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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wonderlic fails to make the grade

As the NFL Scouting Combine draws to a close, so too should the use of a tool for assessing NFL potential: the Wonderlic test.

The test, which was designed in 1937 by Northwestern graduate psychology student E.F. “Al” Wonderlic to measure cognitive ability, consists of 50 questions that have to be answered in 12 minutes.

All the test proves is that some people are better test-takers than others. As a tool for measuring NFL potential, however, the Wonderlic doesn’t make the grade.

The examples of quarterbacks Vince Young and Dan Marino, who reportedly made low Wonderlic scores, are the most obvious examples of how the test has outlived its usefulness – assuming it was ever useful.

Marino is a Hall of Famer and Young, coming off a sensational rookie season, appears destined to join him.

The Wonderlic, which has been administered by various teams since 1970, is one of several tools used to gauge NFL potential. It should be one less tool used in the future.

Click here to take a sample test.

Exciting times for Hall of Fame

I spent about four hours today at a meeting where the future Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame was discussed. Let me say this, if the building for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is half as cool as some of the concepts put forth, then it will be an outstanding building.

The state needs a good sports Hall of Fame. We have the athletes. We have the artificats. What we need is a building.

The state has funding set to go.

These are exciting times for sports fans inLouisiana.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Baseball must be near

Give the Shreveport Sports credit for trying. They held their first Hot Stove Luncheon on Monday. Although it's kind of hard to get the Hot Stove feel when it's 70 degrees outside.

Still, the Sports are trying to make an effort in the community. But they have still have a tough job ahead of them. There are still bad feelings from the Swamp Dragons. And selling independent baseball is not as easy as selling independent hockey. People know the difference between affiliated and independent baseball.

Again, kudos for the effort.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Not missing much

If you don't have DirecTV you didn't miss much of JaMarcus Russell at the NFL Scouting Combine on Sunday. The NFL Network had plenty of shots of Russell - talking to fellow prospects. But the LSU quarterback didn't work out today.

Several state prospects did, though.

Tech's Jonathan Holland ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a 35 1-2 vertical jump. LSU's Craig Davis ran a 4.46 and Dwayne Bowe ran a 4.4 40 as well.

The best story of the day belonged to Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson. Johnson came to the Combine but didn't plan on running the 40-yard dash. But when Johnson saw the scouts and coaches, well he had to run.

So he borrowed some running shoes from East Carolina quarterback James Pinkney - and then ran a 4.3 40.

You can pencil Johnson as an early first-round draft guy.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Love that NFL Network

The rain kept coming down so it wasn't like I was going to get outside and do anything today. And besides, the NFL Network had the scouting combine on today.

I know it's sick, but there is something addictive about watching the Combine on TV. Today, for instance, I watched Arkansas offensive lineman Tony Ugoh limp off the field after an injury at the Combine.

Now you know that's not a good time to get hurt. All of those NFL decision-makers watching you go down with an injury.

And then there are the press conferences on television. Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson said he wanted to be like Terrell Owens and Randy Moss on the field but not off the field. Johnson must have realized he was throwing some NFL stars under the bus because he later came back and said what they do is "entertainment.''

On Sunday, the NFL Network's coverage will include the quarterbacks.

As a dish owner, the NFL Network is great. For the rest of the world, I can only hope the cable companies and the league come to some sort of agreement.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shreveport-Bossier not sports towns? I beg to differ

You hear a lot about Shreveport-Bossier City not being "sports" towns. Well, you wouldn't be able to tell it by Friday night.

As I was driving back to the office on I-20 from covering the Huntington-John Ehret boys basketball playoff game I noticed the lights were on at Independence Stadium. The state high school soccer championships were being played there.

The lights were on at Fair Grounds Field, too. A Bossier Parish Community College game was being played there.

At the CenturyTel Center, the red-hot Mudbugs were beating Rocky Mountain.

At the Huntington game, the gym was at least three-fourths full with probably about 700 in attendance. I have to believe there were at least that many at three other local gyms hosting first-round games.

There were also three local baseball tournaments going on, and a big softball tournament is also taking place.

Of course, it's impossible to tell just how many people were out enjoying these events. But it wouldn't be a stretch to say thousands.

Not a sports town? I beg to differ.

Baseball myths revealed!!

Major League Baseball was rocked this week by the revealing of two big myths:

1) Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez aren't really friends.

2) The gyroball doesn't exist.

Why is there this shock and dismay that Jeter and Rodriguez don't get along? Two professional baseball players who can't stand the sight of each other? The shock!

The Oakland A's of the 1970s bragged about how each player took their own cab to the ballpark, and they won three titles. Most recently, the Red Sox was another team that rarely got along with each other, and they won it in 2004.

This wouldn't be news if the Yankees had won a World Series since Rodriguez joined the team. Instead, the media churns out another inconsequential piece better suited for placement along Britney Spears' umbrella-swinging antics.

And then, there's the exclusive pieces by Yahoo Sports and ESPN, searching for the mythical gyroball that originated in Japan. If it does exist, it's supposed to be the first new pitch in more than 30 years since the development of the split-fingered fastball.

The pitch's biggest purveyor is Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox's big acquisition this offseason. Videos of Matsuzaka, supposedly throwing the pitch, show little. The pitch looks like a slider more than anything.

There's more concrete video evidence of the existence of the Loch Ness Monster than there is of the gyroball.

Good for the Tennessee Titans

There is little doubt Pacman Jones is a talented football player. There also is little doubt Pacman Jones rarely can go anywhere without trouble following him.

And there is little doubt new Tennessee Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt made his first big splash Friday when he told reporters it's a possibility Jones would not be a Titan in 2007.

The comment is big news on several fronts.

One Jones is the team's best cornerback and one of the top punt returners in the NFL, having returned three kicks for scores this year.

Two, Jones was a former first-round pick by the Titans.

