Friday, February 27, 2009

Case of the phantom death

The weekly column I wrote proved to be very popular. It was merely bits & pieces of things I had heard. In fact, I called it Bits ’n Pieces. My readers started looking for it every Friday in the Longview News-Journal. One Friday morning I led with the shocking obit of Rosie Walker, who had been a prominent player for two years at Panola JC, not far from Longview and within our readership area. She had graduated with All-American honors, went on to star at Stephen F. Austin and later went into the pro ranks (before the WNBA days) and starred in Nebraska or somewhere. Someone had told me about her passing and like the good reporter that I was, I called a source, the sports editor of the paper in Little Rock . Rosie was originally from a small town in southwestern Arkansas , so I figured he would keep up with her whereabouts. Sure enough Rosie Walker had passed away, so I went with the info in my column.

I didn’t go to work until early afternoon, so when I got there around 2:00, my first call was from Rosie! She was a private school coach in Nacogdoches and someone in the East Texas area who had seen my column knew Rosie and called to tell her. Wow, did I ever get a surprise when that’s whose voice I heard! Turns out, it was another Rosie Walker who had passed and the one I was writing about called to let me know it wasn’t true. After I apologized as many ways as I could think of, we had a nice little chuckle about it. “Just thought I would set the record straight,” she laughed. She was very nice about it, but I apologized profusely again and again. So, no matter what I wrote in my column from then on, I checked it out so very carefully.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Starting over

Starting a new job, especially when you’re the first one ever, is not as easy as it seems. I only changed jobs twice in my career, once going from sports editor at the Kilgore News-Herald to sports editor of the Longview News-Journal, and one other time from the newspaper business to the sports information business, although both were basically the same.
I’ve probably mentioned before that I thought the pace might be somewhat slower. Boy, was I wrong! Being the SID at LeTourneau University was not easy, especially since I was the school’s FIRST. Before me, the job was handled by students or coaches doubling up. I wound up doing everything nobody else wanted to, it seems. From publicizing all the sports at LeTourneau – we had men’s and women’s golf, tennis, basketball, cross-country, and soccer, plus baseball, softball, volleyball to arranging ticket sales and half-time entertainment.
As sports editor at the newspaper, I had a chance to cover a few sporting events at the university, so I knew a few of the folks and they knew me. It seemed a perfect fit. Little did I know I would be in on the ground floor of changing divisions from NAIA to NCAA Division III and, more importantly, from scholarship to non-scholarship status. I not only had the responsibility of publicizing 11 sports, but selling advertising for 11 sports media guides, taking photos for 11 sports media guides, not to mention beginning individual and career coaching records for all 11.
And LeTourneau had actually begun in 1946. And being that I had a working knowledge of the newspaper, knew all the deadline times and had a few contacts still there, I did all the LeTourneau stories for the paper, too. Mercy.
Oh, we did travel to all the games in one of the finest buses, a big blue and silver monstrosity, complete with a restroom, luggage compartments and all the fancy things you could find in most commercial buses, but not-always so comfortable seating when we had to make a long trip. And we did make some long ones, like to Jackson , TN and Nashville , TN and Cleveland , TN.
The shorter trips weren’t so bad. I remember stopping at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville and the cabbies all around talking about ,”Yeah, that’s named after that LeTourneau fellow …” They meant R.G. LeTourneau, the founder of the school, a remarkable man who began the school for returning servicemen after World War II and the Viet Nam war to go to college and then straight into his plant LeTourneau, Inc.), which built earth-moving machines. Some even were shipped to Nam . Mr. LeTourneau was a philanthropist known for his tithing in church more than what he did for the university. It was said he tithed 90% of his salary and lived on 10%. Nonetheless, he founded a wonderful Christian-related college starting with nothing more than Army barracks. Now the university has some of the finest modern buildings in the area and is one of the nation’s top aeronautical schools around. Next year for the first time it will offer courses in air traffic controlling. Paying attention, Chuck?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

$$$ name of the game

Okay, I admit, I couldn’t stand it any longer. Blog writing seems to be playing out somewhat, and since my true calling is sports writing, I decided I needed to write another one, even if it is about Major League baseball, especially since the sport is on the horizon.

