ALEA IACTA EST

The Columbus City Council made it official and committed to the upgrade of Golden Park to bring professional baseball back to the city. The baseball fan in me is thrilled. The taxpayer in me is wondering if I’ll be left holding the bag down the road.

The fact that the proposal would pass was a foregone conclusion. The way the commitment was made put the city’s reputation on the line. Rejecting it would have destroyed the ability to attract any outside business – ever. Who could believe any promises from the Columbus government if that had happened?

So, it’s a done deal, with a $50 million bond issue on the way. How will it be paid for? Beats me. The first year’s taken care of with $2 million out of the permanent 1% sales tax. Starting in 2026, the bill will be $4.2 million a year, with no plan, at least yet. Hey, there’s always the prospect of raising property taxes.

Good luck with that.

I’m not trying to pee in everyone’s cornflakes here. The city of Columbus has amazing potential. There’s a chance that this could be the tipping point and spark the downtown investment and explosion of growth the city’s been working for the past decade-plus.

Guess what – it better happen that way. I don’t like the chances of some Good Samaritan with a checkbook popping up to bail out the city.

And the city has been falling down on the job. Basic maintenance hasn’t been done on the current sports and recreational facilities. The very same night the Golden Park bond issue was approved, the city council had a do some quick literal fence-mending and stadium patching by allocating $1.6 million to do basic and overdue maintenance on A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, one block away from Golden Park. Other city venues dedicated to youth sports are even in worse shape, neglected for far too long.

The track record is abysmal. Trust issues abound.

The dreamers better get serious. That means putting together a concrete plan in the next two months for projects that will open things up and create a must-attend venue that provides more than just baseball.

Everyone has to step up, especially those who envision themselves as civic leaders in not just Columbus, but the whole metro – including Phenix City, Smiths Station, Fort Benning/Moore, and Harris County. Corporate leaders have to go all-in, brainstorming to put together projects that can succeed, actively personally participating in the work, and opening up their personal checkbooks.

If this works, everyone benefits. And sticking the taxpayers with the bill is not an ethical option.

The good news in all this is that Glenn Davis is one of the sceptics on the city council. Davis understands what is going on better than anyone else in town after a decade-long career in major league baseball (which included a season as a Columbus Astro on the way up the ladder) followed by his dive into the construction business. Ignore him at your peril.

I want to see it work. I want to see it work as much as anyone who lives in this city and this area. I can’t express how much I’ve missed having professional baseball on those summer nights at Golden Park. I’ll do whatever I can to make things happen.

Alea iacta est – the die is cast. Skip Henderson as Caesar? This time it’s not the Rubicon that’s been crossed, it’s the Chattahoochee.

Time to get to work.

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY?

It’s no secret that baseball has always been my sport of choice and there isn’t anyone in Columbus that wants to see minor league baseball return to Golden Park more than me. But there are some legitimate questions about the plans for renovations downtown to get things ready for the Southern League return to Columbus.

When the loudest voice saying “Hold ON!” is someone who played in the major leagues for 10 years and is now in the construction business, you have to pay attention. Glenn Davis has legitimate questions about the financing of the bond issues, and the ability of the city to pay for maintenance to the stadium.

The city of Columbus has had a checkered history with minor league baseball. We’ve had five different franchises leave for greener pasture$ since 1959, including one team that was in first place but was last in the league in attendance. The Columbus Pirates left for Gastonia, NC – a city one-tenth its size.

When the Columbus Catfish lit out for Bowling Green, KY I figured that was it for minor league baseball in Columbus. When Ignite Sports – the folks who own the River Dragons of the FPHL – brought the Chatt-a-Hoots, and then the Chattahoochee Monsters of the summer collegiate Sunbelt League to Golden Park and put butts in the seats, that changed the tune of a lot of people, including me.

But this is different. This involves a major commitment, $50 million of taxpayer money to make things happen. Will it work? Maybe, but there has to be an actual plan for the future before we start throwing money around.

Do I want the Braves to bring their Class AA team to Golden Park? Absolutely. Do I want the return of baseball to Columbus to succeed? Absolutely. And I’ll do what I can to make success happen.

But the city has a responsibility to show they have a plan that can succeed. Without it, no. Leaving the taxpayers holding the bag is wrong on so many levels.

One final note: it CAN be done. Montgomery had a checkered baseball history, but with the construction of Riverwalk Stadium in 2004, that all changed. That has to be the template for what Columbus should do. Can they do it? Stay tuned.

IT’S A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT

My lawsuit against Gray TV has been in the court system now for over a year, and the pace of progress has been nothing short of glacial. For someone with no patience who spent his entire professional life in fifth gear – Go! Go! Go! – it’s been particularly painful.

The actual lawsuit was filed in court in January of 2023 after 15 months of research and preparation. There have been revisions along with way as new evidence and discoveries came to light, and it’s still obviously a work in progress.

The process itself is maddening to the layman. The level of attention that has to be paid to detail is excruciating. In one sense, it’s obvious that it has to be that way – it’s about words and the meanings of those words. Being exacting is part of the deal.