At any rate, Reinfeldt's statement shows the Titans aren't willing to put up with any more of Jones' off-the-field antics, which have overshadowed anything the cornerback has done on the field. And that's a step in the right direction for professional teams in all sports.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

It's who we are

I was browsing through the NCAA News when I came across the most Dog-bites-man grapic of all time.

It was the NCAA football attendance charts.

Michigan was No. 1. Penn State was No. 2. Tennessee was No. 3.

But when it came conference time, the SEC was No. 1, the Big Ten was No. 2 and the Big 12 was No. 3.

None of this is surprising. Michigan has the biggest stadium on the planet. Followed by Penn State and Tennessee.

Where the SEC is strong is at the bottom. Even Mississippi State averaged more than 40,000 fans per game. Vanderbilt was last in the SEC but 65th overall. The conference as a whole was first averaging more than 75,000 per game.

That shouldn't surprise. That's who we are. We are football fans, first and foremost.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Under the microscope

It's that time - NFL Combine time - when football players go under the microscope.

Because the draft is such an inexact science, you're likely to hear some of the craziest things from the so-called draft "experts.''

Like today, I was driving down the street and this draft guru was trying to make the case for Brady Quinn.

Now Brady Quinn is a fine quarterback. But let's face reality here. Against every good team he played this year Brady Quinn struggled.

So Brady Quinn doesn't need to go to the Oakland Raiders or Detroit Lions. Brady Quinn needs to go to a team that isn't that far away.

But this "expert'' kept lauding Quinn and saying he had no time to throw this season. That may or may not be true.

Then he said JaMarcus Russell had "days to throw.''

That's probably news to LSU fans who watched the Auburn and Florida games.

What's the point? It's all background noise until Draft Day and then you don't know until they get on the field.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Girls basketball lookahead

Last week, I analyzed local and area teams' chances in the the second round of the girls high school basketball playoffs. I'll analyze the quarterfinals in a bit, but first let me analyze how I did.

In Class 5A, I said Southwood and Ruston would advance. They did. I said Airline would have a tough game against second-ranked Ellender but I wouldn't bet against the Lady Vikes. Airline lost, but it was by seven points.

In Class 4A, I said Parkway would have to bring its "A" game to beat Carroll. Apparently, the Lady Panthers did. I said Bossier would have a much tougher game than their first-round game. They did and lost.

In Class 3A, I said Mansfield would have a great opportunity to advance. The Lady Wolverines won easily. I said Benton would need a great effort in Monroe against Wossman. They may have gotten it, but it wasn't enough.

In Class 2A, I said Homer and Loyola faced uphill battles. Loyola lost but gave Many a game. Homer, though, had a surprisingly easy time against second-ranked Ouachita Christian.

In Class 1A, I was noncommital. But Evangel continued to roll past higher-ranked teams, knocking off Vermilion Catholic. I also said Plain Dealing had a very winnable game but it wasn't, as Plain Dealing lost.

Now on to the quarterfinals.

In Class 5A, I fully expect Southwood to get to the Ladies' (should be Girls) Top 28. Southwood has won nine state titles in the last 12 years. Dutchtown, ranked sixth in the final poll, has only existed for five years. The other quarterfinal with area interest pits two teams, Ruston and Mt. Carmel, which weren't even ranked in the final poll. I look for Ruston to win to set up an all-North Louisiana semifinal.

In Class 4A, the road dosn't get any easier for Parkway. The Lady Panthers travel to Baton Rouge to take on District 6-4A champ Glen Oaks, the fourth-ranked team in final poll. If this game was at Parkway, I'd go with the Lady Panthers. But since it's in Baton Rouge, I'll have to pick Glen Oaks. I hope I'm wrong, though, because this group of Parkway seniors deserve a trip to Hammond and the state tournament.

In Class 3A, Mansfield must travel to play fourth-ranked Marksville, which has lost only twice all season. Again, if Mansfield had a home game, I might to with them. But I'm afraid beating Marksville on the road is too much to ask. But I said earlier that Mansfield would be a team to watch. Maybe they can pull the upset.

In Class 2A, I'm afraid Homer's season will end at top-ranked Iota, which has won 41 straight games since losing to Many by three in last year's state title game. I look for Many, though, to advance to the state tourney for the third straight year.

In Class 1A, at least one area team will be going to the Top 28 as District 1-1A Evangel and Arcadia face off at Arcadia. Both teams have been playing well in the playoff.
Arcadia won both regular-season meetings but by less than 10 points each time, and it's hard to beat a good team three times in one season. But the game is at Arcadia, so I'm going with ... Evangel in an upset.

Keep an eye on the Combine

We've had years in the past where there have been Shreveport-Bossier City athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine. This year may be the best yet for the area at the Combine. Former Evangel stars Chase Pittman and Jonathan Wade will be there when the event starts on Thursday in Indianapolis.

If you don't think the Combine is important, then just consider what it meant to former Loyola star Jon Alston.

His good showing at the Combine helped him become a first-day selection in last year's NFL Draft. He made the St. Louis Rams and now Rams officials are talking about Alston as a possible breakthrough guy next year.

So don't discount the Combine. Instead, keep an eye on the NFL Network this week and the Combine's activities.

Lang goes to White Castle

Just got a call from my sister, Carla, in Chicago. She actually lives in the northwest suburbs and they just put a White Castle down the street.
I'm moving back.
Anyone who has enjoyed White Castle hamburgers (you know, the tiny sliders) knows I'm half-serious. They are addicting.
The South has Krystals ... but of course Shreveport doesn't. Krystals is pretty good, too, and they have sweet tea, something you get weird stare about if you ask for it up north.
Pretty funny news about the White Castle, because when I found out the sequel to Harold and Kumar Goes to White Castle was being filmed here, I vowed to get in the flick somehow. As an extra obviously.
The bottom line is I'm Jonesin for some White Castle!!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Evangel Lady Eagles one step away

Evangel Christian Academy should have received a decent payday from their second round girls playoff game with Vermilion Catholic on Monday night. The visiting team brought a large, enthusiastic contingent of fans on the four-hour trip to Shreveport.

