Whether in person or via video, the 11 members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2021 expressed many of the same sentiments Saturday night.
First and foremost among them was gratitude – for teammates, for family and for each other.
Emotions flowed freely throughout, shaking the normally unflappable.
New Orleans broadcasting icon Ro Brown was one of three Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism winners honored Saturday. Praised as a barrier-breaking, trustworthy broadcaster, Brown paused for at least 30 seconds before answering his first question.
“I’m on TV for a living, I’ll be able to do this,” Brown cracked when he finally gathered himself.
A product of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward who praised that area’s “village” mentality to helping raise him, Brown’s career and personality meshes perfectly with the distinguished title of the award bestowed upon him.
The familial feel of Natchitoches and Northwestern State University provided Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism honoree Doug Ireland with a place to call home and a family tree that spread its limbs throughout the sports information profession.
Ireland’s role as the chariman of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame came with it the drive to construct the award-winning museum in downtown Natchitoches, a relationship that has given him a giant extended family that marks the sporting eras of the state of Louisiana.
“When I hear Hall of Famers talk to Doug, it’s like they have had this relationship for 30 years when in reality, he’s only been talking to them for six to eight months,” said Northwestern State men’s basketball coach Mike McConathy, who worked with Ireland for nearly two decades. “He has so much knowledge and the ability to recall things about them as people. They become part of his family because they are now Hall of Famers.”
After nearly three decades serving as the Hall’s chairman, Ireland took his place among the numerous figures he has delivered to whom he has delivered the call to for years.
“I’m here on the shoulders of so many people,” Ireland said. “I didn’t do something. We did something. I was just lucky to help steer it in a couple of directions.”
While Natchitoches adopted Ireland as a native son, it celebrated the Hall entry of one of its own born and raised citizens as 1980 Bassmaster Classic champion Villis “Bo” Dowden joined his hometown’s shrine Saturday.
From a child who enjoyed fishing with his grandfather to winning the Super Bowl of bass fishing by “showing us we could fish in the wind,” according to fellow competitor Bobby Murray, Dowden quickly espoused the values of his hometown and his family.
“(My childhood) was quite a fun time as far as I was concerned,” he said. “I didn’t worry about anything. I didn’t have too many big chores in the backyard, so I went fishing.
“I fished out here in Black Lake and Saline Lake and Sibley Lake and Cane River. Natchitoches is just full of fishing holes if you know where to look for them.”
Group: L to R): Rickie Weeks, Sheldon Mickles, Terry McAulay, Pat Henry, Doug Ireland, Bo Dowden, Glenn Dorsey, Ro Brown and Courtney Blades Rogers.
Photo: Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services