football


13
Dec 14

A standard rambling Saturday of fun and memories

Every so often we have to make Allie, The Black Cat, famous on the Internet. This morning she was posing so patiently in the sun. She doesn’t mind the actual camera, but today I had the phone and she does not care for the phone in her face. Who can explain cats? She didn’t mind so much today, though, I guess because of the warm sun, but who can explain cats?

Allie

We watched the Army-Navy game. We attended one a few years ago, it was a great, chilly day and it is a game that everyone should go to at least once. (We want to go back.) You get a fair amount out of the experience watching the game on TV, CBS has done a nice job with it over the years.

To see the track athletes run the game ball onto the field and to watch the flyovers in person is a different thing. You’ve probably never seen the “prisoner exchange” of returning cadets and middies to their own sides after a student exchange program at home. Television doesn’t often show you the young men and women sworn into the service at the game and it doesn’t allow you to talk to graduates of both academies. For all the care that CBS gives that game, you just can’t absorb it all from the screen.

To watch the cadets march on, or to watch the teams sing their schools’ alma maters — my favorite college tradition of all — that’s an in-person experience you need. Here’s my video from 2011, shot on my first iPhone. It looks fuzzy after a few downloads and uploads from service to service, but it offers a nice little stadium view:

Here are some of the photos I took from our 2011 trip.

Of course, the hype videos always play better at home. You can hear them better. These were my favorites today:

More were collected for you here.

I’ve always cheered for Navy — the Department of the Navy was important in my childhood world — but two years ago, watching that late Army turnover, I softened up. The Black Knights were about to score late and break what was then a 10-game losing streak to the Middies. But they fumbled inside the 20 and I decided, about 40 seconds into the video here, that no rivalry should ever have more than a three-game losing streak. Everyone should know what it feels like to beat the other guys once in their career.

But it was not to be then, or today, of course. Navy has won 13 in a row, but Army is getting better.

I do enjoy the Army-Navy game.

Things to read … because there are other sports to enjoy.

The headline ruins this great high school basketball story:

Your team has not suffered like the Climax-Fisher Knights.

No matter how Raider-y or 76ers-esque your program is, it has not endured their unique brand of pain. Even Prairie View, the Division I-AA football team that lost 80 straight games during the 1990s, has technically suffered a shorter string of defeats than the Climax-Fisher girls basketball team, which finally broke its four-year losing streak Tuesday despite incredibly unfavorable odds.

That’s a happy finish.

I remember covering the accident that started this story years ago. It was probably one of the last stories I did before I moved to KARN in Little Rock. It was a terrible accident, to be sure. Dangling power lines killed a 7-year-old and changed a 4-year-old boy’s life forever. But this story is thrilling to read today. Good for him. Ward Webb lost his feet at age 4, but the Mountain Brook linebacker never says ‘I can’t’:

Mountain Brook football coach Chris Yeager remembers the early days of watching Ward Webb train with other players.

As teens sprinted up and down stadium steps for conditioning, Yeager remembers, they told Webb to go to the side and use the handrails.

Webb, who lost his feet at age 4 and uses prosthetic legs, refused.

“He wants to be like everybody else,” the coach said. “He’s falling down those steps and that’s just typical Ward. He absolutely believes he can do anything anybody else can do. I’ve been coaching him for 3½ years, and I have never heard Ward Webb say, ‘I can’t.’”

This is a neat concept. Not sure if I’d want to work there, but I’d read the product: A newspaper and a hotel, all in one. If you’re interested, here it is now.

St. Patrick’s is beautiful. Immediately below are a few of the pictures I’ve taken on visits to Manhattan over the years. The cleaning, though, has done wonders. St. Patrick’s unveils its immaculate facelift

St. Patricks

St. Patricks

This is an interesting visual mashup, and it leads to some spooky results. Battle of Nashville Then & Now is worth seeing, and the bigger your screen, the better.

In elementary school, during the third grade, let’s say, we buried a time capsule. It seemed a very big deal at the time, of course. I think it was a garbage bag-lined ice chest or something like that. And possibly they dug it up sometime later that night after we all left school. But we took it seriously, because it was very serious. It would be important when they dug it up in 50 years. All of this has come to mind a few times since, and now I wonder if anyone knows about it, if anyone remembers where it is or even cares. Were there 10 or 15 such time capsules buried on that playground? And did they dig it all up when that school built the big gym next to it? All of that is boring. This is amazing: Time capsule found at Massachusetts Statehouse:

Crews removed a time capsule dating back to 1795 on Thursday from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse, where historians believe it was originally placed by Revolutionary War luminaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere among others.

