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“I wouldn’t go to war with you people. You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”

—Donald J. Trump, commander-in-chief, aka Gen. Bone Spurs, speaking in The Tank, a fortified room at the Pentagon, to military leaders, including Sec. of Defense Gen. Jim Mattis, July 20, 2017.

 

“You’re all losers. You don’t know how to win anymore. I want to win. We don’t win any wars anymore.”

—Same Donald J. Trump, same motivational meeting, same date. Bone spurs obviously acting up that day, causing uncharacteristic grumpiness.

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“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

—Lyndon B. Johnson, 1960.

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I’m part of a little group (usually four to six people) that meets once a month for an extended lunch and to share opinions on just about anything that comes up—from LSU football to the Louisiana Legislature to world events.

The only subject that is probably off the table is the British Royal Family because…well, because none of us really give a flying fig about Harry and Meghan other than what they choose to do with their lives is their business and we should leave ‘em the hell alone.

Being of similar backgrounds, there is rarely any real disagreement among us and one of the strongest points on which most of us concur is the consensus that the Democrats are doing everything in their power to re-elect Donald Trump.

If the rest of America is anything like our little klatch, and I suspect it is, then folks are getting bone-weary of these so-called debates between candidates for the Democratic nomination for President. I mean, how much yaw-yawing is too much? Truth be told, that saturation point was probably reached some time ago.

It makes no sense whatsoever for the Democrats to constantly beat themselves up over who has the best plan for free college tuition or better health care, who supported the Iraqi war, or who took donations at a wine cave while ignoring the elephant in the room in the person of Donald J. Trump.

Did they not learn a thing from four years ago when a gaggle of Republicans made the same mistake, thereby leaving the door open for Trump, who was savvy enough to press all the hot buttons of his minority base? By the time they realized their mistake, it was too late.

While the other candidates were squabbling like a barnyard full of dominecker chickens, Trump was telling a crowd at a campaign rally in North Dakota, “I will give you everything…I’m the only one.”

And it worked to such an astounding degree of success that he was actually able to claim in an Iowa rally, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” And he was right.

If the Democrats were smart—and so far, not one of the candidates has exhibited any hint of possessing any such trait—they would learn from Trump that you win not by putting the best plan for prosperity, peace and the general well-being of Americans on the table, but by appealing to the lowest common denominator among the voting masses.

Marx and Lenin did it. So did Hitler and Mussolini. And so did Trump.

So, having established the lessons not learned from history, here is my suggestion for a path to victor next November for the Democrats:

Out-Trump Trump.

Instead of haggling about how we are going to pay for eliminating student debt or provide better health care and lower drug prices, go after Trump’s base on Trump’s terms.

Here’s how:

With Tom Steyer or Michael Bloomberg (forget the other candidates, these two are the only ones smart enough or rich enough to pull this off) leading the way, make outlandish promises not unlike Trump’s crazy-as-a-bedbug claim that Mexico would pay for his wall.

No one listens to unrealistic promises of free college tuition, free health care, lower drug prices, or green energy. That’s crazy talk and the Democrats need to ramp it up and talk even crazier.

They could effectively go after Trump’s base and cut him off at the knees by promising:

  • Lifetime passes to all NASCAR races. That alone negates the Republican’s so-called Southern Strategy.
  • Free huntin’ club memberships. Huntin’ clubs are expensive and this appeals to voters’ pocketbooks.
  • National fishin’ holidays once a month.
  • Lifetime, paid-up membership to the NRA and free admission to all gun shows. Nothing like a strong Second Amendment plank in your platform to reap millions of votes.
  • More double-wide trailer parks. There’s nothing like moving up from a single-wide to a double-wide to achieve real social status.
  • The Confederate flag would fly alongside the American flag at all public events.
  • Finally, more free-admission swimming pools for those double-wide parks, segregated, of course—no Blacks, no Hispanics, no Jews, no Islamics and no gays.

Poof! There goes 80-85% of Trump’s base. That would probably net the candidate at least 400 electoral votes (270 needed to win) and 40 states.

