Thanksgiving greetings from the Bahamas.
OK, go ahead. Make your comments, but whether you believe it or not, I am taking one for the team being here with the women’s basketball team.
Obviously, the blog won’t be at War Memorial Stadium tomorrow for the LSU game.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be thinking about the game, and what that once meant in the family.
They’ll haul out The Boot at WMS Friday afternoon, and the winner will take home that massive trophy (seriously, try to pick it up by yourself – wait, maybe that should be our unofficial tryout test for prep lineman).
Once upon a time, it wasn’t about a gold-plated trinket.
It was a blood rivalry. I should know. I lived in a house divided.
My dad was from Winnsboro, La., and my mother from Arkansas City, Ark. They knew the game when it occasionally took place at Fair Grounds Stadium in Shreveport. Today, you’d know that as Independence Stadium.
Growing up, I had this old football that I beat the tar out of, scuffing it on the asphalt road outside the house in pick-up street games. That was before the days of rec league organized 7-on-7. By the time I was in junior high, that ball’s single white marking – a rectangle on one side – was almost worn off. The leather was slick, except where it was scared. The long laces were long gone, only the cross laces were left.
That, and this single, three-letter brand just above the inflation hole.
One day, I asked where that ball came from. Oh, your dad got it from Billy. He got it for you when you were a baby.
Um, you mean I’ve been playing pick-up with an LSU game ball from Billy Cannon?
Yeah, I think so, my mom replied.
See, dad did hang out with the LSU players a bit. For a short period of time, he said he had Cannon’s Heisman Trophy behind his bar. You know, just like the scene in Everybody’s All-American. Said he gave it back after a while, because he just didn’t feel right about keeping it. Good family story, but I think there may be more to it.
So dad provided the football. Aunts provided the nickname – guess, it won’t be that hard – but Maw-Maw made the lasting impression.
She taught me the hog call. My mother’s mother was a school teacher in the true one-room school marm mode. She lived across the street from one-building Arkansas City School – 1st through 12th there for a while – and her life was teaching youngsters in the delta to keep their fingernails clean and to spell with precision.
There was a lot of Arkansas pride in that half of the family. A single mother a good part of her life, Maw-Maw had a worn down class ring. You could barely make out the details later in life, but she’d gotten her teacher’s degree at Arkansas A&M. Yes, she was a Boll Weevel, but the stone in the center of her class ring – Razorback red.
Mom spent a little time at UAM, but she headed south to the big city of Monroe early on – its hard to picture at times what a magnet the town was to south Arkansas and northeast Louisiana. She was always proud of her one son, but even more so when he went to work 20 years ago in Fayetteville.
Not unlike all those mothers who will walk the concourse of War Memorial Friday, with their buttons proclaiming “My Son is” with a jersey number or “Band Mom,” she had that special feeling of a daughter of the soil who sent her child off to serve the state.
Tomorrow will be particularly special for those handful of parents who see their children making their final appearances in the Cardinal and White — from those in helmets to those in cheer skirts; from those carrying sousaphones to those toting athletic tape.
Tomorrow is the last day of this football season. Enjoy it for every bit that it’s worth.
Oh, and one more thing.