Put me in for just one more play, coach
Easy Writer By SCOTT ADAMSON You're a
coach, and the director of athletics walks into your office midway through
the season and fires you. You're given the option of walking away taking
your proverbial marbles and going home or you can coach the rest of the
Today the season ended for this newspaper.
I walked into the office in the wee hours of this Friday morning and
helped put together the final sports section in Birmingham Post-Herald
history. The plug was pulled on us Thursday morning, which I'm sure you've
all heard by now.
I guess we could've stayed home. I mean, what's the point of helping
write your own obituary?
The point is we have pride. We were fired, but we still had a game
left. And even though the game was over, we were determined to play hard
until the final whistle.
I guess in a way one deals with the sudden loss of a job much like one
deals with death. There's anger, denial, acceptance, blah, blah, blah.
Am I angry? Not really. There are people on the Gulf Coast with a lot
more serious problems than I have.
Am I in denial? Nah. When a man in a suit tells you the place you work
is closing down and you need to have everything cleared out by Friday
afternoon that's pretty undeniable.
And I accept the fact that I'll no longer be commiserating with you
through this newspaper. But I enjoyed it while it lasted, and for me it
lasted just under two years.
This industry is nomadic by nature, so two years at one place is a
fairly decent run. It's just not quite as fulfilling when you don't leave
on your own accord.
But I think all of us knew this day was coming. Our joint operating
agreement with the Birmingham News was supposed to run until 2015, but
when The News began constructing a building across the street from our
current location and the Post-Herald was told it would not be housed in
that building it wasn't hard to put two and two together.
The rumors had been floating around for quite a while:
"The Post-Herald will fold in 2006."
"The Post-Herald will fold when the new building is built."
"The Post-Herald will fold when Vanderbilt improves to 3-0 on the
Maybe it was the last one that got us.
Anyway, this job has allowed me to make new friends both at the paper
and in the community.
It allowed me to come home, for however brief a time.
And it allowed me to write the Easy Writer column, an exercise in
frivolity that some of you loved and some of you hated. Regardless of how
you felt, I appreciated the e-mails and calls.
But it all comes to a halt today, and throughout this paper and in this
section you'll read tributes, memories and more than a few farewells.
But we also have stories on Alabama, Auburn, UAB, Samford, high school
sports and more. We have those stories because whether we're in business
one more day or 50 more years, we still have a job to do.
For those of you reading this, I'll miss you.
And to my staff Ben Cook, Stephen Sisk, Ray Melick, Jimmy DeButts,
Cary Estes, Greg Wallace, Paul Beaudry and Jason Coskrey, I thank each one
of you from the bottom of my heart. You're all professionals, you've been
a joy to work with and I'll miss each and every one of you.
And thanks for coming through one last time with sports stories aimed
at informing and entertaining our audience. Knowing this was the last call
had to make it difficult to write anything.
But you did it because you have pride.
You did it because even though it was our last game, you decided to
play until the final whistle sounded.
And that's all a coach can ask.
The Post-Herald thrived thanks to visionaries
Commentary By BILL LUMPKIN The funeral
is always sad. The death of a newspaper much sadder. A vital community
voice has been silenced. Instead of two opinions, now only one. What a
There's no celebration of a life hereafter. This death is final. It's a
time to cry, and I am. The Birmingham Post-Herald/Birmingham Post lived a
bountiful and productive existence, it being a strong leader under Editors
Jimmy Mills and Duard LeGrand during many trying times, especially during
the civil rights movement.
Death wasn't unexpected. It has been coming since the Birmingham News,
as agent and landlord, forced a cycle switch, the P-H having to go from
a.m. to p.m.
I had the privilege of working there through the good and the bad. I
was sports editor when circulation hit 100,000, and I knew how it was
done. I was there when the old Post struggled in the 1940s, and later when
it was rejuvenated by a merger with the Age-Herald.
I may be the only living former employee who worked at the newspaper's
last three locations, on 19th street, around the corner from the Municipal
Auditorium, then on Third Avenue, a block up from old Sears, and finally
as a tenant in the News Building at Fourth and 22nd.
My acquaintance has been almost lifelong. My mother was a switchboard
operator at the Post when she dressed up me and my brother, Bob, for a
trip to meet her co-workers. I was five, and had my picture taken by a
In the summer of 1944, school was out. My mother was working in the
business office. Later, she would retire as business manager. I was 16.
