Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts

Monday, January 15, 2024

That Super Bowl Party

So, every year, rain or shine or covid, they have this big party, so big they call it the "Super Bowl," and people put quite a bit of store into it.  They spend months and months prior to the party pushing each other back and forth, trying to secure an invitation to the party.  Even though they advertise it as the world's biggest party, they're still pretty dang stingy with the invitations.  

When I was little, pretty much everybody assumed that folks from Dallas would get an invitation to the party, and, sure enough, the years came and went and the folks from Dallas almost always got their all polished-up invitation to this dang stupid party.

In the last few years, though, things have changed.  They're having trouble keeping the lights on in Dallas, and the Senator who's supposed to take care of them just sneaks off to a Mexican beach vacation.  I don't know what happened.  Maybe they're not wearing the right kind of shoes.  Maybe they don't know all the right dances, but it's been a while since folks from Dallas were invited to this party, and they're getting just a little bit sore about it.

Last night, the folks from Dallas got in a scuff-up with some folks from Wisconsin, of all places, hoping they'd get somebody's attention and get invited to this year's Super Bowl party.  Well, it didn't work out that way, and the once mighty folks from Dallas will be staying home and ordering a pizza while the big party goes on.   I'd feel sorry for them, but to tell the truth, Dallas fans were always kind of jerks, so maybe this will help teach them some humility. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Mustard Seeds

There was no Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame for the first half of my life. The Jackson Touchdown Club met once a year in the ballroom of the Walthal Hotel and handed out awards to guys who used to play football. 

My father won it for "leadership." I guess he wasn't that great at football itself. My Grandfather won it for his 30 years as an SEC Referee, where he was also blessed with three fuzed vertebrae when an LSU player tackled him and the man with the ball at the same time and spent the rest of his life walking with a cane and listing to the right.  

The Touchdown Club was kind of a good ole' boy thing but a well-thought-of one. Their meetings usually consisted of about ten tables and maybe forty people. The one I went to Saturday had around sixty tables and at least a thousand people. There are very few places in town with a ballroom big enough to hold that crowd.

Michael Rubenstein started working in Jackson when I was in my later teenage years. He was from Boonville, but many people thought he was from New York because of his name. Rubenstein was a reporter for WLBT and quickly took over the sports department. All three stations had a sports department, but Michael decided to distinguish channel 3 and himself by simply working harder.

Rubenstein was kind of a solitary guy. I'd see him sitting by himself at the bar of George Street and later at Hal & Mals, but I almost never saw him pile into CS's with the rest of the WLBT News crew at the end of the ten pm broadcast. My friend Doug Mann used to get drunk and say, "Hey, Look! It's Bob! Bob Ballou!" Referencing the Desi Arnez song when Howard Ballou came in. Ballou took it in good spirits, but I'm sure there were times when he thought, "What the hell?" to himself.  

When Rubenstein took over at WLBT, the city had just built Smith-Wills stadium. Some people want to call it the Hank Aaron Stadium. I'm against that. Aaron was born in Mobile and played in Milwaukee and Atlanta. He had nothing to do with Jackson, whereas both Smith and Wills were well-known characters in our history.

Smith-Wills existed because Con Maloney was an Irish Catholic guy with a lot of drive, motivation, and money, and he wanted minor-league baseball in the capital city. I think the world of Con Maloney. He was a Millsaps boy who left the school with his feet running. They ran him to the State Senate and the boards of everything from Millsaps to Trustmark to St. Dominics. 

In the corner of the Smith-Wills complex was a high-school league field, and besides that was a tiny museum dedicated to Dizzy Dean. That was the start of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Michael Rubenstein had an active mind and a lot of ambition. He used his position as Mississippi's top sports broadcaster and the business connections he made through Con Maloney to start the idea of a "Sports Hall of Fame Museum" to take up a spot in the parking lot of Smith-Wills, that was at one time considered for another High School field.  

They showed the drawings for the proposed Museum on the television, and I thought, "Boy, that's gonna be a lot of money." Even then, I was getting jaded by guys showing off impressive architectural renderings for things that never happened. Mississippi didn't have a lot of money. Jackson didn't have a lot of money. Getting this thing built was gonna be a considerable challenge.

I underestimated the sheer tenacity of Michael Rubenstein. It took about six years, but the Museum was built. Next door to it, Jim Buck Ross started putting together his plan for an Agricultural Museum, and pretty soon, that part of Lakeland Drive was pretty impressive. Part of his vision was to evolve the Jackson Touchdown Club into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, which is where I was Saturday Night.  

A lot of Millsaps guys have been part of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame since its inception. Saturday night was important to me because it featured two guys who were at Millsaps when I was at Millsaps. Saturday, they announced the first recipient of the Bill Hetrick Community Service Award. Afterward, they inducted Coach Jim Page into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Jim has coached baseball at Millsaps for thirty-four years, starting not long after I graduated. That's a remarkable run. In the modern world of sports coaches, that kind of tenure is unheard of. When I met these guys, Jim played, and Bill watched and sometimes kept team stats. After that, we'd all end up at the Texas League Champion Jackson Mets games, usually on the third base side, where a guy with a cooler would bring you a beer. That's about all the luxury a man needs.  

Mississippi is a humble place. Jackson is a humble place. Millsaps is a humble place. Never underestimate us, though. Michael Rubenstein's passion project intersected with so many lives of the people of Mississippi. I've watched this story grow from the smallest seed. In Mississippi, you really need to stick around to see the end. The parable of the mustard seed can show up in unexpected places.

Official Ted Lasso