Or, about baseball’s free-agent signings, in this case. It’s been one of the busiest off-seasons I can remember, but it’s been mostly about spending of big bucks. To me, with all the news about bail-outs and everything else the recession has caused, it’s wrong for these folks to be throwing around this kind of money for contracts, but that’s what the world has boiled down to, I guess. Nobody has been spending like the New York Yankees, who have signed such names as C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira for nearly $425 million and almost simultaneously hitting up the city of New York for an extra $370 million in tax-free bonds to complete their new stadium. And, across town the New York Mets sold the naming rights for a new stadium to Citigroup, and it will be called Citifield.

“At Citigroup, 50,000 people will lose their jobs, yet in the boardroom of Citigroup, spending $400 million to put a name on a stadium seemed like a good idea,” said Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio . This is just after Citigroup received a $45 billion federal bailout.

But that’s not all the wild spending. The Mets have added new closer Francisco Rodriguez, formerly of the Angels, so the New York teams will now have A-Rod and F-Rod. The Mets only paid $37 million for their new relief pitcher, but that is coming on the heels of getting starter Johan Santana for $137 million just one season ago. The suddenly competitive Rays have added Pat Burrell from the Philadelphia Phillies for $16 million over two years. The Atlanta Braves, long known for their pitching prowess, have rebuilt their pitching staff with the likes of Derek Lowe (four years, $60 million), Japanese right-hander Kenshin Kawakami (three years, $23 million) and another in a trade with the White Sox for Javier Vasquez. Trevor Hoffman went from the San Diego Padres to the Milwaukee Brewers, Matt Holiday from the Colorado Rockies to the Oakland Athletics, Jason Giambi from the Yankees to Oakland , Giants’ Edgar Renteria to the Tigers, the Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson to the Giants, the Braves’ John Smoltz to the Red Sox and Oakland ’s Huston Street to the Rockies . And on and on … oh, by the way, Manny Ramirez of the LA Dodgers remains unsigned.

One thing for sure this season, you better have a roster of each team to tell who the new players are.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Surveying in the Boggy Bottoms

During one summer break while attending EOA&M in Wilburton I had a job with the US Soil Conservation Service.  I was on a crew with four other people and was assigned as a “rodman-chainman”.  Our task was to survey elevation lines in the Boggy Bottoms near Wapanucka to establish the watershed volumes for future lakes.

My summer home was in Atoka at the Jefferson Hotel where I paid $7.00/week for a room with a private bath.  I also ate breakfast in the hotel’s café and had the lady there pack a lunch to take with me each day.

If you have never been to the Boggy Bottoms region (Boggy Depot State Park is there) you probably have never seen mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers such as live there.  I graduated from rodman-chaiman to to run the levels and transits after a few weeks.  The normal crew was four people (transit-man, two rodmen-chainmen, and a log keeper) but we had a fifth whose only job was to keep the mosquitoes off the transit-man.  The rodmen-chainmen carried the rods and used machetes and axes to clear paths through the thick undergrowth.  We began each day by wading through a cattle dip to infuse our clothes with as much bug repellent as we could.  However, given the climate we usually had sweated everything out before noon.

In my first days on the crew I swung a machete at the nearly impenetrable thickets.  More than once I gapped the blade as I hit a small bois d’arc limb.  That wood was so tough that it would cause sparks to fly when we used a chainsaw on it.  One morning as I reached to pull a chopped off limb free I felt a sharp pain in my hand and, upon looking, discovered I had run a three inch thorn completely through the palm of my hand.  It bled profusely for about five minutes and then my hand swelled to over double its normal size.  Because of that wound I was allowed to return to the truck a few miles away to tend to my hand.

We learned tricks to speed up our progress—for example, when I was carrying a rod and we wanted to make a long shot, I would measure up in a tree and then climb to that point with the rod above me.  We tracked distance with what was called the stadia—two lines across the view in the level or transit.  The distance between the lines on the rod picture gave us the distance.  More than once I stood in creek water up to my chin with the rod above me on my head to continue a line.  In that case we just added five feet and ten inches to the reading the transit-man made.  I got to be pretty good and could read stadia over long distances, sometimes a much as a quarter mile.  That served me good stead when I returned to school and took a course in surveying by allowing me and my school team to complete long runs much more quickly than the other teams.