She informed me that I wasn't going to laze around all summer. I had to
work. The Post had a job open. It needed an office boy.
I'll never forget. The day was hot. The editorial department was on the
When asked what I wanted, I said a job. Someone, I think it was a
reporter, shouted, "Grab him. Don't let him get away."
I was hired on the spot, and, for me, a wonderful new world opened,
something not even in dreams. By reading exchange newspapers, I became
familiar with master pensmen who would become my heroes, sports writers
such as Joe Williams, Dan Parker, Jimmy Cannon, Damon Runyon, Westbrook
Pegler, Grantland Rice, Stanley Woodward, Red Smith, Jim Kilgallen, Jimmy
Naylor Stone was the sports editor and he took me under his wing.
Before he died in 1959, he recommended me to be his successor, which, I'm
sure, surprised a lot of readers. I was fourth in the line of command. At
the time, my beat was county football.
Stone was my mentor and hero. The Post and Post-Herald were family. We
competed. What do I remember most?
I'm proud that P-H sports launched and led the campaign that started
state high school football playoffs.
In 1961, the Birmingham Barons folded because the black athlete had
arrived. A Birmingham ordinance banned the races from playing together. I
wrote a column, which was picked up by Newsday, on the hypocrisy involved,
of how Birmingham families enjoying watching blacks and whites play
together on TV and fathers wishing their sons would play in the major
leagues, where the races mixed.
It was a controversial stand at the time, and I thought the editor
should read it first. Mr. Mills did, looked up, and said, "Well." I
answered, "Any problems." "No," he said. "Not if you don't."
Again, later, when race car drivers struck and refused to race in the
first race at then Alabama International Motorspeedway in Talladega, I
took the side of the drivers. They shouldn't race. The track was
LeGrand was the editor. A few weeks later, he asked if Bill France,
president of NASCAR, had called. I said no. He said France was upset about
the column and wanted me fired.
What did LeGrand tell him?
"I told him he had to talk to you," he said, "that you were the sports
editor. I wasn't."
How's that for support?
As this last edition goes to press, I say good-bye with a tear to an
old and family friend.
You'll be missed forever. And here a final toast to those good times.
And they were many.
Readers and peers made it worthwhile
Commentary By RAY MELICK Thank you.
Thank you for allowing me, for the past twenty-something years, be a
part of your sports day. Thank you for taking the time to read what I had
to say, for taking the time to let me know when you agreed with me, and
for trying to set me straight when you disagreed with me.
Thank you for teaching me about passion when it comes to college
sports, especially college football. Thank you for giving me second and
third and fourth chances when I made mistakes. Thank you for considering
that maybe, occasionally, I might have known a little more about a
particular subject than you did. Thank you for occasionally being willing
to give me the benefit of the doubt.
As you probably know by now, this is my final column for the Birmingham
Post-Herald. To some of you, that may draw a response of "It's about
To others, hopefully, you'll share a little of the sadness that I feel
for the relationship that will end with the final word in the final sports
section in the final Post-Herald.
Because it has been a relationship. Every time I sat down in front of a
keyboard to write, it was with you, the reader, in mind. I tried to convey
what it was like to be at the game, to talk to the coaches and players, to
understand what happened that might have led to the wins and losses, to
give you some analysis or insight that my privilege of being in the press
box and the locker room and the offices of the coaches and athletic
directors afforded me.
I know we didn't always agree. There have been some challenging times.
As much fun as we had celebrating championships and triumphs, we also had
to write about losses and disappointments.
I have always taken great pride in the Post-Herald. With no apology to
the rest of the newsroom, I always felt the sports section led the way at
this newspaper. Through the leadership of great sports editors like Tom
Lindley, Don Kausler, Chet Fussman, Tim Stephens and Scott Adamson, we
were on the cutting edge of putting together original daily sections, of
award-winning special sections, of game analysis and features and using
words and pictures in what we used to refer to as "B-8s," referring to the
Monday full back-page coverage we gave to the weekend's top sporting event
that coaches, players and even you, the readers, looked forward to.
We have always been a writer's newspaper, and sports was no different,
featuring the work of terrific sportswriters (in my tenure) such as Bill
Lumpkin, the late Mack Shoemaker, Paul Finebaum, Rubin Grant, Cary Estes,
and so many others, including the current staff that it has been my
privilege to call my friends.
More than anything, I took great pride when people would find out I
worked for the Post-Herald and say, "I love your sports section."
