Final days of a sports fan turned writer

Published 8:33 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2009

You can learn a lot by working your butt off and not putting too much stock in the positive, because it won’t last long. Also, take some hard-learned lessons from the negative because learning what you’re doing wrong is just as important as taking pride in what you’re doing well.

The anxiety part? Well, you can remedy that by faking a British accent and playing chess with someone you know is far worse at the game.

I’m saying all this as I write my last sports column for the Selma Times-Journal because, for one, it really is good advice, and second, it goes into the second-best lesson I have ever learned: don’t take things too seriously. The only man who really and truly had the weight of the world on his shoulders died a few thousand years ago.

So, then I got to thinking…

What am I going to do for my final hurrah? Today on “The List,” my top sports memories from three years in Selma.

4. Spring training. At the urging of our executive editor, Leesha Faulkner, I followed Selma product Jai Miller while he was in the Florida Marlins’ camp in West Palm Beach last year. It was one of the best experiences of my career. And by simple coincidence, I was there when the Boston Red Sox came down to play a game. There are worse things to get paid for.

3. Basketball. From dimly lit, old gyms that have produced state champions to a pair of women’s national championships at Concordia College, basketball in the Black Belt trumps anywhere else. I had never before seen high school coaches wear suits on the sidelines. I wasn’t used to suffocating gyms for non-area games and girls games that were consistently entertaining. Basketball seasons here caused me more irritation than just about anything else in my life, and I will miss every minute.

2. The women. Hold on. This ain’t what you think. I have won awards, met celebrities and done some pretty amazing things. None of that means as much to me as hearing these words: “Mr. Jones, I’m not really a sports fan, but I love reading your articles.” Ladies, trust me, some days I wrote them especially with you in mind.

1. The coaches. I wish anyone who does that job would emulate the coaches I’ve come to know personally. Coaches are teachers, and it’s good to know there are some who don’t see that symbiosis as a nuisance. With respect to all the coaches I know, some have gone above and beyond to teach me a thing or two. I learned the value of pride from Harry Crum. I learned resilience from Lee Holladay. I learned determination from Claire Compton. I learned from Brent Hubbert that toughness and fairness are not the same as oil and water. I learned straight shooting from Brian Montgomery. I learned from Elton Reese that you can’t win without taking care of your players. I learned humility and perseverance from Homer Davis and Anthony Harris. And most importantly, I learned from Mike Blair that crazy people have something valuable to offer the world. If you haven’t met any of these people, your life is lacking a bit.