We saw wildlife of all kinds but probably more snakes than anything else.  In the creek regions there were lots of cottonmouths and on the flats there were some copperheads but most of the snakes were harmless.  Still, it required a fair amount of discipline on those times when a snake swimming in the creek would bump into me while I was holding the rod as described above.  None of us ever got bitten so I guess we were doing the right things.

Sometimes during our lunches we would go to a swimming hole and relax for a few minutes.  The other guys on my crew did not believe me when I told them I could not swim but they became believers one day when I nearly drowned after they pushed me in water about ten feet deep.  It was the only time that I ever had to have water squeezed out of my lungs.

Evenings were spent in Atoka with some of the local young people.  There was no movie theater so we just rode around and talked or played pool.  One of my young lady friends had a brother about seven years old.  He had had a laryngectomy when he was just a baby.  On Saturdays we would go to Durant to a real swimming pool and he delighted in lying on the side of the pool with his head under water until the lifeguard would panic and rush to him.  He would also smoke a cigarette through the hole in his throat as a way to get attention.

My summer came to an abrupt end when I became ill.  When I started the job I was a robust 195 pounds but lost down to 165 in a three-week period.  The local doctor told me it was an allergy to milk but when I returned to Heavener for a check, Dr. Hogaboom informed my Mother that it was hepatitis and that I had a 50-50 chance of dying.  While I was in a quarantined room in the hospital in Poteau Imogene Wyles worked there as a nurse of some sort.  On one occasion she tried to put an IV in my arm but the needle bent and it emerged from my arm about an inch away from where it went in.  Being young had its advantages and I recovered quickly within a few weeks and continued in school.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Heavener Library~New and Improved

It's not really new, but the Heavener Library is certainly going to be improved when it re-opens on February 28th.

I've been in LeFlore County for the past week and saw the "new" library for the first time since the renovation was started. I had hoped to interview the librarians, but according to the sign on the new door, the library is closed until further notice...probably while they prepare for their grand re-opening.

The Heavener Librarian is Jana Manifold and her assistant is Jane (Hinds) Naylor, Bill's sister.

Completion of the interior is still on-going, so I couldn't photograph it. But as you'll see, the exterior has definitely undergone major changes

To give you a comparison...and since I didn't have any old photos of the library...I borrowed some shots taken from Google's "street-view" maps (that I reported on several weeks ago). The photos aren't too crisp, but you'll get the idea. The new photos were taken this afternoon at about the same time of the day that Google's were taken (from the appearance of the shadows).

This first photo was taken from across the street in front of the old Walkup Cleaner building. This photo was taken earlier this year or last year by Google.

Here's the same scene taken today:

As you can see, part of the old building is still visible at the extreme right side of the photo.

The next photo (below) was taken further west of this location. I parked in front of the old City Hall building, at first, but had to move across the street in front of where the T&M Pharmacy was in order to get the entire building in the frame.

If you recall, the grassy area on the extreme left of the old library building is where Harvey Lee Carter's DX station once stood.

About the only thing you can see from the old photo is the tops of the two trees.

These last two photos don't show you a lot because there was no way I could move back far enough. I was up against the old Oklahoma Tire & Supply building in order to get this shot.

Looking East toward Poteau Mountain

If you're interested, you can select Heavener Public Library for more information regarding the library and it's hours, services, etc. You might be surprised.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Harassing the Local Cops in the 1950's

We usually saved our best tricks for Halloween, but sometimes we just enjoyed harassing the local cops in Heavener.

Once we took a string of firecrackers and lit them and threw them under the cop car while he was asleep in it. That caused a small commotion for a time.

Another time we bought some of those fireworks that shoot up in the sky and then go off and shoot out lots of glittering fire works. We waited until he was asleep in the car again and each of us went to one of the other three intersections downtown and all at of us lit one in the middle of the intersection then the one driving the car picked us all up and we watched as the local cop ran around town looking for us.