The time capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins and newspapers, but the condition of the contents is not known and Secretary of State William Galvin speculated that some could have deteriorated over time.

Officials won’t open the capsule until after it is X-rayed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to determine its contents. The X-ray is scheduled for Sunday.

Time capsules are fascinating things. Who came up with this idea? And why can’t I open them for people?

We went for ice cream last night. One of those places where you drive over, park, walk up to the window and order under the humming neon lights. There’s a list of the ice cream flavors of the day, and the flavors are always changing. This is a challenge for me. Occasionally I find something I really like, but it is never there twice.

Tonight we pulled up about a half hour before the place closed and the guy at the window, Matt, knew it. He was older than the usual high schooler working there and he knew that too. The Yankee ordered her usual. I hemmed and hawed and agonized.

What is the Oreo cheesecake like? I asked.

“It tastes like cheesecake … with Oreos,” Matt said.

He gave me a sample. He was correct. I ordered it.

ice cream

It was good. I’ll probably never see it offered there again.


6
Dec 14

All of the football

Our old friend Brian is here. He and I used to work together. He’s known The Yankee and I as a couple longer than anyone, we think. We’ve done and been through a little bit of most everything in life with Brian and his family. He’s a great friend that we don’t get to see nearly often enough.

This weekend, we are catching up some. And we are having a watch party.

screens

If you look closely, you’ll see his two phones — because Brian is that kind of guy, sitting just beneath the television. We didn’t watch it like this, really, but we wanted to see how many screens we could pull up at one time. In the last five years, at various intersections of schedules that allow watch parties, we’ve gone from two games to five, then six and eight and, now, 10. There are 10 screens showing a football game in the picture above.

Ten!

We were also taking pictures with two more phones, and I think there were two laptops down the street we weren’t borrowing, so this could have been an even more ridiculous photo.

The first point: football.

The second point: I give Charter their fair of grief for this and that, because they deserve it from time to time. But that’s some nice bandwidth right there. Kudos on that.

The third point: Brian’s a good guy. It is great to see him.


5
Dec 14

The end of the semester

Last day of class today, and so we wrapped it up with broadcast scripts. I gave them a Christmas tree story, a real lean-in piece about how it isn’t trees that give some people an allergic reaction, but the mold sometimes found in live trees that irritate people’s sinuses.

We’ve all been there, covering strange non-stories and trying to make it feel important trying to feel like it isn’t a waste of our time. I certainly did my share in this newsroom or that. Not every story can be a triple homicide, thank heavens, so then every example shouldn’t be such a thing.

At the end of the class we went over the ground rules of the Monday final again. I crossed the lowercase Js on the last details of the class, wished them a happy holidays and, as always, thanked them for suffering through the class with me.

And then back to the office to finish up this and that, a host of emails, the required moment of listening to Van Morrison, traditionally marking the last day of class for reasons I’ve already forgotten. Ordering this, checking off that, phone calls and the details, details, details that always mark the end of a week, the sigh of a Friday, combined with the exhalation of the term.

I got out of the office a little later than I wanted, but still beat the traffic, for the most part.

I found these in that archive folder I’ve been working through. These aren’t from the Crimson, but rather from the Birmingham News, which was still a daily newspaper back then. This first one blows out the site’s template a little bit — I don’t regularly publish squares — but this was an important story, the fight over changing the area was underway:

Samford zoning

Basically, when the university’s board purchased, for a song, the Lakeshore property and moved from Eastlake in the 1950s they got the land on both sides of Lakeshore. On the one side is the campus proper. (There are a few things across Lakeshore now.) But they also go the land on the other side, which was a swampy lake undeveloped and, of course, back then the atmosphere through the area was a lot more quiet.

Now there’s the high school, a business park, some retail development down the road and so on. Also, a lovely recreational area. Of course the residents weren’t keen on all of that once upon a time. I don’t remember the area as they were fighting over it, but the building up over the years has been quite nice. There is more traffic, yes, and the road feels too slow while the traffic simultaneously feels too fast. They were concerned about flooding, but that has always seemed minimal in my experience. At the end of the day, if you’ve never been through there, you’d think it was a charming area, because it is.

There is so, so much local and campus history built up in all of those events of the last 60 years, and specifically since the development really kicked in during the 1980s.

This clipping, also from the Birmingham News, is from 1987 and it details the sell of some of that property to Southern Progress. They would ultimately build three nice buildings and a handsome campus for their various publications. But Southern Progress, which has been based in Birmingham since 1911, has fallen on hard times like many publishers in recent years. Time has owned them since the 1980s, one magazine was sold off a few years ago. There have been cutbacks and rollbacks and all sorts of restructuring.

