He has three daughters, including 23-year-old Ashley (the oldest), a budding NHRA star who has raced in Gilliam.

The show has a strong central character in John Force. He's one of thos guys who's gruff on the outside but a softie on the inside, especially when it comes to his daughters. He's been married to his wife for 25 years but hasn't lived with her for the last seven. He and his wife went out on a date on a recent show.
Also on a recent show, Force was upset that one of his younger daughters wanted to be a schoolteacher instead of following him into racing. But by the end of the show he was telling her all he wanted her to do was follow her dream and be happy.

I'm not a fan of drag racing, but the racing scenes come across well. Force got emotional when Ashley earned her funny car license, reaching 300-plus miles per hour in a little over four seconds. He said it tears his heart out every time he puts one of his children in a race car.

Anyway, if you happen to clicking through channels and come upon this show it's worth a look. A repeat episode is on Thursday at 10:30 with a new episode Monday at 8.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Please don't boo A-Rod

Hispanics Across America, a non-profit advocacy group, is asking New York baseball fans to take it easy on Alex Rodriguez. Its founder Fernando Mateo wants fans to realize that Rodriguez is under a lot of pressure to perform since signing with the Yankees, so please don't boo him.

"The season is not over and instead of booing Alex, we should be supporting him," Mateo told the New York Daily News.
"When a player is being paid a huge sum of money to perform, the bar is raised. But booing him is the best way to hurt his performance, a performance that has been under-recognized by the press and, sadly, the fans."

He's not joking.

An advocacy group is asking New York fans not to boo a player. Do you realize the odds that will ever happen? Booing is to New York fans as lack of talent is to Britney Spears. They go together better than hot dogs, apple pies and Chevrolets. In fact that was the original jingle for Chevys. "New York, booing, apple pies and Chevrolets..."

Does this guy actually think that A-Rod is upset over the booing? The guy makes $25 mil a season, is happily married and lives like a king. Why would he possibly care what some goombah from Brooklyn or putz from the Bronx thinks? I think A-Rod is sleeping safe and sound at night.

Lady Techsters get quality addition

The addition of Ericka Haney to the Lady Techsters staff is a major coup for coach Chris Long.

Haney, who comes to Ruston from Mid-Con member Chicago State, brings championship credentials to a program with a long history of championships. Haney was the senior captain of Notre Dame's women's team under Muffet McGraw and helped lead the Fighting Irish to its first NCAA National championship in 2001.

She'll also be able to add her coaching expertise to the Lady Techsters post players. A rising star in women's basketball circles, Haney should prove a valuable addition to Long's staff.

Tech's backfield is loaded

Louisiana Tech's move of Freddie Franklin to wide receiver must mean that the Bulldogs are really, really loaded in the offensive backfield.

It also indicates that William Griffin and Myke Compton, a pair of 3-star freshmen recruits, must be the real deal. Tech's top two running backs from a year ago (Mark Dillard is the other) are now playing different positions, which is a luxury not many WAC schools have. Tech still has four highly rated running backs (a soph. and 3 freshmen) in the stable.

And don't forget former Bossier High running back Weldon Brown, who showed a lot of promise last season in spot duty as a running back, has also been moved to the defensive secondary.

Now if coach Jack Bicknell can just settle on a competent quarterback.

It's got to be football season

The temperature is pushing its way through the 90s so that can mean only one thing -- football season.

Today, the preps and the college football players around the state and country join their professional brethren on the football field. And it's a scorcher, not only in the South, but across the country.

Fortunately, cooler heads, so to speak, have begun to prevail. You're seeing more teams on all levels get away from the weeks of two-a-day practices in favor of the two-one-two-one format. That would be two practices on one day and just one the next. That format allows for players' bodies to recover in a more effective manner than the two-a-days of old.

Of course, there is probably some old former high school player out there who longs for the days of two-a-days, no water and vomiting on the practice field. But this is one time that newer is better.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tiger continues to amaze ... but is he clean????

Of course he is. I am kidding. But you know someone is thinking Tiger's latest massage -- complete with "the cream" -- had something to do with it. That's too bad.
Tiger Woods collected his 50th PGA Tour victory -- wow, that's impossible to fathom -- Sunday. Woods to 50 at 30? Truly remarkable. He is in such control of his golf swing right now it is very, very scary. He hit 17 of 18 greens Sunday. And the one he missed was by 2 feet.
He will be an overwhelming favorite at Medinah in two weeks for the PGA Championship, where Woods will look for major No. 12.
What number will Tiger reach in both PGA Tour victories and major championships.
I'm guessing Sam Sneed's record of 82 wins will be broken. And so will Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors.
So here's voting for 85 wins and 23 majors.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Saints' regionalization needs a boost

Here in Jackson, Miss., it's all Reggie all the time. Since Reggie Bush got to training camp you see him on local television. You see him on the front page. Heck, you even saw him on the editorial pages in a cartoon the day he arrived in town for Saints' camp.

With such intensive Reggie/Saints coverage, you'd think the team's regionalization plans would be going well. After all, if you see it and hear it enough, you ought to be enticed into seeing the product.

Alas, the Saints' regionalization plan may need some work. Shreveport's ticket sales for the Saints-Cowboys preseason game have been hovering in the mid-30,000s for about three weeks now. The Jackson ticket sales are apparently even lower in the high 20,000s.

Neither stadium will likely be sold out for preseason games and both are attractive contests with the Cowboys in Shreveport and the Colts in Jackson.

So what to make of all of this?

Two things. One, Shreveport and Jackson aren't particularly affluent for the kind of ticket prices being asked. And two, both cities are just now being asked to be part of the Saints' plan after years of, shall we say, neglect.

It's going to take time for the regionalization thing to work. Hopefully for Saints fans, Tom Benson will be patient.