We loved pulling pranks, we never got caught either.

Once I took a cigarette and lit it and then put an M-60 (or whatever they were), it was a big red round bomb that was really powerful, I put the fuse in the other end of the cigarette and then placed it in one of those brass spittoons in the old pool hall. Then I left. Mercy! It blew stuff all over the place.

We were always thinking of new pranks, mercy!

Monday, February 16, 2009

He shoots, scores, rebounds

Watching the kid play basketball convinced me, hey, he may be an all-around athlete before all is said and done. The "kid" is my oldest grandson and Saturday morning Cynthia and I went to a Little Dribblers basketball game for the first time this year. We went once last year, but Brandon hardly knew enough to play.

What a difference a year has made. He’s almost 10-years-old now (in June), but he did things that makes me think this may be his sport. Brandon already plays baseball and he is good enough to play third base, second base and shortstop. Not all at the same time, I mean, but he is good enough to play all three infield positions. His statistics in the basketball game were modest, but he did collect nine rebounds, make three steals and score six points. Playing at post is not what he wants to play. Not enough action, he says. “I want to play wing where there is more action, where I can get the ball more.”

He wasn’t bad for a position he doesn’t care for, though. He grabs rebounds and throws the outlet passes or turns around and shoots just fine, I thought. He made a few steals by stepping in front of opponents passes. The only thing I noticed was that he missed a wide-open lay-up and a couple of free throws. Those are things I could never do either, but I’ll never admit he got that from me.

Playing Little Dribblers is much better this year. Teams are not loaded with the best players. The players are picked by numbers, so the best players aren’t always together. And the same players are not always together. The boys on the team all practice together, but on game day the coach announces the division of players into groups of five so they don't know who they'll be with until then. Brandon’s team is 2-2 and in one game, he scored the winning basket. (FYI, this isn't just coming from Papa John, it's coming from an ex-sportswriter who has evaluated players for almost 30 years.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

'Roids ruining baseball

Who’s going to be next? Alex Rodriguez admitted he used some type of performance-enhancing drug between 2001 and 2003 when he was with the Texas Rangers, he just can’t admit to knowing exactly what it was he used. So, what does Major League Baseball do now?

A-Rod, now with the Yankees, joins many, many other players who have used steroids. Barry Bonds says he didn’t, Roger Clemens insists he never touched the stuff, Mark McGwire won’t say one way or the other. Andy Pettitt says he did it to help an ailing shoulder or something like that, Jason Giambi joined the (short) list of one who came clean. Com’on, every player probably has tried something or other.

Did Hank Aaron? Probably not. Mickey Mantle? Babe Ruth? Willie Mays? Roger Maris? More than likely not. The pre-steroid list is probably very long. Would they if they could have? We’ll never know, but one thing we do know is that drug-enhancers are taking their toll on the game today. They’re ruining “ America ’s favorite pastime.” Even Barak Obama admits he’s disappointed in Rodriguez.

Our MLB heroes, who are paid million of dollars, way too much in the first place, to hit home runs at an alarming rate, are no longer to be trusted. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Before it became Carl Albert

One of the top junior colleges in LeFlore County , or should I say the only JC in LeFlore County , wasn’t always Carl Albert State College. Before it was Carl Albert, it was called Poteau Community College , or PJC. Some people used to say, “If Poteau had a college, it would be PU.”

Carl Albert’s campus wasn’t where it is now or wasn’t near as nice. It has two-story dorms, an administration office, a library, baseball field, a basketball gym and tennis courts, all the things you would expect a college campus to have. PJC, however, didn’t even have a so-called campus, nor a basketball gym and a baseball field. My first year in college was at PJC in Poteau, when it was housed at Pansy Kidd Junior High! In the back of Pansy Kidd Junior High, no less. Oh, PJC played baseball, but I can’t tell you where the field was, because I never went to a game. And I assume it had basketball and the games were in the old junior high gym, across the street from Sherman Floyd’s house. Coach Floyd was the Poteau High School football coach and his daughter Toni went to PJC, because I knew her as a pretty but chubby-cheeked girl. Yep, Toni and Georgia Kay Ollie, daughter of lumber tycoon George Ollie, were two of the prettiest girls on “campus.”