The VC Lady Eagles were out-manned from the opening tip and it took them more than a half to adjust to the speed of the local Lady Eagles. Once they did adjust, the game became very interesting. Evangel is fortunate that the game didn't continue another quarter.

Evangel has to travel for the second time in three playoff games on Thursday when they meet perennial power Arcadia, which beat Cedar Creek 58-29 on Monday after stopping Oberlin 65-51 in the first round.

It won't be an easy win, but with a trip to the Top 28 on the line, the Lady Eagles should have the incentive to get by the Lady Hornets.

XM, Sirius agree on merger

XM and Sirius satellite radio companies announced a merger deal today.

For sports fans subscribing to either service, this is a dream come true.

XM has the rights to Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the PGA Tour, and select college basketball and football teams like the ACC, the Big Ten and Pac-10.

Sirius has the rights to NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA, major college teams like LSU and UEFA Champions League.

I don't think I'd ever come into work, listening to the content. Plus, it would be a great boon for an XM guy like myself to finally hear LSU and other college conferences.

The only problem is the Justice Department and the FCC may halt the merger. There are antitrust laws the merger must cross.

Still, it's a deal that seemed inevitable when both companies were posting market losses. Sports fans can still hope.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

NASCAR officials the biggest cheaters of them all

Ha Ha Ha. For all the cheating that has been punished severely by NASCAR over the last two weeks, no infraction was bigger than that of the sanctioning body Sunday. As the cars were coming around Turn 4 on the last lap of the Daytona 500, the most exciting finish in some years was ruined by a wreck, and a baffling decision by NASCAR.
Forget Michael Waltrip, the biggest crooks on the grounds at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday were NASCAR officials.
A few years ago, NASCAR instituted the green-white-checkered finish -- a beautiful move. It tried to ensure races would finish under the green. But if during the sport's version of "overtime" a wreck happened, the caution would come out and the leader at that instant would be declared the winner.
The caution flown several times on the final lap since overtime was introduced. Sunday, NASCAR didn't throw the caution despite more than half the field wrecking off Turn 4.
Let me say that I loved the race to the line, but it has gone against EVERYTHING NASCAR has preached for the past few years. The 9,000 sensors around the track are supposed to pick up the leader in this instance. Instead, NASCAR dropped the ball (only according to their rules) and let the cars race back to the line.
I WANT the cars to race back to the line (only at the finish of a race), but I want that to be the RULE.
If you read Sunday's Times, I picked Kevin Harvick to win. And I said during the race that if Martin won I'd puke. I just don't like him. But I'm here to tell you he got screwed.
Ironic, that in this age of NASCAR officials cracking down on cheating, they manufactured the biggest heist of them all.
Martin had this win stolen from him -- one again thanks to that shady rule book and NASCAR's ability to do what they want, when they want.

That being said. It is pretty neat to see the 29 -- formerly the No. 3 of course -- win on the anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death. Sunday marked the first time the 500 was run on Feb. 18 since Earnhardt died on this day six years ago.
Harvick was Earnhardt's replacement.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Time to lay low

Reggie Bush is having an interesting offseason for the New Orleans Saints.

He has been fined by the league for taunting the Chicago Bears.

His name was dragged into the recruiting of Joe McKnight. You may remember McKnight said he talked to Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush on a conference call with Bush saying everything would be OK in the NCAA investigation of the USC program concerning extra benefits for Bush. Later, McKnight's high school coach said he "misspoke.''

And then on Friday night, there was Bush rolling around on a basketball court in Las Vegas after "rolling'' his ankle.

This isn't exactly the same good karma the Saints were enjoying this time last year.

If anything, Reggie Bush would be wise to lay low for awhile.

Demons face big challenge

Northwestern State got a jump on traveling to Cookeville, Tenn., to play Tennessee Tech for its BracketBuster game this afternoon.

By the time I phoned head coach Mike McConathy Friday afternoon for a comment about the game, the team was already in Tennessee. I expected to get his voice mail with the team in transit.

The Demons face a stiff contest against a Tennessee Tech team that can pound the boards. The Golden Eagles are one of the best rebounding teams the Demons play this season, and the Demons have been inconsistent in that area.

"They go to the boards ferociously," McConathy said. "We just got to do a better job. We haven’t rebounded well of late.

Defensively we’ve got to do a better job of preventing dribble drives over the middle and in better position to block out and attack offensively."

Today's game could hold a key into the Demons' future when the Southland Conference tournament, and possibly NCAA Tournament, arrive. McConathy and his staff are keeping close eyes on the team's development through the season's final stages.

"Defensively, we've got to keep the ball on one side of the floor and not allow a lot of ball reversals," McConathy said.

"We need to really work on not getting beat over the top off the dribble, something in practice that we did a better job of (Friday) morning."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tech football shocker

As Louisiana Tech upsets go, this one ranks up there with the Alabama wins.

No, I'm not talking about a game on the field. I'm talking about the turnout for Derek Dooley's luncheon at Ralph and Kacoo's today.

Whether the coach was Gary Crowton or Jack Bicknell, they usually drew the same small group of red-hot fans.

Today, in a much bigger room, there was hardly a seat to be found. Heck, I thought I was in the wrong place when I saw a line to get into the room.

There had to be more than 100 people in this dining room to hear Dooley speak.

That tells me one thing: Tech people think Dooley can take them up another level. We won't know for three or four years if that's the case. But if today's luncheon is any case, he has the fan support.

Now for the actual talk: If you close your eyes and just listen, you would think you were listening to Nick Saban talk. He talked about "the process'' and not playing to the scoreboard - the same thing Saban said at LSU. He talked about the recruiting criteria, similar to what Saban did at Michigan State, LSU and now Alabama.