On the other hand, the process itself is anything but user-friendly. The justice system is supposed to be a descriptive term – the application of the laws in a just fashion – but the way those laws and precedents are applied can make it feel like a Just-Us system, as in George Carlin’s famed proclamation, “It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it.”

A good visual picture of this concept is from the movie Animal House, when the welding torch is fired up to chop up the fancy sports car that was lent to Flounder, as the fraternity president piously tells him “You (messed) up. You trusted us.”

Process is important, but it’s not an end in itself, and that’s seemingly been forgotten. That’s being charitable, because if that principle hasn’t been forgotten and it just being ignored, that means Process has been weaponized against the people and Justice has been served in another fashion – as a gourmet dinner for a select few of the most privileged.

That’s downright Biblical. Keep in mind that the Sanhedrin were supposed to be the guardians of the Faith and of Worship, but that institution devolved into a group that concentrated on the letter of the law, not the spirit. That invariably leads to making the law loophole-friendly, enabling the powerful to do whatever they desire and damn the consequences to everyone else.

And that’s the attitude that led to Flipping the Tables in the Temple, and to the resultant public display of power by the Roman authorities that has had Eternal Repercussions.

The legal process rolls on. We will see what the future brings.

HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2024

It was a great morning at the Columbus Trade Center as the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2024 was inducted. We had a packed house to honor five men as they took their spots in the Hall.

The big noise was for Dell McGee, who was named the new head football coach at Georgia State less than 24 hours ago. I’m excited for him and his opportunity. He has his two national championship rings from Georgia as one of the architects of the title teams as running backs coach and the Bulldogs’ chief recruiter. He’s a perfect hire for the Panthers, a coach who can take the team to the next level in the Sun Belt Conference.

Dusty Perdue has racked up a dozen state titles as basketball and softball coach at Glenwood and is close to a combined 1000 victories in those sports. Monk Johnson was a football star at Spencer at Tennessee State, drafted by the 49ers. Tommy “Mac” Chambers was a basketball star at South Girard HS in Phenix City who went on to be a referee in the NBA. Mason Lampton was the driving force behind the Columbus Steeplechase. A worthy group to say the least.

It was also great to recognize over three dozen area high school athletes who made great contributions to their school’s programs. GRIT: Growth, Resilience, Initiative, Teamwork. Yeah, I like that. Good stuff.

For me, it was fun to hang around with the folks I covered as a sportscaster for nearly four decades, swapping stories and laughs. I’m proud to be on the CVSportsHOF board of directors, and I definitely look forward to helping the organization take things to the next level.

PERFECT TIMING

We’re talking about things falling into place for Saturday morning’s Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Columbus Trade Center.

Former Kendrick and Auburn football star Dell McGee is the big name in the Class of 2024, and he’s about to make a big move in his coaching career. Multiple media outlets are reporting that McGee is set to be named head coach at Georgia State, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

McGee has been the running backs coach at Georgia since 2016, building a reputation as one of the nation’s top recruiters and earning a pair national championship rings in the process.

He led the Carver Tigers to the GHSA Class AAA state title in 2007, developing future NFL players like Jarvis Jones, Isaiah Crowell, Chris Hubbard and Gabe Wright. He spent 2013 as an analyst at Auburn, as the Tigers made it to the BCS Championship game, followed by two years at Georgia Southern as running backs coach and associate head coach, taking over as the interim head coach when Willie Fritz left for Tulane, leading the Eagles to a win over Bowling Green in the GoDaddy Bowl in Mobile.

In other words, everyone in Columbus has been waiting for Dell to get his shot, and it’s time.

He should get a great reception on Saturday morning.

Also being inducted, Glenwood basketball and softball coach Dusty Perdue, former Spencer and Tennessee State football star Monk Johnson, former South Girard HS basketball standout Tommy “Mac” Chambers, and Mason Lampton, driving force behind the Columbus Steeplechase.

Tickets are still available, and full disclosure, I’m a member of the Board of Directors.

Hope to see you there Saturday morning!

THE GOLD STANDARD

I’m still in shock on this one. The University of Alabama announced on Wednesday that Eli Gold is out as the Crimson Tide football play-by-play announcer after 35 years of calling the games for Bama. And it was not a mutual decision.

The press release from the school was about as cold as it gets. “Crimson Tide Sports Network Announces Change to Football Broadcast Team” was how the Tide announced the end of Gold’s run as the voice of the Tide, with Chris Stewart taking over the top spot.

Wait, what? That’s it?

The second half of the release listed all of Gold’s accolades and was basically a laundry list of reasons to keep him on board.

We’re talking about a guy whose voice has come to mean Alabama Crimson Tide sports, a talented broadcaster who has a whole trophy case of awards not for just Bama games but for calling NASCAR races and running TV sports departments in major markets.

Chris Stewart is also talented, but it’s not about him. It’s about the callous discarding of a good man who earned the right to go out on his own terms. At least the school is going to pay him through June to fulfill their legal obligations.

