Reporting sports in Louisiana is a rewarding endeavor. The state has always produced and attracted a lengthy list of the legends for our games. But not every encounter on the Bayou State sports beat goes smoothly. Frankly, some people you run across can be testy. Over a 20-year period, I can recall several memorable interviews or interactions that didn't go smoothly. Not every athlete listed here has Louisiana ties but did cross my path in a state of wrath.
--I'm from Richland Parish and live close to Rayville, which spawned the football career of Roosevelt Potts. While he's not a big name nationally, Potts was well known in northeastern Louisiana as a high school and college fullback. After starring at ULM, he went on to play pro ball in the NFL -- most notably with the Colts. While writing a fantasy football column sometime in the mid-1990s, I opined that drafting Potts might be tempting for homers but probably not a wise choice since he was losing carries to a young runner named Marshall Faulk. Coincidentally, I attempted to interview Potts in person within a day or two of the column's publication. I guess he'd seen it and recognized me because he was pissed. "I ain't talking to you," Potts said. "You the one that wrote that mess about me." At first I thought he was joking. He wasn't. He walked away grumbling and that was the end of it. So much for the hometown connection.
--Deion Sanders didn't disappoint during a stopover in Monroe, La. while promoting a rap album in 1994. This was during his heyday as a self-centered two-sport athlete, so naturally I wanted to talk sports with him. He wasn't having it though, insisting that this tour was about his music and nothing else. Except he wouldn't talk about his music either in an empty nightclub that afternoon. At least that's what one member of he entourage told me as he sat by himself at a table about 10 feet away. I did see his bodyguard approach a kid, the club owner's son who appeared to want nothing more than an autograph and a handshake. "Deion," the heavy said, "would like you to get him a pizza." Don't know if Deion got his pizza or not but that was all I could take. I left, returning to hear his act a few hours later. I could understand then why he declined to talk about his music. It stunk.
--Never much of a Marshall Faulk fan and that didn't change while watching him work the room at his own Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction a couple of summers back. This was more of an observation than personal interaction, but is certainly noteworthy. Traditionally after the ceremony in Natchitoches ends, you'll see inductees approached for photos or autographs. Even though he was being celebrated that night, Faulk wasn't interested in being a good sport. In fact, I saw him turn down an request from a fellow Hall of Famer. "He ain't signing nothing else," someone with him said while shielding Faulk. A class act, indeed.
The next few weren't so much hostile as momentarily tense. ...
--I think Charles Barkley was kidding when he threatened to kill me at a Dallas Mavericks game. I was there interviewing Phoenix Suns players and coaches for a Scotty Robertson feature. Robertson was a longtime NBA assistant with Louisiana ties. Anyway, I wanted to include Barkley's take. I found him in the locker room shaving his head. When I asked him if he had time for an interview before the game, he said, "Are you crazy? You don't talk to me when I'm shaving my head." I backed out and found someone tamer to talk to. I think it was point guard Kevin Johnson, who was reading the bible by his locker. Barkley did make himself available after the game and was great, so all was forgiven.
--I'd like to think Rod Carew is a nice guy but he seemed a little harsh when he ordered me away from the batting cage in Houston. I was there to see the Major League debut of pitcher Ben Sheets. Carew, then batting coach for the Brewers, was working with Sheets in the cage. I wanted a photo of Sheets taking his cuts on the day before his first start. Carew snarled that I needed to back up. Maybe he was just on edge trying to get something out of Sheets, who was eventually an All-Star but never did much damage at the plate.
--ULM center Wojciech Myrda was mild-mannered and quiet during most of his career. A transfer student from Poland, Myrda played locally at Ouachita Parish High School in Monroe, La., before signing with the college program in the same town. He enjoyed a distinguished career and established the NCAA record for blocked shots. Offensively though, he was never that aggressive and had a maddening habit of blowing finesse layups instead of dunking the ball. I wrote as much in a column that published on the same day that Myrda's team had a home game with Lamar. I didn't really rip him but I did write that he would probably never be much of an offensive threat and fans should enjoy him for what he was -- a one-dimensional defensive player. That night Myrda played with a passion that I had rarely seen. He attacked the basket and scored 27 points in a monster all-around game. Before relenting to a post-game interview, he reached in his pocket and pulled out the column clipped from the newspaper. He glared (down) at me and slowly wadded it into a ball before shortly answering a few questions. I suggested to Myrda that he hang it in his locker if that's what it took for him to dominate like he had. His college coach Mike Vining asked for another column just like it before the next game. To his credit, Myrda didn't hold a grudge.