ARCHIVE LIBRARY

A HALL OF A HOLIDAY PLAN, DASHED

by Doug Ireland

Santa was bummed.

Hearing about the postponement of the 2020 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Celebration – again – had Saint Nick not so jolly.

It was one thing when the original dates were abandoned, a coronavirus-driven call on May 14 that shelved plans for the traditional end-of-June (June 25-27) induction festivities. Those didn’t involve Santa at all.

But when organizers came up with the new plan, for Dec. 15-17, smack dab in the middle of the Natchitoches Christmas Festival season, the big bearded fellow perked up. He takes up residence right on the banks for the Cane River and greets children throughout the countdown to his Dec. 24 duties.

So, since Santa was going to be right there, why, of course he volunteered to add holiday cheer to what promised to be a uniquely charming celebration of Louisiana sports legends, bathed in the glow of Christmas lights the likes they had never seen.

It seemed such a perfect way to make amends for delaying the summer festivities. Those mid-December dates looked solid. The NCAA was backing up the start of basketball season to Nov. 25. The Southeastern Conference set its football championship game for Dec. 19. Those plans were presumably made based on encouraging forecasts for a less Covid-constricted holiday season.

But as ESPN’s Lee Corso says, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Election Day, Nov. 3, came and passed. One thing was obvious — not who was going to be occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years, but that Covid-19 was not bound by the whims of political strategists.

After weeks of hearing extremists on both sides promise they would leave the country if their candidate didn’t win – one map-challenged lady said she was moving to Hawaii – we’re not seeing the exodus yet. We probably won’t, not even after the Electoral College makes its call.

Vaccines are happening, just not fast enough to blunt November’s cruel coronavirus surge. Our state held off the ugly trend longer than nearly anyplace else, but before Thanksgiving got here, the numbers stacked up the wrong direction. 

Just a week after induction organizers received direct indications that the last thing Gov. Edwards planned to do was to throttle back from Phase 3, the West Point-trained leader had White House and CDC statistics forcing his hand. The announcement on Tuesday before Thanksgiving had plenty of angry people calling him a turkey, and worse.

Part of the protocols curtailed attendance at indoor events, other than church services, to a maximum of 75 people. Sports is akin to religion to many in Louisiana, but it doesn’t fit the legal definition, not even if LSU wins the national championship (happened in 2020, BTW) or the Saints are Super Bowl champs (looking rather realistic, isn’t it?). 

For the LSHOF’s Induction Celebration, the only still-feasible event was the Rockin’ Riverfest concert and fireworks show presented by Rapides Regional Medical Center on Wednesday night, Dec. 16 on the Rue Beauport stage next to Cane River, and just down the way from Santa’s house. Outdoors restrictions aren’t so severe.

Grammy-winning Zydeco artist Wayne Toups had joined Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs for a riverbank concert Nov. 20, honoring health care heroes. They were coming back for the Hall’s big party. 

And hopefully, they’ll be available when the third set of induction dates are announced sometime sooner than later, for three days in the first quarter-or-so in 2021. The mission of LSHOF Foundation CEO Ronnie Rantz, the event’s director, is to assure the 11 members of the Class of 2020 get the same spine-tingling experience that their predecessors have enjoyed.

Even if Santa won’t be involved. 

Visit the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Website: https://lasportshall.com/

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