No, he's not a clone of Saban. But the influence is certainly there.

Baton Rouge fighter featured in UFC bout

The first ever UFC Fight Night live from The Pearl at The Palms Casino Resort will take place April 5 and be telecast live to millions of fans on Spike TV. The card will feature a battle between lightweights Joe “Daddy” Stevenson vs. Baton Rouge's Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard.

Guillard (39-6-3) is an explosive fighter with good wrestling and striking skills. His brash personality made him stand out immediately on The Ultimate Fighter 2, but with a decisive win over Marcus Davis in the finale, Guillard proved he has more than just attitude.

After a setback against Josh Neer in the welterweight division, Melvin dropped down to the lightweight division at UFC 60 and destroyed Rick Davis quickly in the first round. He followed that win with a second round TKO over Gabe Ruediger at UFC 63. Now Guillard is ready to take on Stevenson and prove his new-found dominance in the UFC’s 155-pound division.

Fighting out of Las Vegas, Stevenson (31-7) is known for his overwhelming wrestling and ground and pound. Like Guillard, Stevenson fought his way through The Ultimate Fighter 2 competition to the finals where he defeated Luke Cummo by unanimous decision in a classic fight to earn his claim as the welterweight winner. Since then, Stevenson scored a second round TKO over Yves Edwards at UFC 61, and recently won a first round submission over Dokonjonosuke Mishima at UFC 65.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

As the Arkies turn

Man, Fayetteville, Ark., must have the most sports news per capita than any town in America.

You have the Arkansas basketball players suspended for missing curfew in Baton Rouge last weekend. Turns out they were hanging out with LSU's Glen "Big Baby'' Davis. (So much for not fraternizing with other teams.)

Then it comes out that a Little Rock physical therapist who helped Danny Nutt rehab from brain surgery, had sent critical e-mails to Mitch Mustain.

Oh, and now it comes out that legendary Arkansas AD Frank Broyles is going to retire on Saturday.

That's just this week.

Last week Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and Democrat-Gazette columnist Wally Hall had a spitting match over recruiting.

And, we won't even rehash Momma Mustain and the Springdale kids.

All of this from a team THAT WON THE SEC WEST last year.

Has there ever been an SEC divisional champion fan base enjoy a 10-win season less than this one? Good grief people, there are folks in Oxford, Columbia, Lexington and Nashville that would do just about anything to get in that game. There are people in Starkville who would gladly trade places to get back on top.

Yes, it's newsworthy what is going on in Arkansas. But it's also sad.

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber

If anyone is looking for a fantastic read this weekend, check out the book "Ballad of the Whiskey Robber," the story of the worst goaltender in the history of hockey/bank robber, Attila Ambrus.

Writer Julian Rubinstein discovered Ambrus' amazing story several years ago and spent three years researching the story, traveling to Hungary and Ambrus' native, Transylvania.

Ambrus fulfilled a variety of menial jobs - pelt smuggler, grave digger, Zamboni driver, church painter - and may be one of the worst goaltenders ever to lace up skates. He gave up 22 goals in one game playing for his professional Hungarian team.

But, his claim to fame was as The Whiskey Robber - a man who pulled off more than 20 bank and post office heists and pocketing millions in Hungarian money. The nickname fell because he did many of the robberies drunk on Johnnie Walker Red.

"Ballad of the Whiskey Robber" is fascinating and engaging. Rubinstein does a fantastic job of not only telling Ambrus' story, but giving context with Hungary's struggling attempts at capitalism in the mid-1990s following the collapse of communism. The people view him as a modern-day Robin Hood amid the corruption of government officials.

Then, there are the auxiliary characters, such as the police detectives tracking him. One, whose nickname is Dance Instructor, shows up for work in a top hat and tails after his moonlighting job offering ballroom dance lessons. There's the detective with the moniker, Mound of Asshead, who lives up to his name, wrecking the entire police force's garage of cruisers.

You know it's a wonderful narrative when other writers are jealous, and I'm green with envy of Rubinstein's discovery.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dysfunctional thy name is Hornets

I'm driving in to work, flipping through the local radio - yeah even with XM, I'll occasionally check out a game - and come across the Hornets broadcast.

Is there a more dysfunctional team in sports than the New Orleans Hornets? They play a handful of their games in New Orleans, the rest in Oklahoma City. The bulk of their advertising is from Oklahoma. Yet the team's home is still New Orleans.

I could understand this last season after Hurricane Katrina. But this year, it's borderline crazy.

Make up your mind dudes. Either play in Oklahoma City. Or play in New Orleans. But this trying to make a go of it in both places isn't working.

McDowell, Pilots anxious for Xavier game

Talk with LSUS head basketball coach Chad McDowell and be prepared for an engaging conversation. The man loves to talk basketball.

But, with a little more than 24 hours remaining before his Pilots face Xavier for first place in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference, and McDowell isn't saying much.

McDowell is usually forthright when it comes to analyzing his team. He's reverted to coach-speak when I talked to him Wednesday afternoon.

"It's as big as they come," he says, right out of the Nick Saban's "How to speak with the media," guidebook.

I ask him what the game will come down to, and there is a lengthy pause. Uh, coach? You still there? At first I thought I might have said something to upset him, but he's only choosing his words carefully.

His cliched answers may reveal nothing, but on the contrary, they reveal plenty. When a man of McDowell's talkative nature offers little about a game, you know it must be an important one.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Demons making a move

Northwestern State had a nice win on Monday night, defeating Stephen F. Austin, 67-57.

The Demons go to McNeese on Wednesday and Tennessee Tech on Saturday.

While the Demons are going to have to win the SLC Tournament to make it back to the NCAA, the way they are playing is starting to make one think it is not out of the question.

If you're going to get hot, mid-to-late February is the time to do it in college basketball.

The power of personality

Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer, Mack Brown and Ron Zook fielded another top recruiting class and are quickly setting the tone for the new generation of football coaches. If you want the big names, you've got to be a "player's coach."

Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel writes that these guys treat the recruiting season just as importantly as they do practice and film sessions. That wasn't the case 20 years ago.

Plus, all of those guys have one thing going for them. They're very charismatic and have great personalities.

"We're seeing that the personality of the head coach matters more than ever before," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell told SI.
"Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, Les Miles -- these are 'players' coaches'. You're talking about head coaches who are more involved in the process than ever before."

There is one exception to the rule.

Nick Saban isn't Mr. Personality, yet he bags top recruits. He looks miserable when talking with media or booster clubs and would rather be someplace else.

There was one reoccurring theme when the seniors of LSU's 2003 national title team spoke about their recruiting process. Saban was upfront with them about their chances at playing, and they respected that.

In light of his recent job decisions, I have a tough time believing he was truthful about any of that recruiting process. Saban is a salesman, like other coaches. He tells the kids what they want to hear. Somehow, he's able to overcome his lack of personality and light a fire under kids. A fire strong enough to send them his way.

Saints could march in 2007

Not only should Saints’ fans be encouraged by the team’s 2006 progress, they should also feel pretty good about the Saints’ 2007 schedule. Only four of the Saints’ opponents next season had a winning record in 2006. Of course upsets occur and teams unexpectedly improve, but as the Saints proved last season, they can compete with the best. If the Saints get home-field advantage in the playoffs next season (and they WILL be in the playoffs next season), they’ll be in the Super Bowl. What NFC team would want to face the Saints in the Superdome with trip to the Super Bowl on the line? Take a look at next season’s schedule and each team’s 2006 record. (Dates will be determined in the spring.)

Saints 2007 Regular Season HOME Opponents

Atlanta (7-9 record)
Carolina (8-8)
Tampa Bay (4-12)
Arizona (5-11)
St. Louis (8-8)
Philadelphia (10-6)
Jacksonville (8-8)
Tennessee (8-8)

2007 Regular Season ROAD Opponents

Tampa Bay
San Francisco (7-9)
Seattle (9-7)
Chicago (13-3)
Houston (6-10)
Indianapolis (12-4)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Basketball debate

I got to thinking after watching the LSU women's near-heroics against UConn. Could a group of five college boys beat a Division I women's basketball team?

Consider the scenario: pick five guys from the student body for an exhibition game with a women's basketball team.
It wouldn't take much work (if any) to get them ready to play a mid-major Division I program, like say the Southland Conference, but what about a top-30 program?

How long would it take to get them in shape, not just to play against the women, but beat them?

A month? Three months? The school year? Ever?

There were some pretty good teams in my intramural basketball league in college that could have beaten the women's team at my Big Ten university.

OK, discuss.

Cowboys, Horns have a lot to live up to

Last college basketball season the only regular-season game anyone wanted to talk about was the triple-overtime thriller between Gonzaga and Michigan State at the Maui Invitational. The only way those teams would meet again would have been in the NCAA Tournament. Alas that didn't happen.

This year, college basketball fans are lucky. A couple Monday nights ago, we saw Texas go to Oklahoma State and take the Cowboys to triple overtime before OSU senior Mario Boggan hit the game-winning 3-pointer. Tonight, the teams meet again in Austin.

If we're lucky, Kevin Durant and Boggan will stage another duel. Let's just hope it ends in regulation this time.

Update: No overtime needed in this one indeed. Durant and Texas' other standout freshman, D.J. Augustin, took over in the second half and blew the Cowboys back to Stillwater.

I can't imagine how John Brady must feel watching Augustin on TV, knowing largely because of Hurricane Katrina, Augustin is making tons of plays in burnt orange and white instead of purple and gold.

UFC to hit Houston April 7

It's not Louisiana, but it's about as close as it gets. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will feature UFC 69 at Toyota Center on April 7.
UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre defends his crown for the first time against TUF4 winner Matt Serra in the main event of UFC 69. The fight was originally supposed to take place the night before the Super Bowl, but an injury to St. Pierre caused it to be postponed.
Want tickets? Better hurry to ticketmaster.com ... tickets flew out the door for UFC 68, to be held in Columbus, Ohio, next month.
The UFC 69 card will also feature a welterweight showdown between two of the division’s brightest young stars, Diego Sanchez and Josh Koscheck.
Two bouts have been added:
In a middleweight matchup between two up and coming 185-pound prospects, ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season three winner Kendall Grove looks to improve on his spotless UFC record when he takes on always-entertaining Alan ‘The Talent’ Belcher.Veteran welterweights will also trade blows when Marcus Davis - fresh off back-to-back wins over Shonie Carter and Forrest Petz – squares off against TUF4’s Pete Spratt.
After attending the EliteXC event near Memphis on Saturday, it is clear the UFC will have to begin to showcase women. The fight between Gina Carano and Julie Kedzie was the best of a 10-bout card.
Fearless prediction: UFC 70 or 71 will have a women's bout.

Before the trip to Houston ... the UFC will feature a stacked lineup in Ohio.
In the main event, Tim Sylvia defends his UFC Heavyweight title against former two-time champion Randy Couture. Also featured will be the returns of former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin (who takes on Jason MacDonald) and former UFC Welterweight king Matt Hughes (who will battle Chris Lytle). Rounding out the pay-per-view portion of the card will be an intriguing light heavyweight matchup between Jason Lambert and former world title challenger Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral and a middleweight clash between 185-pound bangers Martin Kampmann and Drew McFedries. In preliminary contests, welterweight contenders Jon Fitch and Luigi Fioravanti square off, TUF3 light heavyweight Matt Hamill takes on former national wrestling champion and UFC debutant Rex Holman, and lightweights Jason Dent and Jamie Varner look to move up the 155-pound ladder when they face off in bouts against Gleison Tibau and Jason Gilliam, respectively.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dancing days

We're less than a month away from March Madness and the prospects aren't looking real good around here.

