Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Hall Tale Of Shaq and Odor-Eaters

From today's Times and News-Star

When big man Shaquille O’Neal of hoops and movie fame was but a teen at LSU, I wrote a cover story for the since-folded “Sport” magazine and predicted in it then that “this young man of 7-feet-something -- and growing -- has a big, big future in the field of carbonated cola beverages.”

Sure, everybody made fun of me. But what can I say? I guess I just saw something in him. Something special. Something that screamed “carbonated filtered water” and “bourbon vanilla extract.” Something citric acidy.

And so today I ask you, in light of Shaq’s newest product – cream soda!!! – who’s laughing now?

So in honor of Shaq -- retired basketball player and now an actor and NBA television analyst and business owner and graduate -- and in noting his induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last weekend with the rest of the Hall’s Class of 2013 -- this portion of our story is brought to you by All Natural Arizona “Soda Shaq” Cream Soda, which is 99 cents for a 23.5-ounce can and, with 72 grams of sugar per can (but no trans or saturated fats!), should keep you up, should you choose to chug one, until next Thursday, give or take a day.

Or a week.

Shaqazona will light you up like a Christmas tree.

This is good news, because if you’re pressed for time, you can use the extra non-sleep hours to visit the long-awaited and just-opened-last-week Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum on Front Street, hard by the Cane River/Pond, on the edge of welcoming downtown Natchitoches.

It’s been a long time coming, and there is no room here for the volumes it would take to explain the bureaucracy, red tape and human duct tape that has held this idea together for years, even decades. Faulty though it might be, the museum is 99.9 percent better than what we had and not nearly as good as it will be in three or four years. I was at the opening last Friday and saw grown men and women shaking, literally, with thanks and gratitude and excitement. Tears. Smiles. The whole deal. They did everything but shake up cans of Shaqazona and spray it on each other.

Shaq was there, of course, all 11 or 12 feet of him. He gets bigger with every viewing, it seems. Very accommodating, part of one of the most personable and genuine classes the Hall has ever inducted.

Speaking of feet, Shaq’s are in the Hall. You can step on Shaq’s tenny shoe footprints to see how your feet compare. Shaq’s a size 23, so it’s sort of the same as when you step on a bathmat. Or imagine stepping on a prehistoric mastodon Odor-Eater.

There’s Kim Mulkey’s Adidas Lady Techster tennys, too, and Tommy Hodson’s LSU jersey and Mel Parnell’s Red Sox uniform. There’s a Pistol Pete floppy sock and a big Archie Manning photo and a loop of vintage film in the main room where the wall of honor lists each of the 300-plus inductees; you press a button and can find stats and bios and more on each. You can look up info on a Skeets, a Pistol, Jug, Chick, Red, the Mailman, Slats, Spoon, Fast Freddie and Hoss. We’ve even got a Big Fuzzy. They’re all in the Hall.

It’ll get bigger and better and more useful. So get yourself a Hall pass. Because the next and most important person the Hall really needs in it now, is you.