Had I known I would live in Barbour County some two decades later, I would have had more to talk about with Don Sutton — a native of Clio — when I covered the Braves during the start of their “worst to first” season of 1990.
Good grief, they were bad! Probably the most consistent player they had that season was a third baseman named Jim Presley, who had come over from Seattle. I moved from Georgia and the next year the Braves won the pennant.
Anyway, I did get a chance to talk during a pregame meal once with Braves’ announcer Skip Caray. He told me he would never apologize pulling for a team he ate at the same trough with for about half the year.
That said, I have had to tell more than my share of young reporters over the years that it is not pretty to be a “homer” in writing ... some understood and some never got the point. Sure, we play up more good news than bad with the hometown teams, particularly at the high school level, but your average reader can see when a story is nothing more than pomp and circumstance.
We used to laugh at a fellow who tried to become a recruiting expert of sorts in one state, always talking about how his team got this player over Alabama and that player over Auburn or that his team was a top 5 team in recruiting. (This was before every outlet from A to Z began ranking recruiting.) After more 4-7 seasons than you could shake a stick at, even the most die-hard fans of his favorite school realized the guy’s writings were, well, just fake news.
There are certain media outlets and certain levels of coverage where the advice does not apply, but it’s always good to at least try to be unbiased so you’re not that guy (or girl) that sounds as if your team is the best thing since sliced bread, only to find out it has a lot of mold on the crust.
Earlier this week, I found myself talking to someone who acted as if he was a reporter covering Blount in its upcoming playoff game against Eufaula. I started to tell him about the fabulous receiving corps of the Tigers, but I was interrupted and was told instead about how after the guy had watched YouTube clips of the teams he felt as if Blount would “kill” Eufaula. I then tried to explain that Eufaula was a 5A school that was being forced to play 6A, but the guy wanted to tell me instead why he felt Friday night’s game would be no contest.
Let’s see, he told me the Leopards’ quarterback was the high school version of Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), they had players all over the place that could run 4.2 40-yard dash times, and the defensive line averaged about 6-foot, 6-inches and 320 pounds. I printed out Blount’s roster and found its tallest player was 6-4. While I’m no mathematical genius, I can’t for the life of me figure out how the Leopards can average 6-6 on the line.
I realized real quick this guy was no reporter, rather a fan, so he didn’t have to tell me — but he did — and he would be the guy with a press pass wearing a purple Blount jacket Friday night.
Maybe Blount is tough. Maybe the Leopards will leave Tiger Stadium with a win. This is hardly a Knute Rockne moment regarding George Gipp, but after listening to this fellow, I sure hope some guy wearing a purple jacket has a long, lonesome ride back to Mobile County on Friday night.