LSU needs a lot of help to make the tournament. Centenary and Louisiana Tech have to win their conference tournaments to get in and you would think Northwestern State and Grambling State would have to do the same.

But here's the difference: NSU and Grambling can win their conference tournaments. NSU is leading the SLC's Eastern Division and Grambling is in second in the SWAC.

So if you're a betting man on Feb. 11, you'd have to conclude the Demons and the Tigers are the area's best bets.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Boggan likes to mess with Texas

If I'm Oklahoma State basketball coach Sean Sutton, I'm finding a way to change every visiting team's uniform to something with the word "Texas" on it.

That way I know my senior forward Mario Boggan is going to go OFF. On Saturday, Boggan had 35 points in a double-overtime win over Texas Tech in Stillwater.

Earlier this year, Boggan and Texas' Kevin Durant staged a memorable triple-overtime showdown in which Boggan scored 37 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer.

A few more games against Texas teams and Boggan can interject his name in the national player of the year discussion.

We play the Pro Bowl why?

So the New Orleans Saints finally have a quarterback in the Pro Bowl and Drew Brees dislocates his shoulder.

Would somebody please explain why we play the Pro Bowl?

The season is over. No one cares. It is not like the Pro Bowl is going to make more people interested in the NFL.

I don't have a problem with having a Pro Bowl team named. That's fine. Just don't make them play another game and risk injury.

As it is, it's just another chance for a guy like Brees to get hurt.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cowboy up

I was surprised to see how upbeat most local Cowboys fans are over the hiring of Wade Phillips. I guess that suggests they have faith in the players.

Personally, I don't like it. I would have preferred giving a coach a new opportunity instead of going with someone who has been through coaching a cycle a couple of times.

And as far as hiring him because of the 3-4 defense, the Cowboys were morphing more and more into a 4-3 late in the year. (And if the 3-4 is so grand, why were the two teams in the Super Bowl playing a 4-3).

We won't know for a couple of years if the Phillips hiring is a good one or not. Me, I'm betting on not.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

McKnight is no guaranteed star

For those LSU fans disheartened that superstar in-state recruit Joe McKnight decided to take his considerable talents to Southern Cal, remember this: recruiting high school kids is one of the biggest crapshoots there is.

A decade ago in Texas, there was a 6-foot-5 kid who could run and throw unlike any kid before him. He was the precursor to Vince Young. In fact, after Nebraska won one of its titles in the mid-90s, then-coach Tom Osborne called him from the postgame celebration and invited him on up to Lincoln. I didn't see how he could fail.

Odell James, the nation's top-ranked multipurpose QB in 1996, decided to go to Baylor (I know, inexplicable, right?) Anyway, Odell could never pick up the offense, floundered at QB, battled injuries and finished his career as a safety. He now coaches middle-schoolers in Central Texas.

McKnight looks great against other high school kids, at least those he played against in the Louisiana 2A ranks. Moderately talented prepsters all do. There's probably thousands of kids who tore up the turf all over the country. And at every college around the country today, most coaches are lauding their talent haul and fans are excited about the day one of those kids runs for 150 yards against the big rival in 2009.

But it doesn't always happen. In fact, it rarely happens. Most kids never live up to those expectations. We're always reminded of this when we take a look back at recruiting classes, five years after the fact.

If you don't believe me, look at this quote about one of LSU's top recruits from 1996, the same year Odell James captivated college coaches and boosters around the country:

"He'll be playing on Sunday afternoons someday," an opposing coach said. "I mean, he is a great back and good things will happen for that kid."

I wonder what ever happened to that Cecil Collins kid?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Gabriel Bryant needs structure

Here's hoping that Gabriel Bryant turns gets his life together and turns out to be a great signing for Lousiana Tech.

Bryant, who originally committed to LSU, before the verbal was rescinded, was supposed to sign with the Bulldogs on Wednesday. But since he has no legal guardian to sign his scholarship papers, the sale didn't go through.

After running into trouble with Jonesboro-Hodge coach Joey Pender, a respected coach and former Bulldog, Bryant transferred to the Desire Academy in Baton Rouge. Tech is taking a chance by giving a scholarship to Bryant, but it's one that could pay big dividends. It just may take some extra work.

Dooley took fun out of recruiting.

Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley deprived his fans of one of the pleasures of the recruiting season on Wednesday.

Citing a desire to not build up recruits before he sees how they'll adjust to the rigors of the college game, Dooley would not comment on specific players. Fans love hearing about what a big stud so and so is and about how a certain guy has the attributes that a coach is looking for. Some coaches are masters at this and the fans want to hear it.

No one will remember or hold it against a coach four years from now if that certain recruit turns out to be a bust. The kids probably like hearing what their coach has to say about them also -- even if it's just so much hype. But not hearing it takes away a lot of the fun. Hopefully, Dooley will lighten up before the next recruiting season rolls around.

Greener pastures?

Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron should have learned a valuable lesson today.

Coach O's Rebels had a commitment from the No. 8 running back in the country in Robert Elliott. But O and his staff kept pursuing JohnCurtis running back Joe McKnight.

Now, really, did anyone other than Coach O think McKnight was going to sign with Ole Miss?

But Elliott got ticked off as the Rebels kept after McKnight.

So on when Wednesday, Elliott signed with Mississippi State. McKnight signed with USC. And Coach O went O-for on star running backs.

"Every day I’m taking that risk," Orgeron told the Associated Press. "I’m going for the best player. And we felt that Joe was an impact player, a Reggie Bush-type player, and that we had a shot to go get him."

If anything, recruiting is about evaluation. Evaluating players. Evaluating your chances to sign players.

Coach O did a poor job of evaluating that situation.

LSU fans gone wild

The paper has already received some dazzling phone calls regarding the status of super recruit Joe McKnight.
Two beauties:

CALLER: Where's that Joe MAC night kid go?


