Clearing my mind and notebook while still not caring who wins the much hyped fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

Friday Night Light

The opening night of high school football on Friday was a non-event for me for the first time in four decades. I didn’t mind taking it easy.

I’m calling it Friday Night Light.

As many of you know, I’m now retired from newspaper journalism, having transitioned into the lifestyle of an inconsistent blogger.

That means my final Friday Night Misery memories are all from last season in Evansville, Indiana.

My routine was to arrive at the office by 1:30 for the start of a 12-hour shift. Never mind that most of the high school football production work for me was done during a hectic 45-minute span leading up to 11 p.m. CT. That’s when four to five staff writers would file their stories in the rush of deadline, which I then edited (some more than others).

Then came the final maddening sprint to complete a roundup of games that hadn’t been staffed. Most nights I had  help with the roundup, but that wasn’t a guarantee.

Finally, if I was lucky, the computer system hadn’t malfunctioned and the design center (located 100-plus miles away in Louisville) had received all the stories and photographs to complete the latest nightly miracle. (Note: before last year the Courier & Press had a local copy desk.)

Regardless, it wasn’t until I had confirmation that the designers and copy editors could do their jobs that I could then move on to step nine: breathe.

Here’s what I won’t miss:

  • Agate clerks calling in sick an hour before the start of their shift.
  • Agate clerks who fail to check that the score by quarters and stats add up correctly.
  • Lightning delays that last longer than a half hour.
  • Writers who were assigned an early game but still missed deadline.
  • Team statisticians who didn’t bother to get an opponent’s roster, so all they have are the jersey numbers of players who scored against them in a 45-8 rout.
  • Coaches who can’t provide additional details on a player of the week candidate because the scorebook is at the office.
  •  Coaches who refuse to help you because they are miffed you didn’t send a writer to their game.
  • Coaches who can’t provide anything but a final score because they compile their stats while breaking down game film on Saturdays.

And then there are the additional headaches caused by the social media revolution  which now requires writers and editors to post to Twitter, ScribbleLive or Facebook. Oh yeah, writers also have to be part-time videographers with their smartphones.

Multi-media journalists have to be able to multi-task, but unfortunately the actual journalism can suffer as a result.

In reminscing about my career as a sports editor, I found myself viewing my time in Anderson, S.C. from 1988 to 1999 as the good ol’ days. All I had to do then was to produce three zoned editions with different stories and photographs on the section fronts and jump pages in a span of an hour.

So yeah, my Friday Nights are now light. I can sit back and watch TV, go to a movie, scream at Nazis on Facebook or play with my dogs. The closest I come to doing anything work related now is writing a blog for your reading pleasure.

Note: for more on how publishing giant Gannett is killing high school football coverage, and sports sections, go to end of this blog,


Buckeyes to rule?

The 2017 Beard Composite College Football Poll features six teams from the Southeastern Conference, five teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (plus Notre Dame) and four teams from the Big Ten in the top 25.

But upon further review, the Big Ten wins the preseason pick as the toughest conference based on the fact that all four of its teams are ranked among the top 12 with Ohio State and Penn State both making the Top 5.

Which team will win the national championship? I’m going with a revamped Ohio State, with former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson as Urban Meyer’s new offensive coordinator.

I’m foolish enough to predict that they’ll beat Southern Cal in the title game.

But yeah, Nick Saban will probably prove me wrong again.

Beard Consensus Preseason Poll: 1. Alabama. 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. Southern Cal; 5. Penn State; 6. Clemson; 7. Washington; 8. Oklahoma; 9. Oklahoma State; 10.  Michigan; 11. Auburn; 12. Wisconsin, 13. LSU; 14. Georgia; 15. Florida; 16. Louisville; 17. Stanford; 18. Texas; 19. Miami; 20. South Florida; 21. Kansas State; 22. Tennessee; 23. Virginia Tech; 24. West Virginia; 25.  Notre Dame.

The Magazine Polls

Alabama is the consensus pick in the main preseason college football magazines.

Lindy’s: 1. Alabama, 2. Southern Cal; 3. Ohio State; 4. Florida State; 5. Oklahoma State; 6. Penn State; 7. Clemson; 8. Washington; 9. Oklahoma; 10. Auburn; 11. Wisconsin; 12. Georgia; 13. Louisville; 14. Michigan; 15.  LSU; 16. Florida; 17. South Florida; 18. Stanford; 19. Miami; 20. TCU; 21. Northwestern; 22. West Virginia; 23. Texas; 24. Boise State; 25. Utah.

Athlon’s: 1. Alabama; 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. Washington; 5. Southern Cal; 6. Penn State; 7. Clemson; 8. Oklahoma; 9. Auburn; 10. Michigan; 11. LSU; 12. Wisconsin; 13. Texas; 14. Oklahoma State; 15. Georgia; 16. Florida; 17. Stanford; 18. Louisville; 19. Tennessee; 20. Notre Dame; 21. Oregon; 22. Kansas State; 23. Miami; 24. South Florida; 25. Virginia Tech.

Street & Smith’s: 1. Alabama; 2. Ohio State; 3. Florida State; 4. Southern Cal; 5. Clemson; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Penn State; 8. Washington; 9. Michigan; 10. LSU; 11. Oklahoma State; 12. Wisconsin; 13. Florida; 14. Georgia; 15. Louisville; 16. Auburn; 17. Stanford; 18. Virginia Tech; 19. Miami; 20. Kansas State; 21. Texas; 22. West Virginia; 23. South Florida; 24. Tennessee; 25. Utah.

