In honor of the season, I thought it was time for a little spring cleaning of sorts. I’ll leave the closets and gutters for another weekend.
I’m talking of an in-depth clearing of my upstairs attic between the ears. I’ll run through a few topics, issues and questions rumbling around up there collecting dust.
Ed Orgeron is first up.
I opined midway through last season that the interim label should be removed, and Coach O be named LSU’s new head football coach. Of course he was, and I think he will elevate the program and, yes, may even beat Alabama.
But boy, you can bet your last boudin ball that Orgeron doesn’t want or like to talk about Nick Saban or the Crimson Tide. That became perfectly clear to me when he recently appeared on the TV show Soundoff 60 Sports with myself, Kevin Guidry and Scooter Hobbs.
I tried to open up the first of two interview segments with a tongue-in-cheek reference to Orgeron’s acting skills compared to Saban’s from the popular movie The Blind Side. All Orgeron heard was “Saban,” and he launched into a quick canned reference about the Tiger program getting better and competing at a high level.
I brought up Saban again later in our interview in reference to his recent multi-million-dollar contract extension through 2024. I was seeking Coach O’s opinions — not on Saban’s deal, but on the amount of money surrounding college football and the escalation of head coaches’ salaries: especially in the Power Five conferences.
If you don’t know this by now, Orgeron has a pretty piercing stare, and it was aimed directly at me, with another curt answer that briefly explained how happy he was to be LSU’s head coach and how tickled he was (my words, of course) with his contract.
Later, when the questioning got around to his graduate assistant days at McNeese in 1985, Orgeron jumped in, saying how happy he was to finally get a good question he was interested in. In fact, I too was interested in his remembrances of how he cut his teeth in coaching as a Cowboy and the former McNeese coaches he admired.
But I wasn’t there to ask Orgeron only questions he liked or was interested in hearing. It was obvious to me that he or the athletic administration doesn’t care to utter anything about Saban, refer to Saban, offer an opinion or insight about Saban or compare LSU football to Alabama.
Did I mentioned Orgeron is not interested in anything to do with Saban?
Look, I don’t blame him. I am a bit exhausted with the constant Saban adulation. But the five-time national-championship-winning coach is a lightning rod in college football and he steers many pertinent issues. It’s like the old E.F. Hutton commercials. When Saban speaks, everybody listens.
After the TV show taping, Orgeron was kind enough to whisper an apology in my ear about his Alabama deflections. And I told him it was no problem, as he had to do what he had to do. That’s the media game we all play sometimes.
New LSU head basketball coach Will Wade also appeared on that Soundoff 60 episode. He is very glib and very young. He has chosen the smart approach to revamping this troubled program: recruit the best talent in Louisiana first; change the culture of LSU basketball; dictate the style of play to the opponent on both ends of the floor with energy, hustle and physical play.
Did I mention how young Wade is? He’s 34 to be exact.
I told him he reminds me of former baby-faced Butler head coach Brad Stevens, who is now directing the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
Now, I’m not saying Wade is NBA-bound. He has enough on his hands trying to make LSU basketball relevant in the state again and competitive in the SEC.
There was some hot and heavy trade rumor about the New Orleans Saints dealing running back Mark Ingram to Philadelphia for Eagles center Jason Kelce. This took place after Saints veteran center Max Unger was lost for upwards of six months with a foot injury that required surgery.
I don’t think this Eagles deal has wings. But after the signing of future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson to a cheap two-year $7-million deal, I’m not ruling out Sean Payton moving Ingram for a veteran center or another piece to the ever-changing puzzle in New Orleans.
Just how good has McNeese sports been this spring?
The Cowboys’ baseballers at one point landed a No. 23 national ranking and were sporting an 18-1 home field record. Things slowed down a bit after the team dropped two straight SLC series to Sam Houston State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi and then had a tough road loss at UL-Lafayette.
McNeese bounced back, taking a road series from Creighton in Omaha. The final regular season Southland Conference home series against Lamar may decide the regular season championships and the all-important SLC Tournament seedings.
At 34-16 before the home game against nationally ranked Houston, this has easily been Justin Hill’s best season at the helm of McNeese. He has become a shining star in the coaching roster, and McNeese will be lucky to hold on to Hill for a few more years.
First-year McNeese women’s softball coach James Landreneau (SLC softball coach of the year, by the way) took the Cowgirls to another regular season title and SLC tournament championship, winning all three games by run rules. It was a dominating performance in Conway, Ark., that earned the Cowgirls their fifth overall NCAA Tournament berth. The team will be headed to the regional in Baton Rouge, along with LSU, UL-Lafayette and Fairfield.