CALLER: .... long pause ... Do you have a gun I can borrow?


CALLER: Did McKnight go to LSU?



Three words: GET A LIFE

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tickets? You need stinkin' tickets

I admit I am not part of the real world. I usually use credentials to cover games. I sit in the press box where I write stories. Then I go to the locker rooms to talk to coaches and players. Then I come back to the press box and write stories, blogs, what have you.

Unfortunately, I'm starting to see how it is in the real world.

I'm planning a vacation to the East Coast. One part of the vacation is taking in a Boston Red Sox game.

And there is the problem.

Up until 1996, I had always been able to purchase tickets from the club ahead of time.

Not anymore.

The Red Sox are on about a 10-year sellout streak (OK, I'm exaggerating, more like five or six).

The only tickets that are available are through ticker "brokers''. Down here, we call them scalpers.

For the series I'm looking at these fine broker services are asking $50 to sit in the bleachers. That's one ticket. That's one game. Fifty bucks.

Now, do you really want to have an 8-year-old sitting with you in the bleachers? Heck, I sat in the bleachers at Fenway in the early 1990s and saw a whole row of fans carted out for smoking weed.

So if you to the grandstand, the cheapest tickets you're looking at there are about $80. That's one game. That's one ticket.

I realize you fans shell out lots of money to go to games. I didn't realize how much. I guess I should have a little more empathy when sports events don't sell out here. There is only so much disposable income and some of these prices are jarring in themselves.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Cut Saban some slack or stop The Chop

Alabama football coach Nick Saban has taken an awful lot of guff for his indiscriminate use of the word/slur/term of endearment "coonass" during an apparently off-the-record interview last month.

A lot of people, inside and outside of the media, have seized upon Saban's latest misstep. It's just another opportunity to bash the guy, who though he certainly seems unlikeable, is not as much of a villain as some LSU and Miami Dolphins fans would have you believe.

But since we're all being politically correct here (not a problem for me), and everyone is so self-righteous about avoiding slurs and not offending people, consider this: Do you not consider "coonass" to be at least as offensive as "Redskins" or "Braves" or the generic "Indians"?

If not, you're fooling yourself. Or lying.

How can so many sports fans do the "Tomahawk Chop," root for a club whose mascot is dubbed the patently offensive term "Redskin" or cheer wildly at cartoonish images of faux Native-Americans carrying flaming spears, but in the next breath criticize Saban for using a term that is not-so-clearly offensive to Cajuns?

Can someone explain to me how is this reasonable?

Something to mull over this offseason LSU fans

The 2007 season might be the last for Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, and LSU fans know what that means.

Les Miles could be heading back to his alma mater.

The Ann Arbor News reported last week that Carr's new contract has some different wording to it.

In previous contracts, Carr was paid a $300,000 bonus if he was still employed as the head coach on July 1.

In his latest contract, the terminology reads that he's paid the bonus as long as he remains an employee of the university on July 1, 2008. That's a big difference and could be the first signs that 2007 is Carr's last.

Here's the Ann Arbor News story.

Retirement speculation has swirled around Carr in the last couple of years, especially since Michigan is 1-5 over Ohio State and Jim Tressel and their bowl record in recent years has been just as dismal.

Michigan rarely looks outside its university for a head coach. The last time it did was hiring Bo Schembechler back in 1968. Defensive coordinator Ron English will likely be the front contender for the spot, but you also got to throw in Miles.

Remember what Schembechler did during the 1989 NCAA Tournament? Bo was AD at the time and his basketball coach Bill Freider offered his resignation to accept the Arizona State job just before the start of the tournament.

Schembechler canned Frieder and gave the team to assistant coach Steve Fisher, who took the team to the NCAA championship.

"I want a Michigan man coaching Michigan," growled Schembechler.

There may be no bigger Michigan man out there than Les Miles.

Breaking down the postseason

There were 11 postseason NFL games. There were 32 postseason college football bowl games.

That's 43 games.

And if you had told me in November that the best, most entertaining game of the postseason game would have been a college bowl game between Boise State and Oklahoma, I would have said you were crazy.

But it's true. The Fiesta Bowl was the best game of the bunch. Better than the national title game. Better than the Super Bowl. Better than the championship games.

Granted, the Colts and Patriots game was a good one. And the Cowboys-Seahawks game certainly had a dramatic ending.

But it's hard to top the Fiesta Bowl.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ready for next year

It's hard to take serious those commercials for the Pro Bowl.

Yeah, I know it's pro football's "all-star'' game, but is there anything more meaningless.

No, all people want to know now is who will dethrone the Colts in the AFC? The Bears in the NFC? Who is going where in free agency? Who will look good at the Combine?

The NFL is becoming a year-round sport. And for folks around here, with a new Cowboys coach and the Saints' most-anticipated offseason ever, it can't get any better.

Colts extend lead

Adam Vinatieri just kicked a FG to extend the Colts' lead to 19-14 with 7:28 left in the third quarter.

About those rumors.............

Word has it that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has his eyes on Bears head coach and Big Sandy, Tex. native Lovie Smith. Under one scenario, the Cowboys would get Smith in exchange for two first-round picks.

Sources close to the Cowboys are convinced Norv Turner will return to Dallas with Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera taking the same position with Dallas for a LOT more money.

Rivera desperately wants to be a head coach, and Jones would have to dig into his deep pockets to lure him as an assistant.

I asked Rivera what most appealed to him about the Dallas job, and he told me that Jones' determination to win really impressed him.

Stay tuned.

Greetings from Miami!

Greetings from cloudy, cool Miami. It's about an hour until kickoff, and Dolphin Stadium is slowly filling up.

It got up to a balmy 85 yesterday before the clouds rolled in.

Up until today, the weather had been gorgeous. It started raining last night and continued through this morning. Off and on we'll get a light shower.

The Colts and Bears are warming up on the field. This seems to be a pro-Bears crowd.

