We celebrated with our colleagues in print and media at 61st Annual Press Club of New Orleans Excellence in Journalism Awards Gala on Saturday downtown at the NOPSI hotel. Awards were doled out the city’s best and Joe Duke and the late Frank Donze were given lifetime achievement awards. It was a beautiful night in New Orleans. In that spirit I’ve decided to create and hand out a few of my own awards. So, slap on your best evening wear, pour yourself a cocktail and enjoy the show.
The “It’s Way Too Early To Get This Excited” Award
How quickly can a training camp change the perception of a new player. The latest example in this old tradition is the Saints undrafted wide receiver Emmanuel Butler. The former Northern Arizona Lumberjack has set Who Dat Nation abuzz with some eye-opening catches in training camp. Butler set school records for yardage and touchdown receptions at Northern Arizona but went undrafted after being invited to the NFL Combine.
The Saints obviously need better receiver play out of anybody not named Michael Thomas so it’s easy to see why everyone is so excited. There’s nothing like having a stud player magically fall into your lap but let’s hold off on anointing this kid. Oh, who am I kidding? Butler is awesome! He’s going to make the Saints offense unstoppable! We’re GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL!
On awards night I was bellied up to the bar during the tailgate. Sure, the Press Club called it a cocktail hour but it, in my mind, it was a tailgate. I was drinking fabulous cocktails supplied by Porchjam Distilling and floating on a wave of martinis thinking about how the Press Club Awards just keeps getting better and better.
Steady improvement is the name of the game for Tulane’s fall sports teams as well. Sweet segue, Mark. Anyway, Tulane’s women’s volleyball is coming off a record-setting year that saw the club go 29-9 and make it to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, where they lost to Iowa State.
The volleyball squad, led by coach Jim Barnes, will return a strong roster led by seniors Kaylie McHugh and Erika Hansel. To add even more spice, the Green Wave welcome their second nationally ranked recruiting class in a row. Keep an eye out for this club, New Orleans.
Higher expectations will be the name of the game on the gridiron as well as coach Willie Fritz enters his fourth year with a team picked to finish third behind Houston and Memphis in the AAC West. I promise you, Fritz isn’t interested in another Cure Bowl. This man loves to build and achieve greater success. The foundation he’s built is solid and seeks greater rewards.
The Olive and Blue get Houston at home, Sept. 19, this year looking to avenge last year’s awful performance. Tulane will travel to Memphis on Oct. 19 looking to beat the Tigers back-to-back for the first time since 1998.
If A Tree Falls In The Woods Award
I was going to invoke the bear in the woods joke but, in honor of the Press Club Awards, I’ll try to keep it classy.
So, if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? Or locally, if a minor league baseball team keeps winning in front of empty seats do they make a town happy? Well, for the Baby Cakes AAA incarnation that ship has sailed, as the team will locate to Nowhere, U.S.A. next year aka Wichita, Kansas. Yet, you have to give the team credit, as they are 55-50 on the year, which is pretty impressive considering they are tied to the perennial cellar dwelling Miami Marlins.
The Baby Cakes’ Hector Noesi is having a stellar year for the ball club. The veteran, once the second-highest paid player in Korean baseball, has gone 11-4 with a 3.61 ERA with a career-high 128 strikeouts. If you like going out to the ball park and peanuts and Cracker Jacks head out to the Shrine as, currently, there are no plans for a team to play ball there next year.
Life Is More Important Than Sports Award
If you know me, you know that I’m not the sports fanatic I once was and don’t let sports get in the way of real life. Sure, if you call and want to go see a movie on a Sunday afternoon when the Saints are playing, I’m going to laugh at you but I hope you get the picture.
I love what sports can do for communities and the players involved especially when it is an inspiring story like the one of Devon Gales, a former Southern University player who was paralyzed in 2015 during a football game versus the Georgia Bulldogs.
Think about all that you have done in the last four years. You’ve worked, loved and gone on vacations. During that span of time, Gales has had to give up playing a sport he loved, adjusted to life in a wheel chair and countless hours of rehab. That’s a tough road, folks.
Thankfully, he’s a tough kid and now has returned to the game of football as an assistant coach of the Jefferson High Dragons, who are located just down the road from Athens, Georgia. The Jefferson and Georgia Bulldogs’ communities have already responded by raising money to build an accessible house for Devon’s family.
Do yourself and read all about Devon and his trials and accomplishments. It’s easy to point out what’s wrong with sports so take the time to read about the positive impact that sports can have as well. Peace.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Second Line Brewing’s “Yeah U Ripe” Peach Ale
Playlist Recommendation: A Tribe Called Quest – “Award Tour”
Around the Way
And the winner of the Let’s Make Mark Spencer Happy Award goes to…the New Orleans Saints AFTER they sign Michael Thomas. Get it done, Loomis! There are Super Bowls on the line!