There wasn’t even a parking lot for students. We parked wherever we could find a place, on the street next to Coach Floyd’s house, by the junior gym, etc. PJC didn’t have a cafeteria, to my knowledge, only a little “hamburger place” across the street from Pansy Kidd Jr. High, where all the junior high kids ate right along with the “junior college” students. There were no dorms, just a few apartments scattered around the neighborhood. The student union was a room where some of us gathered to play cards, dominos, laugh or just have a good time. I don’t even remember any of the teacher’s names, just that I took English, algebra and a few other courses. I worked in the afternoons for Hal Dowden in Babcock & Sons Hobby Shop making trophy bases. That’s how I got through (financially) my first year of college. After a year I left with several A’s, a 3.6 GPA, a pocketful of money. (It was a very small pocket since Hal paid so well), and transferred to Northeastern in Tahlequah. Northeastern was not quite so easy. I sank to a 2.2 and left after a year to join the Air Force to keep from being drafted into the Army.

Now, I understand Carl Albert not only has another campus in Sallisaw, but is ticketed for four-year status next year. My, how times have changed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

High Performance Engines at Chevrolet

The brand new 1963 Chevrolet was running at a leisurely 75 miles/hour and I was on the innermost lane of a three-lane highway with gently banked expressway turns.  Yet, yours truly was nearly white knuckled as I drove.  Why was I so tense?   Because there was a live dynamite cap on each of my four tires! 

I was nearing completion of the Chevrolet Engineering Center driving school and the final test of my skills was to have the onboard instructor touch off one of the caps at some point on the course.  I didn’t know which tire would go or when it would occur.

Prior to making the road speed run I had been on the skidpan.  That was a lot of fun.  The skidpan was a level asphalt area some 500 feet in diameter.  It had been sprayed with a light-weight oil and then wet down with water.  The oil floated to the top and made driving on the pan like driving on melting ice.  There I had been taught the proper techniques for recovering from an inadvertent skid and how to control the automobile in deliberate skids.

Still, all the skidpan practice (at 20 to 30 miles/hour) in the world didn’t quiet my nerves.  There is a world of difference between the skidpan and a 75 miles/hour blowout in a turn!  Finally, the instructor blew one of my tires.  He picked the outside rear which is, contrary to popular lore, the most difficult to control on a rear wheel drive car.  (Front tire blowouts are relatively easy because there is still directional control via the steering wheel.)  The rear end of the car immediately started around to the outside.  I quickly counter steered but still went up track at least a lane and one-half.  The message came through loud and clear.  There is no way to maintain a lane in the event of a rear tire blowout.

I was working in Chevrolet’s Engineering Center in the High Performance Engine Group as a summer graduate engineer under the guidance of the legendary Zora Arkus Duntov, the godfather of the Corvette.  (Most people credit Harley Earl with starting the Corvette line but Duntov was the genius who made it an icon.  He became Chief Engineer on the Corvette a few years after I left to return to graduate school.) 

At the time the Chevrolet Experimental Research Vehicle (CERV) II was being developed in our laboratories.  CERV I had been operational since 1960.  Both these machines made runs on the “drag strip” behind the Center.  I remember seeing Mr. Duntov running at speeds in excess of 140 miles/hour on that strip.  There was no way he could stop the CERV in the short distance beyond the speed trap so he would spin the car 180-degrees and disappear into a cloud of rubber smoke only to come shooting out a second or so later.  I believe the CERV II eventually ran over 200 miles/hour and could do 0-60 in about 3.0 seconds.

My job was to operate a dynamometer stand to test engines.  I had a 600 horsepower eddy current dynamometer that could run as high as 10,000 RPM.  I did both developmental testing and performance proof testing on my dynamometer.  The first production 275 horsepower Corvette engine went across my stand—however, it had no water pump or fan, both of which are power robbers.

