Scooter Hobbs column: One man’s crusade for LSU
Published 12:00 pm Saturday, January 21, 2023
The LSU basketball team will honor its 1979 team during today’s game against No. 9 Tennessee in the Maravich Assembly Center.
It’s certainly worth remembering Dale Brown’s first Southeastern Conference championship — at the time, LSU’s first in 25 years — which had the young nucleus who two years later would reach the Final Four.
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As the centerpiece of today’s festivities, the current team will wear the jerseys worn by that 1979 team.
That, too, seems harmless enough, although it involves Dale Brown at his best. So hang on.
Mainly, I’m just glad that the late, great Paul Manasseh didn’t hang around this Earth long enough to have to suffer through it again.
That 1979 team was certainly a ton of fun. Names like Ethan Martin, Jordy Hultberg, Al Green, Rudy Macklin (who was injured), Greg Cook, Lionel Green and, of course DeWayne “Astronaut” Scales, so nicknamed because his head tended to wander out toward distant planets.
But you really need the backstory on that retro jersey (which, conveniently, will be on sale at today’s game).
Manasseh, LSU’s legendary sports information director, was passionate about a lot of things, no matter how hard he feigned nonchalance.
Maybe at the top of the list was the notion that his university, especially in athletics, should be referred to as LSU — not Louisiana State.
For the first half of the previous century, the Tigers’ identity went through a Periods period when the school mostly showed up in print as L.S.U.
You might even find examples of that on old bowl tickets or schedule posters down in great-grandpa’s dusty man cave.
I think maybe the New York Times still insists on the punctuationally correct periods, but gradually the practice died out and periods faded into oblivion.
The subject of Manasseh’s ire was The Associated Press news service, which had a “stylebook” that was your basic bible for all newspapers, the go-to reference guide for all matters of, well, style.
That style book decreed that on first reference in a story the school was to be called “Louisiana State.” After first reference it was permissible to write “LSU” to your heart’s content.
A small, trivial matter, perhaps.
But it drove Manasseh crazy is all it did. He harped on it continuously, mostly bickering with AP big-wigs. But if there was a lull in a media hospitality suite, he was likely to get on his pulpit, invited or not.
A lot of Louisiana newspapers started breaking the rule on their own — it was a guide, not federal law — but that didn’t deter Manasseh from his life’s quest. He wanted it universally accepted.
For example, he would point out, UCLA didn’t have to be called University of California at Los Angeles. Its initials alone were fine for first reference. There were some other schools, I think.
It took years of blood, sweat and wasted news ink. But finally, after years of Manasseh’s incessant pestering — maybe just to get him out of their hair — the AP stylebook editors relented. LSU could be LSU, even in first reference.
There was some extra pep in Manasseh’s step. Victory at last! As I recall this was not long before the opening of the 1978-79 basketball season.
For once, it was a much anticipated hoops opening for a team that had found its footing late the season before, even upsetting eventual national champion Kentucky.
So, with much and refreshing hoopla, the team took to the court on opening night wearing brand new uniforms that Dale Brown was so anxious to show off.
Above the numbers, the jerseys read:
Below the numbers:
Not only that but it was scripted in cursive (millennials, ask your parents) and barely readable. There were even little stars dotting the two “i’s”
Manasseh wanted to strangle Brown and said, not for the first or last time, “I wish (basketball inventor) James Naismith had died in child birth.”
The rumor was the team didn’t like these sartorial monstrosities much either.
They really were eye-catching, in a hideous sort of way. So give them credit for overcoming that, too.
FOOTNOTE: A few years later the USA TODAY newspaper debuted. It marched to its own style drummer, which included Louisiana State in first reference.
It didn’t take long for Manasseh to fire off an angry missive to USA TODAY’s higher-ups.
The letter was addressed to: United States of America Today.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at email@example.com