Of course, while these promises are being made, the candidate is simultaneously winking at Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Banks, and Big Business, assuring them that nothing will change at all. America will continue to send its young men to die for politicians’ wars in support of the military-industrial complex.

And the lobbyists and special interests who pour millions into the political campaigns are secure in the knowledge that pie-in-the-sky promises, like records, are made to be broken— no more reliable than a Hollywood marriage. And, of course, it doesn’t matter that promises are not kept—so long as the candidate keeps insisting they were, his core base will believe him.

But a rock-solid formula for success nonetheless.

 

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“Oh, are you happy you voted for me? You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege.”

—Donald Trump, speech to the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention, Jan. 8, 2018.

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A lot of years have passed since I last covered a sporting event for a newspaper. I began my career 55 years ago as sports editor of the Ruston Daily Leader before moving on to the Monroe Morning World as a general assignment reporter, leaving the sports editing duties to one Orville K. “Buddy” Davis, who would hold on to that position for the next half-century before his passing last summer.

As the sole staffer for the Ruston Bureau of the Morning World and Shreveport Times (both owned by the Ewing family at the time), I had the privilege of covering Louisiana Tech games during the Terry Bradshaw and Kenny Lantrip eras, Grambling State University and Eddie Robinson, and Ruston High School during legendary Hoss Garrett’s last years as coach of the Bearcats. I later did a few Tech games during the Bulldogs’ national championship year when I was reporting for the Baton Rouge State-Times. Baton Rouge’s Denny Duron was the quarterback of that team. I also covered a few Southern University games during that time and got to cover Grambling’s Doug Williams against the Jags in the very first Bayou Classic in old Tulane Stadium.

After that, it was covering a few high school games for the Denham Springs News on a part time basis. So, yes, it’s been a while since I set foot in a press box. And I would never be so presumptuous as to try to pass myself off as some kind of expert. Far from it. I’m far more knowledgeable about the nuances of baseball.

But I’ve retained enough knowledge of football to know when I’ve seen the greatest college team ever assembled and the consensus around Baton Rouge has already bestowed that honor on the 2019 National Champion LSU Tigers—a consensus with which I am in full agreement.

Never before—at Nebraska, ‘Bama, Miami, or any other school—has everything come together to assemble the perfect cast as it did in 2019 in Death Valley, aka Tiger Stadium. Just look at the cluster of awards this team reaped—from coaching and individual awards to SEC champions and, of course, the Heisman Trophy and National Championship. I mean, who’d a thunk anyone could run up 63 points on fourth-ranked Oklahoma?

Now there’s only one task remaining for this team: retire jersey number 9.

That has to be done. No debate. I’m a big fan of Bert Jones, having covered his high school career in my hometown of Ruston and having followed him as he quarterbacked a run-oriented offense at LSU (I was at the game when he dismantled the Archie Manning-led Rebels of Ole Miss but not among the 700,000 or so who claim to have been in Tiger Stadium on Halloween night in ’59 when Billy Cannon clinched the Heisman with that 89-yard punt return against the Rebels—I was, however, glued to my transistor radio and hear J.C. Politz’s call of the entire game, right down to the final tackle made by Warren Rabb and Cannon to stop Ole Miss on the LSU one yard line to preserve a heart-stopping 7-3 win).

And as great as Bert was, there has never been a quarterback like Joe Burrow. Has there ever been a player who carried himself any better and projected a better image that Burrow? And let’s not forget his performance on the field. I mean, a 76.3 percent completion record, for goodness sake. That’s not even fair. And 5671 passing yards and 61 passing touchdowns? C’mon! That Horatio Alger stuff. Nobody does that.

To give you an idea, let’s compare the only other undefeated national champion in LSU history—the 1958 Billy Cannon tigers, the year before Cannon won the Heisman.

Passing: In 2019, Burrow completed 402 of 527 passes for those 5671 yards and 61 TDs to go with 6 interceptions. In 1958, quarterback Warren Rabb of the White Team completed 45 of 90 (50%) for a whopping 505 yards, 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Go Team (remember, in those years, LSU had the Go Team that played only offense, the Chinese Bandits who played only defense, and the White Team that played both ways) quarterback Durel Matherne was 9 of 38 (24%) for 160 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. As a team, the ’58 Tigers completed 61 of 141 passes (43.7%) for 713 yards for 10 scores and 8 interceptions.

