Opinion – 4/22/2003

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 22, 2003

The Panolian – "Big Easy" by John Howell Sr.

For additional opinions and articles,
pick up the 4/22/03  issue of The Panolian

Big Bash in Big Easy

This is neat. The South Panola Tigers are coming to New Orleans to play football Sept. 12 against George Washington Carver High School.

And they’re going to play in Tad Gormley Stadium in beautiful New Orleans City Park. It’s the ultimate tailgating opportunity for South Panola fans!

Few public high schools in New Orleans have their own football stadiums. They scrap around on rough practice fields during the week and then play their games at various public facilities in the city. Tad Gormley Stadium is the premier public outdoor football stadium in New Orleans, and during the season it’s utilized for high school games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Even Tulane University relishes its games in the 25,000-seat stadium.

Built as a WPA project during the depression and extensively renovated during recent years, the stadium reflects athletic traditions dating back to the ancient Greeks. When most people think of New Orleans’ tourist attractions, the French Quarter and Bourbon Street immediately come to mind. City Park is less known to visitors, but at 1,500 acres it is the fifth largest municipal park in the nation.

City Park is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Carousel Gardens and Storyland amusement parks, the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Bayou Oaks Golf Courses, a softball center and the Pan American Stadium as well as the Gormley Stadium. The beautiful park is also home to the Wisner Tennis Center where our daughter works and to hundreds of live oaks, including the famous Allard dueling oaks under which gentlemen of this city once met to settle their differences. Nowadays differences get settled right in the ‘hood.

You’ve already read about the difficulties South Panola has created for itself in finding opponents. Few are the teams willing to schedule with Mississippi’s high school football powerhouse. That’s how the match with this New Orleans high school came about. "We’re very excited," Carver Head Coach Jack Phillips told me. He said that his school has this year moved from 4A to 5A classification in Louisiana. Their record last year was 8 and 3. The eight included a victory of West Monroe, the coach said, obviously the pinnacle of their 2002 season.

Carver will lose 15 seniors to this year’s graduation, Coach Phillips said, but he will have 12 seniors, six on either side of the line, when the fall season begins, including some he described as "very skilled." Carver running back Frederick Franklin is being "highly recruited" as he nears his last high school season, the coach said. Wide receiver Frank Johnson will be another Carver player for Tigers to watch, he added.

Myra Bean, this newspaper’s sports editor, has already asked for directions to nearby hotels. The problem is that there are none in the immediate vicinity of City Park, so you had better plan to stay in the Quarter or on Canal Street which are not that far away. We’ll furnish more information on that in coming weeks. Also maps. The easiest route would be from Interstate 10 to the City Park exit, but the City Park exit has been closed for months because of a construction project. We expect to learn whether it will be opened in time for the game, and if not we’ll suggest an alternate.

The Big Bash in the Big Easy, coming Sept. 12.

But if you’re looking for accommodations at my house, Brother Rupert already claimed the spot. Put in reservations/warnings two weeks ago.