Ted Lewis: A lost weekend
By Ted Lewis
Friday, 09/02, 3:30 p.m.
This was a weekend I’d really been looking forward to.
Friday celebrating the publication of our preseason college and pro football sections and later having lunch with LSU chancellor Sean O’Keefe and athletic director Skip Bertman along with our sports editor David Meeks, LSU beat writers William Kalec and Jim Kleinpeter and the venerable Peter Finney.
Saturday witnessing Les Miles’ debut as the Tigers’ coach against North Texas.
Sunday watching Tulane at Southern Miss on TV while doing the first Monday Morning Quarterback of the season.
Monday viewing Ed Orgeron’s debut at Ole Miss against Memphis in the afternoon before topping things off with the Florida State-Miami game.
For a college football writer it just doesn’t get much better than that.
Now I find myself at my sister’s home in Jackson, Tenn., watching the you-can’t-turn-away-from never-ending agony of New Orleans and the rest of the region while trying to decide whether to try to return Slidell on Saturday to locate my wife’s aunt whom we left behind in a nursing home and to check on the damage on our house.
Of the former, we feel confident that she is OK. Of the latter, we already know we are far-more fortunate than the majority of those in the area.
And above all, wife, son, mother-in-law and three dogs are safe. For that, we will be eternally grateful.
But we also know that just like everyone else in the area – basically the entire country for that matter – that our lives are forever changed.
Funny how a week ago my biggest worry was whether or not to remain a voting member of the Harris Interactive College Football poll because I didn’t like the way it was headed.
Now it’s contemplating a future with far too many uncertainties and far too few bright spots other than realizing how much the love and support of family and friends really means.
I’m not usually an overly emotional person, but Monday night, searching for the news on the radio I happened on Alan Jackson singing “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” I cried like a baby.
On Tuesday, I interviewed persons from our area who were being sheltered in a local church, the one, it turns out, my sister and her family attended.
The local Red Cross director cautioned me about not violating the privacy of the ones there. But they wanted to talk.
One man from Metairie asked me to put out information about his missing daughters whose names he had tattooed on his chest. I gave him my card and asked him to call me if he heard anything. So far, he hasn’t.
Another family of 38 from St. Bernard who knew their homes had been probably washed away by flood waters amazed me with the resilience and resolve to rebuild.
“Things are going to turn out OK,” Melvin Richard told me. “This is America.”
I cried again that day.
But this is supposed to be a college football column, one called Tailgating. What a frivolous activity that sounds like right now.
College football is going on, however.
Steve Spurrier made a successful return to the college sideline Thursday as his South Carolina Gamecocks defeated Central Florida 24-15.
Closer to home, Louisiana-Monroe blew a 23-0 halftime lead against Northwestern State, losing, 27-23. Naturally, I had picked the Indians.
Around the rest of the country today, football will proceed pretty much as normal. Southern California begins its quest for an unprecedented third straight national championship at Hawaii. Texas, our preseason pick for No. 1, plays host to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Funny, nobody felt it appropriate to play on the weekend after 9/11.
Tulane’s season is hanging by a thread. LSU will find it difficult playing host to a game as long as the area around Tiger Stadium is being used a staging area for relief operations as well as a field hospital and temporary morgue.
As LSU receiver Skyler Green said so well, “You don’t want people partying and tailgating with what’s going on around the PMAC.”
Beyond that, it’s impossible to see events like the Sugar Bowl and Bayou Classic being played in the Superdome this season. The future of those events as well as those others that have made New Orleans a big-time sports venue is up in the air.
In the scheme of things, those may seem like minor concerns. But when it’s the current focus of your career, they loom large in my mind.
My friends and family love to kid me about how I am a creature of habit who loves to plan stories and the like months in advance based on the schedule of events I might be covering.
Now things seem to change hourly.
How we’ll be handling this column for the rest of the year is unknown. When your sports editor is in New Orleans covering the aftermath of Katrina it’s a little difficult to have meetings to discuss the matter.
In fact, as many of you reading this must know, one fallout of Katrina is that it’s been almost impossible to receive cell phone calls.
But Thursday, for the first time since Monday, mine rang.
It was a representative from Harris Interactive informing me I would be getting a Fed-Ex package of material on voting procedures next week.
I had to give her a change of address.
It was the only laugh I’ve had this week.
Ted Lewis can be contacted at email@example.com or (504) 232-5071.