As I boarded the media bus at the hotel, I saw former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen. Wonder who he's pulling for?

A little later I'll tell you about some of the rumors that have been flying around here.

Until then...............

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kudos to Michael Irvin

I know a lot of people don't like Michael Irvin.

I've heard how his probation officer would give his induction speech at Canton. Or maybe his coke dealer.

I've heard all of the jokes, especially today after he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But as someone who was covering the Cowboys (home and road) back in the day, Michael Irvin was always one of my favorites. For one thing, he was a stand up guy who never ducked the media. He'd fill your notepad with quotes.

For another thing, Irvin was about winning. None of this I-me-my stuff you get from Terrell Owens. Irvin was a winner (six division titles, three Super Bowls in 12 seasons).

I'm not going to condone what he did off the field. But on the field, the guy was a winner. And that's all you can ever ask.

Southwood-West Monroe game had great atmosphere

When I walked into the Southwood gym Friday about 20 minutes before the tipoff of the Lady Cowboys' game against West Monroe, I was little disappointed. There was only a handful of spectators in the bleachers for a game that matched what are likely the two best Class 5A teams in the state

Of course, a 6 o'clock start time is problematic for high school sports events. It's tough for people who work a regular 8:30 or 9 to 5:30 or 6 day to make it for the start.

But by the time the game ended, the gym was almost full and it turned out to be a great atmosphere for high school basketball. Of course, most of the fans were pulling for Southwood but there was a fairly good-sized West Monroe contingent.

The Southwood fans grew quiet when West Monroe took a one-point lead late in the game. But they roared when a Jasmine Grant steal led to a Brittiany Houston layup.

It's too bad every high school game can't be played in that type of atmosphere.

Challenger loses UFC title shot before bout begins

You gotta love the way Travis Lutter of Fort Worth, Texas, approached the biggest break of his career. The mixed-martial arts fighter won Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter and thus earned a shot at the UFC middleweight championship.
Lutter was supposed to fight champion Anderson Silva tonight in Las Vegas with the crown on the line. Instead, Lutter missed Friday's weight-in by 1.5 pounds. He tipped the scales at 187 Friday, more than the 185-pound limit. He was given two hours to trim down, but could only muster a 186.5-pound reading.
Consequently, Saturday's title bout and marquee matchup in UFC 67: All of Nothing is now a three-round non-title fight.
Congrats to Lutter for throwing his one-and-only shot at glory out the window.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Coming to a close

Sunday's Super Bowl will be the last meaningful game of the 2006-07 football season. What a year it was.

It started in the preseason with the Saints and Cowboys playing at Independence Stadium.

You had LSU finishing the season in the top three nationally. You had Grambling and Louisiana Tech changing coaches.

You had Evangel winning another state championship.

And after Sunday, all that is left is the Pro Bowl.

It's been a great year. It'll be sad for football to be over. But pitchers and catchers report in two weeks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

NBA gets it wrong -- again

For the life of me, I can't figure out the NBA.

Two days after laying San Antonio's Manu Ginobili with a hard foul, Lakers star Kobe Bryant was suspended for a game. He appealed and was denied. The suspension was upheld.

On Thursday, that would be Feb. 1, Sacramento coach Eric Musselman was suspended two games for a DUI that occurred on Oct. 21.

Many leagues are accused of giving preferential treatment to their star players. Given the way the NBA handled the Kobe situation and the Carmelo Anthony brawl suspension, you can't say that about Little Napoleon -- David Stern -- and his NBA cronies.

Welcome to Bossier-Shreveport, Q

If Quincy Carter really is going to play for the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings in 2007, then I want to be one of the first to openly admit that I'm rooting for him to succeed.

I remember that summer day in 2001, when he was a rookie QB starter for the Dallas Cowboys and his future seemed particularly bright. It was his first NFL start. He had the confidence of deep-pocketed Jerry Jones, the potential of Kordell Stewart (if only we knew about that comparison back then) and a maturity that seemed to belie his years from time spent in the baseball minors.

That afternoon, I watched him struggle mightily against a Tony Dungy-coached Bucs defense that was one of the best in NFL history and really unforgiving of rookies. But there were still flashes of ability that seemed to indicate better days were ahead for the former Georgia QB.

Um, not so much. No need to document all of his past here, but there were on-field and off-field struggles that derailed his career and ultimately forced him out of the league.

Now he arrives in northwest Louisiana hoping to recapture some of that brighter past. I'm sure all of us, at some point or another, have needed second chances and our own chance at redemption, right? We've all been in need of some charity or grace, somewhere along the line.

Let's hope Q finally finds a little of that here while doing a reasonable impersonation of an AFL2 quarterback.

The Worldwide Leader in Hype

Take a trip over to ESPN.com's coverage of the Super Bowl, and see if you're as stunned as I am at their coverage.

The Web site has five writers there covering a variety of topics, and I do mean a variety of topics. Plus, there's another three from the site's Page 2, which is supposed to be the hip, fresh side to ESPN.

There's at least eight writers I could find from the site in Miami or south Florida covering the Super Bowl or any related items. It's the biggest sporting event of the year, but how many "storylines" are out there? One of their stories on Page 2 deals with Prince and his halftime show.

Then there's this gem from Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons' media day photo gallery:

That's ESPN and NFL Countdown anchor Chris Berman, being interviewed by his own network.

LSU fans need to let Nick Saban go

I am so sick and tired of LSU fans pining over Nick Saban. LET HIM GO! He didn't leave LSU to go to Bama. It's his freaking life, he can do what he wants.
The latest deal about the audio clip is unreal. So he called someone a coonass, BIG DEAL. First of all, the reporter should ge FIRED, because everything was OFF THE RECORD. He was telling a joke. Giving the recorder to a radio station ... if that's not grounds for dismissal, I have no clue.
Anywho, LSU fans are all up in arms about this. For what reason? Saban is gone folks. He's gone. Deal with it.