Samford zoning

Last month, Samford started the process of purchasing the property once again. Today, the university’s board approved the 28-acre purchase. The three buildings and parking on the Southern Progress campus will be shared by the pub pros and university units. Everything comes full circle.

Johnny Imani Harris

This photo was on the back of one of those stories. I can’t now recall if I remember this name or if my searching my memory is giving me the wrong impression. Johnny Imani Harris pled guilty in the 1970s to a string of robberies and a rape. Apparently, his representation wasn’t very good and they convinced him to pled guilty or face the death penalty. He did. He got five life terms. He took part, or was caught up in, a 1974 protest of prison conditions that turned into a riot where a guard died. No one said in court that Harris stabbed the corrections officer, but nevertheless Harris was found guilty and given the death penalty.

When you dive into the entire Johnny Imani Harris tale, things quickly seem itchy. A circuit judge in 1987 agreed and overturned the death penalty. Somewhere in that part of the story is where we find this photo. The build up to that ruling and the finding itself brought up more demonstrations. He was paroled in 1991 on the rape and robbery. As far as I can tell he hasn’t showed up in the media since then.

Went to the last high school state football championship game at Jordan-Hare tonight. Sat in a booth with some folks from Clay-Chalkville. Two of them were on the last state championship team from that school. They both wore their letterman’s jacket from 2001. In the next booth was the grandmother of one of the Clay-Chalkville running backs. She said she’s raised him and we cheered for him because she was adorable and she kept bringing food over to our booth. Better, she said, than carrying it back downstairs. So go number 6, we said. Clay-Chalkville won in a blowout. Everyone we saw, then, was very pleased.

As we left the stadium from the nice little luxury boxes we poked our heads in the even-nicer president’s suite. Right by there is the elevator. Good to see Gene Chizik still hanging around:

Gene Chizik elevator

I guess they figure “We’re still paying him, we may as well take advantage of the photograph.” He’s getting $209,457.84 a month, through the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Maybe he has pictures of key university players hanging in his home, too.


2
Dec 14

Pat Sullivan resigns as Samford coach

Pat Sullivan, Samford’s winningest football coach, the 1971 Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn, announced today he is stepping down and putting away his whistle. He played in the NFL, coached at Auburn and UAB and was the head man at TCU. He’s also a wonderfully kind and thoughtful Southern gentleman.

I wrote a little profile about him a few years ago for a now defunct magazine. We reprinted it at The War Eagle Reader:

Sullivan was relaxed in his office, which still feels new. There are framed portraits waiting to be put on the walls. He works out of the handsome new field house at Seibert Stadium on the Samford campus, not too far from where he attended high school. This is home. He looks upon the stops in his career with gratitude, but he’s happy to be here.

“It’s been very special to me. My father came to school here. He played on the first (then named Howard College) football team. He was struggling with cancer about the time I got the job. It was special to be able to come here,” Sullivan remembers.

Bringing in the Auburn-great was the start of a significant chapter in Samford sports history. The Bulldogs soon joined the Southern Conference and now lines up against schools like Chattanooga, The Citadel and Appalachian State.

“It’s where I wanted to come and try to do something that you could be proud of. We changed conferences. We’ve built up our facilities. We’ve really raised our level. We’re not there yet, but we’ve made tremendous strides. I’m excited about our future and where we’re headed. It’s just taken a little while to get there,” Sullivan said.

And in that space between here and there, Sullivan is content.

What didn’t make it into that profile is my second-favorite Pat Sullivan story. At the time we were about to sit down there was a mild controversy going on in college football and he felt adamantly about not discussing that issue. It wasn’t in the plans for my profile anyway, but I said “Coach, I’m not going to ask about that. I’m an Auburn man.”

And, to one of those men who personifies that concept, that answer was good enough.

My favorite Pat Sullivan story came later that fall. I had one of his football players, a starter, in a class I was teaching. One day I let them out a few minutes early and the football player stayed behind. I asked him if he needed anything and he said no.

“Coach said ‘If you’re class doesn’t end until 5, I don’t want to see you out here before 5.’”

The man is about so much more than football. Always has been. He’s been a great asset to Samford and he’s talked, since he signed on there at the end of 2006, how fortunate he was to be there, and how well treated he was by everyone. Pat Sullivan is a Southern gentleman, mentor to young people and, also, a football coach.