Trust me when I say I loved it, too.
It has never been dull. I've always believed the beauty of sports is
that you can go to game after game and never be sure of how the story is
going to end. That's why we keep going, week after week, season after
season, year after year, to see what's going to happen next.
That's why I say "thank you." I love sports, and I know you do, too.
Regardless of anything else that happened in this relationship, we always
had that in common.
No matter what happens next, we always will.
My time here was as quick as a hiccup
Commentary By PAUL BEAUDRY So I'm
talking with Fairfield football coach Jim Vakakis this week and he's
describing tonight's game with McAdory and the Yellow Jackets' team speed.
"They're not just quick," said Vakakis in his deep drawl, "They're
sudden. They're quick like a hiccup."
I was planning on using that line in today's high school picks simply
because it's a great line. It also applies to how we found out about the
end of the Post-Herald. Quick, like a hiccup.
I won't offer my perspective because I haven't been here that long. I
know what the paper meant to this community, simply because after 75 years
it had to mean something. That's mean something in a good way, not mean
something like a temporary tax hike or a domed stadium that few people
want and less people want to pay for.
I have been part of this community for one year, two weeks and two
days. I moved here not for another job, but a new chapter of my life with
the love of my life.
And while Lisa is my passion, my true love is writing about your
I see them for a small part of their lives on the court or on the
diamond or field. I don't get to see them each day, only glimpses.
But those glimpses have provided insight to what they can be, what they
can do and how they act.
One of the first students I talked to for our weekly honor roll last
fall was Altamont cross country runner Elisabeth Molen. And when I was
done chatting, I turned to the fiancι and told her about the call.
"Was I like that?" I asked. "Was I that smart in high school?"
"Probably not," she quipped.
But it's students like Molen, DeWanna Bonner, Jarod Bryant, and Steve
Freeman and others who have made me feel very lucky not because of
covering their talent on the field, but because people have raised some
It reminds me why I got into this business to write something new,
something fresh, something different.
Here's a clue: If parents were half as understanding as their children,
this place would be twice as better off. If parents didn't coddle their
kids, allowing them to drink on road trips or give them a wink when they
deface cars or blow off responsibility, the kids would be better off.
They want guidance, they want structure; in a larger sense, that's why
they play sports, that's why sports helps them succeed. They learn from
the bigger picture; that's why those who came back to play football at
Fultondale will be much better off than the ones who quit last year.
There's a sign in the home team locker room at Michigan Stadium:
"Those Who Stay Will Be Champions." It might not show on the scoreboard
or timing machine, but its true.
Those who try their best won't fail.
The kids who try their hardest know it, the ones who have everything
handed to them won't. Sports should not be the most important thing in
their life and it sure shouldn't be the most important thing in yours.
Living vicariously through your children's accomplishment is no way for
parents to live.
It's the last sermon you'll read from me, for a while anyway. I'm glad
to have had the opportunity to meet your kids, to understand what makes
them tick, to write about the successful ones.
I've enjoyed writing about the good kids, the bad decisions by adults,
tilting at windmills in an effort to ferret out greed and egotism for
their own sake.
When I started, I told you that I would make you laugh and I would make
you mad, but agree or disagree I would always make you think.
I thank you for letting me be a part of your routine for the last year.
Everyone knew this day would come. We just didn't think it come this
Just like a hiccup.
I walk away from the Alabama beat with a smile
Commentary By GREG WALLACE What do you
say at the end?
When they're locking the doors behind you and you don't know where your
byline will end up next?
It's a numb feeling.
For me, for all of the talented sportswriters here at the Birmingham
Post-Herald. Today is our final edition, ending a long tradition of
excellent journalism by solid reporters who, at times, battled through the
same financial odds that eventually resulted in this paper's closing.
It all happened so suddenly. One minute, just after 8 a.m. Thursday, we
were printing out the final page of Thursday afternoon's sports section.
The next, two corporate executives from Scripps Howard were standing in
the middle of the newsroom, telling us it was all over today.
And I wasn't thinking about my paycheck, or clearing out my desk, or
turning in my company badge.
All that could run through my head was, "Well, guess I'm not making
that Alabama-Ole Miss trip."
For going on five years now, I've been the Post-Herald's Alabama beat
writer. I've seen everything from Mike DuBose to Mike Shula.
I've seen Mark Gottfried's Tide basketball program rise to prominence.