We’re not done yet. Another SLC championship was won by the McNeese men’s golf team. It was their second straight under coach Austin Burk, who has flipped the switch on this program in short order. Burk’s Cowboys earned an NCAA Tournament spot in Austin.
If you’re keeping tabs, it’s obvious spring outdid the fall and winter games.
Barbe’s startling loss to 31st seeded Haughton in the boys state baseball play-offs came out of nowhere, really. It was totally unexpected. But Bucs head coach Glenn Cechinni nailed it, saying they ran into a hot pitcher and Barbe’s bats couldn’t touch him.
It was different not having Barbe in Sulphur for the state championship finals. But it sends the message that no matter how good you are or have been, how many championships you have won, you can never take any game, season or opponent for granted.
Former LSU running back Leonard Fournette went much higher than I expected as the fourth pick of the first round to Jacksonville in the NFL Draft. The only thing that may save Fournette is the NFL wasteland that is J’Ville — that two-time Super Bowl champion and former NY Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is back with the Jaguars as vice president of football operations.
Mark my words — Carolina and Tampa Bay snagged two of the best offensive players in the NFL Draft, and they will do some damage in the NFC South. And that’s unfortunate for the Saints.
Christian McCaffery will be a triple threat for the Panthers as a running back, receiver and kick returner. The Bucs got the best tight end in the land, with Alabama’s O.J. Howard, and he will stretch the field for Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, who now has three impressive receiving options in Howard, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
Knowing just how bad the Saints defense is, let me state for the record I still wanted New Orleans to trade up to get O.J. Howard. That’s how good I think he will be in the NFL. And Drew Brees needs a top caliber tight end.
This dangerous head-throwing business between the Red Sox and Orioles involving Boston pitcher Chris Sale and Baltimore slugger Manny Muchano has to stop. I’m not a baseball purist; just a realist. And someone is going to get seriously injured. I don’t have a problem with bat flips and slow trots around the bases. But again I’m not a purist.
I go as far back as Pistol Pete Maravich, John Havlicek, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and, of course, Michael Jordan … the list can go on, but it’s time for my point.
LeBron James is better than all of them. Yes, even the great M.J.
I know King James has not reached six NBA titles as Jordan did (not yet anyway), but championships don’t tell the entire story of greatness. Never have.
I hope basketball fans are appreciating the supreme mastery of James as he’s primed for his sixth straight NBA Finals. Yes, if you lost count, LeBron has played in the last five consecutive NBA championship series.
I’m not sure why so many are fretting and hating the possibility of another Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals. If Cleveland and Golden State advance beyond the conference finals, in which they will be prohibited favorites, this will be the third straight showdown.
I can’t wait. Dynasties and rematchs fuel more drama, more rivalry and more memories.
What would sports be without Ali-Frazier, Lakers versus Celtics, Cowboys versus Steelers, Bulls and Pistons, McEnroe-Borg, Federer and Nadal, Yankees-Dodgers/Yankees-Red Sox and, of late, Alabama versus Clemson?
You get the picture.
I hope one day the NFL Competition Committee seriously considers changing the pass interference penalty so that it’s similar to what’s enforced in college football. Make it a 15-yard penalty from the line of scrimmage and an automatic first down.
With these bam-bam tight coverage plays and the onslaught of more than 100 passes per game, it’s ludicrous to hop, skip and jump an offense 40 yards downfield and award an automatic first down on any pass interference call — especially the iffy ones that are flagged constantly.
The PGA and LPGA need to finally wise up and ignore viewers and fans who call in or email to report rules infractions they see via TV coverage. It’s not fair, and it’s ridiculous to punish players who just happen to be on TV more often for many fouls that are unintentional.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I really think Tiger Woods, if he’s totally healthy, can win again on the Tour, and maybe contend and win another major championship. I may be living in the past, but if Tiger’s mind and body finally get right, and the moons align, he still has the tools to resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.
Back home, I wish the Country Club at Golden Nugget would offer a more affordable rate for local and Louisiana residents so more could play and enjoy this spectacular golf course.
I still can’t figure out all the hype and hubbub of MMA and the UFC. Not enough megastars. The big title bouts seem to last all of 22 seconds and it’s just too damn brutally barbaric.
With that said, I really, really want this match-up between MMA champion Conor McGregor and boxing great Floyd Mayweather to come about — if only to finally settle what I’ve said for years: that using boxing rules, a top-flight boxer would beat any MMA fighter in the ring every time. I would gladly pay the 50 bucks for Mayweather and McGregor.
My brain is mostly clear now. I will leave a few things up there on the shelf for the next round of cleaning.