Here’s a video from his 2011 trip to coach Samford at Auburn:

Sullivan’s statue outside Jordan-Hare:

Sully

The second winningest coach at Samford? A guy who also coached at Auburn: Terry Bowden. And he looked impossibly young in 1988:

Crimson88

He’s about 31 there, ready to start his second year on the job and feeling good about what was ahead. He’d gone 9-1 in his first campaign, but he and his staff had a setback in 1988. The braintrust:

Crimson88

Tony Ierulli is on the Carson-Newman staff today. Both Engle and Armstrong share names with legendary coaches, so they are difficult to find today. Bob Stinchcomb is the athletics director at a Georgia prep school. Todd Stroud is back with Bowden today at Akron. Jack Hines has had stops at West Virginia, Florida State, Samford, Auburn and Clemson and is now a defensive coordinator for a Georgia high school team. Jeff Bowden’s career has followed his famous brother and his even more famous father. Jeff, these days, is also at Akron.

Mark Howard and Benny Fairbanks are in the wind. I found a Vic Colley, but I’m not sure if it is the right man. Colin Hutto, I think, is at a private high school in Tennessee these days. John Harper played receiver at Samford. No idea where he is today.

The last guy on the coaching staff you might have heard of:

Crimson87

Jimbo Fisher played one year at Samford, that 9-1 season from 1987. He had a cup of coffee in professional football — but said he was too small — and came back to be an assistant at Samford.

Crimson88

He’s spent a great deal of time following Bowdens too, of course. Jimbo and both Bowdens coached at Samford, not bad for the tiny school on the side of a hill. Things have changed a lot here, all over campus, as we’re learning through these quarter-century old newspaper clips. A lot has changed over in the football program, too, much for the better. A lot of it because of Pat Sullivan.


25
Nov 14

Students were doing what with email?

There is this giant filing cabinet drawer sitting in one corner of my office. I rescued it some time back from a nearby room. That office space was once the home of Entre Nous, the Samford yearbook. When they moved elsewhere it seemed to become a storage space, mostly forgotten. Finally someone came along and made plans to use it for another department and we were kindly asked to move all of our old stuff out of that room.

So I moved all of our old journalism department things and all of our old newspaper things out of there. It was a multi-day process and helped proved where my time goes.

Anyway, one of the things I discovered in there was this giant drawer of newspaper clippings. Instead of moving it to another storage space I just put it in my space because the clips would be fun and because this joker was heavy.

And now I am going through some of the clips. This was in a folder titled “Computers.” I’ll just leave this here for you to note the dates yourself.

From November of 1979:

Crimson79

From September of 1987:

Crimson87

From December of 1987:

Crimson87

Also from December 1987:

Crimson87

And you could apparently check your email in March of 1988:

Crimson88

I love two tidbits in that last story:

“Students often find creative ways to send messages to friends. Charles Dunlap, a pharmacy major from Tullahoma, Tenn., sometimes sends graphics and computer art through the system.

[...]

Although most students feel positive about the use of E-mail, some have expressed complaints that communicating electronically causes some people to avoid one-on-one communication.

So some things are the same, no matter your connection speeds, eh?

The people writing those stories, or pictured in the photographs, are ministers, educators and work in the software industry. Our alumni turn up in all manner of interesting places.

Things to read … because reading takes you to interesting places.

There is this football game this weekend, perhaps you’ve heard of it? Here are three stories looking back on last year’s game. Each has their own merit. One of them is mine. I present them to you in order of importance:

Jon Solomon’s Remembering “Kick Six”

My piece, The Iron Bowl

Thomas Lake’s Looking back at historic Iron Bowl a year later

Solomon’s piece is the one I’d excerpt, but it defies excerpting. If you read one sports piece today, that should be it. It is simply one of the best non-sports-masquerading-as-sports stories you’re likely to read this year. Superb copy. High marks, Jon Solomon, high marks.

Here are a few quick journalism and PR links:

Will be sharing this in class next week, 7 ways to ensure your press release won’t get covered

I wish I had more places to share this, Visual journalism: Virtual reality graphics technology

A one-page photo essay from 2013, still worth seeing, if only for shots 23 and 36, On the Border

One to make you mad, Social worker charged with smoking crack while driving on I-65 with child in car

And three really nice stories to end on. The first one has an aww, an oops and a neighbors-helping-neighbors theme. The second one is a superbly touching kindness of strangers tale and the last one is part of the great Gabby Giffords comeback.

Sheriff’s dive team recovers engagement ring dropped in Noccalula Falls

Former newspaper vendor Charles Graham receives the birthday surprise of a lifetime

Gabby Giffords completes 11-mile bike ride

That sounds like a great ride to me.

Have a nice one today and come back for more tomorrow.