Gold is handling things with dignity and class. The key quote from the al.com story is “This is not, with a capital N-O-T, not at all health-related. I am very healthy. Everything is wonderful. I am healthy as a horse.” He’s job hunting, starting immediately.

The firing of someone who is a Capital-I Institution and doing it without legitimate cause and throwing away three-plus decades of dedication to a job does not reflect well on any employer. It’s happened before in Birmingham, and not all that long ago. Rick Karle, anyone?

As you know, I’ve seen this movie before, and playing the starring role in it hurts in ways that are beyond description.

Eli Gold deserved better than this. Way better.

CALL IT A REBOOT

I got the ball rolling on this website a little over a year ago in an effort to keep everyone informed about the progress of my lawsuit against Gray TV. Frankly, the pace of the legal system has been downright glacial and as a person without a whole lot of patience, the entire experience to date has been emotionally draining.

It’s time for “Extreme Website Makeover.”

This is going to turn into a more traditional blog. I’ll keep everyone updated on the progress of the lawsuit and the frustrations and craziness of a layman dealing with that foreign country known as the legal system.

I’ll also opine on the sports topics of the day, both nationally and locally, plus get into a little bit of what’s going on in my life on a personal level.

Toss in some nostalgia with videos from Back in the Day, and it should be a little more fun hanging out here.

Thaaaaaaat’s a look at blogging! (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

BACK IN THE NEWS

When I did the sponsored weekly “Friday Night Lights Preview” segment for WXTX on Tuesday evening, a couple of guests stopped by at the recording studio – Mark Rice and Mike Haskey of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Mark called me last week and said he wanted to do a story on my return to TV in Columbus to try to explain to the public exactly what is going on and update everybody on what’s happening in my life, since in Columbus I’m semi-public property. I agreed to the interview because I know Mark and trust him to tell the story fairly. Having Mike along as a photographer only made things more comfortable, because I’ve known both of those guys for decades.

Mark started as a sports reporter at the paper back in the ’90’s, and Mike’s been a photog for the Ledger forever – you know, when my hair was still brown. We’ve spent a lot time together on football sidelines and at baseball games and I know their professionalism and their dedication to reporting the truth.

When I do media interviews, I’m not looking for the reporter to be my advocate. What I want is accuracy. I’ve been there, and I have always strived to have the final product reflect the true story, and I like to think I’ve had a pretty good track record for that over the years.

The conversation lasted nearly an hour, and it was a wide-ranging discussion. Both guys did their jobs properly and did some digging with their questions. It made me consider things I hadn’t thought about in depth before, and I hope I gave good answers, because I’m still not used to being the guy being interviewed. For the record, that was the first question Mark asked me – about being on the other side of the story, a really good opening question.

I’m curious to see their take on things, since an outside perspective on what I’m doing and what I’m going through will be valuable to me on a personal level. I’ve been too wrapped up in trying to keep things going to really understand my place in the big picture here.

I don’t know when the story will be posted, but I’ll link to it when it happens.

BACK ON COLUMBUS TV – KINDA/SORTA

No, you’re not imagining things. That really is me popping up on Fox 54 in Columbus talking about high school football. The whole situation is, as those personal status reports say on social media, complicated.

When I was hired by Tires First a year and a half ago, there was an understanding that if Mark and Wes decided to revive their dormant TV and radio ad campaigns, I would be the face/voice of the store. I started doing radio spots a few months ago, and there was a good response.

WXTX Sales came along and proposed that I do a three-minute weekly high school football preview that would air during Fox 54 newscasts. Mark liked the idea, and co-sponsored the reports along with Glynn Smith Chevy/GMC from Opelika. I also did a 30-second commercial for Tires First as well as promo spots for the reports.

WXTX isn’t a Gray TV station. Fox 54 is owned by American Spirit Media, a company based out of Charlotte that owns or operates stations in six TV markets. American Spirit supplies a general manager and sales staff, while Gray supplies the rest through what’s known as a shared services agreement (SSA).

That’s where it gets complicated. My lawsuit against Gray TV makes producing the reports a little more interesting. WTVM is providing video they shot from football games for the report, but we’re recording at an area production studio since I’m not allowed in WTVM’s building for obvious reasons.

The response has been great. There’s buzz around town about me appearing on TV in Columbus again, and that’s really gratifying. A lot of folks come into the store and tell me how great it is to see me on TV again doing sports stuff. It’s nice to be remembered, and it’s fun to get back in front of the camera.

I suspect it makes the folks at Gray TV a little uncomfortable, especially considering the viewer response, but that’s not my concern. I’m just trying to do a good job and promote the store properly. If it makes Gray ponder about what they did to me and to so many others, all the better.

I have plenty going on media-wise. I’m still doing play-by-play for Pacelli football webcasts, DJ Jones and I will co-host a fundraiser for the Anne Elizabeth Shepherd Home on Thursday night, and I’ll be talking about high school football with Richard Holdridge on his podcast next week.