I've seen Sarah Patterson's gymnastics program win a national title in
Coleman Coliseum and miss another by a few balance-beam stumbles in
I've seen Jim Wells' Tide baseball team blow out a few SEC opponents,
win a couple SEC titles at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium and lose a few NCAA
Regionals, the last at a waterlogged Turchin Stadium in New Orleans.
Now, I'm not an Alabama fan. No half-decent or unbiased reporter worth
his free press-box meal would be. But in five years, I've come to respect
the machine that is Crimson Tide athletics.
You might not like how it runs sometimes, or some of the decisions it
makes I know I've disagreed with some but there are some genuinely
good people in the UA athletic department that have made covering Alabama
athletics much easier over the past five years.
Some of the best memories of my professional life have come from UA
athletics. I'll never forget the two months covering the Tide men's
basketball team's run from dead-in-the-water to its first ever Elite Eight
NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004.
The morning of a crucial road showdown at No. 5 Mississippi State, I
wrote Alabama's NCAA chances were "as thin as Lara Flynn Boyle."
They won that game, and every other one that mattered along the way.
Antoine Pettway one of the most likable athletes you'll ever meet, the
kind of person you root for hit big shot after big shot, lifting the
Tide past Southern Illinois, Stanford and Syracuse before falling to UConn
a step from the Final Four.
Ironically, that run from Starkville to Seattle to Phoenix was probably
my best Alabama beat moment.
It wasn't perfect emerging from Seattle's KeyArena after that
first-round victory over Southern Illinois to find my car towed was a
definite lowlight but for the most part, it was one of the most fun two
months of my writing life.
Covering the Tide football team, normally one of the nation's most plum
jobs, hasn't proved quite as fruitful. A friend told me recently that this
might have been the worst five-year stretch since the days of "Ears"
Whitworth, and I tend to agree with him.
My first Alabama football game was Mike DuBose's last, a sleet-soaked
9-0 Iron Bowl loss to Auburn. My job that day involved trailing him from
opening warmups to the slam of his car door outside Bryant-Denny Stadium,
getting pelted with rain and sleet all the way. I'm from Iowa, and I don't
think I've ever been so cold in my life.
It didn't get much better from there an Independence Bowl trip with
snake-oil salesman Dennis Franchione, followed by a 10-3 season and Fran
high-tailing it to Texas A&M before the NCAA probation got really bad.
Fran ruined my work vacation to Hawaii to cover the 2003 Tide-Hawaii
matchup; the Post-Herald had booked my wife and I on a trip package which
gave us three extra days in the islands on the back end of the trip.
That Monday, I was doing my last assignment a profile of UAB-turned
Hawaii athletic director Herman Frazier when my cell phone rang. It was
Buck, our assistant sports editor, and he had bad news: Texas A&M had
fired R.C. Slocum.
Bye bye, sands of Waikiki and waves of the North Shore.
Hello, chasing (unsuccessfully) the Alabama team bus through Honolulu
rush hour traffic and chasing everyone I could get on the phone.
Four days, a whirlwind overnight flight to Birmingham and a few hours
of sleep later, Fran was gone.
Then came Mike Price, his unfortunate night in Pensacola, and the
hiring of Mike Shula.
Shula's tenure hasn't been easy; his biggest win came just last week,
over a mediocre South Carolina team that just happened to be coached by
It was my last game story, at least for now.
You won't read about his eventual success or failure in these
pages, and that saddens me. I've had opportunities to work at other papers
covering other programs over the years, but I was looking forward to
seeing just how Shula would bring the Tide back to prominence, or the
stories I'd write if he didn't.
That's a writer's job. The impartial among us cover our beat, good or
bad. And for the most part, good or bad, my office was in the basement of
Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, alongside the other fine writers who cover
Alabama on a day-to-day basis.
It's a competitive, but friendly place, with mindless chatter, a
25-cent Coke machine and wireless Internet. It's great, and I'll miss it,
now that I won't be there as much, if at all.
That's a sad thing; for me, that office, like the Alabama beat, is full
of great memories. A few angry ones, to be sure, regarding people who have
passed through or stories I missed, but mostly good.
I leave the beat for now with a smile on my face, knowing I did the
best I could to bring the Post-Herald's dwindling circulation the most
honest, exciting, scintillating Crimson Tide coverage I could.
My byline will pop up somewhere else, covering some other school or
team, perhaps. Who knows when or where? Certainly not me.
For now, my memories will have to sustain me.