What did you do last weekend?
Maybe you mowed the lawn on your zero turn, or went camping with the family, or ventured out to Alex Box Stadium for some postseason baseball — albeit disappointing baseball as we now know.
As much enjoyment as I am sure you had, I seriously doubt it was as unique as the four-day weekend I experienced. Why?
That’s because last Friday night I hung out in a small hotel conference room filled with my favorite candy bars, with a man wearing white gloves holding up a 110-year-old trophy.
Does that sentence make you perplexed? Maybe intrigued? Or possibly a little worried about my personal lifestyle?
Probably all of the above, but not to worry I assure it was completely legal and not a cut scene from a Stanley Kubrick movie.
The hotel room scene mentioned above is associated with the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame’s 60th induction ceremony this past weekend in downtown Natchitoches.
This year’s tremendous class featured a 1,000-win and counting high school basketball coach, a grass-eating comical college football coach, a salt-of-the-Earth rodeo cowboy from Vernon Parish, a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who loves yelling “Omaha” and a longtime and respected journalist who befriended this particular writer nearly two decades ago.
From start to finish it was a sensational weekend — as it always is.
The festivities kicked off Thursday with an introductory press conference inside the state-of-the-art museum located on Front Street.
Each inductee, sans Peyton Manning who would arrive on Friday, took a few moments to answer questions and each one provided a few gems.
Trailblazing tennis official and former school teacher Marie Gagnard, when asked the difference between elementary school students and tennis players, said, “They both have similar issues. You just have to deal with them in separate ways.”
There was T. Berry Porter, the state’s first professional rodeo cowboy inductee and at age 92 — the oldest inductee ever, describing his time in college with the following statement. “I went to LSU for a quarter and got smart and quit. I went to McNeese for a year and didn’t get smart so I quit.”
Porter’s quip about higher education drew laughter, but not as much as former Louisiana Tech quarterback and Canadian Football League Hall of Famer Matt Dunigan, who said about his love for throwing a football, “I always liked throwing things. Unfortunately for Louisiana Tech fans I was throwing things to the other team.”
Iconic Southern University baseball coach Roger Cador, five-time volleyball Olympian Danielle Scott, Louisiana Tech longtime radio broadcaster Dave Nitz, LSU All-American football player Max Fugler and longtime Peabody Magnet head boys basketball coach Charles Smith all delivered poignant remarks about life lessons, coaching and the bond of sports.
As did Manning, who on Friday, after the bowling event in nearby Alexandria and before the free concert featuring Wayne Toups among others, talked about the parenting style of his famous father Archie and how the former Saint never lived vicariously through his kids.
“My dad’s rule was we had to ask for his help,” Manning said. “Whether it was hitting grounders or throwing passes or shooting hoops, we had to ask him, ‘Will you come with us?’ We were coming to him. That’s a healthy approach.” Manning added, “You have to be careful pushing, pushing, pushing and the kid says this isn’t fun anymore. I’m very grateful for my family’s support and look forward to them being here (Saturday) night.”
For me, though, the quote that touched me more than the others was from Distinguished Service Award winner Philip Timothy, who has mentored yours truly and many others, for nearly 20 years.
When asked why he hadn’t stepped foot in the museum, which opened its doors in its new location in 2013, Timothy had this to say.
“This is the first time I’ve been in this building, and I don’t know why. Here I am, the one who nudged it along, but this is the first time I’ve come into this building. I didn’t think it was for me. It was for the athletes, the great sports heroes of this state.”
It was also designed to have room in its halls for individuals like Timothy, and others that served as titans of sports journalism in our state. Names like Dan McDonald, Bob Tompkins and Glenn Quebedeaux, to name a couple.
The weekend concluded with the induction ceremony Saturday night inside the Natchitoches Event Center, which was filled with plenty of laughter and heartfelt emotion.
Les Miles poked fun at Manning guest and former Tennessee head coach Philip Fulmer and showed the audience how to perform his trademark hand clap.
Smith was brought to tears numerous times while talking about his parents and the impact they had on his life. Dunigan received applause after talking about how much love he had for Louisiana because that is where he met and married a Louisiana girl.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say bravo to everyone behind the scenes of making the live telecast work, but also kudos to master of ceremonies Teddy Allen and 2018 DSA Award Winner Lyn Rollins, who interviewed each HOFer on stage, for doing a sensational job.
Cudos to Allen for getting Cador and Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway, daughter of HOFer Hollis Conway, to perform “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the ceremony.
And what about the man in white gloves and that trophy?
Oh yeah. That was the actual Grey Cup — the trophy of the winner of the CFL championship. The CFL sent the Grey Cup down for the weekend due to two-time champion Dunigan being inducted. You could get your picture taken with the trophy at the museum but somehow it arrived in the LSWA Hospitality Suite on Friday night. How? Well, longtime LSWA member, and past president, Lori Lyons’ husband ran into the two gentlemen in charge of the cup in his hotel lobby and convinced them to bring the cup to the suite which is typically stocked with snacks and beverages. The two fine men from the Great White North obliged and more photos were taken.
As amazing as the weekend was there will be another one next year — so if you didn’t get a chance to be part of the record-sellout crowd this past weekend then you can do so in 2020. But you don’t have to wait until next June to learn more about our state’s proud sports history.
Just take a drive north on I-49 and go visit the museum yourself and make a weekend of it — it will be a memorable one, I promise. Even if it you don’t get your photo taken with the Grey Cup.