All kinds of high performance engines were developed during my sojourn there.  One was an all-aluminum V-8 engine including hardened aluminum cylinders.  It had dual overhead valves with two camshafts per bank.  Because it had one set of pushrods over the top and one underneath each bank, it was a real bear to set the backlash.  The only saving grace was that it used the Chevrolet-introduced stamped rocker arms with a single adjusting nut rather than the older forged arms that required a wrench and a screwdriver.

My favorite engine was a prototype of the 427 cubic inch engine introduced later.  On this engine we had mounted four dual side draft Webers to help the engine get better fuel distribution.  Maximum torque was 550 lb-ft at 4,000 RPM.  We mounted the engine in a “broom peddler’s special” (a very plain looking 1963 Biscayne) and put a Chrysler Torqueflight transmission behind it.  (None of the available GM automatic transmissions could handle the power produced by the engine and most of us couldn’t handle a manual with all that torque available.)  The exhaust system was fitted with a manual cutout that allowed the exhaust to be vented into the cavity behind the front wheels.  We delighted in taking the car out on either Mound Road or Van Dyke Avenue and teasing the local hot rodders.  The distance between stoplights then was on the order of one mile.   We would pull up to a light alongside a likely victim and open the cutouts briefly, signaling we wanted to run against them.  Because it was so much fun to let them think they could outrun us we usually let them stay just in front of us until we reached 60 or 70 miles/hour.  Then, the throttle would be opened and we would go by them with smoke from our tires covering them up.  Remember, this was 1963 and traffic on Mound Road/Van Dyke was not very dense in the late evening hours when we did this.

During this time Chevrolet was actively distancing itself from NASCAR and the other racing worlds so we had to find innovative ways to get field experience on our engines.  We sent some to Mickey Thompson who was trying to get into NASCAR as well as drag racing but he inevitably replaced our pistons with his and they promptly burned in a racing environment.  We put a few into marine dress and sent them to Carl Kiekhaefer (founder of Mercury Marine for you boat lovers) and his Lake X in Florida.  In one of the ocean races to Bermuda the winning boat had two of our 427s.  The amazing thing is that one of the engines broke a prop shaft less than half way out and the boat still won on one engine.

Well, as you can see this was an exciting time for a fledgling engineer less than a month away from his BS.  Add to that the fact that Jessie and I had just gotten married one week before I reported to the job.  The work was great but the living environment was not what this unsophisticated Okie wanted so I returned to graduate school and never went back to Chevrolet.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The C-5A

After being stationed at Hamilton AFB for a year and a half and in Bien Hoa , Viet Nam for a year at the busiest airport in the world, I assumed I had seen and/or refueled every military aircraft there was. But you know what assume does for you. After Viet Nam , I came back to the states and my assignment was to report to Altus AFB in Oklahoma . Wow, I was pleasantly surprised … until I arrived. Once at Altus , I got to see one of the largest airplanes ever (pictured above). And, of course, working in POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) I got to defuel, and defuel and defuel one of the largest planes ever. And, believe me, it takes a while to defuel a C-5A.
Until I arrived at Altus AFB, I never knew airplanes had headlights. (Chuck Hudlow probably did, since he worked in a traffic control tower at a major airport such as DFW), but my house in Altus wasn’t far from the base and one could see forever looking south, because the terrain was so flat. One day, I was standing outside and far in the distance I could see two lights approaching. They continued to get closer and closer.
By the time I realized it was an aircraft it was near landing at the base. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was enormous. Altus AFB was a training site for the Air Force’s newest plane, the C-5A. Before long, I found out how big a C-5A was from up close. Huge doesn’t do it justice. It’s something like six stories high and two football field long and can carry a full squadron and its equipment. I had seen plenty of C-141s in Nam and KC-135s at Hamilton , and they’re big, and even B-52s in Okinawa en route to Nam , but they all paled in comparison to a C-5A. It was so new to the Air Force the bugs hadn’t even been worked out yet. For instance, the landing gear often came down before it was supposed to, tearing up the bottom of the plane, etc. and it was POL’s job to defuel it. The first one I pulled up next to for defueling took several truck loads and easily one entire shift. Night or day. On the nightshift, it got pretty cool standing on the flight line defueling a C-5A. Refueling wasn’t quite as bad.
My stay at Altus was anything but pleasant, although I didn’t have to go back overseas anywhere or do battle in another war. All in all it enabled me to get a discharge with my health and pretty much all my sanity, though that is sometimes debatable. Just ask Cynthia.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Super memories