When you add backup Myles Brennan’s 24 of 40 (60%) for another 353 yards, a touchdown and an interception, you have a 2019 team total of 426 of 567 (75.1%) for 61 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions.

Granted, the ’58 stats were for only 10 games (the 7-0 Sugar Bowl win over Clemson was not included) and the 2019 totals were for all 15 games.

So, to be fair, we’ll lop off a third of the 2019 totals and compare the two that way to get a better picture.

For a hypothetical 10-game schedule, LSU completed 285 of 380 passes (75%) for 4016 yards, 40 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Top receivers for the ’58 team included Cannon (9 catches for 162 yards and one touchdown), Johnny Robinson (14 for 205 yards and no scores), Billy Hendrix (8 for 84 yards and three touchdowns), and Mickey Mangham (6 for 98 yards, 2 scores).

For the 2019 Team, with full season stats first, followed by figures pro-rated to a 10-game schedule: Ja’Marr Chase (84 receptions for 1780 yards, 20 touchdowns/62 catches, 1200 yards, 12 scores); Justin Jefferson (111 catches, 1540 yards, 18 scores/75 for 1000 yards, 12 scores); Terrace Marshall, Jr. (46 for 671 yards, 13 scores/32, 440, 18).

Of course, back in the day, schools relied more on the running game than passing. Paul Dietzel did at LSU. So did Johnny Vaught at Ole Miss. So, let’s check out those numbers (spoiler alert: you’re going to be in for something of a surprise).

That ’58 national champion team rushed 479 times in 10 regular season games for 1966 yards and 31 touchdowns.

In 2019, LSU rushed 513 times in 15 games for 2502 yards and 32 scores. Pro rate that to 10 games, and the 2019 Tigers rushed only 344 times for 1676 yards and 21 scores. That comparison actually gives the edge to the ’58 Tigers in the rushing game.

In ’58, Cannon rushed 115 times for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns (the following year, when he won the Heisman Trophy, he rushed 139 times for 598 yards and 5 touchdowns); Robinson ran the ball 86 times for 480 yards and 5 scores. Fullback Red Brodnax ran 43 times for 134 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Compare that to the 2019 Tigers who were led by Clyde Edwards-Helaire who ran the ball 215 times for 1414 yards and 16 scores (a pro-rated 10-game performance of 144 rushes for 947 yards and 10 touchdowns); Burrow with 115 rushes for 368 yards and 5 scores (77 for 245 yards and 3 scores), and Tyrion Davis-Price (64 for 285 yards and 6 scores (42 for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns).

Another stat, hidden from all but the most avid football junkies, is the fact that Dietzel (and Vaught, for that matter) consistently punted on third and long situations. Rather than risk a pass interception, they would rather turn the game over to their defenses. Punting on third down would tend to blunt any real comparison between the two teams.

All of which brings into sharp focus that the game has changed so dramatically that any comparison between the two eras is pure folly. If you’re punting on third down, what did that do for individual stats for such luminaries as Cannon and Robinson?

The only real point in running such a comparison as this is just for the fun of it. They prove nothing. It’s a different game today, far more sophisticated, more scientific, more, to be sure, a big business as opposed to a sport. Cannon and Robinson were never drilled into the surface of Tiger Stadium by some 350-pound behemoth. Today, that’s a common occurrence.

But back to my original point—the retirement of Burrow’s jersey.

It’s for certain that it’s going to happen. How could it not? It would be the biggest oversight in LSU sports history not to do so.

But it’s going to happen. The question is where and when?

It’s not likely he would be available next fall since he will be playing for the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, making the scheduling of a special event rather tricky.

How about this: the LSU Spring Game later this year? He would be available for the event. Tiger Stadium would be filled to capacity and it would be his and LSU fans’ final Hurrah to a season the university likely will never see again.

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