They said it

R.J. Currie of “Washington Nationals right-hander Edwin Jackson has changed teams 11 times in the last nine seasons. Now there’s a pitcher with location issues.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on troubled University of Florida receiver Antonio Callaway: “I keep hearing how Callaway is hanging out with the wrong crowd. After a while doesn’t Gator Nation have to come to the conclusion that Callaway is the wrong crowd.”

Brad Dickson of Omaha (Neb.) World Herald: “The Texas Rangers sold minor league pitcher Ernesto Frieri to the Seattle Mariners for $1. The good news is, there may be a Dollar General endorsement in his future.”

Janice Hough of “Wouldn’t it be nice if biggest controversy on social media this summer was about if it’s really stupid to talk about “exit velocity.” in Major League Baseball?”

Steve Spurrier on a Daytona Beach reunion with  his former players at the University of Florida from 1990-2001: “John Wooden once said that if you’re a good enough coach, your players will want to come back and hang out with you someday.”

Joe Biddle of on NFL preseason games: “What you want to see is the projected starters from each team competing against each other. Fans need to look quick. They will be on the field about as long as the lunar eclipse.”

Simply criminal

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but crime does pay. Especially celebrity crimes.

That appears to be all the motivation that Adam Papagan needed to start a cottage industry off the “trial of the century” in which O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

Papagan’s latest venture is an O.J. Simpson Museum that will be on display at the Coagula Curatorial Gallery in downtown Los Angeles through Tuesday. The doors opened Friday with an admission price of $4.

The collection contains mostly pop-culture related items like books, apparel and board games that commemorated the trial. Some of the T-shirts that were sold outside the courthouse make up one display.

Papagan’s capitalistic shame doesn’t end on Tuesday. He also plans to still offer an O.J. tour around Brentwood in a white Bronco similar to the one the former football player/actor led police in on a slow highway chase.

While O.J. escaped a criminal conviction in those murders, he did lose a civil lawsuit to the families of Goodman and Brown.

Of course, Nevada granted parole to Simpson last month after he had served minimal time for his 2008 conviction on armed robbery charges. He will be incarcerated at Lovelock (Nevada) Correctional Institute until at least Oct. 1 and plans to move back to Florida.

Headlines “Girlfriend surprises Rob Grokowski with relaxing couple’s CAT Scan.” “Divided America agrees that RG3 statue should probably come down.” “Cristiano Ronaldo suspended five games for using his hands.: “MLB unveils memorial for runners stranded on base.” “Andrew Luck expected to be out six weeks due to lice.”

Tough life

No one ever said balancing athletics and academics would be easy.

Neither is the debate over whether student-athletes should be paid a living wage.

UCLA quarterback Jeff Rosen is the latest to make the dual workload an issue, telling Bleacher Report that it’s “like trying to do two full-time jobs.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plasche pointed out that a 2015 study revealed that the average Pac-12 student-athlete spent 50 hours per week meeting the demands of their sport, which is why more than half of them contended they often didn’t have sufficient time to study.

The NCAA has slowly made revisions of its rules, allowing schools to pay the “full cost of attendance.” That opens the door for athletes at power conference schools to receive stipends of up to $5,000 in addition to tuition, room and board.

But at least you don’t have to feel too sorry for the star athletes who don’t mind bending the rules by willingly accepting $100 handshakes from unscrupulous boosters.

Former University of Texas quarterback Chris Simms told Dan Patrick that for him it usually would happen after he had been asked to sign several jerseys, hats or other memorabilia. For taking the time to sign his name, Simms said he’d be slipped cash.

“For people to think that doesn’t happen, that’s just stupid,” said Simms. “Get over it, it’s not a big deal. It’s happening everywhere. It’s happening at Harvard, it’s happening at Division II schools. It’s going on everywhere.”

Indeed, at the heart of the most serious of the alleged NCAA violations against Mississippi and former football coach Hugh Freeze is a booster accused of giving at least one recruit cash and free food.

Homer parade

Albert Pujols hit his 609th home run on Friday night to give the Los Angeles Angels an early 2-0 lead over Baltimore.

It also tied him for eighth on the all-time list with Sammy Sosa. He and Sosa are also tied for most homers by a foreign player in MLB.

Gannett strikes again

Sadly, as  many of you have discovered, the coverage of high school football is likely no longer included in your Saturday morning newspapers. Evil publishing empire Gannett made sure of that in Evansville and most of its other newspapers by going to 7 p.m. deadlines.

In Evansville, this has been going on since April (just in time for the NCAA Final Four), but this is the first  season its affected the high school football coverage. While you can still read game coverage online late Friday night using your smartphones, tablets or home computers, you’ll have to wait until Sundays to read it in print.

Sorry about your scrapbooks, moms.

And yes, the space high school coverage takes in your Sunday paper is going to reduce any coverage of college football. It’s a lose-lose situation.

We’ve known that day was arriving but it got here much quicker than I anticipated. I had planned on working another two or three years before retiring since I’m only 63. But with the earlier deadlines, who needs a sports editor who can also write award-winning stories and columns, right?

I could have moved on and started life as a sports editor at other newspapers, including one in SEC country, but The Wife and I decided we’d rather make a move for once that isn’t dictated by my career. Within six months, perhaps sooner, we’ll be resettling in Anderson, where our daughter and her family have relocated.

As much as I enjoyed the job and living in Indiana,  I actually consider myself fortunate to no longer be the sports editor in Evansville. Mainly, it means I’m not guilty of being an accomplice to delivering what I believe will be the murderous blow to what was once a solid sports section.

It’s bad enough that readers can’t get scores from professional and college sports on a timely basis in their morning paper. But local high school football coverage not being available until Sundays? That’s a broken promise, at least in my view.

The Gannett bean counters have won. The readers of some 100 newspapers have lost. But I  have my Friday nights back.

2 thoughts on “From Sidelines to punchlines

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