As I sat through all the Super Bowl pre-game build-up (it started at 10 a.m.) and the game Sunday evening (it started at 5:30 p.m.), I must admit, I was a little saddened by the Arizona Cardinals losing to the Pittsburg Steelers, but I couldn’t help but think back on the previous 42. I was fortunate in my sportswriter days to attend Super Bowls VIII in Houston , IX in New Orleans and XXVIII in Atlanta . I’ve watched them all on television dating back to the first one after I returned back to the states from Viet Nam in 1969. I later got to personally meet Super Bowl I MVP Max McGee. I never dreamed I would get to go to three of them.

Oh, before I forget, when I met McGee I asked him if a scene I saw in the movie involving Vince Lombardi was based on a true event. Lombardi was just taking over the helm of the Green Bay Packers and he stood in front of the Packers, and held up a football, saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football …” McGee, well-known for his pranks, interrupted, “Coach, could you slow down some.” The real McGee said, “Yes, indeed, I had to break up the tension somehow.” From then on I was a Max McGee fan, even though he retired shortly after the game.

Back to the Super Bowls ...

VIII (the 8th one) was in Rice Stadium in Houston . I was able to get two press passes and went with a friend of mine. It was really no problem to obtain press passes in those. The NFL was still begging for the media’s attendance. The Miami Dolphins defeated the Minnesota Vikings that cold and foggy day. Tommy Loy, the trumpeter, provided the halftime entertainment. The next one, IX, in New Orleans ’ Tulane Stadium wasn’t a lot different. Again, my friend Steve Yocum and I went. Press passes were still not hard to come by. The Kansas City Chiefs tripped the Dolphins 24-7. Al Hurt and Doc Severinsen, also trumpeters, were the halftime entertainers. By the time XXVIII (No. 28) rolled around in Atlanta ’s Georgia Dome, the media was out in full force. I was able to only get one press pass and probably half the media had to sit high in the Dome. The Cowboys won, 30-13, over the Buffalo Bills. Country singers Travis Tritt, Clint Black and Tanya Tucker all entertained the crowd at halftime and Natalie Cole sang The Star Spangled Banner. I remember the PA announcer saying a special guest was at the game and he was seated on the 50-yard line. It was Stevie Wonder and I secretly thought to myself “Why? This guy is blind and he has a way better seat than us!” Oh, well, Stevie Wonder was a star and I wasn’t.

When Cynthia and I got married, we hosted Super Bowl parties, being the party animals that we were (tongue firmly in cheek). This year we didn’t host one for the first time. Partied out, I guess. I had watched Super Bowl I in Altus, OK, and there was snow on the ground, but here I was, hosting Super Bowl parties or even being lucky enough to attend a few, such as the one in Georgia in a dome. Yep, I, and the Super Bowl, have come a long way.

Monday, February 2, 2009


The other day Peggy and I were driving to our grandsons basketball game (we have two grandsons who are key players for the Kellyville, Ok Ponies). It was time for the OU-Iowa State game to start but we couldn't find it on the radio so I started listening to a sports talk show instead. The host was former OSU coach Pat Jones and the guy he was talking to (I never heard his name) were talking about the "old days" at Star Spenser High School and some coach that had moved there from Heavener, Ok named Carl Twidwell. The guy who had called in to the show went on to start bragging on the Assistant Coach Twidwell hired who also was from Heavener named John Tatum who had just graduated from OU where he had played center for the Sooners. He described how Coach Tatum had worked with his brother who made "All-State" and was named the "defensive player of the year" that year . Coach Jones mentioned that he remembered both of the former coaches from Heavener and Twidwell's sporting goods store named "TWIDS". It was neat to listen to them talk about two men that had been part of my own life some 50 years or so ago. Goose, if you're "listening"; who was that player that you molded into an "all-state" star at Star Spencer?