Kaz’s Korner

Joe Kazmar – For The Record

I remember arriving in Lake Charles, Louisiana in early September of 1959, a fuzzy-faced 17-year-old from Upstate New York who had a difficult time understanding the Cajuns speaking English and also getting my McNeese State classmates to interpret my Yankee dialect.

The more people I met in the Lake Charles area, the more confused I got as to why they were LSU football fans instead of talking much about supporting the McNeese Cowboys’ football team, which was pretty good in its own right.

But as time went on, I got to understand that the LSU Tiger football team was almost like a religion in Southern Louisiana.

The further east I traveled in Louisiana, the tougher it was to understand the English language spoken by the Cajun residents in those small communities, especially those along some of the many bayous that decorated that region of the state.

But the one common denominator those hard-working natives knew was that on Saturday everybody grabbed their portable radios and tuned in to the “Ellesshue” football game.

I enjoyed catching a ride to Wildcat Stadium on the Lake Charles High School campus on Saturday nights where McNeese played their home football games.

But the weirdest thing I remember most vividly was that more than half of the McNeese fans had radios held up tightly to their ear listening to the LSU game.

There wouldn’t be much action happening in the McNeese game when a deafening roar would go up in the stadium, which I quickly found out meant LSU had either scored or the Chinese Bandits had caused a turnover.

One incident I’ll always remember about that defending national championship 1959 LSU team was that three days after my 18th birthday, on Halloween night, the undefeated No. 1 Tigers were playing No. 3 Ole Miss before a packed stadium in Baton Rouge.

Ole Miss was leading 3-0 with 10 minutes left in the game when they, instead of punting out-of-bounds like they intended, kicked to Billy Cannon who utilized his 9.4 speed and went untouched into the end zone with an 89-yard touchdown that gave LSU a dramatic 7-3 victory.

Unfortunately, LSU lost the following week to Tennessee and Ole Miss avenged that Halloween Night loss by blanking the Tigers 21-0 in the Sugar Bowl, but had to share the national championship with Syracuse that year. Billy Cannon won the 1959 Heisman Trophy and went on to become a doctor after his pro career was over.

What made that first year at McNeese such an exciting one for LSU football was that there was no NFL team in Louisiana until 1966 when the league gave New Orleans a franchise.

But even after the Saints came into existence, the hunger for LSU football never waned, until last week when Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards claimed “a massive financial shortfall might threaten the most sacred of Louisiana rituals: LSU football,” according to last Friday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.

“Should the state’s public universities run out of money this spring or summer, Edwards vowed in a speech televised across the state ‘You can say farewell to college football next fall and student-athletes would be ineligible to play next semester. I don’t say this to scare you, but I’m going to be honest with you,” the article continued.

Edwards’ speech about no more LSU football was probably an attention-getter more than anything, because he is pushing for nearly a billion dollars in new taxes by June to make up for the budget shortfall.

“It’s hard to imagine an empty Tiger Stadium on a crisp October Saturday thanks to the state’s inability to raise enough funds on other fronts in coming months,” the article concluded.

KWICKIES…The Houston Astros are looking to improve on last year’s team that came within six outs of defeating the World Champion Kansas City Royals in the American League playoffs. Of the 11 players to see the field in half of last season’s games , only third baseman Luis Valbuena was as old as 29. When the Astros went to the World Series in 2005, seven of the 12 position players who appeared in half the games were at least 29 years old. And that didn’t include 37-year old Jeff Bagwell who played in just 39 games.

Danny Hamlin’s win by .010 over Martin Truex, Jr. in Sunday’s Daytona 500 was the closest margin of victory in the auto race’s history. Both drivers were racing in Toyotas which was the winning car for the first time in the great American Race.

Former NFL running back Joseph Randle, who chose to be a criminal rather than a Dallas Cowboy, did his specialty again last weekend when he was arrested in Wichita, Kan. on charges of battery, drug possession and criminal damage court records show. It was the 24-year-old Randle’s fifth arrest in the past 17 months.

Bubba Watson made birdies on No. 16 and 17 and closed with a three-under par 68 Sunday to win the Northern Trust Open at Los Angeles. Watson trailed Jason Kokrak by two shots with four holes to play before rallying to win his ninth PGA Tour event by one stroke. It was Watson’s second victory in three years at Riviera.

The Lamar Cardinals will open their 2016 football season with a home game against FCS powerhouse Coastal Carolina Sept. 3. Coastal Carolina has made the FCS playoffs in each of the past four seasons and is in its final season of its transition out of FCS and into FBS.

And while on the topic of Lamar, the Cardinal baseball team got Head Coach Jim Gilligan’s final season started on the right foot by sweeping Southeast Missouri State in a three-game series last weekend at Vincent Beck Stadium in Beaumont. The Redbirds used a pair of 2-1 victories in the first two games before winning 5-2 Sunday.

JUST BETWEEN US…Belated congrats to West Orange –Stark Mustangs Steven Tims and Jack Dallas for winning the Willie Ray Smith Awards last week. Tims, a senior, was voted the area’s top high school defensive football player while junior Jack Dallas garnered the honor of being the area’s top offensive player for the 2015 season. The choices had to be quite easy for the panel as these two also won the exact same awards after the Mustangs won the state championship in mid-December.